Central Holidays

(Flights not included) Depart US for Switzerland. Meals and refreshments served on board.

Today we will arrive in Basel, Switzerland and after clearing customs and immigration we will head out on a panoramic city tour. Here you will check-in to your riverboat, which will serve as your floating home for the next seven nights. After check-in, relax and enjoy some free time exploring your 5-star vessel. Walk along the sun deck, refresh from your travels in the spa, head to the hair salon, or meet new friends over a drink in the bar. Tonight, after these first scenic impressions of the Rhine, a welcome cocktail party will be held before dinner on board. The ship leaves Basel in the early evening. (D)

This morning your ship will have reached Strasbourg, the ancient capital of Alsace and one of Europe's most attractive cities. After breakfast, take an included guided tour of the city. See the European Parliament building and enjoy a guided tour of the inside of the vast and famous cathedral (which features carvings as delicate as any piece of lacework). The richness and sheer density of Strasbourg's historic buildings have led to the entire city center being adopted as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Strasbourg is definitely well worth visiting for the combination of its history, its cuisine and its unique atmosphere. In the afternoon there'll be our optional ''Alsace and wine'' excursion, during which you'll drive through the picturesque landscape and romantic wine villages along parts of the famous Alsace wine route. The tour includes a visit to a vineyard and a wine tasting session. Those on the excursion return to Strasbourg for dinner, after which the ship casts off downstream towards Speyer. (B,L,D)

The ship arrives in Speyer early in the morning. This old imperial city on the Rhine has had a rich and turbulent past. Religious architecture steeped in history, impressive facades of various styles, winding alleys and romantic squares characterize it. The included guided walk includes a visit to its impressive cathedral. During lunch you cruise on to Mannheim, which is situated at the confluence of the Rhine and the Neckar. Unusually for Germany, the city's center is laid out in a North-American grid pattern (called Quadrate in German), so it's sometimes referred to as the Quadratestadt. Its main street leads to an enormous 18th-century palace, formerly the seat of the Electors of the Palatinate but now housing the University of Mannheim. Today you will take a city tour of Heidelberg. Heidelberg, home to Germany's oldest university, was founded in 1386. Our guided tour features a visit to the city's imposing castle, a red sandstone ruin overlooking the Neckar River, and a walking tour through the historic old quarter and the market place. You rejoin the vessel for a late dinner. The vessel leaves Mannheim after midnight and continues towards Rudesheim (B,L,D)

The charming old wine town of Rudesheim has a long narrow street, the Drosselgasse, lined on both sides with wine taverns, which is very popular with tourists. There'll be a walking tour of the town including a visit to Siegfried's Music Museum, where all kinds of mechanical musical instruments from barrel organs and music boxes to horn gramophones are displayed. The vessel leaves Rudesheim at midday down what is probably the most famous and scenic stretch of the Rhine valley, passing hilltop castles, terraced vineyards and attractive waterside villages for 65 delightful kilometers. During the afternoon the ship skirts round the 132-meter Lorelei Rock, which is the symbol of this great river and inspired the poem by Heinrich Heine that was set to music by Frederich Silcher. In the afternoon we arrive at Coblenz, which stands at the confluence of the Rhine and the Moselle. Our optional walking tour of Coblenz enables you to see its highlights. (B,L,D)

During breakfast you arrive at Cochem, a quaint small town where you will be taken on a walking tour. This includes, among other sights, Cochem's fine medieval town gate and market place and a visit to a tavern for a wine tasting session. This afternoon you can explore the town on your own. During dinner the vessel leaves Cochem.(B,L,D)

Today the ship reaches Cologne, where it moors within easy reach of the city center. There'll be an included city walk taking you through the former settlement of Colonia (dating back 2,000 years), which was founded on the orders of the Roman Emperor Claudius. You'll see Cologne's most important sights, namely its central old quarter, the cathedral, the town hall, the Guerzenich, the city walls and gate, churches and historic squares. From the bank of the Rhine there's a fine view of the entire old quarter after which, time permitting, you may visit the cathedral (Cologne's icon and Germany's largest cathedral), whose art treasures include a shrine housing the relics of the 3 holy kings (the Magi). On this penultimate evening of your cruise the captain welcomes all the passengers to a special dinner. (B,L,D)

By lunchtime on this last day of the cruise the ship will be moored in the pretty little Dutch village of Volendam in the north of Holland. It was a major fishing port before the construction of the Ijsselmeer dyke in 1932. Today its main street is lined with cafes and shops but many of their staff still wear traditional costumes. Our included ''Holland Waterland'' excursion starts here with a short stroll through Volendam before boarding a coach and driving out through the countryside to Edam and visiting a dairy specializing in local Dutch cheeses. Finally we reach Amsterdam, the capital of The Netherlands. There'll be a drive past the city's most important buildings and monuments and you'l learn much about its vivid history before enjoying the very popular attraction of cruising through its canals. Back on board, a typical Dutch folklore group will entertain you on this last evening of the cruise. (B,L,D)

Disembarkation after breakfast in Amsterdam. Head to the airport for your flight home. (B)

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