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The delightful and historic Elbe, once the border of the Holy Roman Empire is one of Europe’s most undiscovered rivers and yet its hinterland has some world-class cities and places of interest!
You fly to Berlin where a coach will take you to the ship. The dedicated crew will welcome you aboard ensuring you settle into your comfortable and extremely well-appointed cabin, and familiarise yourself with the ship: your first class floating hotel.
Day 2 – Berlin
Relax over your first superb breakfast then join our sightseeing tour of Berlin, one of Europe’s truly great cities. Having attained capital status only in 1871, Berlin exudes contrasts – famed for its role as a cultural capital, its heady days at the decadent heart of 1920’s Europe then the wartime years and the turmoil of the Wall uniquely dividing the city. Berlin is thriving once more following its remarkable re-unification now amazingly over 20 years ago, with vast sums having been spent on its superb restoration. If you have visited the city before, you are really in for a shock at the stunning changes which have and continue to take place. Your tour takes in all the iconic locations; – the last remains of the Wall – ironically now a protected ‘historic’ monument!; the famous Checkpoint Charlie where apprehended spies were ‘exchanged’ during the cold war; the wonderfully restored Reichstag; the towering Brandenburg Gate standing sentinel over the magnificent avenue, Unter Den Linden, striding the heart of the city.
This afternoon is free for you to explore as you wish, but it is wrong to assume Berlin is all about politics; its ambience is really vibrant and its museums display some of world’s finest collections from the ancient world especially Turkey and Greece, plus fine art by Monet, Degas, Van Gogh to name but a few. Visit the parks to see Berliners at play – more than a third of the city is green – or sample that Berlin institution, taking coffee at a pavement café. For something different visit the DDR museum, depicting the fascinating everyday life inside the former East Germany. Later the ship slips away from the quayside navigating the pleasant network of lakes along the river Spree. As the city’s twinkling lights fade, you’ll enjoy your first splendid dinner in the excellent restaurant before perhaps heading for the lounge and a chance to discuss impressions of Berlin with your fellow passengers over an after-dinner drink. Immersed in unfamiliar surroundings full of fascinating sights, stories and experiences, you will already feel a long way from home.
Day 3 – Potsdam
Overnight we have berthed in Potsdam, city of Prussian kings and German Kaisers, and this morning we visit Sanssouci Park and tour one of their magnificent 17th century residence, a frenzy of Rococo style, full of fine art and exquisite antiques. Its extensive temples and sculptures studded throughout the surrounding park are redolent of Versailles, which indeed was Sanssoucci’s inspiration so its creator, Frederick the Great could escape the duty of Berlin’s royal court, hence it’s name Sanssouci – “without troubles”. Returning to the ship you will be enthralled as the Captain skillfully navigates the fascinating series of locks taking us onto the mighty River Elbe itself.
After dinner you can witness a marine highlight of the cruise, the crossing of the momentous 918 metre Magdeburg Water Bridge, the world’s longest navigable aqueduct soaring high above the surrounding countryside and a fitting monument to German engineering. We moor in Magdeburg this evening.
Day 4 – Dessau & Wittenberg
As you awake, the ship will be serenely cruising along the picturesque River Elbe, once the eastern border of Charlemagne’s huge Holy Roman Empire. You really can absorb the peaceful atmosphere of one of Europe’s less famous rivers and here, the Middle Elbe, has been declared a nature reserve, noted for its wildfowl thriving along its hilly, wooded banks. Riverside life is delightful as we pass numerous half-timbered villages, with couples strolling arm-in-arm along the river and after another superb lunch, we berth in Dessau visiting the stunning Wörlitzer Park, perhaps the finest example of an English-style landscape garden in Germany. Next we have a short visit to beautiful Wittenberg, a delightful town where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in 1517 initiating the Reformation thus changing Europe forever.
Day 5 – Meissen
This morning we pass Torgau, where Soviet and US forces met in 1945, and partly due to the lack of development in the communist East, the Elbe here retained superb biodiversity which continues due to present day environmental concern. The Floodplain forests are Germany’s most extensive with over 1000 different plants, 40 mammal species and a plethora of invertebrates – with 500 species of butterflies native to the region being particularly impressive.
The countryside becomes ever more rolling with the occasional vineyard visible and this afternoon we visit Meissen, famous of course for its exquisite porcelain, the first to be made outside China. The rarity and cost of the factory’s products ensured it was the preserve of the rich and famous with Europe’s wealthy amassing vast collections – many of which now grace the world’s great museums. We have a fascinating tour discovering how highly skilled artisans create these stunning works of art many of which take weeks, sometimes months to finish. Quite often referred to as Dresden porcelain, this is the only factory in Europe in which all the processes are completed by hand and we see the complete cycle from clay to finished article, after which there is a stunning museum displaying pieces from throughout the company’s existence. We berth in Meissen, so after dinner why not take a stroll through the old town.
Day 6 – Dresden
This morning offers a real highlight – cruising into the heart of historic and truly majestic Dresden, one of central Europe’s most beautiful cities with a classic waterfront. During our walking tour you will fall in love with this baroque and rococo icon controversially brought to its knees by massive bombing in 1945, it has been wonderfully restored, returning it to its dramatic former glory in probably the world’s most remarkable such project ever. Saxony’s capital, Dresden attracted many of Europe’s best musicians, architects and artists, becoming an epicentre of European culture. Canaletto captured much of it during his many visits and during our morning tour you will be amazed at the magnificent buildings at the city’s cultural core, including: the majestic Frauenkirche with its iconic domed roof; the remarkable 100m long Meissen tile mural depicting Saxony’s monarchs; the Semper Opera where many of Wagner’s works were first performed and the Royal Palace, with its splendid museums and galleries.
To cap it all are the unbelievable masterpieces in the incredible Zwinger Palace, home to the world’s twelfth largest art collection including works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Dyke, El Greco, Canaletto and many more, plus a renowned collection of modern art and astonishing array of medieval armour and weapons. The river bisects Dresden’s heart so after lunch it’s easy to take a stroll exploring as you wish. There is a delightful ambience here and you’ll revel in its tasteful shops, cobbled streets and occasional rather talented street musicians maintaining Dresden’s musical heritage and giving the city its soul.
During afternoon tea the ship slips her moorings for a delightful evening cruise no doubt encountering the original paddle steamers which have plied these waters for over 130 years. The haunting tones of their chime whistles, the watery splashes of the paddles and the rhythmic chugging of the steam engines really are the sound of yesteryear. The scenery changes dramatically as we follow the river’s amazingly sinuous course through the dense forests, contorted sandstone crags and deep valleys of “Saxon Switzerland” an area of outstanding natural beauty, berthing in the spa town of Bad Schandau on the Czech border.
Day 7 – Prague
After breakfast a coach will take us to the golden city of Prague. Centuries of royal patronage have created the masterpiece that you see today and our guided tour showcases the very best Prague can offer, the sheer beauty of which is beyond words! Walk through long stone palaces, cross the classic Charles Bridge or explore the cathedral, we defy you to suggest a more attractive city. You will see the principal monuments such as Tyn Church, the Powder Tower, Wenceslas Square, the unpronounceable Staromestske Namesti – the city’s showpiece 11th century square complete with its amazing astronomical clock.
This afternoon you could visit Hradcany, the spectacular Prague Castle and Cathedral, the centre of political power for a thousand years and perched high on a clifftop with superb views over the River Vistula, an amazing display of historic rooftops and the countless churches giving the city its sobriquet ‘City of a Hundred Spires’. Explore the remarkably preserved medieval Jewish Quarter together with its synagogue or the Gothic Tyn Church, famous for its irregular twin towers, dominating the central square and bristling with baubles. This has been the market place since Prague’s foundation, lined with tall, tastefully restored, pastelcoloured houses, many of which are pavement cafés where you can watch the world go by in a city which genuinely can be called beautiful!
We return to the ship for the Captains Dinner serving specialities of the regions we have discovered, whilst returning to Dresden. You will have had a thought-provoking week, with echoes of Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Wagner, witnessed the very cradle of the Reformation in Luther’s Wittenberg, experienced the longest navigable aqueduct in Europe and explored some of Europe’s most beautiful and historic cities on a trip that will live long in the memory.
After a final hearty breakfast, it’s time to say a fond farewell to the friendly crew of the ship, returning to Berlin for your flight.
Prices are based on twin share departing from London Heathrow Airport. Other regional airports are available – please call us for details.
|Date||Price (pp)||Ship||Depart UK||Arrive UK|
|14 Aug 2015||£1,619||MS Swiss Ruby||14:35info||18:30|
|21 Aug 2015||£1,619||MS Swiss Ruby||09:10info||13:50|
|28 Aug 2015||£1,619||MS Swiss Ruby||14:35info||18:30|
|18 Sep 2015||£1,719||MS Swiss Ruby||09:10info||13:50|
|17 Jun 2016||£1,719||MS Swiss Ruby||14:35info||13:50|
|24 Jun 2016||£1,719||MS Swiss Ruby||09:10info||13:50|
|15 Jul 2016||£1,619||MS Swiss Ruby||14:35info||13:50|
|22 Jul 2016||£1,619||MS Swiss Ruby||09:10info||13:50|
|26 Aug 2016||£1,619||MS Swiss Ruby||14:35info||17:50|
|16 Sep 2016||£1,719||MS Swiss Ruby||09:10info||13:50|
- Guided tour of Berlin, one of the world’s most rapidly evolving and fascinating cities
- Walking tour of Dresden, ‘Florence of the Elbe’, home of the world’s twelfth largest art collection and former capital of the Kings of Saxony
- Tour of Prague, central Europe’s jewel and one of the world’s most beautiful capitals
- Visit to Potsdam and Sanssouci Park, home of Frederick the Great
- Visit and tour of the Meissen porcelain studio
- Visit Wittenberg, where Martin Luther challenged the established church, initiating the Reformation
- Price includes full-board from dinner on your arrival day until breakfast on your final day
Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of single cabins available on the all decks, at the relevant supplement. The price includes full board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day; if you choose to travel with us on any of the full day excursions by coach, a packed lunch will be provided. Anyone choosing to stay on the ship may of course have lunch in the restaurant; morning/afternoon tea and coffee; all visits and excursions as mentioned in the brochure, airport/station transfers, coach travel as mentioned, travel to and from port of embarkation and the services of a Riviera Travel Tour Manager.