42 Dracula on the Danube 2018
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2018 Dracula on the Danube Itinerary 
 

Transylvania Pre-Cruise
October 29   Monday Bucharest, Romania
October 30    Tuesday Transylvania
October 31   Halloween Dracula's Castle
Danube River Cruise
November 01   Thursday Bucharest, Romania
November 02  Friday Bucharest and Giurgiu
November 03 SaSaturdayt VVeliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
November 04 Sunday Vidin and Belogradchik, Bulgaria
November 05 Monday Iron Gate, Serbia
November 06 Tuesday Belgrade, Serbia
November 07 Wednesday Osijek, Croatia
November 08  Thursday Kalocsa, Hungary
November 09 Friday Budapest, Hungary
November 10 Saturday Budapest, Hungary
Prague Post-Cruise Extension
November 11   Sunday Prague, Czech Republic
November 12   Monday Prague, Czech Republic
November 13   Tuesday Prague, Czech Republic
 

A Note from Marla Archer:


Rick and I invite you to join us as we take one of the most interesting trips I have ever run across.   The 2018 Dracula-Danube River Cruise offers you the choice of three separate adventures.


The main body of the trip is an eleven-day river cruise on the eastern half of the Danube River.   Starting in Bucharest, Romania, near the Black Sea, our Viking riverboat will take us on a long journey up the Danube River through the spectacular mountain scenery of the Balkans. 

We will follow a path forged by Roman conquerors, Crusaders, and Ottoman invasion forces from Turkey as we explore a part of the world largely unknown to most Americans.

 

If you have a fascination with the Gothic realm of the macabre, we invite you to participate in a special Pre-Cruise event.  By arriving in Bucharest three days early, you can join Rick and I on a bus trip deep into the Carpathian Mountains to visit the castle of Count Dracula on Halloween.   Incidentally, vampires are reported to visit the castle on this day of year.   You never know who you might meet on this trip.

 

   

At the end of our River Cruise up the Danube, I have scheduled a post-cruise extension that will visit the amazing city of Prague in the Czech Republic.  Please note that both the visit to Dracula's castle and the visit to Prague are additions to the basic river cruise package.   My attitude is once we are here, I want to see it all. 

   

Assuming you survive the trip to Count Dracula's castle, our adventure will explore rugged lands that have been fought over since antiquity.  With the Balkan area placed in the crossroads of civilization between Asia and Eastern Europe, you will see forbidding fortresses along the Danube built to keep out the Mongols and the Turks. 

I hope you will take the time to browse the pictures and the copy of the fascinating places we will visit as well as the scenery that we will see as we travel the Danube towards the spectacular city of Budapest. 

This trip offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the energy of Halloween in a way that will always be remembered.   If you have a bent for guilty pleasures, try to imagine the fun you will have posting photos from this trip back to your trick or treat friends stuck back in Houston.   They will never forgive you.

Marla Archer

   

Velcome to my Castle in Transylvania!!

   

Halloween at Dracula's Castle

 

A Three-Day Transylvania
Pre-Cruise Adventure

 

October 29-November 1

 

   

VIKING PRE-CRUISE VISIT TO TRANSYLVANIA

Viking River Cruise offers an optional three day Pre-Cruise visit into the Romanian countryside that heads in a mountainous area known as Transylvania. 


The destination, of course, is a visit on Halloween to the legendary castle of Vlad the Impaler, better known as Count Dracula.   Vlad the Impaler was an actual ruler of Transylvania in the 1400s who beheaded his enemies, then had their skulls placed on stakes as a warning to any prospective invaders.

 

Vlad's penchant for cruelty was so pronounced that his fame... or infamy if you prefer... spread throughout Europe.

 

As one story after another of Vlad's bloodbaths circulated, all sorts of bizarre legends made the rounds.

 

It was Bram Stoker's Dracula, published in 1897, that first linked Dracula and vampirism.  Stoker had his attention drawn to the blood-sucking vampires of Romanian folklore by Emily Gerard's article about Transylvanian superstitions (published in 1885.  Whether Vlad was actually a vampire or not is debatable, but the legends of Romanian vampires lurking in the forest is something we will definitely learn about first-hand... and perhaps come away with a quite unique experience.

 

On a practical note, we will spend our first night of the Transylvania Pre-Cruise in a hotel in Bucharest.   The following night will be spent in Transylvania.   And then comes Halloween at the castle of Count Dracula. 

 

I don't know about the rest of you, but I will be difficult to recognize.  You see, for this particular part of the trip, I intend to blend in if you know what I mean...


 

   


Although our focus will assuredly be on Halloween at the Vampire Citadel, keep in mind that the scenery of the Carpathian Mountains in Autumn promises to be spectacular.

Here is what is included in this $799 package.

3 nights of accommodations:
Hotel & ship transfers included
2 nights in Bucharest—Radisson Blu Hotel (breakfast included)
1 night in Brasov—Kronwell Brasov Hotel (breakfast included)

Tours
Guided Tour to city of Brasov
Guided Tour to Peles Castle and to Dracula’s Castle

October 29th Day 1 Pre-Cruise in Bucharest

Welcome to Bucharest. Transfer to the First-Class Radisson Blu Hotel, Bucharest (or similar) in the heart of the city, with the former Royal Palace and great shopping at your doorstep. The rest of the day you are free to relax or begin exploring the city’s wide boulevards and gracious architecture on your own. Our Viking Tour Director is available to help plan your time in Bucharest so you can make the most of your visit.

October 30th   Day 2 Pre-Cruise in Transylvania

After breakfast, check out of your hotel and take a motor-coach drive through the Transylvania countryside. Stop for a tour of Peleş Castle, a 19th-century fortification in Sinaia that melds numerous European architectural styles and materials into a harmonious and romantic structure. Continue to Braşov, where you have a panoramic city tour featuring the city’s Gothic-style Black Church.

Check in to the First-Class Kronwell Braşov Hotel (or similar). You have a free evening to enjoy the town square, with its Council House (complete with the ancient Trumpets Tower) and lovely fountain. Our Viking Tour Director is available to help plan your time in Braşov so you can make the most of your visit.

October 31st HALLOWEEN
Pre-Cruise in Transylvania & Bucharest

This morning, check out of your Braşov hotel. Take a short ride to Bran Castle, commonly known as Dracula’s Castle. This landmark citadel, built in the 14th century and used by Saxon and Walachian kings, is the best-known of several locations linked to the Dracula legend; it was used by Vlad Tepes, or “Vlad the Impaler,” as his headquarters for his incursions into Transylvania. The castle has Gothic and baroque furnishings and decorative arts on display. After the tour, we return to the First-Class Radisson Blu Hotel, Bucharest (or similar). (B)

November 1st  Day 4 Pre-Cruise in Bucharest

You have the day at leisure in Romania’s gracious capital city, which offers many churches and monasteries, palaces and Palace of Parliament, museums, parks, gardens and interesting neighborhoods. Or, take an optional excursion to Constanţa on the Black Sea coast. The oldest living city in Romania, Constanţa was founded around 600 BC by Greek settlers and is now a fashionable resort town. Arrive mid-morning for a city tour, featuring the iconic seaside casino and Art Nouveau architecture, and a stroll along Mamaia Beach, the “Palm Beach” of the Black Sea. (B)

Pre-Cruise Hotel Information:

Radisson Blu Hotel, Bucharest is located near the Bucharest airport, allowing easy access to the city’s cultural and shopping centers. This contemporary hotel has four dining options, a fitness center, laundry cleaning services and a spa. Guest rooms have a hair dryer, coffee/tea making facilities, a TV and complimentary Internet access.

Kronwell Braşov Hotel is located in the city center in an area recommended for its cultural offerings. This spacious, contemporary hotel has three dining options, a fitness center, laundry/dry cleaning services and a spa. Guest rooms have a private bathroom with a hair dryer, tea maker, TV, Internet access and a phone.


 


 

   
   

ABOUT THE DANUBE RIVER CRUISE and TOUR

   

Group Pricing for 11-Day Danube River Cruise and Tour

Category ES   Explorer Suite 445 SqFt Wraparound Veranda $5824 pp
Category AA   Veranda Suite Upper Deck 275 SqFt $3924 pp
 Category A

Veranda Upper Deck 205 SqFt Fullsize Veranda

$3324 pp
 Category B

Veranda Middle Deck 205 SqFt Fullsize Veranda

$3224 pp
 Category D French Balcony Middle Deck 135 Sqft $2974 pp
 Category E Standard Riverview Main Deck 150 SqFt $2874 pp
 Category F Standard Riverview Main Deck 150 SqFt $2824 pp

Special Group Perk of $100 in onboard credit.
Viking's Promotional Air: $295 per person from Houston
Ground transfers are included when using Viking Air.
A $500 per person deposit is required at time of reservation.

 

BUCHAREST

ROMANIA

Day 1 and Day 2

   
November 1st
Bucharest, Romania


For those arriving at the Bucharest airport, transfer to the superior first-class Radisson Blu Hotel Bucharest in the heart of the city for a 1-night stay.

Spend the rest of the day relaxing, or do some exploring on your own.


November 2nd
Bucharest & Giurgiu

After breakfast, we check out of our hotel and take a morning tour of the city.  The highlight of the day is an 8 hour bus tour of Bucharest.  Don't worry about food, lunch is included.

Founded in the 14th century, Bucharest became Romania's capital in 1859 with the merging of Moldavia and Wallachia.

We will explore Romania's fascinating capital, an impressive collection of unique architecture and grand monuments.  We will see the city's wide boulevards, the Romanian Athenaeum, the Arch of Triumph, and many other highlights.

Bucharest is two cities in one.  There is the lovely 'Old Bucharest' and the rather less attractive Bucharest from its 50 year history under communist domination.

Nicolae Ceausescu was Romania's leader for 25 years (1965-1989).  We will see his expansive Palace of Parliament which happens to be the largest civilian building in the world.  It has 3000 rooms and 24-carat gold ceilings.

We will visit the outdoor Village Museum, where authentic dwellings from all regions of the country have been relocated and reassembled, including rural cottages, farmhouses and watermills.

During our lunch, we will enjoy a lively folkloric performance that recalls the simple pleasures of Romanian rural life.

At the end of our tour, our bus will take us to Giurgiu on the banks of the Danube.  Here we will find our rooms, relax and enjoy a welcome aboard dinner. 

 

RUSE,
VELIKO TARNOVO & ARBANASI
 
BULGARIA

Day 3

 

   
November 3rd
Option 1: Ruse (3 hours)

The Danube serves as a border city between Romania on the north side and Bulgaria on the south side.

The Viking schedule for today offers a choice of two tours... short or long.  The shorter trip goes to Ruse, a city located on the opposite side of the Danube from Giurgiu.  Please note that unless we specify a charge, all tours are included in your cruise experience.

The Ruse tour should take approximately three hours. 

Ruse, often called "Little Vienna", is Bulgaria's most important river port.  It was established in the 1st century

Ruse is a repository of neo-baroque, neo-rococo, Empire, Renaissance and Secession brilliance. During this guided excursion, you will see the city's most beloved landmarks.

By bus, we wander through the city.  We pass the rich, crimson-hued Opera House; the Liberty Monument, the symbol of the city completed around the turn of the 20th century; and the neoclassical Theater and Concert Hall.

Continue to the baroque Old City Center, a collection of architectural styles, and the impressive Sveta Troitsa, or Holy Trinity, Church with its hexagonal tower.

Next we browse the fascinating collection at the Museum of History, which houses 140,000 artifacts and items discovered in Danube castles.  After a stop at the Ethnographic Museum, we return to the ship.
 

 

Option 2:
Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanasi
(8 hours)

After breakfast, we will disembark at Ruse for a full-day excursion to Veliko Tarnovo,  a fascinating medieval town built around Tsarevets Hill and its hilltop royal castle.

Veliko Tarnovo was once the capital of Bulgaria.  It is an extremely pretty place located amidst tall hills .

Located 50 miles south of the Danube, this location will require an hour bus ride.  Rather than object to the ride, keep in mind you can get a feel for this country that most of us know very little about. 

Here we will see Tsaravets Hill and the ruins of the royal castle. During free time, we can shop for local crafts along Samovodska Charshia.

After a coffee break overlooking the Old Town, stop at the Yantra River bridge for a nice view of the majestic Assenev Brothers monument, a towering obelisk flanked by horses.

Next, explore Samovodska Charshia, a traditional street teeming with handicrafts, or visit the castle ruins and enjoy vistas of the Old Town and countryside.

Afterward, proceed to Arbanasi, rich in history and Greek influence.  Here we will have lunch at a local restaurant.  In the afternoon, we can sample the Damascus Rose products, locally made from the essence of roses.  Afterwards, visit a local merchant house and see the intricate frescoes of the Nativity Church with a local guide.

   

VIDIN AND BELOGRADCHIK
 
BULGARIA

Day 4

 
   

Vidin and Belogradchik


Vidin is a Danube port on the edge of the Bulgarian-Serbian border.   After we dock, we will take an excursion to see the amazing Belogradchik Fortress.

The Belogradchik Rocks are a group of strange shaped sandstone and conglomerate rock formations located on the western slopes of the Balkan Mountains.  The rocks vary in color from primarily red to yellow; some of the rocks reach up to 200 m in height.

With their strange, red-hued cliffs and massifs, these breathtaking mountains strike a dramatic pose. The result of millennia of weathering, river erosion, freezing, and countless other factors, these formations are considered Bulgaria's great natural wonder.

They are also a curiosity for the multitude of fantastic figures and profiles that emerge when you catch them at just the right angle. Silhouettes of people, towers, ships, mushrooms, palaces and animals populate the cliffs. Many rocks have fantastic shapes and are associated with interesting legends. They are often named for people or objects they are thought to resemble.  No doubt we will find the one named for Dracula.

There is a very unusual fortress that is built right into the striking Belogradchik Rocks.  The fort was begun in Roman times and then greatly extended by Bulgarian tsars and the Ottomans.

   

IRON GATE
SERBIA

Day 5

 
   
November 5th

The Iron Gate

The Iron Gate is a spectacular narrow gorge with enormous white limestone cliffs.  It runs for 80 miles with Serbia on the south side with Romania on the north side.

As it turns out, the Danube transits two enormous plains.  As the picture shows, the area south of Budapest is flatlands as well as the Romanian lowlands.   These two plains are separated by the Carpathian Mountains. 

Over the eons, the Danube has somehow carved a deep gorge through the mountains to extend its reach the Black Sea to the east. 

   

This day will mark a highlight of the trip. The Iron Gate is considered one of Europe's most dramatic natural wonders.  

One of the things we will see is the giant rock sculpture of Decebalus.   Decebalus was the last king of Dacia, a large kingdom which encompassed Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania.  Deceblus was a hero who fought against the Roman emperors Domitian and Trajan to preserve the independence of his country, which corresponded to modern Romania.

The sculpture was made between 1994 and 2004 on a rocky outcrop on the river Danube.  Located near the city of Orsova in Romania, it is the tallest rock relief in Europe.

Our trip through this long, winding gorge will be a sublime experience.  As we sit outside in our rocking chairs, we will be treated to unbelievable scenery.  We will sip our wine and take beautiful pictures to our heart's desire.  The comfort of our ship and the beauty around us will make it clear why a river cruise is considered one of the world's premium vacations. 

   

BELGRADE
SERBIA

Day 6

 
   
November 6th
Belgrade

Our next stop is Belgrade, the capital of Serbia.  Belgrade is has been a ping pong ball throughout history.  Thanks to its unusual position at the crossroads of civilization, conquerors coming from every direction have passed through.  As the chart shows, Belgrade has been dominated by many rulers. 

It was conquered by the Romans during the reign of Augustus, and awarded city rights in the mid-2nd century.  

It was settled by the Slavs in the 520s, and changed hands several times between the Byzantine Empire, Frankish Empire, Bulgarian Empire and Kingdom of Hungary before it became the capital of Serbian king Stephen Dragutin (1282–1316).

In 1521, Belgrade was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and became the seat of the Sanjak of Smederevo. It frequently passed from Ottoman to Habsburg rule, which saw the destruction of most of the city during the Austro-Ottoman wars.

Belgrade was again named the capital of Serbia in 1841. Due to its strategic location, the city was battled over in 115 wars and razed 44 times.  Belgrade was the capital of Yugoslavia from its creation in 1918, to its final dissolution in 2006.

   

Today there are two options, one that is included and one that we would pay extra for. 

The 'Included tour' lasts for four hours.  The Serbian capital of Belgrade overlooks the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers.  Ravaged and rebuilt 20 times in its history, many of the city's finest buildings have been gloriously restored.  We begin with a guided walk around the famed Kalemegdan Fortress. Its stalwart walls loom over the Old Town

Visiting this site promises to be a real treat.  Situated on a ridge overlooking the confluence of the Sava and the Danube rivers, Kalemegdan is one of the favorite places for Belgraders as well as tourists.  The name derives from the Turkish words kale meaning ‘fort’ and meydan meaning ‘square’ or ‘field’.  The literal translation would be ‘battle field’.

The Kalemegdan location has attracted people since the most ancient times because of its exceptional strategic importance. For this reason a fortification was erected here in the Second century AD as a permanent military camp for Roman Legion.

This was just the start.  Unfortunately, Belgrade Fortress was involved in every dispute throughout history. The fort was constantly changed, strengthened and even demolished.  Today it exists as the perfect place to view the Danube and contemplate the vast history that has taken place here.

We will enjoy viewing many fine monuments and architectural splendor during this enlightening tour of Europe's most resilient city. In the Old Town, medieval gates enclose Orthodox churches, Turkish baths, a soaring monument to "The Victor" and more. You will also enjoy a stroll in the park around the fortress, taking in the picturesque vistas of the river. Later, witness some of modern-day Belgrade during a short panoramic drive. Stop in the Square of the Republic to admire the statue of Prince Michael.

Afterwards, we return to the ship for lunch. We will then have the afternoon free to explore Belgrade in the adjacent pedestrian shopping area or visit one of its many museums, like the Nikola Tesla Museum.

The Optional Tour of Belgrade lasts six hours.

Here is Viking's promotional writeup:

Explore the rich history and culture of Serbia's capital, set where the graceful Sava and Danube Rivers meet. Once the center of a civil war, Belgrade today is an exuberant, forward-looking city. Drive with your guide to the ancient Kalemegdan Fortress, the pinnacle of the city. Enjoy a guided walk through the surrounding park.

Then, during a panoramic tour, pass the Church of St. Sava, one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world; the imposing Town Hall, once home of the Obrenovi? dynasty; the Moscow Hotel, where Albert Einstein and Robert De Niro stayed; and Republic Square. Next, tour the Tesla Museum, dedicated to the life and work of Nikola Tesla, the Serbian inventor who helped advance electricity (closed Mondays; you will visit the Tito Memorial instead). Later, descend underground into a vast labyrinth owned by the wine-making Panajotovi family. Enjoy lunch and wine tasting in these fascinating cellars.
 

Side note: Since we spend the evening in Belgrade, you will have the option to dine aboard or experience some of Belgrade's nightlife. We depart very late this evening.

   

OSIJEK AND VUKOVAR

CROATIA

Day 7

 
   
November 7
Osijek & Vukovar


Vukovar is a city in eastern Croatia.  Located at the confluence of the Vuka and the Danube, it is Croatia's largest river port.

Today's point of interest is Osijek, a town 20 miles to the northwest of Vukovar.  Here again each guest has two choices.

The "Included Excursion" lasts 4.5 hours.   Here is the write-up:

See the highlights of Vukovar and Osijek, and stop to meet a Croatian family along the way. You will meet your guide and make the short drive to Vukovar, passing the Vuka River, the palace of the former Count Eltz and the city's main street, lined with buildings that carry echoes of Northern Europe. As you arrive in Osijek, you will pause to visit a local family in their home and learn about their daily lives. After, continue to the Osijek Citadel complex for a walking tour. Enjoy a concert in the Rising of the Holy Cross Church. Then explore Holy Trinity Square, see the town's only surviving gate and stroll the picturesque promenade along the Drava River. See more of the town by coach, passing green parks and driving along European Avenue, the most scenic street in Osijek, lined with elegant baroque and Belle Epoque buildings.
 

The "Optional Tour" is titled Croatian Countryside & Wine Tasting.  It lasts 3.5 hours.  Here is the write-up:

Discover the rich and varied history of Northern Croatia and sample some of its delicious wines. Since Roman times, this region of the country has been coveted, thanks to its strategic location on the Danube. During this enlightening excursion, you will drive with your guide to one of the area's renowned museums, a castle with fascinating medieval origins, where you will browse a rich and revealing collection of artifacts dating back centuries. As you tour the castle chambers and halls, Croatia's past comes alive in priceless relics that have survived the ages. You will also turn to the fruits of the earth when you descend into a wine cellar in the historic town of Ilok. In these dim corridors, you will taste two white wines and one red and experience for yourself why its prized grapes and hearty vintages have helped put Croatia on every oenophile's map

   

KALOCSA

HUNGARY

Day 8

 
   
November 8th
Kalocsa

We sail into Hungary in the morning, arriving in Kalocsa after lunch.  Our tour will last approximately 3.5 hours.

Our tour begins with a short bus drive into the city of Kalocsa.  In Holy Trinity Square, we will see the splendid cathedral and admire the Archbishop's Palace. After a short organ concert at St. Joseph Church, we continue on to the Bakodpuszta Equestrian Center.

The people of the Hungarian Puszta region have long relied on the horse for transport, settlement and defending their land. Many locals worry that their country's equestrian connection is being lost to a motorized world, so they hold fast to rural ways and to their four-legged comradesYou will witness expert horsemanship during a thrilling show.

The evening promises to be very special.  Expect our wait staff to be dressed in traditional Hungarian garb serving all the local dishes.  Considering Kalocsa is the paprika capital, no doubt we can expect some spicy goulash. 

   

BUDAPEST

HUNGARY

Day 9, Day 10, Day 11

 
   
November 9th
Budapest:  Day 9


Marla's Note: 

Rick and I visited Budapest on our previous Danube Cruise.  I had the absolute best time in this city.  There are some very wonderful things to see.  To begin with, our hotel is right on the Danube.  There is an incredible walkway that parallels the Danube and allows visitors to reach all kinds of places on foot.

I am proud to say I set a personal record of 32,000 steps in one day just by walking up and down this walkway.  My only problem was that I had three broken ribs from a fall two days earlier.  If not for the broken ribs, I would have visited even more places!

Trust me, there are plenty of sites left on my 'must-see list' for our next trip.  Along with Paris and Barcelona, Budapest is one of the most interesting cities I have ever visited.   I give it my highest recommendation.
............

Budapest is one of Europe's hard luck cities.  It has been under the domination of various empires for many centuries.  Stretching back to the Habsburg Dynasty of Austria, then came the Germans, then came the Russians.  It is hard to believe, but Hungary did not become a free country until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. 

Fortunately, Budapest sprang to life in a hurry.  Despite all its past tragedy, today it is a vibrant, beautiful pearl on the Danube River.  

On our first day in Budapest, we will disembark after breakfast, get on a bus and take a tour of Budapest.  For those of you who have never been here before, Budapest was once two cities: Buda is on the west side of the Danube and Pest on the east. 

Today our four-hour tour begins in Pest.  Our bus will take us down the elegant Andrássy Avenue, the Champs-Élysées of Budapest.  We will stop briefly to see the Hungarian State Opera House.  Our next stop is at Heroes' Square, a wide-open plaza of monuments and statues commemorating the Magyar state.

Now it is time to cross the Danube using the famous Chain Bridge.  The Chain Bridge was the first span to ever connect the two halves of the city when it opened in 1849.

Across the river, we will explore the Buda side of the city.  Here you will visit the Castle District with its massive hilltop castle complex, the turreted Fishermen's Bastion and Matthias Church, named for the country's most popular medieval king.  Then our bus will climb the heights of Buda Hill which will take us to the Citadel, an impressive mountaintop fortress which afford us panoramic views of the Danube the city.  

At the end of our tour, we will check in to the deluxe Budapest Hilton for a 2-night stay.  We will then have the rest of the day to sightsee on our own.  
 

November 10th
Budapest:  Day 10

This is the final day of our trip.  You have four things to chose from.  There are three optional tours offered by Viking.  Or you can simply branch out on your own. 

If you do decide to go out on your own, there is the beautiful Margaret Island within walking distance.  There is also a fabulous city park with a giant lake for paddle boats and a lovely city zoo.  Another place to visit might be the giant fort on the hill across the Danube from your hotel.  Our friends Bill and Sharon said they walked there and it was great fun. 

The Jewish Quarter is another important place to visit.  Although this trip will be a bit somber for obvious reasons, the history of the synagogue is simply amazing. 

The important thing is that this is your day to explore Budapest on your own.  Take a walk, ride the city's innovative, efficient metro, or take a taxi.  There are many very interesting places to visit. 

If you are interested in the optional tours, here is a description:
 

Optional Tour 1:

Royal Palace & Gardens
DURATION: 3.5 HOURS TOUR

This is one of Hungary's Largest, Most Important Palaces

Visit one of Hungary's most beloved monuments, built by a count in the 1760s. Gödöllö Royal Palace was built by Count Antal Grassalkovich, well-respected among the monarchy and a confidante of Empress Maria Theresa. But when the last direct male descendant in the family died, it was bought for the royal couple as a summer house. In the 20th century, Soviet troops used it as a barracks and transformed some wings into rest homes for the aged. Restoration began in 1985 and continues today. Upon arrival, you will tour the elegantly adorned rooms of King Franz Joseph's suite. See the lush furnishings and finely detailed woodwork of Empress Elisabeth's private apartments. And pause in the impressive Grand Hall to imagine the royal court gathering for ceremonial occasions. Later, there will be time to admire the French-inspired gardens and vast, beautifully manicured park surrounding the palace.

Optional Tour 2:

Dohány Street Synagogue & Jewish Budapest
DURATION: 3.5 HOURS

Immerse Yourself in a Cherished History

Explore Budapest's Jewish history and heritage, including the Jewish Quarter and massive synagogue. A century ago, Budapest had a thriving Jewish community. In the years leading up to and including World War II, half of the city's 250,000 Jews were killed. The 19th-century Moorish-Revival Dohány Street Synagogue (Great Synagogue), the largest in Europe, was converted to a stable. Today, a rich Jewish history is preserved, as you'll see with your guide. During a walking tour of the Jewish Quarter, once the Budapest Ghetto, admire the Great Synagogue with its glittering interior. In the synagogue complex, browse religious relics at the Jewish Museum and view the "Tree of Life" memorial to the 400,000 Hungarian Jews killed by Nazis. Note that the synagogue is not open to tours on Saturdays and Jewish holidays.

Optional Tour 3:

Szentendre & the Margit Kovács Museum
DURATION: 4 HOURS

Hungary's Renowned Rich and Thriving Artists' Center
Stroll the delightful streets of Szentendre, a colorful village of galleries and artists, and pay a visit to one of its renowned museums commemorating one of the town's beloved. With cobblestone streets, pastel facades and a red-roofed townscape, Szentendre overflows with charm. In the 1500s, the Hungarian-Serbian community laid the foundations of what we see here today; at one time, eight Serbian Orthodox churches served this rural hamlet. The town holds fast to its roots. And today, it is home to a thriving artists' community, embodied in the richly hued houses and decorated storefronts. Journey here with your guide and amble along the narrow, picturesque streets, pausing to browse inviting galleries that display the work of local artists. You will also visit the Margit Kovács Museum; this artist's early 20th-century ceramics and other sculptures won her international accolades as they captured a rich tableau of past times in the Hungarian countryside.

 

November 11th
Budapest:  Day 11

 

Marla's Note: 

For some, this is departure day back to the USA or perhaps another European destination.  After breakfast, you check out of your hotel and proceed to the airport for your flight.

Viking also offers a three night extension in Prague, the Czech Republic's capital.  Known as the 'City of 100 Spires', Prague is an architectural wonder in the middle of Europe. 

Rick and I will be continuing on to three nights in Prague.  We hope you will consider joining us.

   

PRAGUE
CZECH REPUBLIC

 

A Three-Day Post-Trip Extension
 

November 11-November 13

 

   

VIKING CRUISE EXTENSION
TO PRAGUE

Extend your journey by discovering Prague, the Czech Republic's vibrant capital.  Prague is an unusually beautiful city, well-worth a visit before returning home.  Viking offers a $699 Package to extend your Danube trip to Prague for three nights. 

INCLUDED:
3 nights in the Hilton Prague Hotel
3 breakfasts
Guided City Tour
Services of a Viking host
Hotel & ship transfers are included

November 11th, Day 1
Prague
, Czech Republic

Prague is located 300 miles to the northwest of Budapest.  Considering its proximity, if you have the time, it makes sense to see one of Europe's great capitals. 

Viking will transfer us by coach from our Budapest hotel to the Hilton Prague Hotel which overlooks the Vltava River near the historic Old Town and the shopping district.

The journey will allow you to see the countryside of Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.  After arriving arrive in Prague in the late afternoon, we will check into our hotel and have the evening to ourselves.  Dine at the hotel or sample some of the hearty local cuisine.   

Afterwards take a stroll and see the city's monuments such as the National Theater, Prague Castle and the beautifully illuminated Charles Bridge.

A Viking host is available to help you plan your time in Prague so you can make the most of your evening visit.


November 12th, Day 2
Prague
, Czech Republic

Prague has a rich history which makes it a popular tourist destination.  Prague is the fifth most visited European city after London, Paris, Istanbul and Rome.

We begin our day with a morning guided tour of Prague.  Prague is very similar to Budapest in that its major locations are built right along the majestic Vltava River.  A highlight of our tour will include a visit to the famous Prague Castle.

Our afternoon will be free, so after lunch, enjoy an afternoon and evening to visit the city's landmarks and museums.


November 13th, Day 3
Prague
, Czech Republic

This day is completely unprogrammed.  We have an entire day to do whatever we want.  Now that yesterday's bus tour has covered the highlights, this is your chance to go back and check out what interested you the most. 

Perhaps visit the Old Town or check out some of Prague's modern sights such as the Frank Gehry-designed Dancing House.  This is an unusual office building inspired by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Walk across the Charles Bridge, see the mesmerizing Astronomical Clock and the poignant Lennon Wall, and stand in historic Wenceslas Square.  

Wander past the colorful cottages in Golden Lane, where Franz Kafka lived and worked.  Or go see the Jewish Quarter with its Altneuschul, Europe's oldest, active synagogue.

About our Hotel:

Hilton Prague Hotel is located between the Business District and Old Town. This airy, comfortable hotel includes five dining options, a fitness center, laundry and dry cleaning services, a sauna, a pool and complimentary Internet access in public areas. Guest rooms feature a hair dryer, coffee making facilities, a TV and Internet access with an additional fee.

   


Viking Air Promotion

Marla's Note:  Viking has an extremely valuable promotion that is $295 round trip (per person) from Houston.  I highly recommend you take advantage of this generous offer. 

 

Custom Air Travel

Some of you might have special travel concerns.  In this case, I suggest you consider using Viking Custom Air.

Viking Custom Air is an exclusive custom air department designed for guests who have specific travel needs or special requests.  

Depending upon your travel schedules, requests and flexibility, Viking's team of experienced Viking Air Plus agents can assist with the following services whether you are traveling on economy, Premium Economy or Business Class air:

1. Deviate from the planned route to an alternate destination city or stay extra time before or after your cruise or cruise-tour.
2. Stopover in another destination such as London, Paris, Amsterdam, or a U.S. gateway
3. Nonstop flights or the most direct air service available
4. Reservations with airlines that accept frequent flyer mileage
5. Travel on specific airlines or air routing
6. Confirmation of flight schedules at time of reservation; no waiting once deposit and Guest Information Forms are received
7. Coordination of family, friends or groups traveling together from the same or different cities

Marla's Note:  Viking Custom Air is not offered 50 days or less before departure. A $50-per-guest non refundable fee applies, as well as any additional fees based on the difference between the selected air and the air price paid.

Date or city deviations and stopover fees are typically between $100 and $300 additional. Airlines have advised that seat assignments are subject to change therefore are not part of the Air Plus program.

About the Viking Embla

Review of the Embla:

The Embla is a super sleek ship. It has large windows that bring in an abundance of sunlight. Its design is contemporary with classic Scandinavian touches that maximize light and space. Accommodates 190 passengers at full capacity and a crew of 45.

It has quiet, environmentally friendly hybrid engines, solar panels and an organic herb garden on the large sun deck.

The all-new Aquavit Terrace—an indoor/outdoor area at the bow of the ship for viewing, relaxing and casual dining.

The Aquavit Terrace’s indoor/outdoor configuration has glass walls that open to reveal scenic views on warm days. On cooler days, the expansive windows still provide spectacular views. The adjoining Observation Lounge has expansive windows that showcase the river views and plenty of comfortable couches and cozy chairs. While the lounge is large, it can feel crowded at times and it is advisable to get there early for a spot during lectures and briefings.

The Middle Deck lobby is a striking, light-filled, welcoming area with colorful artwork and a staircase leading up to the Observation Lounge. The concierge desk and a small boutique offering Viking River gear and books are in the reception area on the Middle Deck along with coffee and tea stations open 24 hours a day, with cookies served in the afternoons. The ship’s library had a great selection of itinerary-related books and two computers with free Internet access

Accommodations: The 95 outside rooms and suites aboard the Viking Embla have a functional modernity and neutral color palette. The spaces are targeted to today’s traveler, with plenty of plugs (including American outlets), reading lights, a hair dryer, a telephone and a refrigerator.

Each stateroom on the ship features plenty of storage, from the typical large space under the bed for luggage to a spacious closet and eight separate additional drawers. Extra pillows are available. Bathrooms are small but comfortable, with L’Occitane amenities, a bowl-style sink and plenty of shelf space for toiletries. There’s also a large vanity and mirror/

French balcony staterooms featuring floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors.

Turndown service is offered each night in addition to morning housekeeping, and printouts of the next day’s itinerary and other important information. The flat-screen TV provides a sizable selection of included entertainment, from itinerary-themed movies and documentaries to Hollywood hits.

Fine cuisine, exemplary service and immersive, culture-rich itineraries.

Al fresco dining aboard Viking Embla-- Imagine waking as the mist rolls off the river, stopping in the lounge for a frothy cappuccino, and heading out to the Aquavit Terrace to silently cruise through the early morning light. That is one definition of a Viking happy hour.

Another one is in the more traditional sense: unwinding in the late afternoon with a pint of beer or glass of wine, chatting with friends and enjoying a delicious light bite. With the Aquavit Terrace equipped with grills and plentiful seating, each of these al fresco “happy hours” will be yours to indulge in.

Fine dining aboard Viking Embla:

The chefs create a variety of tasty offerings for you, with freshly prepared seasonal local vegetables, European specialties adapted to satisfy the tastes of the passengers, and homemade soups prepared daily. For breakfast, choose from selections of pastries, cereals, breakfast meats, egg dishes, fresh fruit and selected cheeses. At lunch, select from the soup and sandwich bar, or a choice of entrées and dessert. And for dinner, you are treated to a five-course gourmet menu with regional specialties. You can also select from regional wines to perfectly complement your meal.

There are two main dining areas: a large traditional restaurant and the Aquavit Terrace, which serves a more casual breakfast and lunch buffet daily. Seating is open

All meals aboard are prepared by local chefs under the guidance of Viking's European management team

Service is lighthearted and seamless, with a wait staff that remembers individual preferences. The dinner menu has a large selection of rotating daily specialties from the region, though simple chicken and fish are always an option, as well as several dessert choices. A buffet is always offered at breakfast and lunch, with hot items to order

All meals, coffee, tea, soft drinks, house wines and beers with lunch and dinner are included. A Silver Spirits beverage package can be ordered for those desiring a wider selection of premium wines and beers. Complimentary bottles of water are available in each stateroom and refreshed each day. There also is no corkage fee for those who find a great bottle of wine ashore.

On embarkation day, while the crew is preparing staterooms for the arriving guests, you can relax in the ship’s lounge or leave your luggage with the staff and explore Passau on your own. You will be given access to your stateroom around mid-afternoon, at approximately 3:00 p.m. If you arrive during lunchtime, a light lunch buffet will be available in the lounge


Staterooms are confirmed and cabin numbers are assigned when a deposit of $500 per person (plus travel insurance, if applicable) is received.

I encourage you to confirm your cabin as soon as possible. The pricing that I am offered will be recalled when the the ship occupancy level within that category is classified as "sold out".

All bookings must be made through Marla Archer.

Marla@ssqq.com

713 862 4428

Aquavit Terrace

Main Lobby

Main Dining Room

French Balcony

Dance Area

 

   

 

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