The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, 11 nights' accommodations, sightseeing, and admission fees, from $2,045 per person—plus taxes of about $187.
When: Depart Oct. 2, 9, 2008; add $40 for July 3, 10, 24, Aug. 7, 14, 28, Sept. 4, 25.
Gateways: New York City; add at least $99 for Chicago; add at least $194 for L.A.; additional gateways available.
The fine print: Eleven buffet breakfasts and six dinners, hotel taxes, airport-hotel transfers, transportation, guided sightseeing tours, entrance fees, and a Rhine River cruise are included. Additional airport taxes are $105 per person from New York City; the exact amount varies by departure city. The package price does not reflect a currency surcharge of $82 per person; note that unlike some other tour operators, Cosmos introduced this surcharge in January 2008 as a response to the weak U.S. dollar. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $440. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: Cosmos, 800/276-1241, cosmos.com.
Why it's a deal: According to a recent search on Kayak, the lowest round-trip fare between New York City and Frankfurt in mid-October is $585, with taxes included (United). For an additional $1,647, with estimated taxes, the Cosmos package covers 11 nights' accommodations, hotel taxes, some meals, sightseeing tours, and transportation.
Trip details: The Highlights of Germany package includes round-trip airfare between New York City and Frankfurt on a major carrier (such as British Air, Lufthansa, United, Delta, American) and 11 nights' hotel accommodations.
You begin by checking in to either the 177-room Tryp Frankfurt Hotel or the 125-room Mercure Hotel Bad Homburg Friedrichsdorf. You'll have the rest of the day to explore the city on your own before meeting your tour director and the rest of the group for dinner.
The tour begins with a Rhine River cruise from Oberwesel to Boppard, passing by the famed Lorelei Rock. Then continue on to Cologne, famous for its Gothic cathedral, whose construction began in 1248 but was not completed until 1880. The cathedral was one of the few buildings that survived the aerial bombing of Cologne during World War II—despite suffering 14 hits. Stay overnight at Holiday Inn Cologne-Bonn or at Art Hotel Aachen.
From Cologne, you'll travel to Hameln (home of the legendary Pied Piper) in Niedersachsen, the Lower Saxony region of Germany. A sightseeing tour lets you take in the city's characteristic 16th- and 17th-century Renaissance architecture, most notably along the Weser River, before proceeding to Hamburg.
You can sightsee on your own in Hamburg, the country's largest city after Berlin, or join an optional harbor cruise for an additional $28 per person, including a drink on board. Top attractions include the Hamburger Kunsthalle (Hamburg Art Gallery), the Museum of Art and Industry, St. Michael's Church, the town hall, and of course, the port. You'll stay the night at the NH Suite Hotel.
Leave Hamburg for Lübeck, the country's largest port on the Baltic Sea, in the northernmost German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Thomas Mann, Günter Grass, and Willy Brandt once called this area home.
Spend some time in Lübeck, then set off for heady Berlin. You'll tour historic buildings and boulevards on the west side of the city as well as the modern structures on the east. You can also join an optional afternoon excursion to Potsdam for an additional $60 per person. You'll spend two nights at Berlin's Estrel Hotel.
After Berlin, the focus turns to Dresden and then to Leipzig, where composers Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn lived and where you'll spend the night at the Ramada Treff.
A morning drive brings you to Weimar, where you can visit the homes of German literary greats Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich von Schiller and learn about the Bauhaus architectural movement, which originated in Weimar in the 1920s. Make a stop in Coburg to visit Veste Coburg Castle, which dates back to 1225, before arriving in Nürnberg for an overnight stay at the Leonardo Hotel.
After a morning sightseeing drive through Nürnberg, you'll take a particularly scenic route to Munich, with a stop along the way at medieval Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The package includes a guided sightseeing tour of Munich, the Bavarian capital. You'll spend the night at Hotel Rivoli.
Leave big-city Munich for the Bavarian Alps. Visit Oberammergau, known for the Passion Play, followed by King Ludwig II's 19th-century neo-Romanesque Neuschwanstein Castle. Then venture into the Black Forest.
You'll spend the night at Lowen Hotel Freiburg before continuing to Heidelberg, home to Germany's oldest university. From here, you'll drive a few miles back to Frankfurt. You'll spend the last night of your trip at either the Tryp or the Mercure.
You'll board your homebound flight the following morning and arrive in the U.S. on the same day.
If you'd like to extend your stay in Frankfurt, you can do so for an additional $80 per person per night for a twin room and from $125 per person per night for a single at the Tryp, Mercure, or another hotel of Cosmos's choosing. Before you go, visit the official Web site of the German National Tourist Board for more information.