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A blend of river cruising and train travel, this unique journey embodies the spirit of the 19th-century “Grand Tour” through the heart of Western Europe. Arriving in Switzerland, enjoy 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. Then travel to Basel to board your deluxe riverboat for a five-night cruise through France, Germany, and Holland. Cruise along the most scenic sections of the Rhine River, stopping to enjoy a glass of Riesling in Strasbourg, explore the medieval university town of Heidelberg, and view the magnificence of Cologne’s Gothic Cathedral. Historian John Sweets provides expertise throughout your journey, including four World Heritage sites.Don't forget to check out our photo slide show to glimpse the excitement of this special program!
View photos by clicking "Next Photo" at top of page!Itinerary
September 4 and 5 — U.S., Zurich, Switzerland, Lucerne
Depart the U.S. for Zurich. Following your morning arrival, travel by motorcoach
Arrive in the Alpine resort of Zermatt
, dramatically located beneath the pinnacle of the iconic Matterhorn. Check into the Deluxe Hotel Schweizerhof Lucerne
for dinner in the hotel and an evening at leisure. (B,L,D)September 6 — LucerneLucerne
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 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 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 7,000-foot summit for a magnificent 360-degree view 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)September 7 — 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.
Arrive in the Alpine resort of Zermatt
, dramatically located beneath the pinnacle of the iconic Matterhorn. Check into the Deluxe Hotel Schweizerhof Zermatt
for dinner in the hotel and an evening at leisure. (B,L,D)September 8 — 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. Dinner will be in the hotel this evening. (B,D)September 9 — Zermatt, Interlaken, Berne, Strasbourg, France
Board a shuttle train for the brief journey to the nearby village of Täsch
. Continue on through one of the most beautiful areas of Switzerland, the spectacular Bernese Oberland, traveling 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
, the perfect vantage point for admiring the towering Jungfrau, an imposing summit in the Bernese Alps known as the “Top of Europe.”
Continue to Berne, Switzerland’s historic capital. Visit the Old Town (a World Heritage site>
and beautifully preserved medieval gem noted for its arcaded sidewalks. Have lunch in a traditional Bernese restaurant.
After lunch, travel across the rolling Swiss and French countryside to Strasbourg, France. Upon arrival, embark the intimate M.S. Swiss Crown
and join fellow participants this evening for the Captain’s Welcome Reception and dinner. (B,L,R,D)September 10 — Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg’s Old City (a 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, and the beautiful Protestant Church of St-Pierre-le-Vieux testifies to the city’s history of religious acceptance. See the graceful sandstone Catholic Cathedral of Notre Dame, a Romanesque-Gothic masterpiece. 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, 27 nations engage in the daily discourse of the European Union Parliament.
Enjoy lunch aboard ship and enjoy an afternoon at leisure exploring Alsace
and appreciating the region’s distinctive Franco-German culture. Settled on the borders of Switzerland and Germany, Alsace is one of the most picturesque regions of France and a world-renowned wine region famous for its “Route du Vin,” which includes more than 100 wine producing villages.
Depart from Strasbourg this evening and cruise through the Rheingau, Germany’s most famous wine-growing region, known particularly for its Riesling. (B,L,D)September 11 — Speyer (Heidelberg), Germany/ Worms
This morning, from Speyer
, 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 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.
Continue to Worms
, an early center of printing and the birthplace of the first Bibles of the Reformation. See the Worms Cathedral, one of the most exquisite examples of Romanesque architecture in Germany. Boasting a moving history of Christian-Jewish coexistence, Worms is still known by many as “Little Jerusalem.” The most impressive historic areas are the Jewish cemetery and the former Jewish quarter and its synagogue. (B,L,D)September 12 — Mainz, RüdesheimMainz
, the gateway to the Rhineland, is a modern city with an ancient heart—settled as a Celtic encampment, it later became a Roman fort city and part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire. See the 1,000-year-old Roman Catholic Kaiser Dom during your walking tour; its six Romanesque red sandstone towers dominate the city center. Stroll around the colorful Renaissance fountain in the old medieval Marketplatz. See the Gutenberg Museum
, which honors the city’s most famous son and holds two original Gutenberg Bibles.
The medieval town of Rüdesheim is the heart of Germany’s wine country. Enjoy a tour aboard the unique, “Winzerexpress”
mini-train, traveling through countryside vineyards and passing historic palaces and castles, followed by a private tasting of local wines. (B,L,D)September 13 — Rüdesheim, Boppard, Koblenz
Cruise through the spectacular Rhine River Valley (a World Heritage site)
, legendary for its scenery and riverside architectural treasures. Be on deck to see 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 maiden lured sailors here with her enchanting song.
Go ashore in quaint Boppard
, a winegrowing center located along a horseshoe bend in the Rhine River. Still partly surrounded by medieval walls, the town is home to the Romanesque St. Severus Church, which displays medieval frescoes honoring its patron saint.
Continue to Koblenz, where Germany’s Roman past dates to nine B.C. when it was strategically established at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel 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 ninth and 13th centuries, features the Rhineland’s distinctive Romanesque architecture. (B,L,D)September 14 —
“The Pearl of the Mosel River,” medieval Cochem
will enchant you with its delightful folklore, wine traditions and riverfront promenade. See its turreted 11th-century hilltop castle, Reichsburg
, which has been restored to its original majesty and overlooks the steeply terraced vineyards and tiny, storybook village that characterize the Mosel Valley. (B,L,D)September 15 — Linz, Cologne
Arrive in Linz
this morning and transfer to Cologne
, 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 (a 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
Enjoy lunch in a nearby restaurant before returning to the ship. This evening, attend the Captain’s Farewell Dinner. (B,L,D)September 16 — Cologne, Düsseldorf, U.S.
Following breakfast, continue on the Amsterdam Post-Program Option, or transfer to the airport for your return flight to the U.S. (B)Amsterdam Post-Program Option
The historic heart of Amsterdam, laced with tree-shaded canals and stately 16th- and 17th-century merchant houses, is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is the perfect extension to your Great Journey. Enjoy a tour of the city, a private canal cruise and a full-day excursion to the
quaint port towns of Edam and Hoorn. Accommodations are for two nights in a