Experience the holiday season on this festive river cruise vacation from Prague to Basel. Enjoy guided sightseeing in Prague, where you’ll visit the famous Hradcany Castle grounds; Nuremberg; Bamberg; Würzburg; the charming Bavarian village of Miltenberg; and Strasbourg, France, where you can explore one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe. Other highlights: a beer tasting in Bamberg, a visit to Würzburg’s Bishop’s Residenz, a traditional baking demonstration, an excursion to Germany’s Black Forest, and an excursion to Heidelberg, where you can marvel at the red sandstone castle and bask in the holiday atmosphere. You’ll have the opportunity to explore the many Christmas markets, where you can sample some tasty holiday treats, smell the aromas of the Christmas markets, shop for local Christmas ornaments, and delight in the holiday cheer. This year, celebrate the holiday season in style on this memorable and joyous cruise.
Day #1 Arrive in Prague, Czech Republic. Welcome to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. The city straddles the Vltava River with domes, cupolas, spires and pinnacles highlighting its skyline.
Day #2 Prague. Prague is a 1,000-year-old city preserved in time. See its best-known treasures such as the Old Town’s Astronomical Clock, once the envy of all of Europe; HRADCANY CASTLE GROUNDS, St. Vitus Cathedral, and the Charles Bridge. Browse the shops for hand-cut crystal or art books, and stroll through the Christmas markets.Rows of brightly decorated wooden huts sell Christmas tree ornaments, wooden toys, and Czech handicrafts. Get a little inner warmth with a cup of svarené víno (hot mulled wine) and a traditional hot sausage from one of the stalls. The beautifully decorated tree in the Old Town is an impressive sight. Christmas is the most important family holiday ofthe year in most Eastern European countries, and the Czechs begin their preparations and celebrations on December 4 with the Feast of St. Barbara. (B)
Day #3 Prague–Nuremberg, Germany (Embarkation). After lunch, drive to Nuremberg, where the crew of your river cruise vessel is docked. Before dinner, meet your crew at a welcome reception. (B,D)
Day #4 Nuremberg. Although Nuremberg suffered extensive damage during WWII, much of it was restored to its original style. Marvel at this historic city with its fabulous gothic churches and elegant patrician houses. Nuremberg hosts Germany’s most famous Christmas market, which dates back to 1628; the Old Town is illuminated with festive lights and decorations. The city’s traditions include famous Lebkuchen, toy making, and metal working. (B,L,D)
Day #5 Bamberg. Medieval Bamberg is a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your walking tour takes in its breathtaking cathedral, the Old Town Hall straddling the Regnitz River, and serpentine streets with charming houses and 18th-century mansions. At this time of year the town is decked out for Christmas. Especially interesting are the many nativity scenes that are built by local citizens and exhibited throughout the town. Today we’ll introduce you to some of Germany’s FAMOUS BEERS! (B,L,D)
Day #6 Würzburg. Known as the “Pearl of the Romantic Road,” Würzburg is surrounded by sloping hills covered with vineyards. The magnificent BISHOP’S RESIDENZ is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. This afternoon is free to explore more of the city and wander at your own pace through the beautifully decorated wooden booths of the Christmas market. (B,L,D)
Day #7 Wertheim–Miltenberg. This morning, stop in Wertheim, whose overlapping half-timbered houses are grouped along winding streets. Glassblowers have a long tradition in this town and, especially in winter, they produce ornaments that hang on Christmas trees all over the world. Marvel at the tasteful Christmas decorations in the shop windows and stroll through the charming Christmas market. In Miltenberg, you’ll discover a picturesque Bavarian village that thrived on income from river traffic. Its cultural wealth and affluence are reflected in the beautiful medieval and renaissance houses and the gothic splendor of the Merchant Hall shown to you during your guided walk. The town center is within walking distance of the ship, as is the Christmas market. Before lunch, learn how to bake a local SOFT COOKIE specialty. (B,L,D)
Day #8 Frankfurt. Excursion to Rüdesheim. After breakfast this morning a comfortable motorcoach ride takes you to the pretty little town of Rüdesheim, a perfect example of a Rhine Valley wine town. A visit to SIEGFRIED’S MECHANICAL MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MUSEUM is a real surprise! Afterward, there’s free time to explore. The entire town transforms itself into one large Christmas market, offering products and specialties from a number of nations, all presented in a distinctive manner. You’ll be spoiled by the selection of shops offering a vast variety of Christmas presents and decorations. In the Market Square you’ll find Europe’s largest nativity scene, with life-size figures. After lunch, return to Frankfurt. (B,L,D)
Day #9 Speyer, Germany. Excursion to Heidelberg. This morning, dock in the ancient imperial city of Speyer on the left bank of the Rhine. From here, an included excursion takes you to Heidelberg, of Student Prince fame and Germany’s oldest university town. Take your photos of imposing Heidelberg Castle, built of red sandstone and towering above the city. At this time of year an ice rink is set up at the foot of the castle, and stalls offer Glühwein, hot punch, Bratwurst, and other tasty treats. The Christmas market itself is scattered over five town squares and you’ll find a wide array of crafts and regional delicacies. (B,L,D)
Day #10 Strasbourg, France. Situated on the border of France and Germany, Strasbourg is influenced by the culture of both countries and is the capital of the Alsace region. It is the seat of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. A Certified Local Guide shows you the noteworthy sights: the GOTHIC CATHEDRAL, the lovely LA PETITE FRANCE district, Place Kléber, and Place Gutenberg with the statue of the inventor of the printing press. Dating back to 1570, the traditional Christmas market is one of the oldest and finest in Europe. Located around Place de la Cathédrale and Place Broglie, its centerpiece is a giant Christmas tree. As you stroll through the festively decorated and illuminated streets you’ll notice the pleasing aromas of mulled wine, sweets, spice cakes, and biscuits—a truly magical atmosphere! (B,L,D)
Day #11 Breisach, Germany. Excursion to the Black Forest. Located at the foot of Kaiserstuhl Mountain on the French-German border, Breisach is the gateway to Germany’s BLACK FOREST region, an area of unrivaled natural beauty with its forests of thick pine trees. There’s no better setting for this time of year than when smoke curls from the chimneys of the traditional Black Forest houses with their long sloping roofs, connoting images of warm and festively decorated interiors. And if there has been a fresh snowfall, this will indeed be a Winter Wonderland! Surely the most well-known products from this region are Black Forest ham, cherry cake, and cuckoo clocks. (B,L,D)
Day #12 Basel, Switzerland (Disembarkation). Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. Homebound flights should not leave Zürich Airport before 10 am. (B)