Alluring Amsterdam & Vienna

Alluring Amsterdam & Vienna

15 DAYS FROM VIENNA TO AMSTERDAM

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: 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.
Note: For Arrival, Departure and Transfer details, please visit Uniworld.com/transfers. For Port Location details, please visit Uniworld.com/ports.

Day 2: Vienna

Get ready for an assortment of intriguing ways to explore this vivacious city, such as a “Morning with the Masters” at the Vienna Art History Museum, where you’ll join an art historian for a captivating tour; or a panoramic tour of the city’s Ringstrasse, a circular grand boulevard that surrounds Vienna’s Old Town historic district and famous monuments.

“Morning with the Masters” at the 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 onto the Kunstkammer 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.

Vienna - Imperial city highlights

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 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. 

“Do as the Locals Do” Vienna walking tour

Vienna is consistently voted as one of the most livable cities in the world—and on today’s tour, you’ll discover why. This walk will take you along one of the most celebrated avenues in Europe, Ring Boulevard (Ringstraße). After strolling through the beautiful courtyard of a former monastery, follow your guide to Kinsky Palace and marvel at its baroque façade, frescoed ceilings and extravagant staircase. From there, you’ll make your way to the exquisitely baroque Winter Palace. Cross the oldest pedestrian area and shopping district of Kärtner Straße where the highlight of today’s tour awaits—the “House of Music.” Marvel at its richly decorated rooms dedicated to Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven and other celebrated Austrian composers. Cap off your day of Viennese discovery with a delicious lunch. Your guide will be delighted to offer suggestions on where to grab a bite to eat.

The secrets of Vienna

Day 3: Vienna

Enjoy a full day of leisure in Vienna, with the choice to explore the “City of Waltzes” and dive into its vast artistic and musical legacy. The city is known for its imperial palaces, famous residents and expansive art collections. See the highlights as you take in Old Town’s art and food, including scrumptious pastries. Or discover Viennese history and the collection of Habsburg family treasures. It’s a good thing you have plenty of time.

Day 4: Dürnstein

Natural wonders of the Wachau Valley and exquisite food and wine are on the menu for your day in Dürnstein. Meander around the town’s beautiful streets lined with wildly photogenic buildings and restaurants teeming with wine produced on the outskirts of town. You won’t want to miss a sampling of the region’s most acclaimed wines. See a saffron workshop and get an exclusive look at the making of the spice as precious as gold.

Dürnstein wine estate visit with tasting

Venture into the best of Dürnstein with a special tasting of organic wines at Nikolaihof, perhaps the oldest winery in Austria. The location itself is fascinating: One may encounter remnants of the first buildings on the site—an ancient Roman fort—and taste wines in a deconsecrated 15th-century chapel. Owned by the Saahs family, Nikolaihof produces some of the world’s best Riesling and Veltliner varietals; in fact, the 1995 Riesling Vinothek, bottled in 2012, actually scored 100 points in The Wine Advocate, the first Austrian wine ever to rank that highly.

Dürnstein village and saffron workshop

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 along the town’s narrow streets, past 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century houses; it’s an up-close look at over 300 years of architecture.

Later, educate your taste buds with flavorful delicacies as you taste red-wine-and-saffron chocolate and saffron-seasoned jams, vinegars and honey. Crusaders planted the first saffron crocuses in the Wachau Valley at the end of the 12th century, making saffron a valued crop for 700 years—but it disappeared from the terraced hillsides early in the 20th century. It wasn’t until 2007 that an ecologist found mention of it in an 18th-century document at Melk Abbey’s celebrated library. Bernard Kaar, who spent years researching the history of saffron and still more years cultivating the world’s only bio-dynamically certified saffron, is one of the Wachau’s most important producers. Meet Bernard and his wife, Alexandra, for a fascinating introduction to saffron—the plant, the spice and the cultural traditions.

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

Day 5: Engelhartszell, Passau

Your morning brings new experiences in the forest-dotted district of Engelhartszell. Experience Bavaria’s great outdoors on a scenic bike ride along the Danube to Engelhartszell. Arrive in the afternoon in the “City of Three Rivers,” where medieval lanes, tunnels, cathedrals and archways fuse with modern shopping malls and buildings. Marvel at the Italian baroque-style St. Stephen’s Church, which holds the second largest church pipe organ in the world (way to go, Passau) or set out on a panoramic tour of the city with mini hikes to the best vistas.

“Let’s Go” scenic Bavarian river biking

Passau walking 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 grand new residence for the bishops themselves. As a result, these splendid structures aunt 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: The waters of each one are a different color. Because it’s built on a peninsula between the Danube and the Inn, the city has flooded often over the centuries; you can see high-water marks on many buildings (2013 saw the worst flooding in 500 years). 

"Let's Go" hiking around Passau

Day 6: Regensburg

Spend the morning discovering Regensburg’s long line of dukes, kings and bishops that called the former Bavarian capital and Free Imperial City home. Regensburg boasts the largest medieval Old Town north of the Alps (over 1,500 listed buildings), a prominent skyline and a large collection of museums, exhibits and theaters. Find your need for speed with a tour of the state-of-the-art BMW factory. Tour the carmaker’s cutting-edge plant and learn how it’s manufactured millions of cars. Futuristic and antiquated—it’s the best of both worlds in splendid Regensburg.

“2,000 Years in One Hour” Regensburg walking tour

People have been describing 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 into 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 Stone Bridge that made Regensburg a 12th-century trading powerhouse, 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. You’ll have free time to explore on your own; it’s very hard to get lost in Regensburg because the spires of the cathedral are visible all over town, so don’t hesitate to roam. The historic quarter not only boasts almost a thousand beautiful old buildings but also many cozy pubs and some great shopping—and the ship is docked conveniently close, so it’s easy to drop your treasures off and go back for more. 

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 various stages of the process, from rolls of sheet metal being stamped out into body parts to watching elements of the car being robotically assembled. Follow an already assembled car into the finishing department to see it painted, polished and have the final touch applied—the BMW roundel.

Note: For safety reasons, BMW does not allow those with pacemakers or insulin pumps to participate in factory tours. The plant is closed on Sundays and holidays, so no visit is possible if the tour lands on those days.

NOTE: If the tour lands on a day when the BMW factory is closed, we will visit the Museum of Historical Maybach Vehicles instead.

Day 7: Roth, Nuremberg

Medieval Nuremberg is a charming walled city nestled on the banks of the Main River and is characterized by its fortifications, stone towers and Middle Ages remnants. Explore its breathtaking sandstone architecture with a panoramic bus ride through the city, including stops at significant WWII sites, including the WWII Rally Grounds and the Documentation Center.

Nuremberg city tour with WWII Rally Grounds and Documentation Center visits

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 infamous 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.

Note: Today’s lunch will be on your own.

Day 8: Bamberg

Bamberg in its entirety is not only described as beautiful, but has often been regarded as one of Germany’s most attractive settlements, with its ravishing architecture, intersecting canals and rivers, and charming stores and restaurants, all framed by rolling hills. Browse antique stores, taste smoked beer at a brewery (did we mention it’s the Franconian beer capital?) and marvel at its historic building-lined narrow medieval streets. After you’ve experienced Bamberg’s city life, see it from above with a hike up Michaelsberg Hill.

“Let’s Go” treetop hike

Bamberg walking tour

Now a pleasant city with a lively student population and a world-famous symphony orchestra, Bamberg was the center of economic and political life for a huge swath of Central Europe in the Middle Ages. Spared WWII bombing, the entire heart of historic Bamberg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The medieval layout of the city remains intact, along with 2,000 historic buildings; it is yours to explore today. In the splendid late- Romanesque Imperial Cathedral you will find the only papal tomb in Germany, that of Pope Clement II (who was the bishop of Bamberg before he became pope), as well as the tomb of Emperor Henry II (who established the bishopric). Near it are two magnificent palaces: The Old Palace, the late-Gothic imperial residence (if you saw the 2011 3-D version of The Three Musketeers, you’ll recognize it immediately), sits across from the New Residence, where the 17th-century prince-bishops lived, separated by a lovely rose garden. Cross the cobblestone footbridge to the Old Town Hall, which is adorned with colorful frescoes, and ramble along the narrow lanes lined with picturesque half-timbered houses.

Day 9: Volkach

Your day brings you to Volkach and the heart of the Franconian wine country. It’s a region full of overwhelming natural beauty, rooted communities, marvelous flavors and villages that have been making wine for countless generations. Explore the town and its surrounding countryside.

Heart of Franconian Wine Country “Village Day”

This picture-perfect region is cradled in the curve of the Main’s breathtaking horseshoe bend, wrapping itself around sprawling vineyards, rare wildflowers, countless fruit trees, verdant landscapes and quaint villages. Immerse yourself in the Franconian wine country on a Wine & Architecture outing, where you’ll meet the owners of a local vineyard, hear their stories and sample some of their best outputs. A Wine & Panoramas excursion features a vintage coach ride along the Main horseshoe bend, past picturesque villages, the pilgrimage chapel of St. Mary in the Vineyards and Vogelsburg Castle. Refresh with a delectable Franconian Prosecco. On a Wine & Chocolate excursion, you’ll discover how well chocolate goes with wine on a scenic ride through charming winemaking villages, ending at the Art of Chocolate—a little chocolate manufactory in the town of Schwarzach.

Day 10: Würzburg

The opulent Würzburg Residence, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers a true sense of the region’s history through the European Renaissance. It even contains the world’s largest ceiling fresco by Tiepolo. Get outdoors and enjoy a scenic hike around Festung Marienberg, a prominent landmark that was previously home to a long line of prince-bishops.

Würzburg Residence visit with Court Gardens

“Let’s Go” hike to Festung Marienberg

Perched on a hilltop high above the city of Würzburg, Festung Marienberg is visible from seemingly every direction. Lace up your sneakers and wind your way up to this beloved landmark. As you make your way to the top, you’ll enjoy the scenery of the Main’s left bank and views of enchanting Würzburg below. It was here that the first church north of the Alps was built in 704 AD, followed by 13th-century fortifications and several additional structures. The fortress was expanded and renovated numerous times during the Renaissance and baroque periods, giving it its own unique flair.

Day 11: Miltenberg

The perfect German town calls for a day full of quintessential German experiences. Resting on the left bank of the Main, Miltenberg is classically quaint with its charming squares, farmland, biking and pedestrian paths, impressive castles and one of Germany’s oldest inns.

Miltenberg "Village Day"

Day 12: Rüdesheim

Your floating hotel arrives in Rüdesheim, one of the most charming ports of call in the Rhine Valley. This city has a long history going back to Roman times and is famous for the Drosselgasse, a narrow, bustling lane of shops and wine bars, as well as its impressive Niederwald Monument.

Rüdesheim walk with local treats

“Let’s Go” hike from Rüdesheim to Assmanshausen

Day 13: Cologne

You have an array of choices for how you wish to experience Cologne’s many treasures. Those interested in history and architecture will want to stroll through the Old Town, featuring medieval remnants and 12 stunning Romanesque churches.

Cologne walking tour with Old Town visit

As you walk through the narrow lanes of the Old Town, you’ll find it hard to believe that more than 70 percent of the city was destroyed by bombs during WWII. Three medieval gates remain standing, as does the old city hall with its Renaissance façade. The famous 12 Romanesque churches were reconstructed from the rubble, and the cathedral, Cologne’s iconic landmark, rises magnificently in the city center. Though it was badly damaged in WWII, the great UNESCO-designated cathedral retains many of its original treasures—the relics of the Magi and other sacred figures, which inspired its building in the 12th century, the 14th-century stained-glass windows that were stored safely throughout the war and the beautifully painted choir stalls—though other treasures are displayed separately. Enter the awe-inspiring nave and explore on your own as you learn about the history of the cathedral and its art collections, especially the pieces surrounding the Shrine of the Magi.

Note: The number of visitors allowed in Cologne Cathedral is regulated by a very strict schedule of time slots. Sightseeing will be arranged around the time slots obtained. On Sundays and Catholic holidays, guided tours inside the cathedral are not allowed, but individual visits are still welcomed.

"Do as the Locals Do" Cologne walking tour

Experience this culturally robust city like a local with visits to museums, Kölsch beer halls, the stylish Belgian Quarter or one of the many Art Nouveau cafés. Join your guide for an authentic look at Cologne, beginning with a visit to Hohenzollern Bridge. The bridge, which crosses over the Rhine, is flanked by four statues of former rulers. Pass by the unmistakable Cologne Cathedral on your way to an Eau de Cologne “tasting” at the Farina-House, where you’ll discover the world of perfume. Head to the Alter Markt, the historic square, and Heumarkt plaza, before having a taste of Cologne’s homegrown beer in a local brewery.

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

Day 14: Amsterdam

Experience the magic and beauty of Amsterdam via a canal cruise, before visiting the Rijksmuseum, home to Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, or strolling through Amsterdam’s canal-lined streets. Holland’s largest city, Amsterdam has been an international port and financial center for 400 years, endowing it with a cosmopolitan flair to match its historic architecture.

Amsterdam canals and famous Rijksmuseum

“Do as the Locals Do” Amsterdam walking tour

Uncover some of Amsterdam’s most charming and little-known treasures with a stroll to the city’s most notable sights. Venture into the Jordaan district, a lesser-known part of the city that is overflowing with local charm. Next, board a streetcar and head to Rokin Street for a taste of a traditional Dutch delicacy, Haring (a unique raw herring dish) before pressing on towards Begijnhof–one of the oldest groups of historic buildings in Amsterdam. Then, you’ll head into the oldest parts of Amsterdam via Warmoesstraat, one of the oldest, shop-lined streets in the city. Wander along charming streets and indulge in a little bit of window shopping before arriving in Oudezijds Voorburgwal, one the city's central canals flanked by quintessentially Dutch façades, where you’ll see the Oude Kerk (translation: Old Church), the city’s oldest building. Your tour will end in Zeedijk, Amsterdam’s Chinatown, which was originally constructed as a means of protection from the sea.

Day 15: Amsterdam (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 Amsterdam Schiphol Airport for your flight home.
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: Amsterdam (Embark)

Arrive at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. If your cruise 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.
Note: For Arrival, Departure and Transfer details, please visit Uniworld.com/transfers. For Port Location details, please visit Uniworld.com/ports.

Day 2: Amsterdam

Experience the magic and beauty of Amsterdam via a canal cruise, before visiting the Rijksmuseum, home to Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, or strolling through Amsterdam’s canal-lined streets. Holland’s largest city, Amsterdam has been an international port and financial center for 400 years, endowing it with a cosmopolitan flair to match its historic architecture.

Amsterdam canals and famous Rijksmuseum

“Do as the Locals Do” Amsterdam walking tour

Uncover some of Amsterdam’s most charming and little-known treasures with a stroll to the city’s most notable sights. Venture into the Jordaan district, a lesser-known part of the city that is overflowing with local charm. Next, board a streetcar and head to Rokin Street for a taste of a traditional Dutch delicacy, Haring (a unique raw herring dish) before pressing on towards Begijnhof–one of the oldest groups of historic buildings in Amsterdam. Then, you’ll head into the oldest parts of Amsterdam via Warmoesstraat, one of the oldest, shop-lined streets in the city. Wander along charming streets and indulge in a little bit of window shopping before arriving in Oudezijds Voorburgwal, one the city's central canals flanked by quintessentially Dutch façades, where you’ll see the Oude Kerk (translation: Old Church), the city’s oldest building. Your tour will end in Zeedijk, Amsterdam’s Chinatown, which was originally constructed as a means of protection from the sea.

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

Day 3: Cologne

You have an array of choices for how you wish to experience Cologne’s many treasures. Those interested in history and architecture will want to stroll through the Old Town, featuring medieval remnants and 12 stunning Romanesque churches.

Cologne walking tour with Old Town visit

As you walk through the narrow lanes of the Old Town, you’ll find it hard to believe that more than 70 percent of the city was destroyed by bombs during WWII. Three medieval gates remain standing, as does the old city hall with its Renaissance façade. The famous 12 Romanesque churches were reconstructed from the rubble, and the cathedral, Cologne’s iconic landmark, rises magnificently in the city center. Though it was badly damaged in WWII, the great UNESCO-designated cathedral retains many of its original treasures—the relics of the Magi and other sacred figures, which inspired its building in the 12th century, the 14th-century stained-glass windows that were stored safely throughout the war and the beautifully painted choir stalls—though other treasures are displayed separately. Enter the awe-inspiring nave and explore on your own as you learn about the history of the cathedral and its art collections, especially the pieces surrounding the Shrine of the Magi.

Note: The number of visitors allowed in Cologne Cathedral is regulated by a very strict schedule of time slots. Sightseeing will be arranged around the time slots obtained. On Sundays and Catholic holidays, guided tours inside the cathedral are not allowed, but individual visits are still welcomed.

"Do as the Locals Do" Cologne walking tour

Experience this culturally robust city like a local with visits to museums, Kölsch beer halls, the stylish Belgian Quarter or one of the many Art Nouveau cafés. Join your guide for an authentic look at Cologne, beginning with a visit to Hohenzollern Bridge. The bridge, which crosses over the Rhine, is flanked by four statues of former rulers. Pass by the unmistakable Cologne Cathedral on your way to an Eau de Cologne “tasting” at the Farina-House, where you’ll discover the world of perfume. Head to the Alter Markt, the historic square, and Heumarkt plaza, before having a taste of Cologne’s homegrown beer in a local brewery.

Day 4: Rüdesheim

Your floating hotel arrives in Rüdesheim, one of the most charming ports of call in the Rhine Valley. This city has a long history going back to Roman times and is famous for the Drosselgasse, a narrow, bustling lane of shops and wine bars, as well as its impressive Niederwald Monument.

Rüdesheim walk with local treats

“Let’s Go” hike from Rüdesheim to Assmanshausen

Day 5: Miltenberg

The perfect German town calls for a day full of quintessential German experiences. Resting on the left bank of the Main, Miltenberg is classically quaint with its charming squares, farmland, biking and pedestrian paths, impressive castles and one of Germany’s oldest inns.

Miltenberg "Village Day"

Day 6: Würzburg

The opulent Würzburg Residence, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers a true sense of the region’s history through the European Renaissance. It even contains the world’s largest ceiling fresco by Tiepolo. Get outdoors and enjoy a scenic hike around Festung Marienberg, a prominent landmark that was previously home to a long line of prince-bishops.

Würzburg Residence visit with Court Gardens

“Let’s Go” hike to Festung Marienberg

Perched on a hilltop high above the city of Würzburg, Festung Marienberg is visible from seemingly every direction. Lace up your sneakers and wind your way up to this beloved landmark. As you make your way to the top, you’ll enjoy the scenery of the Main’s left bank and views of enchanting Würzburg below. It was here that the first church north of the Alps was built in 704 AD, followed by 13th-century fortifications and several additional structures. The fortress was expanded and renovated numerous times during the Renaissance and baroque periods, giving it its own unique flair.

Day 7: Volkach

Your day brings you to Volkach and the heart of the Franconian wine country. It’s a region full of overwhelming natural beauty, rooted communities, marvelous flavors and villages that have been making wine for countless generations. Explore the town and its surrounding countryside.

Heart of Franconian Wine Country “Village Day”

This picture-perfect region is cradled in the curve of the Main’s breathtaking horseshoe bend, wrapping itself around sprawling vineyards, rare wildflowers, countless fruit trees, verdant landscapes and quaint villages. Immerse yourself in the Franconian wine country on a Wine & Architecture outing, where you’ll meet the owners of a local vineyard, hear their stories and sample some of their best outputs. A Wine & Panoramas excursion features a vintage coach ride along the Main horseshoe bend, past picturesque villages, the pilgrimage chapel of St. Mary in the Vineyards and Vogelsburg Castle. Refresh with a delectable Franconian Prosecco. On a Wine & Chocolate excursion, you’ll discover how well chocolate goes with wine on a scenic ride through charming winemaking villages, ending at the Art of Chocolate—a little chocolate manufactory in the town of Schwarzach.

Day 8: Bamberg

Bamberg in its entirety is not only described as beautiful, but has often been regarded as one of Germany’s most attractive settlements, with its ravishing architecture, intersecting canals and rivers, and charming stores and restaurants, all framed by rolling hills. Browse antique stores, taste smoked beer at a brewery (did we mention it’s the Franconian beer capital?) and marvel at its historic building-lined narrow medieval streets. After you’ve experienced Bamberg’s city life, see it from above with a hike up Michaelsberg Hill.

“Let’s Go” treetop hike

Bamberg walking tour

Now a pleasant city with a lively student population and a world-famous symphony orchestra, Bamberg was the center of economic and political life for a huge swath of Central Europe in the Middle Ages. Spared WWII bombing, the entire heart of historic Bamberg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The medieval layout of the city remains intact, along with 2,000 historic buildings; it is yours to explore today. In the splendid late- Romanesque Imperial Cathedral you will find the only papal tomb in Germany, that of Pope Clement II (who was the bishop of Bamberg before he became pope), as well as the tomb of Emperor Henry II (who established the bishopric). Near it are two magnificent palaces: The Old Palace, the late-Gothic imperial residence (if you saw the 2011 3-D version of The Three Musketeers, you’ll recognize it immediately), sits across from the New Residence, where the 17th-century prince-bishops lived, separated by a lovely rose garden. Cross the cobblestone footbridge to the Old Town Hall, which is adorned with colorful frescoes, and ramble along the narrow lanes lined with picturesque half-timbered houses.

Day 9: Nuremberg, Roth

Medieval Nuremberg is a charming walled city nestled on the banks of the Main River and is characterized by its fortifications, stone towers and Middle Ages remnants. Explore its breathtaking sandstone architecture with a panoramic bus ride through the city, including stops at significant WWII sites, including the WWII Rally Grounds and the Documentation Center.

Nuremberg city tour with WWII Rally Grounds and Documentation Center visits

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 infamous 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.

Note: Today’s lunch will be on your own.

Day 10: Regensburg

Spend the morning discovering Regensburg’s long line of dukes, kings and bishops that called the former Bavarian capital and Free Imperial City home. Regensburg boasts the largest medieval Old Town north of the Alps (over 1,500 listed buildings), a prominent skyline and a large collection of museums, exhibits and theaters. Find your need for speed with a tour of the state-of-the-art BMW factory. Tour the carmaker’s cutting-edge plant and learn how it’s manufactured millions of cars. Futuristic and antiquated—it’s the best of both worlds in splendid Regensburg.

“2,000 Years in One Hour” Regensburg walking tour

People have been describing 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 into 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 Stone Bridge that made Regensburg a 12th-century trading powerhouse, 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. You’ll have free time to explore on your own; it’s very hard to get lost in Regensburg because the spires of the cathedral are visible all over town, so don’t hesitate to roam. The historic quarter not only boasts almost a thousand beautiful old buildings but also many cozy pubs and some great shopping—and the ship is docked conveniently close, so it’s easy to drop your treasures off and go back for more. 

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 various stages of the process, from rolls of sheet metal being stamped out into body parts to watching elements of the car being robotically assembled. Follow an already assembled car into the finishing department to see it painted, polished and have the final touch applied—the BMW roundel.

Note: For safety reasons, BMW does not allow those with pacemakers or insulin pumps to participate in factory tours. The plant is closed on Sundays and holidays, so no visit is possible if the tour lands on those days.

NOTE: If the tour lands on a day when the BMW factory is closed, we will visit the Museum of Historical Maybach Vehicles instead.

Day 11: Passau, Engelhartszell

Arrive in the afternoon in the “City of Three Rivers,” where medieval lanes, tunnels, cathedrals and archways fuse with modern shopping malls and buildings. Marvel at the Italian baroque-style St. Stephen’s Church, which holds the second largest church pipe organ in the world (way to go, Passau) or set out on a panoramic tour of the city with mini hikes to the best vistas. Your afternoon brings new experiences in the forest-dotted district of Engelhartszell. Experience Bavaria’s great outdoors on a scenic bike ride along the Danube to Engelhartszell.

“Let’s Go” scenic Bavarian river biking

Passau walking 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 grand new residence for the bishops themselves. As a result, these splendid structures aunt 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: The waters of each one are a different color. Because it’s built on a peninsula between the Danube and the Inn, the city has flooded often over the centuries; you can see high-water marks on many buildings (2013 saw the worst flooding in 500 years). 

"Let's Go" hiking around Passau

Day 12: Dürnstein

Natural wonders of the Wachau Valley and exquisite food and wine are on the menu for your day in Dürnstein. Meander around the town’s beautiful streets lined with wildly photogenic buildings and restaurants teeming with wine produced on the outskirts of town. You won’t want to miss a sampling of the region’s most acclaimed wines. See a saffron workshop and get an exclusive look at the making of the spice as precious as gold.

Dürnstein wine estate visit with tasting

Venture into the best of Dürnstein with a special tasting of organic wines at Nikolaihof, perhaps the oldest winery in Austria. The location itself is fascinating: One may encounter remnants of the first buildings on the site—an ancient Roman fort—and taste wines in a deconsecrated 15th-century chapel. Owned by the Saahs family, Nikolaihof produces some of the world’s best Riesling and Veltliner varietals; in fact, the 1995 Riesling Vinothek, bottled in 2012, actually scored 100 points in The Wine Advocate, the first Austrian wine ever to rank that highly.

Dürnstein village and saffron workshop

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 along the town’s narrow streets, past 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century houses; it’s an up-close look at over 300 years of architecture.

Later, educate your taste buds with flavorful delicacies as you taste red-wine-and-saffron chocolate and saffron-seasoned jams, vinegars and honey. Crusaders planted the first saffron crocuses in the Wachau Valley at the end of the 12th century, making saffron a valued crop for 700 years—but it disappeared from the terraced hillsides early in the 20th century. It wasn’t until 2007 that an ecologist found mention of it in an 18th-century document at Melk Abbey’s celebrated library. Bernard Kaar, who spent years researching the history of saffron and still more years cultivating the world’s only bio-dynamically certified saffron, is one of the Wachau’s most important producers. Meet Bernard and his wife, Alexandra, for a fascinating introduction to saffron—the plant, the spice and the cultural traditions.

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

Day 13: Vienna

Arrive in Vienna and get ready for an assortment of intriguing ways to explore this vivacious city, such as a “Morning with the Masters” at the Vienna Art History Museum, where you’ll join an art historian for a captivating tour; or a panoramic tour of the city’s Ringstrasse, a circular grand boulevard that surrounds Vienna’s Old Town historic district and famous monuments.

“Morning with the Masters” at the 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 onto the Kunstkammer 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.

Vienna - Imperial city highlights

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 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. 

“Do as the Locals Do” Vienna walking tour

Vienna is consistently voted as one of the most livable cities in the world—and on today’s tour, you’ll discover why. This walk will take you along one of the most celebrated avenues in Europe, Ring Boulevard (Ringstraße). After strolling through the beautiful courtyard of a former monastery, follow your guide to Kinsky Palace and marvel at its baroque façade, frescoed ceilings and extravagant staircase. From there, you’ll make your way to the exquisitely baroque Winter Palace. Cross the oldest pedestrian area and shopping district of Kärtner Straße where the highlight of today’s tour awaits—the “House of Music.” Marvel at its richly decorated rooms dedicated to Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven and other celebrated Austrian composers. Cap off your day of Viennese discovery with a delicious lunch. Your guide will be delighted to offer suggestions on where to grab a bite to eat.

The secrets of Vienna

Day 14: Vienna

Enjoy a full day of leisure in Vienna, with the choice to explore the “City of Waltzes” and dive into its vast artistic and musical legacy. The city is known for its imperial palaces, famous residents and expansive art collections. See the highlights as you take in Old Town’s art and food, including scrumptious pastries. Or discover Viennese history and the collection of Habsburg family treasures. It’s a good thing you have plenty of time.

Day 15: 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.

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