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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 in an effort to better the pacing, two days (Days 3 and 7) from your base journey will take place within your extension. The order of these two base days in the extension itinerary is subject to change.
Today you’ll board an overnight flight to Bucharest, Romania.
Arrive in Bucharest and settle into your hotel with a Welcome Briefing
Arrive in Bucharest today. If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, our representative will meet you outside the arrivals area and assist with your transfer to your hotel in Bucharest. Tonight, attend a Welcome Briefing and enjoy a drink before dinner at the 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 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.
Panoramic Bucharest tour, then explore its historic sites
Today we’ll set off on a panoramic tour of Bucharest, exploring this city's grand monuments and leafy, old-world boulevards, with a choice of entrances at two of the city's landmarks. 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. After lunch, we’ll transfer by coach to Giurgiu and embark our river ship. Tonight, a local folk ensemble provides traditional music during our first dinner.
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.
Later, some local children come on board for a delightful dance performance. After that, we’ll learn about the Bulgarian tradition of icon painting from a local artist, and then meet a local Orthodox priest. Dinner will be on board this evening.
Cruising to Belgrade with a Balkan-style BBQ
The bulk of today will be spent at leisure as we sail toward Belgrade, giving you plenty of time to take advantage of your ship’s many amenities.
As you cruise this morning, a lecture on “Bulgaria, Romania, and the Expansion of the European Union” offers some contemporary context to our journey. 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 evening, gather with your fellow travelers for a Welcome Dinner on board.
Cruise the majestic Iron Gates, and experience Serbian village life
Enjoy a morning of scenic cruising as you pass through some Danube locks with insightful narration. It’s complemented by an afternoon of cultural discovery.
Relax on deck this morning 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.
After lunch you’ll take 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.
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.
Savor a home-hosted lunch in Vukovar, Croatia
As we make landfall in Croatia today, prepare for two memorable experiences.
Today you’ll immerse yourself in three different aspects of Croatian life. First, learn about the monastic tradition when you visit a Franciscan monastery. 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. Then, if school is in session, we’ll meet some local students, or otherwise attend a guitar concert in a village courtyard.
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.
Tour choices in historic Pécs, and hands-on discovery in the folk center of Kalocsa
After an early breakfast you’ll depart for a full day of exploration.
Transfer by coach to charming Pécs in the foothills of the Mecsek Mountains. 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 an hour-long panoramic city tour by mini-train. We’ll all convene in town for lunch in a local restaurant.
Transfer by coach to the pretty main square of Kalocsa, a Hungarian folk arts town, and enter the local cathedral for an organ concert. Next, your city tour 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 back to your ship for dinner on board and a relaxing evening.
Explore the Pest side or visit the Central Market Hall, plus 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, enjoy a folk music and dance show.
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. We’ll also explore Castle Hill to enjoy the turrets and lookouts of Fisherman’s Bastion.
Transfer to the Budapest airport today for your return flight home.
Experience the resurgence of Warsaw and Krakow on this historical foray into the heart of Poland. You’ll spend three nights in Krakow, one of Europe's most indisputably beautiful cities, before transferring to Warsaw, the elegant capital meticulously restored after its destruction during World War II. Enjoy informative walking tours of each city’s atmospheric and historic districts and visit the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps to explore some of the darkest chapters in world history. Three UNESCO World Heritage Sites round out this extension, as well as a potential fourth when you join our optional Wieliczka Salt Mine tour.
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.