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Europe

Sailing the Danube River through Central Europe

Program No. 23683RJ
Sail through time along the Danube River to the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, and Hungary to study their fascinating political and cultural histories with local experts.
Length
10 days
Rating (5)
Activity Level
Starts at
3,799

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DATES & PRICES

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Accommodation Details

A cabin with a window or porthole to view the outside.

DATES & PRICES

Ship Outside
Accommodation Details

A cabin with a window or porthole to view the outside.

At a Glance

Transport yourself back in time in Eastern Europe, where even the larger cities seem to be frozen in the medieval era, with cobbled streets and historic architecture. As you sail along the Danube River, journey through authentic Europe with local experts eager to show you the secrets of their cities. On explorations of Vienna’s music history, Budapest’s architectural history and Prague’s political history, delve deep into the past while experiencing these cities like a local. Then, learn about the cities’ modern developments to understand fully the progression of Eastern Europe and immerse yourself in these beautiful countries that seamlessly blend old traditions with contemporary culture.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Participants must be able to stand for two hours at a time and walk 2-4 miles per day.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Learn about classical music in Vienna during a lecture with the talented musicians from the Vienna Philharmonic.
  • Delve deep into history as you explore Cesky Krumlov, a small medieval town and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Czech Republic.
  • Study the beautiful architecture of Prague at the Charles Bridge.

General Notes

Please note that during these programs, Road Scholar will operate smaller groups each with their own Group Leader for shore excursions. The small groups may occasionally come together for lectures.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Tímea Howard
Timea Howard was born in Budapest and has lived there for all her life. Timea pursued a degree in business management and worked in advertising for 20 successful years. Following a life-changing ski accident, she decided to pursue her love of Budapest, history and languages by becoming an official group leader. Since receiving her certification as a group leader in 2015 in English and Italian, Timea has shared her city with visitors from all over the world.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Tímea Howard
Tímea Howard View biography
Timea Howard was born in Budapest and has lived there for all her life. Timea pursued a degree in business management and worked in advertising for 20 successful years. Following a life-changing ski accident, she decided to pursue her love of Budapest, history and languages by becoming an official group leader. Since receiving her certification as a group leader in 2015 in English and Italian, Timea has shared her city with visitors from all over the world.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
A History of Slovakia, The Struggle for Survival
by Stanislav K. Kirschbaum
A historian from Bratislava traces his nation's roots from the first arrival on the Danubian Plain to Slovakia's declaration of independence in 1993. A particularly solid discussion of the Communist period and the nation's relationship with the Czechs and Hungary.
Lonely Planet Central Europe
by Lonely Planet
With dozens of maps, color photographs and sections on history and culture, this practical guide introduces Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland and their neighbors.
Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century, A Surrealist History
by Derek Sayer
A survey of Czech culture from 1918 to the end of WWII, a golden age of modernism. Sayer deploys his encyclopedic knowledge by focusing on small details in Czech art, design, architecture, literature and music, ultimately weaving these threads into a vivid tapestry.
Budapest 1900
by John Lukacs
Written by a distinguished historian and native son, this richly detailed portrait of the city at its zenith includes hundreds of illustrations.
Danube
by Claudio Magris
Mixing history, personalities and literature, Magris traces the course of the Danube from its source in the heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire through the Balkans to the Black Sea in this anything but conventional travelogue, first published in 1986.
Mozart, A Life
by Paul Johnson
Challenging myths surrounding Mozart’s health, religion and relationships, biographer Paul Johnson shows the great composer’s lasting impact on the musical world with insight.
The Danube, A Cultural History
by Andrew Beattie
Beattie gives a comprehensive overview of the Danube’s role as a vital shipping artery and a uniting thread through the region’s turbulent history.
Central Europe Map
by Freytag & Berndt
This colorful regional European map, like the sister map Europe Grand Tour (EUR185), covers from Paris and Amsterdam to Vienna, Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, Rome and Dubrovnik.
Prague, A Traveler's Literary Companion
by Paul Wilson (Editor)
This anthology of 24 vivid stories by Czech writers, both contemporary and well-known, brings the city, history, spirit and people to life.
A Nervous Splendor, Vienna 1888-1889
by Frederic Morton
A portrait of Vienna at the end of the 19th century, this book focuses on Crown Prince Rudolph, his devastating suicide and the rich texture of gossip and daily life at the Habsburg Court.
Vienna, A Traveler's Literary Companion
by Donald Daviau
Organized by neighborhood, these 15 alluring tales introduce both the city and its writers, including Arthur Schnitzler, Robert Musil, Stefan Zweig and even Franz Kafka, who had a long and complicated association with the city.
The Radetzky March
by Joseph Roth, Joachim Neugroschel (Translator)
Magnificently set against the backdrop of the twilight of the Habsburg Empire, Roth's family saga takes in the sweep of history and empire in Central Europe. The richly textured novel opens at the battle of Solferino, when young Lieutenant Trotta saves the life of the Emperor.
A Time of Gifts
by Patrick Leigh Fermor
Fermor effortlessly interweaves anecdote, history and culture in this exuberant account of a walk from Holland, up the Rhine and down the Danube, through Germany, Prague and Austria in 1933. Written not in the moment, but 40 years later, the accumulation of time and experience gives the book particular poignancy.
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10 days
9 nights
22 meals
8 B 7 L 7 D
DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
2
Arrive Prague, Check In, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Prague
D
Vienna House Andel’s Prague

Activity note: Hotel check in from 3:00 p.m. See your program’s “Getting There” information regarding transfers.

Afternoon: After checking in to the hotel and getting your room, take some time to freshen up and relax before our Orientation session. Orientation: 4:30 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. We will review COVID-19 protocols and will adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines and requirements throughout the program. This is a Road Scholar Adventures Afloat program. Port stops and field trips are subject to change as weather and river conditions could affect the progress of the vessel, making it run late and possibly miss ports if it is not safe to dock. The cruise itinerary should therefore be regarded as provisional. The time available in each port is set by the cruise line, which may mean free time in port is limited. The cruise line reserves the right change the itinerary without prior notice. When possible, the Road Scholar daily schedule indicates port arrival and departure times. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
3
Prague Castle, Lobkowicz Palace, Concert, Free Time
Prague
B,L
Vienna House Andel’s Prague

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 6 miles, approximately 1 hour riding time (depending on traffic). Walking up to 3 miles, approximately 3 hours; uneven sidewalks, cobblestones.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will board a motorcoach and ride to Prague Castle, home of Bohemian kings and a textbook of Prague architecture itself. Standing tall amid the magnificent Hradcany District, or Castle District, it is rated as the largest castle complex in the world. During an expert-led exploration, we will see the interiors of St. Vitus Cathedral and privately owned Lobkowicz Palace.

Lunch: At Lobkowicz Palace. We will also enjoy a lunchtime concert.

Afternoon: Free time. This period of time has been set aside for your personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Please note that the period scheduled for free time is subject to change depending on local circumstances and opportunities for independent exploration.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to have what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Architecture, Old Town, Jewish District, Charles Bridge
Prague
B,L,D
Vienna House Andel’s Prague

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 6 miles approximately 1/2 hour riding time. Walking up to 3 miles, approximately 3 hours; uneven sidewalks, cobblestones.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will board a motorcoach to transfer to the Old Town. We will go to the Museum of Cubism for a lecture on architecture given by a local expert. We’ll then set out on a walking field trip in the Old Town with a local expert.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We will continue to explore the Old Town and the Jewish district. We’ll then walk to the Charles Bridge area. This ancient Gothic bridge is decorated with Baroque statues.

Dinner: At a restaurant in the Old Town.

Evening: Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the evening is at leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
5
Transfer to Cesky Krumlov, Transfer to Passau, Embark Ship
Passau
B,L,D
MS Douce France

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 180 miles throughout the day, approximately 5 hours total riding time. Walking up to 2 miles, approximately 1 hour; some bad cobblestones.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will check out of the hotel, board a motorcoach, and begin our journey to Passau for embarkation. En route, we will hear a lecture on the European Union. We will arrive at Cesky Krumlov, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site.

Lunch: At a restaurant in Cesky Krumlov.

Afternoon: We will take a walk in this medieval town situated on the meander of Vltava River with its mighty castle complex erected on the rock promontory. We’ll then continue our ride to Passau where we will meet the ship. After completing embarkation procedures and getting your cabin, take some time to become familiar with the ship. The ship will depart for Melk around 5:00 PM.

Dinner: Aboard ship.

Evening: At leisure. Musicians will be playing in the lounge.

DAY
6
Melk Abbey, Dürnstein, Vienna Philharmonic
Vienna
B,L,D
MS Douce France

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 52 miles, approximately 1.5 hours riding time. Walking up to 2 miles, approximately 2 hours; uneven sidewalks, cobblestones.

Breakfast: Aboard ship.

Morning: We will step off the ship and board a motorcoach for a field trip to Stift Melk — Melk Abbey — where a local expert will lead our exploration through one of the most famous monastic sites in the world. While the monastic community dates back more than 900 years, the magnificent Baroque ensemble we see was built from 1702-1736. We will walk through this huge complex of the Benedictine Abbey dominating the countryside, ending in the impressive library with countless medieval manuscripts. We will also have some independent time to visit the opulent Abbey church. The interior is covered in marble, gilded wood, a golden pulpit, and colorful frescoes swathed in light. We’ll ride back to the ship after our field trip.

Lunch: Aboard ship.

Afternoon: After our arrival in Dürnstein, we will set out on a walking field trip with our Group Leader to the center of this picturesque little village surrounded by vineyards. It was here in 1192 that Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned and held for ransom in the castle that was almost completely destroyed 453 years later. We will also have some time for independent exploration to see and do what interests each of us most. Returning to the ship, we will gather for a lecture by our Group Leader on the history of Central Europe.

Dinner: Aboard ship.

Evening: We will be joined by a local expert for a lecture on Mozart, Schubert, Strauss, and learn about the very diverse lives of three of Vienna’s best loved composers. Wolfgang Amadé Mozart — the name he called himself — achieved renown as a child prodigy, brilliant young pianist, and composer, but later struggled financially and suffered from a variety of illnesses. Franz Schubert, whom we revere today for his masterful songs, symphonies, masses, and chamber music, was relatively unrecognized outside his own circle of friends and colleagues, suffered illness, and died penniless. Johann Strauss (the Elder), however, was a leading conductor, composer of popular dance music, and one of the first international superstars of music. The lecture will enhance the presentation with live performance of selected works by all three composers with artists from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The ship will remain docked in Vienna overnight.

DAY
7
Vienna, Schoenbrunn Palace, Hofburg, St. Stephen, Free Time
Vienna
B,L,D
MS Douce France

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 10 miles, approximately 1 hour riding time. Walking up to 2 miles, approximately 2 hours. Walking up to 2 miles; uneven sidewalks, cobblestones.

Breakfast: Aboard ship.

Morning: We will step off the ship and board a motorcoach for an expert-led field trip to Schoenbrunn Palace, the glamorous summer residence of the Habsburg family and a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. We’ll then have some time for independent exploration to walk through the Palace Gardens before regrouping and returning to the motorcoach. We’ll then continue on to the the city center to enjoy some free time before we return to the ship.

Lunch: Aboard ship. You may also choose to stay on shore and dine on your own in Vienna.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity to see and do what interests you most. Shuttle buses will be available for rides between the ship and centrally-located Schwedenplatz.

Dinner: Aboard ship.

Evening: At leisure. The ship will depart for Esztergom around 6:30 PM.

DAY
8
Esztergom Basilica, Budapest by Night
Budapest
B,L,D
MS Douce France

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; driving about 10 miles, approximately 2 hours riding time. Walking up to 2 miles, approximately 2 hours; uneven sidewalks, cobblestones.

Breakfast: Aboard ship.

Morning: We will join a local expert for a field trip to the Basilica of Esztergom. Esztergom played a key role in Hungary’s history. It was the capital and royal residence of the first Hungarian royal dynasty until the mid-13th century. The country’s founding king, Saint Stephen I, was crowned here in 1000. The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption and Saint Adalbert, towering at the highest point of the town, was modeled on St. Peter’s in Rome and was built in Neo-Classical style from 1822 to 1869. It is among Europe’s largest basilicas. The consecration took place in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph and with the music of the Esztergom Mass composed by Franz Liszt for this occasion.

Lunch: Aboard ship.

Afternoon: As we head towards Budapest, we’ll gather for a lecture by the Group Leader about life under communism. The remainder of the afternoon is free.

Dinner: Aboard ship.

Evening: We will step off the ship and board a private motorcoach for a nighttime guided bus tour of Budapest. We will stop and walk up to the citadel and Liberty Statue to take in the impressive view of the city and the Danube. We will then ride towards the Castle Quarter where we will see the Royal Palace before we stop at the Parliament building, the largest building in the country. Our field trip will continue over the Margaret Bridge where we will enjoy spectacular views of downtown Budapest before returning to the ship. The remainder of the evening is at leisure. The ship will be docked in Budapest overnight.

DAY
9
Budapest-Hungary, Castle District, Free Time
Budapest
B,L,D
MS Douce France

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 10 miles, approximately 1 hour riding time. Walking up to 2 miles; uneven sidewalks, cobblestones. Note: Return to the ship is expected by approximately 11:30 p.m.

Breakfast: Aboard ship.

Morning: Buda and Pest are two sides of the same city, divided from time immemorial by the Danube River and connected in 1849 by the Chain Bridge. We will step off the ship and board a motorcoach for a field trip to explore the Pest side of the city. During an expert-led drive with a local expert providing commentary, we will see world-renowned sites such as Andrássy Avenue with its neo-Renaissance dwellings, embassies, theaters, restaurants and cafés, and boutiques; the Great Synagogue, second-largest in the world; Heroes Square; the Hungarian State Opera; and the magnificent Parliament building. We will then set out on foot to explore the Buda Castle district. Though Castle Hill has changed much since building began in the 13th century, its main streets still follow their medieval paths. Some houses date back to the 14th and 15th centuries, giving us an idea of what the are may have looked like back then. Today, Castle Hill is a key element in the UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site, characterized by Gothic arches, 18th century Baroque houses, and cobblestone streets. We will ride back to the ship after our field trip.

Lunch: Aboard ship. You may also choose to stay on shore and dine on your own in Budapest.

Afternoon: Free time. Enjoy the final afternoon in Budapest to see and do what interests each of us most. From the UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription: “This site has the remains of monuments such as the Roman city of Aquincum and the Gothic castle of Buda, which have had a considerable influence on the architecture of various periods. It is one of the world’s outstanding urban landscapes and illustrates the great periods in the history of the Hungarian capital.”

Dinner: Aboard ship. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: We will have an elective opportunity to enjoy a performance of traditional Hungarian folklore, dance, and music at a theater in downtown Budapest. For those who do not wish to attend the performance, the evening is at leisure. Returning to the ship, prepare for disembarkation and departure in the morning.

DAY
10
Program Concludes, In Transit From Program
In Flight
B

Activity note: Disembarkation. See your program’s “Getting There” information regarding transfers. Note: Cabins must be vacated by 9 AM.

Breakfast: Aboard ship depending on flight times.

Morning: We will complete disembarkation procedures. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on another rewarding program in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.