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Avalon River Cruise - Grand Black Sea Cruise With Bucharest Extension

2014 Season

From $6,509

        



Length:  20 days from Prague to Bucharest

Overview

Discover some of the continent’s best-kept secrets on this river cruise through Central and Eastern Europe, from Prague to Bucharest. Spend three nights in both Prague and Bucharest, and enjoy plenty of leisure time in Budapest and Vienna to explore on your own. Guided sightseeing in each city shows you the highlights, with inside visits of the Hradcany Castle grounds in Prague, Melk’s awe-inspiring Benedictine Abbey, Kalemegdan Fortress in Belgrade, Patriarch’s Church in Veliko Târnovo, and the National Art Museum in Bucharest. Also cruise through the dramatic Iron Gates gorge and Main Danube Canal, visit the Lepinski Vir archaeological site, stop in the Puszta for an exhibition of Hungarian horsemanship, enjoy an organ concert in Pécs, and visit the diverse rock formations of Belogradchik. Conclude your vacation with an excursion to Transylvania to visit Dracula’s Bran Castle—built in 1377—and the beautiful Sinaia Monastery in the breathtaking Carpathian Mountains. All of this and more await you on this marvelous cruise vacation!

Duration:  20 Days



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Day 1   Arrive in Prague, Czech Republic. Welcome to Prague, capital of the Czech Republic. This fascinating city straddles the Vltava River with domes, cupolas, spires, and pinnacles highlighting its skyline. The remainder of the day is free to start exploring.

Day 2   Prague. Prague is a 1,200-year-old city preserved in time, and, unlike other Central European capitals, it was not bombed during the 20th-century wars. A Certified Local Guide shows you its best-known treasures such as the Old Town’s Astronomical Clock, built in 1410 and once the envy of all of Europe; HRADCANY CASTLE GROUNDS; St. Vitus Cathedral; and the Charles Bridge, the oldest bridge in Prague. Browse the shops for hand-cut crystal or art books. Mix with the locals in Wenceslaus Square, an important meeting point and where people demonstrated against the communist regime; or watch performers on Charles Bridge. (B)

Day 3   Prague. Enjoy a free day to explore the city at your own pace. Perhaps visit the Communist Museum; sample the local plum dumplings and Pilsner; stroll along the Vltava River; discover the Jewish Quarter; or wander around Prague’s medieval Old Town, dating from the 10th century. Your Cruise Director will have other suggestions for things to do. (B)

Day 4   Prague–Nuremberg, Germany (Embarkation). After lunch, drive to Nuremberg, where your river cruise vessel is docked. Before dinner, meet your crew for a welcome reception. (B,D)

Day 5   Nuremberg. Although 90% of Nuremberg’s 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. Today, choose either a GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR and marvel at this thousand-year-old city’s medieval fortifications, extraordinary gothic churches, and the Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle), or join a more specialized “NUREMBERG TRIALS” tour. During free time, be sure to make a wish at the beautiful fountain in the Hauptmarkt (main square). Legend says your wish will come true if you turn its gold ring three times. Then, enjoy a tranquil afternoon of cruising and take in a fascinating ONBOARD LECTURE about the engineering marvel that is the Main-Danube Canal. Before dinner we’ll introduce you to some of Germany’s FAMOUS BEERS! (B,L,D)

Day 6   Regensburg. Arrive in Regensburg after breakfast. Dating back to the time of the Celts around 500 BC, Regensburg is one of Germany’s best preserved medieval cities. Established during the Holy Roman Empire and the only German city not bombed during WWII, Regensburg has at least 1,300 listed buildings of “historic interest.” Architectural highlights of your GUIDED SIGHTSEEING include the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall), built in the 13th century, and Porta Pretoria, gates to an ancient Roman fort built in 179 AD. Wander through the city’s lanes and alleys to discover the many mansions with high towers. Wealthy families built these towers to emphasize their status and wealth during the Middle Ages, and many still remain today. Walk across the 12th-century Steinerne Brücke (Stone Bridge), the oldest of its kind in Germany. Grab a beer and enjoy an included SNACK at the Historische Wurstküche (Old Sausage Kitchen), Germany’s oldest restaurant. Here—where the locals congregate—feel the vibrant atmosphere and take in the remarkable views along the river. (B,L,D)

Day 7   Passau–Linz, Austria. This morning, dock in Passau. Uniquely located where the Inn, Ilz, and Danube Rivers converge, Passau is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets lined with beautiful patrician houses. Napoleon once remarked, “In Germany, I have never seen a town more beautiful.” St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a masterpiece of Italian baroque architecture, houses one of the world’s largest church organs with 17,774 pipes. Take in the highlights on the included GUIDED WALK. Then, sail to Linz, Austria’s third-largest town, which lies on both banks of the Danube and is an important industrial town and busy river port. Alternatively, take an optional full-day excursion to Salzburg to see the popular Sound of Music sights or to ?eský Krumlov in the Czech Republic, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rejoin the ship in Linz. (B,L,D)

Day 8   Melk–Vienna. Enjoy a GUIDED VISIT of Melk’s magnificent 11th-century BENEDICTINE ABBEY, one of Europe’s largest monasteries. The abbey houses an ornate library with over 80,000 printed books and 2,000 manuscripts. Words cannot describe the splendor of the church with its frescoed ceilings, stunning high altar, marble statues, and 210-foot-high cupola. The view from the terrace of the abbey over the Danube and surrounding countryside is breathtaking! During lunchtime, cruise through the picturesque Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pass the magnificent baroque Stiftskirche with its blue façade, the landmark of Dürnstein, before arriving in Vienna this evening. Known as the “City of Music,” it inspired the creative genius of Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss. An optional concert is available tonight. (B,L,D)

Day 9   Vienna. Once the center of the mighty Habsburg Empire, Austria’s magical capital on the blue Danube is a showcase of gilded architecture. This is home to the lavish Hofburg Imperial Palace complex with its Vienna Boy’s Choir and dazzling Lipizzaner stallions; the neo-renaissance Vienna Opera House; and awe-inspiring St. Stephen’s Cathedral—plus, countless other sights shown to you by your Local Guide during your included CITY TOUR. Shop in the delightful pedestrian Kärntnerstrasse, and be sure to take a break and enjoy a piece of decadent Sachertorte or Apfelstrudel in one of the classic Viennese coffee houses, historic institutions that helped shape Viennese culture! In the late afternoon, leave Vienna for Budapest. (B,L,D)

Day 10   Budapest, Hungary. Spanning the banks of the Danube, Budapest is one of Eastern Europe’s liveliest cities. 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 GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR, see 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, a symbol of Budapest built in 1849. Perhaps visit St. Stephen’s Basilica, Hungary’s largest church; shop at the Great Market Hall and purchase paprika at one of its 180 vendor stalls; wander around the Royal Palace grounds; or stroll along Vací Utca, the main shopping street. (B,L,D)

Day 11   Budapest. Puszta Excursion. After breakfast, drive out of the city into the Great Hungarian Plain and the vast grasslands called the PUSZTA, which forms an integral part of Hungarian rural life and where the country’s beloved fiery horses are reared. Visit an active stud farm and watch the proud horses lead a festive procession. Admire the extraordinary prowess of the Magyar cowboys as they perform equestrian exercises and sample a typical country lunch. Return to Budapest and your ship in the late afternoon. (B,L,D)

Day 12   Mohács. Excursion to Pécs. This morning, enjoy some leisurely cruising before arriving in Mohács, the last stop in Hungary. After lunch, an 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 your 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. (B,L,D)

Day 13   Belgrade, Serbia. Before arriving in Belgrade this afternoon, attend a fascinating ONBOARD LECTURE on the Balkans to better help you understand this region of Europe. 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. Also visit the city’s principal landmark, KALEMEGDAN FORTRESS, which showcases the history of Belgrade. Built in stages between the 1st and 18th centuries, the fortress witnessed many battles and observed the courage of those trying to defend the city from conquerors. The surrounding park is the most beautiful and largest park in Belgrade. In your free time, be sure to check out the city’s lively pedestrian area and charming outdoor cafés. (B,L,D)

Day 14   Excursion to Lepinski Vir–Iron Gates. After breakfast, dock at Donji Milanovac, where a short drive takes you to the impressive LEPINSKI VIR EXHIBITION CENTER, which houses area archaeological artifacts and from where you have unique views of the Danube Gorge. Return to your ship for lunch and then cruise what must surely be the most spectacular scenery of the dramatic gorge of the IRON GATES, 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)

Day 15   Vidin, Bulgaria. Excursion to Belogradchik. Vidin is an important Danube port, situated in northwestern Bulgaria. Its medieval FORTRESS, known as “Baba Vidin,” is the town’s primary landmark. It served as Vidin’s main defensive installation during the course of the Middle Ages and is the only entirely preserved medieval fortress in the country. It is now a fortress museum and has been restored to its former appearance. In the afternoon, drive to nearby 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)

Day 16   Svistov–Excursion to Veliko Târnovo & Arbanassi–Rousse. A comfortable ride from the river port of Svistov is 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, palaces, and the PATRIARCH’S CHURCH. With your Local Guide, discover this town that played an important role in Bulgaria’s history. Then, journey to Arbanassi. Founded in the 15th century, the historic village of Arbanassi is best known for its examples of Bulgarian Revival architecture and its ETHNOGRAPHICAL MUSEUM, a 400-year-old house preserved as a museum. Visit the CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY, one of the oldest churches in Arbanassi, and see its outstanding collection of frescoes. Rejoin your ship in Rousse, Bulgaria’s largest inland port. If you do not wish to participate in the full-day excursion, remain on board and relax, then join a GUIDED TOUR of Rousse in the afternoon. (B,L,D)

Day 17   Oltenita, Romania (Disembarkation)–Bucharest. Bucharest, Romania’s lively capital, is only a short drive from Oltenita. Its 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 afternoon, see the impressive Parliament Building, the second-largest building in the world after the Pentagon, and the Royal Palace Square, the scene of riots in 1989, which led to the collapse of the communist dictatorship. The former Royal Palace now houses the NATIONAL ART MUSEUM, which includes over 100,000 works of Romanian and European art from the 15th to the 20th centuries. 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)

Day 18   Bucharest. Excursion to Transylvania. Head out of the city to your first stop, BRAN CASTLE of Dracula fame, built in 1377 and assumed to be the home of Romanian vampires. Then, into the Carpathians to SINAIA to visit the monastery of the same name, built in memory of Mihail Cantacuzino’s visit to Mount Sinai. This afternoon, head slowly back to Bucharest. (B,L)

Day 19   Bucharest. A day to rest and explore Romania’s capital city. Your Cruise Director will have suggestions for things to do. (B)

Day 20   Bucharest. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)

Meals:  Buffet breakfast (B) in Prague and Bucharest, 1 lunch (L) in Bucharest; superb dining with meals on board featuring full breakfast (B) with complimentary sparkling wine, lunch (L) with complimentary soft drinks, and dinner (D) including complimentary wine, beer, or soft drinks; a welcome reception, Captain’s reception, and farewell dinner; one sitting with open seating arrangements

Hotel Information:  Hotels will be as shown, or similar. Final hotel names will be available in April 2013.

Prague InterContinental (D), Bucharest Athénée Palace Hilton (SF)
Terms and Conditions
Note: Flights are NOT included with the cruises and unless otherwise stated above transfers are also NOT included.
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