Day 1: ARRIVE IN VIENNA, AUSTRIA (EMBARKATION).
Vienna, Austria's capital, is known as the "City of Music" and inspired the creative genius of Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss. This afternoon, board your cruise vessel and meet your crew at an evening welcome reception. (D) NOTE: Guests must be on board ship by 5 pm.
Day 2: VIENNA.
Once the centre of the mighty Habsburg Empire, this is home to the lavish Hofburg Imperial Palace complex with its Vienna Boys' Choir and dazzling Lipizzaner stallions; the neo-renaissance Vienna Opera House; and awe-inspiring St. Stephen's Cathedral-plus, countless other sights you'll see on your GUIDED TOUR. Alternatively, we offer you a special CULINARY TOUR at the Viennese Christmas markets where you can taste all the best flavors that Austria has to offer during Christmastime. Be sure to enjoy a piece of decadent Sachertorte or Apfelstrudel in one of the classic coffee houses, historic institutions that helped shape Viennese culture! An optional concert is available tonight. (B,L,D)
Day 3: MELK - GREIN.
This morning sail through the picturesque Wachau Valley and arrive in Melk, where the magnificent 11th-century BENEDICTINE ABBEY, one of Europe's largest monasteries, dominates the town and hosts an ornate library with over 80,000 printed books and 2,000 manuscripts. You'll be captivated by the splendor of the church with its frescd ceilings. Relax and enjoy onboard of your ship while sailing into Grein, a quaint little village, and after a WALKING TOUR, visit the oldest THEATER of Austria. (B,L,D)
Day 4: PASSAU, GERMANY.
This morning, you may wish to join an optional full-day excursion to Salzburg to see some of the popular Sound of Music sites, find out how mice caused the composition of the famous Silent Night carol, and learn how Austrians celebrate Christmas. Rejoin your ship in Passau in the early evening or stay on board and relax as you cruise to Passau, located where the Inn, Ilz, and Danube Rivers converge. Passau is a maze of cobblestone streets, lined with beautiful patrician houses, and at this time of year, the Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) is set up against the magnificent backdrop of St. Stephen's Cathedral, a masterpiece of Italian baroque architecture. Take in the highlights on the included GUIDED WALK. (B,L,D)
Day 5: REGENSBURG.
Dating back to the time of the Celts around 500 BC, Regensburg is one of Germany's best preserved medieval cities. The only German city not bombed during WWII, Regensburg has at least 1,300 listed buildings of "historic interest." Architectural highlights included on your GUIDED WALK are the 13th-century Old Town Hall and Porta Pretoria, gates to an ancient Roman fort built in 179 AD. Walk across the 12th-century Steinerne Brucke (Stone Bridge), the oldest of its kind in Germany. Grab a beer and enjoy an included SNACK at the Historische Wurstkuche (Old Sausage Kitchen), one of Germany's oldest restaurants. During free time explore on your own or visit the Regensburg Christmas market, including the ones hosted by Thurn and Taxis Palace. The tempting aromas of mulled wine, sausage, roasted almonds, and gingerbread create a memorable atmosphere. Enjoy an ONBOARD LECTURE about Christmas traditions and, before dinner tonight we'll introduce you to some of Germany's FAMOUS BEERS! (B,L,D)
Day 6: NUREMBERG.
Although 90% of its Old Town suffered extensive damage during WWII, much of it has been restored to the glory it once knew as the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Choose from an included GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR and marvel at the city's medieval fortifications, gothic churches, and Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle), or join a NUREMBERG RALLY GROUNDS tour. The Old Town is illuminated with festive lights, and the Christmas market is one of the biggest in Germany, featuring 200 stalls selling traditional wares and foods. After your free time at the Christmas market, a shuttle bus service will be at your disposal to take you back to the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 7: NUREMBERG (DISEMBARKATION)-PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC.
After breakfast, say goodbye to your crew and travel by motorcoach to Prague, the "Golden City." (B)
Day 8: PRAGUE.
Prague is a 1,200-year-old city preserved in time. See its Astronomical Clock, built in 1410 and once the envy of all of Europe; HRADCANY CASTLE GROUNDS; St. Vitus Cathedral; and the Charles Bridge, the oldest bridge in Prague. Browse the Christmas market's brightly decorated wooden huts, which sell Christmas ornaments and decorations, handcrafted wooden toys, and other Czech crafts. Get a little inner warmth with a cup of svarene vino (hot mulled wine) and a traditional hot sausage. The beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the Old Town is an impressive sight. (B)
Day 9: PRAGUE.
Your holiday ends with breakfast this morning. (B)