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Day by Day Itinerary

Our Eastern Europe to the Black Sea River Cruise Tour sails continuously from the Danube River to the Black Sea—which means less time on motorcoaches for our travelers and more time aboard Grand Circle Cruise Line's award-winning river ships. As you cruise, you’ll step ashore in five Eastern European nations—Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania—to visit both Old World villages and rejuvenated world capitals. Enjoy a Home-Hosted Lunch in Croatia, witness nature’s amazing Iron Gates while cruising between Serbia and Romania, discover what life is really like here during discussions with the locals, and much more. Plus, you'll visit historic, seaside Constanta, Romania. And once you’ve immersed yourself in the region’s fascinating culture and history, you can explore it even further on our optional extensions to Prague, Czech Republic; Vienna, Austria; Transylvania, Romania; and Istanbul, Turkey.

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    Depart the U.S. on your flight to Budapest, Hungary.

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    Discover Budapest while cruising the Danube River

    Arrive today in Budapest. You are met at the airport by a Grand Circle representative and assisted to your private Grand Circle river ship. Tonight, meet your fellow travelers for a Welcome Drink and an included dinner onboard.

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    After breakfast, join us for a briefing by your Program Director. Then set out to explore Budapest on an included city tour. Budapest is situated on both sides of the Danube River, with Buda (the right bank) to the west and Pest (the left bank) to the east.

    In Pest, you'll see Heroes' Square, with its Millennial Column set off by equestrian statues of historic ninth-century Magyar leaders who conquered this region. The adjoining colonnade displays more statues of kings, dukes of Transylvania, and liberty fighters who influenced the history of Hungary.

    See St Stephen Basilica while touring Budapest

    As your tour takes you over the Danube bridges into Buda, you can see how the imposing Parliament Building dominates Pest on the opposite side of the river. Then, turn your attention to beautiful and historic Buda. Here, you'll visit Castle Hill, where a massive castle complex with its protective ramparts has been designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Mostly destroyed during World War II, the Royal Palace has been lovingly restored, approximating its former splendor, and it now includes the Hungarian National Gallery.

    In your free time, you can also visit the Church of Our Lady, formerly used for the coronations of Hungarian kings. Its popular name of Matthias is in recognition of the Renaissance king who ruled in the 15th century and whose heraldic sign—a raven—is displayed on one of the towers of the church. Dating to the 13th century, the structure is an interesting mix of architectural styles used during reconstruction of the building at different times in its history. Note that during the 150-year Turkish occupation of Hungary, the church served as Eski Djami (Old Mosque) for the Turks. Inside the church, you can view art of Bertalan Szekely and Karoly Lotz, 19th-century Hungarian painters.

    After lunch onboard, you can relax on the ship or explore more of this grand city.

    Budapest offers some particularly fine museums and galleries. The Hungarian National Gallery contains excellent examples of Hungarian art from the Middle Ages on. The collection is comprehensive and somewhat massive, so give yourself plenty of time to enjoy it. The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Budapest History Museum are also worth a visit.

    When you return to the ship, your Program Director will describe the approaching port area and town prior to arrival so you can prepare for the next day's tour, and so you'll be able to make the best use of your free time at the next day's port-of-call. These are called "port talks," and take place every evening during your cruise.

    Tonight, join your ship's captain for a Welcome Dinner onboard.

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    Discover Fisherman's Bastion and other landmarks in Budapest

    Spend the day enjoying the wonders of Budapest on your own. Or, join an optional tour exploring Hungarian Jewish Heritage. You’ll visit the Great Synagogue, the largest in Europe, designed in a Moorish style but with Byzantine, Romantic, and Gothic elements. Then you'll see the Kazinczy Street Orthodox Synagogue, the center of traditional orthodox Jewish life here; the Emanuel Memorial Tree, a memorial to Hungarian victims of the Holocaust; and the Jewish Museum.

    After lunch onboard, you can relax on the ship or explore more of Budapest. Or, consider learning more about Hungary's Dark Past on a second optional tour. This moving excursion features a guided tour of the House of Terror—a museum dedicated to the communist and fascist leadership of Hungary in the 20th century.

    Enjoy dinner onboard tonight. Later this evening, your Danube River and Black Sea cruise begins. Enjoy a scenic cruise through the center of Budapest before departing for Kalocsa.

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    See an organ concert at a cathedral in Kalocsa

    Your morning is at leisure to explore on your own. A shuttle bus will be available to take you into town.

    Or join us for an optional Kalocsa Visit with Horse Show excursion. This tour includes a visit to the Paprika Museum and a village house museum, followed by some free time to stroll the village. Then, head to a genuine Hungarian horse farm to watch the legendary csikos (horse herders—similar to American cowboys) display their skills.

    Enjoy lunch on board this afternoon as your Danube and Black Sea River Cruise Tour begins by sailing toward Croatia.

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    After docking this morning and passing through customs in Vukovar—site of the worst artillery shelling during the Croatian-Serbian war that waged from 1991 to 1995—you’ll take a short walk through the town and see some of its scars, as well as witness its revival. Then you’ll set out to explore Osijek, the administrative and economic center of eastern Croatia.

    Situated on the Drava River, about 15 miles from the mouth of the Danube, this area was populated even in prehistoric times, and the first urban settlement was erected by the Romans. But the area's advantageous geographical location made it prey to assault throughout the centuries. It was destroyed by the Huns, rebuilt in the Middle Ages, destroyed by the Turks, and rebuilt again in the 18th century. As a result, Osijek boasts an eclectic architectural heritage, which you'll see on your included city tour.

    Discover local culture at a Home Hosted Lunch in Osijek

    Among the more notable sites are the Tvrdja, a unique urban and military complex that lies in the center of the city and was built between 1712 and 1721 by the new Austrian authorities; the neo-Gothic Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, with a 290-foot spire; and the striking, 690-foot modern pedestrian bridge that rises over the Drava.

    Reliving its own cruel history in our era, Osijek was heavily damaged during the Croatian-Serbian war. Now peaceful, the city is experiencing a rebirth of civic pride and cultural and economic achievement.

    Following your walking tour, you will visit with students at a local school that’s supported, in part, by Grand Circle Foundation. Please note: The school visit is not possible on weekends, or during the summer or national holidays, when school is not in session.

    You'll enhance your appreciation for everyday Croatian life as you join a local family for lunch in their home. Afterwards, you will be transferred back to the ship, crossing through Vukovar.

    After dinner, you can enjoy a relaxing evening onboard, enjoying Slavonian music. Later, our ship sails toward Belgrade.

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    Explore Kalemegdan Castle while touring Belgrade

    Take in the view along the banks of the Danube this morning as we cruise toward Belgrade, the capital of Serbia (and former capital of Yugoslavia), one of Europe’s oldest cities, and the center of political and cultural life in the country. Belgrade and the rest of Serbia are just now emerging from many years of repressive rule, with a welcoming spirit for visitors.

    Enjoy a full morning in Belgrade, beginning with an included tour around this grand old city, which was built centuries ago along important east-west trade routes and used as a gateway to Western Europe from the Balkans. You'll see the Town Hall, St. Sava Orthodox Cathedral—the largest Orthodox cathedral in the world—and Kalemegdan Castle. You also explore the Tito Memorial, erected to honor Josip Broz Tito, who held Yugoslavia together as an independent country in the turmoil that followed World War II and the subsequent Cold War. After your tour, enjoy lunch onboard. Please note: The Tito Memorial is closed on Mondays.

    After lunch, explore the city on your own—you'll have a shuttle bus to and from the city available for your use. Your Program Director will have suggestions for various local sights and activities for learning and discovery.

    This evening, join a group of local residents for an exclusive Discovery Series discussion about their lives in this dynamic country. Enjoy dinner onboard.

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    View the Iron Gates as MS River Aria glides down the Danube

    Today, you cruise along a stretch of the Danube that was once a raging river pounding through deep gorges. In the 1960s, Yugoslavia and Romania cooperated on a joint venture that raised the level of the Danube with a series of hydroelectric dams called the Iron Gates. The Danube is now placid through the Iron Gates, its spectacular two-mile-long gorge now underwater.

    Though the river is tamed, the views along the Danube at this point are exceptional. We cruise by fields and vineyards that are sculpted into the riverbank and where farmers pause to watch our passage and wave a greeting.

    Before lunch, join us for an exclusive Discovery Series discussion about Life Under Communism with your Program Director. You can then linger over lunch as we navigate the Danube. In mid-afternoon, join the chef in the galley (the ship's kitchen) for a special tour. This afternoon finds us passing through Iron Gate I and then Iron Gate II in the early evening.

    Join us in the lounge after dinner onboard for a special Crew Show.

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    Encounter friendly staff on the private river ship

    Early this morning, we pass through customs at Vidin, Bulgaria's fourth-largest city and its main port on the Danube. Then travel to Baba Vida, a medieval fortress of two walls and four towers. Baba Vida was the city's main defense in the Middle Ages, and also the most important fortress of northwestern Bulgaria.

    After lunch onboard, we'll set sail for Ruse.

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    Explore historic Ruse on the Eastern Europe cruise

    Arrive in Ruse early this morning, which is situated where the Danube forms a natural border between Romania and Bulgaria.

    Enjoy time to explore this historic city on your own, or join our optional tour to Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi, which includes lunch. First, you'll travel by motorcoach to Veliko Tarnovo, the capital of Bulgaria from 1186 until 1394. This cultural center rewards visitors with views of the fortification wall atop Zarevez Hill, the cobblestoned old city, ancient ruins, and a steep ravine plunging down from two towering promontories.

    Then continue on to Arbanassi, a historical village of Bulgarian heritage. Its 80 houses, five churches, and two monasteries reflect a unique, fortress-like architectural style of the 17th and 18th centuries, when the village flourished. Enjoy free time to make your own discoveries. Perhaps you'll visit the Church of Archangels Michael and Gabriel, whose plain exterior conceals colorful frescoes depicting some 3,500 figures. While here, you'll savor typical Bulgarian fare at a local restaurant.

    Return to the ship for dinner onboard.

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    View the Black Sea while strolling Constanta's boardwalk

    Early this morning, sail into the Danube-Black Sea Canal, a 40-mile engineering marvel begun in 1949, but not fully completed until 1987. You'll pass through the canal's lock system and cruise by the inland port towns of Murfatlar and Medgidia.

    Following lunch, you'll call on Constanta, a Romanian port on the Black Sea that is the country's oldest continually inhabited city. Dating back over 2,500 years, Constanta boasts a wealth of fascinating architecture and history. Myth holds that Jason and the Argonauts stopped here after recovering the legendary Golden Fleece. On your included tour, you'll explore the beguiling old city, the Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul, the mosaic-paved Roman Edifice of Tomis, and other highlights of this beloved city.

    Tonight, celebrate your Eastern European odyssey at the Captain's Farewell Dinner.

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    See the Romanian Athenaeum while touring Bucharest

    We disembark shortly after breakfast for motorcoach transfer to Bucharest, Romania. We will arrive in about four hours.

    Upon arriving in Bucharest, you’ll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and then explore the city by motorcoach. This is an old city that has served as the capital of Wallachia, and later Romania, since 1659. Today, it is noted for its broad, tree-lined boulevards, well-kept parks, and mix of architectural styles that combine Neo-Classical 19th-century structures with monumental 20th-century edifices (the latter built for the most part to satisfy the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu). You'll view the Arc de Triomphe commemorating the exploits of World War I soldiers and drive along Victory Avenue to Revolution Square, where recent events in history are inscribed. You have some time in the late afternoon to relax. Please note: If you have chosen the optional post-trip extension to Transylvania, you will break off from the main group in Bucharest after lunch and continue by motorcoach to the Transylvanian mountain resort of Sinaia—about a 3.5-hour trip. Then, after your three-night extension in Sinaia, you will enjoy the last day of your main itinerary in Bucharest.

    Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.

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    • Meals included:

    Transfer to the airport for your flight home, or begin your optional post-trip extension to Istanbul, Turkey.

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    Fly from the U.S. to Bucharest, Romania. 

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    See the Palace of Parliament while touring Bucharest

    Arrive today in Bucharest. You are met at the airport by a Grand Circle representative and transferred to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time and hotel check-in policy, you may not be able to check into your hotel room immediately upon arrival at your hotel. Your Program Director will advise you of your check-in status and activity schedule for the day when you arrive. If you started your explorations early with our optional pre-trip extension to Istanbul, Turkey, you will join your main group today.

    You have the balance of the day to relax after your overseas flight.

    Celebrate your arrival in Romania with a Welcome Drink, and get acquainted with your traveling companions and your Program Director. This evening, enjoy dinner at your hotel.

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    This morning, you’ll get acquainted with the city by motorcoach. This is an old city that has served as the capital of Wallachia and later Romania since 1659. Today, it is noted for its broad, tree-lined boulevards, well-kept parks, and mix of architectural styles that combine Neo-Classical 19th-century structures with monumental 20th-century edifices (the latter built for the most part to satisfy the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu). You’ll view the Arc de Triomphe (commemorating the achievements of World War I soldiers) and drive along Victory Avenue to Revolution Square, where recent events in history are inscribed.

    See the Romanian Athenaeum while touring Bucharest

    After an included lunch at a local restaurant, travel by motorcoach to Constanta, where we board our ship to begin the Black Sea cruise portion of your journey. If you started your explorations early with our optional pre-trip extension to Transylvania, you will join your main group today.

    This evening, enjoy a Welcome Drink and meet your ship’s crew. You'll also attend a ship and safety briefing on your upcoming journey and the ship itself. As you cruise, you’ll receive “port talks,” during which your Program Director will describe the approaching port area and town prior to arrival so you can prepare for the next day’s tour and make the best use of your free time at the next day’s port-of-call.

    Tonight, we enjoy dinner onboard.

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    Encounter friendly and helpful staff aboard the private river ship

    This morning, you'll call on Constanta, a Romanian port on the Black Sea that is the country's oldest continually inhabited city. Dating back more than 2,500 years, Constanta boasts a wealth of fascinating architecture and history. Myth holds that Jason and the Argonauts stopped here after recovering the legendary Golden Fleece. On your included tour, you'll explore the beguiling old city, the Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul, the mosaic-paved Roman Edifice of Tomis, and other highlights of this beloved city.

    Following lunch, your Danube and Black Sea River Cruise begins by sailing into the Danube-Black Sea Canal, a 40-mile engineering marvel begun in 1949, but not fully completed until 1987. You'll pass through the canal's lock system and cruise by the inland port towns of Murfatlar and Medgidia.

    Tonight, celebrate the start of your Eastern European odyssey at the Captain's Welcome Dinner.

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    Explore historic Ruse on the Eastern Europe cruise

    Arrive in Ruse early this morning, which is situated where the Danube forms a natural border between Romania and Bulgaria.

    Enjoy time to explore this historic city on your own, or join our optional tour to Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi, which includes lunch. First, you'll travel by motorcoach to Veliko Tarnovo, the capital of Bulgaria from 1186 until 1394. This cultural center rewards visitors with views of the fortification wall atop Zarevez Hill, the cobblestoned old city, ancient ruins, and a steep ravine plunging down from two towering promontories.

    Then continue on to Arbanassi, a historical village of Bulgarian heritage. Its 80 houses, five churches, and two monasteries reflect a unique, fortress-like architectural style of the 17th and 18th centuries, when the village flourished. Enjoy free time to make your own discoveries. Perhaps you'll visit the Church of Archangels Michael and Gabriel, whose plain exterior conceals colorful frescoes depicting some 3,500 figures. While here, you'll savor typical Bulgarian fare at a local restaurant.

    Return to the ship for dinner onboard.

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    Encounter friendly staff on the private river ship

    This morning, enjoy panoramic views of Bulgaria en route to Vidin.

    After lunch, you'll arrive in Vidin, Bulgaria’s fourth-largest city and its main port on the Danube. Here we’ll enjoy an included walking tour and a visit to Baba Vida, a medieval fortress of two walls and four towers. Baba Vida was the city's main defense in the Middle Ages and also the most important fortress of northwestern Bulgaria.

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    You have a day of leisurely cruising, and a good opportunity to observe life along the banks of the Danube from your comfortable deck chair as your Program Director provides insights about the region. After breakfast, enjoy a bridge commentary about the Danube River.

    View a monastery in the Iron Gates region along the Danube River

    Later in the morning, join us in a Discovery Series discussion on Life Under Communism with your Program Director. Then, after lunch onboard, join the chef in the galley (the ship’s kitchen) for a special tour.

    This evening, join us in the lounge after dinner for a special Crew Show.

    You will cruise along a stretch of the Danube that was once a raging river pounding through deep gorges. In the 1960s, Yugoslavia and Romania cooperated on a joint venture that raised the level of the Danube with a series of hydroelectric dams called the Iron Gates. The Danube is now placid through the Iron Gates, its spectacular two-mile-long gorge now underwater. In the morning we pass through Iron Gate II, and then through Iron Gate I early in the afternoon.

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    Explore Kalemegdan Castle while touring Belgrade

    Take in the view along the banks of the Danube this morning as we cruise toward Belgrade, the capital of Serbia (and former capital of Yugoslavia), one of Europe’s oldest cities, and the center of political and cultural life in the country. Belgrade and the rest of Serbia are just now emerging from many years of repressive rule, with a welcoming spirit for visitors.

    Enjoy a full morning in Belgrade, beginning with an included tour around this grand old city, which was built centuries ago along important east-west trade routes and used as a gateway to Western Europe from the Balkans. You'll see the Town Hall, St. Sava Orthodox Cathedral—the largest Orthodox cathedral in the world—and Kalemegdan Castle. You also explore the Tito Memorial, erected to honor Josip Broz Tito, who held Yugoslavia together as an independent country in the turmoil that followed World War II and the subsequent Cold War. After your tour, enjoy lunch onboard. Please note: The Tito Memorial is closed on Mondays.

    After lunch, explore the city on your own—you'll have a shuttle bus to and from the city available for your use. Your Program Director will have suggestions for various local sights and activities for learning and discovery.

    This evening, join a group of local residents for an exclusive Discovery Series discussion about their lives in this dynamic country. Enjoy tonight’s dinner onboard.

  • hidden

    Discover local culture at a Home Hosted Lunch in Osijek

    After docking this morning and passing through customs in Vukovar—site of the worst artillery shelling of the Croatian-Serbian war—you’ll take a short walk through the town and see some of its scars, as well as witness its revival. Then you’ll set out to explore Osijek, the administrative and economic center of eastern Croatia.

    Situated on the Drava River, about 15 miles from the mouth of the Danube, the area the city occupies was populated even in prehistoric times, and the Romans erected the first urban settlement. But the area’s advantageous geographical location made it prey to assault throughout the centuries. It was destroyed by the Huns, rebuilt in the Middle Ages, destroyed by the Turks, and rebuilt again in the 18th century. As a result, Osijek boasts an eclectic architectural heritage, which you’ll see on your city tour.

    Among the more notable sites are the Tvrdja, a unique urban and military complex that lies in the center of the city and was built between 1712 and 1721 by the new Austrian authorities; a neo-Gothic Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, with a 290-foot spire; and a striking, 690-foot modern pedestrian bridge that rises over the Drava.

    Reliving its own cruel history in our era, Osijek was heavily damaged during the Croatian-Serbian war that waged from 1991 to 1995. Now peaceful, the city is experiencing a rebirth of civic pride and cultural and economic achievement.

    Following your walking tour, you will visit with students at a local school that’s supported, in part, by Grand Circle Foundation. Please note: The school visit is not available on weekends, or during the summer or national holidays, when school is not in session.

    You’ll enhance your appreciation for everyday Croatian life as you join a local family for a Home-Hosted Lunch.

    Tonight dinner is onboard. After dinner, you can enjoy a relaxing evening, featuring Slavonian music.

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    See an organ concert at a cathedral in Kalocsa

    After sailing this morning, enjoy lunch onboard.

    Your afternoon is at leisure to explore Kalocsa on your own. A shuttle bus will be available to take you into town.

    Or join us for an optional tour to an authentic Hungarian horse farm. We'll also visit a Paprika Museum and a village house museum. After some free time to stroll the village, you'll transfer to Bakodpuszta to enjoy a horse show followed by a carriage ride.

    Enjoy dinner onboard this evening. Tonight the ship sails to Budapest.

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    After breakfast, you’ll set out to explore Budapest on an included city tour. Budapest is situated on both sides of the Danube River, with Buda (the right bank) to the west and Pest (the left bank) to the east.

    In Pest, you’ll see Heroes’ Square, with its Millennial Column set off by equestrian statues of historic ninth-century Magyar leaders who conquered this region. The adjoining colonnade displays more statues of kings, dukes of Transylvania, and liberty fighters who influenced the history of Hungary.

    See St Stephen Basilica while touring Budapest

    As your tour takes you over the Danube bridges into Buda, you can see how the imposing Parliament Building dominates Pest on the opposite side of the river. Then, turn your attention to beautiful and historic Buda. Here, you’ll visit Castle Hill, where a massive castle complex with its protective ramparts has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mostly destroyed during World War II, the Royal Palace has been lovingly restored, approximating its former splendor, and it now includes the Hungarian National Gallery.

    In your free time, you can also visit the Church of Our Lady, formerly used for the coronations of Hungarian kings. Its popular name of Matthias is in recognition of the Renaissance king who ruled in the 15th century and whose heraldic sign—a raven—is displayed on one of the towers of the church. Dating to the 13th century, the structure is an interesting mix of architectural styles used during reconstruction of the building at different times in its history. Note that during the 150-year Turkish occupation of Hungary, the church served as Eski Djami (Old Mosque) for the Turks. Inside the church you can view art of Bertalan Szekely and Karoly Lotz, 19th-century Hungarian painters.

    After lunch onboard, you can relax or explore more of this grand city.

    Budapest offers some particularly fine museums and galleries. The Hungarian National Gallery contains excellent examples of Hungarian art from the Middle Ages on. The collection is comprehensive and somewhat massive, so give yourself plenty of time to enjoy it. Parliament, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Budapest History Museum are also worth a visit.

    This afternoon, continue your discoveries in Budapest on your own.

    Tonight, dinner is onboard.

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    Discover Budapest while cruising the Danube River

    Spend the day enjoying the wonders of Budapest on your own. Or, join an optional tour exploring Hungarian Jewish Heritage. You’ll visit the Great Synagogue, the largest in Europe, designed in a Moorish style but with Byzantine, Romantic, and Gothic elements. Then you'll see the Kazinczy Street Orthodox Synagogue, the center of traditional orthodox Jewish life here; the Emanuel Memorial Tree, a memorial to Hungarian victims of the Holocaust; and the Jewish Museum.

    After lunch onboard, you can relax on the ship or explore more of Budapest. Or, consider learning more about Hungary's Dark Past on a second optional tour. This moving excursion features a guided tour of the House of Terror—a museum dedicated to the communist and fascist leadership of Hungary in the 20th century.

    This evening marks the last night of your Danube River and Black Sea cruise.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, disembark and transfer to the airport for your flight home.

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Traveler Reviews

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Striving for Excellence

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Our #1 commitment is delivering the best travel experience at the best value, so we take feedback from our travelers seriously as we strive to improve what we do. And one of the best ways for us to measure how travelers have rated our trips—including their experiences and the value we offer—is from our post-trip surveys, sent in by travelers.

Ratings based on percentage of travelers who rated these features "Excellent".

Ship Excellence
89%
Program Director Excellence
92%
Overall Trip Excellence
83%
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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.

Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

  • This Danube River and Black Sea Cruise Tour features a fair amount of walking over uneven surfaces. For full enjoyment of this trip, you should be in relatively good health. If you have difficulty walking or are wheelchair-bound, please consult our Travel Counselors for guidance.
  • We reserve the right for our Program Directors to modify participation, or in some circumstances send travelers home if their limitations are impacting the group's experience.
  • Throughout the River Cruise season, weather conditions affect European river depths and water levels may require adjustments to your itinerary.
  • If you travel in spring or fall, you can expect cooler temperatures or inclement weather.

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens do not need a visa for this trip.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your vacation, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Program Directors and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • Private Grand Circle River Ship

    All of our Rhine, Main & Danube river ships made Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll.

    Custom-built for Grand Circle with our travelers’ needs in mind, your private river ship has a passenger capacity of 140-164, with all outside cabins. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available in select common areas, but connectivity is limited in certain locations. Your cabin features a flat-screen TV, direct-dial telephone, individual heating and air-conditioning controls, twin beds that convert to sofas, and private bath with shower and hair dryer.

  • M/S River Adagio

    The M/S River Adagio was ranked #26 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll.

    One of the largest ships in Grand Circle's own deluxe fleet, the M/S River Adagio was built specifically for cruising the widest part of the Danube and the deeper waters leading to the Black Sea. Enjoy personalized attention from the ship staff, and up to four experienced Grand Circle Program Directors. And with no more than 164 fellow Grand Circle travelers aboard with you, you'll find it easy to make friends and share your experiences.

  • M/S River Aria

    The M/S River Aria was ranked #35 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll

    Launched in 2001, the M/S River Aria has a capacity of 164 passengers in 82 cabins, all with outside views. Ship amenities include an elevator, restaurant, bar and lounge, library, and Sun Deck. Your ship has an international crew of 38 and up to four English-speaking Program Directors.

  • M/S River Concerto

    The M/S River Concerto was ranked #14 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll

    The M/S River Concerto was launched in 2000. This ship has a capacity of 140 passengers in 70 cabins, all with outside views. Ship amenities include an elevator, restaurant, bar and lounge, library, Sun Deck, fitness center, and sauna. Your ship has an international crew of 34 and three English-speaking Program Directors.

SEE THE ENTIRE GRAND CIRCLE FLEET

Main Trip

  • Ramada Plaza Bucharest

    Bucharest, Romania | Rating: First Class

    Located just north of the city center, this First-Class hotel’s amenities include a restaurant, bar, and sauna. Air-conditioned rooms feature a telephone, satellite TV, safe, minibar, and private bath with hair dryer.

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  • Dorint Hotel Don Giovanni

    Prague, Czech Republic | Rating: First Class

    This First-Class hotel is just an eight-minute subway ride from the city center. Enjoy the on-site restaurants, bar, and health club. Your air-conditioned room has a telephone, radio, cable TV, minibar, safe, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Ramada Encore Vienna City Center

    Vienna, Austria

    Set in the heart of the Austrian capital, the Ramada Encore Vienna is just steps from the Midlinger Haupstrasse, a popular shopping and dining street. And with easy access to two subway stations, the hotel is an ideal home base for exploring Vienna. Each of its 122 guest rooms features air-conditioning, TV, high-speed Internet access, safe, and private bath with shower.

  • New Montana Hotel

    Sinaia, Romania | Rating: Superior Tourist Class

    Enjoy modern comfort and attractive mountain architecture at the centrally located, Superior Tourist-Class New Montana Hotel. Amenities include a restaurant, bar, indoor pool, game room, hair salon, and currency exchange. Your room features a balcony/terrace, cable/satellite TV, telephone, minibar, and private bath with shower.

  • Ramada Plaza Bucharest

    Bucharest, Romania | Rating: First Class

    Located just north of the city center, this First-Class hotel’s amenities include a restaurant, bar, and sauna. Air-conditioned rooms feature a telephone, satellite TV, safe, minibar, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Wyndham Istanbul Old City Hotel

    Istanbul, Turkey

    Located in Istanbul's historic city center, the Wyndham Istanbul Old City Hotel is close to the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul University, and public transportation. Amenities include a health club, three restaurants, and an indoor pool. Air-conditioned rooms feature cable/satellite TV, telephone, Internet access, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two vacations to maximize your value.

  • Extend your vacation and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip excursions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your ship or hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your vacation
  • Choose to "break away" before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of Grand Circle Cruise Line vacations to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium class

The air options listed above may involve additional airfare costs based on your specific choices.

Or, when you make your reservation, you can choose our standard air routing, for which approximate travel times are shown below.

Approximate travel times

Photos From Our Travelers

On location in Europe

Here’s how Grand Circle travelers have captured moments of discovery, beauty, friendship, and fun on previous departures of our Eastern Europe to the Black Sea vacation. We hope these will evoke special travel memories and inspire you to submit your own favorite Grand Circle Travel trip photos.

   

Her ship awaits ... Docked in Budapest, Hungary, the M/S River Aria welcomes 7-time traveler Maria Bruce, from San Diego, California.

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How to submit your photos:

Please submit individual photos in jpeg format to: GCTtravelerphotos@gct.com.

Please be sure to include the name of your OAT adventure, along with the travel dates. Tell us where you took the photo and, if you’d like, tell us why. And don’t forget to include your name and contact information.

Please note: By submitting a photo, you (i) represent and warrant that the photo is your original work created solely by yourself and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any party; (ii) grant to Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, in any and all related media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, anywhere in the world, with the right to make any and all commercial or other uses thereof, including without limitation, reproducing, editing, modifying, adapting, publishing, displaying publicly, creating derivative works from, incorporating into other works or modifying the photo and (iii) hereby release and discharge Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates, officers and employees from and against any and all claims, liabilities, costs, damages and expenses of any kind arising out of or relating to the use by Grand Circle LLC of any photo submitted.

Partner since: 2005
Total donated: $357,315

Supporting a World Classroom: Croatia

By funding improvements at local schools, the Foundation's World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society's most precious resources: its children. As you travel through Eastern Europe, you'll visit Dobrisa Cesaric Elementary School, where our donations have helped introduce these students to new technology that facilitates global interaction and learning.

"It was truly a moving experience. The interactions with the students and their optimism about the future contrasted with a sense of hopelessness that was felt by other generations. It was a realistic emphasis on the youth and change for the better in the future."

Denise & Russell Schaller
Corrales, New Mexico

"The visit to this school was the best GCT experience I have ever had (I have been to several schools) … After driving there through a city that still has many bombed out buildings and ruins from the latest war, hearing the kids sing "It’s a Wonderful World" brought tears to our eyes …"

Christina & Robert Miller
Riverside, California

Dobrisa Cesaric Elementary School

Partner since: 2005 • Total donated: $53,000

Amidst the still-visible scars of the Croatian-Serbian War that raged from 1991 to 1995, the Dobrisa Cesaric Elementary School stands as a beacon of hope. Here, students simultaneously study their region's rich local traditions and the multifaceted global society that this young nation is just beginning to enter into.

Donations from Grand Circle Foundation have enriched both the school's facilities and their curriculum, ensuring a comfortable and stimulating learning environment for its pupils. Among the efforts funded by Grand Circle Foundation are the construction of a new library, installation of bicycle racks and benches for the school park, and the addition of air-conditioning and new lockers for the students. Further donations have gone to purchasing a digital camera for the school's journalism club, a new laptop computer, an LCD projector, and technology for Internet access.

School in session:

Late January to early December, with summer break lasting from June 15 to September 15

Gifts to bring if you're visiting:

  • Drawing paper
  • Pens and pencils
  • Notebooks
  • Books in English for early readers
  • World maps
  • Souvenirs from home (postcards, etc.)
Alan and Harriet Lewis founded Grand Circle Foundation in 1992 as a means of giving back to the world we travel. Because they donate an annually determined amount of revenue from our trips, we consider each one of our travelers as a partner in the Foundation’s work around the world. To date, the Foundation has pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 different organizations—including 60 villages and nearly 100 schools that lie in the paths of our journeys.

Read More

Brotherhood, Unity & Turmoil

Marshal Tito and the rise and fall of Yugoslavia

by Tatjana Bojovic, Program Director, Serbia

While Yugoslavia was a communist country, Tito refused to let Stalin dictate its policies, leading to a bitter rift ...

When Yugoslavian leader Marshal Josip Broz Tito died in 1980, his was the largest state funeral in history, attended by dignitaries from 128 countries. This tribute was impressive, considering Tito was a communist leader during the Cold War. Tito’s independence from Russian communism and “benevolent dictatorship” over Yugoslavia made him popular during his 35-year rule, but wars and ethnic strife following his death have tarnished his legacy.

Born Josip Broz in 1892 in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Tito fought against Russia during World War I. He went on to participate in Russia’s 1917 October Revolution and later joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY). When the CPY was outlawed in Yugoslavia, he assumed the surname “Tito” to avoid notice.

Tito rose to power during World War II. After the Nazis invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, the Yugoslavian monarchy fled the country. Tito’s communists organized the Partisans, a resistance group who fought fiercely against occupation. Post-war, Tito became Prime Minister and worked to rebuild the country and unite its six republics (Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia). The war had stirred up ethnic tensions between republics, which Tito suppressed—through sometimes brutal means—under the Yugoslavian national slogan of “brotherhood and unity.”

While Yugoslavia was a communist country, Tito refused to let Stalin dictate its policies, leading to a bitter rift between the former allies. Stalin sent assassins to Yugoslavia, leading Tito to write in a letter in 1948, “Stop sending people to kill me. We’ve already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle [...] If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send a second.”

Throughout his life, Tito pursued a policy of “nonalignment,” maintaining diplomatic relations with Western countries and opening Yugoslavia’s borders to international travel by both visitors and citizens. These measures helped to give the country a favorable international image. The Non-Aligned Movement, a formal organization based largely on Tito’s principals, exists to this day and has 120 member nations from around the world.

The ethnic and nationalist tensions Tito had held back for half a century exploded a decade after his death, leading to the Yugoslav wars that killed 125,000 people in the 1990s. Many in the former Yugoslavia blame Tito’s repressive and autocratic regime for covering lingering ethnic hatred with a veneer of communist ideals. Today, Yugoslavia is gone and its former republics face uncertain futures as independent countries, leaving Marshal Tito’s dream of “brotherhood and unity” a relic of the past.