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Passage to Eastern Europe featuring Transylvania - 2021

9-night river cruise with Budapest, Kalocsa, Mohacs, Vukovar, Belgrade, Donji Milanovac, Iron Gates, Ruse, Veliko Tarnovo, Arbanasi • Bucharest • Sinaia
  • DISCOVER PAPRIKA BREAD MAKING, EMBROIDERY, AND EGG PAINTING DURING A FOLKLORE WORKSHOP IN KALOCSA
  • ENJOY A FOLKLORIC DANCE PERFORMANCE BY LOCAL CHILDREN ONBOARD
  • REVEL IN FASCINATING TRADITIONS AND STORYBOOK SCENERY AS YOU CRUISE THROUGH FIVE COUNTRIES
  • SPEND A FULL DAY IN CHARMING 12TH-CENTURY VELIKO TARNOVO, WHERE YOU'LL LUNCH WITH LOCAL STUDENTS
  • TRAVEL TO LEGEND-HAUNTED TRANSYLVANIA IN CENTRAL ROMANIA
DATES & PRICES
STARTING FROM
$4,099
  • $341
    PER DAY
  • 12
    DAYS
  • 28
    TOURS
TRIP WITH AIR
13 DAYS FROM $4,898
Luxury
Extend Your journey (2 available)
Warsaw & Krakow

6 DAYS FROM $1,299

Transylvania, Romania

4 DAYS FROM $799

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Cruise along the southern reaches of the Danube into the heart of the Old World, a land of sophisticated art and culture, medieval keeps, rich folk traditions, fairy-tale villages, bountiful comfort food, and so much more. Your itinerary takes you between elegant Budapest and fascinating Bucharest, visiting five different countries: Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Every day, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of how the region’s native cultures all thrived in different ways under the influences of Slavic migrations, Roman colonization, Mongol invasion, Ottoman conquest, Habsburg expansion, Soviet authority, and more. Along the way, 28 included tours and Cultural Connections reveal fascinating attractions and the spirit of eastern Europe. Be the lunch guest of a Croatian family in their home . . . hoist a few with the locals during a Belgrade pub crawl . . . learn your Cyrillic ABCs from Serbian schoolchildren . . . try your hand at Hungarian crafts in the folk village of Kalocsa . . . and more.

A unique bonus will be your included visit to legendary Transylvania, long associated with Count Dracula. Your visit showcases the romantic region once ruled by Dracula’s real-life inspiration, the notorious Vlad “the Impaler” Dracula. But you’ll find that Transylvania’s supernatural mystique is surpassed by its natural beauty, for this Carpathian jewel is Romania’s most unspoiled and pleasant retreat — a must-see.

Finally, you can add even more excitement and value to your time overseas with optional pre- and post-trip extensions. Discover Poland, where you’ll tour historic Warsaw and the medieval gem, Krakow — both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Also featured are moving visits to Auschwitz and Birkenau. You can also spend more time in Transylvania, delving deeper into the vivid folk customs, mountain scenery, historic palaces, and the actual Bran Castle, where the fictional Dracula was said to reside. It’s a thought-provoking, spine-tingling, and budget-pleasing way to maximize your discovery!

Budapest to Bucharest

Pre-Trip Extension

Warsaw & Krakow

FROM: $1299 PER PERSON | 6 DAYS | $216 PER DAY
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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 the Captain’s Welcome Reception — 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:

Dinner

DAY 3:

Explore Pest, visit the Central Market Hall, and a Jewish Heritage optional tour

Divided by the Danube, Budapest is actually two cities — Buda and Pest — and its entire urban landscape has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today you’ll have two choices for included sightseeing here:

Explore the best of historic Pest, beginning with an inside visit to St. Stephen’s Basilica, the most important church in the country. Named for Hungary’s first king, it stands 314 feet high and by ordinance, no other building in Budapest may surpass its height. You’ll also see City Park; Heroes’ Square with its stirring monument to the seven Magyar chieftains; and elegant Andrássy Avenue, lined with neo-Renaissance palaces and homes. Your tour also offers a peek at the iconic Parliament building, which you’ll explore in-depth tomorrow.

If you choose to forego today’s Pest tour, as an alternative you can join your Concierge for a sensory experience like none other: a visit to the Central Market Hall, Budapest’s oldest and largest indoor market. Dedicated to all things culinary, it has a lively fish market and pickled vegetable stalls in the basement; a ground floor for produce, baked goods, meats, cheeses, candies, spices, and spirits; and an upper level lined with eateries and souvenir shops. Eye-popping displays, heavenly aromas, the sounds of hawkers and sizzling grills, the feel of being immersed in daily life, and of course, the mouthwatering tastes, will leave you quite satisfied.

The afternoon is free for you to explore on your own, borrow one of the 20 bikes on board to cycle around Budapest, or join our optional Jewish Heritage tour that reveals the historic Jewish Quarter.

Back on the ship this evening, a folk music and dance show rings in your eastern European journey in style.

Included Feature:

  • Tour the best parts of Pest, including St. Stephen’s Basilica, 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: $49 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 visit Castle Hill to enjoy the turrets and lookouts of Fisherman’s Bastion. This afternoon, your ship will cast off towards Kalocsa.

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:

Hands-on discovery in the folk center of Kalocsa, and tour choices in historic Pécs

After an early breakfast you’ll depart for a full day of exploration.

Visit the town of Kalocsa today and embark on a city tour that includes folk art workshops where you’ll try your hand at egg painting, embroidery, and the making of traditional Hungarian paprika bread. You’ll taste some local treats, too, before transferring to the pretty main square and entering Kalocsa’s cathedral for an organ concert.

You’ll then transfer by coach to charming Pécs in the foothills of the Mecsek Mountains. After lunch in a local restaurant, here, you’ll set off on a walking tour that includes a visit to the city’s UNESCO-listed Sopianae Necropolis, a Roman-era Christian burial site that harkens back to the 4th century. Built as underground burial chambers with above-ground chapels, these tombs are richly decorated with religious murals. Your visit involves some walking but if you prefer, as an alternative you may sign up in advance to enjoy a hour-long panoramic city tour by mini-train. Afterwards, you'll transfer by coach to Mohacs, board your river ship once more, and set sail for your 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 opt instead for an hour-long panoramic city tour by mini-train (advance sign up required)
Cultural Connection:
  • Folk art work shop in Kalocsa including paprika bread making, egg painting, and embroidery

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 6:

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 neo-baroque 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.

Vantage Exclusive:

  • Home-hosted Croatian lunch and cultural exchange in Vukovar
Included Features:
  • Learn about the monastic tradition when you visit a Franciscan monastery
  • Meet local schoolchildren or hear live guitar in the courtyard
  • Explore the 19th-century Eltz Manor, a Neo-Baroque palace that hosts the Vukovar City Museum
Cultural Connection:
  • Enjoy entertainment onboard with a folk music performance by a local tamburitza orchestra

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 7:

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. You can also choose to experience an optional tour of Tito's Memorial and the Royal Palace after lunch.

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.

Included Feature:

  • Half-day city tour of Belgrade
Cultural Connections:
  • Onboard lecture: Serbia Today
  • Pub crawl through town
  • Local folk-style entertainment, including Salt & bread welcome, traditional dress and music
Biking Opportunity:

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:

Experience Serbian village life, and the majestic Iron Gates

Some morning discovery is complemented by an afternoon of scenic cruising, as you pass through some Danube locks 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. Here, you’ll enjoy a fascinating introduction to the Cyrillic alphabet, the script invented by a Byzantine monk in the 9th century that is 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. 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.

Included Feature:

  • Take a walking tour of charming Donji Milanovac
Cultural Connection:
  • Learn about the Cyrillic alphabet at a local school

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 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 before our evening entertainment comes on board.

Cultural Connections:

  • Lecture Series: "Bulgaria, Romania & the EU"
  • Balkan BBQ on the sun deck (weather permitting)
  • Enjoy a traditional dance performance by local children
  • Learn about icon painting from a local artist and meet an Orthodox priest on board
  • Enjoy an evening of folk entertainment

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 10:

Spend a day in 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

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.

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. 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 retreat, Peles Castle, on an included tour. 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 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, or depart to Brasov for your optional Transylvania, Romania extension.

Included Meals:

Breakfast

Post-Trip Extension

Transylvania, Romania

FROM: $799 PER PERSON | 4 DAYS | $200 PER DAY

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.

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