Depart on your flight to Düsseldorf from where a coach will take us to the ship. Or you can take a late morning Eurostar from London St. Pancras International arriving in Brussels approximately two hours later, where a coach will take us over the German border to our ship. Moored in Cologne’s picturesque historic centre, the dedicated crew will welcome us aboard our first-class floating hotel, ensuring we settle into our comfortable and extremely well equipped cabin and familiarise ourselves with the ship.
The real delights of this river cruise begin to unveil as we pass the first rolling hills of the Rhine Valley. Firstly we see the forested Siebengebirge. We pass the famous ruined bridge at Remagen. The pretty waterfronts of riverside towns come into view and the first of the Rhine’s vineyards can be seen as we glide into our mooring to visit picturesque Koblenz. The afternoon is free to wander ashore and explore the many medieval buildings, housing a fine array of traditional shops and classic Rhineland cafés.
This morning’s cruise weaves around this long meander, guarded by the mighty Marksburg Castle. Sailing past St Goar and the many ruined castles, we get a real sense of the myths of this historic river coming alive around us. No legend is more famous than that surrounding the Loreley rock, where beautiful nymphs distracted hapless sailors, luring them to their deaths in the treacherous waters.
After lunch we berth and visit Rüdesheim. The afternoon is free to relax in its bustling cafés, take a quiet stroll through the vineyards or maybe a cable car ride to the great statue of Germania.
Still sailing upstream, the ship berths in delightfully medieval Speyer. During the 16th century in nearby Worms, Martin Luther was excommunicated for his religious beliefs and banished from the Holy Roman Empire. His followers in Speyer protested at this and for the first time were called ‘Protestants’. Visit the neo-gothic Gedächtniskirche, built to commemorate this event and the huge, richly decorated Basilica. We also have some free time to explore before rejoining the ship.
This morning, we gently cruise upstream and soon arrive in France and Strasbourg. This afternoon, we will have a walking tour of its unique and picturesque 16th century old town, bisected by canals and a maze of narrow streets lined with timber-framed houses and sculptured portals plus the superb cathedral. This evening, the ‘Captain’s Dinner’ will take place on board, serving delicious specialities of the countries and regions we visit during our cruise, hosted of course by the Captain himself.
Our final day’s cruising is spent gliding between the ancient forested outcrops of the Vosges and the Black Forest, through the great rift valley. We arrive at the ancient town of Breisach whose historic heart is surrounded by immense stone ramparts. This afternoon, we drive through some of central Europe’s most stunning scenery, the Black Forest at its best. We visit the archetypical town of Titisee, nestling on the shores of its crystal clear lake.
We enjoy this evening’s dinner cruising to Switzerland and our next mooring at Basel.
For many today will be the highlight of the cruise. You firstly take the short drive to Lucerne; spectacularly nestled among stunning mountain views, it is by far Switzerland’s most beautiful city and has been attracting well-heeled visitors for two centuries, one of the most famous being our very own Queen Victoria. You must take an invigorating stroll along the Chapel Bridge – symbol of the city, a unique covered wooden walkway crossing the lake supported by stilts, lined with colourful, flower-filled window boxes and a superb way to absorb Lucerne’s rather regal atmosphere. The scenery becomes ever more dramatic and then as you enter the Bernese Oberland in central Switzerland, it becomes quite literally breathtaking! This is the grand Alpine heart of Europe and amongst the finest mountain scenery on earth, described by the composer Mendelssohn as ‘the most wonderful of all in this unbelievably beautiful country’. On viewing the spectacular snow-capped peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau you will be quite simply awestruck. We then ascend into the lofty scenery on the most scenic journey by mountain railway for more breathtaking vistas with the crystal-clear shimmering lakes reflecting the alpine meadows and lush forests below. This truly magical landscape will enchant you. Please note temperatures will be significantly lower at altitude even in summer months so it is advised that you pack suitable clothing.
Transfer to the station to take the TGV (France’s famous high-speed train) to Paris, connecting with the Eurostar service to London St. Pancras International. Should you be returning by air, you will be taken to the airport for your homeward flight.