Day 1: ARRIVE IN AMSTERDAM, HOLLAND (EMBARKATION).
Welcome to Amsterdam! Holland's sophisticated, modern capital has a rich 700-year-old history and a distinct ambiance. Maybe stroll through the lively marketplace or see the works of famous Dutch masters at world-renowned museums. This afternoon, board your river cruise ship and meet your crew at an evening welcome reception. (D)
NOTE: Guests must be on board ship by 5 pm.
Day 2: AMSTERDAM.
Today, get a unique perspective of Amsterdam on an included CANAL CRUISE, floating along the elegant grachten lined with stately homes dating back to Amsterdam's "Golden Age." There's free time in the city this afternoon-or you might like to join an optional excursion before bidding tot ziens (farewell) to Holland and setting sail for Germany. (B,L,D)
Day 3: COLOGNE, GERMANY.
Today, enjoy a peaceful morning of cruising before reaching Cologne after lunch. One of Germany's largest cities and capital of the Rhineland, Cologne straddles both sides of the Rhine and is known for its soaring, twin-steepled gothic cathedral. Choose between a GUIDED CITY WALK or JEWISH HERITAGE WALK. The Old Town abounds with cafes, shops, and taverns. Be sure to try a Kolsch pale lager, locally brewed in Cologne for over a hundred years! (B,L,D)
Day 4: RHINE GORGE-RUDESHEIM.
This morning, cruise through the dramatic RHINE GORGE-without a doubt, the most beautiful stretch of river and where ancient castles stand sentry on lofty cliffs rising 122 metres (400 feet) above the waters. Cruise past the rock of the Lorelei, where legend tells of enchanted siren song that lured sailors to their doom. On your included shore excursion in pretty Rudesheim, visit SIEGFRIED'S MECHANICAL MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MUSEUM, where you'll be mesmerised by the self-playing calliopes and music boxes from the 18th to the early 20th centuries. Enjoy a SPECIAL TREAT and free time to pick up some souvenirs on the narrow, cobblestoned Drosselgasse, where colourful flowers, open-air wine gardens, and live music add to the festive atmosphere. (B,L,D)
Day 5: MAIN RIVER VILLAGE.
On the banks of the Main River you find cultural gems of small towns, many of them tucked away behind defensive walls and towered gates. With half-timbered houses, narrow streets, and medieval town centres, these picturesque Bavarian villages are a photographer's delight. Join your Local Guide to experience one of these towns on a GUIDED WALK. (B,L,D)
Day 6: WURZBURG.
Surrounded by verdant hillside vineyards, Wurzburg, the "Pearl of the Romantic Road," makes an immediate impression with imposing Marienberg Fortress perched above town and the 15th-century Alte Mainbrucke (Old Main Bridge). On your GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR this morning, visit the magnificent baroque BISHOP'S RESIDENZ, home to the largest ceiling fresco ever painted. Depart Wurzburg at lunchtime and spend a leisurely afternoon cruising the Main River. (B,L,D)
Day 7: BAMBERG.
Today, arrive in medieval Bamberg, former residence of one of Germany's most powerful imperial dynasties and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your GUIDED WALKING TOUR takes in its historic centre, including the great 13th-century Romanesque cathedral and the fascinating Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)-built on an island in the middle of the Regnitz River when the bishop refused to give the townspeople land for a town hall! Wander the town's serpentine streets with their charming houses and 18th-century mansions. (B,L,D)
Day 8: NUREMBERG.
Although 90% of Nuremberg's Old Town suffered extensive damage during WWII, much of it has been restored to the glory it once knew as the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire. This morning, choose a GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR and marvel at this thousand-year-old city's medieval fortifications, extraordinary gothic churches, and the Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle), or join a more specialised "NUREMBERG RALLY GROUNDS" tour. (B,L,D)
Day 9: REGENSBURG.
Dating back to the time of the Celts around 500 BC, Regensburg is one of Germany's best preserved medieval cities. Established during the Holy Roman Empire and the only German city not bombed during WWII, Regensburg has at least 1,300 listed buildings of "historic interest." Architectural highlights of your GUIDED WALK include the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall), built in the 13th century, and Porta Pretoria, gates to an ancient Roman fort built in 179 AD. Wander through the city's lanes and alleys to discover the many mansions with high towers. Wealthy families built these towers to emphasise their status and wealth during the Middle Ages, and many still remain today. Walk across the 12th-century Steinerne Brucke (Stone Bridge), the oldest of its kind in Germany, then grab a beer and enjoy a SNACK at the Historische Wurstkuche (Old Sausage Kitchen), one of Germany's oldest restaurants. Here-where the locals congregate-feel the vibrant atmosphere and take in the remarkable views along the river. Before dinner we'll introduce you to some of Germany's FAMOUS BEERS. (B,L,D)
Day 10: PASSAU.
Uniquely located where the Inn, Ilz, and Danube Rivers converge, Passau is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets lined with beautiful patrician houses. St. Stephen's Cathedral, a masterpiece of Italian baroque architecture, houses one of the world's largest church organs with 17,774 pipes. Take in the highlights on the included GUIDED WALK through this charming town, and find out much more about the "City of Three Rivers." Alternatively, you might like to join a full-day optional excursion to Salzburg to see some of The Sound of Music sights or to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (B,L,D)
Day 11: DURNSTEIN, AUSTRIA.
Excursion to Gottweig Abbey. A day of magical scenery awaits you today! As you cruise into the Wachau Valley, pass unmistakable Melk Abbey, high up and overlooking the river. Then, head into the heart of the Wachau wine region to Durnstein, known for its baroque blue Stiftskirche. A Local Guide will take you on a WALKING TOUR and tell you the tale of England's King Richard the Lionheart, who was imprisoned in the castle whose ruins still stand above the town. Later, an excursion takes you to the magnificent Benedictine Abbey of Gottweig, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, also positioned high up overlooking the Danube. (B,L,D)
Day 12: VIENNA.
Early this morning, arrive in Vienna, the "City of Music," which inspired the creative genius of Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss. Once the centre of the mighty Habsburg Empire, Austria's magical capital on the blue Danube is a showcase of gilded architecture. This is home to the lavish Hofburg Imperial Palace complex with its Vienna Boys' Choir and dazzling Lipizzaner stallions; the neo-renaissance Vienna Opera House; and awe-inspiring St. Stephen's Cathedral-plus, countless other sites you'll see on your GUIDED TOUR. Stroll through the delightful pedestrian Karntnerstrasse, and be sure to take a break and enjoy a piece of decadent Sachertorte or Apfelstrudel in one of the classic Viennese coffee houses-historic institutions that helped shape Viennese culture! An optional concert is available tonight. (B,L,D)
Day 13: BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA.
At the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains is Bratislava, the dynamic capital of Slovakia. After breakfast, join your Local Guide for a tour of the city, including a GUIDED WALK of its fascinating Old Town, where winding cobblestoned streets and narrow alleyways twist and turn to reveal the Town Hall, one of the oldest stone buildings in the city. Also visit gothic ST. MARTIN'S CATHEDRAL, coronation church for the Kingdom of Hungary from the 16th to 19th centuries. This afternoon is free to explore on your own. (B,L,D)
Day 14: BUDAPEST, HUNGARY.
Spanning the banks of the Danube, Budapest is one of Eastern Europe's liveliest cities. Whether you're seeing the sights, shopping for handcrafted embroidery or Herend porcelain, or basking in the coffee house culture over a rich cream cake in the renowned Gerbeaud Cafe, Budapest's unique energy is positively palatable. On your GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR, see Hers Square as well as the massive hilltop castle complex with its remarkable Fishermen's Bastion and 11th-century Matthias Church. Be sure to note the city's eight bridges- many famous sights in and of themselves-which connect ancient Buda on the right bank with Pest on the left. In your free time this afternoon you may want to walk across Chain Bridge, built in 1849 and a symbol of Budapest. Alternatively, consider visiting St. Stephen's Basilica with marvellous views of the city from its viewing platform, or stroll along Vaci utca, the main shopping street. (B,L,D)
Day 15: BUDAPEST (DISEMBARKATION).
Your holiday ends with breakfast this morning. (B)