Castles on the Rhine: Amsterdam to Basel
TOTAL CME CREDITS: maximum of 8.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™
ACCREDITED THROUGH Institute for Medical and Nursing Education
Join HealthyMD-CME as we find inspiration in the romantic, soul-stirring beauty of the fabled Rhine.
Flowers tumble from baskets lining streets of half-timbered houses, and lights glint off quiet canals. A mighty river carries ships and cargo through a landscape shaped by time and history. The spires of medieval churches and castles appear around each bend in the river, and vineyards climb the verdant hillsides.
Cruise along the Rhine—Germany on one side, France on the other. Discover Alsace, whose dual French and German heritage has given it fabulous food and a winemaking tradition that goes back to the Romans. Marvel at castles that were once mighty fortresses and get an insider’s look at one of the only castles on the Rhine that has never been destroyed, Marksburg Castle. Visit historic cities, including ancient Cologne and picturesque Strasbourg; stroll through the fairytale town of Rüdesheim; and taste delightful white wines in the villages where the grapes are grown. Beethoven and Byron loved the romantic landscapes of the Rhine River, and the beauty that inspired them is still yours to experience.
The luxurious décor of the 443-foot, 152-passenger S.S. Antoinette—Uniworld’s first Super Ship—features fine Brazilian marble on the walls and floors, a 19th-century Venetian glass mirror, a stylish Bar du Leopard with full-service bar, and an onboard cinema. The two-story foyer boasts a 10-foot blue Strauss Baccarat chandelier with huge sapphires—a stunning piece that once hung in New York’s famous Tavern on the Green—and a collection of original artworks is displayed throughout the ship.
Lavishly appointed river view staterooms and suites have handcrafted Savoir® Beds of England draped in high-thread-count 100% Egyptian cotton sheets and European duvets, along with a menu of pillow options.
DAY 1: Nov 1 (Mo) Amsterdam (Embark)
Arrive at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. If your cruise package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the ship.
DAY 2: Nov 2 (Mo) Cologne
History buffs will enjoy an expertly led tour through Cologne’s Old Town, where three medieval gates remain standing, as does the old city hall with its Renaissance façade. Wander through the city’s historical center and take in its charming atmosphere, narrow alleyways flanked by old houses and countless breweries. No matter how you choose to explore Old Town, you’ll also have ample free time to explore on your own.
Cologne walking tour with Old Town Visit: As you walk through the narrow lanes of the Old Town, you’ll find it hard to believe that more than 70 percent of the city was destroyed by bombs during WWII. The famous 12 Romanesque churches were reconstructed from the rubble, and the cathedral, Cologne’s iconic landmark, rises magnificently in the city center. Three medieval gates remain standing, as does the old city hall with its Renaissance facade. But these mementos of the past are practically modern compared to the city’s ancient origins. Next to the cathedral you’ll find an unassuming modern building that houses an amazing archaeological find: the Dionysus Mosaic. Cologne was founded by the Romans, who made it the capital of Lower Germania in the 4th century, and the museum was built around the remains of a Roman villa—the beautifully preserved mosaic, which was the floor of a banqueting hall, has never been moved.
Though it was badly damaged by WWII, the great UNESCO-designated Cologne Cathedral retains many of its original treasures—the relics of the Magi and other sacred figures, which inspired its building in the 12th century, the 14th-century stained-glass windows that were stored safely throughout the war and the beautifully painted choir stalls—though other treasures are displayed separately. Enter the awe-inspiring nave and learn about the history of the cathedral and its art collections, especially the pieces surrounding the Shrine of the Magi.
A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.
DAY 3: Nov 3 (Tu) Koblenz, Boppard
Get to know Koblenz, a historic town with a colorful past and eclectic architecture and enjoy a visit to the stunningly medieval Marksburg Castle.
Choice 1: Koblenz Walking Tour: Watch the waters of the Moselle meld with the Rhine’s as you stand on the spit of land called German Corner: It’s the perfect spot for a symbol of German unity, an equestrian statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I, who united the nation in the 19th century. (There’s another symbol of German unity here too: three panels of the Berlin Wall.) Behind it is Koblenz’s oldest church, St. Castor’s Basilica, first erected in the ninth century, and just one of the charming churches and squares you’ll encounter as you wander through Old Town. Like many Rhineland towns, Koblenz suffered at the hands of Louis XIV’s forces—that’s why you’ll see so many baroque features in the buildings you pass, since so many needed to be reconstructed after the French left. That’s also why the Church of Our Lady has twin onion domes. Despite their travails over the ages, though, Koblenz’s citizens kept their sense of humor: One example of it might catch you by surprise as you pass the fountain known as the Spitting Boy, which spits water without warning.
After the tour, you’ll have some free time to enjoy the Marktplatz (Market Square) and its bounty of shopping and wine bars.
Choice 2: Marksburg Castle Visit: With its pale walls, slate-gray roof, and unusually slender towers and turrets, Marksburg looks as though it has been lifted straight from the pages of a fairytale. But don’t be deceived: this is a powerful fortress, built to withstand attack. Marksburg’s defenses were so daunting that enemies generally chose to leave it alone. That’s why this is the only hill castle in Germany that has never been destroyed—a remarkable fact when you consider its 700-year-long history. Enter the fortress through a drawbridge gate and vaulted tunnel—just the first of the many defensive features you’ll encounter on your tour. Notice the “murder holes” in the walls; these would have let defenders pour boiling pitch on would-be invaders. Horsemen once thundered up the Riders’ Stairway, which was hewn into the bedrock, but you can take the steps at a more leisurely pace. Guides will show you the cannons of the Great Battery, once aimed at the Rhine River, and the castle kitchen with its enormous fireplace. You’ll tour the bedchamber, the great banquet hall, the armory, the stables and, if you’re feeling brave, the torture chamber. Don’t miss the re-created medieval garden, with 150 plants used in the Middle Ages for curative (or magical) purposes.
Choice 3: “Let’s Go” Bike the Castles: If you’d like to get a closer view of the scenery between Boppard and Koblenz than the river affords, hop on a bicycle and let an experienced guided show you the sights along the excellent Rhine Bike Path. You’ll wheel past Spay and Rhens, which boasts colorfully painted half-timbering on its ancient houses, have a splendid view of magnificent Marksburg Castle, and arrive in Koblenz to meet up with your shipmates. Of course, you’ll stop for refreshments along the way.
Choice 4: Boppard Village Stroll: Join the Cruise Manager on a walk through this attractive town with a long and surprising history; the Cruise Manager will point out its highlights and recommend a host of activities. Take a chairlift to the top of the hill for a great view of the valley and the river (you can hike the return route, if you’re up for it); enjoy a glass of wine at a local tavern and watch the water traffic on the river; or ride a bicycle along the Rhine promenade. You might also visit Saint Severus Church, whose twin towers dominate the waterfront, or explore the remains of a fourth-century Roman fort. If you’re interested in design and the decorative arts, stop by the Museum Boppard to see the exhibit on native son Michael Thonet, who developed the technique of bentwood furniture in the 1840s. His iconic, lightweight chairs are still popular in cafés throughout Europe. Or simply stroll beneath the trees along the city’s scenic riverside promenade, which is lined with the gorgeous villas of 19th-century entrepreneurs.
DAY 4: Nov 4 (We): Boppard, Rüdesheim
Experience Germany’s fabled Rhine River in one of two ways—an exclusive tasting of estate-grown Rieslings at Castle Vollrads or take the long way shoreward from the Germania monument with a vineyard hike.
Choice 1: Castle Vollrads Wine Tasting: Nestled in the rolling, vineyard-covered hills of the Rheingau, Castle Vollrads has a square tower that dates back to the 14th century, as does the moat. Just one family owned the castle for 700 years, until 1997, adding on to it and remodeling it over the centuries. While the interior of the castle is rarely open to the public, you will have the opportunity to step inside to see some of the elegantly appointed rooms, including the beautiful gold-embossed Flemish leather wall covering in the 17th-century dining room. Grapes have been grown here for more than a thousand years; records show that Castle Vollrads wines were first sold in 1211. These days the excellence of its Riesling is well known; it’s so well known, in fact, that Schloss Vollrads is one of the few German vineyards whose name stands alone on a wine label—no village name is required. Accompanied by a local wine expert, you will sample three wines in three different locations. There will also be time to wander through the grounds at your leisure.
Choice 2: “Let’s Go” Hike from Rüdesheim to Assmanshausen: This fun excursion combines several of the area’s attractions. Start by hopping into an aerial cable car and soaring above the vineyards to the Niederwald Monument, which looks out over the entire Rheingau wine region. From the heights above the river, you and your local expert will hike down through vineyards to the picturesque riverfront village of Assmanshausen (which is noted for its red wine), where you’ll rejoin the ship.
DAY 5: Nov 5 (Th): Germersheim (Speyer)
Speyer— “spire” in English—is well named, since the four red towers of the Romanesque cathedral dominate the Old Town.
Choice 1: Speyer walking Tour: Speyer — “spire” in English—is well named, since the four red towers of the Romanesque cathedral dominate the Old Town just as the medieval bishops dominated the town itself. Though the bishops ruled the town, Speyer also had a special relationship with the Holy Roman emperors: Conrad II ordered the cathedral’s construction around 1030, and eight emperors are interred in its crypts. Your walking tour will take you along the pedestrian-only Maximilian Street—first laid out by Roman soldiers—from the last remaining gate of the medieval wall toward the great church. Near the church you’ll see remnants of a Jewish community established around 1090 under the auspices of the bishop of Speyer. Though the synagogue is long gone, the vaulted ritual baths have been beautifully preserved. (The area is popularly known as the Jewish Courtyard.) Notice the Old Mint and Holy Trinity Church, which were built in the 18th century, following a devastating war, and still stand as masterful examples of late-baroque style. You’ll have some free time after your tour: If you’re interested in automotive history, trains or aeronautical technology, be sure to stop at the Technik Museum.
Choice 2: Private Doktorenhof Vinegar Estate Visit and Tasting: For a different spin on the Palatinate wine region, visit the Weinessiggut Doktorenhof estate for a special vinegar tasting. Yes, you read that right—a vinegar tasting. Founded by Georg Wiedemann some 30 years ago, Doktorenhof produces vinegars from premium wines, rather than inexpensive ones. Gewürztraminer, Sylvaner, Riesling and pinot noir are aged with a century-old vinegar “mother,” as the bacteria that makes vinegar is known, and flavored with a variety of herbs and fruits. The results make complex and elegant aperitifs, intended to be sipped from a specially designed long-stemmed glass between courses or after a meal. The atmospheric tasting room (think candles, cloaks and choir music) is like no other you’ll ever experience. You’ll have plenty of time to explore their enticing gift shop, too.
DAY 6: Nov 6 (Fr): Kehl (Strasbourg)
See Strasbourg on foot with an insightful local expert, where this historic town with its cobbled lanes, half-timbered homes, giant stork nests and impossible-to-resist pastry shops will win your heart. Kehl, directly across the river from Strasbourg, will be your ship’s base while you explore the Alsatian capital. Experience its historic core as the locals do, with an exclusive walking tour. If you’re feeling adventurous, take advantage of Uniworld’s bicycles or Nordic walking sticks and explore the banks of the river.
Choice 1: Strasbourg Panoramic Tour with Cathedral and Old Town Walk: Controlled over the centuries by either France or Germany, Strasbourg—cross-cultural and bilingual—offers a delightful combination of old and new, as well as French and German characteristics. You’ll see all the highlights on a city tour before venturing inside the cathedral, one of the city’s most famous sites. The same craftsmen who built Chartres worked on it, and the rose window may be Chartres’ equal. Don’t miss the astronomical clock or the truly remarkable statuary and carvings.
Choice 2: “Do as the Locals Do” Strasbourg Walking Tour: Climb aboard your coach for a short ride across the Rhine en route to enchanting Strasbourg. Teeming with narrow cobbled streets, timber-frame houses, town squares and stately patrician homes, this city is the launching pad for today’s journey. Experience local places, traditions and cuisine as you stroll through “Petite France,” along its canals and to the imposing Strasbourg Cathedral, one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture. Stop for a bite to eat and enjoy a delicious Butchers Sausage, gingerbread, “Flammekueche” (which is often referred to as Alsatian Pizza), or a chocolate and liquor tasting at one of the local shops. Admire the city square’s famous Maison Kammerzell, numerous winstubs (wine lounges) and shops before enjoying free time to explore on your own or opt for a Masterpiece Collection excursion to the Black Forest with a visit to the Vogtsbauernhof outdoor museum. After, reunite with your group at the Strasbourg Minster and make your way to Place d’Etoile where you can either return to the ship or enjoy the city for a little longer on your own.
You have the entire afternoon to see more of Strasbourg on your own.
DAY 7: Nov 7 (Sa): Breisach (Colmar)
Breisach is your gateway to the Alsatian wine road and your launching point for one of two excursions along the celebrated Route des Vins, which hugs the foothills of the Vosges mountain range. You can visit Kaysersberg and Riquewihr, two of the most picturesque villages in the region, or take a tour of the larger town of Colmar, the capital of Alsatian wines.
Choice1: Alsatian “Village Day”: An old stone well in Kaysersberg bears an inscription that warns against drinking water and urges the reader to “Drink with moderation old and subtil wine . . . and leave the water to the side.” What better words could guide you as you explore some delightful Alsatian wine villages? Though the remains of a 12th-century castle speak to Kaysersberg’s strategic importance in the Middle Ages, today it is an idyllic village nestled among vineyards. Join a local guide for a one-hour walking tour, passing storybook medieval houses with steeply pitched roofs and a gorgeous Gothic cathedral that was begun by a 12th-century Holy Roman emperor. In modern days, the village is best known as the birthplace of Albert Schweitzer. The road from Kaysersberg to Riquewihr provides quintessential wine road scenery: lush foothills, famous vineyards, castle ruins and quaint villages. Riquewihr itself seems to have changed little since the 16th century: The timber-frame buildings still boast colorful shutters and cheerful flower boxes, and stone arches still lead to cobbled squares with cafés and carved fountains. Your tour of this enchanting village ends with a tasting of an Alsatian specialty, Kugelhopf, a delicious yeast-based cake traditionally baked in a circular, Bundt mold. There will be time for you to explore the little shops in the village center, where you’ll find local specialties like schnapps, cheeses and artisanal breads, before returning to Breisach.
Choice 2: Colmar city tour: Colmar has been called the prettiest town in the world, and it’s hard to argue with that designation. As you ramble through the town, you may find it easy to believe the rumor that Colmar was spared during WWII bombing because pilots knew it was too beautiful to destroy. Rainbow-hued half-timbered houses front peaceful little canals, flowers tumble from baskets and window ledges, and cobblestone lanes lead to extraordinary examples of Gothic architecture (among them are the Dominican Church and St. Martin’s). You’ll see fairytale 16th-century houses, including the House of Heads, so called for the 111 carved heads decorating the façade, and Pfister House, the unmistakable inspiration for a bakery in the animated feature Howl’s Moving Castle. Frédéric Bartholdi, who sculpted the Statue of Liberty, was born here; his sculptures are scattered throughout town—you’ll spot several of them in the center of fountains. You’ll also have some time to explore on your own; you might want to check out the Unterlinden Museum, perhaps best known for the Isenheim Altarpiece. And it’s worth remembering that Colmar is the capital of Alsatian wine-making—consider relaxing over a glass of cool white wine and watching the passing parade.
A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.
DAY 8: Nov 8 (Mo) Basel (Disembark)
Disembark the ship. If your cruise package includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg for your flight home (unless, of course, you’ve decided to extend your trip with the post-cruise extension to lovely Basel & Lake Lucerne).
Pricing from: $4990pp/dbl
Dates: November 1 – 8, 2021
- DAY 1: Nov 1 (Mo) Amsterdam (Embark)
- DAY 2: Nov 2 (Tu) Cologne
- DAY 3: Nov 3 (We) Koblenz, Boppard
- DAY 4: Nov 4 (Th): Boppard, Rüdesheim
- DAY 5: Nov 5 (Fr): Germersheim (Speyer)
- DAY 6: Nov 6 (Sa): Kehl (Strasbourg)
- DAY 7: Nov 7 (Su): Breisach (Colmar)
- DAY 8: Nov 8 (Mo) Basel (Disembark)
- All meals onboard, prepared using the finest and freshest ingredients
- 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 7 dinners
- Captain’s Welcome and Farewell Receptions
- Welcome and Farewell Gala Dinners
- Unlimited beverages onboard, including fine wine, beer, spirits, specialty coffee and tea, soft drinks and mineral water
- 6 days of excursions, including “Choice Is Yours” options, all fully hosted by English-speaking local experts
- Guided “Let’s Go,” “Do as the Locals Do” and “Village Day” programs
- State-of-the-art Quietvox portable audio-headset system on all excursions
- Use of bicycles and Nordic walking sticks
- 7-night cruise in a riverview stateroom on the exquisite S.S. Antoinette, the regal River Queen or the elegant River Empress
- Lavishly appointed riverview staterooms and suites have handcrafted Savoir® Beds of England, high thread count 100% Egyptian cotton sheets and European duvets, and a menu of pillow options
- Free Internet and Wi-Fi access
- 4 countries: France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland
- 4 UNESCO World Heritage sites
- Services of an experienced Uniworld Cruise Manager
- Captivating onboard local entertainment
- Cultural enrichment, including a Signature Lecture
- All transfers on arrival and departure days
- All gratuities, both onboard and onshore
- Exclusive Generations Family Program on select summer departures