Vienna Austria

Portraits of Eastern Europe

19 DAYS FROM PRAGUE TO BUCHAREST

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: Bucharest

Arrive at Bucharest Henri Coandă International Airport. If your cruise/tour 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 hotel.

Day 2: Bucharest

At the end of a quiet, tree-lined street, is one of the wealthiest districts of Bucharest. There, sits a seemingly unassuming villa hiding a unique history, one that visitors have only been able to delve into since the building opened to the public in March, 2016. Today, you will have the distinct pleasure of exploring the extravagant interior and grounds of Ceausescu’s Palace for yourself, with a history lesson on its infamous former residents. 

Ceausescu's Palace: the Dictator's private mansion

The opulent former residence of Romania's former leader, Nicolae Ceausescu, is nestled in one of Bucharest’s most desirable neighborhoods, where you’ll enjoy a guided tour of this impeccable mansion. It's been a quarter of a century since deposed Romanian President Ceausescu and his wife Elena were executed by a firing squad on Christmas Day in 1989, but now you have the chance to roam the breathtaking 80-room residence where the couple once lived, which had been closed to the public since that fateful day. Get a glimpse into the extravagant lifestyle that Romania’s final dictator and his family enjoyed during a time when most Romanians were suffering, surviving only on food and fuel rations. The palace is said to be the third largest administrative building in the world, after the Pentagon and China’s Long’ao building. Marvel at the striking interior, designed by Romanian artists with the influence of Baroque, Rococo, Rocaille, medieval Romanian, and Renaissance styles. See the precious gifts receive by Ceausescu during his reign from famous heads of states, like Charles de Gaulle and Elizabeth II, still sitting proudly on display.

Day 3: Bucharest, Transfer to Giurgiu (Embark)

Bucharest is a fascinating combination of Communist grandiosity, elegant French-influenced 19th-century buildings and surprising survivors dating from the 1500s. Perhaps nothing more perfectly encapsulates Romania’s 20th-century experience than the mind-boggling People’s Palace, which you can visit today. Another option is a walking tour that shows you this city from a local’s perspective. Later, you'll travel via motorcoach to Giurgiu, where your ship awaits.

Bucharest panoramic highlights tour

A panoramic tour will show you that Bucharest is a fascinating combination of Communist grandiosity, elegant French-influenced 19th-century buildings and surprising survivors from the 1500s, which are acquiring new gloss in Lipscani, the restored old quarter. Bucharest began as a fortress in the 15th century, a warlike origin that set the tone for its turbulent history. It saw glory days as the summer residence of the Wallachian princes and was burned to the ground by the Ottoman Turks; then Austria-Hungary and imperial Russia fought over it for a century. After Wallachia and Moldavia united to form Romania in the mid-19th century, Bucharest enjoyed a prosperity that was reflected in its extravagant architecture, some of which miraculously survived WWII bombing and Communist building programs. You’ll see Bucharest’s very own Triumphal Arch, which is modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and Victoria Boulevard, lined with chic shops and handsomely restored prewar buildings—and sites where protests brought down Ceausescu’s regime in 1989. These days Bucharest enjoys a lively and eclectic cultural scene, hosting international arts festivals and concerts, and a measure of prosperity apparent in its busy cafés and thriving street life.

Perhaps no sight in Bucharest more perfectly encapsulates Romania’s 20th-century experience than the mind-boggling structure known as the People’s Palace. Nicolae Ceausescu razed one-sixth of the city to erect this enormous palace—the second-largest building in the world—which all but bankrupted the country and helped trigger his downfall. Some 20,000 laborers worked on the building, which has 1,100 rooms in its 12 stories. Only a small portion of it is open to tours—in fact, only a small portion of the rooms are furnished—but you’ll see the vast marble-sheathed halls, huge chandeliers and basement bomb shelter that comprise an astonishing monument to the dictator’s ambition. The cost to the country was enormous, but the craftsmanship is exquisite; the dictator meant it to be a showcase of Bulgarian decorative arts, and in that he fully succeeded.

“Do as the Locals Do” Bucharest walking tour

“Give a penny for the Athenaeum.” Back in the 1880s, this was the theme for the fundraising campaign that resulted in one of Bucharest’s most beautiful and most beloved buildings: the Romanian Athenaeum. Ordinary citizens, not wealthy patrons of the arts, contributed their pennies and built a jewel-box concert hall with perfect acoustics, which they cherish to this day: It’s called the spiritual and artistic heart of the nation. Start to explore the Bucharest locals love right here with a look at the stately neoclassical home of the George Enescu Romanian Philharmonic Orchestra, and continue to Revolution Square, perhaps best known for the moment when Nicolae Ceausescu climbed into a helicopter on the roof of the Central Committee building and fled Bucharest in 1989. Stroll past the elegant shops in the neighborhood, as you head to Lipscani, the restored old quarter. Just a few years ago this neighborhood was all but a shambles; now it is a lively social center. Here you’ll find everything from a famous beer hall to a spectacularly renovated bookstore, as well as the city’s oldest surviving church and the remnants of the Old Princely Court, where the Wallachian rulers—including Vlad the Impaler—lived in the 15th and 16th centuries. Your walking tour ends at Hanul Lui Manuc, built two centuries ago as an inn and recently restored, where you will take a seat in the tree-shaded courtyard and relax over some favorite local appetizers—perhaps some stuffed mushrooms and a variety of sausages.

In the evening, a special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.

Day 4: Rousse (Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi or Rousse and Ivanovo)

Bulgaria’s foremost Danube port, Rousse is sometimes called “Little Vienna” for its elegant 19th-century mansions and public buildings. You may choose to see some of the town after venturing to a pair of historic monasteries or spend the day visiting two historic hill towns.

Rousse "Do as the Locals Do" walking discovery tour with Ivanovo and Basarbovo monasteries

Walk through the woods of Rusenski Lom, a protected region that is home to a wide variety of rare birds, among other wildlife, to Ivanovo Rock Monastery—once an enclave of more than 40 churches and chapels that the devout built inside caves above the Lom River Valley. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is famous for its beautiful and well-preserved 14th-century murals.

Your next destination, the Basarbovo Rock Monastery, is the only rock monastery where monks still live and worship today. Climb the narrow rock stairway to the 15th-century cloister, which is cut into the limestone cliffs high above the Lom River, and take a look at the arresting frescoes. You’ll also spend some time in Rousse, a city with an easygoing, gracious feeling. Freedom Square, a huge open plaza, takes its name from the Freedom Monument, which soars from the center of the square; the stately Belle Epoque buildings surrounding the square attest to the city’s prosperity in the 1890s. Stroll along wide, tree-lined Alexandrovska, the main pedestrian street that links the city’s many attractive squares, encountering such landmark sights as Rousse’s grand theater, the city museum and the first movie theater (it opened in 1896).

Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi with authentic Bulgarian lunch

Twice the capital of Bulgaria—before and after the Ottomans conquered the nation—Veliko Tarnovo climbs steep hills above the Yantra River, topped by the ruins of Tsarevets, the stronghold where Bulgaria’s kings ruled between 1185 and 1393. The remains of the great stone walls and towers that you see formed the historic heart of the Second Bulgarian Empire. History lives in this town, as a quick look at the wares for sale in Samovod Marketplace will show you: Handicrafts are all made by local artisans using ancient, medieval or Renaissance technologies. You’ll have time to peruse the exceptional local pottery and textiles there before heading to Arbanassi, home to six amazing 17th-century stone churches, each one decorated with colorful and intricate frescoes. Learn something of the multicultural history of this fascinating town at the Ethnographic Museum and visit the UNESCO-designated Nativity Church, where murals of the Nativity, the Last Judgment and the zodiac brilliantly blend religious and humanist iconography. At another of the churches, Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel, you’ll hear the otherworldly singing of an Orthodox choir in a short concert. Your day’s adventure includes a traditional three-course Bulgarian lunch, complete with live folk music.

Day 5: Cruising the Danube River, Vidin

Vidin is a port town on the Danube the once played an important role in medieval Bulgarian politics, as the great fortress Baba Vida attests. It’s your base for today's featured excursion—a visit to the fascinating Belogradchik rock formations.

Belogradchik Red Rock Valley

Drive through the scenic Bulgarian countryside to Belogradchik, a small town in the foothills of the Balkan Mountains, not far from the Serbian border. After some light refreshment at a local hotel, you’ll be ready to explore the astonishing rock formations nearby, which are over 200 million years old—and have inspired nearly as many legends! Many of the strange wind- and weather-hewn shapes have names, such as Adam and Eve, the Bear and the Castle. The outcroppings formed a natural defense for the town that was enhanced with man-made fortifications over the centuries. Whether you choose to hike with a local expert to the top of the path or not, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views. Your return will take you past some sights that highlight Vidin’s mixed heritage: the Orthodox cathedral, the Turkish mosque, the Konak (the 18th-century headquarters of the Turkish police) and the cruciform barracks (which date to the 1790s). The final stop will be Baba Vida, whose stern 10th-century stone walls were built on the site of a Roman watchtower.

Day 6: Cruising the Iron Gates, Golubac

Today’s main attraction will be the spectacular scenery along the Danube, as you cruise a stretch of gorges known as the Iron Gates. Later, head ashore to explore a Paleolithic site and an extraordinary well-preserved medieval fortress. All along the way, history lines the banks of the river. Keep an eye out for Trajan’s Plaque, which the ancient Romans erected to commemorate the road they anchored in the steep cliffs above the water, and Golubac Castle, built in the 14th century and attacked successively by the Serbs, Magyars and Turks. The Turks won the castle in 1458, which helped to reinforce their control of the area until 1867, when they abandoned it.

Lepenski Vir archaeological park and Golubac Castle

Lepenski Vir is one of the largest and most significant prehistoric archeological sites from the Stone Age, located on the Danube. It was once the epicenter of one of the most highly developed prehistoric cultures, with complex social relations and even rudimentary urban planning. The discovery of this prehistoric settlement has changed the image experts once had about the early Stone Age, expanding scientists’ knowledge about human communities that walked the earth millennia ago.

Later, you’ll visit Golubac Castle, one of the best preserved medieval fortresses in Europe, a powerhouse that has loomed over the Danube for centuries.

Unwind onboard as you cruise the breathtaking Iron Gates, an 83-mile-long (134-kilometer-long) stretch of scenic gorges that were cut through the Carpathian and Balkan mountains over eons by the Danube River. These gorges, which act as a natural border between Serbia and Romania, are among the most dramatic and beautiful sights in all of Europe. This was one of the swiftest and most dangerous stretches of the river before two dams were built: Iron Gate I and Iron Gate II. Construction on the dams began in 1964 and took 20 years to complete; they have dramatically altered the area’s landscape, raising the water level by 114 feet (35 meters) and drowning several islands and villages.

Day 7: Belgrade

Belgrade, the modern-day capital of Serbia, is one of Europe’s oldest cities, dating back some 7,000 years. Signs of its tumultuous history are visible everywhere, juxtaposed with the city’s vibrant modern-day present. See it all with a choice of excursions, either a city tour that visits the palace or a guided bike ride. You have two very different ways to see Belgrade today—the choice is yours!

Belgrade city tour with visit to the Royal Grounds of Karadjordjevic Dynasty Palace

As a motorcoach carries you through the city, you’ll see a mix of architectural styles that reveal the city’s past, ranging from Gothic, Ottoman, baroque and art nouveau to utilitarian Communist apartment blocks and modern high-rises. While Belgrade has been no stranger to political upheaval, the 19th-century Residence of Princess Ljubica and serene old residential streets speak of calmer days, as do the bustling present-day café-lined boulevards. You’ll pass the tomb and memorial museum of Josip Broz Tito, which is located at the site of Tito’s former residence in Belgrade’s affluent Dedinje neighborhood, and visit Kalemegdan Fortress, high on a hill above the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers.

Ancient Romans built the first fortress here, and successive conquerors and defenders—Slavs, Byzantines, Ottomans, Habsburgs—continued to build and destroy fortifications on this site for another 1,500 years. Walk along the old stone walls, passing monuments and memorials (some will surprise you—poets and composers are honored here as well as military actions), for a sense of Serbia’s distant and more recent history. It’s not the only intriguing historical sight you’ll see today, however. You will also visit the Karadjordjevic Dynasty Palace and sip a glass of sparkling Serbian wine as you tour a compound of palaces built in the 1920s and 1930s. Serbia’s royal family, which is related to most of Europe’s royalty, has a strictly honorary position in modern-day democratic Serbia, but Crown Prince Alexander (who did not feel that taking the title of king was appropriate when his father died in exile in the United States in 1972) and his family still live in these palaces. A local expert will show you the public rooms of the Royal Palace, the White Palace, the adjacent chapel and the spacious grounds.

"Let's Go" "I Bike Belgrade" tour

Mount a bike and spend a leisurely half-day getting an up-close look at Belgrade, complete with lively commentary from your guide, who will tell you not just about the tumultuous recent past but also what it’s like to live here. Ride past Branko’s Bridge, Staro Sajmište (a former concentration camp), the Palace of Serbia and Hotel Jugoslavija; after a refreshing stop at a traditional fisherman’s bar, you’ll be ready to pedal to Kalemegdan Fortress and see a bit of Serbia’s more distant past.

Day 8: Vukovar (Osijek), Cruising the Danube River

Welcome to Croatia! This ancient country has made a remarkable recovery from a brutal civil war, and its beautiful countryside, colorful folk traditions and delicious rustic cuisine make it a most rewarding place to visit. You’ll dock in Vukovar, Croatia’s biggest port, at the confluence of the Danube and Vuka rivers.

Full-day tour of Osijek with exclusive home-hosted lunch

Venture into a lesser-known part of Croatia today. Set off from the port of Vukovar with your local expert, who will tell you about Vukovar’s calamitous experience during the Croatian War of Independence (1991-1995), when much of the city was shelled, and head to Osijek, the capital of Slavonia. Osijek is an attractive town on the banks of the Drava River that combines a long history—settlement predates the Romans, who built a fortress there that was conquered by Attila the Hun— with an easygoing charm and a readiness to embrace the future. You’ll stroll through Tvrda, the baroque military and civil complex begun in 1687 by the Habsburgs after they seized the town from the Ottoman Turks, and see some of the historic highlights via a panoramic tour.

You’ll follow up your tour with a stop in a village just outside the city for a traditional Croatian lunch hosted by local villagers. Translators will be on hand to help you and your hosts converse, so you can actually learn a bit about one another’s lives and interests.

Vucedol Culture museum and lunch at a family winery

The bullet-riddled water tower stands as a reminder of the bitter Croatian War of Independence, fought between 1991 and 1995, when Croatia sought to break away from Yugoslavia. Thousands died during the siege of Vukovar, which was heavily damaged. As you take a short walk through the town now, you will see lasting signs of the conflict, but you will also see a revitalized community, determined to rebuild. From Vukovar you’ll head to Osijek, where you’ll visit Tvrda, a military and civil complex begun in 1687 by the Habsburgs after they took the region back from the Ottomans. You’ll also learn something of Osijek’s long history—which dates back to Roman times—and stop by the Church of the Holy Cross, built by the Franciscans after the Ottomans left.

Enjoy an Ajvar demonstration in the courtyard of the monastery, a local specialty made from bell peppers, eggplant and tomatoes. You’ll also learn how to prepare vegetables in authentic Croatian style. From there, the group will split up and head off to different nearby villages for a home-hosted lunch.

Later, you’ll visit the Vucedol Museum. The basic idea behind the concept of this unique museum was integration into the terrain—the entire structure is designed to be mostly buried in the ground and only the façade is open to the landscape. Its shape, as serpentine, follows terrain, and on whose green roof you can reach the archaeological sites over the museum. Along the path, you’ll encounter the various Vučedol culture archaeological findings that have been discovered to date, which showcase the daily life and customs during a turbulent time of the immigration of the first Indo-Europeans and their relationship with the natives, the blending of material cultures and religions. Following your time at the museum, enjoy lunch at the Goldschmidt winery.

Day 9: Cruising the Danube River, Budapest

Located on opposite sides of the Danube, Buda and Pest each has a distinctive character and allure all its own. Explore this dynamic and multi-faceted city with your choice of excursions—you can see it from a local’s perspective on our exclusive walking tour, or cover more ground with a panoramic tour. Vibrant Budapest, Hungary’s capital, offers an enchanting combination of East and West, old and new. Even its geography is made up of two parts—Buda (the hills) and Pest (the flatlands)—divided by the Danube. Which part will you choose to explore today? You have two options to choose from.

Budapest panoramic highlights with Parliament visit

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.

“Do as the Locals Do” Budapest walking tour

Get ready for a fun immersion in the daily life of Budapest—your local expert 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 truffle 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.

Note: Budapest’s market halls are closed on holidays. If your tour lands on a holiday, we will skip the market.

Day 10: Budapest

Enjoy a day of leisure, exploring the Hungarian capital to your heart’s content. Other passengers are heading home today, but you are only halfway through your marvelous holiday. Today you have an opportunity to explore Budapest’s treasures at your leisure. It’s a mecca for lovers of art nouveau architecture—the building housing the Franz Liszt Academy of Music is a particularly noteworthy example of the style—so perhaps you would like to take yourself on a tour of some of these beauties. For a reminder of the centuries when Hungary was ruled by the Ottoman Turks, take a look at the 16th-century tomb of Gül Baba (and enjoy a Turkish coffee at the adjoining coffeehouse). Treat yourself to a relaxing day at one of the city’s splendid spas, such as the Gellért Baths, or borrow one of the ship’s bicycles and explore Margaret Island. Your options are many, and all of them are delightful.

Day 11: Budapest, Cruising the Danube River

Located on opposite sides of the Danube, Buda and Pest each has a distinctive character and allure all its own. Explore this dynamic and multi-faceted city with your choice of excursions—you can see it from a local’s perspective on our exclusive walking tour, or cover more ground with a panoramic tour. Vibrant Budapest, Hungary’s capital, offers an enchanting combination of East and West, old and new. Even its geography is made up of two parts—Buda (the hills) and Pest (the flatlands)—divided by the Danube. Appropriately enough, you have your choice of two different ways to explore it today.

Budapest: panoramic highlights

“Do as the Locals Do” Budapest walking tour

Get ready for a fun immersion in daily life in 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 truffle 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.

Your ship sets sail from Budapest after your tour, cruising along the Danube Bend, which is lined with scenic towns—among them are the oldest settlements in the country—nestled at the foot of lovely wooded hills.

In the evening, a special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.

Day 12: Cruising the Danube River, Vienna

A city tour will show you the architectural highlights of the Austrian capital as well as the legendary opera house in the heart of the city. Or, indulge your passion for art with visits to two distinctively different collections—a “cabinet of curiosities” collected by the Habsburgs and the Belvedere’s extraordinary cache of paintings by Klimt and other renowned artists. 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 today it is yours to explore.

Vienna panoramic highlights with Old Town food and art walk

Vienna panoramic highlights World Museum Vienna: the manic Habsburg collector's treasures

Day 13: Cruising the Wachau Valley, Spitz

Sit back and enjoy the ever-changing views as your ship cruises through the Wachau Valley, famous for its apricot groves, Rieslings and natural beauty. Later, enjoy a private sparkling wine reception at Artstatten Castle. You’ll want to find a comfortable seat in the lounge or on the Sun Deck today as your ship cruises through the Wachau Valley toward Spitz. 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 riverbanks, marking historic villages and splendid abbeys; and apricot orchards and vineyards cling to the rocky slopes. Some of Austria’s finest white wines are produced from grapes ripening on the dry-stone terraces above the river, where grapes have been grown for 2,000 years. Your ship will dock in Spitz, midway through this glorious landscape.

Private sparkling wine reception at Artstatten Castle with a member of the Habsburg royal family

Day 14: 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 and its main claim to fame, Europe’s largest pipe organ, or join an invigorating riverside hike or bike ride. Your ship cruises through a scenic highlight of the Danube today, the Schlögener Schlinge—a hairpin loop in the Danube that was once very hazardous for ships and is now a lovely, serene stretch of water—and leaves Austria behind today. Your first German port of call is Passau, where three rivers meet—the Inn, the Ilz and the Danube—and three nations almost meet: Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. Explore the historic Old Town or choose a more active adventure.

Passau walking discovery tour

The 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 magnificent new residence for the bishops themselves. As a result, these splendid structures flaunt 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.

“Let's Go” scenic Bavarian river biking

"Let's Go" hike along the Ilz River

Day 15: Regensburg

You have your choice of adventures in Regensburg, famous for its beautiful, UNESCO protected old city center. “Regensburg is so beautifully situated; this region had to attract a town,” wrote Goethe in his Diary of an Italian Voyage. And attract a town it did, but not due to its beautiful location alone. Ambitious and farseeing locals built a bridge (Steinerne Brücke, or Stone Bridge) over the Danube back in the 12th century, making Regensburg an international trading hub. Because so many of the handsome buildings from that period remain, UNESCO declared the old city center a World Heritage Site in 2006.

BMW factory visit

Here 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 the fascinating production process from beginning to end, starting with rolls of sheet metal that are stamped out into body parts and continuing as the body is built and the various other elements are robotically assembled. You’ll follow a car into the finishing department to see it painted, polished and have the final touch applied—the BMW roundel.

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

"Baroque 500" Thurn and Taxis castle visit

"Let's Go" Regensburg hiking experience

Day 16: Regensburg, Roth, Nuremberg

The Main-Danube canal is a masterwork of engineering: It allows ships of all shapes and sizes to cruise from the Black Sea all the way to the North Sea, through no fewer than 15 countries. Sixteen locks punctuate the 106-mile (160-kilometer) stretch between Kelheim and Bamberg, linking the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. Building the canal was no small task, especially considering changes of altitude (each river is different); the locks gently lift and lower the ships an astonishing 1,332 feet (406 meters) over the continental divide. Efforts to connect the rivers began with Charlemagne in AD 793, but the present-day canal was only completed in 1992.

Nuremberg panoramic city tour with WII rally grounds visit

Hitler 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.

Day 17: Nuremberg (Disembark), Transfer to Prague

Disembark the ship early in the morning—leaving your luggage in Uniworld’s expert hands. Enjoy lunch on your own and then transfer via motorcoach to Prague, where you’ll check into your hotel.

Day 18: Prague

Is it possible not to be completely enchanted by Prague, with its fabled skyline of spires, fortress-like castle, beautifully preserved architecture and iconic Charles Bridge? A magnet for generations of artists, writers, scientists and composers, Prague is famous for its dynamic energy and elegant ambiance (and the beers here are pretty amazing, too). A thousand years of architecture, from ornate Gothic to fanciful postmodern, have been beautifully preserved in Prague, which has been a magnet for artists, writers, scientists and composers for centuries. It also boasts great beer, a lively art scene and up-and-coming fashion designers, making it a fun as well as a beautiful place to visit.

Prague Old Town and Charles Bridge walking tour

Hradčany Castle visit

Day 19: Depart Prague

You’ve experienced the best of the Danube River and Prague, sampling myriad culinary delights and exploring fascinating stops along the way. Now your journey comes to a close. If your cruise/tour includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Prague Václav Havel Airport for your flight home. Your Uniworld adventure may be over, but we know you’ll enjoy the memories you’ve made for years to come.
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: Prague

Arrive at Václav Havel Airport Prague. If your cruise/tour 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 hotel.

Day 2: Prague

Is it possible not to be completely enchanted by Prague, with its fabled skyline of spires, fortress-like castle, beautifully preserved architecture and iconic Charles Bridge? A magnet for generations of artists, writers, scientists and composers, Prague is famous for its dynamic energy and elegant ambiance (and the beers here are pretty amazing, too). A thousand years of architecture, from ornate Gothic to fanciful postmodern, have been beautifully preserved in Prague, which has been a magnet for artists, writers, scientists and composers for centuries. It also boasts great beer, a lively art scene and up-and-coming fashion designers, making it a fun as well as a beautiful place to visit.

Prague Old Town and Charles Bridge walking tour

Hradčany Castle visit

Day 3: Prague, Transfer to Nuremberg (Embark)

Nuremberg will forever be associated with the post-WWII Nuremberg trials, but the city’s profound historical and cultural significance stretches back many centuries before that. You’ll gain a newfound understanding and appreciation of both aspects of the city today on an in-depth tour with a local expert. Leave Prague this morning and travel via motorcoach to Nuremberg, where your ship awaits. Before you embark on your river voyage, you’ll have time to enjoy lunch on your own and then explore historic Nuremberg and visit sites associated with the rise and fall of the Third Reich. 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.

Nuremberg panoramic city tour with WII rally grounds visit

Hitler 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.

Day 4: Cruising the Main-Danube Canal, Regensburg

You have your choice of adventures in Regensburg, famous for its beautiful, UNESCO protected old city center. “Regensburg is so beautifully situated; this region had to attract a town,” wrote Goethe in his Diary of an Italian Voyage. And attract a town it did, but not due to its beautiful location alone. Ambitious and farseeing locals built a bridge (Steinerne Brücke, or Stone Bridge) over the Danube back in the 12th century, making Regensburg an international trading hub. Because so many of the handsome buildings from that period remain, UNESCO declared the old city center a World Heritage Site in 2006.

BMW factory visit

Here 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 the fascinating production process from beginning to end, starting with rolls of sheet metal that are stamped out into body parts and continuing as the body is built and the various other elements are robotically assembled. You’ll follow a car into the finishing department to see it painted, polished and have the final touch applied—the BMW roundel.

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

"Baroque 500" Thurn and Taxis castle visit

"Let's Go" Regensburg hiking experience

Day 5: 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 and its main claim to fame, Europe’s largest pipe organ, or enjoy an invigorating riverside hike or bike ride.

Passau walking discovery tour

The 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 magnificent new residence for the bishops themselves. As a result, these splendid structures flaunt 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.

“Let's Go” scenic Bavarian river biking

"Let's Go" hike along the Ilz River

Day 6: Engelhartszell, cruising the Danube River

This may be the most leisurely day of your entire journey, as you spend it onboard, admiring the scenery, chatting with new friends and perhaps enjoying a massage in the spa. Your ship leaves Germany behind today, sailing into Austria and cruising through the Schlögener Schinge—a hairpin loop in the Danube that was once very hazardous for ships.

Day 7: Spitz, cruising the Wachau Valley

Your ship will dock in Spitz, midway through the glorious landscape, where you are invited to enjoy a private sparkling wine reception at Artstatten Castle. Later in the day, you’ll want to find a comfortable seat in the lounge or on the Sun Deck 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.

Private sparkling wine reception at Artstatten Castle with a member of the Habsburg royal family

Day 8: Vienna

A city tour will show you the architectural highlights of the Austrian capital as well as the legendary opera house in the heart of the city. Or, indulge your passion for art with visits to two distinctively different collections—a “cabinet of curiosities” collected by the Habsburgs and the Belvedere’s extraordinary cache of paintings by Klimt and other renowned artists. 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 today it is yours to explore.

Vienna panoramic highlights with Old Town food and art walk

Vienna panoramic highlights World Museum Vienna: the manic Habsburg collector's treasures

Day 9: Budapest

Located on opposite sides of the Danube, Buda and Pest each has a distinctive character and allure all its own. Explore this dynamic and multi-faceted city with your choice of excursions—you can see it from a local’s perspective on our exclusive walking tour, or cover more ground with a panoramic tour. Vibrant Budapest, Hungary’s capital, offers an enchanting combination of East and West, old and new. Even its geography is made up of two parts—Buda (the hills) and Pest (the flatlands)—divided by the Danube. Appropriately enough, you have your choice of two different ways to explore it today.

Budapest panoramic highlights with Parliament visit

“Do as the Locals Do” Budapest walking tour

Get ready for a fun immersion in daily life in 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 truffle 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.

Your ship sets sail from Budapest after your tour, cruising along the Danube Bend, which is lined with scenic towns—among them are the oldest settlements in the country—nestled at the foot of lovely wooded hills.

In the evening, a special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.

Day 10: Budapest

Enjoy a day of leisure, exploring the Hungarian capital to your heart’s content. Other passengers are heading home today, but you are only halfway through your marvelous holiday. Today you have an opportunity to explore Budapest’s treasures at your leisure. It’s a mecca for lovers of art nouveau architecture—the building housing the Franz Liszt Academy of Music is a particularly noteworthy example of the style—so perhaps you would like to take yourself on a tour of some of these beauties. For a reminder of the centuries when Hungary was ruled by the Ottoman Turks, take a look at the 16th-century tomb of Gül Baba (and enjoy a Turkish coffee at the adjoining coffeehouse). Treat yourself to a relaxing day at one of the city’s splendid spas, such as the Gellért Baths, or borrow one of the ship’s bicycles and explore Margaret Island. Your options are many, and all of them are delightful.

Day 11: Budapest, Cruising the Danube River

Located on opposite sides of the Danube, Buda and Pest each has a distinctive character and allure all its own. Explore this dynamic and multi-faceted city with your choice of excursions—you can see it from a local’s perspective on our exclusive walking tour, or cover more ground with a panoramic tour. Vibrant Budapest, Hungary’s capital, offers an enchanting combination of East and West, old and new. Even its geography is made up of two parts—Buda (the hills) and Pest (the flatlands)—divided by the Danube. Which part will you choose to explore today? You have two options to choose from.

Budapest - panoramic highlights & Opera or Highstreet shopping

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.

“Do as the Locals Do” Budapest walking tour

Get ready for a fun immersion in the daily life of Budapest—your local expert 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 truffle 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.

Note: Budapest’s market halls are closed on holidays. If your tour lands on a holiday, we will skip the market.

Day 12: Cruising the Danube River, Vukovar (Osijek)

Welcome to Croatia! This ancient country has made a remarkable recovery from a brutal civil war, and its beautiful countryside, colorful folk traditions and delicious rustic cuisine make it a most rewarding place to visit. You’ll dock in Vukovar, Croatia’s biggest port, at the confluence of the Danube and Vuka rivers.

Full-day tour of Osijek with exclusive home-hosted lunch

Venture into a lesser-known part of Croatia today. Set off from the port of Vukovar with your local expert, who will tell you about Vukovar’s calamitous experience during the Croatian War of Independence (1991-1995), when much of the city was shelled, and head to Osijek, the capital of Slavonia. Osijek is an attractive town on the banks of the Drava River that combines a long history—settlement predates the Romans, who built a fortress there that was conquered by Attila the Hun— with an easygoing charm and a readiness to embrace the future. You’ll stroll through Tvrda, the baroque military and civil complex begun in 1687 by the Habsburgs after they seized the town from the Ottoman Turks, and see some of the historic highlights via a panoramic tour.

You’ll follow up your tour with a stop in a village just outside the city for a traditional Croatian lunch hosted by local villagers. Translators will be on hand to help you and your hosts converse, so you can actually learn a bit about one another’s lives and interests.

Vucedol Culture museum and lunch at a family winery

The bullet-riddled water tower stands as a reminder of the bitter Croatian War of Independence, fought between 1991 and 1995, when Croatia sought to break away from Yugoslavia. Thousands died during the siege of Vukovar, which was heavily damaged. As you take a short walk through the town now, you will see lasting signs of the conflict, but you will also see a revitalized community, determined to rebuild. From Vukovar you’ll head to Osijek, where you’ll visit Tvrda, a military and civil complex begun in 1687 by the Habsburgs after they took the region back from the Ottomans. You’ll also learn something of Osijek’s long history—which dates back to Roman times—and stop by the Church of the Holy Cross, built by the Franciscans after the Ottomans left.

Enjoy an Ajvar demonstration in the courtyard of the monastery, a local specialty made from bell peppers, eggplant and tomatoes. You’ll also learn how to prepare vegetables in authentic Croatian style. From there, the group will split up and head off to different nearby villages for a home-hosted lunch.

Later, you’ll visit the Vucedol Museum. The basic idea behind the concept of this unique museum was integration into the terrain—the entire structure is designed to be mostly buried in the ground and only the façade is open to the landscape. Its shape, as serpentine, follows terrain, and on whose green roof you can reach the archaeological sites over the museum. Along the path, you’ll encounter the various Vučedol culture archaeological findings that have been discovered to date, which showcase the daily life and customs during a turbulent time of the immigration of the first Indo-Europeans and their relationship with the natives, the blending of material cultures and religions. Following your time at the museum, enjoy lunch at the Goldschmidt winery.

Day 13: Belgrade

Belgrade, the modern-day capital of Serbia, is one of Europe’s oldest cities, dating back some 7,000 years. Signs of its tumultuous history are visible everywhere, juxtaposed with the city’s vibrant modern-day present. See it all with a choice of excursions, either a city tour that visits the palace or a guided bike ride. You have two very different ways to see Belgrade today—the choice is yours!

Belgrade city tour with visit to the Royal Grounds of Karadjordjevic Dynasty Palace

As a motorcoach carries you through the city, you’ll see a mix of architectural styles that reveal the city’s past, ranging from Gothic, Ottoman, baroque and art nouveau to utilitarian Communist apartment blocks and modern high-rises. While Belgrade has been no stranger to political upheaval, the 19th-century Residence of Princess Ljubica and serene old residential streets speak of calmer days, as do the bustling present-day café-lined boulevards. You’ll pass the tomb and memorial museum of Josip Broz Tito, which is located at the site of Tito’s former residence in Belgrade’s affluent Dedinje neighborhood, and visit Kalemegdan Fortress, high on a hill above the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers.

Ancient Romans built the first fortress here, and successive conquerors and defenders—Slavs, Byzantines, Ottomans, Habsburgs—continued to build and destroy fortifications on this site for another 1,500 years. Walk along the old stone walls, passing monuments and memorials (some will surprise you—poets and composers are honored here as well as military actions), for a sense of Serbia’s distant and more recent history. It’s not the only intriguing historical sight you’ll see today, however. You will also visit the Karadjordjevic Dynasty Palace and sip a glass of sparkling Serbian wine as you tour a compound of palaces built in the 1920s and 1930s. Serbia’s royal family, which is related to most of Europe’s royalty, has a strictly honorary position in modern-day democratic Serbia, but Crown Prince Alexander (who did not feel that taking the title of king was appropriate when his father died in exile in the United States in 1972) and his family still live in these palaces. A local expert will show you the public rooms of the Royal Palace, the White Palace, the adjacent chapel and the spacious grounds.

"Let's Go" "I Bike Belgrade" tour

Mount a bike and spend a leisurely half-day getting an up-close look at Belgrade, complete with lively commentary from your guide, who will tell you not just about the tumultuous recent past but also what it’s like to live here. Ride past Branko’s Bridge, Staro Sajmište (a former concentration camp), the Palace of Serbia and Hotel Jugoslavija; after a refreshing stop at a traditional fisherman’s bar, you’ll be ready to pedal to Kalemegdan Fortress and see a bit of Serbia’s more distant past.

Day 14: Golubac, Cruising the Iron Gates

Today’s main attraction will be the spectacular scenery along the Danube, as you cruise a stretch of gorges known as the Iron Gates. Later, head ashore to explore a Paleolithic site and an extraordinary well-preserved medieval fortress. All along the way, history lines the banks of the river. Keep an eye out for Trajan’s Plaque, which the ancient Romans erected to commemorate the road they anchored in the steep cliffs above the water, and Golubac Castle, built in the 14th century and attacked successively by the Serbs, Magyars and Turks. The Turks won the castle in 1458, which helped to reinforce their control of the area until 1867, when they abandoned it.

Lepenski Vir archaeological park and Golubac Castle

Lepenski Vir is one of the largest and most significant prehistoric archeological sites from the Stone Age, located on the Danube. It was once the epicenter of one of the most highly developed prehistoric cultures, with complex social relations and even rudimentary urban planning. The discovery of this prehistoric settlement has changed the image experts once had about the early Stone Age, expanding scientists’ knowledge about human communities that walked the earth millennia ago.

Later, you’ll visit Golubac Castle, one of the best preserved medieval fortresses in Europe, a powerhouse that has loomed over the Danube for centuries.

Unwind onboard as you cruise the breathtaking Iron Gates, an 83-mile-long (134-kilometer-long) stretch of scenic gorges that were cut through the Carpathian and Balkan mountains over eons by the Danube River. These gorges, which act as a natural border between Serbia and Romania, are among the most dramatic and beautiful sights in all of Europe. This was one of the swiftest and most dangerous stretches of the river before two dams were built: Iron Gate I and Iron Gate II. Construction on the dams began in 1964 and took 20 years to complete; they have dramatically altered the area’s landscape, raising the water level by 114 feet (35 meters) and drowning several islands and villages.

Day 15: Cruising the Danube River, Vidin

Vidin is a port town on the Danube the once played an important role in medieval Bulgarian politics, as the great fortress Baba Vida attests. It’s your base for today's featured excursion—a visit to the fascinating Belogradchik rock formations.

Belogradchik Red Rock Valley

Drive through the scenic Bulgarian countryside to Belogradchik, a small town in the foothills of the Balkan Mountains, not far from the Serbian border. After some light refreshment at a local hotel, you’ll be ready to explore the astonishing rock formations nearby, which are over 200 million years old—and have inspired nearly as many legends! Many of the strange wind- and weather-hewn shapes have names, such as Adam and Eve, the Bear and the Castle. The outcroppings formed a natural defense for the town that was enhanced with man-made fortifications over the centuries. Whether you choose to hike with a local expert to the top of the path or not, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views. Your return will take you past some sights that highlight Vidin’s mixed heritage: the Orthodox cathedral, the Turkish mosque, the Konak (the 18th-century headquarters of the Turkish police) and the cruciform barracks (which date to the 1790s). The final stop will be Baba Vida, whose stern 10th-century stone walls were built on the site of a Roman watchtower.

Day 16: Rousse (Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi or Rousse and Ivanovo)

Bulgaria’s foremost Danube port, Rousse is sometimes called “Little Vienna” for its elegant 19th-century mansions and public buildings. You may choose to see some of the town after venturing to a pair of historic monasteries or spend the day visiting two historic hill towns.

Rousse "Do as the Locals Do" walking discovery tour with Ivanovo and Basarbovo monasteries

Walk through the woods of Rusenski Lom, a protected region that is home to a wide variety of rare birds, among other wildlife, to Ivanovo Rock Monastery—once an enclave of more than 40 churches and chapels that the devout built inside caves above the Lom River Valley. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is famous for its beautiful and well-preserved 14th-century murals.

Your next destination, the Basarbovo Rock Monastery, is the only rock monastery where monks still live and worship today. Climb the narrow rock stairway to the 15th-century cloister, which is cut into the limestone cliffs high above the Lom River, and take a look at the arresting frescoes. You’ll also spend some time in Rousse, a city with an easygoing, gracious feeling. Freedom Square, a huge open plaza, takes its name from the Freedom Monument, which soars from the center of the square; the stately Belle Epoque buildings surrounding the square attest to the city’s prosperity in the 1890s. Stroll along wide, tree-lined Alexandrovska, the main pedestrian street that links the city’s many attractive squares, encountering such landmark sights as Rousse’s grand theater, the city museum and the first movie theater (it opened in 1896).

Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi with authentic Bulgarian lunch

Twice the capital of Bulgaria—before and after the Ottomans conquered the nation—Veliko Tarnovo climbs steep hills above the Yantra River, topped by the ruins of Tsarevets, the stronghold where Bulgaria’s kings ruled between 1185 and 1393. The remains of the great stone walls and towers that you see formed the historic heart of the Second Bulgarian Empire. History lives in this town, as a quick look at the wares for sale in Samovod Marketplace will show you: Handicrafts are all made by local artisans using ancient, medieval or Renaissance technologies. You’ll have time to peruse the exceptional local pottery and textiles there before heading to Arbanassi, home to six amazing 17th-century stone churches, each one decorated with colorful and intricate frescoes. Learn something of the multicultural history of this fascinating town at the Ethnographic Museum and visit the UNESCO-designated Nativity Church, where murals of the Nativity, the Last Judgment and the zodiac brilliantly blend religious and humanist iconography. At another of the churches, Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel, you’ll hear the otherworldly singing of an Orthodox choir in a short concert. Your day’s adventure includes a traditional three-course Bulgarian lunch, complete with live folk music.

In the evening, a special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.

Day 17: Giurgiu (Disembark), Transfer to Bucharest

This morning, you’ll disembark the ship in Giurgiu and drive through the countryside to Bucharest, Romania’s capital and its cultural and economic center, where you’ll enjoy a panoramic city tour.  Bucharest is a fascinating combination of Communist grandiosity, elegant French-influenced 19th-century buildings and surprising survivors dating from the 1500s. Perhaps nothing more perfectly encapsulates Romania’s 20th-century experience than the mind-boggling People’s Palace, which you can visit today. Another option is a walking tour that shows you this city from a local’s perspective. Tonight you’ll relax in the comfort of a luxury hotel located in the heart of the city.

Bucharest panoramic highlights tour

A panoramic tour will show you that Bucharest is a fascinating combination of Communist grandiosity, elegant French-influenced 19th-century buildings and surprising survivors from the 1500s, which are acquiring new gloss in Lipscani, the restored old quarter. Bucharest began as a fortress in the 15th century, a warlike origin that set the tone for its turbulent history. It saw glory days as the summer residence of the Wallachian princes and was burned to the ground by the Ottoman Turks; then Austria-Hungary and imperial Russia fought over it for a century. After Wallachia and Moldavia united to form Romania in the mid-19th century, Bucharest enjoyed a prosperity that was reflected in its extravagant architecture, some of which miraculously survived WWII bombing and Communist building programs. You’ll see Bucharest’s very own Triumphal Arch, which is modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and Victoria Boulevard, lined with chic shops and handsomely restored prewar buildings—and sites where protests brought down Ceausescu’s regime in 1989. These days Bucharest enjoys a lively and eclectic cultural scene, hosting international arts festivals and concerts, and a measure of prosperity apparent in its busy cafés and thriving street life.

Perhaps no sight in Bucharest more perfectly encapsulates Romania’s 20th-century experience than the mind-boggling structure known as the People’s Palace. Nicolae Ceausescu razed one-sixth of the city to erect this enormous palace—the second-largest building in the world—which all but bankrupted the country and helped trigger his downfall. Some 20,000 laborers worked on the building, which has 1,100 rooms in its 12 stories. Only a small portion of it is open to tours—in fact, only a small portion of the rooms are furnished—but you’ll see the vast marble-sheathed halls, huge chandeliers and basement bomb shelter that comprise an astonishing monument to the dictator’s ambition. The cost to the country was enormous, but the craftsmanship is exquisite; the dictator meant it to be a showcase of Bulgarian decorative arts, and in that he fully succeeded.

“Do as the Locals Do” Bucharest walking tour

“Give a penny for the Athenaeum.” Back in the 1880s, this was the theme for the fundraising campaign that resulted in one of Bucharest’s most beautiful and most beloved buildings: the Romanian Athenaeum. Ordinary citizens, not wealthy patrons of the arts, contributed their pennies and built a jewel-box concert hall with perfect acoustics, which they cherish to this day: It’s called the spiritual and artistic heart of the nation. Start to explore the Bucharest locals love right here with a look at the stately neoclassical home of the George Enescu Romanian Philharmonic Orchestra, and continue to Revolution Square, perhaps best known for the moment when Nicolae Ceausescu climbed into a helicopter on the roof of the Central Committee building and fled Bucharest in 1989. Stroll past the elegant shops in the neighborhood, as you head to Lipscani, the restored old quarter. Just a few years ago this neighborhood was all but a shambles; now it is a lively social center. Here you’ll find everything from a famous beer hall to a spectacularly renovated bookstore, as well as the city’s oldest surviving church and the remnants of the Old Princely Court, where the Wallachian rulers—including Vlad the Impaler—lived in the 15th and 16th centuries. Your walking tour ends at Hanul Lui Manuc, built two centuries ago as an inn and recently restored, where you will take a seat in the tree-shaded courtyard and relax over some favorite local appetizers—perhaps some stuffed mushrooms and a variety of sausages.

Day 18: Bucharest

At the end of a quiet, tree-lined street, is one of the wealthiest districts of Bucharest. There, sits a seemingly unassuming villa hiding a unique history, one that visitors have only been able to delve into since the building opened to the public in March, 2016. Today, you will have the distinct pleasure of exploring the extravagant interior and grounds of Ceausescu’s Palace for yourself, with a history lesson on its infamous former residents. 

Ceausescu's Palace: the Dictator's private mansion

The opulent former residence of Romania's former leader, Nicolae Ceausescu, is nestled in one of Bucharest’s most desirable neighborhoods, where you’ll enjoy a guided tour of this impeccable mansion. It's been a quarter of a century since deposed Romanian President Ceausescu and his wife Elena were executed by a firing squad on Christmas Day in 1989, but now you have the chance to roam the breathtaking 80-room residence where the couple once lived, which had been closed to the public since that fateful day. Get a glimpse into the extravagant lifestyle that Romania’s final dictator and his family enjoyed during a time when most Romanians were suffering, surviving only on food and fuel rations. The palace is said to be the third largest administrative building in the world, after the Pentagon and China’s Long’ao building. Marvel at the striking interior, designed by Romanian artists with the influence of Baroque, Rococo, Rocaille, medieval Romanian, and Renaissance styles. See the precious gifts receive by Ceausescu during his reign from famous heads of states, like Charles de Gaulle and Elizabeth II, still sitting proudly on display.

Day 19: Bucharest

Check out of your hotel this morning. If your cruise/tour package includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Bucharest Henri Coandă International Airport for your flight home.