Day 1: Prague
Arrive at Václav Havel Airport PRague. If your cruise/tour package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the hotel.
Day 2: Prague
Is it possible not to be completely enchanted by Prague, with its fabled skyline of spires, fortress-like castle, beautifully preserved architecture and iconic Charles Bridge? A magnet for generations of artists, writers, scientists and composers, Prague is famous for its dynamic energy and elegant ambiance (and the beers here are pretty amazing, too). A thousand years of architecture, from ornate Gothic to fanciful postmodern, have been beautifully preserved in Prague, which has been a magnet for artists, writers, scientists and composers for centuries. It also boasts great beer, a lively art scene and up-and-coming fashion designers, making it a fun as well as a beautiful place to visit.Featured Excursions:Prague city tourGet an overview of the city with a panoramic tour that carries you past such sights as the State Opera House, the National Museum and Wenceslas Square on your way to massive Prague Castle. Step inside the castle’s protective walls and enter a self-contained city, with courtyards, palaces, towers, churches and gardens designed for kings and emperors, along with housing and workplaces for all those who tended the rulers. Among the highlights are lofty St. Vitus Cathedral, which took 600 years to finish, and Vladislav Hall, whose complex stone-vaulting system was one of the most advanced engineering feats of the late Middle Ages. After strolling through Golden Lane, a street of quaint cottages where Prague’s 17th-century goldsmiths lived (alas, there’s no truth to the legend that it was named for the royal alchemists), you may reboard the motorcoach for a ride back to the hotel or continue your guided walk through the picturesque Lesser Quarter, the district around the castle, to Charles Bridge. Cross the landmark bridge named for Charles IV, who ordered its construction in 1357; it’s strictly for pedestrians now, so you can pause and look down at the Vltava below you and examine some of the statues that line the bridge, before you head to Old Town Square. This was the original market square; the buildings that surround it form a case study in Prague’s architectural history. You’ll find Prague’s most famous Gothic church, Our Lady Before Týn, there, along with the 14th-century Old Town Hall (which boasts a famous medieval astronomical clock), the beautiful baroque St. Nicholas, the rococo Kinsky Palace and a group of Renaissance houses.Exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of Prague’s Estates Theatre and Municipal HousePrague adored Mozart, and Mozart adored Prague; he wrote his opera Don Giovanni specifically for the city and its handsome new theater and conducted its premiere there in 1787. Get an exclusive insider’s look at the exquisite jewel-box theater, where operas are staged to this day. The proscenium, the king’s box and the putti decorating the rows of boxes all evoke Mozart’s era. Listen to a short concert of music composed by Mozart and his contemporaries in the Mozart Salon before enjoying traditional Czech refreshments at the café in Municipal House, the premier art nouveau building in Prague.
Day 3: Prague, Transfer to Nuremberg (Embark)
Nuremberg will forever be associated with the post-WWII Nuremberg trials, but the city’s profound historical and cultural significance stretches back many centuries before that. You’ll gain a newfound understanding and appreciation of both aspects of the city today on an in-depth tour with a local expert. Leave Prague this morning and travel via motorcoach to Nuremberg, where your ship awaits. Before you embark on your river voyage, you’ll have time to enjoy lunch on your own and then explore historic Nuremberg and visit sites associated with the rise and fall of the Third Reich. One of Germany’s leading cities for many centuries, Nuremberg’s glowing heritage as a center of German arts, culture and economy was, sadly, also responsible for its disastrous experience in the 1930s and 1940s.Featured Excursions:Nuremberg city tour with WWII Rally Grounds visitHitler considered Nuremberg the perfect expression of German culture, partly because of its significance in the Holy Roman Empire (which he called the First Reich), and so beginning in 1927, he chose to hold his massive rallies in the city. By 1933, his favorite architect, Albert Speer, had designed the vast Nazi Party Rally Grounds, where thousands upon thousands of Nazi troops saluted Hitler. (Leni Riefenstahl captured these events in her famous propaganda film Triumph of the Will.) Not all of Speer’s plans were executed, and some of his grandiose structures were bombed out of existence during WWII, but the remainder stand as vivid testimony to Hitler’s megalomania. A four-square-mile (10-square-kilometer) complex known as Zeppelin Fields contains parade grounds and a huge grandstand, the excavation site where a stadium for 400,000 people was begun—the hole is now filled with water—and the half-finished Congress Hall. Step into Congress Hall, intended to outdo and outlast the Colosseum in Rome, to study the exhibition in the Documentation Center called “Fascination and Terror,” which covers the causes, the context and the consequences of the National Socialist reign of terror. Leaving behind the Third Reich’s mementos, you’ll discover the medieval city built by the Holy Roman emperors. Prosperous, secure and vibrant, Nuremberg lured artists and thinkers, merchants and scientists, for centuries. Trace the great ramparts and gate towers around the Old Town. Stroll through the castle gardens and enjoy breathtaking views of the city, then walk through a maze of cobblestone lanes down to the central Market Square, gathering around the well-named Beautiful Fountain, first erected in 1396. The red sandstone Church of Our Lady stands on the east side of the square—the 14th-century façade survived WWII bombing and, like much of Old Town, was meticulously reconstructed after the war, with the original stones plucked from the rubble. Browse the area on your own after your tour; your guide can suggest some delightful spots where you can enjoy lunch on your own.
Day 4: Cruising the Main-Danube Canal, Regensburg
Come out on deck or find a window seat where you can watch the ship navigate a series of locks as it travels through one of the modern world’s greatest feats of engineering—the Main-Danube canal. The Main-Danube canal is a masterwork of engineering: It allows ships of all shapes and sizes to cruise from the Black Sea all the way to the North Sea, through no fewer than 15 countries. Sixteen locks punctuate the 106-mile (160-kilometer) stretch between Kelheim and Bamberg, linking the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. Building the canal was no small task, especially considering changes of altitude (each river is different); the locks gently lift and lower the ships an astonishing 1,332 feet (406 meters) over the continental divide. Efforts to connect the rivers began with Charlemagne in AD 793, but the present-day canal was only completed in 1992. Come up on deck and watch as your ship negotiates a set of locks on its way to Regensburg. Once you reach the beautiful UNESCO-designated city, you have a variety of ways to see a town that has been an international trading hub for 2,000 years.Featured Excursions:“2,000 Years in One Hour” Regensburg walking discovery tourPeople have been describing Regensburg as “old and new” for a thousand years. A single structure perfectly illustrates this: Porta Praetoria, the gate built by the Romans during Marcus Aurelius’s reign. The gate and adjacent watchtower have been incorporated into a much newer building, but the plaster has been removed to reveal the ancient stones laid so long ago. As you walk through the cobbled lanes of the UNESCO-designated Old Town, the city’s 2,000-year history similarly revealed: the Stone Bridge built by ambitious residents in the 12th century that made Regensburg a trading powerhouse, the Gothic town hall where the Imperial Diet met for three centuries, the 13th-century fortified patrician houses, and the spectacular Cathedral of St. Peter, whose magnificent 14th-century stained glass windows alone are worth your walk. You’ll have free time to explore on your own; it’s very hard to get lost in Regensburg because the spires of the cathedral are visible all over town, so don’t hesitate to roam. The historic quarter not only boasts almost a thousand beautiful old buildings but also many cozy pubs and some great shopping—and the ship is docked conveniently close, so it’s easy to drop your treasures off and go back for more.Jewish Regensburg walking discovery tourA white marble installation called Place of Encounter stands on the spot where a synagogue was destroyed in 1519. The installation, by Dani Karavan, reflects the outlines of the synagogue, taken from a drawing made immediately before the interior was demolished. It’s just one of the mementos you’ll see on your tour of this historic Jewish district, which was home to a thriving Jewish community for 500 years; its celebrated school drew Talmudic scholars from all of Central Europe. Jews in Ratisbon, as the town was known in medieval documents, enjoyed imperial protection, but following the death of Maximilian I, the town council banished all Jews and razed their homes and synagogue. The community grew again over the centuries, though the sad history of death and destruction was repeated in the 1930s. The Jewish quarter was re-established in 1945 by Holocaust survivors. It has taken decades, but the synagogue and much of the surrounding area have now been restored, standing as a symbol of both destruction and hope.BMW factory visitHere is your opportunity to see German engineering, famous the world over, in operation as you tour the state-of-the-art BMW factory on the outskirts of Regensburg. About a thousand cars a day roll off the assembly line here, many of them in the BMW 3 series. You’ll see the fascinating production process from beginning to end, starting with rolls of sheet metal that are stamped out into body parts and continuing as the body is built and the various other elements are robotically assembled. You’ll follow a car into the finishing department to see it painted, polished and have the final touch applied—the BMW roundel. NOTE: If the tour lands on a day when the BMW factory is closed, we will visit the Audi factory instead. The Audi production line is closed on weekends, so if your visit is scheduled for a weekend, you will see the Audi museum instead.In the evening, a special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.
Day 5: Straubing, Cruising the Danube River, Passau
You have two tantalizing excursions to experience today, including a walking tour and brewery visit in Straubing, plus a choice of adventures in Passau.Featured Excursions:Straubing walking discovery tour with brewery visitPerfectly situated on the banks of the Danube, Straubing is an old town filled with centuries worth of history, culture and tradition. How old is it? The first known settlements here can be traced all the way back to 6000 BC. Your local expert will show you the highlights, followed by a visit to a local brewery. Passau is a crossroads in more ways than one—three rivers meet here and three nations nearly do, making for a fascinating cultural mosaic.Passau walking discovery tourThe skyline of Passau is dominated by two buildings that owe their existence to the prince-bishops who ruled the city until 1803: the great fortress looming on a hill above the three rivers, home to the bishops until the 17th century, and the green onion domes of St. Stephan’s Cathedral. As you walk through the cobblestone streets toward those green onion domes, you’ll realize that Passau retains the layout of the medieval town. However, many of the wooden medieval buildings burned to the ground in the 17th century, and the prince-bishops imported Italian artists to build a new cathedral and a magnificent new residence for the bishops themselves. As a result, these splendid structures flaunt Italian baroque and rococo style and ornamentation, complete with opulent gilding and wonderful frescoes. Your guide will introduce you to some of the architectural highlights—the rococo stairways of the New Residence; the cathedral; and the Town Hall, which boasts a magnificent atrium adorned by large paintings by Ferdinand Wagner—and make sure you get a close-up view of the point where the three rivers meet.Passau city tour with Old Town walkBoard a motorcoach for a drive along the Danube, crossing over the river and climbing the hill to the Oberhaus fortress. It may look like typical red-roofed Bavarian palace now, but for hundreds of years, the prince-bishops used it to enforce their rule over the region; the citizens of Passau assaulted it twice— without success—in an effort to gain their freedom from the bishops. The bishops threw religious dissidents as well as political enemies into the Oberhaus prison, so it was known as the Bastille of Bavaria for a time. From the walls here you can see how the fortress dominated the city below, and you also get a fabulous view of the three rivers merging. Your panoramic tour continues with a drive through Passau, over the Inn River, and into the heart of the old city. A stroll through historic Passau shows you the highlights: the town hall, the lovely baroque churches, the twisting medieval layout. It’s no mistake that St. Stephan’s Cathedral stands on the highest ground in the old town; Passau has flooded often over the centuries. You can see the high-water marks on the buildings as you pass them, and your knowledgeable local guide can tell you about the city’s plans to control flooding in the riverfront areas as you head back to the ship.Exclusive guided “Let's Go” Bavarian river bicycle rideBicyclists have a treat in store today. Borrow a bike and, with an expert local guide, take the bike ferry across the Danube to the path that borders the river. You’ll pedal through the breathtaking countryside between Engelhartszell and Passau—orchards and meadows glide past, along with the occasional castle, charming village or picturesque ruin. Naturally, you’ll stop in a traditional beer garden for a little refreshment (perhaps you’ll be able to wave at the ship as it cruises past). Finally, you’ll roll into Passau and wend your way among the lanes of the historic city center to the ship.
Day 6: Engelhartszell, cruising the Danube River
This may be the most leisurely day of your entire journey, as you spend it onboard, admiring the scenery, chatting with new friends and perhaps enjoying a massage in the spa. Your ship leaves Germany behind today, sailing into Austria and cruising through the Schlögener Schinge-a hairpin loop in the Danube that was once very hazardous for ships.
Day 7: Spitz (Spitz or Melk), cruising the Wachau Valley
Your ship will dock in Spitz, midway through the glorious landscape, where you are faced with a difficult choice: Do you explore a charming riverbank village or visit one of the most beautiful libraries in the world? Later in the day, you’ll want to find a comfortable seat in the lounge or on the Sun Deck as your ship cruises through the Wachau Valley. Over the eons, the Danube cut a gorge through the foothills of the Bohemian Mountains, resulting in a 19-mile (30-kilometer) stretch of riverine scenery so beautiful, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Landscape.Featured Excursions:Spitz village stroll with exclusive wine tastingWine grapes grow in the heart of the village, which was built around “Thousand Bucket Mountain,” so called because the vineyards planted on it have produced a thousand buckets of wine a year. What kind of wine? Riesling and Grüner Veltliner, Austria’s very own varietal. Ramble with your local guide along the cobblestone lanes of Spitz, passing baroque and Renaissance-era houses and perhaps pausing to admire the 15th-century parish church, on your way to one of the wine estates that dominate the slopes above the town. There you’ll sample some of the wonderful local wines and have a chance to check out another specialty of the Wachau, apricots, which are turned into all sorts of delicacies, from jam and schnapps to strudel. You may opt to walk back to the ship on your own, browsing through the tiny shops along the way, or continue with your guide to hike uphill to the Red Gate, the only remaining gate in the medieval wall that once guarded Spitz. (Legend says that the gate got its name during the Thirty Years’ War, when the defenders’ blood stained the gate red.) Leave the town behind and hike through the steep vineyards with your guide, learning about the unique qualities of the soil, climate and terrain that make the region’s wine so special.Melk Abbey with library visitThe Babenbergs, a great medieval ducal family that controlled a wide swath of Austria before yielding to the Habsburgs, were the first to erect a castle on the hill above Melk, which they subsequently gave to Benedictine monks. These monks, some 900 years ago, turned it into a fortified abbey—and the greatest center of learning in Central Europe. Their library was celebrated far and wide (and still is: Umberto Eco paid tribute to it in his best-selling novel The Name of the Rose); monks there created more than 1,200 manuscripts, sometimes spending an entire lifetime hand-lettering a single volume. Today the library contains some 100,000 volumes, among them more than 80,000 works printed before 1800. This beautiful complex, completely redone in the early 18th century, is a wonderful example of baroque art and architecture, and the views from its terrace are spectacular. As you walk through the abbey’s Marble Hall with your guide, look up at the ceiling fresco painted by Paul Troger: Those classical gods and goddesses represent Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, allegorically bringing his people from dark to light and demonstrating the link he claimed to the original Roman Empire. After your tour of the abbey, you’ll have time to explore Melk on your own, or you can take the motorcoach back to the ship.
Day 8: Vienna
A city tour will show you the architectural highlights of the Austrian capital as well as the legendary opera house in the heart of the city. Or, indulge your passion for art with visits to two distinctively different collections—a “cabinet of curiosities” collected by the Habsburgs and the Belvedere’s extraordinary cache of paintings by Klimt and other renowned artists. The grand dame of the Danube, Vienna was the heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and remains, to this day, the political and cultural center of Austria. Klimt painted here; Beethoven and Mozart composed here; Freud developed his theories here. It’s a treasure trove of splendid architecture, astonishing art collections and inviting cafés—and today it is yours to explore.Featured Excursions:Vienna city tour with Vienna State Opera visitA panoramic tour will show you the architectural highlights of the Habsburg capital—the City Hall, the Hofburg, St. Charles’s Church and other landmarks—but it will also take you to the legendary opera house in the heart of the city. The neo-Renaissance theater opened in 1869 with a performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (Mozart’s operas continue to be a mainstay of its annual season, during which some 50 operas are staged). Though the building was damaged during WWII, the main entrance, foyer and grand staircase were unharmed and retain their original grandeur and artwork. Spend some time admiring this handsome structure, then stroll through the neighborhood—which just happens to include the Hotel Sacher, the imperial palace complex, Vienna’s poshest shopping streets and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. You’ll be able to explore the cathedral on your own: It is truly magnificent. Erected in the 14th century, partly from Roman ruins, St. Stephen’s is as closely linked to the musical history of the empire as it is to imperial politics and religion. Mozart was married and buried here; Vivaldi’s funeral took place here; and Beethoven realized he was completely deaf when he could not hear the great bell ringing. Note: The Vienna State Opera House is occasionally closed to visitors for rehearsals or special events without advance notice. If we cannot visit the opera house, we will visit an alternative venue instead.Exclusive “Vienna, City of Arts” tourThe sheer number of artistic gems on view in Vienna is overwhelming. Let an art historian provide you with knowledgeable guidance as you visit two extraordinary— and quite different—collections. The objects assembled at the Kunstkammer Vienna almost defy description. For centuries the Habsburgs collected curiosities that caught their fancies: an automaton of the goddess Diana riding a centaur, a priceless salt cellar made by Benvenuto Cellini, Renaissance tapestries, exquisite gold communion cups, sculptures and ivories—the range is staggering. The Kunstkammer Vienna was closed for more than a decade and only reopened in 2013; now these precious, idiosyncratic and magical pieces are once again on public view. The collections at the Belvedere, by contrast, concentrate on paintings and sculpture. The Belvedere palace complex, a triumph of baroque architecture, was built for Prince Eugene of Savoy, the Habsburg Empire’s leading general in the early 18th century. The Upper Belvedere houses the world’s largest group of works by Gustav Klimt, including his exquisite The Kiss, as well as paintings by Monet, Van Gogh and Renoir, among many others. Note: The Kunstkammer Vienna is closed on Mondays between September and May. If the tour lands on a Monday, Albertina Museum will be visited instead.
Day 9: Budapest
Located on opposite sides of the Danube, Buda and Pest each has a distinctive character and allure all its own. Explore this dynamic and multi-faceted city with your choice of excursions—you can see it from a local’s perspective on our exclusive walking tour, or cover more ground with a panoramic tour. Vibrant Budapest, Hungary’s capital, offers an enchanting combination of East and West, old and new. Even its geography is made up of two parts—Buda (the hills) and Pest (the flatlands)—divided by the Danube. Appropriately enough, you have your choice of two different ways to explore it today.Featured Excursions:Budapest city tourThis panoramic tour is a wonderful way to get an overview of the city if you have never been here before. It will carry you from Heroes’ Square, created in 1896 to honor the thousand-year anniversary of Hungary’s founding and its greatest historical figures, past some of the city’s most striking architectural sights—Dohány Street Synagogue, the Hungarian National Museum, the state opera house, St. Stephen’s Basilica and the truly stunning Parliament Building—to Castle Hill, which has been called the heart of the nation. The city of Buda began here, when King Béla built a strong keep in 1243 as a defense against Mongol invaders; a castle replaced the simple fortress, and over the centuries other castles replaced that one. The current castle is primarily 18th century; a museum dedicated to Budapest’s archaeological finds is housed there, and the Castle Hill district has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll go inside the magnificent 700-year-old Matthias Church, named for one of Hungary’s greatest kings, and then wend your way on foot to the picturesque Fisherman’s Bastion, whose seven fairytale-like towers represent the seven tribes that originally settled the region. It offers a glorious view of the city and the Danube below. Note: Visits to the interior of Matthias Church may not be possible on some weekends and Catholic holidaysExclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Budapest walking tourGet ready for a fun immersion in daily life in Budapest— your local guide will show you how to use the metro (one of the oldest in Europe) to easily reach all the city has to offer. Start with a visit to one of the city’s irresistible market halls. Stalls spill over with produce, sausages and meats, festoons of dried paprika, cheeses, and jars of honey, all of it authentically Hungarian. After you leave the market, stop for coffee and a sweet treat at Szamos Gourmet Palace, a combination pastry shop, café and chocolate maker in Vörösmarty Square. Marzipan is a favorite confection in Budapest, and Szamos has specialized in making it since the 1930s, so you might want to try some—but the shop’s truffle selection is equally irresistible. Refreshed, you’ll be ready to hop back on the tram for a visit to the gracious green spaces of Károlyi Garden, sometimes described as Budapest’s most charming small park. You’ll ramble along the boulevards and pass the Hungarian National Museum, truly getting the feel for this dynamic city, as you head back toward the ship.A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.
Day 10: Budapest (Disembark)
You’ve experienced the best of Prague and the Danube River, sampling myriad culinary delights and exploring fascinating stops along the way. Now your journey comes to a close (unless you’ve booked a Uniworld post-cruise tour of Budapest) and it’s time to disembark the ship. If your cruise/tour includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport for your flight home. Your Uniworld adventure may be over, but we know you’ll enjoy the memories you’ve made for years to come.