DAY 1 EMBARK IN COLOGNE
Make your way to your five-star cruise ship moored in historic Cologne, whose skyline is dominated by the spires of its magnificent cathedral. The dedicated English-speaking crew welcomes you on board and helps you to your cabin. After settling into your spacious and tastefully furnished accommodation, there’s time to familiarise yourself with this splendid ship.
DAY 2 RHINE GORGE & RÜDESHEIM
To really get in the Christmas mood, nothing beats waking up on board to find you’re already cruising through an entrancing winter wonderland. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast this morning and relax on board while a kaleidoscope of riverside views drifts by in all their seasonal glory. Wrap up warm and take to the deck for an invigorating breath of frosty air as we pass through the outstandingly beautiful Rhine Gorge, where the river flows a little faster, the vineyard-covered valley sides are steeper and ruined castles sit atop rocky crags. Tales of mysterious happenings here have been passed down over the generations, most famously of all the legend of the Lorelei – the maiden said to have enticed sailors onto the rocks with her irresistible songs.
The festive period is a magical time to visit this picturesque part of Germany, and no country does it better. The historic Yuletide markets here are the ideal places to soak up the spellbinding atmosphere while seeking out unusual presents for friends and family back home. After lunch on board we arrive in Rüdesheim, whose quirky, crooked houses and tiny streets provide the perfrect chocolate-box setting for its Christmas market. As you wander the myriad stalls, glistening in the glow of hundreds of fairy lights, stop perhaps for a slice of gingerbread or a warming Rüdesheim coffee with its fortifying shot of locally distilled Asbach brandy and a dollop of whipped cream. And don’t forget to pay a visit to the Christmas shop: open year-round, it’s a treasure trove of all things seasonal, from tree decorations and music boxes to wooden nutcrackers and handcrafted figurines. As the evening light fades, amble back on board to enjoy a sumptuous dinner in the ship’s excellent restaurant.
DAY 3 FRANKFURT
During breakfast this morning we cruise into the cosmopolitan city of Frankfurt. Located on the Main River, it’s Germany’s financial and business hub, with one of the world’s largest stock exchanges. The city also has an unexpectedly charming and traditional side, with a medieval Old Town of colourful half-timbered houses huddled around cobbled squares, a wealth of peaceful parks and scenic riverside paths. This morning we enjoy a guided tour to experience its fascinating contrast of new and old: the towering skyscrapers of the 21st-century city on one side; the historic centre on the other, featuring Saint Paul’s Church, the Imperial Cathedral and the Gothic Römer, a complex of gabled buildings dating from the 15th to 18th centuries, including the Altes Rathaus or Old Town Hall.
There has been a Christmas market held in Frankfurt’s historic centre for over 600 years, making it one of the oldest in Europe. It is also one of the most popular, and after lunch on board take a stroll among the maze of stalls clustered around the Römerplatz market place and Saint Paul’s Square selling arts and crafts, toys, decorations and tempting seasonal food and drink – you can’t fail to be captivated by its joyful ambience. The 100-foot-tall Christmas tree, carol music and classic fairground attractions all add to the cheery festive feel, while aromas of freshly made gingerbread and baked apples fill the air – simply magical. No visit would be complete without sampling a glass of warming Glühwein, or mulled wine. This delicious concoction is usually made with red wine heated with citrus zest and spices such as cloves and cinnamon. Sometimes it’s drunk mit Schuss, meaning a shot of rum or brandy has been added for extra punch!
There’s time to relax on board before the Captain’s Dinner tonight, so why not unwind with an apéritif in the bar and chat about the day’s events with your fellow travelling companions and newly made friends?
DAY 4 KOBLENZ & COLOGNE
Early risers will witness our arrival in historic Koblenz, dramatically located at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers. The city is a romantic’s dream – forest-covered hillsides dominate the skyline, while the lower slopes are strewn with the pretty half-timbered buildings so typical of the Rhineland. This morning you will have a tour of Koblenz with a knowledgeable local guide, taking in its principal monuments, discovering ancient squares, admiring lovingly restored historic house frontages and quaint hidden passageways.
Located in the characterful Old Town, Koblenz’s Christmas market is one of the largest in the Rhineland. As you browse its gaily decorated stalls, the mouthwatering aromas of hot chestnuts and sausages fill the air, and you must visit the Christmas bakery making the famous Stollen – the delicious spiced bread containing candied and dried fruits, nuts and marzipan customarily eaten at this time of year.
Back on board for lunch, we make our return to Cologne along the Rhine Valley, admiring the rolling countryside, idyllic medieval towns, Gothic church steeples and fairytale castles that create such an enchanting scene.
As the towering spires of Cologne’s cathedral come into view on the wintry skyline, we moor in the shadow of this ancient monument once again. Christmas creates a special atmosphere here and you have free time to immerse yourself in the city’s seven Yuletide markets, each with its own unique theme. Every year a huge number of visitors are drawn to the more than 160 tastefully decorated festive stalls of the Cathedral Christmas market, impressively set against the spectacular backdrop of this imposing Gothic building where the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland, illuminated with 50,000 LED lights, is a magnificent glittering sight to behold. There’s also plenty of live entertainment to enjoy.
After browsing the market and its Aladdin’s cave of festive gifts and foods, return to the ship to enjoy a final delicious dinner this evening.
DAY 5 RETURN HOME
Transfer to the airport for your return flight or to Brussels to connect with the Eurostar service to London St Pancras International.
Discover the magical ambience of Germany’s traditional Christmas markets with their host of unique, inspired gift ideas, plus the stunning Rhineland in its wintry splendour.
Cruise through the world famous and dramatic Rhine Gorge before arriving in the renowned wine town of Rüdesheim. Spend the afternoon wandering the Christmas markets of this charming spot. Enjoy a guided tour of the cosmopolitan city of Frankfurt with its contrast between the modern skyline and the medieval old town, before exploring one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe. Go on to explore Koblenz, dramatically situated at the confluence of the Rhine & Moselle Rivers, on a guided tour. Arriving back in Cologne, discover one (or all) of its seven Christmas markets.
Cruise through the dramatic Rhine Gorge and arrive in the renowned wine town of Rudesheim to browse the charming Christmas markets
Guided walking tour of Frankfurt and take in the mixture of modern skyline and medieval old town before visiting one of the oldest markets in Europe
Guided tour of Koblenz with its ancient squares, restored historic frontages and quaint hidden passageways
Discover Cologne, home of one of the most photographed cathedrals in Germany, and explore one (or all) of the seven themed Christmas markets
4 nights on board in your choice of luxury cabin or suite, all with river views
All meals on board from dinner on your day or arrival until breakfast on your day of departure, including Welcome Cocktails & Dinner and Captain’s Dinner
Services of a Riviera Travel cruise director and tour manager
The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines. Sorry, we are unable to offer air from countries other than the U.S. However, for those international customers who are able to arrange their own transportation to the trip origination city, we are able to offer the land/cruise portion of the package at the price quoted.