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Thelonious Monk once said, “Jazz is my adventure.” Perhaps this 8-day, jazz river cruise along the legendary Rhine will be yours. Cruising from Amsterdam to Breisach (or reverse), you’ll enjoy an impressive 20 included tours and Cultural Connections. Discover the canals of Amsterdam and soaring Cologne Cathedral. See the fabled castles on the Rhine and the romantic old university town of Heidelberg. Explore great Gothic cities, charming half-timbered fairy-tale villages, and five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In short, you will experience some of the Old World’s most iconic sights. At the same time, you’ll discover how Europe has embraced one of the New World’s most popular exports: jazz music. Local jazz artists will come aboard to perform for you, and expert guest lecturers will discuss the genre’s history as it migrated from America across the pond. And throughout your cruise, there will be a professional jazz pianist on board to provide the perfect soundtrack to your voyage.
A highlight will be your afternoon tea at Amsterdam’s Bimhuis, the Netherlands’ premier performance venue for jazz and improvisational music. Set on the IJ in a striking modern building, Bimhuis has hosted greats like Charles Mingus and Chet Baker, and continues to attract established and emerging talent.
As the perfect prelude or coda to your musical adventure, you can add optional pre- or post-trip extensions in historic Bruges, Belgium, or the sophisticated jazz capital of Montreux, Switzerland.
The 19th century luminaries who once visited the renowned jazz city of Montreux — such as Tolstoy, Nabakov, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky — were no doubt drawn by the pleasant climate, idyllic surroundings, and shimmering waters of Lake Geneva. This resort town remains an elegant escape, and you’ll experience its many charms on this extension. Enjoy a full-day tour of the Chateaux de Chillon and Gruyeres region — which includes some time at the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage Site — as well as the opportunity to watch witness the art of cheese making with a local family and visit a chocolatier. You’ll also have time on your own to explore Montreaux and nearby Gruyere, and generally revel in the beauty of this lakeside gem. This vibrant city also happens to be an unofficial capital of jazz, as it is the home to the esteemed Montreux Jazz Festival.
Depart home for Breisach, Germany, via Basel
This evening, you’ll fly overnight to Basel, Switzerland, your European gateway city.
Arrive in Basel and transfer to ship in Breisach
If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, a Vantage representative will meet you and arrange transfer to your ship. Or, if you add our extension you’ll arrive earlier to begin in Montreux. Tonight, enjoy a Welcome Drink and Briefing in the Blue Note Lounge, followed by a Welcome Dinner in the ship’s Bourbon Street Bistro.
Throughout your journey you can enjoy live jazz in the Blue Note Lounge, where a jazz pianist will be performing every evening.
Strasbourg canal cruise and walking tour
After docking in Kehl, Germany, we'll go directly across the Rhine to Strasbourg, France, via the Pont de l'Europe bridge. The complicated history of Alsace is reflected in its deeply intertwined French and German heritage.
Behold the beautiful medieval center of Strasbourg as you wend your way along the canals that encircle the Grande-Île, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You'll also enjoy a walking tour that takes you to the elegant Palais Rohan; the Cathedral of Notre Dame; the ultra-modern European Union Parliament; the quaint shops and parks of La Petite France; and the historic Tanners’ Quarter. There is so much to rivet your attention, which is why we have left the afternoon free for you to explore independently. A complimentary shuttle will be available to bring you from the ship to the center of town. You can also join our optional tour to the Black Forest.
Our jazz pianist will perform this evening in the Blue Note Lounge.
You’ll ride along the scenic Bundesstrasse 500, an impressive auto route that’s commonly referred to as the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse, or “Black Forest High Street.” Zoom along a road that rises dramatically from 200 to 3,000 feet above sea level in a mere 10-15 mile stretch. You’ll arrive at the historic Berghotel Mummelsee, a popular tourist destination for the past 120 years. You’ll head to the hotel restaurant for a Black Forest cake-making demonstration and tasting. Afterwards, you may stroll around the lake and shop for traditional Black Forest products like cuckoo clocks, cherry liqueur, and more.
Highlights of Heidelberg and a singular treat, free time in Speyer
This morning you’ll enjoy an excursion to Heidelberg, a red-roofed town on the Neckar River that is home to Germany’s oldest university.
Enjoy panoramic views from the plaza of imposing Heidelberg Castle. You'll also see the famed Heidelberg Tun, an immense wine barrel — now empty — with a capacity of some 58,000 gallons. It would seem the immense volume was warranted, judging by the numerous old student Weinstuben pubs and beer gardens that line Heidelberg’s charming old alleys. You’ll have some free time to explore here on your own. There is also an old student jail (the Studentenkarzer) where drunk or unruly collegians were temporarily locked up. It was considered a badge of honor to spend time here, and you can still see the graffiti scribbled by 19th-century “inmates. After returning to our ship you’ll have free time to explore Speyer on your own.
In 1863, the fun-loving chocolatier of Heidelberg’s Café Knösel created a delicious confection that enabled love-struck students to get their chocolate fix, while sending an amorous message to their crushes: the Studentenkuss or “Student’s Kiss.” You may fall in love with this praline-nougat-chocolate wafer bonbon when you taste one this evening.
Learn more about jazz during a lecture entitled "Milestones in the History of Jazz." In addition to the daily jazz piano offerings in the Blue Note Lounge, this evening you’ll enjoy a performance by the Tap & Jazz’s Long Term Affair Quartet.
Guided tour of Mainz, the Gutenberg Bible, Cruising the UNESCO-listed Rhine Gorge
Ancient Mainz was once the seat of the Holy Roman Empire. However, it is perhaps best known as the home of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of moveable type. After visiting here, embark on a scenic cruise of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley.
Though there had been other, more primitive forms of printing for hundreds of years, it was not until 1439 that Mainz native Johannes Gutenberg invented a machine printing press that used metal moveable type — and in so doing, changed the world. You will visit the Gutenberg Museum, housed in a lovely antique building opposite the cathedral. There are many exhibits depicting the history of printing and publishing, but the star attractions are three precious Gutenberg Bibles that date to about 1455. You will also see a reconstruction of Gutenberg’s workshop.
This afternoon you'll see some of Germany’s most spectacular scenery as the River Venture makes its way through the Upper Middle Rhine Valley — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — as you travel towards Mainz. Studded with historic castles and beautiful gorges, it is a sight you can only truly appreciate from the river. A highlight will be your sighting of the famous Lorelei, a steep slate rock that makes a soft, murmuring sound under certain conditions. It used to be the site of many shipwrecks, and a legend sprang up about a lovely, golden-haired maiden who would sit atop the rock combing her hair and singing a song that lured sailors too close to the rock and into perilous waters.
How did jazz become popular in Germany? Find out during today’s expert lecture. Enjoy the jazz piano music in the Blue Note Lounge, as well as this evening’s performance by a jazz saxophonist.
In the afternoon, you can attend an onboard German language lesson to learn some of the basics.
Walking tour of Koblenz’s Old Town, wine tasting, scenic Rhine cruising
This morning after breakfast you’ll enjoy a walking tour of Koblenz, a more than 2,000-year-old city strategically set at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. From the wedge-shaped headland where the waters meet, known as Deutsches Eck or "German Corner," a giant equestrian statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I overlooks the united rivers. Later, as your ship makes it way towards Cologne you’ll enjoy a Captain’s Gala Dinner.
The vineyards of the Rhine region produce many world-class varietals, whereas along the Moselle, Riesling is king. Come join us for a leisurely wine tasting before lunch on the ship.
Your afternoon scenic cruising will be accompanied by the music of our jazz pianist. This evening, don’t miss the Dixieland jazz band that will be performing in the Blue Note Lounge.
Explore Cologne on a walking tour and try some local “Kölsch Bier”
After breakfast, you’ll enjoy a walking tour in Cologne. The city was founded in the first century and became the seat of Roman rule in the region known as Germania Inferior. Although it's now Germany's fourth largest city, Cologne preserves many fine medieval structures, including Romanesque churches, the city hall, and three of the city's 12 medieval gates.
Your walking tour features the Romanic Museum, and the old City Hall, which incorporates a building that was once part of Cologne’s medieval synagogue. It was taken over in 1424 when Cologne’s Jews were expelled, but today a glass pyramid protects the antechamber that led to the ceremonial baths or Mikwe, which was built in 1170. Your Cologne walking tour concludes in the grand plaza of the massive, twin-spired Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The current building was begun in 1248 and it took 632 years for it to be completed. Your city tour ends here and you may return to the ship with your group; or, if you prefer, you can go inside the cathedral on your own to see the gilded Shrine of the Three Magi, which is said to contain the remains of the three kings of the Christmas story fame.
Make sure you learn how say “prost!” (cheers!), because during your city tour, you’ll pop into the Früh am Dom brewery to taste this town's famous Kölsch beer, a classically dry and herbaceous ale that is only produced here in Cologne.
How did American musicians come to the German jazz scene? You'll find out during this afternoon's expert lecture. This evening you can put what you’ve learned to the test during our daily jazz piano concert. If you’d like to see a cinematic depiction of the Jazz Age, join us this evening for a screening of The Great Gatsby.
Amsterdam’s canal ring cruise and Bimhuis jazz tea
This morning after breakfast, you’ll step ashore to enjoy one of the Netherlands’ most iconic experiences.
Amsterdam’s historic center from the perfect vantage point: on a narrated canal cruise along the city’s 17th-century canal ring, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cruise beneath graceful stone bridges, admire the tidy gardens and Renaissance townhouses, and peek at the charming houseboats that line the waterways.
You’re in for a true jazz-lover’s treat today: tea and a jazz performance at the world-famous Bimhuis. This Amsterdam institution is renowned not only for its roots as a jazz mainstay, but for its reputation among professionals as one of the premier venues in the world for sound quality. You’ll savor a two-part performance with a delightful tea at intermission. This is a true must-see (and must-hear!) experience for jazz aficionados. You’ll return to your ship in time for dinner and a relaxing evening, with more music by our jazz pianist.
Disembark ship, transfer to Amsterdam airport for flight home
After breakfast, transfer to the airport to begin your journey home. Or, continue your journey with an optional extension to Bruges, Belgium.
Important Notice:The above day-by-day itinerary is preliminary and subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Cruise Director or regional expert. In addition, should there be an extreme change in water levels, Vantage will do everything possible to provide either the included excursion or an alternate excursion at Vantage’s discretion.
Please Note: Port Times & Itineraries are subject to change. Fluctuating water levels may affect itinerary.