Day 1 Arrive Köln
Tour begins: 5:30 PM, Düsseldorf. Transfers are included from the Düsseldorf Airport and Düsseldorf Train Station to the ms Inspire, where embarkation begins at 4:00 PM. Guests enjoying a pre-stay in Düsseldorf at the Hotel Breidenbacher Hof will receive a transfer from the hotel to the riverboat. If you arrive earlier, you might choose to go into the city to visit one of Düsseldorf's Christmas Markets – and perhaps have your first taste of the traditional glühwein that is so much a part of the holiday scene. Back onboard the riverboat, meet your Tauck Directors and cruise mates at the captain's welcome reception followed by dinner tonight. (D)
Day 2 Historic Köln
Spend the morning in Köln (Cologne) and enjoy a guided tour of this historic cultural center of the Rhineland – with its Christmas Market adjacent to the Gothic, twin-spired Kölner Dom. Back aboard ship, take part in our tree-trimming party after dinner tonight as the riverboat cruises to Koblenz overnight, then on to Rüdesheim. (B, L, D)
Day 3 Music, sweet treats & more in Rüdesheim
Enjoy a morning aboard the riverboat as you cruise along the Rhine to Rüdesheim. Do a bit of exploring at the city's Weihnachtsmarkt near the pier before walking or riding a mini-train (weather permitting) to Siegfried's Mechanisches Musikkabinett for an unexpected musical treat; here, housed in a 16th-century castle, you'll find one of the world's largest collections of whimsical mechanical musical instruments, some centuries old. It wouldn't be the holiday season without holiday cookies; a cookie-making demonstration may give you some ideas to take home – and the results you'll sample are especially good when accompanied by Rüdesheim coffee, infused with local brandy. Spend some free time on your own, then return to the riverboat to enjoy dinner aboard ship and continue your cruise. (B, L, D)
Day 4 Discover the spirit of the holiday season in Heidelberg
Dock this morning for a full-day trip to Heidelberg. Home to Germany's oldest university, Heidelberg has been a dynamic place since sometime in the 5th century… and a lot happens here, especially during the holiday season. Begin your day with a guided visit to the ruins of Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schlöss), which has kept watch over the town below for many centuries, revealing what castle life might have been like there long ago. A funicular ride leads to a walking tour of the medieval Old Town, and a visit to Heidelberg’s Christmas Markets, sprawling across five city squares aglow with thousands of twinkling lights. Wind up your day with a traditional German lunch – with award-winning beer – at a local restaurant. Reboard the riverboat to continue your cruise; a jazz band entertains you onboard tonight. (B, L, D)
Day 5 Christmas in Baden-Baden & the Black Forest
Christmastime in the Black Forest has a magic all its own, as you'll see today after docking for an excursion to Baden-Baden. This famous Black Forest spa town has welcomed people seeking its healing waters ("baden," in fact, means "to bathe") since Roman times... as well as the wealthy elite who have frequented its Belle Èpoque casino, the Kurhaus, for more than a century. Following a walk through Baden-Baden's delightful Christmas Market, visit the adjacent Kurhaus. After lunch back aboard the riverboat or on your own in town, the afternoon is yours to enjoy as you please. Join your Tauck Directors for a Discovery Briefing before dinner aboard the riverboat this evening. (B, L, D)
Day 6 A walking tour of Strasbourg and its Christmas Markets
A local guide joins you aboard the riverboat to tell the story of storytelling in France's Alsace region, before heading out for a walking tour through ancient Strasbourg's Christmas Market, the biggest and oldest in all of France. Home to the European Union and in a sense the “Capital of Europe,” Strasbourg would also like you to think of it as the “Capital of Christmas.” The setting of its Marchés de Noël (as Christmas Markets are called in most cities in France), around the Gothic Cathedral de Notre-Dame, is breathtaking; after your visit, you can return to the riverboat or explore on your own and have lunch in Strasbourg, one of the best Christmas Market tour towns in France! Enjoy cocktails followed by the chef's signature dinner this evening. (B, L, D)
Day 7 Lucerne & Mt. Pilatus at Christmastime
From the riverboat this morning, set off on a shore excursion to Switzerland's lakeside "City of Lights," Lucerne. On an orientation tour with your Tauck Director, highlights include the Kappelbrucke, a covered wooden footbridge crossing the Reuss River that dates back to the 1330s; an octagonal Water Tower once used as a prison; and lovely squares like the Kornmarkt, Weinmarkt and Hirschenplatz. In Altstadt Lucerne (Old Town), narrow cobblestone lanes lead to picturesque squares lined with houses painted with frescoes. After lunch in town, head out for the heights of Mt. Pilatus via gondola to enjoy spectacular views of the city and Lake Lucerne; after descending the mountain by gondola, return to the riverboat in the afternoon. Please join us this evening for the captain’s farewell reception followed by dinner aboard the riverboat – sharing more memories of your Rhine holiday cruise over a mug of steaming glühwein with the new friends you’ve made – as the ship makes its way to Basel. (B, L, D)
Day 8 Journey home
Tour ends: Basel, Switzerland. Transfers are provided from the riverboat to EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg or to Zürich Airport or Zürich Hauptbahnof (Zürich Central Train Station); guests enjoying a post-stay in Basel will receive a transfer from the hotel to the airport. Please allow three hours for airport check-in. (B)
River Cruise Highlights
Visits to Christmas Markets in Rüdesheim, Heidelberg, Baden-Baden and Strasbourg
All This Included
Travel along the Rhine for the holiday season, from Düsseldorf to Basel aboard ms Inspire, both perfect ways to capture all the magic of Christmas Markets in Germany and France. Along with all the inclusions that are part of every Tauck river cruise, Tauck's Christmas market experience wows you with special holiday touches like an onboard tree-trimming party... glühwein and other treats aboard the riverboat, decorated in a festive seasonal theme... a traditional European Christmas dinner with all the fixings... special evenings of onboard holiday-themed entertainment... walking in the footsteps of celebrities at the Kurhaus casino in Baden-Baden... a lecture on Alsatian storytelling traditions in Strasbourg... a cookie-making demonstration and a visit to the fanciful Siegfried's Mechanisches Musikkabinett in Rüdesheim... a traditional German lunch in Heidelberg and much more!
All gratuities to ship staff, drivers, local guides, Tauck Directors & Tauck Cruise Director
All private Tauck shore excursions – $1,294 Value!
Walking tours of market cities and towns with local guides
Visits to Old Town Heidelberg and historic Heidelberger Schlöss (Heidelberg Castle)
Sightseeing in Lucerne and ascent of Mt. Pilatus by gondola
Storytelling in Strasbourg
Cookie-baking demonstration & Siegfried's Mechanisches Musikkabinett visit in Rüdesheim
Special lunch ashore in Heidelberg
Traditional European Christmas dinner & holiday events aboard the riverboat
Unlimited complimentary beverages aboard ship include regional wine, beer and premium spirits in addition to specialty coffee, water and soft drinks
All meals included – 20 total; Service charges, taxes, porterage, airport transfers and applicable fuel surcharges
Accommodations on this Tour
Cruising: Cabin onboard ms Inspire
Cabin upgrades are available.
Although not expected, Tauck reserves the right to alter the sequence of ports or omit or substitute scheduled ports or attractions at any time without prior notice.
Museums and attractions may be subject to closure due to state, local or religious holidays.
This cruise includes a fair amount of walking in each city.
All nights are spent cruising aboard your Tauck riverboat.
Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
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.