Day 1: Budapest (Embark)
Arrive at Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport. If your cruise 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 ship.
Day 2: Budapest
Located on opposite sides of the Danube, Buda and Pest each has its own distinctive character and charm. Get acquainted this dynamic and multi-faceted city with your choice of excursions—whether you see it on four wheels or on your own two feet, there is much to discover in the Hungarian capital. Called the “Queen of the Danube,” in part because of the way the city hugs the banks of the river, Budapest is an enchanting city that vibrantly mixes East and West, medieval and modern. Made up of two parts—Buda (the hills) and Pest (the flatlands)—and divided by the Danube, Hungary’s capital presents an array of architectural styles that reveal its long and varied history. You’ll have two enticing ways to experience the city—a panoramic guided tour aboard a motorcoach, or discover the Budapest that locals love on a special walking tour.Featured Excursions:
Budapest - panoramic highlights & Opera or Highstreet shoppingThis panoramic tour is a wonderful way to get an overview of the city if you have never been here before. It will carry you along elegant Andrássy Avenue from Heroes’ Square, created in 1896 to honor the thousand- year anniversary of Hungary’s founding and its greatest historical figures, and past the state opera house, taking in some of the city’s other striking architectural sights— Dohány Street Synagogue, the Hungarian National Museum, St. Stephen’s Basilica and the truly stunning Parliament Building—on the way 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, and the Castle Hill district has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll go inside the magni cent 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 holidays.
“Do as the Locals Do” Budapest walking tourGet ready for a fun immersion in the daily life of 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 truf e 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.
Day 3: Cruising the Danube River
Today is your day to relax onboard, enjoying the luxuries of your river cruise ship while soaking in the spectacular scenery all around you. Come up to the Sun Deck to admire the city’s landmarks—strung along the riverbank like pearls on a necklace—as the ship sails out of Budapest toward Vienna. A variety of activities will be available throughout the day, and you’ll have plenty of time to converse with new friends or simply unwind in your riverview stateroom or suite.
Day 4: Vienna
Vienna is a cultural treasure trove revered for its art and music (and sinfully rich pastries). Experience the City of Waltzes with your choice of excursions, as well as VIP access to an extraordinary collection of art—having an opportunity to see these masterpieces in complete privacy is an extra special treat reserved solely for Uniworld guests. And to cap off a perfect Viennese day? An evening concert featuring works by Mozart and Strauss. 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 it’s yours to enjoy. To begin your exploration of this delightful and historic city you may choose between two different guided tours: a panoramic city tour or our exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” walking tour. Another highlight today—our exclusive “Morning with the Masters” at the Vienna Art History Museum. Later, you can discover the endless charms of Vienna at your leisure.Featured Excursions:
“Morning with the Masters” at the Vienna Art History MuseumThe Habsburgs assembled an astonishing collection of artistic treasures over the centuries, which formed the basis for the works now on display at the Vienna Art History Museum (Kunsthistorisches Museum). The doors open early especially for you as you join an art historian for a tour of some of the masterpieces gathered here. View a unique group of works by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Vermeer’s Allegory of Painting, Raphael’s Madonna in the Meadow, and portraits by Rembrandt, Velazquez, Rubens, Titian, Tintoretto, and Van Eyck, among others, in the Picture Gallery. Then move on to the Kunstkammer galleries, where you can see Benvenuto Cellini’s legendary salt cellar (the only gold sculpture he created that has survived to the present day) and hear its remarkable story. Your exclusive tour ends with a reception in the magnificent Cupola Hall, perhaps the architectural highlight of the splendid building.
Vienna - Imperial city highlightsRing Street, the great horseshoe-shaped boulevard lined with many of the city’s major landmarks—Parliament, City Hall, the Vienna State Opera, glorious palaces and museums—is a mere 150 years old, practically an infant for a city of Vienna’s age. It replaced the walls and fortifications that had protected the city for centuries. Its construction was a testament to confidence, forward- thinking and grand urban planning, and it resulted in a 50-year building spree. You’ll pass most of these opulent landmarks on your way to the older section of the city, the area the walls once enclosed.
Later, you’ll walk along Kärntner Street, the celebrated pedestrian boulevard that links the State Opera with St. Stephen’s Cathedral, past the elegant shops on the Graben and the Kohlmarkt. The neighborhood offers a lively combination of historic architecture, street performances, shoppers’ delights and true Viennese atmosphere.
“Do as the Locals Do” Vienna walking tourYear after year, it’s ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world. Experience Vienna as the Viennese do and you will quickly see why—it’s not just because of its beautiful architecture, peerless cultural institutions and epic history. Vienna’s a walkable city, but its public transportation is still excellent. The pleasant parks and open spaces invite outdoor activities. Its cozy coffee houses are the stuff of legend, and so are its pastries and sausage stands. Join an expert local guide for a taste of life as the Viennese live it. Walk along Ring Street, past many of Vienna’s landmark buildings: the Museum of Applied Arts, the baroque-era St. Charles Church, Musikverein (home of the Vienna Philharmonic), the Hofburg, Parliament and City Hall, on your way to Volksgarten, Vienna’s first public park (thanks to Napoleon, who blew up the bastion that had occupied the location), with its roses and fountains. Stroll along the neighboring streets, then take a break at a coffeehouse for a typical Viennese coffee.
After your break, wander through the narrow lanes of Haarhoff, pausing in Jewish Square, with its tribute to the Austrian Jews who died during the Holocaust, before wending your way to Vienna’s oldest square, Hoher Markt, where one of the city’s quirkiest sights awaits you: At noon a Vienna Secession (as the art nouveau movement was known in Austria) clock features a parade of 12 historical figures, ranging from Marcus Aurelius to Joseph Haydn, marking the hour. While you wait for the clock show to begin, sample a classic Viennese treat, sausage, from a nearby stand. The adventure ends with yet another very typical Viennese activity—taking the subway.
You have leisure time after your tour to explore Vienna on your own. You might wish to visit the Albertina Museum, which houses one million old-master prints and an impressive collection of works by 19th- and 20th-century painters, ranging from Renoir to Rothko.
If you’d like to get a little exercise and see a completely different side of Vienna, borrow a bike from the ship and explore Danube Island and Prater Park. (For a wonderful view of the region, ride the Ferris wheel in Prater Park.)
Day 5: Cruising the Wachau Valley, Weissenkirchen (Weissenkirchen or Melk)
Named for its white church, Weissenkirchen may very well be the prettiest village in the Wachau Valley. A local expert will show you around and introduce you to some regional delicacies; later, you can stretch your legs with a vineyard hike that includes a wine tasting. Prefer to go for baroque? Visit the 900-year-old Melk Abbey and its extraordinarily opulent library. Sail through the spectacular scenery of the Wachau Valley—one of the most beautiful stretches of river landscape in all of Europe. The 19-mile-long (30-kilometer- long) valley was formed over many centuries by the Danube River, which slowly wore away a rocky gorge in the foothills of the Bohemian Forest between Krems and Melk. This enchanting region—which boasts steep-sided, densely wooded southern slopes and northern slopes composed of a picturesque mixture of crags and vineyards—is a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape. Dotted along the banks are boutique winemaking communities and historic small towns, like the pleasant village of Weissenkirchen, which you will have the opportunity to explore on a delightfully savory excursion. Or, if you’re feeling active, consider a vineyard hike that will lead you high above the village. Some of Austria’s nest white wines are produced from grapes ripened on the terraces that cling to these rocky slopes, including Grüner Veltliner, which is grown almost exclusively in Austria. If you have a taste for history rather than wine, consider a visit to Melk Abbey, where you’ll explore its massive library and admire its magnificent architecture.Featured Excursions:
Weissenkirchen “Village Day” with vineyard hikeYou’ve seen the apricot orchards along the river banks; now taste the fruit. Begin with an easy walk to Weissenkirchen, which may be the prettiest village in the Wachau—and that’s saying quite a bit. Named for its famous white church, Weissenkirchen is simply picture perfect. Its centuries-old wine estates, houses with colorful flower boxes, lovely gardens and apricot orchards make for a wonderfully idyllic setting between the river and the mountains. Stroll through the town with your guide, stopping at a farm store where local growers display their products, such as wild boar salami, cheeses, jams and traditional poppy-seed sweets. Apricots contribute their essence to many products: jams and brandy, of course, but also chocolates, honey, mustard and chutney, so your stop should be full of fun flavors. Stay in the village and explore a bit on your own or, if you’re up for a hike, join a group on a hike up through the vineyards. A stairway at the church will take you past the ancient cemetery and up to the hiking trail that leads through vineyards planted with Riesling and Grüner Veltliner grapes. You’ll enjoy expansive views over the river valley as you approach your resting point, where you can sample some Wachau wines as your guide explains the qualities that make these vintages unique. Your next treat is an easy walk back to the ship; instead of a reverse hike, you can comfortably stroll back into the village via a different route, passing many small vintners along the way.
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 forti ed 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 darkness to light and demonstrating the link he claimed to the original Roman Empire.
Day 6: Engelhartszell, Cruising the Danube River, Passau
Passau is a crossroads in more ways than one—three rivers meet here and three nations nearly do, making for a fascinating cultural mosaic. Get to know the town with a choice of guided walks. Located at the confluence of three rivers—the Danube, Inn and Ilz—Passau is well known for its ornate baroque cathedral. Long ago, it was a Roman colony in the province of Noricum, called Batavis after an ancient Germanic tribe. Today, the city is unusually well preserved, having been spared the brunt of Allied bombing during WWII, as you’ll see on your walking tour of Passau.Featured Excursions:
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 grand new residence for the bishops themselves. As a result, these splendid structures aunt 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: The waters of each one are a different color. Because it’s built on a peninsula between the Danube and the Inn, the city has flooded often over the centuries; you can see high-water marks on many buildings (2013 saw the worst flooding in 500 years).
Passau panoramic tour with mini hikes
Day 7: Regensburg
Today in Regensburg you have four (!) options for experiencing this medieval gem of a city—select one for the morning and another for the afternoon. You can travel through time, get a crash course on making craft beer, watch high-tech robots assemble the Ultimate Driving Machine or enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the town. Regensburg is a friendly town with quaint cobblestone streets, historic Roman ruins and a UNESCO World Heritage–designated medieval city center. This unspoiled gem was the capital of Bavaria for about 700 years, from the 6th to the 13th centuries. The remnants of Regensburg’s golden age are still on display, particularly in the Stone Bridge, the first bridge to span the Danube, built in the 12th century. This bridge, which is 1,014 feet (309 meters) long, was an architectural wonder in its day. But don’t let Regensburg’s illustrious history fool you into thinking the town’s best days are all in the past. Modern Regensburg is a popular center of higher learning, with more than 30,000 students attending its various colleges and universities. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI was a professor of theology at the University of Regensburg until 1977. Regensburg also frequently appears on lists ranking the world’s best places to live, thanks to its outdoor spaces, historic city center, lively cultural and nightlife scenes, and great shopping.Featured Excursions:
“From Hops Field to Beer Stein” farm visitHops vines growing up their strings in a field tower almost twice a man’s height. They’re grown for their flowers, which add a distinctive flavor to beer—but the fields they grow in add a distinctive flavor to the hops. You could call it terroir for beer, and you can delve into hops cultivation and hops brewing today. Travel through Bavaria’s Holledau region, the largest hops-growing district in the world, and meet an enthusiastic ambassador of hops growing and beer making. She will give you a quick and lively history of hops in Germany—including Bavaria’s law governing the making of beer, which has specified since 1560 that the only ingredients permitted in beer are water, barley and hops—and lead you on a tour through the growing fields her family owns, followed by a craft beer tasting in the cozy barn turned beer hall. It’s a delicious way to get to know a fascinating aspect of the international farm-to-table movement.
“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 is similarly revealed: the Stone Bridge that made Regensburg a 12th-century 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 magni cent 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.
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 various stages of the process, from rolls of sheet metal being stamped out into body parts to watching elements of the car being robotically assembled. Follow an already assembled car into the finishing department to see it painted, polished and have the final touch applied—the BMW roundel.
Note: For safety reasons, BMW does not allow those with pacemakers or insulin pumps to participate in factory tours. The plant is closed on Sundays and holidays, so no visit is possible if the tour lands on those days.
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.
"Let's Go" Regensburg hiking experienceDid you know that Regensburg residents raised silkworms at one time? It’s just one of the unusual aspects of the city that you’ll discover on a hike that begins at the ship’s dock. Meet up with your guide and head out along the eastern gate road (that eastern gate was part of the old Roman walls), crossing the river to the narrow streets of Stadtamhof, an island in the Danube that is part of Regensburg’s UNESCO-honored medieval complex. Pause atop another bridge to take a look at boats cruising through the lock and then begin your ascent of Holy Trinity Hill; you’ll have a great view of old Regensburg from Windsor Heights, and you’ll pass some of the beautiful mansions that overlook the city—including the buildings that housed the silk plantation begun by Ludwig I in the early 19th century. Your route continues along the heights, offering views of the entire region: fields, woods, even the Bavarian forest in the far distance. After a brief rest, you’ll head back down to the town and the ship.
Day 8: Cruising the Main-Danube Canal, Nuremberg
Head up to the top deck or find a seat with a good view—you won’t want to miss seeing the ship navigate its way through a marvel of modern engineering, the Main-Danube Canal. Your destination today is the historic city of Nuremberg, which you can explore in two different ways. Your ship docks in Nuremberg. 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. Which aspect do you wish to explore? You must choose between two very different but equally fascinating excursions.Featured Excursions:
Nuremberg "Do as the Locals Do"It was never officially the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, but German rulers made Nuremberg their base for 500 years. They surrounded the medieval city with stout walls and built a great castle on a hilltop, which they expanded again and again over the centuries. Prosperous, secure and vibrant, Nuremberg lured artists and thinkers, merchants and scientists, for centuries. This is the archetypal medieval German city that you’ll discover today as you 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 on your own following your tour; there is much to see and enjoy. The National Germanic Museum is one of the largest museums in the world; in it you’ll find the first pocket watch ever made (by a local craftsman), the first globe produced in Europe, a thousand period musical instruments, and innumerable paintings and drawings by German artists. The half-timbered shops in Crafts Court, next to the King’s Gate in the old wall, give you a sense of what it was like to buy goods in Renaissance Nuremberg— wooden toys, pewter cups and leather goods are for sale here, and so are commemorative coins hand-stamped on a 15th-century press. Visit Dürer House, where Nuremberg’s most famous native son, Albrecht Dürer, lived, or simply relax in a beer garden and enjoy the city’s specialty sausages and dark beer.
Nuremberg panoramic 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, 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 walk through the Documentation Center and its exhibition “Fascination and Terror,” which covers the causes, the context and the consequences of the National Socialist reign of terror. The second part of this excursion takes you from the Rally Grounds to the Nuremberg Memoriam, dedicated to the Nuremberg trials, where you’ll visit Courtroom 600, the scene of the Nuremberg trials, and an exhibit that discusses the historic trials.
Note: Courtroom 600 is an active court. Visitors will only be permitted to see the courtroom during trial breaks.
Later, prepare to take an exciting journey through a marvel of modern engineering—the Main-Danube Canal. The canal is the fulfillment of a millennia-long dream, permitting ships of all shapes and sizes to travel from the North Sea to the Black Sea. A formidable set of locks, 16 in all, lifts your ship to the crest of the European “continental divide.” Unlike the US and Canada, where the Continental Divide is in high mountains, in Europe the watershed changes at 4,382 feet (1,332 meters), and the countryside is a gentle slope. Regardless of altitude, it’s amazing to watch each lock open and fill with water and to feel the ship rise and move forward.
The canal is the fulfillment of a millennia-long dream, permitting ships of all shapes and sizes to travel from the North Sea to the Black Sea. A formidable set of locks, 16 in all, lifts your ship to the crest of the European “continental divide.” Unlike the US and Canada, where the Continental Divide is in high mountains, in Europe the watershed changes at 4,382 feet (1,332 meters), and the countryside is a gentle slope. Regardless of altitude, it’s amazing to watch each lock open and fill with water and to feel the ship rise and move forward.
Day 9: Bamberg, Cruising the Main River
Your floating time machine takes you to Bamberg today, a well-preserved town that offers a fascinating glimpse of medieval times. Explore the city on foot or opt to head deeper into the Franconian countryside to experience an authentic slice of rural life—including a tractor ride! Today, your ship will dock in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Bamberg, which has one of the largest intact medieval town centers in Europe. Like Rome, the city is built on seven hills—but in Bamberg, a church tops each one. During the Middle Ages, Bamberg was split in two, divided by the Regnitz River, one side controlled by the prince-bishop and the other by the burghers (a formally de ned class in medieval Germany). As a result of this division, the Old Town Hall was built on a tiny island in the middle of the Regnitz to serve both sides of town. Marvel at this medieval city’s striking architecture and stirring history on a walking tour through Bamberg’s Old Town. Or leave the city behind for an experience of Franconian rural life with a visit to a charming village in the verdant hills just outside of town.Featured Excursions:
Bamberg walking discovery tourNow a pleasant city with a lively student population and a world-famous symphony orchestra, Bamberg was the center of economic and political life for a huge swath of Central Europe in the Middle Ages. Spared WWII bombing, the entire heart of historic Bamberg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The medieval layout of the city remains intact, along with 2,000 historic buildings; it is yours to explore today. In the splendid late- Romanesque Imperial Cathedral you will nd the only papal tomb in Germany, that of Pope Clement II (who was the bishop of Bamberg before he became pope), as well the tomb of Emperor Henry II (who established the bishopric). Near it are two magnificent palaces: The Old Palace, the late-Gothic imperial residence (if you saw the
2011 3-D version of The Three Musketeers, you’ll recognize it immediately), sits across from the New Residence, where the 17th-century prince-bishops lived, separated by a lovely rose garden. Cross the cobblestone footbridge to the Old Town Hall, which is adorned with colorful frescoes, and ramble along the narrow lanes lined with picturesque half-timbered houses.
Exclusive Franconian “Village Day”If you’re interested in exploring a small village and getting to know more about the landscape and local farming techniques in the beautiful Steigerwald region, this visit to a Franconian village is perfect for you. Meet a local farmer who is determined to make sure that his way of life continues for future generations; he’s dedicated to restoring the natural environment around him and making sure that school kids know more about where their food comes from. Join him as he introduces his village to you: the typical farmhouses and the crops, the hardships of the life as well as the pleasures of living among the vineyards and forests. Take a tractor ride over the rolling hills to a small-scale vintner’s where you can sample the wine they make strictly for home consumption. There you’ll share a hearty snack and learn what it takes to run a traditional farm in the 21st century. This is a unique look at daily life in a very special and historic region.
You’ll spend the rest of the day on the peaceful Main River, cruising past quiet Franconian hamlets and picturesque countryside. It’s the perfect time to indulge in the many comforts of your luxury ship while watching some of Europe’s loveliest scenery glide by.
Day 10: Würzburg
Your ship will dock in the delightful Franconian town of Würzburg, where you will visit the extraordinary Würzburg Residence—one of the most opulent baroque palaces in Europe. The Würzburg Residence is a 300-room palace with a famous staircase and a gigantic ceiling fresco (even larger than the Sistine Chapel’s).Featured Excursions:
Würzburg Residence visitThis incredibly lavish 18th-century palace was created under the auspices of two Schönborn prince-bishops, Lothar Franz and Friedrich Carl, who brought enormous knowledge and passion, as well as a budget for the best, to the project. Over the course of 60 years, they fostered the creation of a 300-room palace that contains jaw-dropping baroque art. The magnificent grand staircase boasts the world’s largest ceiling fresco, painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Portions of the building were damaged by Allied bombing in 1945, but, fortunately, most of the historic furnishings had been stored off-site and key rooms were unharmed, so you can see the original—and matchless—artwork, gilding and statuary. Check out both the spectacular Hall of Mirrors and the imposing Imperial Hall, which boasts a large oval dome and 20 half-columns. Even the gardens have been restored, right down to the topiary fruit trees in the kitchen garden, which are re-creations of the trees grown there in the 18th century.
Return to the ship for a delicious lunch, and then spend the afternoon exploring Würzburg on your own. Head off to the central market square and pop into the local shops. Admire Würzburg Cathedral, a Romanesque structure built in 1040 and dedicated to Saint Kilian, the apostle of Franconia. Or check out Old City Hall and the 15th-century Old Main Bridge, which is adorned with statues of saints.
Note: Visitors may not take photos or videos or carry backpacks inside the Würzburg Residence.
Fairytale RothenburgStep into a fairytale version of the Middle Ages in Rothenburg with its great stone walls surrounding the medieval core, linking towers, bastions, and parapets. Narrow cobblestone lanes will lead you past the charming old monastery, Germany’s oldest half-timbered houses, and splendid fountains before winding your way to the town’s perfectly Medieval Market Square, a hotspot for locals and guests alike. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see magnificent Town Hall (which seamlessly blends together Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture), spirited dance performances and on special occasions–knights pulling horses through the city in a wonderful spectacle. Savor a taste of the beloved Bratwurst, a type of German sausage made from veal, beef, or pork. This evening, you’ll have a chance to explore or shop on your own.
Day 11: Wertheim
After today, you may never eat a pretzel again without thinking of the Bavarian town of Wertheim. You’ll meet one of Germany’s best pretzel makers here, as well as the owner of a historic wine estate, followed by a guided vineyard hike. Or, if you’re more in the mood for a scenic bike ride, you are perfectly welcome to do that instead. Your port of call today, Wertheim, nestles at the confluence of the Main and Tauber rivers; it’s a picturesque and friendly town dominated by the ruins of a 13th-century castle.Featured Excursions:
Wertheim walking tour with pretzel-making and wine tasting at a private wine estateThis region of Bavaria is known for its amber-colored beer, spicy bratwurst, traditional soft pretzels and unique wine bottles with short necks and round bodies—and you’ll encounter several of these local specialties today. First, though, you get to see a little of Wertheim itself. Despite centuries of flooding, a great deal of the Old Town remains. The Pointed Tower, used as a jail for drunkards and shrews in the 13th century, leans toward its neighbors, not from age but because flood waters have undermined it. It’s not the only architectural wonder you’ll see on your tour. You may choose to spend some leisure time in the village or head straight to nearby Kreuzwertheim, a wine-growing area, for a hike through the vineyards—your efforts will be rewarded with a glass of sparkling wine and a wonderful view of the Main River valley. Whichever option you select, your next stop is a historic winery that produces ne Franconian wines. Its charming sandstone architecture, vaulted cellars and covered courtyard make for a delightful afternoon. You’ve probably tasted some yummy soft pretzels on your trip already, but these are special: Watch a fifth-generation baker make some for you and discover for yourself why he supplies some of Berlin’s top hotels. Then meet the winery’s winemaker, who will present a special wine tasting.
“Let's Go” bicycle tour from Wertheim to FreudenbergGet out and about on one of the finest and most popular cycling routes in Germany, the bike path along the Main. Start in Wertheim, a lovely medieval city with a historic castle and historic town center. Your destination is Freudenberg, a fairytale village with half-timbered homes and quirky cobblestone lanes, nestled amidst beautiful mountain scenery. You can pedal your way along flat stretches of the riverside path, passing red sandstone quarries, farms, verdant fields and meadows, and charming villages.
Day 12: Frankfurt
Frankfurt is known as the “Mainhattan” of Europe due to its profusion of bankers and soaring skyscrapers, which co-exist with the city’s traditional Old Town architecture. Experience Frankfurt’s many contrasts today by visiting Germany’s oldest museum. Delve into exciting Frankfurt today. A major European financial and trade center, vibrant Frankfurt boasts world-class museums, soaring skyscrapers, cozy wine taverns and lovely parks. Choose a brief tour that gives you an overview or a more in-depth walking tour and then explore on your own.Featured Excursions:
Heidelberg with castle visit or Philosopher's WalkWalk up a cobblestone incline to Heidelberg Castle, where you’ll have a guided tour of the courtyard and the Heidelberg Tun—the world’s largest wine barrel. The views from the hilltop castle ruins, which greatly inspired writers and artists of the Romantic era, are simply spectacular. After some free time to explore on your own, we’ll head back to downtown Heidelberg by coach for an Old Town ramble with a local expert. See the Holy Spirit Church and the former students’ prison, then feel free to have lunch in town and browse the town’s many boutiques.
Frankfurt “Do as the Locals Do” walking tourAlthough Frankfurt is unabashedly modern, with a dynamic international population and a skyline dominated by skyscrapers, it has a much-loved historic core, and your ship docks within easy walking distance of it. Stroll with your guide through Römer Square, bordered by the 15th-century mansions that constitute the old city hall, to the Klein Market Hall, where locals choose produce and sausage, cider and eggs, flowers and spices, from the covered market’s 154 stalls. Sample Frankfurt’s beloved apple cider and sausages as you take in the colorful scene. Frankfurt’s residents come from more than 200 nations, so you’ll find plenty of international specialties, too, along with regional items. You may stay here on your own or continue with your guide to Goethe House, the house museum devoted to Germany’s national poet, who was born in this city. Though Goethe’s work belongs to the world, Frankfurters take particular pride in their native son; the rooms here display furnishings from the writer’s day, as well as family portraits and the desk where Goethe completed Faust—not to mention a puppet theater with which the four-year- old future poet played.
You’ll encounter the city’s bustling present-day economic power as you walk past the Frankfurt stock exchange and continue to Main Tower. Nothing exemplifies Frankfurt more than this lofty skyscraper: The façade of a historic building is incorporated in its base and 56 stories of glass-encased offices soar above it. Ride up to the viewing platform for an amazing view of the city and its surroundings.
Day 13: Rüdesheim, Cruising the Romantic Rhine River
Experience Germany’s fabled Rheingau in one of two ways today. Take in spectacular views of the region’s famous vineyards from the perspective of an aerial cable car, or venture within an atmospheric medieval monastery and taste the Rieslings made on site. Like many cities along the Rhine, Rüdesheim has a lengthy history that stretches back to Roman times. These days, the town is best known for its narrow avenue of shops and wine bars called the Drosselgasse and its impressive Niederwald Monument. Later in the day, you’ll experience the most spectacular scenery on the Rhine.Featured Excursions:
Rüdesheim wine village panoramas of Niederwald MonumentAbbey Eberbach medieval monastery tour with Riesling tastingKloster Eberback is a former Cistercian monastery built in the Romanesque and early Gothic style, and is considered one of the most significant architectural sites in the region. In fact, some of the interior scenes of the 1986 movie The Name of the Rose—based on the best-selling novel by Umberto Eco—were filmed here. You’ll have a guided tour of the monastery followed by a tasting of locally grown Rieslings.
Back onboard, settle down on the Sun Deck and prepare to be dazzled after you leave Rüdesheim and enter the sublime landscape of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. Byron described it as “a work divine, a blending of all beauties.” Turner painted it. Wagner used it as inspiration for his opera Götterdämmerung. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this scenic 40-mile (65-kilometer) stretch of the Rhine features a stunning, castle-dotted landscape that 19th-century composers, painters and poets considered the embodiment of an ideal romantic spirit, which was later dubbed “Rhine Romanticism.” Legend plays its part here too, with shipwrecks and lost lovers attributed to the Lorelei who, so the tale goes, lured all to their doom in the Rhine. Each bend and twist of the river affords new delights: Steep riverbanks are graced with sloping vineyards and picturesque towns, and hill tops are crowned by fairytale castles. Each one of those castles tells a tale: of great families raising fortresses, of warfare and ruin, and of rebuilding through the centuries. Some castles have been entirely reconstructed; others tower above the water in majestic ruin, still an inspiration for romantics.
Day 14: Cologne
You simply cannot visit Cologne without paying homage to its most notorious site, the Gothic masterpiece that serves as the city’s cathedral. A local expert will show you favorite haunts around the Old Town, introduce you to the famous local brew, and share some of the cathedral’s most intriguing and Magi-cal secrets with you. Cologne is the largest and oldest city of the Rhineland and a cultural mecca, with more than 30 museums and hundreds of art galleries. A congenial atmosphere and a mix of ancient, modern and reconstructed buildings characterize the heart of the city.Featured Excursions:
Cologne walking tour with Cologne Cathedral visit and Kölsch beer tastingAs you walk through the narrow lanes of the Old Town, you’ll find it hard to believe that more than 70 percent of the city was destroyed by bombs during WWII. Three medieval gates remain standing, as does the old city hall with its Renaissance façade. The famous 12 Romanesque churches were reconstructed from the rubble, and the cathedral, Cologne’s iconic landmark, rises magnificently in the city center. Though it was badly damaged in WWII, the great UNESCO-designated cathedral retains many of its original treasures—the relics of the Magi and other sacred figures, which inspired its building in the 12th century, the 14th-century stained-glass windows that were stored safely throughout the war and the beautifully painted choir stalls—though other treasures are displayed separately. Enter the awe-inspiring nave and learn about the history of the cathedral and its art collections, especially the pieces surrounding the Shrine of the Magi.
Mingle with the locals at a tavern for an exclusive tasting of Kölsch, the celebrated pale ale that is unique to the city. It’s one of the few German beers to have a regional appellation similar to that given to wines; its characteristic flavor comes from the unique yeast used in its brewing. It is always served in a straight-sided narrow glass called a stange, meaning a rod or stick.
Note: The number of visitors allowed in Cologne Cathedral is regulated by a very strict schedule of time slots. Sightseeing will be arranged around the time slots obtained. On Sundays and Catholic holidays, guided tours inside the cathedral are not allowed, but individual visits are still welcomed.
Day 15: Amsterdam
Enjoy the luxury of a full day in the “Venice of the North,” starting with a private “Morning with the Masters” tour of the Van Gogh Museum. You’ll have the museum’s extraordinary collection all to yourself, with an art historian to show you the highlights. Afterwards, explore the city with a canal ride or on foot with a local expert.Featured Excursions:
“Morning with the Masters” at the Van Gogh MuseumThe doors open early to give you a crowd-free viewing of an extraordinary collection. A curator will provide an expert introduction, then you can view the collection at your leisure with a guided audio tour. You’ll also have a chance to do the new all-compassing 3-D “Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience,” which uses innovative and interactive techniques to tell the artist’s life story like never before. Wander with Vincent from the rural Netherlands to the streets of Paris. Pull up a seat at The Potato Eaters’ table or at Café Le Tambourin in Montmartre. Investigate the details of Van Gogh’s paintings using a microscope and step into the life-sized Yellow House and engage with a dramatic shadow play. It’s a wonderful way to savor Vincent’s legacy and contemplate his role as an enduring source of inspiration.
Amsterdam by canalIt’s called the “Venice of the North” for a reason: Canals crisscross the heart of the old city, and bridges link some 90 islands. As the principal city in a newly independent Holland, Amsterdam was a boom town in the early 17th century, rapidly outgrowing its medieval walls. The city’s fathers responded by demolishing most of the old city and building an entirely new one, creating Europe’s first planned city. That “new” district is now 400 years old, and as you glide along the main canals, you’ll pass stately merchants’ houses built centuries ago (some of them are now house museums you can visit on your own). But the canals are not merely scenic; they are essential thoroughfares—people take water buses to work and live in houseboats along the banks—so a canal cruise also gives you a look at the busy modern city.
“Do as the Locals Do” Amsterdam walking tourUncover some of Amsterdam’s most charming and little-known treasures with a stroll to the city’s most notable sights. Cross over the historic and richly-decorated Blauwbrug (Blue Bridge) that sits over the river Amstel. The original Blue Bridge was a wooden structure built in 1600 and painted to match the blue color from the Dutch flag. Next, board a streetcar and head to Rokin Street for a taste of a traditional Dutch delicacy, Haring (a unique raw herring dish) before pressing on towards Begijnhof–one of the oldest groups of historic buildings in Amsterdam. Next up? The Amsterdam Museum, located in the former city orphanage built in 1580, for an intimate look into the country’s history. After, you’ll head towards Dam Square and visit the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, the only palace in the country that is open to the public and still in use by the Dutch Monarchy. Discover its collection of artwork and furnishings before venturing to the adjacent Nieuwe Kerk, one of the most impressive churches in The Netherlands. Monarchs have been inaugurated there, royal weddings and coronations have taken place under its stained-glass windows, and on occasion exhibitions on art and history are hosted inside. Head into oldest parts of Amsterdam via Warmoesstraat, one of the oldest, shop-lined streets in the city, that is also adjacent to the city's infamous Red-Light District. Wander along charming streets and indulge in a little bit of window shopping before arriving in Oudezijds Voorburgwal, one the city's central canals flanked by quintessentially Dutch façades, where you’ll see the Oude Kerk (translation: Old Church), the city’s oldest building. Your tour will end in Zeedijk, Amsterdam’s Chinatown, which was originally constructed as a means of protection from the sea.
Day 16: Amsterdam (Disembark)
Disembark the ship. If your cruise package includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport for your flight home.