Travel like the royals of old on our grand eastern European river cruises combining Amsterdam to Budapest by Riverboat with Budapest to the Black Sea to create an unforgettable 24-day experience through the heart of Europe.
This remarkable voyage virtually links the North Sea to the Black Sea via the Danube, Main and Rhine rivers, taking you through the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. Glide past grand cathedrals, medieval monasteries, and historic citadels – as well as through the Main-Danube Canal and the Iron Gate of the Danube. Tauck’s private, inclusive shore excursions take in many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and in-depth exploration of cities including Amsterdam, Köln, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Belgrade and Bucharest. It's the ultimate European river cruise... with the Tauck Difference!
Your journey begins in Bucharest
Tour begins: 6:00 PM, JW Marriott Bucharest Grand Hotel. A transfer is included from Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport to the JW Marriott Bucharest Grand Hotel in the heart of the city, ideally located adjacent to Bucharest's monumental Palace of Parliament – the site of tonight's Tauck Exclusive, after-hours gala welcome reception and dinner, where you'll meet your fellow travelers and Tauck Directors to kick off this extraordinary lower Danube cruise in true Tauck Style.
A choice of excursion to Transylvania, Targoviste or Peles Castle in the Carpathian Mountains
A choice of sightseeing today echoes the legacy of 15th-century Romanian prince Vlad Tepes (a.k.a. "Vlad the Impaler"), thought to be the historical model for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. You may choose to take an excursion to Transylvania’s 14th-century Bran Castle, which Tepes once used as a fortress during his military campaigns. Or you can opt for a trip to Targoviste to see the ruins of Tepes' palace, including its imposing watchtower, restored in the 19th century; you'll also visit the army barracks (now a museum) where Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was tried and executed in 1989; or an excursion into the Carpathian Mountains and Transylvania for a visit to Peles Castle and Sinaia. Lunch at a local restaurant and return to Bucharest for free time and dinner at leisure.
Bucharest or the Black Sea coast before boarding
More choices in sightseeing – and the start of your lower Danube cruise – await you today. Before embarking your riverboat, you can choose to explore Bucharest with our local guides, seeing Revolution Square and the Triumphal Arch, and returning to the massive Palace of the Parliament, site of your welcome dinner and the world's second-largest building after the Pentagon, for a tour. Or drive to Romania's popular Black Sea coast – first to the popular resort of Mamaia for lunch and some "beach time," then on to the port city of Constanta. Here, in what was originally the ancient Greek colony of Tomis, you'll view numerous Greek and Roman antiquities, an Art-Nouveau casino, and a monument to the Roman poet Ovid, who spent years in exile here. Board your riverboat in Constanta to launch your unforgettable Danube cruise.
Bulgarian art & architecture in Ruse or Ivanovo
Your lower Danube cruise continues in Bulgaria; largely off limits during four centuries of Ottoman rule and decades behind the Iron Curtain, the country's rich natural beauty and history is yours to discover today. Disembark in Ruse – often referred to as “Little Vienna” for its Art-Nouveau homes, Austro-Hungarian architecture and lively cafés – for a choice of sightseeing today. You may join us for a guided walking tour of Ruse, or a lovely hike to the celebrated Rock Churches in the village of Ivanovo, whose stony chambers carved into steep, cliffside caves reveal stunning medieval frescoes inside; a visit is richly rewarding. Return to the riverboat for dinner this evening.
Danube cruising & Vidin, Bulgaria
There’s something special about just “kicking back” during a leisurely morning cruising the Danube, enjoying picture-perfect views of the passing landscapes. Onboard activities throughout your cruise, such as special lectures and presentations, cooking demonstrations or music and dance performances, are an important part of the Tauck river cruising experience. Today, after the riverboat arrives in Vidin, Bulgaria, join us for a walking tour of Vidin’s cobblestone streets, including a visit to Baba Vida fortress.
King Decebalus & the Iron Gate
On another relaxing day aboard your grand European river cruise, sail along the Bulgarian / Romanian border, enjoying great views of the Transylvanian Alps. As you cruise, keep an eye out for a kingly face carved into the Danube's rocky bank on the Romanian side; it's a monument to the 2nd-century Dacian King Decebalus, who defended his kingdom from the invading Romans – and it's the tallest rock sculpture in Europe. Glide through Romania’s Kazan Narrows and the Iron Gate of the Danube, a spectacular two-mile-long series of gorges between the Carpathian and Balkan Mountains, en route to Serbia.
Belgrade sights & a private palace visit
Dock in Belgrade, Serbia’s eclectic, cosmopolitan capital at the juncture of the Danube and Sava rivers. Sightseeing includes visits to Tito’s Memorial, the formidable Kalemegdan Fortress, views of busy Slavija Square (now one of the city’s major squares, but once a large pool where residents hunted wild ducks!), Parliament, Republic Square and City Hall. See the Tito Memorial and the Cathedral of St. Sava; you'll have a choice of spending time on your own in Belgrade or returning to the riverboat, where you'll enjoy some entertainment by Serbian performers. Depart the ship early evening for a special reception and dinner at the White Palace on the grounds of the beautiful Royal Palace of Dedinje in Belgrade, built in the 1920s for the Yugoslavian royal family – HRH Crown Prince Alexander II of Serbia and his family reside there today. Sail on to Croatia overnight.
Understanding Croatia's history in Vukovar
Your Danube cruise crosses the border from Serbia to Croatia and arrives in historic Vukovar. Preceded by an onboard lecture on Croatia's turbulent history by a local expert, your tour of this venerable 10th-century city – once showcasing opulent 18th-century Baroque mansions, but now a mix of old and new – poignantly symbolizes the effects of the 1990s war. Visit with a local family who have recently returned to resume their lives in the city after the conflict, as they share homemade refreshments with you in their private home. You'll have some time at leisure in Vukovar before the riverboat continues on to Hungary tonight.
Antiquities and more in Hungary
Arrive in Mohacs this morning for an excursion to Pécs and a tour of its 11th-century cathedral. Here you’ll also explore the fascinating Christian Necropolis, a complex dating back to the 4th century that includes underground burial chambers and chapels adorned with early Christian art and frescoes, a UNESCO World Heritage site. In the 19th century, Pécs was famous worldwide for the exquisite Zsolnay porcelain manufactured here, and your visit includes a stop at the Zsolnay Museum for a look at its stunning examples of Art Nouveau stoneware, tiles and pottery. Visit a winery in Villány for lunch (this region is renowned for its red wines) then return to Mohacs. Tonight, enjoy a cocktail reception and dinner aboard ship as your riverboat sails toward Budapest.
Exploring Buda in Budapest
Budapest was once two separate cities, Buda and Pest, divided by the Danube River. Sightseeing in Budapest's Buda section today includes the Hungarian Parliament building, a 19th-century neo-Gothic masterpiece on the Danube (when open); and Fisherman’s Bastion, standing watch like a sentinel over the river. Your riverboat spends the evening docked in Budapest.
On the Pest side of the river
Explore the Pest section of the city on a morning sightseeing tour today. Sites include Heroes’ Square, bounded by some of the finest architectural works in Hungary; City Park; and the bustling, 19th-century-vintage Central Market Hall, where you can buy practically anything! Enjoy an onboard cocktail reception and a gala dinner in the Compass Rose tonight as your riverboat departs Budapest and cruises on to Bratislava, Slovakia overnight.
Bratislava & a Grand Evening in Vienna
An ancient city with a modern pulse, Slovakia’s dynamic capital is home to an Old Town brimming with life – and devoid of cars. Our local expert shares insider anecdotes about Bratislava before you join a walking tour of the cobblestoned city center, the perfect place for ambling. Seventeen centuries of Slovak history are eloquently chronicled in its 13th-century Old Town Hall, Baroque Habsburg-era palaces, the Opera House, Slovak Philharmonic Hall, and St. Martin’s Cathedral, site of the coronation of many Hungarian royals. Cruise this afternoon to Vienna, enjoying the passing scenery and shipboard activities. Tonight, nothing quite compares to the royal treatment you’ll experience at a Tauck Exclusive – our private evening in the Palais Ferstel, a Baroque palace in the heart of the city. Welcome champagne and dinner precede a sumptuous dinner and a live musical performance.
A visit to Schönbrunn Palace or the Hofburg
Wake up in Vienna, evoking quintessential images of Old World Europe. Sightseeing today includes your choice of guided visits to the Habsburgs’ illustrious Schönbrunn Palace, an architectural masterpiece and Austrian cultural treasure, or the Sisi Museum in the Hofburg, once the Habsburgs' royal palace and now Austria’s official presidential residence. Spend the remainder of the day as you please in Vienna, returning to the ship for dinner and onboard entertainment.
Dürnstein & Melk in the Wachau Valley
Go ashore in Dürnstein this morning for an orientation walk, with an optional hike up to the hilltop ruins of Kuenringerburg – the castle where England’s King Richard the Lionhearted was held for ransom during the Crusades. Cruise into the heart of Austria’s vineyard-covered Wachau Valley, having lunch as you view the passing scenery. An enjoyable afternoon in Melk includes a guided visit to its famous 900-year-old Benedictine abbey, where both its Baroque architecture and river views impress. Return to your riverboat late afternoon. Following dinner tonight, you’ll be entertained by a talented musical trio.
A bit of Baroque in Passau
After crossing the border from Austria to Germany, dock in the Bavarian town of Passau on the Danube and Inn rivers, whose history dates back to the days of the Roman empire. A walking tour reveals the Baroque treasures of this lovely riverside town, known for its stained glass and its many churches; visit St. Stephan's Cathedral, where you’ll see the largest pipe organ outside of the U.S., and the biggest cathedral organ in the world (may not be available on all departures). Your river cruise continues to Regensburg.
Old & new in Regensburg
With its roots as a Roman encampment on the Danube, the quintessential Bavarian town of Regensburg is home to more than 1,400 original historic buildings. Walking here is a delight and is the only way to view the sights up-close. A local guide will lead the way as you see the town’s 12th-century Steinerne Brücke (Germany’s oldest surviving stone bridge), the 15th-century Altes Rathaus (Town Hall, once the seat of the Imperial Diet), towering Dom St. Peter, and the remains of the Roman wall. Visit the palatial house of Thurn and Taxis, where 1,000 years of history in the complex of buildings include a palace, a Benedictine monastery and a well-preserved gothic cloister.
Main-Danube Canal and historic Nürnberg
Negotiate the Main-Danube Canal today, which ultimately links the North Sea with the Black Sea; learn about the canal's history from a local expert during your transit. The idea goes back as far as Charlemagne, but wasn't realized until the canal's completion in the 1990s; pass through 16 locks as the waterway traverses the mountains. After lunch on the riverboat, arrive in historic Nürnberg; take a walking tour through Nürnberg’s medieval ramparts to the Imperial Castle and the old city, or visit sites associated with World War II and its aftermath, including the Courthouse (still active, so your visit is subject to availability), the Zeppelinfeld rally grounds and the Documentation Center. You'll have some free time in the city before the riverboat charts its course once again.
A walking tour in Bamberg
Perched atop seven hills, Bamberg is home to a magnificent, four-towered Romanesque cathedral from the 13th century; see it, along with more of this charming medieval city’s unique architecture and colorful gardens, during a walking tour of Old Town... and take some time to explore as you please.
Choice of Würzburg or Rothenburg... then a little wine tasting
Arrive this morning in charming Würzburg; you have two choices of sightseeing today. Accompanied by a local guide, explore Würzburg – see the ornate Alte Mainbrücke, a bridge over the River Main, and visit the town's 18th-century Residenz, a lavish palace where the town's prince bishops lived in the 18th century; today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Alternatively, depart for Rothenburg – nestled on Germany’s “Romantic Road,” it lives up to its reputation as Europe’s “most perfect fairy-tale town;” view its Gothic cathedral, towered walls and gabled houses on a walking tour, followed by time at leisure. Everyone will get a taste of life in the palace in Würzburg when you sample some excellent Franconian wines in the wine cellar of the Residenz, a Baroque masterpiece. Spend the evening aboard the riverboat following an early evening departure.
Pleasures of a day cruising the Main...
It is no wonder that river cruising was the favored pastime of royalty throughout the centuries... and you'll revel in the experience on a full day cruise along the picturesque Main. Fortified towns with towering cathedrals dot the lush landscapes along the riverbank... and you'll take pleasure in all that you'll see, learn and savor today. Perhaps you'll visit the spa... or the fitness center... practice your putting on the putting green... or savor a little quiet time...
A little musical magic in Rüdesheim
Relax and enjoy your riverboat’s amenities as you cruise along the Main River, as it transforms into the Rhine River, to the wine-making town of Rüdesheim, part of the Rhine Gorge UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit Siegfried’s Mechanisches Musikkabinett, an eclectic museum displaying one of the world’s largest collections of mechanical musical instruments in a centuries-old castle. Have lunch in an old-world restaurant, a perfect opportunity to enjoy a taste of regional cuisine. You have the option this afternoon of walking back to the riverboat or riding the mini train. Your Rhine River cruise meanders through the scenic Lorelei Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, en route to Köln (Cologne).
Köln, a.k.a. Cologne
First up today – a morning visit to Köln (Cologne). Originally founded by the Romans, it is one of the oldest settlements in Germany. Visit the great Gothic cathedral, Kölner Dom, with a local guide (may be unavailable some holidays) then spend some time exploring as you please; Köln is a blend of sophistication and tradition. Return to the riverboat to sail to Amsterdam; your day concludes with a gala dinner in the Compass Rose.
Great art, a canal cruise and more in Amsterdam
Amsterdam... the name itself conjures up images of the Dutch capital’s myriad cultural treasures, from gabled houses, markets and cafés to awe-inspiring museums housing a treasure trove of world-famous art – and it’s all yours to enjoy today. Your guided tour of the famed Rijksmuseum is really inspiring – a firsthand look at Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Night Watch is like meeting the artist himself, and you’ll love seeing acclaimed works by other well-known “Old Dutch Masters” including Vermeer and Hals. See the city’s network of concentric, tree-lined 17th-century canals and view of Amsterdam’s blend of architectural styles – they date all the way back to medieval times – on a private sightseeing cruise by canal boat; you'll get a unique taste of daily life in this easygoing city today. A farewell reception followed by dinner makes your last night on the riverboat memorable.
Tour ends: Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Disembark in Amsterdam; a transfer is included from the riverboat to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport or Central Station. Allow 3 hours for departure flight check-in. A transfer will also be provided to the airport for guests enjoying a stay at Tauck's selected Amsterdam hotel following their cruise.