Day 1: ARRIVE IN BUDAPEST, HUNGARY.
Welcome to Budapest, Hungary's lively capital spanning the banks of the Danube. The remainder of the day is free to start exploring Eastern Europe's most cosmopolitan metropolis.
Day 2: BUDAPEST.
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, the coronation spot of several Hungarian monarchs. 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. You may even want to walk across Chain Bridge, built in 1849 and a symbol of Budapest. Don't miss the unique Christmas markets that Budapest hosts every year during the Festive season (B)
Day 3: BUDAPEST (EMBARKATION).
You have time this morning to explore Budapest further. Perhaps visit St. Stephen's Basilica for marvelous views of the city from its viewing platform. This afternoon, board your river cruise vessel and meet your crew at a welcome reception. (B,D)
Day 4: BUDAPEST-VIENNA, AUSTRIA.
Enjoy a day of relaxation on board and marvel at the beautiful scenery on both banks of the Danube. Hungary is on your left as you cruise upriver and Slovakia is on your right. The two countries share the Danube for a 93-kilometre (58-mile) stretch, with the border in the middle of the river. A special onboard Austrian cookie TASTING is offered to give you a warm welcome to the capital of Austria. This evening, arrive in Vienna, Austria's capital. Known as the "City of Music," it inspired the creative genius of Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss. An optional concert is available during your stay. (B,L,D)
Day 5: VIENNA.
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 your LOCAL GUIDE will show you during an included CITY SIGHTSEEING TOUR. Alternatively, taste all the best flavors that Austria has to offer at Christmastime, during our CULINARY WALKING TOUR In your free time, 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! (B,L,D)
Day 6: KREMS-MELK.
This morning arrive in Krems a small valley town, seemingly untouched by the new world. Enjoy GUIDED SIGHTSEEING and perhaps try some roasted chestnuts, one of the most popular treats at the Christmas market.. During lunchtime, sail the picturesque Wachau Valley and arrive in Melk in the early afternoon. Here, enjoy a GUIDED VISIT of the 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. You'll be captivated by the splendor of the church with its frescd ceilings, stunning high altar, marble statues, and 60 metre (210-foot) high cupola. The view from the terrace over the Danube and surrounding countryside is breathtaking! This evening, sample some of the Wachau Valley's FAMOUS WINES. (B,L,D)
Day 7: PASSAU, GERMANY.
This morning, relax on board as you gently cruise to Passau, where you arrive after lunch. The city, located where the Inn, Iltz and Danube rivers converge,is a maze of cobblestone streets lined with beautiful patrician houses. At this time of year, the Christkindlmart (Christmas market) is located under the backdrop of magnificent St. Stephen's Cathedral, a masterpiece of Italian and baroque architecture. Take in the highlights on the included GUIDED WALK. Alternatively, you may prefer to join an optional full-day excursion to Salzburg to see some of the popular "The 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. (B,L,D)
Day 8: 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. Grab a beer and enjoy an included SNACK at the 17th-century 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. You can dedicate your free time to the visit of the Christmas markets, including those hosted by Thurn und Taxis Palace. The tempting aromas of mulled wine , sausage, roasted almonds, and gingerbread create a memorable atmosphere. Enjoy an ONBOARD LECTURE on Christmas Tradition in Europe and , during our sailing afternoon , we'll introduce you to some of Germany's FAMOUS BEERS. (B,L,D)
Day 9: 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 specialized "NUREMBERG RALLY GROUNDS" tour. This afternoon is free to discover the Old Town, illuminated with festive lights, and the Christmas market that is one of the biggest in Germany, featuring 200 stalls selling traditional wares and foods. A shuttle bus service is at your disposal to take you back to the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 10: NUREMBERG (DISEMBARKATION)-PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC.
After breakfast, say goodbye to your crew and travel by motorcoach to Prague, the "Golden City." (B)
Day 11: PRAGUE.
Prague is a 1,200-year-old city preserved in time, and, unlike other Central European capitals, it was not bombed during the 20th-century wars. A LOCAL GUIDE shows you its best-known treasures, such as the Old Town's 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 12: PRAGUE.
Enjoy a free day to explore the city at your own pace. Perhaps visit the Communist Museum, sample the local plum dumplings and Pilsner; stroll along the Vltava River. Your Cruise Director will have other suggestions for things to do. (B)
Day 13: PRAGUE.
Your holiday ends with breakfast this morning. (B)