Great European Journey
Take a grand tour of Europe on this popular journey, featuring rides on legendary trains in Alpine settings and a five-night cruise along the Rhine River, as well as visits to Cologne's magnificent Gothic cathedral and Heidelberg's 13th-century castle.
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Reminiscent of the 19th-century “Grand Tour,” this unique journey features the heart of Western Europe—and both river cruising and train travel. From Amsterdam, board your deluxe riverboat for a five-night cruise through the Netherlands, Germany, and France. Specially arranged excursions feature five World Heritage sites—Amsterdam’s storybook canals, Cologne’s magnificent Gothic cathedral, the lovely heart of the Rhine River Valley, the Alsatian city of Strasbourg, and Berne’s Old Town. You’ll also visit medieval Rüdesheim and Heidelberg Castle. In Switzerland, enjoy two nights each in charming Lucerne and Alpine Zermatt—and experience the soaring majesty of the Swiss Alps from three legendary railways, the Gornergrat Bahn, the Glacier Express, and the Pilatus Railway, the world’s steepest cogwheel railway. An optional extension to Amsterdam is also offered.
Please note that our June 27-July 7, 2015 departure operates in reverse order to the below itinerary.
Days 1-2 — U.S., Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Depart the U.S. for Amsterdam. Following your morning arrival, enjoy a private cruise along Amsterdam’s delightful canals lined with 16th- and 17th-century gabled row houses, which have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Embark the ship and join fellow participants this evening for the Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner. (L,R,D)
Day 3 — Cologne, Germany
Enjoy the morning while cruising along the picturesque Rhine River. One of Germany’s most ancient cities, Cologne was founded as a Roman military outpost in 38 B.C. From the time of Charlemagne to present day, it has flourished as the Rhineland’s foremost mercantile and religious center and is the birthplace of the original world-famous Eau De Cologne perfume. Explore the Altstadt (Old Town) and visit the historic Kölner Dom (cathedral), a UNESCO World Heritage site and the finest example of High Gothic architecture in Germany; construction began on the cathedral in 1248 and lasted for six centuries. Among its artistic treasures are the Milan Madonna and the Shrine of the Three Holy Kings. (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Koblenz, Rüdesheim
Go ashore this morning in Koblenz, where Germany’s Roman past dates to 9 B.C., during the reign of Augustus Caesar, when it was strategically established at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers. From the famous Deutsches Eck (German Corner), enjoy a view of the impressive 19th-century fortress of Ehrenbreitstein, once the residence of the powerful Archbishop-Electors of Trier. The twin-towered Basilica of St. Castor, built between the 9th and 13th centuries, features the Rhineland’s distinctive Romanesque architecture.
Cruise through the spectacular Rhine River Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, legendary for its scenery and riverside architectural treasures. Be on deck for a front row view of the steep terraced vineyards rising on the slopes of the riverbanks. With each bend in the river, a medieval castle crowns the crags and a tranquil village nestles along its banks. See the famous Lorelei Rock—legend holds that a beautiful siren lured sailors here with her enchanting song.
Dock in the medieval town of Rüdesheim, the heart of Germany’s wine country. Enjoy a tour aboard the unique Winzerexpress mini-train, traveling through bucolic countryside vineyards and passing historic castles, followed by a private tasting of German wines.
Reboard the ship and cruise through the Rheingau, Germany’s most famous wine-growing region, known particularly for its Riesling. (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Mannheim for Heidelberg
This morning, from Mannheim, transfer to Heidelberg, where luminaries such as Goethe and Schumann came to experience the intellectual atmosphere of Heidelberg University, Germany’s oldest, founded in 1386. To many on the “Grand Tour” of Europe, fashionable in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, Heidelberg epitomized Germany, nestled in the densely wooded valley of the Neckar River and alive with the spirit of German Romanticism. Heidelberg has preserved its authentic Renaissance-Baroque character, including the eight remaining arches of the famous Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) that span the Neckar River. Visit imposing Heidelberg Castle, a magnificent, 13th-century edifice perched above the river. The stately ruins preserve Heidelberg’s links to its medieval past. (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Strasbourg, France
The lively Alsatian city of Strasbourg fuses the Old and New Europe. The Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a treasure trove of medieval houses, and the charming Ponts-Couverts, covered bridges flanked by watchtowers at each end, span the picturesque canals. It was in Strasbourg that John Calvin first established a reformed parish. See remnants of the Reformation in the beautiful Protestant and Catholic Church of St-Pierre-le-Vieux; and see the graceful sandstone Catholic Cathedral of Notre Dame, a Romanesque-Gothic masterpiece that, according to the poet Goethe, rises “like a most sublime, wide-arching tree of God.” In the Petite-France district, the historic millers’, tanners’ and fishermen’s quarter along the Ill River, the fairy-tale look of a past era lives on, while nearby, 28 nations engage in the daily discourse of the European Union Parliament.
Enjoy lunch aboard ship. The afternoon is free for independent pursuits. This evening, attend the Captain’s Farewell Dinner. (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Basel, Switzerland, Berne, Interlaken, Lucerne
Disembark in Basel and enjoy a scenic transfer across the rolling Swiss countryside to Berne, Switzerland’s historic capital. Visit the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site and beautifully preserved medieval gem noted for its arcaded sidewalks. Have lunch in a traditional Bernese restaurant.
Continue on through one of the most beautiful areas of Switzerland, the spectacular Bernese Oberland, traveling from subtropical lowlands to the snow-crowned heights of the Alps. Admire its impressive natural treasures, including soaring jagged peaks, rolling green hills, crystal-clear glacial lakes, and densely wooded forests.
Stop in the charming resort town of Interlaken, located between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Here, you will find the perfect vantage point for admiring the towering Jungfrau, an imposing summit in the Bernese Alps known as the “Top of Europe.”
Then, enjoy a scenic motorcoach transfer to Lucerne, where you will check into the lakeside, deluxe Hotel Schweizerhof Lucerne and enjoy an evening at leisure. (B,L)
Day 8 — Lucerne
A long-favored destination of travelers, Lucerne is set against the backdrop of its deep blue lake and the rugged grandeur of Mounts Pilatus and Rigi. Begin your morning walking tour in the Weinmarkt (wine market), surrounded by historic burghers’ houses. See the Hofkirche (Court Church), one of the finest examples of German Renaissance architecture, and the Lion Monument, dedicated to the Swiss Guards who gave their lives defending Louis XVI during the French Revolution. Walk across Lucerne’s most famous landmark, the delightful, 14th-century wooden Chapel Bridge, which spans the Reuss River and is adorned with 17th-century paintings.
Ascend Mount Pilatus by panoramic gondola to its 7000-foot summit for a magnificent 360-degree panorama of central Switzerland’s mountains, peaks, forests and lakes. Enjoy lunch in a summit restaurant followed by free time. Board the Pilatus Railway, the world’s steepest cogwheel railway, then descend more than 5,300 feet in less than three miles on return to the shores of Lake Lucerne, where you will enjoy a scenic lake cruise. (B,L)
Day 9 — Lucerne, Andermatt, Zermatt
Relax during a scenic transfer from Lucerne to Andermatt. Lunch is included in Andermatt before you board the fabled Glacier Express, “the world’s slowest fast train,” and travel through the heart of the Alps, where the natural beauty of the mountains rivals the skill and ingenuity of the engineers who created this rail route across Europe’s most challenging terrain—requiring the construction of 291 bridges and 91 tunnels.
Arrive in the Alpine resort of Zermatt, dramatically located beneath the pinnacle of the iconic Matterhorn. Check into the chalet-style Hotel Alex and enjoy dinner in the hotel. (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Zermatt
Today, travel aboard the famous Gornergrat Bahn, the highest cog railway in Europe. Ascend through forests of pine and larch and cross meadows ablaze with wildflowers to the 10,000‑foot‑high Gornergrat. From the observatory atop the Gornergrat, look out over sweeping vistas of Europe’s most breathtaking Alpine scenery—the serrated profiles of the Matterhorn, the Liskamm and Dufourspitze mountains and vast Gorner Glacier. Return to Zermatt at your leisure, with the option to stop en route at Riffelberg for the panoramic view of Monte Rosa and the majestic Matterhorn. The Farewell Reception and dinner will be in the hotel tonight. (B,R,D)
Day 11 — Zermatt, Geneva, U.S.
Following breakfast, transfer to Geneva for your return flight to the U.S. (B)
All program features are contingent upon final brochure pricing.