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The delightful and historic Elbe, once the border of the Holy Roman Empire, and one of Europe's most undiscovered rivers, its hinterland boasts many world-class cities and places of interest.
We start in Berlin, culturally thriving once more and who can forget those staggering scenes when that Wall came down, now unbelievably over twenty years ago. Berlin has since blossomed and centre of it all is the beautiful Reichstag. Then as the Elbe wonderfully meanders through rural Germany we visit Meissen famous for its exquisite porcelain, then berth in one of Europe's most beautiful cities, Dresden. Wonderfully captured so often by Canneletto - it's incredible 60 year restoration programme is now largely completed. Finally its Prague where years of Royal patronage have created the masterpiece you see today. Stoll over the Charles Bridge, explore the cathedral, Wenceslas Square and the unpronounceable Staromestske Namesti - the cities stunning 11th Century Square. Its serenity will captivate you.
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.
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.
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Overnight we have berthed in Potsdam, city of Prussian kings and German Kaisers, and this morning we tour Sanssouci 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 its 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.
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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.
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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 presentday environmental concern. The Floodplain forests are Germany's most extensive with over 1000 different plants, 40 mammal species and a pl ethora 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.
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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.
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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 Hradcăny, 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!
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. 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.
Departure dates in blue operate the itinerary in reverse
The high quality brass and wrought-iron fittings sparkle and reflect in the warm-coloured, highly polished marble floors - this is classic cruising of a very high standard. Featuring the very latest equipment the Swiss Ruby is much loved by her regular passengers for the warm friendly atmosphere, excellent design and exquisite public areas, superbly appointed cabins, high-class fittings and outstanding cuisine. With less than 4 guests to every crew member - a very high ratio for a river cruise vessel - care and personal attention is assured. Plus with a passenger complement of just 88, you never feel crowded.
* Payable locally.
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This lovely river cruise vessel, specially designed for the Elbe, features beautifully furnished double cabins with hotel style beds. Cabins on the upper deck feature floor to ceiling sliding glass doors opening to a French balcony, with those on the lower deck having twin windows.
As you enter the restaurant the mouth-watering aroma of roasting Provençal Lamb drifts tantalisingly from the galley. Smartly uniformed, friendly and intuitive waiting staff professionally guide you to your classically set table with its crisp white linen, premium quality European china, polished fine glassware and gleaming cutlery whilst freshly baked bread is immediately placed before you with effortless style.Welcome - you're at home. Quality dining is an integral part of your river cruise experience - and our ships take this to the highest five-star levels with superb cuisine prepared by a dedicated and highly professional brigade of chefs.
Take a stroll on the Sun Deck as the river gradually awakes, and enjoy Early Risers' tea or coffee and freshly baked pastries. The full breakfast buffet is a sumptuous affair with innumerable hot and cold options, plus a popular omelette station prepares dishes to order. Or if you prefer, why not enjoy continental breakfast in your cabin: breakfast in bed as enchanting scenery and riverside life drift gently by - priceless! Naturally complimentary tea and coffee are available throughout the day and a very comprehensive lunch buffet allows selection of as little or as much as you wish from an extensive and tempting selection. Don't forget to leave some room for afternoon tea and the chef's special patisserie - it's just too tempting to ignore!
The day's culinary highlight is the splendid four-course dinner: entrée, soup, main course and dessert plus a salad buffet is always available - all within the ambience of a high quality restaurant. The carefully designed menus include international classics together with dishes reflecting the regions we pass through, with careful selections from local markets. In addition, the 'Welcome Dinner' enjoys an extended menu and towards the end of your cruise, the Captain proudly hosts his excellent 'Gala Dinner' featuring specialities of the countries and regions through which you've travelled.
Our clients constantly tell us they love our informal free seating and smaller tables policy, quite unlike the inevitable regimentation of many cruise ships which is exactly the atmosphere we are trying to achieve. Then there's the wine list. We take great pride in its excellent quality and style, including not only the classic choices but also an extensive range of local wines. Many of these are extremely well-priced, delightful hidden gems and rarely marketed outside their production area.
Dates in blue denote cruises operating a reverse itinerary, boarding in Dresden.
Single Occupancy Supplements:The price for sole occupancy is twice the per person rate for the relevant cabin as above, less £180.
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Prices are per person based on two sharing and are subject to availability at time of booking. Operators reserve the right to amend published prices prior to a confirmed booking being made.
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