After a few days of the breath-taking steep sides of the Rhine Gorge, the expanses of its rift valley and Switzerland’s quintessential alpine peaks home will seem a long way away
Selected departures May to September 2017
You fly to Düsseldorf or Cologne from where a coach will take you to the ship. Or you can take a late morning Eurostar from London St. Pancras International arriving in Brussels approximately two hours later, where a coach will take you over the German border to your ship.
Moored in Cologne’s picturesque historic centre, the dedicated crew will welcome you aboard your first-class floating hotel, ensuring you settle into your comfortable and extremely well equipped cabin and familiarise yourself with the ship.
As you wake and enjoy a sumptuous breakfast, the real delights of this river cruise begin to unveil as the first rolling hills of the Rhine Valley drift silently past. Firstly you see the forested Siebengebirge (seven mountains), the inspiration for the Grimm’s many legends including ‘Snow White’, just the overture for even more dramatic scenery as we head upstream. We pass the famous ruined bridge at Remagen, captured intact by the allies in a bold action towards the end of WWII, before finally crumbling into the waters below. The pretty waterfronts of riverside towns come into view and the first of the Rhine’s vineyards shimmer in the morning sun as we glide gently into our mooring to visit picturesque Koblenz.
Founded by the Romans, the city is beautifully located at the confluence of the Rhine and its sister, the Moselle. Your afternoon is free to wander ashore and explore the many medieval buildings, housing a fine array of traditional shops and classic Rhineland cafés. There is much for the student of historic buildings to admire: the former mint, the Four Towers with their ornamental 17th century turrets and several fascinating squares and churches, including the 9th century Basilica of St Kastor.
Amongst the many twists and turns along its course, one of the most impressive and memorable on the Rhine is surely the huge looping ‘S’ bend at Boppard. This morning’s cruise weaves around this long meander, guarded by the mighty Marksburg Castle.
Journeying further, you explore the most famous of all the river’s reaches and a real highlight of the cruise, the dramatic Rhine Gorge: steep vineyards give way to almost vertical rocky outcrops, towering over 200 metres above the sweeping valley sides. Sailing past St Goar and the many ruined castles, you get a real sense of the myths of this historic river coming alive around you. No legend is more famous than that surrounding the Loreley Rock, where beautiful nymphs distracted hapless sailors luring them to their deaths in the treacherous waters.
After lunch you berth and visit Rüdesheim. The afternoon is free to relax in its bustling cafés, take a quiet stroll through the vineyards or maybe a cable car ride to the great statue of Germania, strikingly overlooking the river’s exit from the gorge. There are some delightful corners in what is a classic Rhine wine village and the connoisseur of the grape will find some genuinely top class produce in the area. After dinner this evening, why not end the day with a small Asbach - the brandy locally distilled here in Rüdesheim – as you watch the last of the ferries crossing the river in the moonlight glow.
Still sailing upstream, the Rhine is much wider and flatter now, with gently rolling hills and vineyards that are home to the Liebfraumilch wines. The river is much more gentle here and Oxbow lakes, long deserted by the river flow, are a haven for over one hundred species of bird life in one of Germany’s largest nature reserves.
Today the ship berths in delightfully medieval Speyer, which you are sure to love. During the 16th century in nearby Worms, Martin Luther was excommunicated for his religious beliefs and banished from the Holy Roman Empire. His followers in Speyer protested at this and for the first time were called ‘Protestants’. You can visit the neo-gothic Gedächtniskirche, built to commemorate this event and the huge, richly decorated Basilica, one of the finest Romanesque buildings in existence which when it was built was widely acclaimed as one of the finest in Christendom. Its crypt alone is the largest in Germany, with its pastel coloured sandstone pillars and striking marble floors is probably the most beautiful in the world and is the final resting place of several emperors and kings from Speyer’s illustrious past. You also have some free time to explore as you wish before re-joining the ship.
This morning, you gently cruise upstream, passing through two spectacular locks, which never cease to fascinate. Why not catch up on some reading in the ship’s library, play chess or watch the scenery from the Sun Deck: relax and enjoy your wellearned break.
You soon arrive in France and Strasbourg, capital of the Alsace region, now one of the centres of the European Union. This afternoon, we will have a walking tour of its unique and picturesque 16th century old town, bisected by canals and a maze of narrow streets lined with timber-framed houses and sculptured portals plus the superb cathedral. Don’t be surprised if, as the shadows lengthen, you’re tempted to linger a while in a typical Alsatian café to sample some of the world famous wine for which the region is rightly renowned - maybe a Riesling or that particular speciality of Alsace, the spicy Gewürztraminer. This evening, the ‘Captain’s Dinner’ will take place on board, serving delicious specialities of the countries and regions we visit during our cruise.
Your final day’s cruising is spent gliding majestically between the ancient forested outcrops of the Vosges and the Black Forest, through the great rift valley, formed many millennia ago by massive geological forces. We arrive at the ancient town of Breisach whose historic heart is surrounded by immense stone ramparts.
This afternoon, you drive amidst some of central Europe’s most stunning scenery. Rugged valleys full of white-water rivers and cascading waterfalls, rolling hillsides covered with huge, densely packed pine trees: this is the Black Forest at its best and exactly as you expect it to be. You visit the archetypical town of Titisee, nestling on the shores of its crystal clear lake.
Having rejoined the ship, the crew slip moorings, the sun sets over the imposing massif of the Vosges Mountains and the riverside lights begin to twinkle as you restart our stately passage up river. You enjoy this evening’s dinner cruise en-route to Switzerland and our next mooring at Basel.
For many today will be the highlight of the cruise. You firstly take the short drive to Lucerne; spectacularly nestled among stunning mountain views, it is by far Switzerland’s most beautiful city and has been attracting well-heeled visitors for two centuries, one of the most famous being our very own Queen Victoria. You must take an invigorating stroll along the Chapel Bridge – symbol of the city, a unique covered wooden walkway crossing the lake supported by stilts, lined with colourful, flower-filled window boxes and a superb way to absorb Lucerne’s rather regal atmosphere. The scenery becomes ever more dramatic and then as you enter the Bernese Oberland in central Switzerland, it becomes quite literally breathtaking! This is the grand Alpine heart of Europe and amongst the finest mountain scenery on earth, described by the composer Mendelssohn as ‘the most wonderful of all in this unbelievably beautiful country’. On viewing the spectacular snow-capped peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau you will be quite simply awestruck. We then ascend into the lofty scenery on the most scenic journey by mountain railway for more breathtaking vistas with the crystal-clear shimmering lakes reflecting the alpine meadows and lush forests below. This truly magical landscape will enchant you. Please note temperatures will be significantly lower at altitude even in summer months so it is advised that you pack suitable clothing.
For those choosing to extend their holiday with our three night extension we depart the ship and take the intercity train to the historic city of Chur, at the heart of Graubünden, the largest canton in Switzerland.
As we leave Basel’s city skyline behind us, the scenery becomes ever more picturesque; a wild landscape of deep, isolated valleys, sheer rocky summits and thick pine forests come into view. Glittering sunlight pours from the blue skies above onto sparkling glaciers oozing from the lofty summits; this is truly some of the most wildly spectacular mountain scenery in the world! Nestled in a deep ancient valley, the Alps rising like an amphitheatre around it, we arrive in
Switzerland’s oldest city. Inhabited since 3000 BC, the Celts, Romans, Ostrogoths and Franks all ruled here and due to its advantageous position, Chur became the central gateway to alpine passes and important trade routes. A maze of lovely winding cobbled alleys and quiet courtyards splashed with cheerful window boxes and refreshing fountains, lined with handsome town houses leads to the magnificent cathedral at the heart of the characterful old town. A fascinating mix of gothic and Romanesque styles, this vast building dominates the city behind its thick gated walls, its rising spires puncturing the sky above.
Officially trilingual which adds to the city’s Mediterranean feel, Chur is a vibrant cosmopolitan city too. An ideal base for hiking and skiing, the city is also proudly sporty. But if you’re feeling a little less energetic why not linger over a leisurely lunch in one of the Old Town’s cosy restaurants. Look out for the regional speciality of Bündnerfleisch, prime beef traditionally air-dried in the eaves of a barn or an open attic and sliced wafer-thin, to be enjoyed with other cold meats – washed down with a cooling glass of the purest local mineral water (which arguably also comes out of the taps here!) or for something stronger enjoy a refreshing drink in one the city’s many atmospheric bars and cafés.
We enjoy free time in the city so explore at your leisure. We stay one night with breakfast at the historic three-star superior Hotel Stern Chur. Centrally located this charming former inn which dates back over 300 years has a welcoming atmosphere, with echoes of a typical Swiss chalet in its authentic wooden beams and floors. All the rooms are comfortably furnished in warm relaxing tones. You might like to take dinner at your leisure in the excellent traditional restaurant serving seasonal menus or sample one of the city’s many local establishments – the choice is yours – before returning to the hotel perhaps for a digestif in the cosy bar.
Today after breakfast we check out of the hotel and embark on one of Europe’s most scenic and spectacular rail journeys, as we board the legendary Glacier Express to world famous Zermatt and the iconic Matterhorn – the sight of which for many will be a truly breath taking highlight.
We firstly climb the foothills of the mighty Alps then cross the Swiss frontier and head into the high Alps themselves. We then take the Simplon Pass, once used by the Romans to control their northern provinces with the first actual road constructed by Napoleon. Continuing, the scenery becomes ever more spectacular, with lush, wild flower-covered meadows studded with tiny shepherds’ shelters sweeping through the dense forests, crowned by snow-capped mountains glistening in the warm sun. You could be lucky and catch a glimpse of the elusive ibex, chamois or even a golden eagle soaring high above. Marvelling at the engineering feats, the road traverses towering viaducts and jaw dropping precipices, as we pass countless torrential mountain streams, tumbling waterfalls before arriving at the legendary village of Zermatt, nestling at the foot of the magnificent, instantly recognisable Matterhorn. Zermatt itself is iconically Swiss, a car-free jumble of chalets and ancient wooden farm huts strewn along the valley floor, towards pastures alive with the delicate sound of cowbells whilst dramatic cable cars and soaring footpaths weave ever upwards to the majestic amphitheatre of the surrounding lofty summits.
The ultimate alpine peak, the Matterhorn is strangely shy until you reach the end of the village, turn a corner, and the Swiss national symbol is revealed in its unrivalled glory - truly, one of life’s ‘wow’ moments, it will not disappoint!
We stay two nights bed and breakfast at the excellent four-star Hotel Schweizerhof. This comfortable hotel at the heart of the village provides an excellent base from which to explore the huge choice of restaurants and cafés catering for every taste!
Today you may wish to explore Zermatt further under your own steam or for more stupendous vistas you have the opportunity to take Europe’s highest open air cog railway to the Gornergrat. Climbing ever upwards through yet more spectacular mountain scenery you will not be surprised to learn that some of the country’s best hiking trails are here. Surrounded by 29 peaks the Gornergrat rises to over 3000 metres and offers an absolutely awe-inspiring mountain landscape of glaciers and summits of jaw-dropping proportions; sit back and admire a view of some of the mightiest peaks in the world, their magnitude and beauty will simply astound you.
Maybe enjoy a leisurely lunch against this most spectacular of backdrops before descending back to Zermatt. Perhaps take a cable car ride for more dramatic alpine views or visit the Alpine Museum with its interesting collection of mountaineering memorabilia. Or simply relax over afternoon tea in a cosy café and soak up the ambience of this truly magical Alpine wonderland.
Today we depart the hotel at the appropriate time and take the train back to the airport for your flight home with memories to treasure of one of the most spectacular countries in Europe.
Welcome aboard the first class river cruise ship, your luxury, floating hotel for the next seven nights. From the exceptional full-board cuisine to the luxurious cabins and suites you will very soon relax as we journey south to magnificent Switzerland.
We offer return flights from 3 regional airports. We will provide coach transfers to and from the ship, escorted by the tour manager and/or transfer guide.
During the extension you will spend three nights in charming four-star Zermatt hotels with breakfast. Zermatt is home to the iconic Matterhorn and a perfect base from which to explore the breath-taking alpine scenery.
All meals are included from dinner on your day of arrival to breakfast on your day of departure, including Welcome Cocktails and Dinner and the Captain's Dinner. Enjoy buffet breakfasts, delicious lunches, delightful afternoon tea and sumptuous four-course dinner - a memorable journey of culinary discovery awaits.
Stay connected throughout your river cruise with wifi on board and in your cabin, whilst tea and coffee making facilities in your cabin make it easy to unwind at any time.
Our cabins and suites are amongst the largest you will find on a ship gracing any European river. Every one boasts a beautifully appointed en-suite bathroom and exceptional river views guaranteed.
A full programme of visits and guided tours is included. You won't just see the cities and destinations; you'll feel their heartbeat. For this cruise we offer 7 excursions including a guided tour of Strasbourg, a drive through the Black Forest to Titisee and a full day excursion to Lucerne and the Bernese Oberland. Plus, visits to Koblenz, Rudesheim, Breisach and Speyer. During the extension we offer a visit to historic Chur and an experience on the legendary Glacier Express train – Europe’s most scenic rail journey.
Our hand-picked crew are on call 24/7 to make your stay more comfortable and you can rest assured that our tour managers and cruise directors are the best in the business. All crew, tour managers and local guides are English speaking and extremely knowledgeable.
All port charges, airport taxes and overseas transfers and covered in your holiday cost. No surcharges - guaranteed!
River cruise: Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of single cabins available on all decks, at the relevant supplement. The price includes full board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day; if you choose to travel with us on any of the full day excursions by coach, a packed lunch will be provided. Anyone choosing to stay on the ship may of course have lunch in the restaurant; morning/afternoon tea and coffee; all visits and excursions as mentioned in the brochure, airport transfers, coach travel as mentioned, travel to and from port of embarkation and the services of a Riviera Travel Tour Manager.
Extension: The price of this extension is per person based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability at a supplement of £99 per person. The price includes three nights’ accommodation with breakfast at Hotel Stern in Chur and Hotel Schweizer Hof in Zermatt, train transfer from Basel to Chur, standard class journey on Glacier Express, train transfer to the airport, porterage of 1 piece of luggage per person and the services of a Riviera tour manager.
Please note that in Switzerland beds are often one bed base with two mattresses and individual bed linen.