River Cruise Itinerary
See the highlights of Eastern Europe on this Balkan river cruise adventure along the Danube River! This vacation has something for everybody—relaxing time on your ship and stops in the most fascinating cities, with free time and guided sightseeing—so you don't miss a thing!You'll begin with two overnights in the lively Hungarian capital of Budapest. See the iconic statues of Heroes' Square, and with free time, explore the lovely lookout towers of Fishermen's Bastion. Built in the 19th Century, and providing the best panoramic views of Budapest, you can linger at this remarkable structure and get some amazing pictures. On an excursion to Pécs, Hungary, you'll visit underground burial chambers with fascinating murals, now part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, is one of the oldest cities in Europe, where the Sava River meets the Danube. The lively pedestrian boulevard of Knez Mihailova is dotted with historical buildings and charming cafés and you'll see St. Sava, the world's largest Orthodox Church. Continue your river cruise through the dramatic Iron Gates Gorge, visit Belogradchik's fascinating rock formations, and Bulgaria's ancient capital of Veliko Tarnovo. In Arbanassi, visit the Church of the Nativity, housing an impressive collection of frescoes.To round out this timeless European river cruise, a stay in Romania's vibrant capital of Bucharest is a must. Known as the "Paris of the East," a local expert will show you many of its historical treasures, such as the Arc de Triomphe, built in honor of WWI soldiers. From Bucharest, take an overnight trip to Transylvania to visit the Bran Castle—of Dracula Fame—the city of Brasov, and beautiful Peles Castle.
Days 1 - 1: Arrive in Budapest, Hungary. Welcome to Budapest, Hungary's lively capital spanning the banks of the Danube. The remainder of the day is free to start exploring Eastern Europe's most cosmopolitan metropolis.
Days 2 - 2: Budapest. Whether you're seeing the sights, shopping for handcrafted embroidery or Herend porcelain, or basking in the coffee house culture over a rich cream cake in the renowned Gerbeaud Café, Budapest's unique energy is positively palatable. On your included GUIDED TOUR of the city, see Heroes' Square as well as the massive hilltop castle complex with its remarkable Fishermen's Bastion and 11th-century Matthias Church, the coronation spot of several Hungarian monarchs. Be sure to take note of the city's eight bridges—many famous sights in and of themselves—which connect ancient Buda on the right bank with Pest on the left. You may even want to walk across Chain Bridge, built in 1849 and a symbol of Budapest. This afternoon is free. Perhaps visit St. Stephen's Basilica for marvelous city views from its viewing platform, or stroll along Váci utca, the main shopping street. (B)
Days 3 - 3: Budapest (Embarkation). This morning you can explore this vibrant city at your own pace. Shop at the Great Market Hall and purchase paprika or embroidery at one of its 180 vendor stalls, or wander around the Royal Palace grounds. This afternoon, board your river cruise vessel and meet your crew at a welcome reception. (B,D)
Days 4 - 4: Mohács. Excursion to Pécs. This morning, arrivie in Mohács, the last stop in Hungary, from where an included excursion takes you to Pécs. Established by the Romans in the 2nd century, this was a flourishing and important town for Christianity by the 4th century. These early Christians left behind many underground burial chambers with memorial chapels above ground. With a Local Guide, visit the UNDERGROUND TOMBS—now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site—many of which have splendidly decorated murals with Christian themes. Later, enjoy an ORGAN CONCERT. Pécs is also a rich showcase of Turkish architecture and home to Turkish mosques, striking churches, and an enjoyable atmosphere around its restaurants and cafés. After lunch, enjoy some leisurely cruising toward Belgrade. (B,L,D)
Days 5 - 5: Belgrade, Serbia. One of the oldest cities in Europe, the capital of Serbia is situated at the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers. A LOCAL GUIDE will be proud to show you its main sights, including St. Sava, the world's largest Orthodox Church. In your free time, be sure to check out the city's lively pedestrian area and charming outdoor cafés. Perhaps visit one of the many art galleries or museums, or browse the local shops. Stroll through Belgrade's largest and most beautiful park which surrounds the city's principal landmark, Kalemegdan Fortress, and gaze down at the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers. (B,L,D)
Days 6 - 6: Excursion to Lepenski Vir-Iron Gates. This morning, dock at Donji Milanovac, where a short drive takes you to the impressive LEPENSKI VIR EXHIBITION CENTER, which houses area archaeological artifacts and from where you have unique views of the Danube Gorge. Return to your ship before lunch, then cruise what must surely be the most spectacular scenery of the dramatic IRON GATES gorge, a narrow and formerly very dangerous passage dividing Europe's Alps in the northwest from the Carpathians in the southeast and forming a natural border between Serbia and Romania. (B,L,D)
Days 7 - 7: Cetate, Romania-Vidin, Bulgaria. Excursion to Belogradchik. This morning stop in Cetate, an old Danubian grain shipping port, now turned into a cultural center. The owner will explain the concept of this fascinating venture before you have a chance to see for yourself and to TASTE some of the locally made products. Then on to Vidin, an important Danube port in northwestern Bulgaria, where a short ride takes you to Belogradchik, to view the eclectic group of ROCK FORMATIONS on the western slopes of the Balkan Mountains. Sculpted by natural elements for more than 200 million years and with a variety of sizes and shapes, the Belogradchik Rocks are spectacular! (B,L,D)
Days 8 - 8: Nikopol-Excursion to Veliko Târnovo & Arbanassi-Rousse. This morning stop in Nikopol from where an excursion takes you to the ancient Bulgarian capital of Veliko Târnovo. Situated on three hills surrounding the Yantra River, the city was a natural fortress with ancient stone houses clinging to the steep slopes. One of the oldest towns in Bulgaria (dating back to 4300 BC), the oldest part is Tsarevets Hill, home of the ROYAL FORTRESS, and the Patriarch's Church. With your LOCAL GUIDE, discover this town that played an important role in Bulgaria's history. Next, journey to Arbanassi, founded in the 15th century, and best known for its Bulgarian Revival architecture and ETHNOGRAPHICAL MUSEUM, a 400-year-old house preserved as a museum. Visit the CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY, one of the town's oldest churches, and see its outstanding collection of frescoes. Return to your ship in Rousse, Bulgaria's largest inland port. If you don't wish to participate in the full-day excursion, stay on board and relax or join a GUIDED TOUR of Rousse. (B,L,D)
Days 9 - 9: Oltenita, Romania (Disembarkation)-Bucharest. After breakfast say goodbye to your crew. Bucharest, Romania's lively capital, is only a short drive from Oltenita. It's wide, tree-lined boulevards and Arc de Triomphe—built in 1922 to honor the bravery of Romanian soldiers who fought in WWI—have gained it the name "Paris of the East." Much recent history has taken place in the city. During the INCLUDED TOUR this morning, see the main sights including Royal Palace Square, the scene of riots in 1989, which led to the collapse of the communist dictatorship. In your free time, discover this interesting city even further. Stroll down Calea Victoriei, "Victory Avenue," Bucharest's most historic and alluring street. Initially built in 1692, today it is lined with shops, museums, churches, restaurants, cafés, and fine houses. (B)
Days 10 - 10: Bucharest. Excursion to Transylvania-Brasov. Head out of the city to your first stop, a visit of BRAN CASTLE, of Dracula fame, built in 1377 and assumed to be the home of Romanian vampires. Then continue to Brasov for the night, with a free afternoon to explore on your own. (B,L,D)
Days 11 - 11: Brasov-Bucharest. This morning join a local expert for GUIDED SIGHTSEEING of Brasov. In the afternoon drive into the Carpathians to Sinaia to visit PELES CASTLE, considered to be one of the most beautiful in Europe, before returning to Bucharest. (B,L)
Days 12 - 12: Bucharest. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)