Cruise along the southern reaches of the Danube into the heart of the Old World, a land of sophisticated art and culture, medieval wonders, rich folk traditions, fairytale 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. Along the way, 25 included tours and Cultural Connections — boasting small groups of only 20 travelers per excursion — 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, 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.
If you’re interested in this itinerary and want to revel in even more Cultural Discoveries and immersive experiences, check out our combination river cruise Grand European River Cruise. Explore more and save.
Today you’ll board an overnight flight to Budapest, Hungary.
Arrive in Budapest, and settle into your river ship with a Welcome Briefing
Arrive in Budapest today. If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, a 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 join the program today. Tonight, attend a Welcome Briefing and the Captain’s Welcome Reception — enjoy a drink in the lounge before dinner on board.
Vantage Onboard Enrichment:
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.
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!
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. You’ll 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. You’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.
Learn about modern Serbia, and visit Belgrade to 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 and bread welcome via traditionally-dressed Serbians and an accordion player.
Destination Enhancement: Customize your journey when you add an optional excursion. Visit Josep 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. Return to the ship to enjoy a children's traditional folk dance performance before lunch onboard.
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 on "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 your journey as you sail toward the Bulgarian port town, Ruse. Just before lunch, the BBQ will be fired upon the sun deck for a festive Balkan-style cooking demo, weather permitting. The dish? Cevapcici, or traditional Balkan sausages.
This afternoon, you’ll learn about the Bulgarian tradition of icon painting from a local artist, and then meet a local Orthodox priest.
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 Cocktail Reception.
Panoramic Bucharest tour
This morning, you’ll disembark and transfer to Bucharest, Romania’s largest city and capital, where you’ll have 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 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, savor a delicious dinner in your 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. This evening, you'll gather together once more for a Farewell Dinner 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.