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Enjoy a post Thanksgiving tour you'll be very thankful for experiencing.

You'll cruise the Danube from Budapest to Vilshofen.

Plenty of included shore excursions (at no extra charge) make this a varied kaleidoscope of European life, enhanced by the seasonal Christmas markets where a delightful variety of local craft items are offered for sale.

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Detailed Day by Day Itinerary for the 2016
Danube River Christmas Markets Cruise

You should be in this picture, too!

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  And the proof of our praise of these lovely Christmas cruises is surely in this picture of the wine and food galore being enjoyed by some Travel Insiders at dinner on our 2015 Christmas cruise on the Amaviola's sister ship, Amacerto.

Tour Itinerary

Join a small select group of fellow Travel Insiders on this luxury cruise/tour of up to five countries in Europe's heartland, in December 2016.

Tasteful luxury abounds on the lovely new Amaviola.

Our tour combines major capital cities with small unassuming villages, and sometimes unspoiled pure nature in the raw.

Flexibility is a distinctive feature, with many times you having a choice of different touring activities (all free!) during our port stops, helping ensure you see and do exactly what you want.

Here are the details of what we’ll do each day during this wonderful experience.


Click here for the main details of this cruise and the booking form to confirm your interest.

And if you'd like more information on what you'll see and enjoy on this cruise, here is a day by day photo journal of a similar Christmas cruise.


Wednesday 7 December - or sooner :  Leave the US

Take an overnight flight from the US to Europe today.

You can either make your own arrangements to travel to Budapest, or else take advantage of the air addon to the cruise fare.

You should leave the US today or earlier, so as to arrive in Budapest on Monday (or sooner) in time for the start of the Christmas Markets Danube River Cruise.

If you're not taking the optional extension in Prague, you might also want to consider arriving in Budapest a day early.

Note - If you've chosen the tour extension to Prague, please read on immediately below, otherwise, skip down to Day 2.



Optional Extension to Prague First Day  (Perhaps Sun/Mon/Tue 4/5/6 Dec)

A marvelous restaurant in a below ground cellar with great Gypsy music, wonderful food, and a unique ambience will be a feature of our Prague visit.

You will probably arrive into Prague some time in the afternoon, and will have probably left the US the previous day to make an overnight flight to Prague.

You can make your way to the lovely hotel with a brilliant location, tons of history and charm, and all the modern comforts, that you'll be staying at for your time in glorious Prague.

An optional airport 'Meet and Greet' and transfer with English speaking driver can be added if you'd like this extra comfort and convenience.


Optional Extension to Prague Extra Days

Prague from the Vltava (Moldau) river, looking up to its castle.

If you arrive into Prague on Sunday or earlier, you will have at least one free day prior to Sunday for you to spend as you wish.

We'd recommend a day tour out of Prague, either to Cesky Krumlov or to Karlovy Vary.  And if you're spending enough time in Prague, why not visit both!

Included Meals: Breakfast each morning


Optional Extension to Prague   Wednesday 7 December

Looking down on the Old Town Square in Prague - our hotel is just at the top of this picture, a block from the square

The Charles Bridge

This is the last full day in Prague before our transfer to the ship tomorrow.

If you've not already done so, you can use your half day city sights tour voucher today for a guided tour around this beautiful city.

You could spend the other half of the day in the lovely Christmas Markets which will fill the Old Town Square close to your hotel, or sightseeing around the city as you wish.

This evening you'll be treated to a wonderful group dinner at one of Prague's best 'cellar' restaurants in the heart of the city and only 5 minutes walk from the hotel.

Included meals - Breakfast, Dinner



Optional Extension to Prague  Thursday 8 December Transfer to Budapest via Bratislava

The Opera House in Bratislava

This morning we'll leave Prague and enjoy a comfortable train ride to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

We'll stop in Bratislava where you'll have time to walk around, enjoy the main town square, markets, and historical district, and to have lunch as you wish at any of the many wonderful restaurants available.

After our time in Bratislava, we then continue on to Budapest by coach and arrive at our ship, the Amaviola, in the late afternoon, just in time to dress for the Captain's Welcome Cocktail Reception on board.

Please now continue reading the next section, below, which starts from us joining the ship this afternoon.

Included Meals: Breakfast then dinner on the ship


Main Cruise Itinerary Day 1 (Thursday 8 December)  :  Board our cruise boat, the Amaviola, in Budapest

Our nearly new sleek slender boat is the lovely Amaviola.  It was launched earlier this year.  Bratislava in the background.

A special treat is a nighttime cruise along the Danube in Budapest to see all the evening Christmas lights.  This is their Parliament building.

If Amawaterways is providing your transfer, you will be met at the airport and transferred to the pier to embark your river cruise ship.

The crew will be preparing the cabins for arriving passengers, and you are given access to your cabin as soon as it becomes available, generally by 4pm, and in time to prepare for the Captain's Welcome Cocktail Reception prior to your first dinner on board.

You can spend your time relaxing in the ship’s lounge or doing some exploring on your own in Hungary’s beautiful capital.

After dinner the ship sails to do an 'Illuminations Cruise' around Budapest, showing all the gloriously lit buildings and bridges before returning back to the dock.

Included meals - Dinner


Day 2 (Friday 9 December) :  Budapest

A section of the massive Buda Royal Castle, as seen from the Pest side of the Danube during the day.  It too looks lovely at night.

Christmas gifts galore are yours to choose from in all the markets we visit along the Danube.

Included Budapest Tour :  After breakfast, a morning sightseeing tour includes historic Buda Castle, where we have a splendid view of the twin cities of Buda and Pest spread over both banks of the River.

The tour also features 500-year old Matthias Church, St. Stephen’s Basilica, distinctive Fisherman’s Bastion, the marvelous Royal Palace and much more in this city, the former co-capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, redolent with splendid palaces and magnificent buildings.

And - oh yes.  Christmas markets, of course!

We have a full day to enjoy in Budapest today.  Late in the evening, the ship starts its cruise to Vienna.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 3 (Saturday 10 December) :  Vienna

Vienna's main markets in front of the imposing Town Hall.  Perhaps also visit the less touristy Spittelberg markets.

A Vienna street scene in the evening, illuminated by the Christmas lighting.

We arrive into Vienna - considered by some as the musical capital of the world - this afternoon, and designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Upon arrival, you might want to head into the center of the city, or alternatively enjoy a guided bike tour along the banks of the Danube, north to the Klosterneuberg Monastery, a 12th century Augustinian monastery a short distance north of the ship.

Or perhaps go to Schonbrunn Palace on the outskirts of downtown Vienna - another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After dinner this evening you are invited to travel off the ship to experience a traditional Viennese Wine and Music evening in a rustic wine tavern outside the city, where you can enjoy a glass of the distinctive newly pressed local wine, together with Austrian music and hospitality.  In a word - gemutlichkeit.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 4 (Sunday 11 December) :  Vienna

A fiaker (horse drawn carriage) passes the front of the Hofburg Palace in Vienna.
Take a tour of, or perhaps attend a performance in, the Vienna State Opera House.
You'll find gifts and treats of all types in the varied Christmas markets we visit on our tour/cruise.  Bring an extra suitcase with you and solve all your Christmas gift giving challenges!

Included Vienna Tour :  We enjoy a full day in Vienna today.

There are several tour choices offered to you this morning.  Most people will choose the panoramic tour of the city, and set off on a coach and walking tour of one of Europe’s most elegant and romantic cities.  Our tour features the remarkable Ringstrasse, lined with imposing palaces and grand residences, encircling the medieval Innere Stadt (Inner City). We will of course see the magnificent Hofburg Palace, glorious St. Stephan’s Cathedral with its gleaming spire and the beautiful State Opera House.

Yes, there are also Christmas markets a plenty.  If you wish you can stay in the city, or return back to the ship for lunch, then enjoy the afternoon with additional sightseeing as you may choose.

For people who are already familiar with Vienna, there is a walking tour of 'Vienna's Hidden Treasures' taking you to less well known fascinating parts of the city, and for the more active, there's a guide bike tour along the river and through the Donaupark.

This evening an optional concert of popular classic music favorites in one of Vienna's glorious palaces is offered.

The ship leaves Vienna just before midnight.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 5 (Monday 12 December) :  Weissenkirchen - Emmersdorf - Grein

An Amawaterways ship in Durnstein.  On the hill above are the ruins to the castle where Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner in 1192.
We stop at Melk Abbey, 900 years old, and dramatically perched on the cliffs above the Danube River.  As you can see, its enormous size dwarfs the town below.
The stunning interior of one of the rooms in the library section of Melk Abbey.

Grein's castle dates back to 1488 and is now the family residence of the Prince of Saxe-Coburg und Gotha.

After a smooth night of cruising along the Danube, Amaviola arrives in Weissenkirchen, in the beautiful stretch of the Danube known as the Wachau Valley, at breakfast time.

We have two tour options this morning.  The first is a walking tour through the cobblestone streets of lovely little Durnstein, followed by a wine tasting in one of their wine cellars, the second is a tasting tour of apricots and sweets.

We then continue cruising during the middle of the day through the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Wachau Valley, so that we can enjoy its beauty as the ship glides through the valley, and after a couple of hours of this, we next arrive at Emmersdorf, where we will visit the spectacular Benedictine Abbey in Melk, perched proudly on a promontory overlooking the town and river.

The abbey is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and most deservedly so - its library in particular has an extraordinary collection of medieval manuscripts, and the church interior has elaborate frescos.  The Abbey is still a working school, and more recently was featured in Umberto Eco's book, The Name of the Rose.

After our visit to Melk, the ship once more sets sail, taking us on to Grein, where we have free time to explore this charming town in the evening.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 6 (Tuesday 13 December) :  Linz

We arrive in Linz, dating back to Roman times early this morning.  This picture shows a fascinating contrast between a new tram and old buildings in one of its central squares, and of course, a Christmas Market.

If there is a more beautiful town in all of Austria than Salzburg, I've yet to see it.

The Christmas markets at night.

The ship sets sail from Grein this morning at 4am, giving you plenty of time to enjoy time ashore if you so wished.

It arrives into Linz, the third largest city in Austria (but with a population of only 270,000 so still small), at about 7am.  After breakfast there is either a walking tour offered around the town or a guided bike tour, also around the central part of the city.

After this, you have a choice of three different tours.  The first is to travel to wonderful Salzburg, Mozart's birthplace and the location for the movie The Sound of Music.  And, as seems commonly the case during our cruise, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The second is to go to the lovely medieval town of Cesky Krumlov, over the border in the Czech Republic, another UNESCO world heritage site due to its excellently preserved medieval character.

The third option is - you guessed it - to another UNESCO World Heritage Site - a coaching tour through the Austrian Lake District, the Salzkammergut region.

 There's a chance for more shore time back in Linz upon our return, and the ship departs at midnight.

This evening we'll enjoy a Bavarian folklore performance on board.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 7 (Wednesday 14 December) :  Passau

The ancient town of Passau is built around the Danube River, where it meets with the Ilz and Inn Rivers.
We mark the end of our cruise with a celebration of local beer and music.

Say goodbye to Austria and hello to Germany early this morning, and at breakfast the ship arrives into historic Passau, a German town that can trace its history back 2000 years.

We spend the morning in Passau, and have a choice of either a walking tour of the city or alternatively, a cycling tour around the region and along the banks of the Danube.

This afternoon we travel on to Vilshofen, arriving late afternoon.  In Vilshofen, we have a chance to enjoy a festive Oktoberfest celebration with local beer accompanied by Bavarian folk music and dancing.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 8 (Thursday 15 December) :  Cruise ends in Vilshofen

One of the Amawaterways fleet moored in Vilshofen.

Our lovely Danube Christmas Markets Cruise comes to an end this morning.

Because we arrived into Vilshofen yesterday, you can take flights onward or homeward at any time you wish.

Alternatively, please continue reading down for a lovely free optional extension and a great way to end your tour.

Included Meals: Breakfast

Free Optional Extra (Thursday 15 December) :  Free Optional Tour Transfer to Munich

The old town of Regensburg survived World War 2 virtually intact, and so is a treasure trove of ancient medieval architecture.

Please join me on this lovely cruise/tour.  Here I am, enjoying a mug of gluhwein at my favorite market in Regensburg.

What better way to end this lovely experience than with another free enhancement.

As a Travel Insider exclusive bonus, we offer you a tour and transfer from Vilshofen this morning, traveling first to the World Heritage city of Regensburg, where we have a city tour and time at leisure to enjoy the Christmas markets.

Regensburg is probably Germany's best-preserved and also largest medieval town, having escaped the ravages of WW2 that affected so many other towns.

Be sure to go visit the very special market that David considers to be far and away the very best Christmas market in all of Europe.

Later in the afternoon, we then travel on to Munich, where the extension ends.  Spend the night and enjoy Munich's lovely Christmas markets too, or take a late flight somewhere else.

This afternoon we travel on to Vilshofen, arriving late afternoon.  In Vilshofen, we have a chance to enjoy a festive Oktoberfest celebration with local beer accompanied by Bavarian folk music and dancing.

Included Meals: Breakfast


Note - the schedule sometimes changes slightly to fit in with lock times, etc, and so this itinerary may slightly change between now and departure.

Click here for the main details of this cruise and the booking form to confirm your interest.

Click here for a day by day photo journal of what you'll see and enjoy on a Christmas Markets Cruise.


Originally published 11 Aug 2016, last update 12 Aug 2016

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