DAY 1 ARRIVAL IN COLOGNE
You 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. Alternatively, you fly to Düsseldorf or Cologne from where a coach will take you to the ship.
Moored in Cologne’s picturesque historic centre, your first-class crew will be ready to welcome you on board and ensure you settle into your comfortable and extremely well equipped cabin and familiarise yourself with the ship.
DAY 2 RHINE GORGE & RÜDESHEIM
To really get yourself in the Christmas mood, nothing beats waking up on board and finding yourself already cruising through a stunning winter wonderland. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast this morning and relax on board whilst a kaleidoscope of riverside views drifts by in all their wintery glory. Wrap up warm and take to the deck for an invigorating breath of frosty air, whilst witnessing a real highlight as we cruise through the outstanding natural beauty of the world famous Rhine Gorge. Tales of mysterious happenings here have been passed down by generations of sailors and legends abound, the most famous legend of all – a beautiful maiden is said to have enticed sailors on to the rocks with her feminine charms and alluring song.
After lunch on board we arrive in Rüdesheim, its quirky crooked half-timbered houses and tiny streets provide the perfect chocolate box setting for its Christmas market. The Christmas period is a magical time to visit this part of Germany – no country really does it better. The traditional and historic Christmas markets here are the perfect place to immerse yourself in their enchanting atmosphere whilst seeking out unusual presents for friends and family back home. Wander the myriad of stalls, glistening in the glow of hundreds of fairy lights, stopping perhaps for a slice of gingerbread or a warming Rüdesheim coffee, with its reviving shot of locally distilled Asbach brandy and dollop of whipped cream. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the Christmas shop here – open all year round, it is a treasure trove of all things Christmas, from tree decorations, music boxes to wooden nutcrackers and figurines. As the light fades, head back on board where another dinner in the ship’s excellent restaurants awaits.
DAY 3 FRANKFURT
During breakfast this morning we cruise into the cosmopolitan city of Frankfurt. Unlike any other German city, this metropolis located on the River Main is a high-powered finance and business hub, home to one of the world’s largest stock exchanges. The city also has an unexpectedly charming and traditional side with its half-timbered buildings huddled around the ancient medieval squares of the old town, its wealth of peaceful parks and scenic riverside paths. We enjoy a guided tour of this fascinating city with its contrast between old and new; the modern skyline and skyscrapers on one side, and the medieval old town featuring St Paul’s Church, Emperor’s Cathedral and the neo-Gothic Römer City Hall on the other.
There has been a Christmas market in Frankfurt for over six hundred years making it one of the oldest and most popular in Europe. Clustered around the city’s historic market place and the ancient church of St Paul’s, you cannot fail to be enchanted by its traditional ambience. No visit would be complete without sampling a glass or two of the warming Glühwein. Usually prepared from red wine (though it is also made from white), it is heated with citrus fruit and a range of spices such as cloves and cinnamon sticks – and sometimes drunk “mit schuss” meaning a shot of rum or brandy has been added for extra punch! After lunch back on board, wrap up and stroll amongst the maze of alluring stalls selling handmade arts and crafts and tempting seasonal food and drink, whilst the aroma of freshly made gingerbread and baked apples fills the air, simply magical.
There’s time to relax on board before the Captain’s Dinner, so why not unwind with an aperitif in the bar and chat about the day’s events with newly made friends.
DAY 4 KOBLENZ & COLOGNE
Early risers this morning will witness our arrival in historic Koblenz, dramatically located at the confluence of the rivers Rhine and Moselle. The city is a romantic’s dream, forest-covered hillsides dominate the skyline, whilst the lower slopes are strewn with the pretty, half-timbered buildings so typical of the Rhineland. This morning you will have a guided tour, taking in the principal monuments, discovering ancient squares, admiring beautifully restored historic house frontages and quaint hidden passageways.
Located in the atmospheric old town, Koblenz’s Christmas market is one of the largest in the Rhineland. As you browse, the aroma of hot chestnuts and mouth-watering sausages fills the air; don’t forget to pay a visit to the Christmas bakery, making the famous stollen, the delicious cake made with candied and dried fruit, nuts and marzipan traditionally eaten at this time of year.
Back on board for lunch, we make our return to Cologne as the winter fairytale drifts by before
As the towering spires of Cologne’s cathedral come into view on the wintery skyline, we moor
in the shadow of this ancient monument oncemore. You will have free time to immerse yourself again in the special Christmas atmosphere of the city’s traditional markets. Cologne has seven markets, each with their own unique theme. Every year a huge number of visitors are drawn to the beautifully decorated festive stalls, impressively set against the spectacular backdrop of the imposing cathedral with the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland. There is a host of things to see here: Santa’s grotto, a huge temporary ice rink and spectacular festive illuminations but to mention a few, you will be spoilt for choice.
A final delicious dinner is served on board this evening.
DAY 5 RETURN HOME
This morning at the appropriate time, you drive to Brussels connecting with the Eurostar service to London St Pancras International. Should you be returning by air, you will be taken to the airport for your flight home, aglow with the memories of a truly special cruise.