Day 1 Arrive in Zürich, Switzerland–Transfer to Basel (Embarkation)
Welcome to Switzerland. This afternoon, board your ship and meet your crew at an onboard welcome reception. (Dinner)
NOTE: Flights into Zürich must arrive before 3 pm. Guests must be on board ship by 5 pm.
Day 2 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. The area got its name because the forests are so dense that local residents once described them as black. There’s no better setting this time of year than when smoke curls from the chimneys of the traditional Black Forest houses with their long sloping roofs. Surely, the most well-known products from this region are Black Forest ham, cherry cake, and cuckoo clocks. This afternoon, there’s free time in Breisach to visit the Christmas market—or you may join an optional excursion to Colmar in France’s Alsace region. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 3 Strasbourg, France
Situated on the border of France and Germany, Strasbourg blends the cultures of both countries in a delightful way. As capital of the Alsace region and seat of the Council of Europe and European Parliament, it is, without a doubt, an important city that manages to retain its historic charm. In fact, on your GUIDED WALKING TOUR you will discover Europe at its most quintessential. Visit the monumental red-sandstone GOTHIC CATHEDRAL with its ancient murals, stained-glass windows, and fascinating astronomical clock, as well as the magical LA PETITE FRANCE district, home to half-timbered houses, quaint shops, inviting bistros, and a waterfront promenade. Also spend time exploring Place Kléber, a large historic square in the heart of the city, and Place Gutenberg in the heart of medieval Strasbourg, which features a 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! This afternoon, an optional excursion into the Alsace wine region is available. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 4 Excursion to Heidelberg, Germany
Today, an excursion takes you to Heidelberg, home to the oldest university in Germany, founded in 1386. Visit the imposing ruins of HEIDELBERG CASTLE, towering magnificently over the city and among the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps. You’ll also see the famed GREAT VAT, the “World’s Largest Wine Barrel.” At nearly 23 feet high and 28 feet wide, the cask holds over 58,000 gallons of wine and has a dance floor built on top of it! At this time of year, an ice rink is set up at the foot of the castle, and stalls offer Glühwein, Bratwurst, and other tasty treats. The Christmas market is scattered over five town squares, and you’ll find a wide array of crafts and regional delicacies. There is plenty of free time to shop for Christmas decorations or gifts. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 5 Wiesbaden. 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! Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant. Afterward, we’ll offer you a SPECIAL TREAT and then 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. In the afternoon, return to Wiesbaden. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 6 Miltenberg
Tucked away behind medieval defensive walls and towered gates, the picturesque Bavarian village of Miltenberg is a cultural gem on the banks of the Main River. This morning’s GUIDED WALK will acquaint you with the town’s delightful Marktplatz (market square), which centers around a Renaissance-era fountain and features striking half-timbered buildings, cobblestone lanes, and one of the oldest inns in Germany, Haus zum Riesen (the giant’s house) and the gothic splendor of the Merchant Hall. Later, continue your cruise on the Main River to Würzburg and enjoy a COOKIE-BAKING DEMONSTRATION on board. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 7 Würzburg
Known as the “Pearl of the Romantic Road,” Würzburg is surrounded by sloping hills covered with vineyards. The city makes an immediate impression with imposing Marienberg Fortress perched above town and the 15th-century Alte Mainbrücke (Old Main Bridge). On your GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR, visit the magnificent baroque BISHOP’S RESIDENZ, home to the largest ceiling fresco ever painted. This afternoon you are free to explore the beautifully decorated streets on your own, visit the Christmas markets, or perhaps join an optional excursion to medieval Rothenburg, where you will have the opportunity to visit the Christmas Museum. Here, try a Schneeball (snowball), a local specialty not at all suitable for a diet! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 8 Bamberg
Learn everything about Christmas traditions during an ONBOARD LECTURE this morning. In the early afternoon, arrive in medieval Bamberg, former residence of one of Germany’s most powerful imperial dynasties and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your GUIDED WALKING TOUR takes in its historic center, including the great 13th-century Romanesque cathedral and the fascinating Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)—built on an island in the middle of the Regnitz River when the bishop refused to give the townspeople land for a town hall! This time of year, the town is decked out for Christmas. Especially interesting are the many nativity scenes built by local citizens and exhibited throughout the town. Enjoy the Christmas market, where, in addition to candles and decorations, you’ll find regional delicacies such as gingerbread and nut bread. Don’t miss the special gift we have reserved for you in a local brewery. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 9 Nuremberg
Although 90% of Nuremberg’s Old Town suffered extensive damage during WWII, much of it has been restored to the glory it once knew as the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Choose either a GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR and marvel at this thousand-year-old city’s medieval fortifications, gothic churches, and the Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle), or join a more specialized “NUREMBERG RALLY GROUNDS” tour. The Old Town is illuminated with festive lights and decorations, and the Christmas market is one of the most famous in the world. You’ll find dozens of stalls offering traditional wares, including Nuremberg Lebkuchen (spicy gingerbread), baked goods and sweets, Christmas decorations, ornaments, and more. Shuttle service to the ship will be at your disposal. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 10 Nuremberg (Disembarkation) – Prague, Czech Republic
After breakfast today, bid your crew farewell and travel by motorcoach to Prague the “Golden City”. (Breakfast)
Day 11 Prague
Prague is a 1,200-year-old city preserved in time. See its best-known treasures, such as the Old Town’s Astronomical Clock, built in 1410 and once the envy of all of Europe; HRADCANY CASTLE GROUNDS; St. Vitus Cathedral; and the Charles Bridge, the oldest bridge in Prague. Browse the Christmas markets, where rows of brightly decorated wooden huts sell Christmas tree ornaments, wooden toys, and Czech handicrafts. Get a little inner warmth with a cup of svarene vino (hot mulled wine) and a traditional hot sausage. The beautifully decorated tree in the Old Town is an impressive sight. (Breakfast)
Day 12 Prague
Your vacation ends after breakfast today. (Breakfast)
On this Christmastime river cruise, you’ll start in Switzerland, and cruise through the heart of Germany, with stops in France and the Czech Republic. Explore many unique Christmas markets, where you can shop for locally crafted gifts, smell the aroma of freshly baked gingerbread, and sample tasty holiday treats.
Embark your river cruise ship in Basel, Switzerland, and sail to Breisach, Germany. From here, enjoy a visit to Germany’s Black Forest, known for contributing Black Forest ham, cherry cake, and cuckoo clocks to the world. In Strasbourg, France, visit the red-sandstone gothic cathedral with its ancient murals and fascinating astronomical clock. This time of year, the historic charm of the city is mixed with festive aromas, sights, and sounds—creating a truly magical atmosphere! In Heidelberg, Germany, visit the imposing ruins of Heidelberg Castle. You’ll find an ice rink at the foot of the castle and the Christmas market covers five town squares with an array of seasonal crafts and delicacies. An excursion takes you to charming Rüdesheim on the Rhine River, where you’ll see Europe’s largest nativity scene with life-size figures. In Würzburg, walk through the halls of the ornate Bishop’s Residenz—then stroll through the Christmas markets while you sip Glühwein (hot mulled wine). Learn about holiday traditions as you sail to Bamberg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you’ll find nativity scenes built by local citizens throughout the town. On a guided tour of Nuremberg, marvel at the city’s medieval fortifications and gothic churches, and of course visit the Christmas market, one of the oldest in Germany.
Your Christmastime river cruise vacation ends in beautiful Prague, Czech Republic, which you visit with a Local Guide. The Christmas market offers rows of brightly decorated wooden huts selling ornaments and Czech handicrafts—be sure to try a traditional hot sausage from one of the stalls.
Captain’s welcome & farewell receptions with sparkling wine and canapés; Welcome dinner; Daily Afternoon Tea; Daily Night Fare; Farewell dinner; Complimentary sparkling wine with breakfast; soft drinks with lunch; and wine, beer, or soft drinks with dinner are included daily on board your vessel
Deluxe cruise in an outside stateroom with Avalon’s exclusive Comfort Collection Beds
Included excursions with Certified Local Guide.
Sightseeing as outlined in the day by-day itinerary.
Inside visits and special features are shown in UPPERCASE.
Headsets for shore excursions.
Special onboard and onshore experiences presented by entertainers, artisans, and experts, designed to enrich your cruise.