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Fly to Germany
Today, fly overnight to Frankfurt, Germany. You can also begin your journey earlier with an optional pre-trip extension to Paris.
Enjoy the Mainz attraction
Today, you’ll land in Frankfurt. If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, a Vantage representative will meet you and arrange transfer to the pier, where you will board your Deluxe river ship and officially begin your European river cruise. Get settled into the rhythm of your cruise, unwinding with your first "Cocktail of the Day" selection in the lounge.
Cologne walking tour and Kölsch beer tasting
Begin the day with an early risers’ breakfast or a little morning yoga. After breakfast, you’ll set out to discover Cologne. The city was founded in the 1st century and became the seat of Roman rule. Germany's fourth largest city, Cologne has preserved many fine medieval structures, including Romanesque churches, the city hall, and three of the city's 12 medieval gates.
Your walking tour features the Romanic Museum and the old City Hall, which incorporates a building that was once part of Cologne’s medieval synagogue. It was taken over in 1424 when Cologne’s Jews were expelled, but today a glass pyramid protects the antechamber that led to the ceremonial baths or Mikwe, which was built in 1170. Your Cologne walking tour concludes in the grand plaza of the massive, twin-spired Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The current building's construction began in 1248, and it took 632 years to complete it. The city tour ends here, and either you can return to the ship or go inside the cathedral on your own to see the gilded Shrine of the Three Magi, which is said to contain the remains of the three kings of the Christmas story fame.
During your city tour, you’ll pop into the brewery to taste this town's famous Kölsch beer, a classically-dry and herbaceous ale that is produced only here in Cologne. “Prost!” (cheers!)
Back on board, the Captain invites you to a Welcome Reception and Dinner, featuring some sparkling sekt, Germany’s champagne-style wine. Join shipmates later in the evening for onboard entertainment.
Rhine Valley views; Rüdesheim personalized for you
Look forward to an eventful day of scenic highlights and cultural discovery. Then it’s all hands on deck as your ship winds through the Upper Middle Rhine Valley — a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Studded with historic castles and beautiful gorges, it is a sight you only can truly appreciate from the river. A highlight will be your sighting of the famous Lorelei, a steep slate rock that makes a soft, murmuring sound under certain conditions. It used to be the site of many shipwrecks, and a legend sprang up about a lovely, golden-haired maiden who would sit atop the rock combing her hair and singing a song that lured sailors too close to the rock . . . and into perilous waters.
When you arrive in cheerful Rüdesheim, you'll have your choice of three tours. The first is a cable car ride to the historic Niederwald Monument, which overlooks the Rhine Valley and commemorates the unification of Germany in the late 19th century. Or, choose a mini-train ride to Siegfried's Musikkabinett, an amusing museum dedicated to self-playing music and its instruments. Your third choice of tours is a wine hike, where you’ll pop into different Weinstuben to sample three different regional vintages.
A full day in romantic Heidelberg
Disembarking in Frankfurt, you’ll set off for a full-day excursion to Heidelberg, a red-roofed town on the Neckar River that is home to Germany’s oldest university.
Enjoy panoramic views from the plaza of imposing Heidelberg Castle. You'll also see the famed Heidelberg Tun, an immense wine barrel, now empty, with a capacity of some 58,000 gallons. It would seem the immense volume was warranted, judging by the numerous old student pubs, cafés, and beer gardens that line Heidelberg’s charming alleys. You’ll sample local food at an included lunch in a local restaurant, then have some free time to explore here on your own. Perhaps you’ll poke into the old student jail (the Studentenkarzer), where drunk or unruly collegians were locked up temporarily. It was considered a badge of honor to spend time here, and you can still see the graffiti scribbled by 19th-century “inmates.” After your touring, you’ll transfer to Aschaffenburg, where your ship is waiting.
After dinner you can enjoy the musicianship of four string virtuosos performing classical and contemporary favorites.
Village life and a BBQ lunch in Marktheidenfeld
This morning your ship arrives in charming Wertheim, a picturesque town set at the confluence of the Main and Tauber rivers. You’ll enjoy a brief walking tour to admire its medieval treasures and 12th-century castle before setting off on your choice of four different village life experiences.
The lovely half-timbered village of Marktheidenfeld boasts several traditional industries, and today you’ll choose which one to explore. You can visit the local paper factory, a forge where traditional blacksmithing is done, or a local château whose owner will show you his antique piano and klavier collection. Your fourth choice is a visit to a family-owned winery, where you’ll sample some lovely Franconian vintages. After your chosen tour concludes, you’ll enjoy a German-style barbecue or “grill party,” with traditional live music. Back on the ship, enjoy a German lesson with your Cruise Director.
Würzburg tour and wine tasting inside the Residenz
Arriving in Würzburg, set out on a half-day tour of the Würzburg Residenz, a spectacular Baroque European bishop’s palace castle that was designed by the visionary architect Balthasar Neumann. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Residenz grounds are ideal for strolling, and you’ll have time to do so before transferring back to the ship for lunch. Your tour includes a visit to the Residenz’s wine cellar where you will enjoy a tasting and talk conducted by an experienced sommelier.
During an onboard cooking demonstration today, try making and savoring the German tender, rolled beef delicacy called rouladen.
Altmühl Valley sailing and walking tour of Bamberg
While cruising this morning, attend a lecture on the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal — one of Europe’s greatest engineering feats — and a glassblowing demonstration that introduces you to the artistry of this age-old craft. Later, you’ll pass through the locks of the canal and enjoy a day sailing through the lovely Altmühl Valley. Arriving in Bamberg, you'll embark on a fascinating walking tour of the historic center of town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is also an opportunity to partake in a cooking demonstration today, one of several available on your journey.
Learn how to make Swabian meat pockets during an onboard demonstration this evening, a regional treat customary in southwestern Germany. Tonight’s delicious dinner onboard includes a pairing of four wines with insights on their local production.
Explore WWII or medieval history in Nuremberg
This morning you'll have your choice of two city tours of Nuremberg. You can explore the city’s troubled past during a “Nuremberg in WWII” tour, which includes a visit to the Documentation Center, where many rallies took place. Alternatively, you can choose a “Medieval Nuremberg” tour featuring the grounds of Nuremberg castle, which date to the Holy Roman Empire, and the charming Hauptmarkt or market square.
In the afternoon you may return to Nuremberg on your own and visit the Toy Museum with your entrance fee covered by Vantage. Nuremberg is famous for its inventors and tinkerers, so this will be a delightful visit.
Regensburg: Roman architecture and Bavarian charms
Explore UNESCO-listed Regensburg today. This city has a history stretching back to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and you’ll get to know its heritage during a walking tour. Admire the impressive cathedral, as well as the famous stone bridge built in the 12th century. Later back on the ship, enjoy some local entertainment by a Magic of Rhythm tap dance show.
Music in picturesque Passau
Today, join a walking tour of Baroque Passau, known as the "City of Three Rivers" because it is located where the Ilz and Inn meet the Danube. On your tour, enjoy an organ concert inside St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Back on board, join a local artist to learn how to capture the scenery with a brush, then take part in another cooking demonstration, during which you'll learn about Tiroler Gröstl.
Cruise the scenic Wachau Valley, plus a musical Viennese evening
This will be a memorable day filled with stupendous scenery and music. Relax as your ship cruises the Danube River through the scenic Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Landscape. As you take in the romantic views of hilltop castles, ancient monasteries, and terraced vineyards, you'll cruise by the wine town of Dürnstein. In 1192, King Richard the Lionheart of England was imprisoned in the castle that looms above the town. Your Cruise Director will provide live commentary from the bridge.
This morning you can learn the secrets of making a perfect Austrian apple strudel during an onboard cooking demonstration. As your ship makes its way toward Vienna, you also can attend a presentation on that city’s famous musical heritage. Then, experience it firsthand during your exclusive, private visit to Vienna’s Kursalon, where an orchestra, singers, and dancers perform a wonderful classical concert. Later on board, come to the lounge where professionals from Viennese opera and music halls will teach you the waltz in true Blue Danube style. Tonight’s dinner will be enhanced further by a pairing and tasting of local wines.
Discover the historic heart of Vienna
This morning you’ll be introduced to the historic center of Vienna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your city tour takes you by coach and on foot across the famous Ringstrasse into the Innere Stadt, where you’ll see the Hofburg Palace, the Stephansdom Cathedral, the fashionable Graben area and its adjoining Kohlmarkt. The latter was once a coal market, but today, the only coal is of the highly-compressed type, namely the diamonds that glitter in the streets many high-end jewelry shops. Your tour also features a visit to the Austrian National Library, the largest baroque library in Europe. Back on board, the balance of the day is free.
This afternoon you may join your Concierge for a Viennese pub crawl. There also will be a cooking demonstration on Styrian pot roast.
Choice of tours in Vienna, afternoon sailing to Budapest
This morning you’ll have two included tour choices to discover more of Vienna. Come explore Schönbrunn Palace, a 1,441-room baroque marvel that was the Habsburg’s summer home. Today it is a symbol of the city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your other choice is a visit to the Kunsthistorisches Museum (the Museum of Art History). It is Austria’s largest art museum and home to 2,100 objects that were part of the Habsburg’s collection.
Discover the best of Budapest
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 visit a famous confectioner like Gerbeaud, Café Demel, or the Sacher Café, and join the perennial argument over who makes the world’s best Sachertorte. Maybe you’ll do some window shopping on Váci Utca, the pedestrian shopping zone. Or ask your Concierge to help arrange a visit to one of Budapest’s famous thermal baths, such as Széchenyi or Gellért.
Disembark ship and return home
Transfer to the Budapest airport for your return flight home, or begin your optional post-trip extension to Bratislava and Prague.
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 may affect itinerary.