European Holiday Market 2016

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, Roth

For a truly over-the-top 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 an exploration of Christmas traditions than Nuremberg. The people of Nuremberg hold their Christkindlesmarkt very close to their hearts. The iconic Christkind, with her white-and-gold dress, long blond curls and golden crown, has been the symbol for the Christmas Market for many decades. During Advent, she is the most important representative of the city; every year she opens the Christmas Market 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.” And with that declaration, the market festivities begin in a town that is famous for its gingerbread and its long toy-making tradition.
Nuremberg city tour with Christmas Market
Beautiful at any time, Nuremberg’s Old Town is especially magical when dressed in all of its holiday splendor. 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.”  Shuttles are available to take you to and from the ship.
A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 3: 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, then head to what may very well be the most romantic Christmas market in all of Germany, nestled within the courtyard of a beautiful baroque castle.   “Regensburg is so beautifully situated; this region had to attract a town,” Goethe wrote in his Diary of an Italian Voyage. And attract a town it did. In fact, it first attracted the armies of ancient Rome, who founded the town in about the year 100. The town thrived, not just because of its beautiful location, but also because ambitious and farseeing locals built a bridge over the Danube in the 12th-century. The Stone Bridge helped Regensburg become an international trading hub and, at one time, the capital of Bavaria. So many of the handsome buildings from that period remain that UNESCO declared the old city center a World Heritage Site.
“2,000 Years in One Hour” Regensburg walking discovery tour with enchanting Christmas Market in the Thurn and Taxis Castle
Old-town Regensburg sparkles with holiday lights and decorations at this time of year, adding to its enormous charm. As you walk through the cobbled lanes of the UNESCO-designated city center, Regensburg’s 2,000-year history is revealed: The ancient Roman gate still stands, as do the Stone Bridge, the Gothic town hall where the Imperial Diet met for three centuries, the 13th-century fortified patrician houses, and the spectacular Cathedral of St. Peter, whose magnificent 14th-century stained-glass windows alone are worth your walk. At the end of your tour, you’ll find yourself at what may be the most romantic Christmas market in all of Germany: the one laid out in the courtyard of the Thurn and Taxis Castle. A glorious baroque palace enfolds the square, where branch-thatched huts sell handcrafted local wares and Bavarian delicacies. There’s always a nearby bonfire where you can warm up while you sip your mulled wine or nibble a hot pastry. The princely Thurn and Taxis family has owned the palace for centuries, and Princess Gloria (once known as the punk princess for her youthful escapades) may come out to read a Christmas story to an audience of children.  The rest of the day is yours to spend as you wish. Christmas markets are set up in the area around the 500-year-old Neupfarrkirche (a market that has been voted the loveliest in Germany), in front of the classical columns of the former city guardhouse and in the Kohlenmarkt, where artisans and craftspeople sell handmade dolls, marionettes, pottery and other fine-quality wares. Shop for children’s toys or traditional Nativity scenes with hand-carved figures. As you take in the delights of the markets, enjoy regional specialties, such as mulled blueberry wine from the Bavarian Forest, Regensburg sausages on crisp rolls, steamed dampfnudel (dumplings with vanilla sauce) and mulled cider.

Day 4: Deggendorf (Theresienthal), Passau

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. Onward to Passau, a lovely place to take a stroll and visit the local Christmas market, followed by a traditional Bavarian dinner served in a festively decorated barn.   Begin the day in the beautiful Bavarian Forest, known as the green roof of Europe, and then explore historic Passau, the three-river city on the Austrian border.
Exclusive Bavarian Forest village with Theresienthal glass manufactory visit
Want to know what it feels like to live in 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 fine 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 refit its ovens. During such times, glass-blowing demonstrations are unavailable; passengers will still enjoy a visit to the workshop and an explanation of glassmaking and engraving techniques.
Passau walking discovery tour with Christmas Market and Bavarian Christmas celebration with dinner in a country barn
Join your guide for a stroll through picturesque lanes in the heart of Passau, stopping at the Town Hall to see its magnificent atrium, which boasts several massive works by the famous German painter Ferdinand Wagner, and pausing to admire the beautiful rococo stairway of the bishop’s New Residence. After much of the town burned to the ground in 1662 and again in 1680, the reconstruction involved many Italian artists, who gave Passau the baroque and rococo touches you see everywhere. Monumental St. Stephan’s Cathedral, built in glorious baroque style, forms the backdrop for the Passau Christmas Market. You’ll find a lot to enjoy here—from miniature Bavarian houses and blown-glass ornaments to spun-sugar confections—in more than 70 stalls. At times, the Passau Christmas Market also features demonstrations by local craftspeople, such as glassblowers, candle makers, wood carvers and confectioners, so you can buy your gifts from the people who made them.  But that’s not the end of your Bavarian Christmas fun: You’ll also visit a nearby family-owned farm restaurant for a traditional holiday celebration. Sit down to a hearty dinner with drinks in the festively decorated country 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 is right up your alley).

Day 5: Cruising the Danube River, Linz

There’s more to Linz than its famous Linzer torte, although that alone makes it well worth a visit. The city has a thriving contemporary art scene, and its two Christmas markets are over-the-top enchanting. See the sights on foot with a local expert, or take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Linz opera house and taste cider at an Austrian apple and pear orchard.   Your ship sails into Austria, cruising along an especially scenic stretch of the Danube called the Schlögener Schlinge, a great loop where the river almost doubles back on itself, before arriving in Linz. In keeping with the Austrian traditions of good food and good music, Linz gave rise to both the Linzer torte and the Linz Symphony. The torte is a delectable confection, and the symphony is one of Mozart’s most celebrated works. The story goes that the composer was so inspired by the beauty of the city that he finished his Symphony No. 36 in less than a week here in 1783.   This vibrant city, the second largest in Austria, has been a center of trade and industry for centuries—and it still inspires artists today.
Linz walking discovery tour with Christmas Market
The seductive scents of seasonal treats—gingerbread and Linzer torte, cakes and cookies—waft through the air, and the stalls are full of local craft items at Linz’s two delightful Christmas markets, which are connected by the main shopping thoroughfare and a spectacular light show. Begin at the Main Square, where the stalls are decorated with motifs of Linz landmarks, and follow the illuminations to the Volksgarten, where you’ll find, literally, a fairytale Christmas—large, animated displays of fairytale scenes will entrance the child in you.
Linz town and country opera house and cider farm visit with Christmas Market
Linz’s New Cathedral dates to the 19th-century (the old cathedral, a few blocks away, was built in the baroque era), but as you take in its neo-Gothic splendor, you might guess that it is much older—until you notice that the stained-glass windows include 19th-century Linz notables. Linz’s new opera house, however, is quite new: It opened in 2013. Covering several city blocks, the Terry Pawson–designed complex incorporates state-of-the-art backstage workshops and staging equipment, which your guide will show you. In explaining why Linz undertook this incredibly ambitious and expensive project, the governor of Upper Austria said, “Culture costs, but the absence of culture costs much, much more.” You may be ready for a break after your tour, and where better to take one than at Jindrak, a beloved local bakery famous for its Linzer torte.  Refreshed, you will head for the hills—literally. A motorcoach will carry you into Mostviertel, Lower Austria’s famous cider region, where the road winds among beautiful orchard-covered hills and meadows. Tour a typical farm for an insightful look at rural life and local crops, and enjoy the fruit of these orchards—pear and apple ciders.

Day 6: Cruising the Wachau Valley, Dürnstein, Vienna

After a scenic cruise through the beautiful Wachau Valley, we’ll reach the tiny village of Dürnstein. Walk along its cobbled streets, browse the shops selling apricot schnapps, and perhaps take a quick jaunt up to the ruins of a castle (with an intriguing tale all its own). Later, you can taste various mulled wines and attend an organ concert at an Augustine church.   Make your way to the lounge this morning to marvel at the scenery of the Wachau Valley, 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 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 ripened on the terraces that cling to these rocky slopes.
Dürnstein walking discovery tour with exclusive mulled wine tasting and organ concert in Augustine church
Considering its diminutive size, the village of Dürnstein offers much to explore. The famous blue baroque tower of the abbey church is doubtless its best-known landmark, but the ruined castle above the town provides its most romantic tale. There Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned until he was found by his faithful bard, Blondel, and ransom could be raised—or so the legend goes. Walk with the 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 local architectural styles. 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 head to a local Augustine church for an organ concert.

Day 7: Vienna

The “City of Waltzes” is famous for many things, including world-class art museums, music and architecture (not to mention sinfully rich pastries). See the top sites on a city tour or savor the flavors of the season with our exclusive “Taste of Christmas” guided walking. Whichever option you choose, you’ll also have ample time to explore one of Europe’s greatest Christmas markets.   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. You’ll have a full day to savor the Christmas spirit in Vienna.
Vienna city tour with Christmas Market
Ring Street, the great horseshoe-shaped boulevard lined with many of the city’s major landmarks—Parliament, City Hall, the Vienna State Opera, glorious museums—is a mere 150 years old, practically an infant for a city of Vienna’s age. It replaced the walls that had protected the city for centuries. See them all on a panoramic tour, then set off on foot for a guided walking tour with a local expert, passing more top sites—such as Hofburg Palace, the Spanish Riding School and St. Stephan’s Cathedral—and stopping to visit the National Library, said to be the most beautiful library room in the world. You’ll also have leisure time to explore on your own and to visit Vienna’s most famous Christmas market, situated in front of City Hall, where more than 140 wooden stalls entice you with every sort of delicacy. Be sure to try the rum balls and nutmeg-spiced macaroons, which are local favorites, and amble through the adjacent park to admire the elaborately decorated trees.
Exclusive Taste of Christmas Vienna walking tour
A drive along Vienna’s Prater Street and Ring Street provides you with a glimpse of the magnificent buildings that showcased the Habsburgs’ grandeur, ending at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Stroll with your guide along the Graben, the elegant artery of downtown Vienna, and Kohlmarkt, which is lined with chic shops (don’t miss the dazzling display of holiday confectionary art in the windows of Café Demel, which once supplied Empress Sissi with candied violets), on your way to several delightful Christmas markets. The Am Hof Advent Market features contemporary crafts, ranging from jewelry to knitwear; just a few steps further along, on Freyung Square, is the oldest and most traditional of the city’s markets. Handsome palaces border the triangular square, which is filled with delightful stalls selling Nativity scenes, glass ornaments and handicrafts. Breathe in the aromas of such seasonal treats as roasted chestnuts, hot spiced wine and vanilla crescents, Austria’s most famous Christmas cookie. How can you resist? Luckily, this is the moment and the place to sample these and other holiday specialties! After enjoying some treats here, you’ll walk through the luxe Palais Ferstel shopping arcade to the bustling Christmas Market in front of the City Hall, which you may explore on your own.  The afternoon is yours. Spend as long as you like at the Rathaus Christmas Market or venture off to another of the city’s seasonal markets. Of course, there are many other sights to see. Over 100 museums beckon you to delve into their depths. You might wish to visit the Albertina Museum: It houses an incredible collection of graphic arts, including one million old-master prints and an impressive group of works by 19th- and 20th-century painters, ranging from Renoir to Rothko. You could tour the Belvedere, where Klimt’s famous The Kiss is on display. Alternatively, you can encounter Viennese coffeehouse culture at one of the dozens of traditional cafés in Vienna’s Old City.
A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 8: Vienna (Disembark)

Disembark the ship. If your cruise package includes a group departure transfer, or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Vienna International Airport for your flight home.

Day 1: Vienna (Embark)

Arrive at Vienna International 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: Vienna

The “City of Waltzes” is famous for many things, including world-class art museums, music and architecture (not to mention sinfully rich pastries). See the top sites on a city tour or savor the flavors of the season with our exclusive “Taste of Christmas” guided walking. Whichever option you choose, you’ll also have ample time to explore one of Europe’s greatest Christmas markets.   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. You’ll have a full day to savor the Christmas spirit in Vienna.
Vienna city tour with Christmas Market
Ring Street, the great horseshoe-shaped boulevard lined with many of the city’s major landmarks—Parliament, City Hall, the Vienna State Opera, glorious museums—is a mere 150 years old, practically an infant for a city of Vienna’s age. It replaced the walls that had protected the city for centuries. See them all on a panoramic tour, then set off on foot for a guided walking tour with a local expert, passing more top sites—such as Hofburg Palace, the Spanish Riding School and St. Stephan’s Cathedral—and stopping to visit the National Library, said to be the most beautiful library room in the world. You’ll also have leisure time to explore on your own and to visit Vienna’s most famous Christmas market, situated in front of City Hall, where more than 140 wooden stalls entice you with every sort of delicacy. Be sure to try the rum balls and nutmeg-spiced macaroons, which are local favorites, and amble through the adjacent park to admire the elaborately decorated trees.
Exclusive “Taste of Christmas” Vienna walking tour
A drive along Vienna’s Prater Street and Ring Street provides you with a glimpse of the magnificent buildings that showcased the Habsburgs’ grandeur, ending at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Stroll with your guide along the Graben, the elegant artery of downtown Vienna, and Kohlmarkt, which is lined with chic shops (don’t miss the dazzling display of holiday confectionary art in the windows of Café Demel, which once supplied Empress Sissi with candied violets), on your way to several delightful Christmas markets. The Am Hof Advent Market features contemporary crafts, ranging from jewelry to knitwear; just a few steps further along, on Freyung Square, is the oldest and most traditional of the city’s markets. Handsome palaces border the triangular square, which is filled with delightful stalls selling Nativity scenes, glass ornaments and handicrafts. Breathe in the aromas of such seasonal treats as roasted chestnuts, hot spiced wine and vanilla crescents, Austria’s most famous Christmas cookie. How can you resist? Luckily, this is the moment and the place to sample these and other holiday specialties! After enjoying some treats here, you’ll walk through the luxe Palais Ferstel shopping arcade to the bustling Christmas Market in front of the City Hall, which you may explore on your own.  The afternoon is yours. Spend as long as you like at the Rathaus Christmas Market or venture off to another of the city’s seasonal markets. Of course, there are many other sights to see. Over 100 museums beckon you to delve into their depths. You might wish to visit the Albertina Museum: It houses an incredible collection of graphic arts, including one million old-master prints and an impressive group of works by 19th- and 20th-century painters, ranging from Renoir to Rothko. You could tour the Belvedere, where Klimt’s famous The Kiss is on display. Alternatively, you can encounter Viennese coffeehouse culture at one of the dozens of traditional cafés in Vienna’s Old City.
A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 3: Vienna, Dürnstein, Cruising the Wachau Valley

After a scenic cruise, we’ll reach the tiny village of Dürnstein. Walk along its cobbled streets, browse the shops selling apricot schnapps, and perhaps take a quick jaunt up to the ruins of a castle (with an intriguing tale all its own). Later, you can taste various mulled wines and attend an organ concert at an Augustine church.
Dürnstein walking discovery tour with exclusive mulled wine tasting and organ concert in Augustine church
Considering its diminutive size, the village of Dürnstein offers much to explore. The famous blue baroque tower of the abbey church is doubtless its best-known landmark, but the ruined castle above the town provides its most romantic tale. There Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned until he was found by his faithful bard, Blondel, and ransom could be raised—or so the legend goes. Walk with the 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 local architectural styles. 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 head to a local Augustine church for an organ concert.  Make your way to the lounge this afternoon to marvel at the scenery of the Wachau Valley, the 19-mile (30-kilometer) stretch of the Danube that cuts through a rocky gorge amid the foothills of the Bohemian Forest between Dürnstein and Melk. This beautiful region, with steep, densely wooded slopes on the south side of the river and a mixture of crags and 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 ripened on the terraces that cling to these rocky slopes.

Day 4: Linz, Cruising the Danube River

There’s more to Linz than its famous Linzer torte, although that alone makes it well worth a visit. The city has a thriving contemporary art scene, and its two Christmas markets are over-the-top enchanting. See the sights on foot with a local expert, or take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Linz opera house and taste cider at an Austrian apple and pear orchard.   Your ship sails along an especially scenic stretch of the Danube called the Schlögener Schlinge, a great loop where the river almost doubles back on itself, before arriving in Linz. In keeping with the Austrian traditions of good food and good music, Linz gave rise to both the Linzer torte and the Linz Symphony. The torte is a delectable confection, and the symphony is one of Mozart’s most celebrated works. The story goes that the composer was so inspired by the beauty of the city that he finished his Symphony No. 36 in less than a week here in 1783.   This vibrant city, the second largest in Austria, has been a center of trade and industry for centuries—and it still inspires artists today.
Linz walking discovery tour with Christmas Market
The seductive scents of seasonal treats—gingerbread and Linzer torte, cakes and cookies—waft through the air, and the stalls are full of local craft items at Linz’s two delightful Christmas markets, which are connected by the main shopping thoroughfare and a spectacular light show. Begin at the Main Square, where the stalls are decorated with motifs of Linz landmarks, and follow the illuminations to the Volksgarten, where you’ll find, literally, a fairytale Christmas—large, animated displays of fairytale scenes will entrance the child in you.
Linz town and country: opera house and cider farm visit with Christmas Market
Linz’s New Cathedral dates to the 19th-century (the old cathedral, a few blocks away, was built in the baroque era), but as you take in its neo-Gothic splendor, you might guess that it is much older—until you notice that the stained-glass windows include 19th-century Linz notables. Linz’s new opera house, however, is quite new: It opened in 2013. Covering several city blocks, the Terry Pawson–designed complex incorporates state-of-the-art backstage workshops and staging equipment, which your guide will show you. In explaining why Linz undertook this incredibly ambitious and expensive project, the governor of Upper Austria said, “Culture costs, but the absence of culture costs much, much more.” You may be ready for a break after your tour, and where better to take one than at Jindrak, a beloved local bakery famous for its Linzer torte.  Refreshed, you will head for the hills—literally. A motorcoach will carry you into Mostviertel, Lower Austria’s famous cider region, where the road winds among beautiful orchard-covered hills and meadows. Tour a typical farm for an insightful look at rural life and local crops, and enjoy the fruit of these orchards—pear and apple ciders.
Bavarian Christmas celebration with dinner in a country barn
But that’s not the end of your Bavarian Christmas fun: You’ll also visit a nearby family-owned farm restaurant for a traditional holiday celebration. Sit down to a hearty dinner with drinks in the festively decorated country 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 is right up your alley).

Day 5: Passau, Deggendorf (Theresienthal)

Onward to Passau, a lovely place to take a stroll and visit the local Christmas market. 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.   Begin the day in the beautiful Bavarian Forest, known as the green roof of Europe, and then explore historic Passau, the three-river city on the Austrian border.
Passau walking discovery tour with Christmas Market
Join your guide for a stroll through picturesque lanes in the heart of Passau, stopping at the Town Hall to see its magnificent atrium, which boasts several massive works by the famous German painter Ferdinand Wagner, and pausing to admire the beautiful rococo stairway of the bishop’s New Residence. After much of the town burned to the ground in 1662 and again in 1680, the reconstruction involved many Italian artists, who gave Passau the baroque and rococo touches you see everywhere. Monumental St. Stephan’s Cathedral, built in glorious baroque style, forms the backdrop for the Passau Christmas Market. You’ll find a lot to enjoy here—from miniature Bavarian houses and blown-glass ornaments to spun-sugar confections—in more than 70 stalls. At times, the Passau Christmas Market also features demonstrations by local craftspeople, such as glassblowers, candle makers, wood carvers and confectioners, so you can buy your gifts from the people who made them.
Exclusive Bavarian Forest village with Theresienthal glass manufactory visit
Want to know what it feels like to live in 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 fine 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 refit its ovens. During such times, glass-blowing demonstrations are unavailable; passengers will still enjoy a visit to the workshop and an explanation of glassmaking and engraving techniques.

Day 6: 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, then head to what may very well be the most romantic Christmas market in all of Germany, nestled within the courtyard of a beautiful baroque castle.   “Regensburg is so beautifully situated; this region had to attract a town,” Goethe wrote in his Diary of an Italian Voyage. And attract a town it did. In fact, it first attracted the armies of ancient Rome, who founded the town in about the year 100. The town thrived, not just because of its beautiful location, but also because ambitious and farseeing locals built a bridge over the Danube in the 12th-century. The Stone Bridge helped Regensburg become an international trading hub and, at one time, the capital of Bavaria. So many of the handsome buildings from that period remain that UNESCO declared the old city center a World Heritage Site.
“2,000 Years in One Hour” Regensburg walking discovery tour with enchanting Christmas Market in the Thurn and Taxis Castle
Old-town Regensburg sparkles with holiday lights and decorations at this time of year, adding to its enormous charm. As you walk through the cobbled lanes of the UNESCO-designated city center, Regensburg’s 2,000-year history is revealed: The ancient Roman gate still stands, as do the Stone Bridge, the Gothic town hall where the Imperial Diet met for three centuries, the 13th-century fortified patrician houses, and the spectacular Cathedral of St. Peter, whose magnificent 14th-century stained-glass windows alone are worth your walk. At the end of your tour, you’ll find yourself at what may be the most romantic Christmas market in all of Germany: the one laid out in the courtyard of the Thurn and Taxis Castle. A glorious baroque palace enfolds the square, where branch-thatched huts sell handcrafted local wares and Bavarian delicacies. There’s always a nearby bonfire where you can warm up while you sip your mulled wine or nibble a hot pastry. The princely Thurn and Taxis family has owned the palace for centuries, and Princess Gloria (once known as the punk princess for her youthful escapades) may come out to read a Christmas story to an audience of children.  The rest of the day is yours to spend as you wish. Christmas markets are set up in the area around the 500-year-old Neupfarrkirche (a market that has been voted the loveliest in Germany), in front of the classical columns of the former city guardhouse and in the Kohlenmarkt, where artisans and craftspeople sell handmade dolls, marionettes, pottery and other fine-quality wares. Shop for children’s toys or traditional Nativity scenes with hand-carved figures. As you take in the delights of the markets, enjoy regional specialties, such as mulled blueberry wine from the Bavarian Forest, Regensburg sausages on crisp rolls, steamed dampfnudel (dumplings with vanilla sauce) and mulled cider.

Day 7: Roth, Nuremberg

For a truly over-the-top 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 an exploration of Christmas traditions than Nuremberg. The people of Nuremberg hold their Christkindlesmarkt very close to their hearts. The iconic Christkind, with her white-and-gold dress, long blond curls and golden crown, has been the symbol for the Christmas Market for many decades. During Advent, she is the most important representative of the city; every year she opens the Christmas Market 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.” And with that declaration, the market festivities begin in a town that is famous for its gingerbread and its long toy-making tradition.
Nuremberg city tour with Christmas Market
Beautiful at any time, Nuremberg’s Old Town is especially magical when dressed in all of its holiday splendor. 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.”  Shuttles are available to take you to and from the ship.
A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 8: Nuremberg (Disembark)

Disembark the ship. If your cruise package includes a group departure transfer, or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Nuremberg Airport for your flight home.