Arrive Vienna / Embark Riverboat
Vienna - Images of St. Nicholas - with his devilish nemesis, Krampus - Advent wreaths, twinkling lights, roasting chestnuts, sausages and kartoffelpuffer (potato cakes), hot glühwein and fruity punsch... all signs of Christmastime in Vienna! Many Christkindlmarkts big and small grace Austria's capital at yuletide; magic's in the air at the Wiener Christkindlmarkt on the Rathausplatz in front of the city hall, Vienna's oldest and largest Christmas Market... live music, tastefully lit trees, holiday arts and crafts, tempting treats and smiling faces are everywhere. And at opulent Schönbrunn Palace, you'll tour rooms that the Habsburgs once lived in, and browse through lovely hand-blown glass ornaments, red Viennese hearts, Victorian-style sweets and other treasures in the palace's own, equally impressive Christmas Market... guaranteed to warm your heart.
Tour begins: 4:45 PM, Vienna, Austria. A transfer is included from Vienna International Airport to ms Savor or ms Joy. Guests enjoying a pre-stay in Vienna will receive a transfer from Tauck's hotel to the riverboat. Welcome to old Vienna... bright with decorations and buzzing with holiday spirit; exploring on your own at the city's largest yuletide market, you may feel like you've stepped into a snow globe as you're surrounded by thousands of twinkling lights! Return to the riverboat for the captain's welcome reception followed by dinner early this evening... then followed by a visit to Vienna's Christmas Markets, illuminated at night.
Vienna for the holidays
"Imperial" Vienna, which you'll explore on a sightseeing tour along the Ringstrasse this morning, seems even grander with Christmas decorations everywhere you look. Get a glimpse of what "happy Habsburg family holidays" might have been like on a tour of Schönbrunn Palace, and take in the palace's own Christmas Market. Enjoy a Christmas lunch at the Palais Pallavicini, a private Baroque palace dating back to the 18th century. Then spend an afternoon at leisure to sample more of Vienna's holiday cheer and Christmas Markets; complimentary shuttles run back and forth between the city and the riverboat. Tonight, your riverboat sets off on its 7-night Danube cruise, bound first for Melk; after dinner, you're invited to help trim the ship's Christmas tree and enjoy some seasonal treats. Cruising to the Christmas Markets along the Danube offers a completely different experience than similar cruises in Spring, Summer and Autumn!
Melk Abbey at Christmastime
Melk - Perched high on a rocky bluff overlooking the Danube and the town of Melk, Stift Melk (Melk Abbey) has shone as a beacon of culture and learning since its founding nearly a millennium ago. Its 18th-century Baroque complex is home to a magnificent church adorned with gold statues and frescoes, a stunning library containing medieval manuscripts, and its own Christmas legend - about a miraculous visit from the Virgin Mary and the Christ child, and a young novice whose juggling so entertained the infant that he clapped for joy.
This morning, visit Melk Abbey high atop its bluff overlooking the Danube, where this bastion of culture has stood for nearly a millennium - and its 18th-century Baroque church, monastery and library take on a special quality during the holiday season. Learn about traditional holiday treats like stollen or glühwein as the riverboat continues cruising the Danube from Melk this afternoon, arriving this evening in Linz. After dinner, enjoy an onboard classical music performance by Donau Klang.
Tis' the season in Salzburg & Linz
Salzburg / Linz - The angelic voices of choirs singing carols on Cathedral Square... the pealing bells of old Salzburger Dom, overlooking neat rows of lit-up booths fragrant with the aroma of roasted almonds and hot mulled wine... ornate Baroque domes, towers and rooftops tipped with snow in the heart of Old Town... the clatter of horse-drawn carriages over cobblestoned streets... sweet candy apples and marzipan... the warm laughter of families having the time of their lives... and music everywhere, in the city that gave us Mozart. The Christmas Markets of Salzburg, a true feast for the senses... and Linz's Christkindlmarkt, the curving roofs of its stalls symbolizing the waves of the Danube.
Wake up in Linz, Austria, for a full-day excursion to Mozart's magical hometown of Salzburg, with its Baroque town center dressed in its holiday best. After exploring the Christkindlmarkt in this charming city, have lunch at Stiftskeller St. Peter, one of Europe's oldest restaurants, located on the premises of historic St. Peter's Abbey. Following some free time, return to Linz for a different Christmas Market experience... and, as you've learned, each town's market has something all its own to offer. Or, if you prefer, spend the entire day in Linz, enjoying its Christmas Market, exploring as you please, or alternatively just relaxing aboard the riverboat in anticipation of a busy day tomorrow at the first German Christmas Markets you'll visit.
Passau's seasonal pleasures
Passau - Navigating the narrow lanes and archways of this Bavarian town on the Danube, Ilz and Inn rivers is a pleasure any time of year - but never more so than now, when one of the finest Germany Christmas Markets transforms Passau's historic Baroque center into a wonderland brimming with bratwurst, lebkuchen, glühwein and good cheer. At the center of it all is St. Stephan's Cathedral, whose massive pipe organ - the largest in Europe - stars in concerts throughout the season.
The holiday celebrations of Passau, Germany are spotlighted today on a walking tour of this riverside Bavarian town known for its plentiful churches, exquisite stained glass, famous cathedral organ and well-preserved Baroque architecture... plus time exploring its Christmas Markets, of course! Baking gingerbread... it's one of the best aromas of Christmas! Four generations of the Simon family have perfected the art of making gingerbread, and show you how it's done during a demonstration at Passau's Café Simon. After touring Passau's Weihnachtsmarkt, the afternoon is yours to explore as you please. Join us for a discovery briefing before dinner aboard ship this evening.
Unique markets and more in Regensburg
Regensburg - Sausages and song are big in Regensburg, as your visit to its centuries-old Christkindlmarkt on the Neupfarrplatz will attest. Market goers feast on the city's famed sausages, along with steamed dampfnudel dumplings, gingerbread, roast chestnuts and, naturally, glühwein from Bavarian claret, as they admire the work of glassblowers, chandlers and potters. The Thurn und Taxis family's Palace of St. Emmeram is the setting for your tour and visit to its private Christmas Market. During the season, Germany's Christmas Markets glow with holiday cheer as each town celebrates the season - this Christmas Market in Regensburg is one of the most unique.
You'll understand why Regensburg calls itself "Europe's best-preserved medieval city" on a walking tour of its Christmas Market, set among centuries-old buildings, and time to explore as you please. A visit to the Thurn und Taxis family's Palace of St. Emmeram invites you to tour the palace, browse its fine private Christmas Market, and interact with artisans displaying their wares; rumor has it that Her Highness Princess Gloria and family often wander through!
History & holiday cheer in Nürnberg
Nürnberg - On Nürnberg's main market square opposite the Church of Our Lady sits the most famous Christmas Market in Germany, with its iconic, golden-haired Christmas Angel and charming Zwetchgenmannle ("Plum People") - unique to Bavaria and made from dried plums and other fruits. By the time Christmas Eve rolls around, this "Little Town from Wood and Cloth" will have welcomed two million folks from around the globe - including you - delighting them with its authentic ornaments, Bavarian crafts, Christmas candles, lebkuchen and other kinds of cookies, tasty fruit loaves, tangy gingerbread, handmade toys and glühwein!
After your riverboat docks, take a shore excursion to historic Nürnberg, where sightseeing choices include medieval Nürnberg with its centuries-old ramparts and defensive walls, the old city and marketplace, and a museum in the home of 16th-century painter Albrecht Dürer dedicated to his work - as well as city sites associated with World War II and its aftermath, including the Zeppelinfeld rally grounds, and the Documentation Center museum. Spend time enjoying Nürnberg's famous Weihnachtsmarkt as you please, then join us back aboard the riverboat in Nürnberg to cap your extraordinary Christmas Market cruise with the Captain's farewell reception followed by dinner tonight.
Cruise ends in Nürnberg. Fly home anytime. Transfers are provided from ms Savor or ms Joy to Nürnberg Airport; those guests enjoying a post-stay at in Nürnberg will receive a transfer from Tauck's hotel to the airport. Please allow at least three hours for airport check-in formalities.