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Start the holiday season off right with this festive European cruise. You’ll discover Germany, Hungary, Austria, and Slovakia at the peak of seasonal splendor, while enjoying all the delights of the off-season such as fewer crowds and quaint Christmas markets. Sailing from Budapest to Regensburg, you’ll appreciate a fantastic balance of cultural capitals and the charming small towns that embody old-world Europe, only draped in holiday dazzle.
When you’re not shopping for handmade treasures and antiques at the Christmas markets, you’ll follow “The Sound of Music” to Salzburg, discover Bavaria’s unending charms, and enjoy spirited recitals, including a private classical music performance at Vienna’s esteemed Kursalon and an organ concert at a Franciscan church in Bratislava. Onboard lectures and performances will bring culture and the arts right to you, while cooking demonstrations will teach you how to make delicious holiday specialties like Germany’s famous gingerbread. Plus, deck the halls of your ship in a delightful decorating competition that couples and families alike will enjoy.
Treat yourself to more time in Budapest with an optional extension that includes extra 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. Traveling solo? We’ve added more supplement-free solo cabins to the m/s River Splendor, as well as adjoining cabin options and third-guest accommodations that make cruising Europe with the family the perfect holiday gift.
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 your deluxe ship
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:
Exploring Budapest on a half-day city tour, optional Hungarian Culinary Tour
Wake up in Budapest, which you’ll see this morning on a city tour.
Almost the entirety of Budapest’s historic center has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you’ll see the best of it as you visit City Park; Heroes' Square with its statues of Magyar chieftains; elegant Andrassy Avenue; the iconic Parliament building; and Castle Hill, where you’ll have free time and entrance to Fisherman's Bastion.
Your afternoon is free for you to explore. Perhaps you’ll explore the more than 100 stalls comprising the Budapest Christmas Market, or ask your Concierge to help arrange a visit to one of Budapest’s famous thermal baths, such as Széchenyi or Gellért.
Foodies will particularly enjoy our optional Hungarian Culinary Tour, which includes a tour of Budapest’s Central Market Hall and entrance to the Zwack Museum, with a tasting of the country’s trademark Unicum herbal liqueur.
If you ask a Hungarian what some typical Hungarian products are, you will very likely hear of the Hungarian paprika, Tokaj wine, salami, goose liver, and the bittersweet liqueur known as Unicum. Join us on this afternoon tour, and you'll discover the culinary treats offered by this wonderful country! Your tour begins with entrance to the Zwack Unicum Museum, where your English-speaking guide will introduce the secrets of liquor production that have been passed from one generation to the other in the Zwack family since the 18th century. Your visit includes a short film about the history of Unicum, a museum tour, entrance to the cellars, and a tasting of Unicum.
Your tour continues to the Central Market Hall, the largest and most beautiful market in the city. This three-story hall offers plenty to do and see, and with the help of your guide, you'll have a great experience at the market! You'll see the local housewives’ shopping habits as well as the colorful Hungarian products — including strings of red paprika and garlic, Hungarian salamis, sausages, hams, and other meat products; fresh pastries; dairy products; Hungarian wines and palinka; and more. As you walk row by row to get ideas for souvenirs, you'll take in the vibrant atmosphere of this exceptional hall. Following your market visit, you'll transfer back to your hotel and your tour will come to an end.
Apple strudel and treasure hunting in Bratislava; plus, the Captain’s Gala Dinner and evening entertainment
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 Franciscan church that’ll put you even more in the holiday mood.
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. Tonight, enjoy the Captain’s Gala Dinner, followed by evening entertainment.
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 that includes a visit to a wine cellar and musical performances. Alternatively, spend some time exploring Vienna on your own, including the city’s Christmas market, via a convenient shuttle to and from the ship. Tonight, warm-up dancers join us on board for a lively show.
The congenial atmosphere of cozy, family-style wine taverns, known as heurigens, is perfectly complemented by hearty food, lively music — and locally produced vintages, of course. Heurigens traditionally have rustic décor, open courtyards with outdoor seating, and an accordion player playing traditional Viennese songs. You’ll visit an authentic heurigen for dinner, music, and wine! You can look forward to a fun 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 by foot or bike
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.
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.