AND SO IT BEGINS: SWITZERLAND
Hello from Switzerland!
After three years of planning, I am thrilled to report that the Once-in-a-Lifetime Rhine River Cruise has BEGUN! We have a fantastic group of Members that are ready for fun! Everyone is in great spirts and happy to be traveling again.
This is most of the group’s first international trip since the pandemic started 18 months ago. Everyone was very prepared with their vaccine cards, Covid tests, and Switzerland paperwork, and we had not a single issue with arrivals. Many Members commented on their appreciation of Exclusive Resorts’ hand-holding to navigate the traveling and entry process.
Upon arrival, Meredith Moore, our Rhine River Cruise Trip Lead, seemed to be more sought after than Sharon Stone (spotted at the hotel after winning an award at the Zurich Film Festival!). Meredith has spoken to many Members about this trip for years, and it was rewarding to see the personal impact she had on making it possible.
After arrival to the Park Hyatt in Zurich, our first official event was the Welcome to Switzerland dinner, complete with horn blowers, flag tossing, and fondue. Cocktails were served outside with a view of Lake Zurich and the setting sun. Inside, the string duet playing alongside dinner received a standing ovation, and all were delighted by the dessert selection.
DAY 1 | ZURICH, SWITZERLAND
Today began early with Covid tests for everyone at the hotel, and when all 92 travelers were proved negative, it was a cause for celebration. Members then got to choose their own adventure in Zurich with either an e-Scooter Tour, a chocolate making class, or a walking tour of the darling Old Town. We had a special treat for the scooters and walking tour—they concluded at a fountain running wine in town. After lunch, we all traveled to the ship where the Crystal Debussy staff rolled out the red carpet and greeted everyone with champagne.
After the group made themselves at home on the boat, they gathered for drinks and merriment to celebrate—and several crew members commented on how delightful it was to receive such an exciting (and excited) bunch of travelers. Onward to Strasbourg, France we went!
DAY 2 | STRASBOURG, FRANCE
On Tuesday morning, Members woke in Strasbourg, France, a picturesque town reminiscent of a Hansel and Gretel storybook. Members explored Strasbourg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its canals and charming half-timbered houses dating back to the 1500s. They chose either a canal boat cruise and walking tour or a foie gras tasting followed by a wine tasting below an active hospital. It may sounds strange having wine in a hospital, but the setting felt like anything but—this unground cellar was complete with floor-to-ceiling barrels and produced delicious regional wines. Members were incredibly impressed at this unique experience we curated for them.
After a bit of down time on the ship, everyone headed back out in the evening for a private after-hours visit to the Strasbourg Cathedral accompanied by an exclusive organ concert. This special experience was quite moving for many.
DAY 3 | MANHEIM, GERMANY
Greetings from Germany (or shall I say, Guten Tag)!
On Wednesday, the ship stopped in Manheim, Germany. The morning was spent at leisure, and many Members opted to walk or shop in town. In the afternoon, over half the ship headed to Heidelberg Castle ruins (nearly empty due to a light drizzle), where excellent guides painted a vivid picture of life at the castle in the 1400s. Another smaller group of Members toured the Palace Gardens of Schwetzingen, which features 17 acres of beautifully manicured gardens.
In the evening, Members visited a historic concert hall where Mozart once played and were treated to a riveting private show by the all-female classical group, La Finesse. They kicked off the show with a mash-up of Beethoven and ACDC—and even had a 007 compilation in their mix. Needless to say, they received a standing ovation at the end of the night! Members were over the moon about how beautiful and talented the quartet was. We returned to the ship where the crew had prepared a late night buffet and entertainment, taking songs requests on the piano. The lively party lasted until 2 a.m.!
DAY 4 | RÜDESHEIM, GERMANY
Thursday started with what I personally think is one of the most charming riverside towns—Rüdesheim, Germany. It’s known for the mechanical music museum, and a cable car climbing up the mountain and offering stunning views of vineyards and the Rhine River.
The afternoon was a highlight for many—cruising the UNESCO Castle Bend. This stretch of the river is scattered with castles every few miles. The group laid back on chaise loungers on the top deck to take in the castles as a narrator described what we were seeing along the way. It was a bit chilly, but beautifully sunny! Everyone bundled under blankets with mugs of hot chocolate, chatting and laughing with one another as we cruised along. The day rounded out with a champagne and caviar cocktail hour hosted by Exclusive Resorts where we gave a Club Update to the group—several Members approached us to share their excitement.
DAY 5 | KOBLENZ, GERMANY
On Friday morning we awoke in Koblenz. Members had the option of two different biking adventures or a scenic gondola ride and guided tour of the dramatic, unconquerable Ehrenbreitstein Fortress ending in breathtaking views of where the Moselle and Rhine River meet. In the afternoon, a smaller group of Members travelled to the well-preserved Medieval Marksberg Castle, which is still an active residence.
In the evening, we cruised toward our last stop in Germany.
DAY 6 | COLOGNE, GERMANY
We spent Saturday morning in Cologne, Germany, home to Kölsch beer, the second largest cathedral in Europe, and a deep history of German politics in the early 20th century. Members split their time exploring one of those three highlights on their respective morning tours before we continued on to The Netherlands and our last destination of the trip, Amsterdam!
During the cruise, our Members dined on delicious Michelin-quality food prepared and served onboard three times a day, plus snacks and beverages between meals. An onboard photographer captured our experiences and lead various photo classes, offering his expertise both in groups and one-on-one. We all learned new skills so we could capture trip memories on our own phones and cameras.
DAY 7 | AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
Goedendag (good day) from Amsterdam!
We made it! On Sunday we awoke in Amsterdam, crossing off our fourth and final country of the trip off the list. Due to current travel requirements, Members needed Covid tests before returning home. In true Exclusive Resorts style, we made this as convenient and painless as possible, setting up a private onboard testing center complete with coffee and lattes. We were over the moon to report all Members tested negative!
Amsterdam is filled with beautiful canals, history, museums, historic canal houses, art, and of course—delicious cheese. Members had loads of options for their shore excursions. Many chose to tour the world-renowned Rijksmuseum—featuring some of Rembrandt’s most notable masterpieces—and end with a canal cruise through the city. Another group headed out to see the 18th-century windmills in the Zaanse Schans countryside. The town is reminiscent of a traditional Dutch city complete with wooden shoe making and farming. In the afternoon, some of us tasted our way through a variety of goudas in a traditional Dutch cheese shop and walked it off during a walking or biking tour. Member Jeremy K. said their guide was the best he had ever had—he loved the small personalized experience of the bike tour, despite the rain. The weather cleared and we enjoyed a stunning sunset to close out the day.
Our final night on board was a blast for all! Meredith and I hosted a cocktail hour, followed by a lobster dinner, kicking it off with a round of thank you's. First, we thanked the Members for hanging with us through all the paperwork and changes needed to travel during Covid, then gave kudos to our amazing photographer, Devin, for his remarkable photos and post-trip slide show, and finally, we toasted the ship crew. Members gave us, along with the crew, a standing ovation for giving them such unforgettable travel experiences.
DAY 8 | DEPARTURE
Monday morning, our final morning together, was fast and furious. Everyone had to be off the ship by 10 a.m. or to the airport for early flights. We arranged for shuttle airport transfers for those departing, and for Members choosing to stay in Amsterdam for a few days, we assisted with dinner requests and other arrangements as needed.
All in all, it was an INCREDIBLE, memorable travel experience! I honestly can’t image having a better group of travelers. Along this Rhine River cruise, we checked four countries off Members’ bucket lists: Switzerland, France, Germany, and The Netherlands, along with multiple cities and plenty of immersive excursions and bonding as a Club community. As it was many Members’ first time travelling internationally in a while, we heard multiple comments about how “they could not have done it without Exclusive Resorts holding their hand.” We’re already looking forward to the next adventure as we’ll be heading back on the Rhine with Members August 26 – September 3, 2022. We would love to have you join us!