Our trip route map:
Day 1
Depart U.S. Reservation Number: 2950355, Cabin Number: 212, Ship Name: M/S RIVER RHAPSODY, Room Category: Cantata F

Depart the U.S. today on your flight to Switzerland.

Day 2
Basel, Switzerland/Embark ship M/S River Rhapsody
See vineyards as River Rhapsody cruises through Germany toward Winterhausen

The M/S River Rhapsody was ranked #26 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2013 Readers’ Poll

The M/S River Rhapsody was launched in 1999. This ship has a capacity of 140 passengers in 70 cabins, all with outside views. Ship amenities include an elevator, restaurant, bar and lounge, library, Sun Deck, fitness center, and sauna. Your ship has an international crew of 34 and three English-speaking Program Directors.


Arrive today in Basel. A Grand Circle representative met us at the airport and assisted with the transfer to the pier, where we embarked on our river ship - we arrived at 4 pm. This evening we got get better acquainted with Daniel, our Program Director, and our traveling companions over dinner.

Day 3
Basel city tour/Europe Today discussion
Discover fresh produce at a Strasbourg market

After breakfast, we attended an orientation briefing. Daniel went over the details of the upcoming trip and answered questions. Then we explored Basel, Switzerland’s second-largest city—and one with a split personality. On the one hand, giant, modern chemical concerns and pharmaceutical companies dominate the city. On the other, a network of narrow alleys weaves together the city’s medieval architectural heritage. We enjoyed the excellent public transport system with a streetcar ride, followed by a walking tour. We saw the lively Marktplatz, the colorful town hall, and the twelfth-century, red sandstone Munster (Cathedral) among other highlights. The church was outstanding. To make it more convenient to explore on our own, we received a one-day streetcar ticket.

After lunch onboard, we have the afternoon to explore Basel further at our own pace. For the rest of the day, we can continue to use your public transportation day pass. We can ride the streetcars to the border with either France or Germany, and walk across into either of these countries for a truly international day.

With more than 30 museums, Basel is a well-known center of art and culture. Dating to 1662, the Museum of Fine Arts is considered the oldest public art museum in Europe. Inside, you can view old masters, such as Hans Holbein, and modern masters like Jasper Johns. The Historical Museum, which is housed in 14th-century church, contains a collection relating to the history of culture in Central Europe. Its most notable piece is the Lallenkonig (Babbling King), a crowned head with moveable tongue and eyes.

This afternoon, we joined a discussion on Europe Today, before an official welcome onboard, where we will meet our ship’s crew at the Captain’s Welcome Drink and Dinner.

Day 4
Strasbourg boat tour/At leisure/Optional Alsatian Highlights tour
Optional Tour:Alsatian Highlights
Encounter beautiful views of Strasbourg

This morning, we use our included public transportation day pass to explore Strasbourg. We also enjoy a sightseeing tour by boat along Strasbourg’s canals. Strasbourg has been strategically important since ancient times. It became a free imperial city of the German Empire 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 your 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.

Your boat tour concludes in the town center. You then have free time to walk independently, perhaps visiting the city’s magnificent cathedral, one of the finest of Europe’s great Gothic cathedrals. Its lofty single spire dominates the city.

Later, perhaps you'll join us on an optional Alsatian Highlights tour through the famous wine region of Alsace, where the culture is a delightful blend of French and German influences. Travel through the fertile Elsass region to the wooded foothills of the Vosges Mountains and drive part of the “Route du Vin,” past rolling vineyards and flower-decked villages.

Upon arrival in the quaint town of Riquewihr, your Program Director will take you on an informative stroll to introduce you to the main points of interest. You may wish to explore the town’s medieval fortress, city gates, and towers. If shopping is your interest, you’ll find that the shops on the main street are cozy and inviting year-round.

Then, you’ll visit the Stork Park, where this lovely white bird is being re-populated into the local area. At one time the bird was so plentiful in this region that it was considered the symbol of Alsace and was often mentioned in children’s stories. In 1900, thousands of storks could be spotted in Alsace during the warmer spring and summer months, but by the 1980s their local population had been reduced to fewer than ten. Their numbers are again increasing, and the Stork Park offers a safe refuge for this long-legged bird. On your route, you might even spot some of their nests, high atop a local home or a church roof.

This evening, enjoy an included dinner onboard.

Day 5
Strasbourg/Baden-Baden tour
Discover the beauty of the Rhine River

The morning is at leisure for you to explore more of Strasbourg: you may decide to visit the Palais Rohan, often called the mini-Versailles, which houses a gallery and three museums: an archaeological museum, a museum of the decorative arts, and a collection of European paintings.

After lunch onboard, you’ll join a tour this afternoon for a scenic journey by motorcoach into the Black Forest region, then visit the spa town of Baden-Baden, nestled in the thick, deep green forests. Baden-Baden has been renowned for its thermal baths since Roman times. You’ll have a tour of the resort town and learn more about its mineral waters—thought by many to have restorative powers.

Before dinner, join your Program Director for an informative Port Talk as we cruise toward Speyer.

Day 6
Speyer Tour/Home-Hosted Kaffeeklatsch
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Discover local culture at a Home-Hosted meal

Today, enjoy a walking tour of Speyer, a town founded by the Romans in approximately AD 50 that flourished during the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, much of Speyer was destroyed in the 17th century during the Palantine War of Succession, and few remnants of its glorious past survive. One exception is the Romanesque Cathedral, which you’ll explore during your tour. Built between 1030 and 1125, it set a new architectural standard for the time.

Join us this afternoon for a Discovery Series Home-Hosted Kaffeeklatsch with a local family. Sample coffee and fresh, homemade cake as you glimpse everyday German home life.

In the evening, gather for a Port Talk in the lounge and then enjoy dinner with your fellow travelers.

Day 7
Speyer/Cruise to Boppard/Boppard walking tour/Optional Marksburg Castle & Brewery tour/Koblenz
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Optional Tour::Marksburg Castle & Brewery
View passing landscapes while relaxing on the ship deck

This morning, you’ll be inspired as you sail the most beautiful part of the Rhine. Pass Lorelei, the imposing 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.

You’ll disembark and join your Program Director for a walking tour of Boppard—a lovely town that’s been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its importance as a cultural and historic center for the middle Rhine region. During your stroll, perhaps you’ll see its famous Rhine Promenade and the white towers of the Church of St. Severin.

After returning to the ship for lunch, join us on an optional excursion to one of the most beautiful castles standing on the hills that line the Rhine River, Marksburg Castle. The only 13th-century castle unchanged by war or reconstruction, it offers an unprecedented glimpse into the daily life of the time. Walking through the three towers and the connecting rooms, you will fully feel what it was like to live in a castle. You’ll climb a stone staircase leading to the romantic bed chamber (the only room heated with a stove), see the great hall with its enormous fireplace (large enough to grill a steer whole), and take in a commanding vista from the east bank of the Rhine as you stand atop the towers.

Then make a discovery of a different nature as we stop in at a family-owned brewery. Here we’ll try brezel (pretzels), and home-brewed beer as we mingle with the locals at the beer garden.

Or, stay on board and sail to Koblenz, set at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Originally established as an outpost of the Roman Empire and named Castellum apud Confluentes, the town became a city in the 13th century and served as the home of French refugees during the French Revolution.

Enjoy a Port Talk and dinner onboard this evening.

Please note: The Marksburg Castle optional tour features a considerable amount of walking uphill and on uneven surfaces; steep inclines; rocky terraces; narrow passages, no handrails; and dim lighting, at times.

Day 8
Cochem & Reichsburg Castle tour
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Explore the medieval Reichsburg Castle

Disembark this morning for a tour of Reichsburg Castle, believed to have been originally constructed some time in the eleventh century. The castle was was burned to the ground by King Louis XIV of France in 1689 during the War of the Palatine Succession. The castle remained derelict and in a state of detritus until 1868 when it was purchased by Louis Ravene, a Berlin entrepreneur who converted the castle into a summer home for himself and his family. In 1978, ownership of the castle fell into the hands of the city of Cochem, which has since opened it to the public.

Your minivan will take you on a scenic ascent from the river valley to the top of the rocky hill on which the castle sits. You'll explore the exterior and interior, and have free time in Cochem, before returning to your ship to relax and enjoy a leisurely afternoon of sailing.

Please note: The Reichsburg Castle tour features uphill walking and steps.

Day 9
Bernkastel walking tour/Wine tasting/Issel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Encounter relaxing German outdoor cafes in Berkastel

This morning, join your Program Director for a stroll around Bernkastel, one of the prettiest towns in the Mosel Valley. Actually, Bernkastel is two towns; its sister town, Kues, sits on the opposite bank of the Mosel. You’ll enjoy strolling through the town’s market area.

Then, during today's exclusive Discovery Series event, sample some of the region's vintages during a wine tasting.

Finally, spend a relaxing afternoon enjoying the scenery as we cruise toward the small river town of Issel.

Day 10
Trier city tour/European Union discussion
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Explore Trier's main plaza

Disembark in Trier this morning for an included tour of this ancient Roman city. There were settlements here in the third millennium before Christ, and the Roman Emperor Augustus founded a thriving city here in 15 BC.

You’ll visit the renowned Porta Nigra, an ancient Roman fortress gate, and the pedestrian-only Market Square, one of the most magnificent squares in all of Germany. Here you can admire the central fountain built in 1595. You can take some free time on your own here at the market, or view the massive basilica, built by Constantine in AD 310.

Set your own agenda this afternoon. You can use our shuttle service to revisit Trier and then set out to explore it on your own. Or, relax onboard, and join a Discovery Series discussion on the European Union.

Day 11
Cruise to Zell/Optional Luxembourg tour
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
See a German church while touring Luxembourg

Enjoy a walking tour of the wine-growing town of Zell, surrounded by views of the wooded Hunsruck Mountains. You can go ashore with your Program Director to enjoy a walking tour this morning, during which you’ll learn about the grapes grown here and the wine produced in the region’s 17 Hunsruck villages—Zeller Schwarze Katz, made from Riesling and Muller-Thurgau grapes.

Or, join our full-day optional tour to Luxembourg, the tiny nation whose territory comprises less than 1,000 square miles. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy located between Belgium, France, and Germany. Here, the everyday language is Letzebuergesch, which symbolizes the national identity of the people.

Ride first by motorcoach to see the Battle of the Bulge Cemetery. Luxembourg was occupied by German forces in May 1940, and its liberation (primarily by American troops) began in September 1944. The Battle of the Bulge began with Hitler’s desperate attack through the Ardennes to attempt to drive out the Allied forces. The resulting battle, called “the greatest American battle of the Second World War” by Winston Churchill, raged here from the 16th of December 1944 through the 28th of January 1945, during which period the American troops suffered tremendous losses.

In the city of Luxembourg, you’ll see the historical city center during a walking tour. In addition to your tour, you’ll also enjoy lunch and some leisure time to explore on your own. Then you’ll transfer to the Mosel Valley and reboard your ship in the late afternoon. Once you embark ship in the evening, you’ll set sail for Bonn and have dinner onboard.

Day 12
Bonn city tour/Optional Augustusburg Palace tour
Discover St Martin while exploring Bonn

Gather for a walking tour of the city. Founded by the Romans, Bonn was the provisional capital of West Germany from the years following World War II until Germany’s reunification in 1990. Today, Bonn is home to numerous museums and gardens, and a large student population who live near the University of Bonn’s campus. Reboard your ship in time for lunch. The rest of your afternoon is at leisure to explore Bonn on your own.

Or, you can join an optional excursion to Augustusburg Palace, located in Bruhl, a small town on the edge of the Naturpark Kottenforst-Ville Nature Reserve. You’ll enjoy a guided tour of Schloss Augustusburg, a horseshoe-shaped palace widely considered to be a masterpiece of Rococo architecture. Built in the 18th century for Clemens August of Wittelsbach, the powerful Archbishop of Cologne, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was used by the German government until 1994 to receive special guests of state.

Please note: Schloss Augustusburg is closed on Mondays. Travelers visiting on Mondays will be offered an optional tour to the Bridge of Remagen Peace Museum.

Day 13
Nijmegen, the Netherlands/Walking tour/At leisure/Optional National Liberation Museum tour
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Optional Tour: Liberation Museum
View the Old Town Hall in Nijmegen

Following breakfast onboard, you’ll join your Program Director for an included tour of Nijmegen, the Netherlands’ oldest city. During this tour, you’ll see the intertwining of past and present—evident in the city’s combination of historic streetscapes and modern architecture. Located along the Dutch River Waal, Nijmegen is surrounded by a diverse natural setting of riverbank landscapes, woods, hills, moors, and bodies of water.
For the balance of the morning, you’ll have free time to spend as you please. Perhaps you’ll shop at Nijmegen’s historic Grote Markt, or visit its Museum Het Valkhof—where ancient Roman finds and remains intermingle with contemporary artwork. After lunch onboard, you can relax or continue sightseeing at your own pace.

Or, you can join an optional tour to nearby Groesbeek for a visit to the National Liberation Museum (Bevijdingsmuseum). Situated in the area where, in September 1944 the Allies launched "Operation Market Garden" in an attempt to break through the across the River Rhine into Germany. The museum vividly re-creates the occupation and liberation of wartime Holland through interactive displays.

Please note: Due to dock repairs in Nijmegen, on select departures through October your River Ship will dock in either Emmerich or Tiel, depending on availability. On these departures, the optional tour of the National Liberation Museum will not be offered, and travelers will have additional free time in Nijmegen.

Day 14
Nijmegen/Kinderdijk tour/Optional Delta Works tour
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Discover the famous Netherlands windmills in Kinderdijk

This morning, you’ll visit Kinderdijk to see the 19 famous windmills that were built along the river there in approximately 1740. Holland, of course, is known for its windmills, and nowhere will you find more than Kinderdijk. These sturdy windmills have been well-preserved, and in 1997 they were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You have time to stroll around the site and take pictures of these signature attractions of Holland, which are supported by Grand Circle Foundation, before you board ship and set sail for Willemstad.

Your afternoon is at leisure, or, if you choose this optional tour, you’ll ride by motorcoach to see the Delta Works, a restoration project known worldwide for its hydro-engineering, begun after flooding had devastated Holland. Originally, the province was a collection of islands—easy prey to the sea. Now the islands are connected and protected by a series of dams, dikes, and bridges. The destructive tides that flooded the islands in 1953 and claimed the lives of 1,800 people are still remembered by the inhabitants of Zeeland. Since then, Dutch technology and the gigantic Delta Works have prevented a recurrence. This tour shows you several of the ingenious technical achievements designed over the past 35 years, and gives you an impressive idea of how the Dutch have claimed, reclaimed, and protected their homeland from the threat of the sea.

Day 15
Antwerp walking tour
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
View the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp

Set off on a walking tour of this great city. You’ll explore Antwerp’s well-preserved Old Town, built around the Grote Markt (Town Square), and graced by the lovely old Town Hall and beautiful Guild Houses. Marvel at the elegant spires of the Cathedral of Our Lady, and stroll along the Meir, Antwerp’s main shopping street, lined with historic buildings.

Your afternoon is free to further discover the city on your own. You may want to visit the house of the great painter, Peter Paul Rubens. He purchased a 16th-century house off the Meir when he returned from Italy in 1608 and transformed it into one of the most elegant Renaissance-Baroque houses in the Low Countries. Today it is a museum housing many of Rubens’ finest works, as well as works by some of his contemporaries. Or you could visit the Steen, the small stone castle that stands at the entrance to the city. Begun as part of a 13th-century fortification, the castle has served as a prison and today houses the National Navigation Museum. Or explore the Jewish District, which has contributed to Antwerp’s rich heritage since before the 13th century.

Gather this evening for the Captain’s Farewell Drink and Dinner to toast a memorable cruise with your fellow river travelers.

Day 16
Return to U.S.
Meals Included: Breakfast

Disembark this morning and transfer to the airport for your return flight home. Or travel to Bruges, Belgium to begin your optional extension.