DAY 1 EMBARK IN COLOGNE
Arrive in Cologne, where your five-star floating hotel is moored in the picturesque historic center. The city will look quite magnificent at this very special time of year, with fairy lights twinkling along the harbourside and the monumental Christmas tree standing proudly against a historic backdrop.
The dedicated English-speaking crew will welcome you aboard your first-class floating hotel, ensuring you settle into your luxurious, well-equipped cabin and familiarise yourself with the ship. Marvel at the elegant décor at every turn: lush garlands, baubles in jewelled tones and a grandiose Christmas tree.
DAY 2 KOBLENZ
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 while a kaleidoscope of riverside views drifts by in all their seasonal glory.
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 the historic city of Koblenz. Strategically situated at the confluence of the rivers Rhine and Moselle, this 2,000-year-old city with its mighty fortress towering above, is full of appeal. Forest-covered hillsides dominate the skyline, whilst the lower slopes are strewn with the pretty, half-timbered buildings so typical of the Rhineland. Koblenz is also known for the Deutches Eck, translating as German Corner, a point between the Rhine and Moselle with a spectacular view. Enjoy a guided tour, seeing the principal monuments, discovering ancient squares, admiring beautifully restored historic house frontages and quaint hidden passageways.
Located in the atmospheric old town, Koblenz’s Christmas market is one of the largest in the Rhineland. As you browse its enticing stalls, the aroma of hot chestnuts and mouth-watering sausages fills the air; don’t forget to pay a visit to the Christmas bakery, making the famous Stollen – the delicious bread made with candied and dried fruit, nuts and marzipan, traditionally eaten at this time of year. As the Christmas lights glow brighter in the cool evening air, it’s time to head back to the inviting warmth of the ship’s lounge for welcome cocktails and canapés before a delicious dinner and a festive folklore show.
DAY 3 RÜDESHEIM
During breakfast the ship effortlessly glides out of port as we commence a spectacular morning’s cruising, sailing upstream. One of the cruise highlights will be our passage through the magnificent Rhine Gorge; here where the swifter current sweeps between the narrowing valley sides that tower above, the river twists and turns towards the famous Loreley Rock, where legend has it, unsuspecting sailors were lured to their deaths by enchanting maidens.
After lunch on board we arrive in Rüdesheim. If you imagine a typical Rhine town, then this would be it. Narrow crooked streets lead down to the sweeping river, providing the perfect 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: it’s a treasure trove of all things seasonal, from tree decorations and music boxes to wooden nutcrackers and handcrafted figurines. Rüdesheim also has many atmospheric Weinstuben where you can sample local wines produced from the surrounding vineyards.
As the evening light fades, amble back on board to enjoy a sumptuous dinner in the ship’s excellent restaurant.
DAY 4 SPEYER ON CHRISTMAS EVE
Unwind after breakfast this morning as the ship gently cruises to Speyer. As you lounge back and enjoy a relaxing Christmas Eve, the landscape becomes much wider and flatter, with gently rolling hills and vineyards that are home to the Liebfraumilch wines. Take to the deck and enjoy the bracing as we continue our Christmas journey upstream. We berth in historic Speyer, founded by the Celts and one of Germany’s oldest cities, celebrated for its illustrious past, for an afternoon walking tour. The breathtaking Imperial Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is among the largest Romanesque churches in the world; it’s also one of the finest. Its beautiful four-roomed crypt is the resting place of many Holy Roman emperors and German kings.
Another landmark is the magnificent neo-Gothic Gedächtniskirche, built at the turn of the 20th-century to commemorate the 1529 ‘Protestation at Speyer’, a significant event when a group of Martin Luther’s followers protested against his imperial ban – henceforth Luther’s religious followers were known as ‘Protestants’. Speyer’s delightful Christmas market is held on the bustling Maximilanstrasse, in front of the Old Mint. The alluring aromas of hot Glühwein and roasted almonds fill the air and local choirs and music groups provide a festive programme. There’s free time to explore the numerous stalls decorated with twinkling lights before stepping back on board for another splendid dinner.
DAY 5 STRASBOURG ON CHRISTMAS DAY
This morning we cruise gently upstream, passing through two spectacular locks, whose elaborate engineering never ceases to fascinate. After breakfast why not find a comfortable chair in the lounge and enjoy a relaxing morning – the perfect start to Christmas Day. For this special day, we’re on own way to Strasbourg, hailed the capital of Christmas. You are sure to be captivated by the unique atmosphere of this captivating French city at Christmas time – its centre a mosaic of winding alleys and lanes lined with quirkily crooked, half-timbered houses largely unchanged since the 14th century. During its history, Strasbourg has been both German and French, and you see the influences of both in its language, cuisine and appearance, creating a truly individual ambience. With Strasbourg locals spending time with loved ones today, the markets, shops, cafés and attractions may not be open. Take this time to appreciate this spellbinding capital of the Alsace region and its wonderful architecture in the gentle calm of Christmas Day.
This afternoon we experience a walking tour with a local guide leading us to its enchanting centre – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Marvel at the stunning Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, with a range of architectural inspiration from 12th-century Romanesque to 15th-century Late Gothic. Other unforgettable sights include the colourful Alsatian-style Maison Kammerzell, multi-towered Ponts Couverts – covered bridges – and the pretty Petite France quarter of pastel-coloured former artisans’ houses lining the canals, now looking merry and bright for the season. In the heart of Place Kleber you’ll find The Great Christmas Tree, the seasonal symbol of Strasbourg. Back on board this evening there’s a truly memorable occasion – the Christmas Day gala dinner which will be followed by a live festive musical performance.
DAY 6 BOPPARD
After a relaxing Boxing Day breakfast, wrap up in your winter warmers and head to the sun deck or relax in the lounge and soak up the atmosphere of this magical river as we cruise downstream. We have another delicious lunch on board before we reach Boppard, a gorgeous town on a dramatic, almost U-shaped river bend. Known as the ‘Pearl of the Rhine’, the town is renowned for its storybook medieval atmosphere of captivating cobbled streets lined by tucked-away shops, traditional houses and characterful restaurants. Like many riverside settlements in the area, the Romans founded Boppard and their legacy remains in the superbly preserved town walls the finest in Germany. This delightful medieval setting provides a picturesque backdrop for a crisp but cosy December day, with the bewitching lights bedecking the half-timbered buildings.
This afternoon we’ll enjoy a guided tour lead by one of our local experts, with highlights including the beautiful white stone St. Severus and Carmelite churches, the marketplace with the ruins of the fortress and the old town with its charming winding alleys and ancient houses. This evening you can wander along the town’s attractive Rheinallee promenade and look out to the glittering lights across the river before thoughts turn to tonight’s menu, prepared by the ship’s chef and served to your delight in the restaurant.
DAY 7 COLOGNE
This morning enjoy more glorious views of dramatic, rocky vineyard-topped valley sides dotted with romantic ruined castles. What better way to spend your last morning on board than on deck or in the welcoming lounge as we progress majestically downstream. 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 this afternoon you can discover this fascinating city on our tour led by a local guide who’ll help you get the most out of your visit, which of course takes in the twin-spired cathedral, the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe, miraculous survivor of Second World War bombing and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It took six centuries to complete, and among its many treasures are the magnificent stained glass windows and gilded sarcophagus said to contain the remains of the three kings from the Nativity story. This majestic building provides a superb setting for the huge Christmas tree which stands proudly in Cathedral Square. We also see the vibrant old town, beautifully restored and boasting an abundance of excellent shopping and cosy bars, some of which still brew their own beer.
As night falls, a sumptuous dinner is followed by an on-board classical music concert - the perfect finale to this memorable Christmas cruise through the romantic River Rhine.
DAY 8 DISEMBARK IN COLOGNE
This morning, the crew bids you farewell before you disembark.
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