Take a stroll along Vienna’s grand boulevards, admiring its magnificent Baroque architecture and dazzling palaces, before soaking up the historic atmosphere in one of the city’s legendary cafés over coffee and cake as the Viennese have for centuries – here in one of the most elegant capitals in the world. Immerse yourself in its remarkable cultural heritage: with priceless art collections, superb museums, world-famous orchestras and the opera, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Then there’s chance to truly unwind as our exquisite ship takes you on a journey of discovery along one of the most famous waterways in the world, the mighty Danube, which snakes its way between the vine-clad slopes of the picturesque Wachau. Wander the ancient twisting streets of some of the most quintessentially charming towns in the region: breathtakingly medieval Regensburg with its soaring Gothic cathedral and picture-perfect Český Krumlov, set amidst a fairy-tale Bohemian landscape of rolling hills, glittering mountain streams and shimmering lakes. Discover the famous abbeys at Göttweig and Aldersbach, one of the most important Baroque churches in southern Germany, and lose yourself amongst the quaint jumble of houses in delightful Passau and bustling Linz with its fascinating Roman past before we return to glorious Vienna – a spectacular finale to a truly exceptional cruise.
DAY 1 - EMBARK IN VIENNA
Arrive in Vienna, where your river cruise ship will be moored in the spectacular city center. On arrival the professional friendly crew welcome you on board as you familiarise yourself with the ship and settle in to your cabin. Reconvene with your fellow traveling companions in the bar before tonight’s excellent dinner in the elegant restaurant.
DAY 2 - VIENNA
The Viennese have a reputation for ‘Gemütlichkeit’, quite literally ‘coziness’, and there can be fewer European capitals more supremely nostalgic or elegantly civilized than Vienna. The imperial grandeur of its magnificent architecture speaks for itself – awash with dazzling palaces, grand avenues fringed with fine baroque facades and a majestic cathedral amongst a tangle of historic streets. Home to world-class art collections, museums, orchestras and opera, its cultural heritage is equally extraordinary with countless composers such as Mozart, Strauss, and Haydn, all inextricably linked to this ‘City of Music’. Like so many other European cities, Vienna has been fought over since Roman times, with varying tribes throughout the centuries leaving their mark, until the arrival of the Habsburgs in 1278, who despite two Turkish sieges then ruled for 640 years. During its golden age, which ended in 1918 with the collapse of the empire, Vienna became a cultural center and the city’s coffee houses were crammed with artists and intellectuals from all over Europe.
The first foreign capital to fall to the Nazis during World War II, then remaining under allied occupation for the following decade, today Vienna serves as one of the headquarters of the United Nations. Surprisingly compact, at the heart, you’ll find the colossal landmark Gothic Saint Stephen’s Cathedral with its striking multicolored roof. The former royal court of the Habsburgs, the vast Hofburg, now a complex of excellent museums and galleries, also houses the crown jewels and the world-famous Vienna Boys’ Choir and Spanish Riding School. On our guided tour we will see some of the many sights and enjoy an insight into Viennese life with our local guide. There’s some free time to explore under your own steam before returning to the ship for lunch.
This afternoon our cruising commences, so head up on to the sun deck to take in the glorious views from the comfort of a sun lounger as we get our first tantalizing glimpses of the lush green slopes of the Danube Valley, sprinkled with sleepy little towns - clusters of red roofs swarming around a pretty baroque church spire. Wooded hills give way to wide fields of maize and sunflowers, and the carefully tended terraces of the region’s vineyards, famed for their wine. During tonight’s dinner, we arrive in the medieval town of Krems, after which retire to the lounge to enjoy a live classical recital.
DAY 3 - KREMS
We take the short drive to visit the hilltop monastery, Göttweig Abbey – its brick-red onion-shaped domes and vast white walls a striking sight amidst the thickly forested verdant slopes. Majestically sited with far-reaching views down into the valley below, the original building was destroyed by fire in the eighteenth century and rebuilt in baroque style; on our guided tour we will see the impressively decorative staircase – up which Napoleon is said to have ridden his horse, exquisite frescoes, impressive staterooms plus other precious artworks and treasures from the Abbey’s private collection.
As lunch is served in the ship’s restaurant, just sit back and enjoy the exceptional views from the panoramic windows. We are cruising through the Wachau, one of the most stunning stretches of the Danube as it snakes its way between the vine-clad hills, passing the tiny walled town of Dürnstein with its beautiful blue and white baroque church and the spectacular mustard-yellow monastery at Melk, teetering on a granite slab high above the mighty river; so spend a lazy afternoon enjoying the ship’s facilities – perhaps book an appointment with the on-board hairdresser or just find a shady spot on deck and watch the riverbanks, laced with swathes of apricot trees, slipping by.
Evening falls on this wonderful landscape and thoughts turn to what might be on the menu this evening; there’s time to chat with your traveling companions over an aperitif before the chef serves tonight’s excellent dinner.
DAY 4 - PASSAU & ALDERSBACH
Overnight we have made steady progress upstream and on rising this morning, draw back the curtains to another captivating view – a scenic landscape peppered with idyllic little towns and ancient riverside castles against a hilly backdrop. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before heading up on deck to witness our arrival in Passau, ‘Town of the Three Rivers’; uniquely situated where the Danube meets the rivers Inn and Ilz, an imposing citadel watches over the colourful jumble of quaint houses, baroque churches, palaces and spires, rising from the water’s edge.
There will be time to wander the old town, exploring its network of winding streets, and picturesque squares, quaint shops, and cafés swarming around the impressive cathedral with its magnificent ornate frescoes and the gothic-style town hall with its lovely decorative clock tower. This afternoon we visit the attractive town of Aldersbach, principally famed as the site of a former Cistercian abbey. Earliest records show the abbey was founded in 1127 and well regarded for its religious discipline, became widely influential and went on to flourish for more than six centuries until the secularisation of Bavaria in the early nineteenth century when the buildings were sold, and the church converted to serve the local parish.
We enjoy a guided tour seeing the breathtaking interior of one of the most important baroque churches in southern Germany, with its flamboyant stuccowork, intricate gold-leaf, and elaborate ceiling frescoes and learning more about the monks who made their life here. We’ll also visit the abbey’s historic brewery and museum.
DAY 5 - REGENSBURG
Our ship reaches the northernmost point of the Danube and the delightful city of Regensburg, a former Roman garrison town and Germany’s ‘medieval miracle’. After a leisurely breakfast we enjoy a guided tour through the twisting streets of the old town, admiring the warmly painted facades of the picturesque houses, the wondrous gothic cathedral and old town hall with its lofty eight story tower, and the hefty stone remains of a Roman gateway that once marked the city’s northern entrance. Afterward, enjoy some free time exploring under your own steam; take a stroll over the iconic thirteenth-century bridge and take in the view, much as it has been for centuries, before retiring to a cozy, tucked away café to enjoy the enchanting ambiance of this historic place. You’ll have worked up an appetite so return to the ship for lunch as our elegant ship smoothly commences our return cruise into Austria.
Spend the afternoon at leisure on board; perhaps in the lounge with newly-made friends or up on deck enjoying the views as fortified castles and ancient churches idly drift by. There will be ample photo opportunities as we cruise through the iconic natural wonder of the Danube Loop, where the water spectacularly carves its path in an almost 360-degree bend, flanked on all sides by steep lushly forested slopes.
Evening falls and our chef serves up tonight’s excellent dinner in the relaxed ambiance of the ship’s restaurant, after which retire to the bar to enjoy the relaxed tones of the on-board pianist whilst sipping your favorite digestif.
DAY 6 - LINZ OR ČESKÝ KRUMLOV
Dawn breaks and we reach vibrant Linz, the capital of Upper Austria. Straddling the banks of the river, the Romans recognized its geographical importance at the crossroads of the Danube Valley and the old salt road into Bohemia and today it is still a significant port. You may wish to remain in the city and join our guided tour as we wander through the old town, stopping to admire the elegant merchants’ houses encircling one of the finest squares in Austria. There’s the grand regional parliament building plus a host of interesting little churches and, surveying the river below, the vast fortress-like castle now housing a museum with various historic exhibits and artworks, plus the modern art museum or for technology enthusiasts there’s the remarkable Ars Electronica.
Alternatively, you may choose to join our excursion to the beautiful medieval town of Český Krumlov, in the heart of scenic Bohemia, amidst a fairytale landscape of rolling hills, tumbling mountain streams and glassy lakes, with a wonderful mountain backdrop. On arrival we enjoy a guided tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, nestling on the banks of the Vltava River: the magnificent castle, set in extensive gardens, dating back to medieval times with one of the best preserved baroque theatres in the world, perches high above a jumble of terracotta roofs below. There will be time to wander the shady tangle of alleyways, discovering tiny shops tucked away, soaking up the atmosphere of this truly magical place before we return to the ship in time for dinner. Please note lunch is not included on this full day excursion to Český Krumlov, however, the ship will offer a packed lunch.
DAY 7 - VIENNA
The end of our journey may be in sight but there’s still plenty more to enjoy during the final stretch of cruising, so head up on deck to enjoy the invigorating air and soak in the last spectacular river views once more.
During another superb lunch, you can tweak those final plans as to how you intend to spend the rest of the day. For art lovers, the renowned Kunsthistorisches Museum is a must; containing the fourth largest collection of paintings in the world. You might choose to return to one of the Hofburg’s museums, perhaps the Imperial Treasury, containing the Habsburgs’ crown jewels or take a stroll in the Prater with its huge famous Ferris wheel. There’s a spot of window-shopping to enjoy along the chic boulevards of Graben and Kohlmarkt and don’t forget to leave time to indulge in the Viennese institution of a coffee in one of the beautiful atmospheric cafés where you can sit and watch the world go by over a slice of Sachertorte.
Alternatively, you might choose to join our visit to Schönbrunn, the Habsburgs’ splendid summer palace. Your included entrance allows you into the dazzling staterooms, with their wealth of priceless artworks, furnishings, stunning parquet floors, exquisite china and tapestries plus the family’s impressive royal carriages and an audio guide helps to give you a fascinating insight into the lives of this powerful dynasty. Take a stroll through the charming formal gardens, admiring the beautifully tended flowerbeds and neatly clipped hedges. Tonight, as a fitting finale, the magnificent Captain’s Dinner is served, after which retire to the lounge one last time, to share memories of this magical cruise with newly-made friends.
DAY 8 - DISEMBARK IN VIENNA
After breakfast this morning, the crew bids you farewell before you disembark the ship, with time to look back on great memories from a superb trip.