Fall in love with the Danube—with its charming small towns, scenic beauty, and exciting cities—on this river cruise vacation. Begin your vacation with a 2-night city stay in the vibrant Hungarian city of Budapest, where included city sightseeing acquaints you with all the highlights. There is plenty of time to explore on your own—shop for paprika at the Central Market Hall, explore the massive castle complex, visit its many museums, and savor Hungarian cuisine. Then, board your ship and discover Slovakia’s vibrant capital of Bratislava, explore the quaint town of Dürnstein with its baroque Stiftskirche, visit Melk’s awe-inspiring Benedictine Abbey, and bask in the natural beauty of Austria’s Wachau Valley. Your vacation ends in Vienna, the “City of Music,” where you’ll disembark and spend an additional two nights. In Vienna, why not visit one of the many lavish museums, explore St. Stephen’s Cathedral, or relax in a local café while enjoying a slice of delectable Sachertorte. All of this and more awaits you on this marvelous cruise vacation.
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN BUDAPEST, HUNGARY: Welcome to Budapest, Hungary’s lively capital. The remainder of the day is free to start exploring this exciting city.
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 Café, Budapest’s unique energy is positively palatable. On your GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR, see Heroes’ 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. During your free time this afternoon, perhaps visit St. Stephen’s Basilica, or stroll along Váci utca, the main shopping street. (Breakfast)
DAY 3: BUDAPEST (EMBARKATION): This morning, explore at your own pace. Shop at the Great Market Hall and purchase paprika or embroidery at one of its 180 vendor stalls, or wander around the Royal Palace grounds. In the afternoon, transfer to your ship and meet your crew at a welcome reception. (Breakfast, Dinner)
DAY 4: BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA: Relax on board this morning and marvel at the scenery on both banks of the Danube. As you cruise upriver, Hungary is on your left and Slovakia is on your right. The two countries share the Danube for a 58-mile stretch, with the border in the middle of the river. At the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains is Bratislava, the dynamic capital of Slovakia. Join your LOCAL GUIDE to explore 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. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 5: DÜRNSTEIN, AUSTRIA–MELK: This morning our first stop is Dürnstein, situated in the heart of the Wachau wine region and best known for the magnificent baroque Stiftskirche with its blue façade. Above town are the ruins of the castle where England’s King Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in 1192. Explore this picturesque little town on your own or choose from a number of optional excursions. You may even want to hike up to the castle ruins for magnificent views of the town and river. Then, grab a drink and relax on your ship’s Sky Deck as you witness beautiful scenery on the way to Melk. Enjoy a guided tour of Melk’s magnificent 11th-century BENEDICTINE ABBEY, dominating the town from its commanding hill site and one of Europe’s largest monasteries. The abbey church houses stunning frescoed ceilings, marvelous statues, a large organ, and an ornate library with a large collection of medieval manuscripts. The view from the terrace over the Danube and surrounding countryside is breathtaking! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 6: VIENNA (DISEMBARKATION): Once the center 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 during your GUIDED CITY TOUR. Stroll through the pedestrian Kärntnerstrasse, 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! (Breakfast)
DAY 7: VIENNA: Enjoy a full day at leisure in this fascinating city! Perhaps visit one of the many magnificent museums or opt for one an optional outing to the Vienna Woods. (Breakfast)
DAY 8: VIENNA/RETURN USA: Today we board our flights home, carrying with us memories and keepsakes that will last a lifetime.