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Deck the halls of your river ship as you sail through Europe in the off-season — but at peak seasonal splendor. From Budapest to Regensburg, this gala holiday cruise introduces Germany, Hungary, Austria, and Slovakia draped in glittery holiday décor, and delivers everything you love about the holidays — with a European twist. From warm mulled wine to organ recitals and even a private Kursalon concert, you’ll unwrap an itinerary brimming with culture, enchantment, four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and at least five visits to local Christmas markets. Follow "The Sound of Music" to Salzburg, set off on a Christmas-themed tour of Passau, revel in Bavarian custom and culture in medieval Regensburg, and enjoy festive onboard performances as you cruise the Danube over eight merry days.
Interested in solo travel? Vantage is the only company with river ship cabins built specifically for solo travelers! Gift yourself more time in Budapest with an optional three-day extension that includes more holiday markets, cuisine, and a Jewish history tour; or, seek more seasonal splendor in Prague, the city of grand castles, unbeatable beer, and cobblestoned treasures. Treat yourself to this charming holiday experience — but departures are limited on this seasonal voyage, so don’t miss the boat!
Next stop: Budapest!
Your holiday cruise begins with an overnight flight to Budapest, Hungary. You can also begin your journey earlier — and spend more time in Budapest — with an optional pre-trip extension.
Enjoy a Welcome Drink in Budapest and board the m/s River Venture
Prepare to experience the joys of a festive river cruise when you arrive to grand Budapest, steeped in old-world splendor and yuletide flair. Upon your arrival, a Vantage representative will transfer you to the m/s River Splendor. This evening, you’ll gather with the Captain and your fellow travelers for a Welcome Drink & Briefing before your first dinner on board.
Vantage Onboard Enrichment:
Apple strudel, organ recital, and treasure hunting in Bratislava; plus, deck the halls of the ship!
Warm apple strudel . . . it’s a European holiday staple, and you’ll learn how to make it today during a cooking demonstration. Afterwards, get to know Bratislava on a walking tour of the city’s historical sites including the Main Square, National Theater, and an inside visit to the Bishop’s Palace before attending a classical organ recital at a local church. This afternoon, enjoy free time to peruse the local Christmas market, where you can find fine crystal, handmade leather slippers, honey wine, and other treasures. Enjoy evening onboard entertainment with your fellow travelers.
Austrian Christmas traditions, exploring Liechtenstein Palace, and traditional Heurigen dinner
Venture to Vienna today and hear a fascinating lecture on Austrian Christmas traditions. A panoramic city drive along the UNESCO-listed Ringstrasse will give you a better view of this imperial and artsy capital. Later, feel the grandeur of Palais Liechtenstein on a special tour of this dazzling estate. Then sit down for a Viennese Heurigen dinner on an optional tour. Heurigens are taverns serving hearty dishes and seasonal wines, and on top of all the food and music you’ll savor, we’ve enhanced this tour with a wine tasting and visit to a wine cellar, too. Alternatively, spend some time exploring Vienna on your own, including the city’s Christmas market. Tonight, warm-up dancers join us on board for a lively show.
Join us for this lively optional tour and take a seat inside a traditional heurigen — a cozy, family-style tavern — for hearty food, lively music, and locally produced vintages, of course. Heurigens customarily feature rustic décor, open courtyards with outdoor seating, and an accordion player playing traditional Viennese songs. Look forward to a fun, authentic, and festive evening!
The best of Vienna: Lipizzaner horses, Christmas markets, a private Kursalon concert
A lecture on the Habsburg monarchy kicks off your second day of discoveries in Vienna. Afterward, attend a rehearsal of the famed Lipizzaner horses at the Spanish Riding School. After lunch on the ship, catch the Vantage shuttle back to the center of Vienna where more fabulous Christmas Market shopping awaits. This evening, attend an exclusive private classical music concert at the Kursalon Music Hall — a frequent haunt of Vienna’s own Johann Strauss.
Follow "The Sound of Music" to Salzburg, or explore the cultural capital of Linz
You’ll have a choice of tours in Austria today. Set off today for storybook Salzburg, nestled in the Austrian Alps. This city — Mozart’s hometown, in fact — also boasts a few locales featured in the beloved classic, The Sound of Music. Or, choose to explore lovely Linz, a cutting-edge city at the forefront of the arts and technology that UNESCO dubbed a City of Media Arts. No matter which tour you choose, you’ll have time to soak up the charm — and peruse the wares at the local Christmas market. After dinner, enjoy more local entertainment in the ship’s lounge.
Christmas-themed Passau tour, painting and gingerbread making, decorating the ship before the Captain’s Farewell Reception
More baroque splendor awaits you in picturesque Passau, located at the confluence of the Inn, Ilz, and Danube rivers. On a Christmas-themed walking tour, we’ll admire the UNESCO-listed Old Town and spend some time at the Christmas market, located just outside St. Stephan's Cathedral. Don’t forget to try the gingerbread here in Passau — it’s spiced, warm, delectable, and you’ll even learn how to make it later this afternoon.
This afternoon, a local painter comes on board for a colorful painting lesson. Then, learn the secrets of making Germany’s treasured lebkuchen — also known as gingerbread — in the ship’s lounge. Tonight, deck the halls of your ship in a fun Christmas tree-decorating workshop. This fun, family activity culminates with a competition, and the winner will be announced afterward at the festive Captain’s Farewell Reception.
Wandering Regensburg’s historic streets
Delve into Bavarian custom and culture with a day in medieval Regensburg. Largely spared from World War II bombing, Regensburg is remarkably well-preserved, with an Old Town doubling as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wander the city on a walking tour of the city’s medieval highlights, and sample Glüehwein — spiced mulled wine — at the Christmas market. You’ll also meet Martin, Regensburg’s city guard, who will regale you with a special presentation. Later, you'll have leisure time to explore on your own or continue shopping the Christmas market for handmade items including marionettes, dolls, pottery, candles, and more.
Fly home from Munich, or head to Prague on an extension
Disembark your river cruise ship in Regensburg and transfer to the Munich airport to return home, or head to Prague for a post-trip extension.
Make the most of your included airfare to Europe with a few days in elegant Prague. With its grand castles, unbeatable beer, and cobblestoned treasures, it’s no wonder this magnificent old-world capital is a favorite of travelers worldwide. On this extension, you'll discover the city’s Jewish Quarter and explore its historic center (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) — as well as enjoy plenty of time to soak in Prague at its most festive, myriad Christmas markets!
Important Notice:The above day-by-day itinerary is preliminary and subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Cruise Director or regional expert. In addition, should there be an extreme change in water levels, Vantage will do everything possible to provide either the included excursion or an alternate excursion at Vantage’s discretion.
Please Note: Port times & itineraries are subject to change. Fluctuating water levels and winter weather may affect itinerary. All Christmas markets are subject to local traditions and opening dates and times are dependent on the local authorities.