DAY 1 EMBARK IN BUDAPEST
Make your way to Budapest, where your five-star cruise ship moored in this beautiful city straddling the banks of the glorious Danube.
The dedicated crew are there to welcome you on board, ensuring you settle in and familiarise yourself with this first-class floating hotel that will be your home for your New Year sojourn. You’ll be mesmerized by the beautiful twinkling garlands and luscious décor, a striking backdrop to welcome in 2021. The ship remains here overnight so take in the views of the sparkling lights of the city as you enjoy your first dinner on board.
DAY 2 BUDAPEST
Budapest is always an atmospheric and fascinating city, but at this time of the year, the muted colors of its magnificent archaic spires and grand domes are especially captivating on the wintry skyline. The twin cities of Buda, built around the hilltop fortress, and Pest, with its wide boulevards, were fought over through the centuries. The Ottomans ruled here for 150 years before being ousted in the late 17th-century, but their legacy lives on in the many thermal baths fed by hot springs, giving rise to Budapest’s other sobriquet – the ‘City of Spas’. After the end of Ottoman rule, Budapest became an imperial city of the Habsburg Empire, attracting great cultural and commercial wealth. The historic and palatial buildings, the superb Roman ruins and exquisite Art Nouveau architecture also provide a truly impressive setting for the acclaimed Yuletide markets.
This morning we enjoy a guided tour of this captivating city which truly does live up to its reputation as the ‘Pearl of the Danube’. Castle Hill is Budapest in microcosm: two churches, seven museums, and a theatre among streets and squares with their own special atmosphere and a dramatic view across the river to the awe-inspiring neo-Gothic Parliament. There’s also free time to explore under your own steam, so perhaps take in one of the city’s fine museums or simply wander the markets. Soak up the traditional atmosphere as classical music fills the air along with the delicious smells of spicy gingerbread and peppery goulash – and don’t forget the mulled wine to stave off the winter chill!
Back on board for lunch, we slip our mooring and our Danube adventure begins. Wrap up and take to the deck to enjoy a kaleidoscope of winter scenery before stepping back into the warmth of the ship’s inviting lounge. Join new found friends for welcome cocktails before a superb dinner as we sail towards Bratislava.
DAY 3 BRATISLAVA
After a delicious breakfast, this morning we explore Slovakia’s fast-emerging capital city, Bratislava, on a guided tour. Until recently swathed in the drab uniformity of Communism, the city has rekindled the splendor of its imperial past in its beautifully restored old town. Equally impressive is the imposing white fortress, former seat of the rulers, which enjoys commanding expansive views across the Danube.
This morning we will discover more about the city’s interesting history on a guided tour. You’ll also have plenty of free time to explore the cobble-stoned streets of this captivating city – so what’s it to be? Why not head to the regal Primatial Palace with its fabulous Hall of Mirrors? Built in the late 1700s in a classical style, the once home to the archbishop of Esztergom now holds a rare collection of tapestry works from the 17th-century. Alternatively wander the maze of streets, admiring the charming baroque architecture, until you reach the main square. Absorb the café culture with a freshly brewed coffee and maybe sample some local delicacies such as skalický trdelník. This hollow pastry treat comes with the likes of almonds, apricots or walnuts, before being dusted with sugar.
After lunch on board you may wish to return to shore – perhaps to climb the tower of the Old Town Hall for a bird’s eye view of the city below. Alternatively, you may choose to join our optional excursion to Slovensky Grob, a village situated in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. We will visit a typical Slovak chalet to enjoy a wine tasting and some local delicacies.
This evening head to the welcoming atmosphere of the ship’s bar for an aperitif as the ship sails towards Austria.
DAY 4 VIENNA ON NEW YEAR'S EVE
For many waking in Vienna on the eve of the coming year will be a highlight of the cruise. The city’s very name provokes images of elegance, fine music, wide boulevards, Baroque architecture and a rich tapestry of peoples who were drawn here from all corners of Europe. For 200 years until the First World War, Vienna was the cultural center of Europe and many of the showpiece buildings, galleries, aristocratic palaces and magnificent churches you see today were built to reflect its imperial status.
The city was the seat of the Habsburg emperors and home to some of the world’s finest classical composers, including Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and of course, a whole family of Strausses. 2020 is a particularly special time to visit Vienna, as the city has planned many events to mark Beethoven’s 250th birthday.
In this captivating city, there’s also the colossal Hofburg, the former royal court that is now home to a collection of museums, the Crown Jewels and the Spanish Riding School and the Vienna Boys’ Choir. Then there are the lavish Imperial Apartments and an outstanding collection of relics of the Holy Roman Empire. There has also been a Yuletide market in Vienna since the Middle Ages and today the markets held over the festive period sell a huge range of seasonal gifts and mouth-watering treats. This morning we enjoy a tour in the company of a local guide who will offer insights into why Vienna is one of Europe’s great capitals, now proudly embellished in winter sparkle, ahead of the New Year festivities. There will also be time to browse the stalls of the markets where the irresistible smell of roasting chestnuts fills the air. Alternatively, retreat to the refined yet cozy elegance of a traditional Viennese café for a steaming hot chocolate and a tempting pastry.
After lunch on board we visit the magnificent Schönbrunn Palace. Once the summer residence of the Hapsburgs, this former royal residence now houses a range of world-class museums and galleries. Your included entrance and audio guide allows you into the dazzling state rooms, with their wealth of priceless artworks and the family’s impressive royal carriages. The palace also hosts a superb Yuletide market, specializing in traditional handicrafts and nostalgic toys.
This evening, it’s time to dress up in your winter best for a New Year’s Eve to remember! No visit to Vienna is complete without a live musical experience and this evening we have arranged truly the ‘icing on the cake’, a classical recital on board. After an excellent New Year’s Eve dinner listen to exquisite music – a fitting reminder of our day in this most captivating of cities. As the clock strikes midnight our wonderful crew will serve celebration drinks and canapés as you welcome in the New Year.
DAY 5 BUDAPEST ON NEW YEAR'S DAY
We have sailed overnight and on waking to the first day in 2021, draw back the curtains to see the early morning mist rising over this gentle pastoral landscape, draped in a blanket of glistening frost. Seek out a good vantage spot in the lounge, sink into a comfy chair and watch this lovely slideshow of winter wonderland scenery effortlessly gliding by – what could be more relaxing! A sumptuous brunch will be served, giving you the perfect opportunity to mark the New Year and share your favorite moments.
This afternoon head up to the sun deck to enjoy the bracing river breeze as the Captain skilfully navigates our return course to the Hungarian capital. For the more energetic, perhaps a visit to the ship’s fitness center to keep up your usual routine or start something new for 2021.
Our ship will be moored right in the heart of Budapest this evening so why not take a stroll before dinner. A lively Hungarian folklore show draws this glorious day to a close, giving you time to bid farewell to your traveling companions and reflect on all the wonderful places you have experienced on this most magical of cruises.
DAY 6 DISEMBARK IN BUDAPEST
This morning at the appropriate time, you will disembark the ship ready for your onward journey.
The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines. Sorry, we are unable to offer air from countries other than the U.S. However, for those international customers who are able to arrange their own transportation to the trip origination city, we are able to offer the land/cruise portion of the package at the price quoted.