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A majestic cruise through the valleys, vineyards and scenery that make the Danube so special. Join us as we discover everything from the elegance of Vienna, with its many sights from the glorious Hapsburg era, to the ancient splendour of Bratislava, and stunning Budapest. Immerse yourself in some of the most magical capitals, while enjoying the MV Esmeralda’s friendly atmosphere.
One of the highlights of our tour will be the wonderful Wachau Valley, stretching for over 20 miles and found between Krems and Melk. This valley is on the UNESCO World Heritage list for its architecture, settlements and agricultural land, which show how this medieval landscape has evolved over time.
This beautiful valley includes romantic towns and villages, impressive vineyards, historical castles and medieval ruins. Two of the most spectacular sights include the Baroque monastery in Durnstein and the Benedictine abbey in Melk.
In addition to this, we will also enjoy two included excursions during our river cruise, taking us to imperial Budapest for a guided tour, and exploring Salzburg at leisure.
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Day One - Depart UK
We meet at St Pancras and travel by Eurostar to Brussels, changing for the onward connection to Frankfurt. We then transfer to our hotel in the Frankfurt area in time for dinner. (D)
Day Two - Rotterdam to Rhineland Area
From Rotterdam, we transfer to the Rhineland area, where we stay at an overnight hotel tonight. (B,D)
Day Three - Rhineland Area to Linz, cruise to Melk
From the Rhineland area, we transfer to the MV Esmeralda in Linz. Make yourself familiar with the ship and meet fellow travellers over dinner this evening. (B,D)
Day Four - Melk to Vienna
Wake up in Melk with its magnificent Benedictine Abbey and renaissance Schallaburg Castle with great views of the river and picturesque valley. Then on to Vienna, enjoy the city in the evening on one of the optional tours, Vienna by night or a Mozart and Strauss concert. (B,L,D)
Day Five - Vienna to Budapest
The morning and afternoon is devoted to the magnificence of Vienna, where you can discover the architectural wonder of St Stephen’s Cathedral, walk around one of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, visit the Museum Quarter, or try one of the renowned delicious cakes and pastries in the numerous cafes. Dinner on board this evening as we sail to Budapest. (B,L,D)
Day Six - Budapest to Bratislava
Time to wake up, enjoy breakfast and head to the sun deck for our arrival in to the beautiful city of Budapest ‘Pearl of the Danube’. Here, the river separates the old and new towns (Buda and Pest). We moor for the day in Buda ready to discover one of the most interesting capitals in Europe. Budapest is without doubt a lively city with a fascinating history and has long been a haven for writers, artists and musicians. (B,L,D)
Day Seven - Bratislava to Durnstein
We spend the morning cruising to the wonderful town of Bratislava, enjoying the beautiful views the Danube has to offer. Discover the old town dominated by the impressive castle. Time once again to set sail and cruise through the night to Durnstein. (B,L,D)
Day Eight - Durnstein to Linz
Durnstein is a popular town, with its cosy wine taverns, where locally grown Wachauer wines can be sampled. Also worth visiting is the historic city square and the oldest theatre in the country. Departing after lunch to enjoy a leisurely sail through stunning scenery and arrive in Linz late evening. (B,L,D)
Day Nine - Linz
Discover the Austrian town of Linz with its beautiful Cathedral or why not take the opportunity to visit the Czech Republic on our optional tour to the UNESCO town of Cesky Krumlov? (B,L,D)
Day Ten - Linz to Rhineland Area
It’s time to leave the MV Esmeralda with memories of a fantastic cruise. Disembark and travel by rail back to the Rhineland area where we stay overnight, arriving in time for dinner. (B,D)
Day Eleven - Rhineland Area to Rotterdam
From the Rhineland area, we continue to Rotterdam to board our overnight ferry. (B,D)
Day Twelve - Arrive in UK
We enjoy breakfast on the ferry before disembarking at Hull and continuing home. (B)
Full Day: Salzburg Markets
Explore the beautiful city of Salzburg, famous as the birthplace of Mozart and filming location of ‘The Sound of Music’. Visit the traditional Christmas markets and pick up some seasonal gifts and festive fayre.
Join us on our guided tour of this historical city, which is actually two cities astride the Danube. Our excursion takes us by coach on a visit to both.
On the Pest side, we see St Stephen’s Basilica, Vajdahunyad Castle and Heroes’ Square, which is dominated by the impressive Millenary Monument, home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
We then cross to Buda and the Castle District, where we find the seven-hundred year-old Matthias Church, one of the jewels of Budapest. We also see the famous Fisherman’s Bastion, which offers great views over the city.
The city is home to the largest medicinal bath in Europe (Szechenyi Medicinal Bath) and the third-largest Parliament building in the world, once the largest in the world. The city also contains the third-largest church in Europe (Esztergom Basilica) and the second largest Baroque castle in the world (Godollo).
Join us on our excursion to explore the elegant city of music and the birthplace of Mozart. On our guided walking tour we see the Cathedral, St Peter’s Abbey, Mozart Square, the glorious Mirabell Gardens and the imposing Hohensalzburg Fortress.
Admire Nonnberg Convent and the famous Getreidegasse - a busy shopping street in the Old Town section of Salzburg. The house at no. 9 Getreidegasse is the place where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born and where he lived until the age of 17. Following our guided tour, we enjoy some free time to explore this wonderful city before heading back to the ship in time for dinner.
Discover Vienna and Schonbrunn
The majestic city of Vienna has a rich history and an abundance of historical buildings and museums. Our panoramic tour gives us a wonderful overview of the city, as we drive along the famous Ringstrasse, which encompasses the city centre. Along the way we see a host of sights, including the State Opera House, the Johann Strauss House, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Natural History Museum, the Parliament, and much more.
We then continue on to the magnificent Schonbrunn Palace, former summer residence of the Hapsburgs. The Palace is a World Cultural Heritage site and Austria's most-visited sight. We take a guided tour of the state rooms, with highlights including the Great Gallery, the Round and Oval Chinese Rooms, the Millions Room, so named because Maria Teresa allegedly paid over a million silver florins to have it decorated. We also have time to see the beautiful formal gardens.
This charming town on the Danube River in Austria is a wonderful example of the traditional Austrian way of life. With its beautiful surrounding scenery and slow pace, we’ll enjoy excellent time at leisure to discover the sights here. The major attraction is the castle, perched high above the town it was the place in 1192 that Richard the Lionheart was captured by the Duke of Austria during the Third Crusade.
Evening Horse-drawn Fiaker Ride
We’ll enjoy an enchanting ride in a traditional Viennese Fiaker. These horse drawn carriages have featured in many artistic pieces related to Vienna such as musical pieces and operas by Richard and Johan Strauss. We'll see the sights of this amazing city in a way you'll remember forever - admire the beautiful architecture, soak up the wonderful atmosphere and make the most of this charming experience.
Join us as we discover one of the smallest and most picturesque capitals of Central Europe. Our tour commences by local tourist train, we pass the Slovak Philharmonic Hall, the Slovak National Theatre around the Old Historical Town to the Archbishops Summer Residence. We also see Blumental Church, the bustling commercial street of Obchodna with its many shops, the buildings of the Technical University, Slovak Radio, and the Slovak National Bank.
We then head to Bratislava’s imposing Castle and through the garden suburb and onto Vienna Gate and Castle Hill, where we enjoy majestic views of the city before heading to the Old Town. Our tour continues on foot where we see Archbishop Place, St. Martin Cathedral – the previous Coronation Church of the Hungarian Kings – Academia Istropolitana – the oldest University dated from the 15th century, Main Square with its Old Town Hall and the Opera House and the famous manhole - Ganymedes.
Majestic Melk Abbey
Stift Melk (Melk Abbey) is a Baroque-era masterpiece, located above the town of Melk on a rocky outcrop overlooking the river Danube. Part palace, part monastery and part opera set, Melk is a magnificent vision thanks greatly to its upward-reaching twin towers. Capped with baroque helmets and cradling a 208-foot-high dome, this abbey is a true Baroque masterpiece.
Our tour of the abbey includes the Imperial rooms, Marble Hall, and the balcony, which offers fine views of the river. It’s likely that Napoleon probably used this room as a lookout when his headquarters were based in Melk for his campaign against Austria.
We also see the magnificent library, with more than 100,000 books, nearly 2,000 manuscripts, and a superb ceiling fresco by the master Paul Troger; the Marmorsaal, whose windows on both sides enhance the ceiling frescoes; and the glorious Stiftskirche (abbey church) of Saints Peter and Paul, an exquisite example of the Baroque style.
Following the tour you can enjoy some free time to wander around the abbey’s park with its impressive Baroque garden, the recently restored northern bastion. Or you may just wish to sit and relax in the abbey’s restaurant with a coffee and admire the beautiful views.
Mozart and Strauss Concert
Vienna is undoubtedly Europe’s musical capital, and this excursion will give us the opportunity to enjoy the music of two of Austria’s favourite sons. Sit back and relax as we listen to the music of Johann Strauss, the Waltz King, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the infant prodigy.
We make the short journey by coach to the concert hall for an evening full of Viennese charm, with the lilting sound of waltzes, polkas, arias and duets, as well as operetta and piano concerto melodies. Accompanied by excellent opera vocalists and our enchanting ballet soloists, Vienna's classical music reveals itself as a living firework display for all the senses taking us back to the days of old Vienna for a truly unforgettable evening.