Enchanting Christmas & New Years

Enchanting Christmas & New Year's


Note: The itineraries presented are subject to modification due to water levels, closures because of public holidays or other uncontrollable factors. Every effort will be made to operate programs as planned, but changes may still be necessary throughout the cruise. This day-to-day schedule is subject to change. Your final day-to-day schedule will be provided onboard on the first day of your cruise.

Day 1: Passau (Embark)

Arrive at Munich 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 docked in Passau.

Day 2: 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 acquainted with the town’s baroque and rococo architecture. Old-town Passau is built on a spit of land that looks almost like a ship with its narrow prow jutting into the water, a fitting shape for a city that has been an important center of river trade since it was founded by the ancient Romans. Today a local expert shows you the highlights of this delightful and accessible town located at the confluence of three rivers—the Danube, Inn and Ilz.

Passau walking discovery tour

Join your local expert for a walk through picturesque lanes in the heart of Passau, stopping at the Town Hall to see its magnificent atrium, which boasts several massive works by the famous German painter Ferdinand Wagner, and pausing to admire the beautiful rococo stairway of the bishop’s New Residence. After much of the town burned to the ground in 1662 and again in 1680, the reconstruction involved many Italian artists, who gave Passau the baroque and rococo touches you see everywhere. Monumental St. Stephan’s Cathedral, built in glorious baroque style, forms the backdrop for the Passau Christmas Market.

Day 3: Linz (Salzburg and Oberndorf)

Mozart’s birthplace, Salzburg, is nestled in a glorious alpine setting that sparkles like a winter wonderland. Fans of The Sound of Music may recognize locations from the Oscar-winning film in the city’s Old Town, the site of a grand cathedral and a wonderful Christmas market. You’ll also visit the nearby town of Oberndorf, where the world’s most beloved Christmas carol was composed and performed for the first time.   Your ship docks in Linz today. From there, you’ll travel to the alpine cities of Salzburg and Oberndorf for a delightful full-day excursion.

Full-day Salzburg and Oberndorf

Spend Christmas Day in two Austrian towns famous for music. Salzburg is not only the birthplace of Mozart, Austria’s most famous composer, it is also where favorite scenes from The Sound of Music were filmed. Walk with your guide through the Mirabell Garden, the beautiful formal gardens where Maria sang “Do-Re-Mi” with her young charges, and through the heart of the UNESCO-designated Old Town, with its magnificent 17th-century cathedral. The archbishop’s splendid palace faces the square now named for Mozart, which has a statue of the great composer in the center; the house where Mozart was born is nearby. Enjoy lunch at the charming and historic Stiftskeller St. Peter before you head off to the little town of Oberndorf, where the most beloved Christmas carol of all time was performed for the first time. Joseph Mohr, Oberndorf’s priest, and Franz Xaver Gruber, the choir master in nearby Arnsdorf, composed “Silent Night” for a Christmas Eve service in 1818. Visit the chapel and see the little museum dedicated to the history of the carol.

Day 4: Grein

Your diary entry for today will say “Cocktails with the princess at the castle.” Raise a glass with a bona fide member of Austrian royalty at her 13th-century home, Artstetten Castle, and hear some intriguing tales about her Habsburg ancestors. Also on the agenda—a walk through charming Grein and a peek inside Austria’s oldest theater.   Grein, a picturesque little town dominated by a vast white Renaissance castle, is just one of your destinations today. You’ll also join a princess for cocktails in her historic castle.

Grein walking tour and oldest Austrian theater

Ramble through charming Grein, which has long been associated with river shipping: The handsome 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century houses you’ll pass belonged to the prosperous river pilots who guided boats through the hazardous Danube waters here. Step inside the oldest theater in Austria to retain its original form—and function, since troupes of actors still perform in it. Local artisans transformed part of the city granary into a theater in 1791; you enter through the old City Hall (now a museum) and immediately enter the past. It’s not every theater that boasts both a box for Napoleon and sight lines for prisoners, but that’s exactly what Grein’s State Theater has. (Prisoners in the city jail, which was attached to the City Hall, could watch plays on stage from their cells.) Nor are those the only unusual features—the first three rows have seats found nowhere else: They can be folded up and locked, so the subscribers could make sure no one else used them.

Exclusive cocktail reception at Artstetten Castle with Princess Anita von Hohenberg

Meet a princess and a fascinating slice of history at the same time today. You’re invited to an exclusive cocktail reception at Artstetten Castle with Princess Anita von Hohenberg. The princess, a member of the Habsburg family, is a direct descendent of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, whose assassination in Sarajevo triggered WWI. The seven-towered castle, parts of which date back to the 13th-century, remains the private property of the Hohenberg family. It is the final resting place of the archduke and his wife, who are entombed in the family crypt, which you may explore. A museum within the castle walls is dedicated to Franz Ferdinand; you might be surprised to discover that the archduke, a stern military man if one judges him by his portrait, renounced his descendants’ claim to the Habsburg throne in order to marry for love.

Day 5: Melk, Cruising the Wachau Valley, Dürnstein

Melk Abbey has an unexpectedly opulent library filled not only with rare and precious books but also secret doors and optical illusions. After your visit, cruise the Wachau Valley to the tiny village of Dürnstein, where you can browse the shops selling apricot schnapps, hike up to the ruins of a castle, taste various mulled wines and attend an organ concert at a local church.   Your river adventure today takes you through one of the most beautiful regions in Austria, bookended by two picturesque and historic towns, Melk and Dürnstein.

Melk Abbey with library visit

Melk Abbey was one of Europe’s most important centers of learning in the Middle Ages (Umberto Eco paid tribute to Melk’s significance to medieval scholarship in his novel The Name of the Rose, calling his narrator Adso of Melk), with a library that was famous throughout the continent. The medieval fortified abbey suffered damage during the 1683 Ottoman invasion, and so the Benedictines began an ambitious renovation project early in the 18th-century, turning the abbey into a magnificent example of baroque architecture and design. Local experts will take you through the Marble Hall, with its ornate painted ceiling featuring an allegorical scene paying tribute to Emperor Charles VI; the Emperors’ Gallery; and the awe-inspiring Abbey Church. After your tour of the abbey, you’ll have time to explore Melk on your own.


You’ll want to find a comfortable seat in the lounge today 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. Castle ruins dominate hilltops; baroque church towers appear on the river banks, marking historic villages and splendid abbeys; and vineyards and apricot orchards cling to the rocky slopes. Some of Austria’s finest white wines are produced from grapes that ripen on the dry-stone terraces above the river, where grapes have been grown for 2,000 years.

Dürnstein walking discovery tour with exclusive mulled wine tasting and organ concert in Augustine church

Considering its diminutive size, the village of Dürnstein offers much to explore. The famous blue baroque tower of the abbey church is doubtless its best-known landmark, but the ruined castle above the town provides its most romantic tale. There Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned until he was found by his faithful bard, Blondel, and ransom could be raised—or so the legend goes. Walk with the local guide through the Kremser Gate, which dates to the 15th-century, and past 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century houses; it’s an up-close look at over 300 years of regional architecture. The inhabitants of this region have grown apricots and grapes for many centuries, and they have happily turned both into delectable beverages through the years. See what they do with the local wine in winter as you warm up with a mulled wine tasting after your walk.

Day 6: Vienna

Renowned for its art and architecture, its classical music, its decadent pastries and its lengthy list of famous former residents, the refined city of Vienna is a cultural treasure trove. Experience the city with your choice of tours, followed by an evening concert of Mozart and Strauss, performed at a 12th-century monastery.   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.

Exclusive “Vienna, City of Arts” tour

The 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 museum 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.

“Morning with the Masters” at the Vienna Art History Museum and exclusive “Taste of Christmas” walking discovery tour

The Habsburgs assembled an astonishing collection of artistic treasures over the centuries, which formed the basis for the works now on display at Vienna’s preeminen tmuseum, the Vienna Art History Museum (Kunsthistorisches). 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 Kuntskammer 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 is a delicious experience for visitors (and for locals too, of course) at any time of the year, but it’s especially inviting during the winter holidays. Join an exclusive excursion that combines delectable treats of the season with a look at some of the highlights in the Innere Stadt—the historic city core. A drive along Prater and Ring streets provides a glimpse of the magnificent buildings that showcase the Habsburgs’ grandeur, followed by a closer look. This district offers a stunning array of Vienna’s gems in just a few blocks. Drop by the 14th-century Minorite Church to see the animated Nativity scene, then stroll with your guide down elegant shopping streets, including the Graben and Kohlmarkt (don’t miss the dazzling display of holiday confectionary art in the windows of Café Demel, which once supplied Empress Sissi with candied violets), step into a newly restored 15th-century courtyard house, see where Mozart once lived (though he moved often as his finances changed), peek into some of the Hofburg’s courtyards and churches, and discover as you go along the luscious flavors of Vienna’s favorite holiday sweets and savories. You’ll sample delicate vanilla crescents, the fruit- filled pastry called kletzenbrot, poppy-seed cake, fluffy apple krapfen (a type of doughnut) and air-dried Tyrolean ham and rye bread. The Christmas Market ended on December 24, but Vienna also cherishes its New Year’s traditions, so you’ll find market stalls offering the good-luck charms Viennese people exchange on New Year’s Eve: You may spot marzipan pigs, chocolate chimney sweeps, plush mushrooms, tiny metal ladybugs, even lucky pennies— they all symbolize prosperity and good fortune for the coming year. Pick up some good luck and a mug of mulled wine and roam on your own through this short-lived market before returning to the ship.

Exclusive Mozart and Strauss concert

Vienna is linked inextricably with music, as so many great composers lived and worked here: Beethoven, Mozart, Strauss, Schubert, Mahler, Brahms—the list is as long as it is glorious. Enjoy an evening of chamber music at a historic and intimate venue, a concert hall tucked inside the 12th-century Klosterneuburg Monastery. The musicians will be drawn from Vienna’s world-class professionals and will play beloved works by Mozart and Strauss.

Day 7: Vienna

An extremely rare treat awaits you today—early morning, VIP access to an extraordinary collection of art at one of the top fine arts museums on the planet. These artistic treasures were collected by the Habsburgs over many centuries, and to see them in complete privacy is a perk reserved solely for Uniworld guests.   Vienna’s art treasures are astonishing, and today you have a rare, pre-opening hours highlights tour of the Vienna Art History Museum’s collection of acclaimed masterworks.

Vienna city tour with Vienna Musikverein visit

Schönbrunn Palace with Puppet Theatre

  • Duration: 2.25 hours
  • Intermediate:
  • Transportation:
  • Price: $113 pre-purchase / €79 onboard

Perhaps the apex of baroque design in Vienna, Schönbrunn was Empress Maria Theresa’s favorite palace, and, beginning in 1740, she made it the social and political center of her empire. Now, it charms the eye with its ornate architecture, extravagant gardens and glorious 18thand 19th-century interiors—and its surprising marionette theater, which you visit today. A marionette play—a version of the opera Alceste—was first performed here in 1777; the current theater pays tribute to those origins with a production of Mozart’s Magic Flute. The delicately carved puppets in exquisite costumes and the remarkable sets and staging provide enchanting entertainment, making it a truly special addition to your holiday season. Meeting one of the puppeteers and learning about the craft and art that goes into this production makes it even more special.

To add this Masterpiece Collection excursion to your upcoming cruise, please call our reservations department. These excursions are on a first come, first serve basis so be sure to book early in case there is limited capacity. Select Masterpiece Collection excursions require a minimum number of participants and are subject to cancellation if minimum is not met.

Day 8: Bratislava

Once hidden from the world behind the “Iron Curtain,” Slovakia retains an air of mystery and intrigue, and its small capital city has an unexpectedly colorful history. You’ll learn more about Bratislava’s past from a local expert, then have free time to check out the whimsical street art and sample delicious delicacies found only in Slovakia.   Spend the morning relaxing onboard as your ship cruises along the Danube to Bratislava. The capital of Slovakia combines a historic downtown with a lively and bohemian art scene.

Bratislava walking discovery tour

St. Martin’s Cathedral gives you a hint of the surprising history of this city. The Gothic church was built into the medieval city’s fortifications, and 19 Habsburg rulers were crowned inside it, including Empress Maria Theresa. That’s because Bratislava, then known as Pressburg, became the capital of Hungary after the Ottomans conquered Budapest in 1536, a status it retained until the middle of the 19th-century. Close to the cathedral you’ll find St. Michael’s Gate, the last remaining portal of the medieval wall—and your entryway into Bratislava’s Old Town, which blends Gothic, baroque and art deco structures with some less graceful reminders of the Communist era. The stately 18th-century Primatial Palace, in the center of Old Town, was the site where the Pressburg peace treaty was signed in 1805, in which Austria ceded a great deal of territory to Napoleon. Another 18th-century palace, Grassalkovich, is now the president of Slovakia’s official residence. Take some time after the tour to browse through the attractive shops in the lovely art deco buildings that line the squares; you can find a wide selection of traditional folk items at the ULUV (Slovak Folk Culture) shop. And you’ll definitely want to sample some of the local delicacies.


You can either return to the ship with your guide, passing the Slovak State Opera on a leisurely walk, or stay in town to continue exploring.

Day 9: Budapest

Located on opposite sides of the Danube, Buda and Pest each has a distinctive character and allure all its own. Get a taste of this dynamic capital city with your choice of tours, then visit Budapest’s celebrated Christmas market—one of the largest in Europe. The highlight of the day comes after darkness falls, with a glorious New Year’s Eve gala dinner with dancing at a historic ballroom. Budapest, formerly two towns, Buda and Pest, on opposite sides of the river, began as a Roman encampment in the second century, was overrun by Magyar horsemen in the 9th-century, and has been controlled by Ottomans, Austrians, Germans and Communists over the centuries, all of whom have left their mark.

Budapest city tour

This 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 holidays.

Exclusive New Year’s gala dinner and dance

Ring in the New Year in a gorgeous historic ballroom, with an exclusive, wonderfully festive dinner followed by dancing. After midnight, the stately S.S. Maria Theresa will cruise along the Danube so you can see the city’s landmarks all alight—the Chain Bridge, the spectacular riverfront Parliament building and Castle Hill will all be illuminated for the evening.

Day 10: Budapest

Start off the New Year on a high note with an excursion to a village of talented artisans and craftspeople who live and create beautiful things together. The village is also home to two museums you’re welcome to visit—one devoted to lovely ceramics and the other to the art of…marzipan. (Yes, really.)

Szentendre Artists’ village

Head to the charming little town of Szentendre with its well-preserved 17th-century houses and active community of artists and craftspeople. A guide will introduce you to the village’s main street, which is also its primary shopping boulevard. Here you’ll find all the traditional Hungarian arts and crafts you can imagine, including ceramics, hand-embroidered blouses and tablecloths, and wool sweaters, as well as fine Herend porcelain and Tokaji wines. You can then visit either the Margit Kovács Ceramics Museum or the unique Szabo Marzipan Museum, which features a display of a display of the Hungarian Parliament made entirely out of marzipan.
A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 11: Budapest (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 the Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport for your flight home.