Iberian Immersion: Cruising Portugal's Douro
Set sail on the beautiful Rhine River, gliding past stunning landscapes and culturally rich cities in four countries aboard the MS Douce France. Beginning in Basel, Switzerland, follow the river as it straddles the border between France and Germany, exploring the gorgeous old French cities of Strasbourg and Colmar, which are carved with canals and lined with brightly painted half-timbered houses. Examine the architecture of Cologne, Germany, which illustrates several millennia of European history from the Romans to the Bauhaus movement. Visit world-renowned cathedrals and museums, such as Colmar’s Unterlinden Museum and the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany. Get acquainted with traditional life in Holland at an open-air museum in Arnhem, and discover the artistic heritage of Haarlem before disembarking in Amsterdam. At every destination, choose from a variety of optional tours and excursions to tailor your trip to your interests. Along the way, experience the extraordinary natural beauty along the Rhine, from the thundering Rhine Falls to the emerald volcanic hills of Kaiserstuhl to the vineyards of Germany’s Rheinhessen.
May 11-19, 2020
Cruise past hilltop castles and medieval towns on your way from Switzerland to Holland aboard the MS Douce France riverboat.
Ride a boat into the spray of Rhine Falls, the largest waterfall in continental Europe.
Take a bike ride amid terraced vineyards in the volcanic landscape of Kaiserstuhl, Germany.
Taste local wines and charcuterie on a wagon ride through the vineyards of Rheinhessen.
Spend an afternoon exploring Haarlem, a capital of culture during the Dutch Golden Age.
Arrive in Basel and board the MS Douce France in the evening. Settle into your cabin and join the crew for a welcome cocktail before dinner. (D)
Start the day with an optional walking tour of Basel, a Swiss city with a remarkable cultural heritage situated on the border of France, Switzerland and Germany. Stroll the medieval passageways of Grossbasel, the old imperial city, and see the ornate Rathaus, or Town Hall, set on the market square. Wander the age-old Freie Strasse, now a fashionable shopping street, and visit the city’s historic cathedral. This afternoon your included excursion will feature a journey to Schaffhausen for a visit to Rhine Falls, continental Europe’s largest waterfall. Stretching nearly 500 feet across, the falls are split by a pillar of rock and drop a total of 100 feet in two cascades. Take a local boat to the rock to feel the power of the roaring falls and then enjoy a hike around the site. Tonight enjoy dinner before the ship heads into Germany. (B, L, D)
The Rhine forms the border between France and Germany, and you’ll have the opportunity to visit both today. Dock in Breisach, Germany, and set off on an easy morning bike ride among the terraced hills of Kaiserstuhl. Pedal through this verdant volcanic landscape, passing vineyards, orchards and small villages, and finish the ride on a bike path along the Rhine. After lunch, enjoy time to relax on the boat or explore on your own. Or join an optional excursion to charming Colmar, France. Here, stroll along canals past the colorful half-timbered homes of “Little Venice” and pay a visit to the renowned Unterlinden Museum, housed within a 13th-century convent. (B, L, D)
Cruise north to Strasbourg this morning and enjoy the afternoon exploring this vibrant city on your own. Alternatively, choose one of two optional excursions. Take an orientation tour of the historic city followed by a guided walk that includes the 12th-century Notre Dame de Strasbourg cathedral and the UNESCO World Heritage site of La Petite France. Or embark on a tour of secret Strasbourg, discovering the city’s little-known tales and treasures, and cap off the adventure climbing 330 steps to the top of its cathedral for a spectacular panoramic view. As we make our way toward Mainz, Germany, tonight, dine on board. (B, L, D)
Situated at the confluence of the Rhine and the Main Rivers, Mainz can trace its history back to the Roman era. On an optional guided tour this morning, visit palaces, churches and post-and-beam houses. Enter the splendid cathedral, begun in 975, and wander through the beautiful old town lined with brightly painted homes. Delve into the history of the printed word at the renowned Gutenberg Museum, dedicated to the legacy of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press and a native of Mainz. Later, explore the Rheinhessen, an important German wine-producing region. Set off on a hay ride through the vineyards that line the Rhine and sample local bread, wine and charcuterie. Return to the ship to cruise through one of the most picturesque stretches of the Rhine, passing castles and the legendary Lorelei rock on the way to Koblenz. (B, L, D)
Sail toward Cologne, or Köln, arriving in the late morning, and explore on your own or take an optional guided tour of this lively city: Visit the cathedral, which took all of five centuries to finish and was the highest building in the world until 1884, and see the Romanesque churches that encircle it. In the old town, admire the neo-Gothic Farina Fragrance Museum, where eau de Cologne was first manufactured 300 years ago — and continues to be made today. After free time in Cologne, travel to Düsseldorf by coach to rejoin our boat. You may also choose to remain on the boat and enjoy a leisurely cruise to Düsseldorf. Tonight gather for a gala dinner on board. (B, L, D)
Dock in Xanten and visit the town on your own or add an excursion to the Dutch Open Air Museum in Arnhem, Holland. Set within a large park, the museum is a microcosm of traditional villages across the Netherlands, complete with 80 farms, windmills, workshops, houses, a church and a school — and guides in period clothing who provide insights into everyday life in centuries past. Examine different architectural styles and see blacksmiths, weavers and millers at work. (B, L, D)
Wake up in Amsterdam and venture into this enchanting city on your own or enjoy one of two optional excursions: either a panoramic tour of the city followed by a visit to a diamond merchant, or a morning bike tour along the canals to some of Amsterdam’s lesser-known sites. You may choose to linger at the flower market or the lively Albert Cuyp street market before taking lunch on board. This afternoon, travel to Haarlem, an important hub of the tulip trade and a thriving center of the arts during the Dutch Golden Age. Visit the 15th-century Amsterdam Gate, the Grote Markt and the Gothic cathedral and stop by the house of Corrie ten Boom, a watchmaker who hid Jews and helped them escape during World War II. See the city’s historic beguinages, or homes for religious women, the oldest of which was built in 1395. Enjoy time on your own in Haarlem before returning to the boat for your final night. (B, L, D)
After breakfast, disembark this morning and transfer to the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol for individual flights home. (B)