Grand Christmas & New Years 2017

Grand Christmas & New Year's

13 DAYS FROM NUREMBERG TO BUDAPEST

Day 1: Nuremberg (Embark)

Arrive at Nuremberg Airport. If your cruise package includes a group arrival transfer, or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the ship.

Day 2: Nuremberg

For an over-the-top, old-world holiday extravaganza, look no further than Nuremberg, which boasts the largest and grandest Christmas market in all of Germany—and that’s really saying something. The “Gingerbread Capital of the World” pulls out all the stops during the holidays, as you’ll see for yourself on a panoramic tour guaranteed to put you in a festive mood.   You could not ask for a more perfect place to begin a celebration of the holiday season than Nuremberg. The historic Old Town is an archetypal German medieval city and home to a world-renowned gingerbread called lebkuchen.
Nuremberg city tour with Christmas Market
The people of Nuremberg hold their Christmas Market very close to their hearts. The iconic Christkind, with her white-and-gold dress, long blond curls and golden crown, opens the Christmas Market each year by declaring: “Welcome, young and old, to my little community of wood and cloth. While this market’s splendor is fleeting, the joy it brings is eternal.” Today is the very last day of the market, giving you just this one chance to catch that fleeting splendor. Beautiful at any time, Nuremberg’s Old Town is especially magical when dressed in all of its holiday finery. Unfortunately, the city’s history also has a dark side, as you will see on a panoramic tour that shows you places where Hitler celebrated the might of his Third Reich—the Rally Grounds and the never-finished coliseum, Congress Hall—before you reach Old Town, where you’ll find the archetypal medieval German city. Stroll through the castle gardens and enjoy breathtaking views of the city, then walk through a maze of cobblestone lanes down to the central Market Square. There, spread out before the Church of Our Lady, is the largest Christmas market in Germany. Two hundred stalls filled with holiday wares—ornaments, nutcrackers, seasonal treats and hand-carved toys—await you, and the irresistible aromas of roasting nuts, cinnamon and grilled sausages waft through the air. Adding to the fun is an area set aside especially for children, complete with a two-tiered carousel featuring carved reindeer and Santa’s sleigh. As you wander through the market, you will certainly want to indulge in some of the city’s famous gingerbread; after all, Nuremberg is known as the “Gingerbread Capital of the World.”
A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 3: Cruising the Main-Danube Canal, Regensburg

Spend a leisurely day onboard as you cruise along a marvel of modern engineering, the 106-mile-long Main-Danube Canal. Tonight, celebrate Christmas Eve in the enchanting town of Regensburg.   For more than 1,200 years, European leaders dreamed of linking the great rivers of Central Europe: the Rhine, Main and Danube. And in 1992, an engineering masterpiece, the 106-mile (170-kilometer) long Main-Danube Canal, made this dream come true. This masterwork allows ships of all shapes and sizes to readily transit from the Rhine Delta in the Netherlands to the Danube Delta in Romania, connecting the North Sea to the Black Sea. The canal crosses the European Divide at 1,331 feet (405 meters) above sea level, climbing the summit by way of a series of impressive locks; the highest will lift your boat about 83 feet (25 meters). The canal then follows the natural course of the Altmühl Valley, a picturesque area of limestone mountains and Franconian villages, before it joins the Danube near Regensburg. Don’t miss the fascinating process as your ship navigates the locks—or the wonderful scenery on either side of them.   You’ll arrive in Regensburg this evening, with the town celebrating Christmas Eve. You’ll be free to explore the UNESCO-designated medieval city on your own, and if you like, you may attend midnight Mass in one of Regensburg’s historic churches.

Day 4: Regensburg

The Old Town of Regensburg sparkles with holiday lights and decorations this time of year, adding to its already considerable charms. Check out the best and brightest cultural sights with a choice of tours—you can either plunge you into the town’s ancient past or explore its fascinating Jewish history. Tonight, there’s a festive Christmas celebration onboard.   Your first port of call on the Danube, Regensburg is a friendly town with quaint cobblestone streets, medieval alleys and ancient Roman ruins. Goethe thought that it was “so beautifully situated; this region had to attract a town.” And attract a town it did—Roman legions founded Regensburg 2,000 years ago, calling it Castra Regina. It prospered over the centuries, not just because of its beautiful location, but also because ambitious and far-seeing locals built a bridge over the Danube back in the 12th-century. Thanks to that bridge, Regensburg became an international trading hub and, at one time, the capital of Bavaria. In the morning, you’ll have time to attend Christmas Mass in one of Regensburg’s beautiful churches.
“2,000 Years in One Hour” Regensburg walking discovery tour
People have described Regensburg as “old and new” for a thousand years. A single structure perfectly illustrates this: Porta Praetoria, the gate built by the Romans during Marcus Aurelius’s reign. The gate and adjacent watchtower have been incorporated in a much newer building, but the plaster has been removed to reveal the ancient stones laid so long ago. As you walk through the cobbled lanes of the UNESCO-designated Old Town, the city’s 2,000-year history is similarly revealed: the 12th-century Stone Bridge, the Gothic town hall where the Imperial Diet met for three centuries, the stately 13th-century patrician houses, and the spectacular Cathedral of St. Peter, whose magnificent 14th-century stained-glass windows alone are worth the walk. And at this time of year, old-town Regensburg sparkles with holiday lights and decorations, adding to its enormous charm.
Jewish Regensburg walking discovery tour
A white marble installation called Place of Encounter stands on the spot where a synagogue was destroyed in 1519. The installation, by Dani Karavan, reflects the outlines of the synagogue, taken from a drawing made immediately before the interior was demolished. It’s just one of the mementos you’ll see on your tour of this historic Jewish district, which was home to a thriving Jewish community for 500 years; its celebrated school drew Talmudic scholars from all of Central Europe. Jews in Ratisbon, as the town was known in medieval documents, enjoyed imperial protection, but following the death of Maximilian I, the town council banished all Jews and razed their homes and synagogue. The community grew again over the centuries, though the sad history of death and destruction was repeated in the 1930s. The Jewish quarter was re-established in 1945 by Holocaust survivors. It has taken decades, but the synagogue and much of the surrounding area have now been restored, standing as a symbol of both destruction and hope. Regensburg is host to one other such symbol: the modest house where Oskar Schindler lived after WWII. You’ll pass it on your tour.   Invigorated by your stroll through Regensburg’s winter wonderland, you’ll return to the ship for a warm and festive Christmas celebration, complete with a sumptuous meal, superb wines and Christmas caroling. This will be a holiday memory you’ll cherish for years to come.

Day 5: Cruising the Danube River, Deggendorf (Theresienthal)

Is that the sound of…jingle bells? Yes indeed, but that’s not Santa’s sleigh you’re hearing, it’s a horse-drawn wagon whisking you through the densely wooded Bavarian Forest. This area is known for glass-making, which you’ll observe close-up at a famous workshop.   After a morning cruising the enchanting Danube, you’ll arrive in Deggendorf, gateway to the Bavarian Forest.
Exclusive Bavarian Forest village with Theresienthal glass manufactory visit
Want to know what it feels like to step into a Christmas card illustration? Find out as you snuggle down in toasty blankets for a brisk ride in a horse-drawn wagon (or, if there’s snow, a horse-drawn sleigh) through the wonderland that is the Bavarian Forest in December. The largest nature preserve in Europe, the Bavarian Forest is home to lynxes and river otters, among other rare species, as well as miles of ski trails. It is also home to a long tradition of glassmaking: The famous ruby-red Bohemian lead-crystal glass is made here. See this tradition at work with a visit to the world-renowned glass manufacturer Theresienthal. The company fell on hard times and was forced to close for a short time in the late 20th-century, but it was rescued by its employees. Some of the craftspeople—wood turners, glassblowers, engravers and painters—you’ll see at work are fourth- or fifth-generation Theresienthal artisans. You can peruse the exquisite glassware in the adjacent shop—just in case someone on your Christmas list loves ne glassware—and visit the glass museum, where you’ll find a renowned collection of glassware representing some of the pieces Theresienthal made for the courts of Europe in the 19th-century.  Note: On rare occasions, Theresienthal must empty and re-fit its ovens. During such times, glassblowing demonstrations are unavailable; passengers will still enjoy a visit to the workshop and an explanation of glassmaking and engraving techniques.

Day 6: Cruising the Danube River, Passau

Located at the confluence of three rivers, Passau is a lovely place to take a stroll with a local expert who will regale you with stories about the town’s colorful (and ancient) past. Christmas may be over but the holiday spirit is still at its peak in Passau.Perhaps, enjoy a traditional Bavarian dinner served in a festively decorated barn.   Luxuriate onboard this morning as your floating hotel cruises down the majestic Danube toward Passau. 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. A local guide will be waiting to take you into this delightful and accessible town where the Danube, Inn and Ilz meet.
Passau walking discovery tour
Join your guide 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.
Bavarian Christmas celebration with dinner in a country barn
Visit a nearby family-owned farm restaurant for a traditional holiday celebration. Sample holiday sweets and drinks in the festively decorated barn while you listen to carols and some beloved Bavarian polka and waltz tunes and see how good a pair of lederhosen can look on the right man at a mini fashion show (if you are in the market for dirndls and lederhosen, the family’s specialty clothes shop will be right up your alley).

Day 7: Linz (Salzburg)

Mozart’s birthplace of Salzburg is nestled in a glorious alpine setting that sparkles like a winter wonderland. You definitely chose the perfect time of year to explore this refined and much loved city. If you’re a fan of The Sound of Music, all the better—you will recognize locations from the Oscar-winning film in the city’s Old Town. Do-Re-Mi!   Your ship docks in Linz today, where you may travel to the elegant alpine city of Salzburg
Full-day Salzburg tour
A 900-year-old fortress stands staunchly above Salzburg’s historic center, but the city is much better known for its musical heritage than it is for any military activities. Mozart was born here, performed in public for the first time (at the age of five) here, and composed his first pieces here. Salzburg celebrates its most famous son in many forms—with statues, with chocolates, with festivals—but there are other musical associations to discover too. Walk with your guide through the Mirabell Garden, the beautiful formal gardens where Maria sang “Do-Re-Mi” with her young charges in the movie The Sound of Music, and admire Mirabell Castle, built in 1606 by Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau for his mistress. The archbishop’s official residence, however, lies on the other side of the river, near the cathedral. You’ll ramble through the UNESCO-designated Old Town, where narrow lanes branch off your route, tempting you to explore the shops and cafés that line them, and cross the bridge for a look at the great 17th-century cathedral and the splendid episcopal residence. (Mozart worked for the archbishop of his day—whom he despised—before he moved to Vienna.) It’s part of a group of churches and priestly residences that are linked by arcades that you may wish to check out after your tour.   Following your tour, you’ll have free time for shopping and lunch on your own in the charming city center. Your guide can suggest great restaurants in the area: Café Tomaselli has hosted musical notables, from Mozart to Max Reinhardt, since 1705. You’ll find roughly 800 shops tucked into the historic buildings along the Getreidegasse, so your options are many.

Day 8: Cruising the Wachau Valley, Dürnstein

After a scenic cruise through the Wachau Valley, we’ll reach the village of Dürnstein. Walk along the cobbled streets, browse the shops selling apricot schnapps and maybe take a quick jaunt up to a ruined castle (with an intriguing tale all its own). Later, taste various mulled wines and attend an organ concert at an Augustine church, followed by the highlight of the day—a private cocktail reception at Artstetten Castle, hosted by a bona fide princess.   Make your way to the lounge in the morning to marvel at the scenery of the Wachau Valley. The Wachau is the 19-mile (30-kilometer) stretch of the Danube that cuts through a rocky gorge amid the foothills of the Bohemian Forest between Melk and Dürnstein. This beautiful region, with steep, densely wooded slopes on the south side of the river and a mixture of crags and south-facing vineyards on the north, was declared a World Heritage Landscape by UNESCO. Dotted along the banks are small historic towns and winemaking communities. Some of Austria’s finest white wines are produced from grapes grown on the terraces that cling to these rocky slopes.
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, seemingly a stern military man if one judges by his portraits, renounced his descendants’ claim to the Habsburg throne in order to marry for love.
Dürnstein village stroll with exclusive spiced wine tasting and organ concert in rococo Augustine monastery 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 Cruise Manager 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 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, then sit back and enjoy an organ concert inside a rococo Augustine monastery church.

Day 9: Vienna

Renowned for its art and architecture, its classical music, its decadent pastries and its famous former residents, Vienna is a cultural treasure trove. Experience this elegant city with your choice of excursions, and enjoy VIP access to an extraordinary collection of art. To see these masterpieces in complete privacy is an extra special treat reserved solely for Uniworld guests. Tonight, enjoy a concert featuring works by Mozart and Strauss at a 12th-century monastery.   Vienna is a city steeped in history, music and elegant architecture. Mozart, Austria’s most famous citizen, was at the height of his creative powers when he lived here, writing perhaps his best-known works, including The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. He found Vienna a very inspiring place, and so will you.
Exclusive “Morning with the Masters” at Vienna Art History Museum
The Habsburgs assembled an astonishing collection of artistic treasures over the centuries, which formed the basis for the works now on display at the Vienna Art History Museum (Kunsthistorisches). 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 city tour with Christmas markets
Ring Street, the great horseshoe-shaped boulevard lined with many of the city’s major landmarks—Parliament, City Hall, the Vienna State Opera, glorious palaces and museums—is a mere 150 years old, practically an infant for a city of Vienna’s age. It replaced the walls and fortifications that had protected the city for centuries. Its construction was a testament to confidence, forward- thinking and grand urban planning, and it resulted in a 50-year building spree. You’ll pass most of these opulent and lavish landmarks on your way to the older section of the city, the area the walls once enclosed. Later, you’ll walk along Kärntner Street, the celebrated pedestrian boulevard that links the State Opera with St. Stephen’s Cathedral, past the elegant shops on the Graben and the Kohlmarkt. The neighborhood offers a lively combination of historic architecture, street performances, shoppers’ delights and true Viennese atmosphere.
Exclusive “Taste of Christmas” Vienna walking tour
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 at Klosterneuburg
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 10: Vienna

Some people celebrate New Year’s Eve by watching the ball drop in Times Square. But not you—this year, you’ll be celebrating it in grand old-world style, with a gala dinner and dancing at a Viennese palace. (And that’s just one of two palaces you’ll visit today.) Definitely a memorable way to kick off 2019.   Begin the day with a visit to a palace that pays tribute to the taste and wealth of the Habsburg emperors, spend some time exploring Vienna on your own and then ring in the New Year in style.
Schönbrunn Palace with Puppet Theatre
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 18th- and 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 The 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. Enrich your experience still more by chatting with a puppeteer and learning something about this fascinating art.  You have the afternoon to further your acquaintance with Vienna. You could stroll through the Volksgarten, a park much loved by locals, with its monument to Empress Elisabeth, known as Sissi, and take a break at a coffeehouse for a kleiner Brauner (a small coffee with milk) and a pastry in a city legendary for its pastries. Visit Jewish Square, which was the center of Jewish life in Vienna in the Middle Ages, where a beautiful, austere memorial by sculptor Rachel Whiteread pays tribute to the thousands of Austrian Jews killed during the Holocaust. Or you could go back to the ship to relax and prepare for your evening gala.
Exclusive New Year’s Eve gala dinner and dance at a Viennese palace
Vienna celebrates New Year’s Eve in grand style! The city’s holiday balls are famous the world over, and the festivities welcoming in the New Year are perhaps the grandest of them all—the whole of the city center turns into one huge party. Tonight you join the celebration as you take part in a glamorous ball in a historic palace. Dine amid the gilt and marble splendor of a baroque hall while musicians play during your festive supper, toast the New Year with champagne and waltz the night away to the music of the Waltz King, Johann Strauss.

Day 11: Vienna, Cruising the Danube River

After enjoying some extra free time to explore Vienna on your own, relax onboard as the ship cruises to Budapest. You have the morning at leisure. You could relax onboard or ramble through glorious Vienna. Of course it is a holiday, so most places are closed, but the streets themselves are so beautiful, it is well worth strolling through them. You could go to Karlsplatz, which is dominated by the magnificent baroque Charles Church (named for Emperor Charles VI, who commissioned it) but also boasts a pair of charming Secession (as the art nouveau movement was known in Vienna) pavilions by Otto Wagner.   In the afternoon, your ship will cruise toward Budapest.
A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 12: Budapest

Located on opposite sides of the Danube, Buda and Pest each has a distinctive character and allure all its own. You’ll get a taste of this dynamic capital with a city tour that will show you all the highlights.   Your ship arrives in the fabled capital of Hungary this morning. Budapest, formerly two towns, Buda and Pest, on opposite sides of the river, began as a Roman encampment in the second century and has been controlled by Germans, Austrians, Ottomans 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. 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.

Day 13: Depart Budapest

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.