Looking for the ultimate European cruise? On our Grand European River Cruise, you’ll experience seven countries on a comprehensive itinerary showcasing wine, folkloric tradition, and contemporary life. We’ve combined our Great Rivers of Europe and Passage to Eastern Europe featuring Transylvania cruises into one seamless cruise, so you’ll unpack just once as you experience the best of Europe’s most intriguing waterways, including the Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers.
With an unprecedented 49 included features and Cultural Connections, you’ll explore some of the globe’s greatest cultural capitals such as Budapest and Vienna, where you’ll attend a classical performance at the esteemed Kursalon. What’s more, you’ll gain insights into enduring European traditions through a series of onboard lectures, performances, cooking demonstrations, and much more. Discover small towns like Kalocsa for a folkloric workshop, step into a Croatian family’s home for conversation and a traditional meal; and spend time with an icon painter and a local priest in Bulgaria.
Plus, you’ll set sail in Deluxe style aboard the award-winning m/s River Splendor, an intimate luxury cruising experience with no more than 176 passengers on board.
Fly to Germany
Today, fly overnight to Frankfurt, Germany. You can also begin your journey earlier with an optional pre-trip extension to Paris (depending on departure date).
Arrive in Germany and embark your Deluxe river ship
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 in Mainz, 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 with breakfast on board before heading out to discover Cologne, Founded in the 1st century, this is one of Germany’s most well-preserved medieval cities.
Your walking tour begins at the historic center of Cologne’s Old Town. Here you’ll find the Romanic Museum and the old City Hall, renowned for its 16th-century Renaissance facade. Next, you’ll pop into a local brewery to sample Cologne’s famous Kölsch beer, a classically-dry and herbaceous ale that is only produced here. Your tour will conclude at the grand plaza of the twin-spired Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Construction began in 1248, and it took 632 years to complete it. You’ll have the option to visit the inside of the cathedral to see the gilded Shrine of the Three Magi — said to contain the remains of the three kings from the Nativity story — or return to the ship for an afternoon at leisure.
Tonight, you’ll enjoy a special Captain’s Welcome Champagne Reception and Dinner, then settle in for an evening of onboard entertainment.
Destination Enhancement: Customize your journey when you add an optional excursion. Explore the UNESCO-listed palaces of Brühl and their neighboring gardens. Learn more
Head out on a memorable tour of the Brühl Palaces Augustusburg and Falkenlust, two of Germany’s most important examples of Baroque and Rococo architecture. The splendor of these palaces is simply breathtaking and the adjacent Schlosspark (Palace Park), designed in the French style but with perceptible elements of traditional English landscaped gardens, is an internationally recognized monument to the art of gardening. Today, both structures, along with their gardens and parks are jointly listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Due to high call volume, we recommend you visit MyPortfolio to book this Destination Enhancement. Don’t wait — these optional experiences are limited to a select number of guests and are selling out fast!
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 can only 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 temporarily locked up. 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 choice of tour concludes you’ll enjoy a German-style barbecue or “grill party,” with traditional live music.
Würzburg Residenz tour
Arrive in Würzburg and set out on a half-day tour of the Würzburg Residenz, a spectacular Baroque-European bishop’s palace that was designed by visionary architect Balthasar Neumann. A designated UNESCO World Heritage site, the palace grounds are ideal for strolling, and you’ll have time to do so before transferring back to the ship for lunch and an onboard cooking demonstration.
Destination Enhancement: Customize your journey when you add an optional excursion. Make the most of your journey with an optional full-day tour of Rothenburg, in addition to visiting the Würzburg Residenz. Learn more
Rothenburg, or Rothenburg ob der Tauber (“Red castle above the Tauber”), is a well-preserved medieval town located in the Franconia region of Bavaria. As part of southern Germany’s popular Romantic Road, it is a favorite destination for visitors. From its ancient buildings and immersive museums to its historical sites and the beautiful Castle Garden, you’ll be charmed by this picture-perfect city. Following your time in Rothenburg, you’ll head to Würzburg Residenz, a spectacular Baroque-European bishop’s palace that was designed by visionary architect Balthasar Neumann. You’ll have time to stroll the palace grounds, a designated UNESCO World Heritage site, before returning to the ship.
Altmühl Valley sailing and walking tour of Bamberg
While we cruise 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, 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 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 on board demonstration this evening, a regional treat customary in southwestern Germany. A glassblowing demonstration introduces you to the artistry of this age-old craft. Tonight’s delicious dinner onboard includes a pairing of four wines with insights on their local production.
Discover Nuremberg’s medieval history
Step back in time and explore Nuremberg’s medieval history today. You’ll visit the grounds of the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg, a group of fortified buildings dating back to the Holy Roman Empire, before continuing on to the Hauptmarkt. You’ll spend some time at this charming market before heading to St. Sebaldus Church, one of oldest and most important medieval buildings in Nuremberg. At the conclusion of your tour, you will have an opportunity to visit the Nuremberg Toy Museum on your own with your entrance fee covered by Vantage. Nuremberg is famous for its inventors and tinkerers, so this is sure to be a delightful visit.
Destination Enhancement: Customize your journey when you add an optional excursion. Discover Nuremberg’s place in WWII history with an optional tour. Learn more
The five-day Battle of Nuremberg between the United States’ 7th Army and Nazi Germany took place during the final days of World War II, and saw some of the fiercest combat of the war. As Nuremberg had been the site of many Nazi rallies and was considered a center of the Nazi regime, the loss devastated the German forces. You'll have the opportunity to explore the city’s troubled past during an optional tour, which includes a visit to the Documentation Center, where many of the aforementioned rallies took place.
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 which was built in the 12th century. Later, back on the ship, enjoy some local entertainment by 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" due to its location at 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.
Enjoy a classical concert in Vienna
Savor breakfast on board this morning as you cruise past scenic Bratislava, Slovakia. Later, you’ll have opportunities to partake in an onboard German language lesson and a cooking demonstration before lunch. Following lunch, you’ll sit in on an engaging lecture about Vienna’s musical heritage. Tonight, you’ll head out for a Vantage-exclusive experience — a classical music concert at Vienna’s 19th-century Kursalon Music Hall. Following this enchanting event, you’ll return to the ship for dinner and a relaxing evening on board.
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 and into the Innere Stadt. Here you’ll see the Hofburg Palace, the Stephansdom Cathedral, the fashionable Graben area, and the adjoining Kohlmarkt. Back on board, the balance of the day is at your leisure. This afternoon, you’ll have the opportunity to attend an onboard cooking lesson.
Destination Enhancement: Customize your journey when you add an optional excursion. Visit Vienna’s famed Opera House and pop into the city’s coffeehouses. Learn more
Vienna’s State Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper) is one of the world’s leading opera houses. Commissioned in 1861 as part of the city’s expansion efforts, this 1,700-seat Renaissance Revival venue was the first major structure built on the Vienna Ringstrasse. While its past is steeped in tradition, today the opera house hosts many richly varied performances and events. Each season’s schedule may include as many as 350 performances of over 60 different operas and ballets. This optional tour affords you an opportunity to visit this elegant theater, followed by a taste of Viennese coffee culture when you pop into one of the many cozy coffeehouses found here.
Explore Vienna at your leisure today
You’ll have a full day at leisure to explore more of Vienna at your own pace today. Tonight, relax on board and enjoy a festive Farewell Dinner as we make our way to Budapest.
Destination Enhancement: Customize your journey when you add an optional excursion. Choose an optional Vienna tour and visit either Schönbrunn Palace or the Museum of Art History. Learn more
The history of Schönbrunn, and the buildings that previously stood on this site, dates back to the 14th century, when the original estate belonged to the manor of the abbey at Klosterneuburg. Towards the end of the 17th century, Baroque architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach was commissioned by Emperor Leopold I to design an imperial hunting lodge. It was to be a gift for his son, Crown Prince Joseph, who later became emperor in his own right. This optional tour will give guests a chance to visit this magnificent 1,441-room palace, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for themselves.
Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum — or Museum of Art History — is Austria’s largest art museum, opened in 1891. On this optional tour, guests will visit this palatial building which houses the Imperial family’s extensive collection. Numerous major works by European masters are on display here, among them Raphael’s Madonna in the Meadow, Vermeer’s The Allegory of Painting, and the Infanta paintings by Velazquez. Other masterworks by Rubens, Rembrandt, Dürer, Titian, and Tintoretto are also housed in the paintings gallery, and the Egyptian and Near Eastern Collection contains fascinating treasures from mysterious cultures long past. It’s no wonder why this is considered one of the most eminent museums in the world.
Discover the best of Budapest
Today, you’ll set out on a city tour of Budapest, focusing on its historic center, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll visit City Park, Heroes' Square, Andrassy Avenue, the iconic Parliament building, and Castle Hill. You’ll have free time here with entrance to Fisherman's Bastion provided. The remainder of the afternoon is free for you to continue your explorations at your own pace.
Destination Enhancement: Customize your journey when you add an optional excursion. Uncover Budapest’s Jewish history and visit the Synagogue Triangle. Learn more
Archaeological records have shown that Hungary’s Jewish history spans many centuries and Budapest has the largest Jewish community in Central Europe. Through the centuries, Hungarian Jews played a key role in this region’s religious, artistic, and historical culture, and are still playing a vital role in the country's current economic, cultural, and political life. This optional guided tour will help you understand the Jewish past and present in Budapest and in Hungary.
Spend a day at leisure in Budapest
Today, enjoy a leisurely day 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.
Another opportunity to discover the best of Budapest
Enjoy Budapest at your leisure
Craft your own itinerary and explore more of Budapest on your own today.
Destination Enhancement: Customize your journey when you add an optional excursion. Set out on a full-day tour of Gödöllő and Lázár Equestrian Park. Learn more
Explore Pest today on this engaging optional tour. Commissioned by Count Antal Grassalkovich I in 1735, the Royal Palace of Gödöllő is the largest Baroque-style palace in Hungary. The Palace was presented as a coronation gift to Emperor Francis Joseph I and Queen Elizabeth to be used as a residence, and the royal family would reside here during the spring and autumn hunting seasons. You’ll also visit the Lázár Equestrian Park. Founded in 2001 by the 21-time world-champion carriage driver Lázár brothers, the park is situated in a natural protected area in a picturesque valley among the hills of the Gödöllő.
Hands-on discovery in the folk center of Kalocsa
Today, you’ll depart for an exploration of Kalocsa that includes folk art workshops where you’ll try your hand at egg painting, embroidery, and making traditional Hungarian paprika bread. You’ll also taste some local treats before transferring to the pretty main square where you’ll attend an organ concert at Kalocsa Cathedral.
Destination Enhancement: Customize your journey when you add an optional excursion. Embark on an excursion of Pécs and savor a traditional lunch at a local restaurant. Learn more
Board a private motorcoach to charming Pécs in the foothills of the Mecsek Mountains. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before setting off on a walking tour that includes a visit to the city’s UNESCO-listed 4th-century Sopianae Necropolis. Built as an underground burial chamber with above-ground chapels, these tombs are richly decorated with religious murals.
Savor a home-hosted lunch in Vukovar, Croatia
As we make landfall in Croatia today, prepare for two memorable experiences.
This morning you’ll immerse yourself in three different aspects of Croatian life. First, learn about the monastic tradition when you visit a Franciscan monastery. Then, if school is in session, we’ll meet some local students, or otherwise attend a guitar concert in a village courtyard. The highlight will be your visit to the home of a local Croatian family, where you’ll enjoy a lively cultural exchange — not to mention delicious home-cooked fare. We’ll break into smaller groups, each one visiting a different household for a more intimate experience.
After lunch you’ll ride to the neobaroque Eltz Manor, a 19th-century palace that hosts the Vukovar City Museum. Explore as you wish, then return to ship either on foot or on board the shuttle. If you prefer, you can skip the museum and just return with your motorcoach to relax on board.
Late this afternoon, enjoy an onboard folk music performance by a local tamburitza orchestra. After dinner, more music awaits you when a local band comes on board to take you through the history of 20th-century popular music.
Learn about modern Serbia, visit Belgrade and join in on traditional festivities
Begin your day with an enlightening lecture on present-day Serbia to help welcome you to historic Belgrade. You will see the Renaissance this capital city has undergone in recent years to embrace a tumultuous past and rise above the ashes into redevelopment and modern life. Visit the Kalemegdan Fortress and the Church of Saint Sava, among the largest buildings in Christianity.
In the afternoon, celebrate Belgrade’s spirit with a vibrant pub crawl. Then continue the festivities into the evening with some fun local folk entertainment, including a Salt & Bread welcome via traditionally dressed Serbians and an accordion player.
Destination Enhancement: Customize your journey when you add an optional excursion. Visit Josip Broz Tito’s Memorial and the Belgrade Royal Palace. Learn more
Josip Broz Tito, a controversial figure in Serbian history, served as leader of the Yugoslav Partisans during WWII, then as the president of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1953 until the time of his death in 1980. This optional tour will visit the House of Flowers, the mausoleum that holds his remains. The mausoleum is also a museum and 9,700-sq-ft winter garden. You’ll also visit the Serbian Royal Palace, the official residence of the Karađorđević royal family. Built between 1924 and 1929 with private funds from His Majesty King Alexander I, the palace is the main building of the Royal Compound, and part of Belgrade’s Dedinje neighborhood.
Experience Serbian village life and the majestic Iron Gates
Some morning discovery is complemented by an afternoon of scenic cruising, as you pass through the Danube Gorge with insightful narration.
Begin your day with a walking tour of charming Donji Milanovac, where you’ll visit the Church of St. Nikolas and peek into the local elementary school. This afternoon, local children come on board for a delightful dance performance.
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. This dramatic 86-mile stretch was once treacherous to pass, creating a formidable barrier to invaders with its rocky gorges and caves. Keep an eye out for the likeness of Decebalus, a Dacian ruler and Romanian national hero who fought the Romans. His face is carved into a cliff near the city of Orsova. As your ship passes through two sets of locks, you’ll hear commentary from the bridge describing the process and a lecture about everyday life in the communist era.
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.
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 before our evening entertainment comes on board.
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 town 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 Arbanasi 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 wine-pairing dinner.
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, we’ll savor a delicious dinner in our hotel.
Travel through Transylvanian history
Venture into Transylvania, the mountainous, legend-haunted region in central Romania. Once you set foot here, you’ll realize why it’s known as the last medieval landscape in Europe.
On the way, stop for lunch in Sinaia, a mountain town so beautiful, King Carol I built his family’s summer home here. You’ll see this delightful fairy-tale's retreat, the Peleș Castle. The castle is described as “neo-Renaissance” but it incorporates a delightful and almost playful variety of international decorative styles, reflecting the royal family’s personal tastes. You’ll return to the Bucharest in the afternoon. Dinner is included at your hotel.
Transfer to the Bucharest airport today for your return flight home.
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.