EUROPE’S BUSIEST AND MOST picturesque waterway, the Rhine River winds for more than 700 miles from the Swiss Alps to the North Sea. It is a traveler’s feast for the eye, mind and palate, a complete banquet of castles, museums, medieval towns, vineyards, restaurants and shops. Sightseers have focused on its wonders for centuries. With the popularity of river cruises spreading, the Rhine River remains at the top of the charts, drawing more than 300 cruise ships to its waters each year, including many of the world’s most luxurious river vessels.
For river cruising, the Rhine is divided into three sectors. The Lower Rhine, with stops at such historic German cities as Bonn and Cologne, empties into the sea near Amsterdam, while the Upper Rhine has notable ports of call, too, including Basel and Strasbourg. But the centerpiece of a Rhine cruise is the Middle Rhine, the so-called Romantic Rhine, where the 40-mile Rhine Gorge between Bingen and Koblenz is festooned with more medieval castles than any other river valley in the world.
The Romantic Rhine and its Gorge, with its medieval villages and 1,000-year-old terraced vineyards, was the inspired setting for Richard Wagner’s epic opera, Götterdämmerung. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, its scenic centerpiece is a natural monument, the sheer cliffside known as Lorelei, the emblem of a mythic femme fatale who lured many a ship and crew to disaster. Lorelei, in turn, is the inspiration of a romantic poem by Heinrich Heine, a waltz by Johann Straus, an opera by Felix Mendelssohn, a verse by Sylvia Plath and, most recently, a character from Marvel Comics.
Most Rhine cruises of a week or longer sweep through all three stretches of the Rhine, including Lorelei cliff and the Rhine Gorge, with Amsterdam serving as either the starting or ending point. The cruising season runs April through October, although most major river lines offer an array of Christmas market cruises in the winter. In recent years the number of luxury river cruise ships offering extended trips on the Rhine proliferated, affording travelers a raft of high-end choices for cruising.
Viking River Cruises is the baseline for modern luxury cruising on the Rhine, with its array of sleek 190-passenger Longships offering a host of complimentary amenities, from a shore excursion at every port to spacious river-view cabins. A typical eight-day Rhine Getaway begins on the Upper Rhine in Basel and visits the Black Forest, the medieval village of Colmar and the Alsatian wine country near Strasbourg, France, before sailing into the Rhine Gorge with a chance to tour the 700-year- old Marksburg Castle and the Fortress of Ehrenbreitstein. On the Lower Rhine, Viking calls on Cologne’s Old Town before winding through Kinderdijk, a network of UNESCO World Heritage site windmills (19 of them) which guests can view close up on bicycle or aboard a vintage barge.
For those demanding even more luxurious cruising, Crystal River Cruises sails the Rhine between Amsterdam and Basel in all-inclusive style with the all-suite, 106-passenger Crystal Debussy and Crystal Bach — part of a fleet that constitutes the first and only all-balcony, all-suite, all-butler vessels serving Europe’s waterways.
Scenic River Cruises offers comparable deluxe river cruising. Eight of its 167- to 169-passenger river boats, including its newest Space-Ships, will work the Rhine River in 2020, each vessel with butler service and nearly every other amenity you might dream of. Two other top-end choices are AmaWaterways and Avalon Waterways. AmaWaterways, with eight ships on the Rhine, provides passengers with a swimming pool, fitness center, spa, bicycles for shore excursions and gourmet dining. Many of its Rhine trips are designated as special wine cruises. Avalon Waterways, with the newest river fleet in Europe, claims the continent’s largest staterooms. Bicycles, Nordic walking sticks and wine and beer with lunch and dinner are complimentary, as are breakfasts delivered to your stateroom.
On five special festive nights each year, massive fireworks displays and convoys of lighted ships cast a special light on the Rhine’s castles and crags.
In 2020 these annual Rhine in Flames festivals will launch May 2 in Bonn, July 4 in Bingen and Rüdesheim, and Aug. 8 in the Spay-Koblenz region.
Rhine in Flames concludes with two brilliant flare-ups, the first Sept. 12 in Oberwesel, where the fireworks are synchronized to music, and the last, Sept. 19, in the sister towns of Sankt Goar and Sankt Goarshausen, where pyrotechnics illuminate the castles Katz (cat) and Maus (mouse) during the annual wine festivals.
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I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
San Antonio celebrated 300 years of progress in May 2018. With a clear vision following that anniversary year, the Texan city set its sights firmly on 300 more. While commemorating this milestone, the city underwent a major overhaul to prepare for the next phase in its history.
Step right up to the greatest show on Earth as FXExpress Publications, Global Traveler, trazeetravel.com and whereverfamily.com celebrate their 2020 award winners! Join the big top on Dec. 14 as we virtually award the winners of the 17th annual GT Tested Reader Survey awards, including the Airline and Hotel of the Year; the 17th annual Wines on the Wing Airline Wine Survey; the eighth annual Leisure Lifestyle Awards; the sixth annual The Trazees; and the third annual Wherever Awards.
When you think of a relaxing spa day, mountains, rivers and view of gorgeous landscapes pop in your head; a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of any city’s booming music and honking taxis. SoJo Spa Club and Hotel gives you the relaxing feeling of being away while still staying close to the busy center of Manhattan.
Dance the night away with Grand Hotel’s Ballroom Dance offer, available May 16–18. Dancers of all skill levels will experience a diverse range of ballroom dance styles, alongside daily breakfast and dinner, a welcome reception and complimentary golf green fees.
Custom order your Volvo through the Overseas Delivery Program and receive round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations, and a personalized delivery at the Volvo Factory Delivery Experience in Gothenburg, Sweden. Your experience begins in Sweden with insurance and registration included, enabling you to drive your new Volvo throughout Scandinavia and Europe. Create the adventure of a lifetime with the program named Best Overseas Delivery four years running, and return home with the ultimate souvenir.