Day 1: ARRIVE IN BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (EMBARKATION).
Welcome to Hungary's exciting capital city! This afternoon, board your river cruise vessel and meet your crew at an evening welcome reception. (D)
NOTE: Guests must be on board ship by 5 pm.
Day 2: BUDAPEST.
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 TOUR of the city, 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 take note of the city's eight bridges-many 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; visit St. Stephen's Basilica with marvelous views of the city from its viewing platform; or stroll along Vaci utca, the main shopping street. (B,L,D)
Day 3: BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA.
Today, arrive in Bratislava, situated at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and the dynamic capital of Slovakia. Join a Local Guide for a tour of the city, including a GUIDED WALK of its fascinating Old Town, where winding cobblestone 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. Later, enjoy free time to explore on your own. Tonight, depart for Vienna. (B,L,D)
Day 4: VIENNA, AUSTRIA.
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 sights you'll see on your included GUIDED SIGHTSEEING 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 5: EXCURSION TO GOTTWEIG ABBEY-DURNSTEIN.
This morning, a short drive takes you to the Benedictine Abbey of Gottweig, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, perched high on a hill overlooking the Danube. A visit with a Local Guide shows you this magnificent monastery whose fresco-decorated imperial staircase is considered a masterpiece of baroque architecture. Rejoin your ship in Durnstein in time for lunch. Durnstein, situated in the heart of the Wachau wine region, is known for the magnificent baroque, blue Stiftskirche built in the 1700s. The main street of this small town-with a population of less than 1,000 people-is lined with 16th-century residences and charming cobblestone streets. A 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. This evening, you'll be able to sample some of the FAMOUS WINES of this region. (B,L,D)
Day 6: PASSAU, GERMANY.
Today, choose from full-day optional excursions: to Salzburg, taking in some of The Sound of Music sights or to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rejoin your ship in Passau in the early evening. Alternatively, you may choose to stay on the ship and relax as you cruise to Passau, uniquely located where the Inn, Ilz, and Danube Rivers converge. Passau is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets lined with beautiful patrician houses. St. Stephen's Cathedral, a masterpiece of Italian baroque architecture, houses one of the world's largest church organs with 17,774 pipes. Take in the highlights on the included GUIDED WALK. (B,L,D)
Day 7: REGENSBURG.
Dating back to the time of the Celts around 500 BC, Regensburg is one of Germany's best preserved medieval cities. 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. 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. Bask in 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 8: NUREMBERG.
This morning, relax on board, then the afternoon is dedicated to Nuremberg. Although 90% of Nuremberg'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. This morning, choose a GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR and marvel at this thousand-year-old city's medieval fortifications, extraordinary gothic churches, and the Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle), or join a more specialised "NUREMBERG RALLY GROUNDS" tour. During free time, be sure to try some tasty Lebkuchen and make a wish at the beautiful fountain in the Hauptmarkt (main square). Legend says your wish will come true if you turn its gold ring three times. (B,L,D)
Day 9: BAMBERG.
This morning, arrive in 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! This afternoon, cruise gently along the Main River as you head for Wurzburg. (B,L,D)
Day 10: WURZBURG.
Surrounded by verdant hillside vineyards, Wurzburg, the "Pearl of the Romantic Road," makes an immediate impression with imposing Fortress Marienberg perched above town and the 15th-century Alte Mainbrucke (Old Main Bridge). On your included GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR, visit the magnificent baroque BISHOP'S RESIDENZ, home to the largest ceiling fresco ever painted. This afternoon you are free to explore on your own, or perhaps join an optional excursion to medieval Rothenburg. (B,L,D)
Day 11: 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 12: RUDESHEIM-RHINE GORGE.
Today, arrive in Rudesheim, a quintessential Rhine Valley wine town. Visit SIEGFRIED'S MECHANICAL MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MUSEUM, where you'll see and hear a large collection of self-playing calliopes and music boxes from the 18th to the early 20th centuries. Enjoy a SPECIAL TREAT, then head downstream from Rudesheim, through the dramatic RHINE GORGE, the most beautiful stretch of river. Here, ancient castles stand sentry on lofty cliffs rising 122 metres (400 feet) above the waters. Cruise past the legendary rock of the Lorelei, where echs of enchanted siren song lured unwitting sailors to their doom. (B,L,D)
Day 13: COLOGNE.
Arrive in Cologne this morning. 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 an included GUIDED CITY WALK or JEWISH HERITAGE WALK. Later, during free time, perhaps look in on the Romano-Germanic Museum, home to a large collection of artifacts from the Roman settlement on which modern Cologne is built-a must for history buffs! 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 14: AMSTERDAM, HOLLAND.
Holland's sophisticated, modern capital has a rich and fascinating history. This delightful 700-year-old city with its elegant and classic architecture, cafes and restaurants, and lively marketplace has a distinct ambiance. With over 60 museums, Amsterdam has the highest museum density in the world. Get a unique perspective of the city 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 this afternoon to enjoy the city or perhaps join an optional excursion. (B,L,D)
Day 15: AMSTERDAM (DISEMBARKATION).
Your holiday ends with breakfast this morning. (B)