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Passage to Eastern Europe featuring Transylvania - 2020

9-night river cruise with Budapest, Kalocsa, Mohacs, Vukovar, Belgrade, Donji Milanovac, Iron Gates, Ruse, Veliko Tarnovo, Arbanasi • Bucharest • Sinaia


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Budapest to Bucharest: Family & Friends Departure

Folklore, family, and friends. Good things come in threes, and on these special friends and family departures of Passage to Eastern Europe featuring Transylvania, you’ll discover the distinct traditions and arts of Serbia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Croatia before sailing into Transylvania, perhaps the world’s greatest myth-filled region.

Sailing during the peak of summertime on a 5-star river ship, you’ll experience Europe at in its prime — and your group can take advantage of special third-guest accommodations, zero Single Supplements for a room of your own, and new adjoining cabin options on the m/s River Splendor for the ultimate convenience in group travel.

Eastern Europe will both charm and surprise with 14 included sightseeing tours and 13 Cultural Connections, including three days in Budapest, a customary salt and bread welcome in Belgrade, a hands-on folklore workshop, and a home-hosted lunch with a family in Croatia — all perfect activities for making memories with friends and family, or both!

You can even enhance your discoveries on two wheels, thanks to complimentary onboard bicycles. Plus, witness the ways that folklore and tradition have carried over into contemporary life with a roster of local entertainers, brought to you most evenings as onboard entertainment. You’ll hear bands revamping traditional music and watch several folk and dance ensembles, including a children’s folkloric dance show in Bulgaria.

Plus, with the services of our complimentary worldwide Concierge, you can customize your journey with added excursions, museum visits, restaurant reservations — even research your family’s ancestry in this region! — or plan a special anniversary or birthday celebration.

Join Vantage on these departure dates — July 4, August 19, and August 26 — and experience Eastern Europe alongside friends and family!
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DAY 1:

Budapest bound

Today you’ll board an overnight flight to Budapest, Hungary.

DAY 2:

Arrive in Budapest, and settle into your river ship with a Welcome Briefing

Arrive in Budapest today. If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, our representative will meet you outside the arrivals area and assist with your transfer to your deluxe river ship. Or, if you embarked on our optional pre-trip extension to Poland, you’ll arrive on Day 2 to join the program. Tonight, attend a Welcome Briefing and enjoy a drink in the lounge before dinner on board.

Vantage Onboard Enrichment:

  • Morning yoga and stretching, offered throughout the duration of your cruise
  • Optional early risers’ breakfast in the Captain’s Club, offered throughout the duration of your cruise
  • Chess, shuffleboard, track, spa, and other amenities

Included Meals:


DAY 3:

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.

Vantage Exclusive:

  • Tour the best parts of Pest, including St. Stephen’s Basilica, the most important church in the country City Park, Heroes’ Square, elegant Andrássy Avenue, and the iconic parliament building
Cultural Connection:
  • Join in with folk music and a dance show onboard this evening, Eastern European-style
Biking Opportunity:
  • Enjoy the most magnificent sites of Budapest, including Freedom Bridge, Chain Bridge, and the Hungarian Parliament Building during a medium-paced 9-mile route. Click here for details

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Optional Tour: Jewish Heritage Tour

Jewish Heritage Tour

  • Approximate Cost: $39 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 3 hours
  • Location: Budapest, Hungary
  • When: Afternoon Tour

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.

DAY 4:

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. We’ll also explore Castle Hill and Fisherman’s Bastion before we cast off towards Kalocsa this afternoon.

Vantage Exclusive:

  • Fast-track to enter the iconic Parliament building
Included Feature:
  • Explore the 19th century Castle Hill
Please note: The Parliament can cancel any confirmed visit at any time. In the event of a cancellation, travelers will instead visit the Opera House.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 5:

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, followed by an organ concert in the local cathedral. We’ll then transfer by coach 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. Alternatively, you might also embark on an hour-long city tour by mini-train. Afterwards, we'll transfer by coach to Mohacs, board our river ship once more, and set sail for our next destination: Croatia.

Included Features:

  • City tour of Kalocsa
  • Visit charming Pécs in the foothills of the Mecsek Mountains. Then journey to UNESCO-listed Sopianae Necropolis, a 4th century Roman-era Christian burial site, or an optional hour-long panoramic city tour by mini-traine
Cultural Connection:
  • Folk art work shop in Kalocsa including paprika bread making, egg painting, and embroidery

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 6:

Explore Croatia, and savor a home-hosted lunch in Vukovar

As we make landfall in Croatia today, prepare for two memorable experiences to unfold. The first is a visit to a Franciscan monastery before we join a local family in their home for a riveting lunch. Learn more about day-to-day life, regional food, and Croatian culture as we break bread with welcoming hosts. 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.

Vantage Exclusive:
  • Home-hosted Croatian lunch and cultural exchange in Vukovar
Included Feature:
  • Explore the 19th-century Eltz Manor, a Neo-Baroque palace that hosts the Vukovar City Museum
Cultural Connections:
  • Meet local schoolchildren or hear live guitar in the courtyard
  • Enjoy entertainment onboard with a folk music performance by a local tamburitza orchestra

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 7:

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. Ready to raise your glass? Set off on a fun pub crawl later this afternoon. 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.

Included Feature:

  • Half-day city tour of Belgrade including a visit to the Church of Saint Sava
Cultural Connections:
  • Onboard lecture: Serbia Today
  • Local folk-style entertainment, including Salt & bread welcome, traditional dress and music
Scenic Sailing:
  • Leaving Belgrade, enjoy views of the Golubac Fortress as you sail to Donji Milanovac

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Optional Tour: Tito's Memorial and Royal Palace

Tito's Memorial and Royal Palace

  • Approximate Cost: $79 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 3.5 hours
  • Location: Belgrade, Serbia
  • When: Afternoon Tour
Start your tour at the Royal Compound in Dedinje, a fashionable district of Belgrade. King Alexander I Karađorđević built it for his family in the 1920s, before his assassination in 1934 changed the course of Yugoslavian history. Today, the Crown Prince Alexander Karađorđević and his family live in the Royal Palace. You’ll enjoy a guided walking tour of the grounds, the Royal Palace, and the Church of Saint Andrej the First-Called, along with a welcome drink. Your next stop is the memorial to former President of Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito and the museum showcasing tributes he received during his rule.

DAY 8:

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.

Included Feature:

  • Take a walking tour of charming Donji Milanovac
Scenic Sailing:
  • 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

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 9:

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 presentation 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.

Included Features:

  • Local children perform traditional dance
  • Learn about icon painting from a local artist
  • Meet an Orthodox priest
Cultural Connection:
  • Enjoy an evening of folk entertainment

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 10:

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.

Cultural Connection:

  • Have lunch with local university students

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 11:

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.

Included Feature:

  • Visit the infamous People’s Palace, or take a walking tour of Manuc’s Inn
* Please note: Travelers embarking on the Transylvania post-trip extension will transfer to Brasov and follow Day 12 of the itinerary. Extension travelers will complete Day 11 of the base itinerary on Day 15 of the extension.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 12:

Travel 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.

Vantage Exclusive:

  • Stop for lunch in the beautiful mountain town of Sinaia and visit Peles Castle

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 13:

Return home

Transfer to the Bucharest airport today for your return flight home.

Included Meals:


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.

Contact Vantage

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Passage to Eastern Europe featuring Transylvania - 2020

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