Cruises

Cruise & Rail: Enchanting Danube & the Castles of Transylvania (2022)

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Passau to Budapest | 12 Days

Countries: Central Europe

Experience the highlights of Eastern and Western Europe, then dive into the mystique of the Dracula myth on a private train journey through Romania.

Experience the highlights of Eastern and Western Europe, then dive into the mystique of the Dracula myth on a private train journey through Romania.

Experience the highlights of Eastern and Western Europe, then dive into the mystique of the Dracula myth on a private train journey through Romania.


Lend your European adventure a layer of mystique on a luxury private train through the country that inspired the myth of Count Dracula. Amongst spectacular scenery and fascinating local cultures, you’ll trace the legend back to Romania’s infamous Vlad the Impaler. Visit his castle, as well as the real-world castle upon which Bram Stoker based his eerie depiction of Dracula’s home.


The shimmering waters of the fabled Danube River flow for thousands of miles through the very heart of Europe, silent witness to centuries of artistic achievement and historical events. This perfectly composed journey provides an immersive cultural tasting menu of four equally beguiling countries—ideal for first-time river cruisers as well as seasoned globetrotters seeking to experience yet another dimension of these much-loved destinations.


Our locally-based destination experts will take you well beyond the “must-sees” of each region, offering fresh takes on classic sites, insider knowledge of delightful under-the-radar locales, and VIP access to places only a privileged few will ever experience—such as a private early-morning viewing of the acclaimed art collection of the Kunstkammer Vienna.


A veritable showcase of the best of Central Europe, this journey is one any culturally curious world explorer will love, featuring old-world capitals and charming towns and villages.


Uniworld also offers a 13-day version of this itinerary in the opposite direction, beginning with an additional night at a hotel in Budapest. Click here for more information.

Passau to Budapest | 12 Days
Note: The itineraries presented are subject to modification due to water levels, closures because of public holidays or other uncontrollable factors. Every effort will be made to operate programs as planned, but changes may still be necessary throughout the cruise. This day-to-day schedule is subject to change. Your final day-to-day schedule will be provided onboard on the first day of your cruise.

DAY 1 Passau (Embark)
Arrive at Munich Airport. If your cruise package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the ship.
DAY 2 Passau
Passau is a crossroads in more ways than one, as three rivers meet here and three nations nearly do, making for a fascinating cultural mosaic. Get to know the town and its main claim to fame—Europe’s largest pipe organ—or “Let’s Go” with an invigorating riverside hike or bike ride.

Other Excursions:

Passau is built upon the meeting point of three rivers: the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz. Sprawling across the riverbanks, the city has a particularly charming setting, which you’ll get to appreciate on a walking tour of its top sites.

After walking around Passau, we’ll drive to a beautiful natural habitat on the Ilz, where you can take a short walk and relax in the scenic environment before reboarding the coach for a trip up to the Kloster Mariahilf to see the three rivers from above.

Passau three rivers
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The Inn River rises in the Alps, near Innsbruck (hence the name of the famous Swiss ski resort) and flows through three nations (Switzerland, Austria and Germany) on its way to Passau, where it joins the Danube. While the Danube bike path may be Europe’s best-known route for bicyclists, the Inn River bike path, which follows the river from Innsbruck to Passau, has plenty of fans. The route through the Inn River valley outside Passau is an especially attractive stretch, with great views of the lovely countryside, picturesque villages and the sparkling clear river itself. Your guide will make sure you know the local traffic and safety rules before you and your group set out along the partly flat and paved path. You’ll be traveling on both sides of the river, crossing between Germany and Austria as you cross the Inn, and your journey will include a comfort stop before returning to the ship. All in all, it’s an idyllic way to enjoy the scenery and get some exercise at the same time.

“Let's Go” bicycle ride along the Inn River
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Put on your hiking boots, grab a windbreaker and a bottle of water, and head out with a local hiking guide and nature expert to explore the banks of the Ilz River. This small but rushing tributary of the Danube originates deep in the Bavarian Forest, near the Czech border, and is just 40 miles (65 kilometers) long. Its upper stretch is a premier whitewater rafting location, but you’ll be hiking along the lower, serene end of the river. Your starting point is Hals-Hochstein, where you’ll pick up a nature trail that follows a curve of the river and then climbs a steep hill, where you have a great view of the river and woodlands. You will cross the river repeatedly, once by way of a dam and again toward the end of your four-mile (6.5-kilometer) hike, as you loop back to the Hals. 

“Let's Go” hike along the Ilz River

In the evening, a special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.
DAY 3 Linz (Salzburg)
Mozart’s birthplace of Salzburg is nestled in a glorious alpine setting that sparkles like a winter wonderland. Linz may be best known for its famous Linzer torte, but it’s also a hotbed for the arts. See the sights with a local expert and visit a family at their farm in the countryside. Austria’s third-largest city, Linz boasts a long history of trading and textile manufacturing, but these days it is perhaps best known for its electronic arts and annual festival.

MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences Excursion:
  • Get to know Linz on foot with a local expert who will take you by all the major sites in town, from Mozart’s apartment to the old Jesuit Cathedral. You’ll stop for a bite at Konditorei Jindrak, home of the Original Linzer Torte. Enjoy a cup of coffee alongside this thin, buttery pastry made with ground nuts, filled with fruit preserves and topped with a lattice crust.

    Next, the group will split in two, each half heading out to a countryside cider farm. There, you’ll be treated to a lunch of local specialties and house-made cider—an excellent way to immerse yourself in rural Austrian life and scenery, while also supporting local farmers. Both farms are entirely organic and give special care to the quality of the ingredients they produce, from the careful cultivation of their bountiful orchards to the livestock they keep in large grazing pastures. This type of farming produces less waste and—as you’ll see during your lunch there—better food.

    This MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience supports Global Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.

    Linz town and country: Linzertorte and cider farm visit
  • This excursion is only available on sailings that belong to the MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences program.

Other Excursions:

Not only is Salzburg famously the shooting location for the 1965 film, The Sound of Music, but it is also the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Today, we’ll dive into the city’s deep musical heritage with a walking tour through its picturesque squares and baroque architecture. Visit Maria’s church in the nearby town of Mondsee, as well as the Viennese gardens around which she and the children sang “Do Re Mi.” See the house where Mozart was born and take a lift up the Mönschberg mountain for an excellent view of the city.

Full-day in Salzburg with Sound of Music
DAY 4 Melk, Dürnstein
This morning, visit the 900-year-old Melk Abbey and its extraordinary baroque-style library.  Later, you will head to Dürnstein, one of our favorite towns along the Danube, a lovely place to wander cobblestone lanes, browse quaint shops and maybe hike up to a ruined castle (with an intriguing tale all its own). You can also opt for a tasting or learn all about the world’s costliest spice from the Wachau Valley’s only saffron grower. You have two ports of call in the incredibly scenic valley, Dürnstein and Melk, and an assortment of delightful ways to explore this lovely region.

Featured Excursion:

MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences Excursions:
  • There’s no better way to conclude your visit to the Wachau Valley than with a special tasting of organic wines at Nikolaihof, perhaps the oldest winery in Austria. The location itself is fascinating: One may encounter remnants of the first buildings on the site—an ancient Roman fort—and taste wines in a deconsecrated 15th-century chapel. Owned by the Saahs family, Nikolaihof produces some of the world’s best Riesling and Veltliner varietals; in fact, the 1995 Riesling Vinothek, bottled in 2012, actually scored 100 points in The Wine Advocate, the first Austrian wine ever to rank that highly. It is also one of the first wineries in the world to produce biodynamically certified wines. No herbicides, fertilizers, pesticides, or synthetic sprays are used in the vineyards. The grapes are harvested by hand, fermented without artificial yeast and stored in Austrian oak casks for up to 20 years.

    After your visit, discover Dürnstein on a stroll through town before returning to the ship. Considering its diminutive size, the village of Dürnstein offers much to explore. The famous blue baroque tower of the abbey church is doubtless its best-known landmark, but the ruined castle above the town provides its most romantic tale. There Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned until he was found by his faithful bard, Blondel, and ransom could be raised—or so the legend goes. Walk along the town’s narrow streets, past 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century houses; it’s an up-close look at over 300 years of architecture.

    This MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience supports Global Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.

    Dürnstein wine estate visit with tasting
  • Educate your taste buds with flavorful delicacies as you taste red-wine-and-saffron chocolate and saffron-seasoned jams, vinegars and honey. Crusaders planted the first saffron crocuses in the Wachau Valley at the end of the 12th century, making saffron a valued crop for 700 years—but it disappeared from the terraced hillsides early in the 20th century. It wasn’t until 2007 that an ecologist found mention of it in an 18th-century document at Melk Abbey’s celebrated library. Bernard Kaar, who spent years researching the history of saffron and still more years cultivating the world’s only biodynamically certified saffron, is one of the Wachau’s most important producers. Meet Bernard and his wife, Alexandra, for a fascinating introduction to saffron—the plant, the spice, its cultural significance and their farm’s uniquely sustainable methods of producing it.

    Later walk along the town’s narrow streets, past 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century houses; it’s an up-close look at over 300 years of architecture. Considering its diminutive size, the village of Dürnstein offers much to explore. The famous blue baroque tower of the abbey church is doubtless its best-known landmark, but the ruined castle above the town provides its most romantic tale. There Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned until he was found by his faithful bard, Blondel, and ransom could be raised—or so the legend goes.

    This MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience supports Global Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.

    Dürnstein village and saffron workshop
  • These excursions are only available on sailings that belong to the MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences program.
DAY 5 Vienna
Vienna is a cultural treasure trove revered for its art and music (and sinfully rich pastries). Experience the “City of Waltzes” with your choice of tours, as well as an expertly led tour of an extraordinary collection of art at the renowned Vienna Art History Museum.

Featured Excursions:

Masterpiece Collection:

Other Excursions:

Ring Street, the great horseshoe-shaped boulevard lined with many of the city’s major landmarks—Parliament, City Hall, the Vienna State Opera, glorious palaces and museums—is a mere 150 years old, practically an infant for a city of Vienna’s age. It replaced the walls and fortifications that had protected the city for centuries. Its construction was a testament to confidence, forward-thinking and grand urban planning, and it resulted in a 50-year building spree. You’ll pass most of these opulent landmarks on your way to the older section of the city, the area the walls once enclosed.

Later, you’ll walk along Kärntner Street, the celebrated pedestrian boulevard that links the State Opera with St. Stephen’s Cathedral, past the elegant shops on the Graben and the Kohlmarkt. The neighborhood offers a lively combination of historic architecture, street performances, shoppers’ delights and true Viennese atmosphere. 

Vienna - Imperial City highlights
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Take a walk through Vienna’s musical history, starting with the present-day artists keeping the legacy alive. We’ll first visit the House of Music (Haus der Musik), where you’ll learn about the future of computer music and observe great composers at work. From there, we’ll walk through town towards St. Stephen’s Cathedral, passing the musical theatre. Enter the cathedral to see its musical architecture and a recently discovered altar painting by Albrecht Dürer. Next, we’ll walk to the only surviving residence of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. We’ll stroll around the large Mozarthaus apartment, where he created some of his most famous compositions.

Vienna's music and composers

You have leisure time after your tour to explore Vienna on your own. You might wish to visit the Albertina Museum, which houses one million old-master prints and an impressive collection of works by 19th- and 20th-century painters, ranging from Renoir to Rothko.If you’d like to get a little exercise and see a completely different side of Vienna, borrow a bike from the ship and explore Danube Island and Prater Park. (For a wonderful view of the region, ride the Ferris wheel in Prater Park.)
DAY 6 Vienna, Bratislava
Your ship sets sail from Vienna and heads for Bratislava today. You may relax onboard all day, perhaps enjoying a drink on the Sun Deck and taking in the scenery as the ship wends its way along the Austrian Danube toward Bratislava. Although it’s not a large city, Bratislava has played a leading role in the politics and culture of the region for many centuries, and it is well worth a visit.

Other Excursions:

Walk through the loveliest part of Bratislava with your local guide. Starting on the Danube promenade, you’ll cross the former Coronation Square, pass the Slovak National Theater and St. Martin’s Cathedral. This Gothic church was built into the medieval city’s fortifications, and 19 Habsburg rulers were crowned inside it, including Empress Maria Theresa. That’s because Bratislava, then known as Pressburg, became the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary after the Ottomans conquered Budapest in 1536, a status it retained until the middle of the 19th-century.

Close to the cathedral you’ll find Michael’s Gate, the last remaining portal of the medieval wall—and your entryway into Bratislava’s Old Town, which blends Gothic, baroque and art deco structures with some less graceful reminders of the Communist era. The stately 18th-century Primatial Palace, in the center of Old Town, was the site where the Pressburg peace treaty was signed in 1805, in which Austria ceded a great deal of territory to Napoleon. Another 18th-century palace, Grassalkovich, is now the president of Slovakia’s official residence.

Take some time after the tour to browse through the attractive shops in the lovely art deco buildings that line the squares; you can find a wide selection of traditional folk items at the ÚĽUV (Slovak Folk Culture) shop. And you’ll definitely want to sample some of the local delicacies.

Bratislava - small but precious walking tour
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This brilliantly white, enormous square building takes over the skyline of Bratislava, and from its grounds you’ll find incredible views of the city below.

After your hike to the castle, you’ll stroll through the most beautiful part of Bratislava with the local guide. You will be introduced to the Capital of Slovakia, seeing sites like the Presidential Palace and the unique bridge colloquially known as UFO Bridge (you’ll understand when you see it).

Passing through the historic Old Town, we’ll see the charming House of the Good Shepherd, the pastel tower of the Old Town Hall and statues like Čumil, the sewage worker leaning out of a manhole in the street to smile at passersby.

"Let's Go" hike to Bratislava Castle
DAY 7 Budapest
Budapest is an enchanting city that presents a vibrant mix of medieval and modern.

Other Excursions:

Enjoy a panoramic drive by the neo-Renaissance buildings of Andrassy Avenue, passing Heroes' Square, the Franz Liszt Memorial House, the House of Terror, City Park and, of course, the Castle District.

You’ll get to see the old hidden villas and embassies of the Jewish district before stepping off the bus and heading on to the Opera House. The building’s architecture alone is worth a visit, its gilded ceilings and marble columns making the interior even more striking than its beautiful facade. It’s also famous for its great acoustics, which you will get to appreciate during a private concert, just for Uniworld guests.

Budapest panoramic highlights with Opera House visit
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Today your guide will show you how to snack around Budapest like a local, starting with a tram ride to the House of Parliament. Hop off the tram and take a short walk to your first treat: a coffee break at the First Strudel House of Pest. Energized by your cup of coffee, you’ll continue your walk down to St. Stephen’s Basilica—a handsome Neo-Classical building that is one of Budapest’s most significant cultural sites.

From there, we’ll head to the Great Market Hall to sample some traditional Hungarian fare, such as salami, sausages and cheese, while your local expert explains the intricacies of Hungarian cuisine.

Budapest walk with local treats

In the evening, a special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.
DAY 8 Budapest (Disembark), Transfer to Train (Embark), Lajosmizse, Kecskemet
Transfer from the ship to Budapest Nyugati station, where you can enjoy a morning drinks reception in the impressive Royal Waiting Room before boarding the Golden Eagle Danube Express. Settle into your cabin and later enjoy lunch as the train heads to Lajosmizse for a spectacular ‘Puszta’ horse show. Afterwards there is time to explore Kecskemét, a fascinating city at the geographical center of Hungary. Back on board, enjoy a pre-dinner drink in the Bar Lounge Car as the train continues across the Great Hungarian Plain and dine as you head towards Romania and Transylvania.
DAY 9 Sibiu, Sighișoara
After breakfast onboard, your train will arrive in the 13th-century town of Sibiu, Romania, where you will spend the morning touring the area. Reboard for lunch as your train travels to Sighișoara for a guided walking tour of the town’s main highlights. A World Heritage Site and the rumored birthplace of Dracula, it is one of the best-preserved fortified medieval towns in Europe. Burgher houses and ornate churches line its cobbled streets. Dinner is served onboard as your train departs for Brasov and its castles in the Carpathian Mountains.
DAY 10 Sinaia, Brasov
Early morning will find you at Sinaia, where you’ll detrain after breakfast and travel the short distance to the stunning neo-Renaissance Peles Castle. Stop for lunch on the train before moving on to Brasov for a tour of the medieval Old Town, then head out to the Rasnov Citadel and Castle. Late in the afternoon, you’ll visit Bran Castle, popularly known as Dracula’s Castle, due to it being the setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The beautiful 14th-century building is situated amongst stunning mountain scenery. The castle will be exclusively for you and your fellow passengers in the early evening and, following a tour of the castle, there will be a Gala Dinner.
DAY 11 Cluj-Napoca
Arrive in Cluj-Napoca in the early morning. An 800 year-old city that was the capital of Transylvania during its independence, Cluj-Napoca became an “unofficial capital” when Transylvania was annexed into Romania. The city is built on the banks of the Somesul river at the edge of the Apuseni Mountains. Spend the morning touring the city before rejoining the train for lunch as you head back towards Hungary and across the Hungarian Plain to Budapest, where you’ll arrive in the Budapest Railway Museum during the farewell dinner onboard. Your final night onboard will be spent parked in the museum.
DAY 12 Budapest (Disembark)
Disembark the train and transfer to Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport for your flight home.
Cruise Departure Double Occupancy Pricing Ship
  • All fares are per guest in US Dollars based on double occupancy unless otherwise noted.
  • Fares are capacity controlled and are subject to change at any time without notice.
  • Availability of all stateroom categories cannot be guaranteed.
  • Single Supplement applies for single accommodation.
  • Itineraries, hotels, and vessels may change, and substitute visits to other sites may occur during your trip due to water level fluctuations and other uncontrollable factors.
  • The order of sightseeing and docking ports are subject to change according to port authority assignments.
  • Prices exclude additional port charges of $200 per person

Dining

  • All meals onboard cruise and train, prepared using the finest and freshest ingredients
  • 11 breakfasts, 10 lunches, 11 dinners
  • Captain’s Welcome and Farewell Receptions
  • Welcome and Farewell Gala Dinners
  • Unlimited beverages onboard, including fine wine, beer, spirits, specialty coffee and tea, soft drinks and mineral water

Dining

Excursions

  • 10 days of excursions, including “Choice Is Yours” options, all fully hosted by English-speaking local experts
  • Guided “Do as the Locals Do” and “Let's Go” programs
  • State-of-the-art Quietvox portable audio-headset system on all excursions
  • Use of bicycles and Nordic walking sticks

Excursions

Accommodations

  • 7-night cruise in a riverview stateroom onboard the majestic S.S. Maria Theresa
  • 4 nights in a luxury cabin onboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express private train
  • Well-appointed en-suite sleeping cabins and suites have remote controlled air-conditioning and heating, individual bathrobes and slippers, wardrobes, large viewing windows and day seating that converts into comfortable beds for the evening.
  • Lavishly appointed riverview staterooms and suites have handcrafted Savoir® Beds of England, high thread count 100% Egyptian cotton sheets and European duvets, and a menu of pillow options
  • Free Wi-Fi

Accommodations

Experiences

  • 5 countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania
  • 6 UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • Services of an experienced Uniworld Cruise Manager
  • Group Transfers are included on arrival and departure days (please see terms and conditions for transfer guidelines)
  • Gratuities for onboard personnel (ship staff, crew, Cruise/Tour Manager) are included during the cruise/tour
  • Captivating onboard local entertainment
  • Cultural enrichment, including Signature Lectures

Experiences