Day 1 - Arrive in Vienna, Austria (Embarkation) Vienna, Austria's capital, is known as the "City of Music" and inspired the creative genius of Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss. This afternoon, board your cruise vessel and meet your crew at an evening welcome reception. (D)NOTE:Guests must be on board ship by 5 pm.
Day 2 - Vienna Once the center of the mighty Habsburg Empire, this is home to the lavish Hofburg Imperial Palace complex with its Vienna Boys' Choir and dazzling Lipizzaner stallions; the neo-renaissance Vienna Opera House; and awe-inspiring St. Stephen's Cathedral"plus, countless other sights you'll see on your GUIDED TOUR. We will offer you a special CULINARY TOUR at the Viennese Christmas markets where you can taste all the best flavors that Austria has to offer during Christmas time. Be sure to enjoy a piece of decadent Sachertorte or Apfelstrudel in one of the classic coffee houses, historic institutions that helped shape Viennese culture! An optional concert is available tonight. (B,L,D)
Day 3 - Krems - Melk This morning, arrive in Krems and enjoy GUIDED SIGHTSEEING. Then, sail through the picturesque Wachau Valley and arrive in Melk in the early afternoon. The magnificent 11th-century BENEDICTINE ABBEY dominates the town and is one of Europe's largest monasteries. The abbey houses an ornate library with over 80,000 printed books and 2,000 manuscripts. You'll be captivated by the splendor of the church with its frescoed ceilings. This evening you'll be able to sample some of the FAMOUS WINES of this region. Then your Cruise Director will introduce you to one of the most popular legends in Europe: ST. NICHOLAS' LEGEND. (B,L,D)
Day 4 - Passau, Germany This morning, you may wish to join an optional full-day excursion to Salzburg to see some of the popular Sound of Music sites, find out how mice caused the composition of the famous Silent Night carol, and learn how Austrians celebrate Christmas. Rejoin your ship in Passau in the early evening or stay on board and relax as you cruise to Passau, located where the Inn, Ilz, and Danube Rivers converge. Passau is a maze of cobblestone streets, lined with beautiful patrician houses. The Christkindlmarkt, Passau's charming Christmas market, is set against the stunning backdrop of St. Stephen's Cathedral, a masterpiece of Italian baroque architecture. Take in the highlights on the included GUIDED WALK. (B,L,D)
Day 5 - Regensburg Dating back to the time of the Celts around 500 BC, Regensburg is one of Germany's best preserved medieval cities. The only German city not bombed during WWII, Regensburg has at least 1,300 listed buildings of "historic interest." Architectural highlights included on your GUIDED WALK are the 13th-century Old Town Hall and Porta Pretoria, gates to an ancient Roman fort built in 179 AD. Walk across the 12th-century Steinerne Brucke (Stone Bridge), the oldest of its kind in Germany. Grab a beer and enjoy an included SNACK at the Historische Wurstkuche (Old Sausage Kitchen), one of Germany's oldest restaurants. The afternoon is free to visit the Regensburg Christmas market, including the ones hosted by Thurn und Taxis Palace. The tempting aromas of mulled wine, sausage, roasted almonds, and gingerbread create a memorable atmosphere. Before dinner tonight we'll introduce you to some of Germany's FAMOUS BEERS! (B,L,D)
Day 6 - Nuremberg Spend a relaxing morning cruising before reaching Nuremberg and enjoy an ONBOARD LECTURE on Christmas traditions. Although 90% of its Old Town suffered extensive damage during WWII, much of it has been restored to the glory it once knew as the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Choose from an included GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR and marvel at the city's medieval fortifications, gothic churches, and Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle), or join a NUREMBERG RALLY GROUNDS tour. The Old Town is illuminated with festive lights, and the Christmas market is one of the biggest in Germany, featuring 200 stalls selling traditional wares and foods. After your free time at the Christmas Market, a shuttle bus service will be at your disposal to take you back to the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 7 - Nuremberg (Disembarkation) - Excursion to Munich (Embarkation). After breakfast, disembark the vessel which has brought you to Nuremberg and drive to Munich, where a local expert will proudly show you the sights of the Bavarian capital. An inspiring mix of historic buildings and impressive architecture, you'll see the Olympic Stadium, 1,000-foot-high Television Tower, Nymphenburg Palace, MARIENPLATZ in the historic heart of the city with the Old and New Town Halls, and the gothic Frauenkirche. Later, there's free time to explore on your own. The traditional Christmas market is located on the Marienplatz, with aromas of toasted almonds, roasted chestnuts, and gingerbread filling the air and the strains of alpine Christmas music coming from the town hall. At the nearby Rindermarkt, you'll find the Kripperlmarkt, one of the largest markets in Germany to specialize in mangers and other nativity accessories. And don't leave Munich without paying a visit to the famous Hofbrauhaus for a stein of beer! Return to Nuremberg in the late afternoon and embark on the ship which will take you to Basel.(B,D)
Day 8 - Nuremberg A day to relax and enjoy Nuremberg at your own pace. Stroll through the festively lit streets, buy those last-minute Christmas gifts, or ask your Cruise Director for suggestions of things to do. Shuttle service available. (B,L,D)
Day 9 - Bamberg In the early morning hours, arrive in medieval Bamberg, former residence of one of Germany's most powerful imperial dynasties. Your GUIDED WALKING TOUR takes in its historic center, including the great 13th-century Romanesque cathedral and the fascinating Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)"built on an island in the middle of the Regnitz River when the bishop refused to give the townspeople land for a town hall! At this time of year, especially interesting are the nativity scenes built by local residents and exhibited throughout the town. Enjoy the Christmas market, where, in addition to candles and decorations, you'll find many regional delicacies, like gingerbread and nut bread. Be sure not to miss the special gift we have reserved for you in a local brewery. Rejoin your ship in time for lunch. This afternoon, cruise along the Main River to Wurzburg, and attend a fascinating ONBOARD LECTURE to learn more about the European Christmas traditions. (B,L,D)
Day 10 - Wurzburg Known as the "Pearl of the Romantic Road," Wurzburg is surrounded by sloping hills covered with vineyards. The city makes an immediate impression with imposing Fortress Marienberg perched above town and the 15th-century Alte Mainbrucke (Old Main Bridge). On your included GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR, visit the magnificent baroque BISHOP'S RESIDENZ, home to the largest ceiling fresco ever painted. This afternoon you are free to explore on your own"maybe visit the Christmas markets or join an optional excursion to medieval Rothenburg where you will have the opportunity to visit the Christmas Museum. Be sure to try a Schneeball (snowball), a local specialty not at all suitable for a diet! (B,L,D)
Day 11 - Miltenberg. A CULINARY DEMONSTRATION will be delivered before lunch and before your arrival in Miltenberg Tucked away behind medieval defensive walls and towered gates, the picturesque Bavarian village of Miltenberg is a cultural gem on the banks of the Main River. This afternoon's GUIDED WALK will acquaint you with the town's delightful Marktplatz (market square), which centers around a Renaissance-era fountain and features striking half-timbered buildings, cobblestone lanes, and one of the oldest inns in Germany, Haus zum Riesen (the giant's house) and the gothic splendor of the Merchant Hall. Depart for Frankfurt before dinner. (B,L,D)
Day 12 - Frankfurt. Excursion to Rudesheim After breakfast this morning, a comfortable motorcoach ride takes you to the pretty little town of Rudesheim, a perfect example of a Rhine Valley wine town. A visit to SIEGFRIED'S MECHANICAL MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MUSEUM is a real surprise! Afterward, we'll offer you a SPECIAL TREAT and then there's free time to explore. The entire town transforms itself into one large Christmas market, offering products and specialties from a number of nations, all presented in a distinctive manner. You'll be spoiled by the selection of shops offering a vast variety of Christmas presents and decorations. In the Market Square you'll find Europe's largest nativity scene, with life-size figures. In the afternoon, return to Frankfurt. (B,D)
Day 13 - Excursion to Heidelberg - Mannheim This morning an excursion takes you to Heidelberg, home to the oldest university in Germany, which was founded in 1386. Visit the imposing ruins of HEIDELBERG CASTLE, towering magnificently over the city and among the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps. You'll also see the famed GREAT VAT, the "World's Largest Wine Barrel." At nearly 23 feet high and 28 feet wide, the cask holds over 58,000 gallons of wine and has a dance floor built on top of it! At this time of year, an ice rink is set up at the foot of the castle, and stalls offer Gluhwein, Bratwurst, and other tasty treats. The Christmas market itself is scattered over five town squares, and you'll find a wide array of crafts and regional delicacies. Rejoin your ship in Mannheim, and the afternoon is yours to do as you please.There is plenty of free time to shop for Christmas decorations or gifts at the Mannheim Christmas market. (B,L,D)
Day 14 - Strasbourg, France Situated on the border of France and Germany, Strasbourg blends the cultures of both countries in a delightful way. As capital of the Alsace region and seat of the Council of Europe and European Parliament, it is, without a doubt, an important city that manages to retain its historic charm. In fact, on your GUIDED WALKING TOUR you will discover Europe at its most quintessential. Visit the monumental red-sandstone GOTHIC CATHEDRAL with its ancient murals, stained-glass windows, and fascinating astronomical clock, as well as the magical LA PETITE FRANCE district, home to half-timbered houses, quaint shops, inviting bistros, and a waterfront promenade. Also spend time exploring Place Kleber, a large historic square in the heart of the city, and Place Gutenberg in the heart of medieval Strasbourg, which features a statue of the inventor of the printing press. Dating back to 1570, the traditional Christmas market is one of the oldest and finest in Europe. Located around Place de la Cathedrale and Place Broglie, its centerpiece is a giant Christmas tree. As you stroll through the festively decorated and illuminated streets you'll notice the pleasing aromas of mulled wine, sweets, spice cakes, and biscuits"a truly magical atmosphere! This afternoon, an optional excursion into the Alsace wine region is available. This evening, enjoy an onboard WOODCARVING demonstration. (B,L,D)
Day 15 - Breisach, Germany. Excursion to the Black Forest Located at the foot of Kaiserstuhl Mountain on the French-German border, Breisach is the gateway to Germany's BLACK FOREST region, an area of unrivaled natural beauty with its forests of thick pine trees. The area got its name because the forests are so dense that local residents once described them as black. There's no better setting for this time of year than when smoke curls from the chimneys of the traditional Black Forest houses with their long sloping roofs, connoting images of warm and festively decorated interiors. Surely, the most well-known products from this region are Black Forest ham, cherry cake, and cuckoo clocks. This afternoon there's free time in Breisach to visit one more Christmas market"or you may join an optional excursion to Colmar in France's Alsace region. (B,L,D)
Day 16 - Basel Switzerland (Disembarkation) Your vacation ends after breakfast today. (B)NOTE:Flights out of Zurich airport should not leave before 10 am.