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Cologne Christmas Market
Caption: Cologne Christmas Market
Caption: Too much choice at the clog shop
Caption: Windmills at the Zaanse Scans
Caption: Canal junction in Amsterdam
Caption: Rhine River Cruise

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Journey Snapshot

Activity level: Level 2 Requires moderate physical activity. You need to be able to participate in physical activities such as longer walking tours, walking over uneven terrain, climbing steps and be comfortable with some periods of standing. Not suitable if you have limited mobility or require a wheelchair/mobility scooter.
Destination: Cruise into Christmas - Amsterdam & Rhine Christmas River Cruise
Duration: 9 days / 8 nights
Flight information: Flights arrive into Amsterdam Schiphol Airport [AMS] Netherlands on Day 1 and depart from Cologne International Airport [CGN], Germany on Day 9.
Pickup location: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport [AMS]


Nov 29 - Dec 07, 2022

Get in the festive spirit on this fabulous journey to some of Europe's best Christmas markets in the Netherlands, Germany and France. Sail the mighty River Rhine, discover scenic landscapes, quaint towns this Advent

From the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam, to the more tranquil relaxation of sailing along the Rhine, discover Europe at its festive best as we head to some of the most famous Christmas Markets in Mannheim, Strasbourg and Mainz.

In Amsterdam, sail the canals and see the sights, as well as discover some old traditions in Zaanse Schans before we head over the border to Germany to begin our cruise on the Rhine. Our 4 night cruise sails south from Cologne and stops at numerous places on the way in Germany, as well as an excursion over to Strasbourg in France, before we head back to Cologne for a final night. This trip will truly get you in the festive spirit!


Itinerary summary: DAY 1 - Welcome to Amsterdam
DAY 2 - Discover Amsterdam on foot and by canal boat
DAY 3 - Windmills, Clogs & Cheese
DAY 4 - Transfer to Cologne and board your Rhine Christmas Markets Cruise
DAY 5 - Cologne to Mannheim
DAY 6 - Mannheim to Strasbourg
DAY 7 - Strasbourg to Mainz
DAY 8 - Mainz to Cologne
DAY 9 - Auf Wiedersehen Germany
View Full Itinerary
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Full Itinerary

DAY 1 - Welcome to Amsterdam

Welcome to Amsterdam! You will be met at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport by your English-speaking guide and transferred to your hotel, where you can meet up with your Tour Director.

Depending on your time of arrival you could go for a stroll in the vicinity of your hotel. In the evening you have the opportunity to get to know your fellow travellers with a welcome drink and enjoy your first dinner together at a nearby restaurant. 

Included meals: Dinner 
Accommodation: Amsterdam Flower Market Hotel, Amsterdam (or similar) 

DAY 2 - Discover Amsterdam on foot and by canal boat

After breakfast, your guide will take you on a full day tour of Amsterdam - the capital of the Netherlands - even though the official seat of the government is in The Hague. Blessed with great infrastructure this easy-going city is not difficult to navigate and an excellent place to discover on foot, by bike, by tram or via the intricate and interesting canal network. 

In the morning your guide will take you via the De Negen Straatjes - Amsterdam’s most picturesque streets that
connect the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and the Singel. Our first stop is a house that nearly everyone around the world has heard of - the Anne Frank Huis. Although she only spent 25 months of her short life hidden in the secret annex, during the Second World War, her personal diary became one of the most read books in the world. A visit to the house will leave you with many mixed emotions and it's yet another experience you will never and can't ever, forget.

Your private canal boat the Ondine awaits you right in front of the Anne Frank Huis. Embark on your authentic saloon boat which was built in 1909 at the famous shipyard ’t Kromhout in Amsterdam. Enjoy your private cruise and you will get a fantastic impression of the canals and architecture of Amsterdam. It is by far the best way to discover the city. While you are sailing you can enjoy some typical Dutch treats like bitterballen and drinks.

We disembark near The Lebanese Sajeria restaurant, where you can enjoy a Lebanese Mezze and culinary experience of sharing food. On the dining tables you will find bowls and plates with a variety of deliciously scented snacks, and glasses with typical Lebanese drinks. 

After lunch, we travel on foot and by tram to Het Rijksmuseum. The museum’s collection offers an impressive overview of Dutch art and history, including works by 17th- century Dutch masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Hals. 

Our last stop of the day will be The Diamond Museum. Let yourself be enchanted by glittering gemstones, admire the wonderful collection and learn about 400 years of diamond history in the only diamond museum in Europe.

In the late afternoon we return to our hotel and you have the rest of the day free at your own leisure. If you want to experience a typical Dutch restaurant in the evening, then head for the Piet de Leeuw on Noorderstraat 11 in Amsterdam, with its typical Dutch authentic wooden furniture and floorboards, shiny beer pumps, oil-painted ceiling and wrought iron lamps. The restaurant within walking distance from your hotel.

Included meals: Breakfast, Snacks & Lunch 
Accommodation: Amsterdam Flower Market Hotel, Amsterdam (or similar) 

DAY 3 - Windmills, Clogs & Cheese

Today you visit De Zaanse Schans, an authenic village not far from Amsterdam, which can be best described as an open museum and place of cultural heritage where people still live and work. Here you get the chance to see what it was like to live in 17th and 18th century Holland. You can visit authentic wooden houses and museums and take pictures of a colourful collection of lovingly restored mills, each with their own story to tell. Pass by the bakery museum and try to resist the smell of freshly baked bread and biscuits. You could also visit the dairy farm and try to discover what makes Dutch cheese so special.

You will be personally welcomed by the owners of one of the last existing clog factories in The Netherlands. At the end of the 19th century, special machines were built to manufacture clogs and they are still in use today. Enjoy the demonstration and you may end up buying pair of clogs! De Zaanse Schans is a perfect place to pick up some Christmas gifts or souvenirs.

We return to Amsterdam in time for a late lunch. You could either take it easy this afternoon or why not hire a bike or hop on the tram and visit the Bijenkorf (Beehive in Dutch). It is a well-known department store - the historical building alone is worth a visit. Another unique and architecturally striking building that has influenced many architects is the Beurs van Berlage an old stock exchange building turned into a bustling meeting place.

In the evening your guide will escort your to Mama Makan, where your Chef Rosmina will have prepared a traditional Indonesian Rijst tafel (Rice Table) for you. Indonesia used to be a colony of the Dutch Empire, and other than the valuable spices (nutmeg, mace, cloves), the Rijst Tafel is one of the lasting legacies, the Dutch brought back.

First introduced by Dutch plantation holders in Indonesia who were quite partial to all the different dishes prepared by their local staff, the Rijst Tafel has become an integral part of the Dutch multi-ethnic cuisine. Consisting of small colorful plates with mouth-watering food. Think of satay, spring rolls, prawn crackers, but also plenty of vegetarian and meat dishes, they come accompanied by rice prepared in different ways. Enjoy this amazing banquet or as they say in Indonesian Selamat Makan (Enjoy your Food)

Included meals: Breakfast & Dinner 
Accommodation: Amsterdam Flower Market Hotel, Amsterdam (or similar) 

DAY 4 - Transfer to Cologne and board your Rhine Christmas Markets Cruise

Today we say Tot Ziens (Goodbye) to Amsterdam and accompanied by our guide we make our way to Germany. For the journey you will be given a small packed lunch with some typically dutch foods to enjoy en-route.

Upon arrival in Cologne your guide will drop you off at a cafe/restaurant where you can have a quick bite, before you board the cruise ship. You set sail at 1600hrs. Your ship the A-ROSA AQUA is a small vessel and offers you the same modern amenities as a luxury hotel, complete with free Wi-Fi, sauna, fitness area, pool and A-ROSA spa facilities. The added bonus is that you always have a room with a constantly changing view of your surroundings from your outside cabin. 

Wrap up warmly if you want to brave the cool December air by spending some time on the spacious sun deck and where you have a 360 degree view of the river and the passing landscape.

There is no need to dress up while you are onboard, as the dress code is casual and even when you are taking any of your included meals, the whole atmosphere on board is pretty informal and above all, festive! The Chefs on board create dishes that reflect the area you are sailing through, so expect to served the local blood sausage (also called Flonz) from Cologne or the Tarte Flambee from Strasbourg. Throughout the day, hot and cold drinks, as well as soft drinks, beers, cocktails and a wide selection of excellent German wines are included.

In the evenings there will be nightly entertainment in the lounge. 

Included meals: Breakfast, Snacks and Afternoon Tea on board & Dinner 
Accommodation: A-ROSA AQUA Cabin 

DAY 5 - Cologne to Mannheim

Our first stop after Cologne is Mannheim, located at the confluence of the Rhine and Neckar rivers. Unlike many other German city, Mannheim has a grid system, where all the avenues and streets run at right angle to each other forming a grid. Hence its nickname Quadratestadt (Square City). Well-known for its inventions (bicycle, automobile and tractor), it is also often called the City of Inventions or due to its highly accredited Business School, the Harvard of Germany, which is housed in one of the largest palace complexes in the world. Definitely worth a visit Mannheim Palace is also the second largest in Baroque style after Versailles.

We have included a trip to the historic city of Heidelberg, once the WW2 and now more known for its Christmas splendour and idyllic atmosphere during the festive season. You immediately get that Christmas feeling when you walk among the msny The Christmas lights that light up the many stalls displaying their crafts, food and ... their ... amongst the historic squares of the Old Town, offering a warming glow of light along one of the longest pedestrian zones in Europe. In the fairy-tale winter woods at the Kornmarkt, over 100 pines and elegantly decorate the market. After about two hours of free time, you will be taken back to your A-ROSA cruise ship.

Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks and Afternoon Tea on board & Dinner 
Accommodation: A-ROSA AQUA Cabin 

DAY 6 - Mannheim to Strasbourg

Overnight we have sail across the German border into Strasbourg in the historic Alsace region of France. Since 1949, Strasbourg has been the official seat of many European institutions like the European Parliament, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Ombudsman. It also played an important part in the Protestant Reformation and it was one of the first centres of the printing industry.

A visit to Strasbourg should not be missed during the pre-Christmas season, because it has France’s oldest Christmas Market. Before we visit the market we take you on a short stroll through the Old Town, with its interesting Franco-German architecture. We pass old timber-framed housed on our way to the world-famous Strasbourg Cathedral, which took many years to built as it started in 1015 and finally finished in 1439. It was the world's tallest building for many years and as of today it's still the sixth tallest church in the world. Although some parts of the design is in Romanesque style, many consider it one of the finest examples of Rayonnant Gothic architecture.

Afterwards you will have enough time to explore the delightful Christmas market on your own.

Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks and Afternoon Tea on board & Dinner 
Accommodation: A-ROSA AQUA Cabin 

DAY 7 - Strasbourg to Mainz

Today we visit one of the oldest cities in Germany, Mainz. Located on the left-bank of the river Rhine and opposite another great river the Main, it was founded by the Romans in the 1st century BC. It is full of history and the birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the movable printing press, and printed one of his first book there, notably the Gutenberg Bible. Its Jewish Cemetry is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Due to its waterfront location, the climate in Mainz is fairly mild (slightly warmer in winter and cooler in summer) and it comes as no surprise that it the offers the ideal location to cultivate wine. It is surrounded by Germany's largest wine-growing region 'Rheinhessen'. During this excursion you discover the heart of Mainz's old town, the historic Christmas market on the Domplatz, towered over by the illuminated and imposing Mainz Cathedrals, and have the chance to try regional wines during a wine tasting session.

We return to the cruise ship for our farewell dinner and final night on-board.

Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks and Afternoon Tea on board & Dinner 
Accommodation: A-ROSA AQUA Cabin 

DAY 8 - Mainz to Cologne

After our last night on the cruise, this morning we disembark in Bonn and you will be transferred back to Cologne where we will do a morning sightseeing tour before heading to our hotel.

The city is known for its famous fragrance Eau de Cologne 4711, which has produced there since around 1709. You can still see the original building where you used to be able to purchase this 'Water from Cologne' at the Glockengasse 4711. Not to be overlooked is Cologne's imposing Gothic Cathedral, which boasts the third tallest church and tallest cathedral in the world. Next to the cathedral at the Roncalliplatz you can find over a hundred Christmas stalls.

This afternoon and evening you have some time at leisure to explore Cologne further. You might like to visit some of Cologne's many museums (Museum Ludwig, Chololate museum) and galleries or you could wander to the historic Old Town, where on the Alter Markt, you will find some more Christmas stalls. Look out for the Heinzelmannchen - mythical gnome-like creatures only to be found in Cologne - who used to do all the housework.

Included meals: Breakfast 
Accommodation: Maritim Hotel, Cologne (or similar) 

DAY 9 - Auf Wiedersehen Germany

Laden with unique gifts you have bought at the different Christmas markets, it's time to say Auf Wiedersehen  (Goodbye) to Germany. You will be transferred back to Cologne International Airport [CGN] in time to catch your departure flights.

Included meals: Breakfast 


More information

What's includedWhat's not includedImportant information

What's included

  • Cabin grade is based on the lead in cabin Deck A. Cabin onboard is subject to availability; supplement to upgrade to Juliette Balcony D, Deck 3 - £236 per person, supplement to upgrade to Juliette Balcony C, Deck 2. - £185 per person, supplement to upgrade to Outer Deck A cabin - £94 per person. See deck plan HERE
  • International economy return flights to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport [AMS] and from Cologne International Airport [CGN] 
    • Regional airport departures available. Please ask at the time of booking. Supplement will apply.
  • Meet & Greet at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on arrival
  • 8 nights accommodation as detailed in the itinerary
  • Meals as detailed in the itinerary
  • Flexible dining on the cruise
  • Transportation throughout in an air-conditioned deluxe vehicle and cruise ship
  • All activities, visits and excursions as detailed in the itinerary
  • Complimentary shore excursions in Heidelberg, Strasbourg and Mainz 
  • English speaking tour guides where applicable
  • Services of a Big Journey Company Tour Director throughout (subject to minimum numbers)

What's not included

  • Transfers on arrival or departure, to/from the airport(s), outside of the tour dates
  • Additional food/beverage unless otherwise included in the programme
  • Personal expenses
  • Personal Travel & Medical Insurance
  • Visas (if required)
  • Optional excursions
  • Gratuities
  • Any COVID tests or related entry & exit requirements

Important information

  • Please let The Big Journey Company know prior to travelling if you have any medical needs or take any medication that we need to be made aware of to ensure that you have a safe and pleasant tour
  • Visas are not currently required for entry to The Netherlands, Germany and France for US, UK & Canadian citizens. For other passport holders please check before travel if you require a visa.
  • Check in is after 2-3pm and check out is before 10am unless otherwise specified in the itinerary.
  • Cancellation 90 – 0 days prior to departure cancellation fee is 100%. It is your responsibility to ensure the correct travel insurance in place to protect you against the need to cancel your holiday. Deposits are non-refundable and final payments are due 14 weeks prior to departure.
  • Further terms and conditions apply and will be provided upon request or at the time of booking. The Big Journey Company reserves the right to withdraw any offer prior to accepting a reservation request. This does not affect your statutory rights. This offer is subject to availability and space is limited.

The big journey promise

The big journey company was set up with one goal in mind, to share our passion for inspirational cultures, destinations and experiences. Over the last 10 years we have had the privilege to escort thousands of travellers on awe inspiring and sometimes life changing journeys. Our promise to every guest who joins us is that we will do everything possible to make sure your journey not only exceeds expectations but delivers at least one moment of true amazement.

talk toll free to our well travelled team of experts

Call us on:0844 3350 197

Monday to Thursday 09:00am - 8:00pm. Friday 09:00am - 17:30pm. (London time)

or Send us a message

Anytime, day or night

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Holiday tours are operated by The Big Journey Company Limited. Registered in England. Registered office: Marron Bank, Branthwaite, Cumbria, CA14 4SZ. Registered number: 6532140. The Big Journey Company Limited is a member of The Travel Trust Association member number U5675 and holds an Air Travel Organiser’s License number T7282.

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