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Seven countries, three legendary rivers, and countless cultural experiences await you on this sweeping voyage that combines Majestic Rivers of Europe and Passage to Eastern Europe featuring Transylvania for the ultimate European river cruise. On this Grand European River Cruise, you’ll discover a mosaic of changing scenery and fairy-tale towns along the Rhine, Main, and Danube Rivers while an unprecedented menu of musical performances, enlightening lectures, and workshops showcases the customs, cuisine, and craftsmanship of European life. This is truly the comprehensive European vacation! Visit a coterie of castles, soak in the grandeur of Vienna, explore a traditional German village, be the guest of honor at a home-hosted meal in Croatia, and relish an extended stay in Budapest that includes a Vantage-exclusive visit to the historic Parliament Building. This dazzling journey is enhanced for 2020 with more folklore and tradition — including a salt and bread welcome in Belgrade — on top of 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 27 included tours, and two full days in Vienna — another Vantage exclusive!
Your adventure begins with an overnight flight to Germany, arriving in Frankfurt on Day 2. Upon arrival, you’ll have the rest of the day to rest up and relax after your journey.
Willkommen! Embark ship and begin your river cruise
If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, a Vantage representative will meet you at the Frankfurt airport and assist with your transfer to the pier in Mainz, where you’ll board your deluxe river ship and officially begin your European cruise. You can also begin your journey earlier with an optional pre-trip extension.
Sip Kölsch while exploring the historic cultural center of Cologne
Today, take a walking tour of the historic German cultural center of Cologne, where you’ll see the iconic Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This evening, we'll enjoy a Welcome Reception and Dinner as well as some onboard entertainment.
Culinary Feature: Enjoy a tasting of Kölsch beer at a traditional German brewhouse, a signature flavor that is only made here in Cologne.
Rhine Valley views; Rüdesheim personalized for you
After some scenic sailing in the morning — during which we'll marvel at the scenery and hear about local lore — you'll arrive in Rudesheim, where 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. You can also embark on a mini-train ride to Siegfried's Musikkabinett, an amusing museum dedicated to self-playing music and its instruments. Wine Feature: Your third choice of tours is a newly added wine tasting walking tour, where you’ll sample three different regional vintages — and have a nifty souvenir glass to take home! Afterwards, you'll return to the ship for dinner.
Day-trip to romantic Heidelberg, a UNESCO site
Today, set off from Frankfurt for a full-day excursion to Heidelberg, a UNESCO site that is home to Germany’s oldest college, Heidelberg University. In Heidelberg, you’ll tour 15th-century Heidelberg Castle, one of the most famous of European castles, an imposing Gothic-Renaissance ruin of red stone that illustrates the history of Germany. Ride the funicular from the castle to the town center, where you’ll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and then have free time to explore. Tonight, enjoy onboard entertainment from four musical virtuosos.
Exploring village life in Marktheidenfeld, with a BBQ lunch and traditional live music
We'll arrive in Wertheim this morning and will set out to explore the town after breakfast. The highlight of our day will be a delightful half-day tour during which learn about local industry. Later, we’ll savor a BBQ lunch and take in some traditional live music.
Back on the ship, participate in a German language lesson in which you’ll learn some essential words and phrases. Later tonight, you’ll have the opportunity to take part in a fun culinary demonstration and sample what is whipped up! Savor traditional spätzle, or another regional specialty that’s in season.
Tour and wine tasting inside the Würzburg Residenz
Arriving in Würzburg, set out on a half-day tour of the Würzburg Residenz, a baroque European castle and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your tour includes a visit to the wine cellar for a tasting and lecture. Alternatively, you may join an optional tour of medieval Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Late this afternoon, attend a lecture on “Germany in the 21st Century: Changes & Challenges.” This evening, you can try your hand at cooking German-braised beef roulade in the Captain’s Club during an intimate cooking lesson.
Altmühl Valley sailing, walking tour of Bamberg, wine tasting dinner
While we cruise this morning, attend a lecture on the Main-Danube Canal. Later, we’ll pass through the locks of the canal and enjoy a day sailing through the lovely Altmühl Valley. Arriving in Bamberg, we'll embark on a fascinating walking tour of the historic center of town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are also opportunities to partake in a cooking demonstration today, one of several available on your journey and a glassblowing demonstration introduces us to the artistry of this age-old craft. Wine Feature: Tonight’s delicious dinner onboard includes a pairing of four wines with insights on their local production.
Nuremberg, customized for you — tour the town’s highlights or explore its WWII history
This morning you'll have your choice of two city tours of Nuremberg. Choose “Nuremberg and World War II” to explore the city’s World War II history and visit the Documentation Center, or take the “Highlights of Medieval Nuremberg” tour that includes a visit to the Nuremberg Castle grounds and a walking tour from Hauptmarkt to St. Sebald Church. During afternoon free time, feel free to visit the Toy Museum, as Vantage will cover the entrance fee, and attend an onboard lecture about Bavaria, Germany's special state. This evening, chat with your fellow travelers during cocktail hour in the lounge and enjoy a delectable dinner on board.
Regensburg: Roman architecture and Bavarian charms
You’ll arrive at picturesque Regensburg today, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with history stretching back to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. You’ll get to know its heritage during a walking tour. Admire the impressive cathedral, as well as the famous stone bridge which was built in the 12th century. Later, back on the ship, enjoy the "Magic of Rhythm Show," where international tap stars showcase a variety of styles, from ferociously fast Paddle-and-Roll rhythms to languid, elegant Soft Shoe to fiery a-cappella counterpoint. From the first taps to last, these artists will captivate you with thrilling, humorous and unforgettable performances.
Music in picturesque Passau
Today, join a walking tour of baroque Passau, known as the "town of three rivers" because it's located where two tributaries join the Danube river. On your tour, enjoy an organ concert inside St. Stephan’s Cathedral.
Join a local artist to learn how to capture the scenery with a brush during a painting lesson.
Take part in another cooking demonstration today, during which you'll learn about Tiroler Grostl.
Music and dancing in Vienna
This morning, an apple strudel making demonstration awaits in your Captain's Club while you sail, followed by an onboard lunch. Be prepared for what awaits you later this afternoon with an insightful onboard lecture about Musical Vienna. Once in Austria's capital, you’ll be treated to a delightful evening filled with tunes and revelry at an exclusive Kursalon music hall concert. Tonight’s dinner will be further enhanced by a pairing and tasting of local wines with commentary; later, keep the party going with dancing onboard as local dancers show you their fancy footwork and teach you a few steps.
Vienna and the Austrian National Library
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!
Vienna as you like it, then Budapest-bound
You'll have your choice of two tours this morning: either the city's excellent Museum of Art History or the grand Schönbrunn Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This afternoon, sail leisurely towards another great European capital: Budapest.
Going for baroque on a city tour of Budapest
Begin the day with a panoramic city tour of regal Budapest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll take in the spectacular panoramic views of the city from Fisherman’s Bastion, a magnificent terrace overlooking the Danube. The rest of the day you’re free to explore Budapest at your own pace, or you can opt to enjoy an optional Hungarian Horse Show today.
Enjoy the romantic scenery of the countryside as you visit the Equestrian Park of the Lázár brothers, who have won several world championships in carriage driving. Hungarian horsemen will welcome and accompany you to the inn’s yard where you will enjoy the famous Hungarian pálinka (brandy) before going to the show. The horse show features varied styles of dressage and fun competition with guests. After the show, a carriage awaits you for a scenic ride through the surrounding area.
Head to Hollókó, or spend a day at leisure in Budapest
Join our delightful full-day optional tour to the Hungarian village of Hollókő, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a “living village” of early rural life before the agricultural revolution of the 20th century. Alternatively, enjoy a day at leisure in Budapest, perhaps taking advantage of our onboard bicycles to cruise along the Danube pathways, or to do some shopping on the Váci Utca, Budapest’s most famous shopping street.
A scenic journey back in time, into the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, takes you to the medieval UNESCO World Heritage village of Hollókő. Here life follows the same patterns it did centuries ago — the houses are built in a medieval style with whitewashed walls and red-tiled roofs, and the locals still honor age-old customs and dress in traditional embroidered clothing on special occasions — such as your arrival! You'll be greeted with singing, dancing, and a snack of Hungarian cheesecake. Then, in small groups, we'll be invited into a home for lunch — a truly wonderful way to meet people of Hungary. Afterwards, you'll take a walking tour through the village's cobbled streets.
Exploring the Pest side of Budapest, and a Jewish Heritage optional tour
Divided by the Danube, Budapest is actually two cities — Buda and Pest. Today we’ll explore Pest, beginning with an inside visit to St. Stephen’s Basilica, as well as a tour of City Park, Heroes’ Square, and neighboring Andrássy Avenue — a UNESCO World Heritage Site lined with Neo-Renaissance palaces and homes — and a glimpse of the Parliament building, which you’ll explore in-depth tomorrow. This afternoon, take an optional Jewish Heritage tour that reveals the historic Jewish Quarter and local landmarks, or simply enjoy some leisure time to explore Budapest on your own. Back on the ship this evening, a folk music and dance show rings in your eastern European journey in style.
Discover the largest Jewish community in eastern Europe during your stay in Budapest. This tour offers an illuminating look into the rich cultural, historical, and religious heritage of Hungary, with visits to Budapest’s Jewish Quarter, Dohány Synagogue — Europe’s largest — and more.
Please note: This tour is not available on Saturdays.
Take a walk on the Buda side and go inside Parliament
Arguably Budapest’s most historic building, the Parliament towers over the Danube with its intriguing blend of architectural styles and 365 spires — one for every day of the year. Tour the inside of the Parliament building in this Vantage-exclusive experience that allows us fast-track entrance. Then, continue the afternoon with visits to the Citadel, Chain Bridge, Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle, and more local landmarks; or, transfer to the Great Market Hall for a guided tour and an afternoon at leisure. We’ll cast off towards Kalocsa later this afternoon.
Get folksy with craft and cooking lessons in Kalocsa
Visit the town of Kalocsa today and embark on a city tour that includes workshops on folk painting, folk embroidery, and the making of traditional Hungarian paprika bread, as well as an organ concert. We’ll then transfer to charming Pécs in the foothills of the Mecsek Mountains. After lunch here, we’ll set off on a walking tour that includes a visit to the city’s UNESCO-listed Necropolis, which hearkens back to the 4th century, as well as the Pécs Cathedral. Alternatively, you might also embark on a hour-long city tour by train.
Explore Croatia, and savor a home-hosted lunch in Vukovar
What better way to learn about local life than with a visit to a local family? As we make landfall in Croatia today, we’ll join a local family in their home for a riveting lunch. Then, if school is in session, we’ll meet some local students, or otherwise attend a guitar concert in a local courtyard. After, we’ll make our way to Eltz Manor, a baroque castle housing the Vukovar City Museum. More music awaits us back on the ship when a local band comes on board to play some modern-day classics that have been rejiggered into new arrangements — setting the mood for this evening’s festive Captain’s Gala Dinner.
Discover Belgrade and Kalemegdan Fortress — then embark on a pub crawl
An illuminating lecture on modern Serbia sets the stage for our discovery of the country’s 2,500-year-old capital, Belgrade, on a half-day tour. Belgrade’s recent history can be felt in the city’s grittiness, but bold redevelopment and the positive outlook of residents will undoubtedly impress you. As a counterpoint to Belgrade’s comeback, we’ll visit the Kalemegdan Fortress. Dating back to a staggering 279 BC, the fortress was since destroyed more than 40 times in approximately 115 battles.
This afternoon, take advantage an optional tour to Tito’s Memorial and Royal Palace. Or, if you're up for something a bit more adventurous, speak to your Concierge about where you can rent a canoe or kayak. Tonight’s sure to be festive, too, as we enjoy a traditional Serbian salt and bread welcome performed by two local women in traditional garb and an accordion player. We’ll enjoy another folk music and dance troupe as the evening’s entertainment.
Uncover the charms of a Serbian village
Begin your day with a walking tour of charming Donji Milanovac, where you’ll visit the Church of St. Nikolas and an elementary school. Here, you’ll enjoy a fascinating introduction to the Cyrillic alphabet, the script invented by a Byzantine monk in the 9th century but now widely used throughout the Slavic world.
Relax on deck this afternoon and enjoy the views as your river cruise passes through one of the most dramatic and beautiful stretches of the Danube river, the series of gorges known as the Iron Gates of the Danube. As your ship passes through two sets of locks, you’ll hear commentary from the bridge describing the process.
Cruise into Ruse with a dance performance, icon painting, a Balkan BBQ, and more
Today promises to be an eye-opening day of rich cultural heritage — and fun, too. As you cruise this morning, a lecture on “Bulgaria, Romania, and the Expansion of the European Union” offers some contemporary context to our journey as we sail toward the Bulgarian port town, Ruse. Just before lunch, we'll fire up the BBQ on the sun deck for a festive Balkan-style cooking demo, weather permitting. Our dish? Cevapcici, or traditional Balkan sausages. This afternoon, some local children come on board for a delightful dance performance and, later, we’ll learn about the Bulgarian tradition of icon painting from a local artist, and then meet a local Orthodox priest. We’ll enjoy dinner on board before the Contemporary Bulgarian Trio puts a twist on traditional music for us.
Spend a day in captivating Veliko Tarnovo, including lunch with students and a choir performance
Today offers another high point of your journey when you spend a full day in Veliko Tarnovo, a 12th-century Bulgarian capital where colorful houses perch above the winding Yantra River. Have lunch with local university students in Veliko Tarnovo before heading to the 16th-century village of Arbanassi for a lovely Eastern Orthodox choir performance at the Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. This evening, celebrate the joys of your river cruise at the Captain’s Farewell Dinner & Cocktail Reception.
Panoramic Bucharest tour, then explore its historic sites
This morning we’ll disembark ship and transfer to Bucharest, Romania’s largest city and capital, where we’ll embark on a panoramic tour and have lunch. Afterwards, explore Bucharest’s grand monuments and leafy, old-world boulevards on a city tour that includes a choice of entrances. You can visit the infamous People’s Palace, the grandiose, sprawling, and never-completed administrative building initiated by dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Alternatively, take a fascinating walking tour of Manuc’s Inn, Bucharest’s oldest hotel building, which was built as a way station for caravans and surrounds a large open courtyard. Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.
Traveling through Transylvanian history
Venture into Transylvania, the mountainous, legend-haunted region in central Romania. On the way, stop for lunch in Sinaia, a former royal summer retreat, and visit fairytale-worthy Peles Castle. As you enter Transylvania proper, you’ll see why it’s known as the last medieval landscape in Europe. You’ll return to Bucharest in the afternoon. Dinner is included at your hotel.
Transfer to the airport today for your return flight home.
Vantage invites you to Transylvania, where the lure of vampire legends awaits in Romania’s fabled central region, home to mountainous scenery, medieval villages, and Bran Castle — Dracula’s legendary manse. You’ll visit Prejmer Fortified Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and check off another UNESCO Site off your list when joining our optional tour to enchanting Sighișoara. Step inside elegant Bucharest, bohemian Brasov, and a forested region of fairytales — now with an extra day added for better pacing in 2020!
*Please note that for pre- and post-trip extension passengers to enjoy the best pacing and airline routing, two days of base tour features will be listed in the itinerary below as noted (Days 25 and 29 for the post-trip extension). For post-trip extension passengers, your price includes:
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.