Day 1: ARRIVE IN AMSTERDAM, HOLLAND (EMBARKATION).
Welcome to Amsterdam! Holland's sophisticated, modern capital has a rich 700-year-old history and a distinct ambiance. Maybe stroll through the lively marketplace or see the works of famous Dutch masters at world-renowned museums. This afternoon, board your river cruise ship and meet your crew at an evening welcome reception. (NOTE: Guests must be on board ship by 5 pm.) (D)
Day 2: AMSTERDAM.
Today, get a unique perspective of Amsterdam on an included CANAL CRUISE, floating along the elegant grachten lined with stately homes dating back to Amsterdam's "Golden Age." There's free time in the city this afternoon-or you might like to join an optional excursion before bidding tot ziens (farewell) to Holland and setting sail for Germany. (B,L,D)
Day 3: COLOGNE, GERMANY.
Today, enjoy a peaceful morning of cruising before reaching Cologne after lunch. One of Germany's largest cities and capital of the Rhineland, Cologne straddles both sides of the Rhine and is known for its soaring, twin-steepled gothic cathedral. Choose between a GUIDED CITY WALK or JEWISH HERITAGE WALK. The Old Town abounds with cafes, shops, and taverns. Be sure to try a Kolsch pale lager, locally brewed in Cologne for over a hundred years! (B,L,D)
Day 4: RHINE GORGE-RUDESHEIM.
This morning, cruise through the dramatic RHINE GORGE-without a doubt, the most beautiful stretch of river and where ancient castles stand sentry on lofty cliffs rising 120 metres (400 feet) above the water. Cruise past the rock of the Lorelei, where legend tells of enchanted siren song that lured sailors to their doom. On your included shore excursion in pretty Rudesheim, visit SIEGFRIED'S MECHANICAL MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MUSEUM, where you'll be mesmerised by the self-playing calliopes and music boxes from the 18th to the early 20th centuries. Enjoy a SPECIAL TREAT and free time to pick up some souvenirs on the narrow, cobblestoned Drosselgasse, where colourful flowers, open-air wine gardens, and live music add to the festive atmosphere. (B,L,D)
Day 5: MAIN RIVER VILLAGE.
On the banks of the Main River you find cultural gems of small towns, many of them tucked away behind defensive walls and towered gates. With half-timbered houses, narrow streets, and medieval town centres, these picturesque Bavarian villages are a photographer's delight. Join your Local Guide to experience one of these towns on a GUIDED WALK. (B,L,D)
Day 6: WURZBURG.
Surrounded by verdant hillside vineyards, Wurzburg, the "Pearl of the Romantic Road," makes an immediate impression with imposing Marienberg Fortress perched above town and the 15th-century Alte Mainbrucke (Old Main Bridge). On your GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR this morning, visit the magnificent baroque BISHOP'S RESIDENZ, home to the largest ceiling fresco ever painted. Depart Wurzburg at lunchtime and spend a leisurely afternoon cruising the Main River. (B,L,D)
Day 7: BAMBERG.
Today, join an excursion to medieval Bamberg, former residence of one of Germany's most powerful imperial dynasties and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your GUIDED WALKING TOUR takes in its historic centre, including the great 13th-century Romanesque cathedral and the fascinating Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)-built on an island in the middle of the Regnitz River when the bishop refused to give the townspeople land for a town hall! Wander the town's serpentine streets with their charming houses and 18thcentury mansions. (B,L,D)
Day 8: ROTH-NUREMBERG.
This morning, dock in Roth and after breakfast join a GUIDED SIGHTSEEING of the city. This delightful Bavarian town, with its half-timbered houses and market square, is also an industrial centre for textile manufacturing. Take pictures of Schloss Ratibor, an ancient hunting lodge built in 1535, with a most picturesque inner courtyard. Or you may prefer to choose a GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR of nearby Nuremberg. Although 90% of the city's 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. Marvel at this thousand-year-old city's medieval fortifications, extraordinary gothic churches, and the Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle), or join a more specialized NUREMBERG RALLY GROUNDS tour. (B,L,D)
Day 9: REGENSBURG.
Dating back to the time of the Celts around 500 BC, Regensburg is one of Germany's best preserved medieval cities. Established during the Holy Roman Empire and the only German city not bombed during WWII, Regensburg has at least 1,300 listed buildings of historic interest. Architectural highlights of your GUIDED WALK include the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall), built in the 13th century, and Porta Pretoria, gates to an ancient Roman fort built in 179 AD. Wander through the city's lanes and alleys to discover the many mansions with high towers. Wealthy families built these towers to emphasize their status and wealth during the Middle Ages, and many still remain today. Walk across the 12th-century Steinerne Brucke (Stone Bridge), the oldest of its kind in Germany, then grab a beer and enjoy a SNACK at the Historische Wurstkuche (Old Sausage Kitchen), one of Germany's oldest restaurants. Here-where the locals congregate-feel the vibrant atmosphere and take in the remarkable views along the river. Before dinner we'll introduce you to some of Germany's FAMOUS BEERS. (B,L,D)
Day 10: PASSAU.
Uniquely located where the Inn, Ilz, and Danube Rivers converge, Passau is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets lined with beautiful patrician houses and dominated by St. Stephen's Cathedral, a masterpiece of Italian baroque architecture. Take in the highlights on the included GUIDED WALK through this charming town, and find out much more about the "City of Three Rivers." Alternatively, you might like to join a full-day optional excursion to Salzburg to see some of The Sound of Music sights or to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (B,L,D)
Day 20: NIKOPOL. EXCURSION TO VELIKO TARNOVO & ARBANASSI-ROUSSE.
This morning, stop in Nikopol from where an excursion takes you to the ancient Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo. Situated on three hills surrounding the Yantra River, the city was a natural fortress with ancient stone houses clinging to the steep slopes. One of the oldest towns in Bulgaria (dating back to 4300 BC), the oldest part is Tsarevets Hill, home of the ROYAL FORTRESS, and the Patriarch's Church. With your LOCAL GUIDE, discover this town that played an important role in Bulgaria's history. Next, journey to Arbanassi, founded in the 15th century, and best known for its Bulgarian Revival architecture and ETHNOGRAPHICAL MUSEUM, a 400-year-old house preserved as a museum. Visit the CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY, one of the town's oldest churches, and see its outstanding collection of frescs. Return to your ship in Rousse, Bulgaria's largest inland port. If you don't wish to participate in the full-day excursion, stay on board and relax or join a GUIDED TOUR of Rousse. (B,L,D)
Day 19: CETATE, ROMANIA-VIDIN, BULGARIA. EXCURSION TO BELOGRADCHIK.
This morning, stop in Cetate, an old Danubian grain shipping port that is now a cultural centre. The owner will explain the concept of this fascinating venture before you have a chance to see for yourself and to TASTE some of the locally made products. Then, on to Vidin, an important Danube port in northwestern Bulgaria, from where an included excursion takes you to nearby Belogradchik to view the eclectic group of ROCK FORMATIONS on the western slopes of the Balkan Mountains. Sculpted by natural elements for more than 200 million years and with a variety of sizes and shapes, the Belogradchik Rocks are spectacular! (B,L,D)
Day 18: EXCURSION TO LEPENSKI VIR-IRON GATES.
This morning, dock at Donji Milanovac, where a short drive takes you to the impressive LEPENSKI VIR EXHIBITION Centre, which houses area archaeological artifacts and from where you have unique views of the Danube Gorge. Return to your ship before lunch, then cruise what must surely be the most spectacular scenery of the dramatic IRON GATES gorge, a narrow and formerly very dangerous passage dividing Europe's Alps in the northwest from the Carpathians in the southeast and forming a natural border between Serbia and Romania. (B,L,D)
Day 17: BELGRADE, SERBIA.
One of the oldest cities in Europe, the capital of Serbia is situated at the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers. A LOCAL GUIDE will be proud to show you its main sights, including St. Sava, the world's largest orthodox church. In your free time, be sure to check out the city's lively pedestrian area and charming outdoor cafes. Perhaps visit one of the many art galleries or museums, or browse the local shops. Stroll through Belgrade's largest and most beautiful park which surrounds the city's principal landmark, Kalemegdan Fortress, and gaze down at the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers. (B,L,D)
Day 16: MOHACS. EXCURSION TO PECS.
This morning arrive in Mohacs, the last stop in Hungary, from where an included excursion takes you to Pecs. Established by the Romans in the 2nd century, this was a flourishing and important town for Christianity by the 4th century. These early Christians left behind many underground burial chambers with memorial chapels above ground. With a Local Guide, visit the UNDERGROUND TOMBS-now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site- many of which have splendidly decorated murals with Christian themes. Later, enjoy an ORGAN CONCERT. Pecs is also a rich showcase of Turkish architecture and home to Turkish mosques, striking churches, and an enjoyable atmosphere around its restaurants and cafes. (B,L,D)
Day 11: MELK, AUSTRIA-DURNSTEIN.
This morning, enjoy a GUIDED VISIT of Melk's magnificent 11th-century BENEDICTINE ABBEY, one of Europe's largest monasteries. The abbey houses an ornate library with over 80,000 printed books and 2,000 manuscripts. Words cannot describe the splendour of the church with its frescd ceilings, stunning high altar, marble statues, and 60 metre (210-foot) high cupola. Then, cruise through the picturesque Wachau Valley toDurnstein, known for the magnificent baroque, blue Stiftskirche. The main street of this small town-with a population of less than 1,000 people-is lined with 16thcentury homes and charming cobblestone streets. Your Local Guide will take you on a WALKING TOUR and tell you the tale of England's King Richard the Lionheart, who was imprisoned in the castle whose ruins still stand above the town. (B,L,D)
Day 14: BUDAPEST, HUNGARY.
Spanning the banks of the Danube, Budapest is one of Eastern Europe's liveliest cities. Whether you're seeing the sights, shopping for handcrafted embroidery or Herend porcelain, or basking in the coffee house culture over a rich cream cake in the renowned Gerbeaud Cafe, Budapest's unique energy is positively palatable. On your GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR, see Hers' Square as well as the massive hilltop castle complex with its remarkable Fishermen's Bastion and 11th-century Matthias Church. Be sure to note the city's eight bridges-famous sights in and of themselves-which connect ancient Buda on the right bank with Pest on the left. In your free time this afternoon you may want to walk across Chain Bridge, built in 1849 and a symbol of Budapest. Alternatively, consider visiting St. Stephen's Basilica with marvellous views of the city from its viewing platform, or stroll along Vaci utca, the main shopping street. (B,L,D)
Day 13: BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA.
At the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains is Bratislava, the dynamic capital of Slovakia. After breakfast, join your Local Guide for a tour of the city, including a GUIDED WALK of its fascinating Old Town, where winding cobblestoned streets and narrow alleyways twist and turn to reveal the Town Hall, one of the oldest stone buildings in the city. Also visit gothic ST. MARTIN'S CATHEDRAL, coronation church for the Kingdom of Hungary from the 16th to 19th centuries. The afternoon is free to explore on your own. (B,L,D)
Day 12: VIENNA.
Early this morning, arrive in Vienna, the "City of Music," which inspired the creative genius of Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss.Once the centre of the mighty Habsburg Empire, Austria's magical capital on the blue Danube is a showcase of gilded architecture. 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 sites you'll see on your GUIDED TOUR. Stroll through the delightful pedestrian Karntnerstrasse, and be sure to take a break and enjoy a piece of decadent Sachertorte or Apfelstrudel in one of the classic Viennese coffee houses-historic institutions that helped shape Viennese culture! An optional concert is available tonight. (B,L,D)
Day 21: OLTENITA, ROMANIA (DISEMBARKATION)-BUCHAREST.
After breakfast, say goodbye to your crew. Bucharest, Romania's lively capital, is only a short drive from Oltenita. Its wide, tree-lined boulevards and Arc de Triomphe-built in 1922 to honour the bravery of Romanian soldiers who fought in WWI-have gained it the name "Paris of the East." Much recent history has taken place in the city. During the INCLUDED TOUR this morning, see the main sights including Royal Palace Square, the scene of riots in 1989, which led to the collapse of the communist dictatorship. In your free time, discover this interesting city even further. Stroll down Calea Victoriei, "Victory Avenue," Bucharest's most historic and alluring street. Initially built in 1692, today it is lined with shops, museums, churches, restaurants, cafes, and fine houses. (B)
Day 15: BUDAPEST.
Enjoy a free day today to explore on your own. Your Cruise Director will have suggestions for things to do. (B,L,D)
Day 22: BUCHAREST.
Your holiday ends with breakfast this morning. (B)