Lake Havasu Balloon Festival 2015
Lake Havasu Balloon Festival
January 15th-17th, 2015
$TBA this summer
This is a tour that your travel club offers every year. Watch your newsletter for a detailed itinerary.
Great Rivers of Europe
The Great Rivers of Europe
June 11th - 25, 2015
(Pre and Post Tours Optional Tours available)
includes airfare from Phoenix and travel protection
Cruise through history along the scenic Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers, where medieval architecture beckons from every riverbank ... time-honored wine-making traditions abound at hillside vineyards ... and landscapes seem to spring from the canvases of centuries-old masterworks. As you journey to the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria, you'll get a taste of local culture both onboard and off—like during anApfelstrudel baking lesson in the ship's kitchen, and while savoring a Home-Hosted Kaffeeklatschin Wertheim, Germany. This value-packed European River Cruise has reigned as our most popular trip for more than a decade—we hope you'll see why when you join us.
Depart today on your flight to Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times.
Arrive today in Amsterdam. You are met at the airport by a Grand Circle representative and transferred to the pier to embark your river ship.
Enjoy a light lunch onboard and time before dinner to relax after your flight, or do some exploring on your own. Amsterdam is a thoroughly modern city that has taken extraordinary measures to retain its Old World charm and historical significance. The narrow Dutch houses with their tidy window boxes and hand-scrubbed stoops and sidewalks will charm you. The city is easy to get around in and explore on your own. You may want to spend time in Dam Square, the heart of the city. This is the spot where the Amstel River once flowed. Due to flooding caused by high river tides, a dam was built—thus, the square’s name. Or relax and do some people-watching in Rembrandt and Leidse squares.
During your European River Cruise, whenever you approach a new port or town, you’ll receive a briefing about the area prior to arrival so you can make the best use of your free time. These are called "port talks."
Tonight, you'll gather for your first Ship Briefing, and you'll be joined by those travelers who took the pre-trip extension to Bruges, Belgium. Then get better acquainted with your Program Director and travel companions over a Welcome Drink, followed by dinner.
After returning onboard for lunch, the ship will begin its cruise on the Rhine River towards Germany. You're invited to join your Program Director for an Orientation Briefing about your upcoming trip (during which you will have the opportunity to purchase optional tours).
This evening, meet your crew and fellow travelers at the Captain's Welcome Drink and Dinner.
This morning, your ship will continue sailing toward Germany.
You'll arrive in Cologne after an onboard lunch, and you'll disembark for an included walking tour. Cologne was a Roman settlement called Colonia Agrippina after AD 50 and came under Frankish control in the fifth century. You can still see the ruins of Roman temples scattered throughout the city, including the Roman Gate near the cathedral, once part of the medieval town walls. During the 15th century, the city flourished as a member of the Hanseatic League.
Your tour will end at Cologne’s magnificent Gothic cathedral—the Dom. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cathedral largely escaped the World War II damage that ravaged the city and the rest of Germany. There’s evidence that Allied forces had orders to avoid damaging this beautiful structure. It is the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, boasting beautiful stained-glass windows, an ornate gold shrine on its elaborate altar, and the intricate detail common to 14th-century Gothic churches.
The rest of the afternoon is yours to spend at leisure or to continue your explorations. You may want to go inside the cathedral, or perhaps explore the Roman Germanic Museum to see its magnificent mosaic floor, discovered in the ruins of a Roman villa.
Share your day's experiences over dinner onboard tonight.
This morning, enjoy a walking tour of Koblenz, set at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Originally established as an outpost of the Roman Empire and named Castellum apud Confluentes, the town became a city in the 13th century and served as a haven for French refugees during the French Revolution. During your tour, you'll see the highlights of the Old Town. After your tour, you'll have free time to explore on your own before returning to your ship for lunch.
You'll then continue sailing toward Rudesheim. En route, you'll pass Lorelei, a large rock rising 440 feet above the river. Since the time of Ancient Greece, there have been legends of sirens, women-creatures who lure sailors to their death with sweet songs. Ancient Germanic legend places one such siren (Lorelei) here, and it is said she enticed sailors to destruction below the rock.
Upon arrival in Rudesheim, you'll disembark for an included dinner featuring traditional folk music at a local restaurant.
Disembark in Frankfurt, where the morning is yours to enjoy on your own; or, you may transfer by motorcoach for a full-day included tour of Heidelberg. You begin by touring the impressive ruins of the city’s Gothic castle where you’ll have an expansive view of the surrounding area. Your tour continues with a walk in the city.
From here, you’ll enjoy lunch in a traditional Gasthaus that has been part of Heidelberg’s Old Town for centuries. After some free time to make discoveries on your own, you return to the ship in time for dinner onboard.
As you cruise, enjoy a glassblowing demonstration.
Then you'll disembark midmorning for a walking tour of Wertheim, a charming fairy-tale town located at the meeting of the Main and Tauber rivers. Admire the imposing ruins of its castle, set on a hill overlooking the town.
Enjoy the rest of the morning exploring Wertheim on your own. You may want to climb the stairs to the castle and follow the trail around the castle walls. Or you could visit the renowned Glass Museum in Wertheim, where exhibitions trace the history of glassblowing and showcase many exquisite pieces, from classical to contemporary.
In the early afternoon, you'll visit with a local family and share coffee and cake with your hosts. This is a great opportunity to experience what life is like for a typical family in this section of Europe.
Early this morning, your ship will set off from Wertheim as your European River Cruise continues.
This afternoon, we’ll dock in Wurzburg, a city on the Main River in Bavaria. Founded in the tenth century, Wurzburg was home to several powerful prince-bishops for many centuries.
We’ll enjoy an informative walk here. Perhaps you'll view theResidenz, commissioned by prince-bishop brothers Johann Philipp Franz and Friedrich Karl von Schönborn. The complex was almost completely destroyed during World War II, but has since been rebuilt to its original grandeur prior to the war.
Spend the day on the water as we cruise the Main River and sail into Schweinfurt this afternoon.
Or, disembark during a stop in Gerlachshausen for an optional tour of Rothenburg. This lovely old town sits on the Tauber River and boasts undamaged 14th-century city walls and beautifully preserved fortifications.
During your walking tour, you’ll see stately towers and imposing burghers’ houses. After an included lunch, you have the afternoon free to make your own discoveries in this charming town before transferring to meet the ship in Schweinfurt.
Go ashore this morning for a walking tour of Bamberg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site founded in AD 902. Bamberg began to prosper in the twelfth century and was the center of southern Germany’s Enlightenment in the late 18th century. The great German philosopher Hegel lived here, and Bamberg was the second city (after Mainz) to introduce book-printing.
Today, Bamberg boasts 2,000 buildings listed as historical monuments, and its old city center is Europe’s largest existing group of historic buildings. The city was awarded the title of “World Cultural and Natural Heritage of Mankind” by UNESCO in 1993. After your tour, you have some free time to explore Bamberg on your own before returning to the ship for lunch.
This afternoon, you'll set sail for Nuremberg. En route, your ship will enter the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, and your Program Director will tell you about the construction and history of this engineering marvel. Please note: During the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal transit, it may be necessary for the Captain to close the Sun Deck because of low-standing bridges.
This morning, you'll disembark for an included tour of Nuremberg, Bavaria’s second-largest city and the most important city in Franconia, with a local guide. Once the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire, Nuremberg evokes its exalted past with its imposing medieval Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle). However, its more recent history is intricately linked to its role in World War II.
During your included tour here, you’ll visit the Zeppelin Field where the Nazi party held rallies for up to 100,000 spectators. The rally grounds were designed by Hitler’s chief architect, Albert Speer, who went down in history as “the Nazi who said sorry” during the Nuremberg Trials. You’ll learn more about the trials during an included tour of Room 600, the courtroom in which the hearings took place.
After lunch onboard, you may choose to relax or take advantage of our shuttle bus that will bring you into town. There, you might explore the Documentation Center, which offers a sobering look at the causes, context, and consequences of the National Socialist reign of terror.
Or take time to explore Nuremberg's Old Town on your own. Nuremberg was devastated by bombs during the war. Afterward, much of the city was rebuilt and its Old World charm was painstakingly restored. Today, the city thrives as a bustling industrial and commercial center.
Dinner is served onboard the ship this evening.
This morning, we sail to Kelheim. You can enjoy leisure activities aboard ship.
Or, delve deeper into the Danube's scenic splendor this morning during our optional Bavaria: Baroque & Beer excursion. In Kelheim, you'll board a ferry for a ride through the beautiful Danube Gorge, Donaudurchbruch, the river’s narrowest and deepest stretch. From your ship’s outdoor deck, you'll enjoy up-close views of towering Jurassic-era limestone cliffs as you wend your way along this scenic passage.
Then you'll arrive at the Weltenburg Monastery, a Baroque construction of stucco, polished marble, gilt, and painted ceilings. There, you have the opportunity to reflect in the cool stillness of the abbey—Germany's oldest, founded at the beginning of the seventh century by the Abbot Eustasius. The compound also houses the oldest monastery brewery in the world. Here, visitors have enjoyed its famous dark brew for nearly 1,000 years. You’ll then transfer by motorcoach to Regensburg, where the ship has cruised to meet you.
After lunch onboard, enjoy a walking tour of Regensburg, Germany’s largest medieval city. Since the historic city center was undamaged during World War II, it remains beautifully preserved.
Your tour features the Old Town Hall and the famous Stone Bridge (Germany’s oldest bridge), constructed during the twelfth century. You also see soaring St. Peter’s Cathedral, a Gothic church adorned with beautiful stained glass. Admire the narrow medieval streets and the relics of Regensburg’s Roman past at the ruins of Castra Regina fort—the Porta Praetoria—containing a stone inscribed in AD 179, when Marcus Aurelius was emperor.
After your tour, enjoy time to explore on your own.
Tonight, just before dinner, join a shipboard discussion on Germany Today that relates to the great political, social, and cultural changes that have swept the country in recent years.
After breakfast, you'll enjoy a walking tour of Passau, situated at the confluence of the Danube, Ilz, and Inn rivers. Called theDreifluessestadt (City on Three Rivers), Passau is an elegant town that has served as a German cultural and intellectual hub for centuries.
Your tour includes a visit to the Dom, the lavish St. Stephen's Cathedral. This magnificent 17th-century cathedral contains one of the world’s largest pipe organs, with 17,774 pipes and 234 resounding stops. While the cathedral underwent a 17th-century reconstruction in the grand Baroque style, its original Gothic plan is still evident. One of its most striking features is the gorgeous octagonal dome that hovers over the intersection of the nave, where the congregation sits, and the transept, which runs perpendicular to it.
Then the afternoon is yours to make your own discoveries. Perhaps you'll visit the impressive Bishop’sResidenz, the 14th-century Town Hall.
Our evening cruise carries us into Austria, the third country on our itinerary. Join your traveling companions for a cocktail, toasting the close of your cruising days with this group. Then, the crew bids you an official adieu at the Captain’s Farewell Dinner, as the ship cruises toward Melk.
You arrive at Melk early in the morning. From your ship, you'll be able to see the formidable Melk Abbey as it rises up from the surrounding countryside along the Danube. After breakfast, you can disembark to explore the town on your own.
Or, you may choose to join an optional excursion to the dramatic 900-year-old Baroque abbey. This magnificently ornate structure has a long and storied history. Strategically situated on a steep, cliffside perch, Melk Abbey's earliest incarnation was as a Roman border post. Later, it served as a tenth-century Babenberg fortress. It became a Benedictine monastery in 1089 and earned a distinguished reputation for medieval scholarship. Its library includes more than 70,000 books and 2,000 manuscripts, chiefly from the ninth through the 15th centuries.
Umberto Eco, author of the well-known book The Name of the Rose, a murder mystery of monastic intrigue, was inspired by the grandeur of Melk Abbey. Heinrich von Melk, a Benedictine brother from Melk Abbey who wrote the ironic poem "About Priestly Life," is one of the novel's main characters. The novel contains a great deal of scholarly information about the Middle Ages (Eco is known primarily as a scholar) and the compelling politics of medieval religion. The book's setting is fictional, but the story climaxes with a devastating fire that mirrors the real history of Melk Abbey, which was ravaged by fires in 1297 and 1683. The stately Baroque edifice that stands today, with its twin towers and 208-foot-high dome, dates from its reconstruction in 1736.
In addition to those thousands of volumes, the Abbey library houses a remarkable collection of cherubs, and 365 windows—one for every day of the year. The interior of the Abbey's church is a kaleidoscope of red, orange, and gold—with a magnificent carved pulpit and shimmering ceiling frescoes. During your tour, you'll get the chance to observe and explore it up close, learning more about Melk Abbey's fascinating story. The cost of this optional tour includes a winetasting in the Abbey's restaurant.
After setting sail again, your travel on the river takes you through the lovely landscape of the Wachau Valley—past terraced vineyards and lush flowering fields—on your way to Vienna.
This afternoon, enjoy an Apfelstrudel demonstration onboard.
In the early evening, you arrive in Vienna, Austria's capital. Here, you can relax or spend time exploring and dining on your own.
Or, join us on an optional Musical Vienna tour. Vienna without music wouldn't be Vienna. So, subject to availability of tickets, you can enjoy an unforgettable evening in one of Vienna's famed concert halls. You'll hear enchanting performances of some of the most wonderful melodies of classical Austrian music by professional singers.
After breakfast onboard the ship, you'll enjoy a tour of Vienna, including the Ringstrasse, probably the greatest achievement of the Emperor Franz Joseph. In 1857, the Emperor ordered the demolition of the ancient city walls, which were no longer needed as fortifications and which were impeding the growth of the city. In their place was constructed an elegant 2.5-mile-long boulevard, encircling the Innere Stadt (Vienna's Old Town). The Neo-Classical buildings along the Ringstrasse bring together all the greatest architectural styles in an exuberant celebration of all that seemed possible during the Industrial Revolution.
Our stroll continues along the city sidewalks, passing by the well-known Hofburg Palace, home to many generations of the Habsburg family, and the renowned Spanish Riding School.
The afternoon is then yours to relax or do some more exploring.
Later, after dinner onboard, you're free to do as you please this evening. Ask your Program Director for exciting suggestions.
After breakfast, you'll disembark the ship, and you'll be transferred to the airport for your flight home. Or, you may opt to begin your post-trip extension in Vienna, Austria or Prague, Czech Republic.
The Great Rivers of Europe
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From the Outback to the Glaciers "Down Under"
From the Outback to the Glaciers
With a 3- night Fiji post tour Extension
January 21st - February 14, 2015
This is a tour that your travel club loves to sponsor. We work closely with Collette Vacations to make this a very memorable experience. Click on the url (below) to take you to the detailed itinerary for this tour
Washington DC in the Springtime
Washington D.C. in the Springtime
April 15th - 21st, 2015
Always a very popular tour with club members, this year, we thought we would visit in the Spring. Click on the url below to check out the detailed itinerary for this special tour.