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The Leader in Small Ship and River Cruising Worldwide

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2017 Christmas Markets Along the Rhine

12 Days from only $2495 including international airfare

Switzerland: Basel • France: Kaysersberg, Riquewihr, Strasbourg • Germany: Plittersdorf, Baden-Baden, Speyer, Mainz, Koblenz, Cologne • The Netherlands: Nijmegen, Amsterdam

Trip Experience

Watch travelers immerse themselves in Old World holiday traditions as they explore enchanting Christmas markets.

Trip Itinerary

Get more information about your detailed itinerary, like optional tours, exclusive Discovery Series events, and more.

Program Director

Hear Kevin Kreuzer talk about the many beautiful Christmas markets of Germany, especially his favorite in Baden-Baden.

Courtesy Small World Productions
Amsterdam and the Netherlands

Discover Amsterdam by canal, meet the locals, and delight in the Netherlands' charms alongside travel expert Rudy Maxa.

Courtesy Small World Productions
Switzerland and the Alps

Witness the majesty of the Alps and the quaint villages nestled therein as you explore with travel expert Rudy Maxa.

Courtesy Small World Productions
Alpine Christmas

Celebrate the season in Switzerland as travel expert Rudy Maxa delves into iconic holiday traditions.

Courtesy Small World Productions
Brussels and Belgium

Join travel expert Rudy Maxa to preview the medieval and modern charm awaiting on our optional Belgium extension.

©2014 The New York Times
36 Hours in Strasbourg

Explore the thriving culinary, cultural, and social scenes that await in the self-proclaimed Christmas capital.

Courtesy CNN
The Artistic Side of Amsterdam

Discover some of the galleries and artistic expressions that are on display in lively Amsterdam.

Courtesy CNN
Cruising the Canals of Amsterdam

Accompany Amsterdam locals as they showcase the city's best local delicacies and art.

Courtesy CNN
Amsterdam's Mouth-Watering Street Food

Get a unique look into what makes Amsterdam special, from the best casual cuisine to local hangouts and more.

FROM
$2495
12 DAYS
$208/DAY
including international airfare
11 DAYS FROM $1495 River Cruise Only
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Itinerary Overview

Maybe it's the sight of medieval landscapes glittering with colorful lights, or the familiar, heartwarming melodies of "Silent Night" and "O Christmas Tree" sung in their original German. Or maybe it's the excitement of the traditional Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market), brimming with handmade toys and ornaments, and filled with the delicious aromas of freshly baked cookies and warm mulled wine. For many, visiting the Christmas markets along the Rhine River is simply the most satisfying way to experience the holidays. This festive and enhanced Grand Circle River Cruise is a wonderful gift to yourself that will remain a treasured holiday memory for years to come.

Plus, enjoy NEW onboard enhancements such as complimentary house beer, wine, and soft drinks, as well as improved wireless Internet in all cabins and common areas—all at no additional cost. 

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 3 nights from only $595

    Join us on this extension to discover Basel, Switzerland’s third-largest city and a center of history and culture. With a heritage than spans more than 2,000 years and a fortunate geographic location, Basel offers a cosmopolitan blend of Swiss, German, and French influences.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • Depart the U.S. today on your flight to Basel, Switzerland.

  • This morning, you arrive at the Basel airport, where you are met and transferred to the pier to embark your river ship. From Basel, located where Switzerland, Germany, and France all meet, ships can navigate the Rhine all the way to the North Sea.

    A light lunch will be served onboard this afternoon. Otherwise, the balance of the day is at leisure.

    Gather this evening to meet your Program Director and traveling companions over dinner, and for a ship briefing on your upcoming cruise.

  • This morning, you'll sail toward Breisach, Germany, set just on the edge of the Black Forest.

    Upon arrival this afternoon, you'll head into Alsace, on the French side of the Rhine, to visit Kaysersberg. This was the birthplace of Albert Schweitzer, the great humanitarian and recipient of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize, who is famous for his philosophy of "reverence for life" and his work in Africa. Your tour includes a visit to Dr. Schweitzer's former home, now a museum, where his study is preserved exactly as he last used it in 1959. You'll also see the city center, and have time to discover more of Kaysersberg on your own.

    You'll also visit the nearby commune of Riquewihr, a renowned "wine village" known for its Rieslings. After an informative stroll, you'll have free time to explore on your own.

    Gather this evening with your fellow travelers and Program Director for a Captain's Welcome Drink and Dinner.

  • After breakfast, discover Strasbourg, a unique confluence of French and German culture and traditions. Strategically important since ancient times, Strasbourg became a free imperial city in 1262, and then was occupied by France in 1681 and Germany in 1871. France recovered the city in 1919 after World War I. From the comfort of your glass-covered tour boat, you'll see the major sights (including the Palais de L'Europe, where the European Parliament meets) and admire the city's remarkable Renaissance architecture. In mid-morning, your guided tour concludes at the Palais Rohan in the town center. If you like, you may walk on your own from the Palais to visit the city's magnificent cathedral, one of the finest of Europe's great Gothic cathedrals. Its lofty single spire dominates the city.

    After lunch aboard ship, you have the afternoon free to visit Strasbourg's Christmas market or explore more of the city on your own. There is an excellent collection of Renaissance art in the Museum of Fine Arts, while the Alsatian Museum offers folk art, including reconstructed interiors of Rhine farm and vineyard houses. You may want to visit the picturesque Petite-France area (the former Tanners' District) and see the old Customs House, as well as charming covered bridges and their defensive towers. Return to the ship for an onboard dinner.

    Please note: Christmas markets typically open one week before, or at the start of Advent observances in mid- to late-November. Hours of operation for the holiday markets vary depending on region, and may be limited or closed between December 24 and December 26, as well as on New Year’s Day. When possible, your trip itinerary may be adjusted as a result.

  • This morning, your ship docks at the German town of Plittersdorf and you depart for a motorcoach journey to the spa town of Baden-Baden, nestled in the tranquil Black Forest. Since Roman times, Baden-Baden has been renowned for its thermal baths, with mineral waters thought to have restorative powers.

    Afterwards, the motorcoach takes you to Speyer, a city whose charms—including portions of its medieval wall and gates—date back more than 2,000 years. Upon arrival you'll re-board the ship in time for lunch. 

    This afternoon, you'll join a local family for a traditional Kaffeeklatsch. You'll share coffee, cake, and conversation during this exclusive Discover Series Home-Hosted Visit. Later, consider strolling through the Christmas market and browsing its festive stalls. We return to the ship for dinner.

  • Enjoy a free day to explore Speyer. On your own, you might take in the Historical Museum of the Palatinate, which has large collections of pre-Roman and Roman materials and includes a wine museum. Or, consider visiting Speyer's four-towered Imperial Cathedral. Dating to the eleventh century, it's one of the greatest Romanesque buildings in Germany and contains the tombs of eight emperors. This was also an early center of printing as the home of the 15th-century printers John of Speyer and his brother Wendelin. The ship begins cruising towards Mainz in the late afternoon.

    Or, perhaps you'll take our all-day optional tour to discover romantic Heidelberg, a historic university town nestled between wooded hills at the edge of the Odenwald Forest and crowned with the ruins of Heidelberg Castle. Begun in the Gothic style of the 14th century and built up gradually over the next 400 years, the castle demonstrates the evolution of architectural style, finally completed in the Baroque period. After an included lunch at a local restaurant, tour Heidelberg's turreted 600-year-old university, Germany's oldest. In keeping with the spirit of the holidays, you'll also stop at Heidelberg's lively Christmas market.

    After the tour, you'll ride to Mainz to re-board the ship for dinner. 

  • This morning you'll enjoy a walking tour of Mainz. The city is best known for its most famous son, Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of movable type, who was born here in 1397. Gutenberg began his career by creating and selling indulgences—papers that could be purchased and used as "coupons" by the faithful to absolve them of some of the time they had earned in Purgatory. Gutenberg realized he could absolve himself of some of his own monetary debts if he could mass-produce the indulgences. To do this, he created uniformly sized metal molds for letters that allowed him to create error-free, repeatable text. This was the beginning of the movable type that transformed the world.

    You'll see the Gutenberg Bible and the printing press, which are housed in the town's Gutenberg Museum. The museum exhibits one of the 47 extant copies of the Latin Gutenberg Bible—a 42-page volume with elaborate Gothic lettering, dating from the 1450s.

    After lunch aboard ship, you have free time in the afternoon to visit the Christkindlmarkt in Mainz. You'll have ample opportunity to explore the myriad craft stalls, and to explore the rest of the city as you please. Dinner is onboard this evening.

    Or, join us for an optional tour to one of Germany's most modern cities—Frankfurt. You'll get to know this this high-powered hub’s impressive skyline and traditional heart during a walking tour. Afterwards, enjoy free time at the Christmas market, followed by an included dinner at a local apple wine restaurant.

  • Today, the ship cruises along some of the most beautiful and inspiring parts of the Rhine as you sail for Koblenz. En route, you'll learn about local holiday lore during an exclusive Discovery Series discussion about German Christmas traditions, focusing on the origins of the Tannenbaum (Christmas tree), the Advent calendar, and more.

    You'll hear more enlightening commentary as you pass the Lorelei, a large rock rising 440 feet above the river. Since ancient Greek mythology, there have been legends of sirens, women-creatures who lure sailors to their death with sweet songs. Ancient Germanic legend places one such siren (Lorelei) here, and it is said she enticed sailors to destruction on the reef below the rock.

    This afternoon, embark on a walking tour of Koblenz, the 2,000-year-old city that stands at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Sitting amidst hills populated with castles and fortresses, this strategic location has made the city vital to European trade—and explains why it was heavily bombed during World War II. Many of its historic buildings have since been restored and the Altstadt (Old Town) features distinct architecture like the Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), a 13th-century Gothic basilica with twin towers capped by onion-shaped spires, and the Basilica St. Kastor or Kastorkirche, dedicated to Castor of Karden, featuring four towers. Across the Rhine you'll find the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, central to a ring of fortifications built to protect the town and the region.

    The afternoon is free to explore on your own. Return to the ship for dinner this evening. 

  • The morning is at leisure to explore Koblenz and stroll among the stalls of its wonderful Christmas market. Savor the smell of chestnuts roasting over open fires, and perhaps savor an authentic Bratwurst as you shop for handmade gifts and enjoy watching artisans at work. Perhaps you'll visit the Deutsches Eck, or "Corner of Germany," where both the Altstadt and the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, across the Rhine, are visible.

    Enjoy an afternoon of sailing as you cruise to Cologne. En route, perhaps you'll participate in an exclusive Discovery Series baking demonstration where you'll learn how to make Stollen, a traditional German bread made with fruit and nuts and topped with powdered sugar.

  • After breakfast, disembark for a guided walking tour of Cologne's Old City. A Roman settlement called Colonia Agrippina after AD 50, Cologne came under Frankish control in the fifth century. You can still see the ruins of Roman temples scattered through the city, and the Roman Tower near the cathedral was once part of the medieval town walls. During the 15th century, the city flourished as a member of the Hanseatic League.

    Your tour ends in front of the city's magnificent Gothic cathedral (Dom), which you may visit on your own. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cathedral largely escaped the World War II damage that ravaged the city and the rest of Germany. It's the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, boasting beautiful stained-glass windows, an ornate gold shrine on its elaborate altar, and the intricate detail common to 14th-century Gothic churches.

    After your tour, enjoy some time on your own in Cologne. Perhaps you'll spend time at the Romano-Germanic Museum, with its beautifully restored Roman mosaics and reconstructed tomb. The museum is the home of the largest collection of Roman glass vessels in the world and also holds a significant collection of Roman and early medieval jewelry. You could also visit Cologne's Christmas market, and browse its wide assortment of Christmas creations.

    Tonight, join your travel companions for dinner onboard.

  • This morning, arrive in Nijmegen, a Dutch city built on seven hills overlooking the Waal River just west of its confluence with the Rhine. You'll see the arching bridge that spans the Waal, which was the site of an important battle during World War II that caused devastating damage to the city. As a result, Nijmegen, one of the oldest towns in Holland, was almost completely rebuilt. The town center, however, was remarkably unscathed by shelling, and provides a striking contrast to the newer architecture that surrounds it. Enjoy a guided walk throughout the city. 

    After lunch onboard, enjoy an afternoon of sailing and take in the passing landscapes as you cruise to Amsterdam. You can also take part in an exclusive Discovery Series discussion of the daring yet ultimately unsuccessful Operation Market Garden military maneuver attempted by the Allies in the Netherlands during World War II. 

    Tonight, gather with your fellow travelers for a Captain's Farewell Reception and Dinner. Arrive tonight in Amsterdam, where you will dock for the night.

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, disembark and transfer to the airport for your flight home.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Brussels & Bruges, Belgium

    3 nights from only $645

    Brussels and Belgium
    Produced by Small World Productions
    This independent film features destinations you can visit on this trip extension.

    Join us on this extension to experience the many delights of Brussels, Belgium. Once a sleepy village that grew up around a chapel on an island in the Senne River, Brussels is now a thriving city and the headquarters of NATO and the European Union. An included city tour, visits to porcelain and chocolate workshops, and free time to explore will give you a unique chance to experience this timeless capital city. And a day trip to neighboring Bruges allows you to explore that wonderfully preserved medieval seaport city.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • 3 nights from only $645

    Brussels and Belgium
    Produced by Small World Productions
    This independent film features destinations you can visit on this trip extension.

    Join us on this extension to experience the many delights of Brussels, Belgium. Once a sleepy village that grew up around a chapel on an island in the Senne River, Brussels is now a thriving city and the headquarters of NATO and the European Union. An included city tour, visits to porcelain and chocolate workshops, and free time to explore will give you a unique chance to experience this timeless capital city. And a day trip to neighboring Bruges allows you to explore that wonderfully preserved medieval seaport city.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • Depart the U.S. today on your flight to Amsterdam. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact arrival and departure times.

  • This morning, you arrive at the Amsterdam airport, where you are met and transferred to the pier to embark your river ship. From Amsterdam, ships can navigate the Rhine through Holland and Germany (where the river forms part of the border with France) all the way to Basel, Switzerland.

    A light lunch will be served onboard this afternoon. Otherwise, the balance of the day is at leisure.

    Gather this evening to meet your Program Director for a ship briefing on your upcoming cruise, which begins with overnight cruising to Nijmegen.

  • This morning, arrive in Nijmegen, a Dutch city built on seven hills overlooking the Waal River, just west of its confluence with the Rhine. You'll see the arching bridge that spans the Waal, which was the site of an important battle during World War II that caused devastating damage to the city. As a result, Nijmegen, one of the oldest towns in Holland, was almost completely rebuilt. The town center, however, was remarkably unscathed by shelling, and provides a striking contrast to the newer architecture that surrounds it. Enjoy a guided walk throughout the city. 

    Enjoy an afternoon of sailing, taking in the passing landscapes. You can also take part in an exclusive Discovery Series discussion of the daring yet ultimately unsuccessful Operation Market Garden military maneuver attempted by the Allies in the Netherlands during World War II. And later this afternoon, enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series German language lesson. 

    Join your traveling companions this evening for a Captain's Welcome Drink and Dinner.

  • After breakfast, enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series baking demonstration where you'll learn how to make Stollen, a traditional German bread made with fruit and nuts and topped with powdered sugar.

    Then you'll disembark for a guided walking tour of Cologne's Old City. A Roman settlement called Colonia Agrippina after AD 50, Cologne came under Frankish control in the fifth century. You can still see the ruins of Roman temples scattered through the city, and the Roman Tower near the cathedral was once part of the medieval town walls. During the 15th century, the city flourished as a member of the Hanseatic League.

    Your tour ends in front of the city's magnificent Gothic Cathedral (Dom), which you may explore further on your own. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cathedral largely escaped the World War II damage that ravaged the city and the rest of Germany. (There's evidence that Allied forces worked deliberately to avoid damaging this beautiful structure.) It's the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, boasting beautiful stained-glass windows, an ornate gold shrine on its elaborate altar, and the intricate detail common to 14th-century Gothic churches.

    After your tour, enjoy some time on your own in Cologne. Perhaps you'll spend time at the Romano-Germanic Museum, with its beautifully restored Roman mosaics and reconstructed tomb. The museum is the home of the largest collection of Roman glass vessels in the world and also holds a significant collection of Roman and early medieval jewelry. You could also visit Cologne's Christmas market, and browse its wide assortment of Christmas creations.

    Please note: Christmas markets typically open one week before, or at the start of Advent observances in mid- to late-November. Hours of operation for the holiday markets vary depending on region, and may be limited or closed between December 24 and December 26, as well as on New Year’s Day. When possible, your trip itinerary may be adjusted as a result.  

  • After breakfast, embark on a walking tour of Koblenz, the 2,000-year-old city that stands at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Sitting amidst hills populated with castles and fortresses, this strategic location has made the city vital to European trade—and explains why it was heavily bombed during World War II. Many of its historic buildings have since been restored and the Altstadt (Old Town) features distinct architecture like the Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), a 13th-century Gothic basilica with twin towers capped by onion-shaped spires, and the Basilica St. Kastor, or Kastorkirche, dedicated to Castor of Karden, with four towers. Across the Rhine you'll find the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, central to a ring of fortifications built to protect the town and the region. Following the tour, the remainder of the morning is yours to explore Koblenz on your own. 

    Later this afternoon, cruise along some of the most beautiful and inspiring parts of the Rhine as you sail toward Mainz. You'll pass the Lorelei, a large rock rising 440 feet above the river. Since the times of ancient Greek mythology, there have been legends of sirens, women-creatures who lure sailors to their death with sweet songs. Ancient Germanic legend places one such siren (Lorelei) here, and it is said she enticed sailors to destruction on the reef below the rock.

    Tonight, gather with your fellow travelers for an exclusive Discovery Series discussion about German Christmas traditions, focusing on the origins of the Tannenbaum (Christmas tree), the Advent calendar, and more. Dinner will follow, and your ship will dock in Mainz.

  • Enjoy a walking tour of Mainz this morning. The city is best known for its most famous son, Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of movable type, who was born here in 1397. Gutenberg began his career by creating and selling indulgences—papers that could be purchased and used as “coupons” by the faithful to absolve them of some of the time they had earned in Purgatory. Gutenberg realized he could absolve himself of some of his own monetary debts if he could mass-produce the indulgences. To do this, he created uniformly sized metal molds for letters that allowed him to create error-free, repeatable text. This was the beginning of the movable type that transformed the world.

    You'll see the Gutenberg Bible and the printing press, which are housed in the town's Gutenberg Museum, which opened in 2000. The museum exhibits one of the 47 extant copies of the Latin Gutenberg Bible—a 42-page volume with elaborate Gothic lettering dating from the 1450s.

    After lunch, enjoy free time to further explore Mainz or to visit the Christkindlmarkt and its craft stalls. Dinner is onboard this evening. 

    Or, join us for an optional tour to one of Germany's most modern cities—Frankfurt. You'll get to know this this high-powered city's traditional heart during a walking tour. Afterwards, enjoy some free time, and an included dinner at a local restaurant.

  • Enjoy a leisurely morning onboard as you cruise toward Speyer, a city whose charms—including portions of its medieval wall and gates—date back more than 2,000 years. En route, you'll learn a little more about Europe's holiday customs with a continuation of our earlier exclusive Discover Series German Christmas traditions discussion.  

    After arriving in Speyer this afternoon, you'll join a local family for a traditional Kaffeeklatsch. You'll share coffee, cake, and conversation during this exclusive Discover Series Home-Hosted Visit. Afterward, consider strolling through the Christmas market and browsing its festive stalls. We return to the ship for dinner.

  • You have the day free in Speyer. On your own, you might take in the Historical Museum of the Palatinate, which has large collections of pre-Roman and Roman materials and includes a wine museum. Or consider visiting Speyer's four-towered Imperial Cathedral. Dating from the eleventh century, it's one of the greatest Romanesque buildings in Germany and contains the tombs of eight emperors. This was also an early center of printing as the home of the 15th-century printers John of Speyer and his brother Wendelin.

    Or, join our all-day optional tour to discover romantic Heidelberg, a historic university town nestled between wooded hills at the edge of the Odenwald Forest. This morning, enjoy the ruins of Heidelberg Castle. Begun in the Gothic style of the 14th century and built up gradually over the next 400 years, the castle demonstrates the evolution of architectural style, finally completed in the Baroque period. After an included lunch at a local restaurant, tour Heidelberg's turreted 600-year-old university, Germany's oldest. In keeping with the spirit of the holidays, you'll also stop at Heidelberg's lively Christmas market. After the tour, you'll ride back to Speyer to re-board the ship before dinner.

    Please note: The Heidelberg optional tour may not be available on the 12/20/17 departure, as it falls on Christmas Eve and shops and restaurants will be closed.

  • This morning, the ship docks at the German town of Plittersdorf and you depart for a journey by motorcoach to the spa town of Baden-Baden, nestled in the tranquil Black Forest. Since Roman times, Baden-Baden has been renowned for its thermal baths, with mineral waters thought to have restorative powers. Afterwards, return to the river, where you re-board the ship in time for lunch.

    The ship arrives in Strasbourg in the late afternoon and you have dinner on board.

  • After breakfast, discover Strasbourg, a unique confluence of French and German culture and traditions. Strategically important since ancient times, Strasbourg became a free imperial city in 1262, and then was occupied by France in 1681 and Germany in 1871. France recovered the city in 1919 after World War I. From the comfort of your glass-covered tour boat, you'll see the major sights (including the Palais de L'Europe, where the European Parliament meets) and admire the city's remarkable Renaissance architecture. In mid-morning, your guided tour concludes at the Palais Rohan in the town center. If you like, you may walk on your own from the Palais to visit the city's magnificent cathedral, one of the finest of Europe's great Gothic cathedrals. Its lofty single spire dominates the city.

    After lunch aboard ship, you have the afternoon free to visit Strasbourg's Christmas market or explore more of the city on your own. There is an excellent collection of Renaissance art in the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Alsatian Museum offers folk art, including reconstructed interiors of Rhine farm and vineyard houses. You may want to visit the picturesque Petite-France area (the former Tanners' District) and see the old Customs House and the charming covered bridges with their defensive towers. Return to the ship and gather with your Program Director and fellow travelers for a Captain's Farewell Reception and Dinner.

    Please note: The Strasbourg tour may be slightly altered on the 12/20/17 departure, as it falls on Christmas Eve and shops and restaurants will be closed.

  • Cruise between French Alsace (on the west bank of the Rhine) and the German state of Baden-Württemberg (on the east bank) this morning.

    This afternoon, you'll head into Alsace to visit Kaysersberg. This was the birthplace of Albert Schweitzer, the great humanitarian and recipient of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize, who is famous for his philosophy of "reverence for life" and his work in Africa. Your tour includes a visit to Dr. Schweitzer's former home, now a museum, where his study is preserved exactly as it was in 1959.
    You'll also see the city center, and have time to discover more of Kaysersberg on your own.

    You'll also visit the nearby commune of Riquewihr, a renowned "wine village" known for its Rieslings. After an informative stroll, you'll have free time to explore on your own.

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, disembark in Basel, Switzerland and transfer to the airport for your flight home.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Basel, Switzerland

    3 nights from only $595

    Join us on this extension to discover Basel, Switzerland’s third-largest city and a center of history and culture. With a heritage than spans more than 2,000 years and a fortunate geographic location, Basel offers a cosmopolitan blend of Swiss, German, and French influences.

    View Extension Itinerary

Click below to read our Travel Planning Guide on Christmas Markets Along the Rhine

Read Travel Planning Guide