Rhine, Strasbourg & Heidelberg River Cruise - MS George Eliot

8 Days - European River Cruise

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A spectacularly scenic cruise of wonderful contrasts, from refined and historic Heidelberg to delightfully quaint Boppard and the old world charm of medieval Strasbourg plus the enduring allure of the glorious Rhine Gorge. Stepping aboard you will appreciate the superb surroundings of your floating luxury hotel for the next seven nights with spacious and well-appointed cabins or suites, private bathrooms and meticulously prepared fine cuisine. From Cologne, we slip our moorings and head on our journey south to Koblenz spending a morning exploring this historic town sitting at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers then continuing to the beautiful old town of Boppard for the evening. Continuing our journey we navigate through the outstanding natural beauty of the world-famous Rhine Gorge onto Mainz famous for the ‘Gutenberg’ Bibles. Next we enjoy a guided tour of stunning Heidelberg, on the route of Europe’s ‘Grand Tour’, nestling by the picturesque river Neckar. By day five, we arrive in Strasbourg, a delightful city with its centre largely unchanged since the 14th century, a mosaic of winding alleys and lanes lined with quirkily crooked, half-timbered houses. During periods of its history Strasbourg has been both German and French, and today you can see this influence in its language, cuisine and appearance, creating a truly individual city. Then to Colmar, almost embarrassingly perfect - a typically quaint medieval Alsatian town. The following day we return journey downstream, stopping in Rudesheim one of the liveliest towns on the river, before continuing through the Rhine Gorge to Cologne. Here we enjoy a guided walking tour of the city with time to explore the stunning cathedral, an excellent finale to this most wonderful cruise.

Highlights

  • Relax at your leisure in Boppard with ample time to explore the stunning castle - a must
  • Cruise through the spectacular Rhine Gorge
  • Visit to Mainz - capital of the Rhineland and a centre of Germany’s wine lands
  • Guided tour of majestic Heidelberg - follow in the footsteps of philosophers and poets
  • Enjoy a guided tour of historic Strasbourg - capital of Alsace
  • Take a scenic drive through beautiful Alsatian countryside to the pretty town of Colmar
  • Guided tour of Cologne and see its magnificent Gothic Cathedral
  • Price includes full-board from dinner on your first day of arrival until breakfast on your last day
  • Return flights from Dublin
  • Services of a cruise director and concierge
  • Selected departures in July and September 2019 & from June to September 2020

Inclusions

  • Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of single cabins available on the 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/station, coach travel as mentioned, travel to and from port of embarkation and the services of a Riviera Travel cruise director and concierge.
  • Please note that on-board Wi-Fi speeds may vary.

Itinerary

Day 1

Arrive at the airport for your flight to Cologne. On arrival, transfer by coach to your five-star cruise ship moored in picturesque Cologne. The dedicated English-speaking crew welcomes you on board and helps you to your cabin. After settling into your spacious and tastefully furnished accommodation, there’s time to familiarise yourself with this splendid ship.

Day 2

When you peek out from your cabin this morning, you’ll realise the ship has slipped quietly away from Cologne; the view that greets you is of vine-covered valleys sides aglow in the morning light, bidding you a warm welcome to the charms of the Rhine. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of anticipation when gliding alongside the promenade of a river port, snatching tantalising glimpses of what lies ashore, and Koblenz – beautifully located at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers – doesn’t disappoint. The city is immersed in two millennia of history: founded by the Romans, it was successively occupied by the Franks, chosen as a residence of the German prince electors, conquered by the French and fortified by the Prussians! All have left their marks in the city’s rich array of castles, churches and historic buildings. Koblenz is a romantic’s dream – forest-covered hillsides dominate the skyline, while the lower slopes are strewn with pretty, half-timbered buildings so typical of the Rhineland. After a satisfying breakfast, we disembark to enjoy an insightful guided tour through ‘Old Koblenz’, a patchwork of narrow streets and squares, many lined with exquisitely restored traditional houses and cosy cafés. There’s time to explore on your own, maybe taking in a little shopping, before ambling back to the cruise ship. We continue upstream as we enjoy our first relaxing lunch on board and before long we arrive in Boppard, a gorgeous town on a dramatic, almost U-shaped river bend. Known as the ‘Pearl of the Rhine’, Boppard is renowned for its storybook medieval atmosphere of cobbled streets and ancient houses. It’s a delight to explore, or you can simply relax on board and watch life go by. The early evening is an ideal time to wander along the town’s attractive riverside Rheinallee promenade before thoughts turn to tonight’s menu, prepared by the ship’s chef and served to your delight in the restaurant.

Day 3

Slipping our moorings in Boppard we cruise through the Rhine Gorge, where the waters narrow to one-fifth their normal width and flow more swiftly. Sheer valley walls soar 600 feet and magnificent birds of prey glide on the thermals above. Teutonic knights built the numerous redoubtable castles as symbols of their power and to extract tolls from ships, but the fortresses now stand as silent ruins on forested hillsides as reminders of how fortunes change with the passage of history. This really is the magical Rhine of our imagination, so find a comfortable spot on the Sun Deck or in the forward observation lounge and enjoy the experience of cruising this famous stretch of water. Your next port of call is historic Mainz, renowned today as Germany’s wine capital but whose most famous son was Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the movable type printing press. You can visit the excellent museum housing a reconstruction of his workshop and, outstandingly, two original 1455 Gutenberg Bibles. The museum is in a beautifully restored 17th-century building in the heart of Mainz’s Old Town, opposite the impressive Romanesque cathedral.

Day 4

Overnight we cruise further downstream and, after breakfast, we take a short drive to Heidelberg, undoubtedly one of Germany’s most perfect architectural treasures and all the more remarkable because it escaped bombing during the Second World War. Set in an almost idealised German landscape, this jewel sits on the banks of the River Neckar, surrounded by forests and with an imposing castle dominating the church spires and terracotta gabled roofs of the compact Aldstadt – the romantic Old Town. Its 14th-century university, one of the most prestigious in Europe, lends Heidelberg a genteel atmosphere rather similar to its ‘twin’ town – Cambridge. During the 19th century it was the centre of Germany’s Romantic Movement, on the route of the ‘Grand Tour’ and visited by many artists including JMW Turner, who captured its splendours for eternity. There are few more delightful places to explore, as you’ll discover on our guided walking tour, which reveals its principal attractions – including the magical stone bridge with its twin white towers – and local secrets. Afterwards, you’ll have time to explore on your own before returning to the ship to enjoy the gorgeous views as the sun sets.

Day 5

By breakfast we’ve arrived in France and the charming city of Strasbourg, capital of the Alsace region. The city is a complete delight – its centre a mosaic of winding alleys and lanes lined with quirkily crooked, half-timbered houses largely unchanged since the 14th century. During its history Strasbourg has been both German and French, and you see influences of both in its language, cuisine and appearance, creating a truly individual ambience. This morning, we explore this delightful city on a walking tour with a local guide leading us to its enchanting centre – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – taking in the Petite France quarter of pretty canals lined with classic pastel-coloured houses crisscrossed with timbers and with flower-filled window boxes, the famous multi-towered Ponts Couverts, or covered bridges, and, of course, the stunning Gothic Notre-Dame Cathedral, which Victor Hugo memorably described as a ‘veritable tiara of stone’. Just south of Strasbourg lies a picturesque wine route, virtually an open-air museum of romantic medieval villages, cobbled streets and Renaissance chateaux strung like pearls on a necklace against a sweeping backdrop of rolling hills. We enjoy all this on a splendidly scenic drive, soon arriving in the medieval town of Colmar, the best-preserved in Alsace. Little known outside the area, it’s a magical concoction of canals, former merchants’ houses, ancient religious buildings and antique shops. The cathedral quarter is surrounded by pastel-coloured half-timbered houses displaying the intricate wrought-iron hanging signs so typical of this area of Europe. We’ve plenty of time here to sit, enjoy a coffee and watch the world go by or just wander. We return to the ship in Strasbourg for dinner.

Day 6

One of the joys of life aboard our cruise ship is the sheer sense of relaxation it brings: time to catch up on some reading, enjoy a game of chess or perhaps improve your ‘putting’ on the Sun Deck golf green. Why not enjoy a coffee with your congenial travelling companions or simply watch the river traffic still using this vital artery through central Europe? In the late afternoon we visit Rüdesheim – if you imagine a typical Rhine town, then this would be it! Narrow crooked streets lead down to the sweeping river with a backdrop of wooded and vine-covered slopes. Riesling is the speciality grape here and Rüdesheim has many atmospheric Weinstuben where you can sample local wines produced from the surrounding vineyards. On board tonight, we enjoy a culinary spectacular – the Captain’s Dinner – featuring a range of irresistible specialities from the countries and regions we visit during our cruise. This special occasion is hosted, of course, by the Captain himself.

Day 7

This morning, early risers can enjoy phenomenal views as once again we pass through the Rhine Gorge where, in Wagner’s Ring Cycle, the Rhine Maidens guard lost treasure, the ‘Rheingold’. What better way to spend the morning than relaxing on the Sun Deck beneath dramatic rocky, vineyard-topped valley sides dotted with romantic ruined castles. The valley sides dissolve and hills give way to plains as we progress majestically to Cologne. This afternoon you can discover this fascinating city on our tour led by a local guide who’ll help you get the most out of your visit, which of course takes in the twin-spired cathedral, the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe, miraculous survivor of Second World War bombing and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It took six centuries to complete, and among its many treasures are the magnificent stained glass windows and gilded sarcophagus said to contain the remains of the three kings from the Nativity story. We also see the vibrant Old Town, beautifully restored and boasting an abundance of excellent shopping and cosy bars, some of which still brew their own beer. As night falls, a sumptuous dinner provides the perfect finale to this memorable cruise through the romantic River Rhine.

Day 8

Say farewell to your newly made friends and the crew before transferring to the airport for your return flight home. 

Life on board

  Cost per person: €2,009pp
  Number of nights: 7
  Dates available from: Jul 2020

Tour supplied in Partnership with:

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