The Last Line of Defense: Battlefronts along the Rhine

Amsterdam to Basel
October 18 - 28, 2018

Tour Overview

Adorned with medieval castles, wineries, and gorgeous landscapes, cruise along the spellbinding Rhine River. Gaze upon fairytale landscapes that were once the prime target during World War II for military planners looking to shorten the war and bring about the downfall of Nazi Germany. From 1944 through 1945, the Rhine was the most hotly contested body of water in all of Europe. There would be no premature peace or negotiated settlement with Nazi leaders. Crossing the Rhine, and bringing about Germany’s unconditional surrender would assure an enduring peace.

Sailing the Rhine River amazes and inspires with its majestic cathedrals, castles, and fortresses, as rural landscapes meld into historic cities such as Cologne and Strasbourg. In 1944, Allied military planners and soldiers thought of the Rhine in different terms—as the door to Germany and the end of World War II—and, hopefully, a ticket home. This extraordinary journey from Amsterdam to Basel will immerse you in the Allied struggles to reach and ultimately cross the Rhine, the western gateway into the heart of the Third Reich.


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Tour Inclusions

  • Travel with renowned historians Donald L. Miller, PhD and Richard Frank
  • Full-time logistical tour manager
  • Shore excursions with expert local battlefield guides
  • Roundtrip airport transfers (when arriving and departing on scheduled group tour dates)
  • Two nights at the five-star centrally located Hotel De L’Europe Amsterdam
  • Eight nights aboard Uniworld’s River Empress
  • Private, first-class, air-conditioned motor coach transportation
  • Personal listening devices on all included touring
  • Included gratuities to shipboard staff, guides, drivers, porters, and servers
  • All meals onboard and as indicated on land in the program itinerary
  • Free-flow beer, wine, and soft drinks with included lunches and dinner during the land program
  • Unlimited beverages while on board including house wines, spirits, beer, coffee, water, teas, soft drinks, and juices
  • Welcome and farewell receptions
  • Informative map book, including useful maps and archival images to be used throughout your journey
  • Document wallet, personalized luggage tags, and customized name badge
  • Personal journal and pen to document your journey


Deck Plan

Ship Features and Amenities

  • Full-service bar
  • Dining room
  • Library
  • Sun deck furnished with comfortable seating
  • Well-equipped fitness center
  • Serenity River Spa
  • Laundry
  • Elevator
  • Free internet and Wi-Fi

Staterooms and Suites

  • Lavishly appointed riverview staterooms and suites
    • All outfitted with Savoir of England beds, draped with 100% Egyptian cotton linens and a menu of pillow choices. Also standard are built-in closets, hair dryer, individual climate control thermostat, direct dial telephone, mirror, and TV with infotainment center and safe.
  • Marble bathrooms include
    • L’Occitane en Provence bath and body products, plush towels, backlit magnifying mirror, cozy bathrobes, and slippers.
  • Additional amenities for all suites
    • In-suite butler service, daily fruit-and-cookie plate, evening snacks, Nespresso coffee machine, and fine teas. Fully stocked mini-bar, bottle of wine on arrival, shoeshine, and free laundry service.

Download The Brochure

Download the official The Last Line of Defense: Battlefronts along the Rhine brochure for a full listing of inclusions, accommodations, and other useful information.

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The Last Line of Defense: Battlefronts along the Rhine

Tour Itinerary

Destination Map

Full Tour Itinerary

October 18, 2018 - Day 1

Arrival in Amsterdam

Upon arrival into Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS), you will be welcomed and transferred to the five-star Hotel De L’Europe, where the Museum's travel team will greet you. Enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure.

Hotel De L’Europe

October 19, 2018 - Day 2

The Anne Frank Story

The fall of the Netherlands to Nazi Germany resulted in a gradual worsening of conditions for the entire country. The Germans systematically enacted a series of restrictions on the activities of Dutch Jews, leading to a strike by Dutch workers in 1941. By 1942, Otto Frank and his family were forced into hiding. For over two years, the Frank family hid in a location called the Secret Annex, where Anne Frank kept a diary of her thoughts and experiences. The home and Secret Annex is now a museum, and it is here where the day’s journey begins. Continue to the Dutch Resistance Museum to discover the many sides of resistance shown by the brave citizens in the Netherlands.

Hotel De L’Europe (B, D)

October 20, 2018 - Day 3


The Rijksmuseum contains over one million objects dating back to the 13th century. Included in the collection are works by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer. Rembrandt’s The Night Watch is prominently displayed and attracts thousands of visitors each day. In various sections of the museum, glimpses of World War II appear. The history of Dutch colonies in the East Indies lends insight into their role in the War in the Pacific. A Nazi chess set dating from around 1940 celebrates Germany’s victories from 1939-1940. Following the visit to the Rijksmuseum, see more of Amsterdam on a guided walking tour before boarding the River Empress. Enjoy a welcome reception and lecture this evening as you set sail towards Nijmegen.

River Empress (B, L, R, D)

October 21, 2018 - Day 4

The Waal Crossing

Today’s tour brings guests to the American side of Operation Market Garden and the southern half of “Hell’s Highway.” In Nijmegen, visit the site of the Waal River Crossing, where 240 men of the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne crossed the river in canvas boats under heavy fire. More than half of the men became casualties, and a memorial lists the names of the 48 men who died in the crossing. The National Liberation Museum in Groesbeek contains artifacts and stories from the liberation of Nijmegen and the surrounding areas. To the south, near Eindhoven, the 101st Airborne including E Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the “Band of Brothers,” captured bridges, allowing the ground assault to make its push to Arnhem.

River Empress (B, L, D)

October 22, 2018 - Day 5

A Bridge too Far

The story of Operation Market Garden continues in Arnhem, where outgunned British paratroopers fought a desperate battle against German tanks. At the Airborne Museum in the former Hartenstein Hotel, stand in the headquarters of British General Roy Urquhart. This hotel, with its large windows and location along a leafy suburban street, was an awful site in September 1944. Trenches covered the grounds and the trees were blown apart by the artillery. The Museum has recreated this macabre scene in its latest exhibition. Returning to Nijmegen, traverse the island, where Easy Company held ground in October 1944. This strip of land was surrounded on all sides by canals and rivers, and the Germans had a clear view of troop movements. During Operation Pegasus II, Easy Company participated in the rescue of around 100 British soldiers who had evaded capture and were in hiding behind German lines near Arnhem.

River Empress (B, L, D)

October 23, 2018 - Day 6


Visit the Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the tallest building in the world from 1880 to 1884. On May 30, 1942, the Royal Air Force launched its first 1,000-bomber raid against Cologne. For 90 minutes, planes passed over the city, dropping their bombs and explosives. Fires raged and, by the next day, at least 469 were dead and 45,000 people were left homeless. The spectacular Cologne Cathedral escaped destruction during the raid, its twin spires still dominating the skyline of the city. The bombing continued as the Allies aimed to soften up German defenses and drain the morale of the civilian population. In March 1945, there was a spectacular tank duel in front of the cathedral caught in dramatic combat film footage. The cathedral took on severe damage, but restoration work commenced post-war, and was completed in 1956.

River Empress (B, L, D)

October 24, 2018 - Day 7

Remagen Bridge and Huertgen Forest

The famed Bridge at Remagen lies to the south of Cologne. Discovered intact on March 7, 1945, the US 9th Armored Division crossed the bridge. For the next 10 days, streams of American men, vehicles, and supplies moved across the Rhine at Remagen before the bridge fell into the water. Today, a museum occupies the towers on the west bank of the river. Another visit sheds light on the evils of Nazism. Southwest of Cologne lies the infamous Huertgen Forest where the Allies fought through dense woods, hills, and valleys in a vain attempt to move to the Rhine. On the edge of this forest, a former Nazi training institution sits on top of a hill as though it was once a fortress. At this institution, future Nazi Party leaders received training in racial ideology, in hopes that they would ensure that Hitler’s policies continued. The school closed after the invasion of Poland, and many of the former students entered military service. Today the site is a remnant of Nazi style and architecture. An on-site exhibition tells the story of Nazism in the area with the goal of preventing it from ever happening again.

River Empress (B, L, D)

October 25, 2018 - Day 8

Germany in Ruins

As early as 1941, the Royal Air Force was targeting the industrial city of Mainz. A key strongpoint along the Siegfried Line, Mainz was a frequent target of Allied bombers after D-Day. The rebuilt Mainz is Germany’s wine capital, and its annual Weinmarkt dates to 1946, when the French donated 1,000 liters of wine as a gesture of friendship. After walking through the Old Town and marveling at the cathedral, reflect on the stop in Cologne. Together these towns underscore the destructive nature of modern warfare and the resilience shown by the local population in their rebuilding efforts.

River Empress (B, L, D)

October 26, 2018 - Day 9


In contrast to Cologne and Mainz, Heidelberg was spared by Allied bombers. The city was not heavily fortified, nor did it have a large industrial sector. The only significant damage done to the city was the destruction of its bridges by retreating German soldiers. Today, Heidelberg retains its baroque charm. A visit to the ruins of Heidelberg Castle reveals the Renaissance architecture of a once-glorious palace. The downfall of the castle began during the Thirty Years’ War when it changed hands among various combatants several times. A lightning strike interrupted reconstruction efforts in the 19th century, and by 1900 the castle existed in a state of preservation. Today, the ruins of the castle reveal details of the various restoration attempts.

River Empress (B, L, D)

October 27, 2018 - Day 10

Alsace and Operation Nordwind

On December 31, 1944, one last major German counterattack caught the Western Allies off-guard. Hoping to inflict mass casualties and draw Patton from Bastogne, German forces attacked in the direction of Strasbourg. For almost one month, American and French troops held back the German attempt to recapture Strasbourg. Near the end of the conflict, Audie Murphy held back 200 Germans and six panzers in the forests near the picturesque town of Colmar. On a fitting close to the tour, honor Audie Murphy’s heroism in Colmar and his status as the most decorated soldier of the war.

River Empress (B, L, D)

October 28, 2018 - Day 11


Disembark from the River Empress this morning and transfer to Zurich Airport (ZRH) for flights home, or continue on the optional post-cruise extension program in Munich, “The Reich in Ruins.”

October 28 - 30, 2018 - Optional Post-Tour

The Reich in Ruins

Continue through southern Germany on the custom-designed post-tour, The Reich in Ruins. This tour continues the story of the Allied forces as they crossed the Rhine and drove forward into Germany’s heartland. Behind the Rhine, a series of concentration camps revealed the evil of the Nazi regime and shocked the soldiers who approached the gates. At the conclusion of the fighting, soldiers in the Bavarian Alps settled in for occupation duty in the shadow of Hitler’s mountain residence.


The tour starts with a visit to the Dachau Concentration Camp on the outskirts of Munich. Opened in 1933, Dachau was the first concentration camp in Germany, and its first prisoners were German Communists, Social Democrats, trade unionists, and other political opponents of the Nazi regime. Starting in 1938, large numbers of Jews arrived at Dachau as a result of new, stricter, anti-Jewish measures in Germany. The camp was expanded several times, and conditions worsened. On the eve of its liberation, Dachau and its subcamps held 67,665 registered prisoners.


The post-tour concludes with a visit to Berchtesgaden and the Obersalzberg. Hitler’s residence here, the Berghof, was the most popular of his homes. In the mid-1930s, Germans would line up near the entrance, hoping to catch a glimpse of Hitler entering or leaving the residence. In the closing days of the war, the home was bombed, and SS guards set fire to the complex. Hoping to avoid leaving a shrine for post-war Nazis, the local government destroyed the remaining structures, along with residences of Herman Goering and Martin Bormann. Today, the Dokumentation Obersalzberg interprets the wartime history of the area and provides access to the underground bunkers built in 1943.

The Last Line of Defense: Battlefronts along the Rhine

Featured Guests and Historians

Featured Author and Historian

Donald L. Miller, PhD

Donald Miller is the John Henry MacCracken Professor of History at Lafayette College and one of the outstanding historians of World War II, along with other topics in American history. Three of his 10 books are about World War II: The Story of World War II, D-Days in the Pacific, and Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany. Masters of the Air is the primary source for HBO’s upcoming miniseries, on which Miller is serving as chief historical consultant. He was also a historical consultant for HBO’s miniseries The Pacific, and served as writer and chief historical consultant for WWII in HD, a 10-hour series that aired on the History Channel. Miller is a seasoned veteran of The National WWII Museum’s educational travel program, having led sold-out tours to the airfields of England, the beaches of Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Mediterranean. Miller also sits on the Museum’s Presidential Counselors advisory board.

don miller
Featured Author and Historian

Richard Frank

Richard Frank is an international expert on World War II. After graduating from the University of Missouri, he was commissioned in the United States Army, where he served for nearly four years, including a tour of duty in Vietnam as an aerorifle platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division. He completed studies at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC, and afterward began research on his first book, Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Campaign. He has appeared and consulted on numerous television and radio programs, including the HBO miniseries The Pacific. Although his publications have focused on the Asia-Pacific War, Frank has also deeply studied the war in Europe, specifically armored and airborne operations, as well as numerous issues common to the European and Pacific theaters. He was tasked with reviewing the contents of the Museum’s Road to Tokyo exhibit, and also sits on the Museum’s Presidential Counselors advisory board.

Featured Guest and Veteran

Erwin Davis

B Company, 354th Infantry Regiment of the 89th Infantry Division

Drafted into the US Army together in May 1944, twin brothers Erwin and Ervin Davis chose to stay together and trained as a bazooka team. Ervin carried the bazooka and Erwin carried the ammunition. The Davis brothers arrived in Le Havre in January 1945, and moved across France to the Moselle River. In their first combat, the brothers crossed the Moselle in row boats at 2:00 a.m. The war became real when they saw a flare from the Germans and the shooting commenced. The brothers were separated for a few hours during the battle, but they reunited for the push to the Rhine River.

Resistance was light until they reached the river. Davis’s company commander was killed by a sniper, and the Davis brothers fired their bazooka at the enemy for the first time after the crossing. Ervin placed the round directly in the window of a building 150 yards away—a perfect shot. He remembered it as his best shot of the war.

The twins reached the Ohrdorf Concentration Camp a few weeks later. Instructed to blast the metal doors of the camp, Ervin fired the bazooka, but the door held firm. After the door was finally removed, the Davis brothers witnessed the horrors of the camp, and recounting the experience is still difficult.

Erwin returned to Normandy in June 2016, but his goal of once again crossing the Rhine remained unfulfilled. As our featured guest, Erwin Davis will finally cross the Rhine River again, carrying his daily journal from 1945 and sharing his incredible story. In 1945, he crossed by pontoon bridge, carrying a heavy load of ammunition. This year, with The National WWII Museum, he crosses the Rhine in comfort aboard the River Empress.

The Last Line of Defense: Battlefronts along the Rhine


Accommodations at Sea

Uniworld River Empress

Experience WWII destinations on an elegant river cruise tour

The cosmopolitan style of River Empress, with its rich jewel tones and vibrant atmosphere, will captivate and delight you. Whether you’re dining in the ship’s sleek restaurant—reminiscent of a New York jazz-and-supper club—or relaxing over a cup of tea on the Sun Deck as you gaze out at the 360-degree view, there is no better or more relaxing way to travel through the scenic heartland of Europe. Find inspiration in the romantic, soul-stirring beauty of the fabled Rhine River. Flowers tumble from baskets lining streets of half-timbered houses, and lights glint off quiet canals. A mighty river carries ships and cargo through a landscape shaped by time and history. The spires of medieval churches and castles appear around each bend in the river, and vineyards climb the verdant hillsides. Cruise along the Rhine—Germany on one side, France on the other and discover the terror of a war that once plagued this picturesque scene.

Accommodations on Shore

Hotel De L’Europe Amsterdam

Enjoy the first two nights of your journey discovering Amsterdam

With a prime location along the Amstel River and in walking distance of the refined Museum Quarter, the five-star De L’Europe is steeped in history. Opened in 1896, De L’Europe has been frequented by Amsterdam’s elite and the world’s most celebrated names. Enjoy culinary highlights at the award-winning restaurants and bars or spoil yourself with bespoke beauty treatments at the spa. Feel at home in this 19th century treasure while exploring a modern vibrant city. Rooms feature COCO-MAT top-mattresses with pillow options, Nespresso coffee maker and mini-bar, safety deposit box with electric outlet for laptops, large bathrooms with heated floor, exclusive De L’Europe fragrance and skincare developed by Blaise Mautin, built-in electrical converter, flat-screen LCD TV-DVD/Radio/CD/Apple TV, high-speed hardwired or wireless internet.

Post-Tour Accommodations

Hotel Kempinski Munich

Discover this five-star, classic hotel in the heart of Munich with breathtaking views of this vibrant city.

For those participating in the optional post-tour, unwind at the Hotel Kempinksi, centrally located in the heart of Munich. With exquisite dining and a luxury day spa, this property features a range of relaxing beauty treatments, a swimming pool, and breathtaking views over the rooftops of Munich. Rooms feature free Wi-Fi, choice of pillows, flat-screen TV, safe, and warm luxurious modern décor.

The Last Line of Defense: Battlefronts along the Rhine

Tour Pricing

Program Pricing

Price per person based on double occupancy

Suite - Rhine Deck (mid-ship)


Category 1 - Rhine Deck (mid-ship)

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Category 2 - Danube Deck (mid-ship)

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Category 3 - Danube Deck (forward)

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Category 4 - Moselle Deck (mid-ship)

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Category 5 - Moselle Deck (mid-ship)

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*Taxes and fees are $299 per person and will be added to your final invoice.

Single accommodation is available in Category 3 only for $11,198 and are subject to availability. Call 1-877-813-3329 x 257 to book.

Two-Night Optional Post-Tour Extension Program - The Reich in Ruins - Double Occupancy

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Price per person based on single occupancy

Two-Night Optional Post-Tour Extension Program - The Reich in Ruins - Single Occupancy

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*Taxes and fees for post-tour extensions are $99 per person and will be added to your final invoice.

The Last Line of Defense: Battlefronts along the Rhine

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