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    Cosmopolitan Belgrade
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    Iron Gates Gorge

The Blue Danube to the Black Sea Coast: From Budapest

The Danube

  • A car with a tick VIP on selected river cruises
  • A plate with a knife and fork Half board at hotel/Full board on ship

Cruise the Danube to Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast

Compare and contrast the historic cities of Budapest, Belgrade and Rousse on a seven-night Danube river cruise, during which you’ll enjoy an included sightseeing tour of Budapest and a visit to Kalemegdan Fortress, which stands guard over the Sava and Danube rivers in Bucharest.

After disembarking Spirit of the Danube you’ll travel to Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, stopping in UNESCO-listed Nessebar for an included walking tour before arriving in Varna for a two-night hotel stay. Once one of the most important ports on the Black Sea, Varna is still referred to as the ‘Sea Capital’ of Bulgaria. Discover some of the highlights on an included tour, such as the cathedral and Roman baths. You’ll also visit the Retro Museum, where Bulgaria’s socialist era has been recreated. Spend the final two nights of your holiday at a hotel located in the well-manicured Sea Garden of Burgas on the Bulgarian Riviera. While here you’ll have the opportunity to embark on a birdwatching trip to a nature conservation centre and a visit to the seaside town of Sozopol during optional excursions.


A car with a tickVIP door-to-door travel service from anywhere on the UK mainland

Hands shaking Included travel insurance

Bed7 nights Full Board aboard the ship, 4 nights Half Board in a hotel

Dinner plate30 meals: 11 breakfasts, 8 lunches and 11 dinners

CocktailWine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner on the ship

PersonCruise Host


  • Drinks reception and Captain’s dinner
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi on board
  • All gratuities on board
  • Return flights and transfers

MapIncluded excursions

  • Budapest city tour OR Budapest culinary walking tour
  • Belgrade and the Kalemegdan Fortress
  • Pleven panoramic
  • Varna city tour and Retro Museum
  • Walking tour of Nessebar

HeadphonesInteractive maps and audio headsets for independent exploration

^All-inclusive on board your ship on June 12, 2022 departure
Our June 12, 2022 departure is now all-inclusive on board, and includes a free bar open 15 hours a day (9am to midnight) serving non-branded alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

View Full Itinerary

Day 1 UK to Budapest

The illuminated building of the Hungarian Parliament, Budapest

Fly to Budapest before being transferred to the port where you will embark Spirit of the Danube.

Look forward to your welcome drink reception and dinner as you remain moored here overnight.

Budapest Hungary Europe

Day 2 Budapest 🎧

Buda Castle, Budapest

Enjoy a day exploring the historic treasures of Budapest.

This morning, uncover the city’s thriving food and cultural scene on an included culinary walking tour, which visits the First Strudel House and Central Market Hall, or join an included city tour that will reveal the main highlights. A city of two halves – Buda and Pest – the Hungarian capital is a cosmopolitan, culture-rich centre. Buda is the older part, with cobbled streets and medieval architecture, while Pest is the administrative and commercial centre, with wide avenues and 19th-century public buildings.

The Parliament Building dominates the Pest waterfront. St Stephen’s Basilica is also in Pest, and home to a holy relic of St Stephen, the first king – his mummified right hand! The Fisherman’s Bastion has seven towers, each one symbolising one of the Magyar tribes that came to Hungary in 896, and from here you can enjoy superb city views. Heroes’ Square, flanked by the Palace of Fine Arts and the Palace of Art, is another of Hungary’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

This afternoon, perhaps join an optional excursion to Gödöllo Palace or to the Lazar Equestrian Park Horse Farm before your ship sets sail this evening.

Budapest Hungary Europe

Day 3 Kalocsa to Mohacs

St. Mary Cathedral in Kalocsa, Hungary

Arrive very early this morning in Kalocsa. Don’t miss an optional excursion to the Puszta where you’ll see displays of traditional Hungarian horsemanship. Meanwhile your ship continues to Mohacs, arriving at midday and pausing briefly for excursion participants to rejoin the ship, you may wish to take the opportunity to join an optional city walk in Mohacs.

Later this afternoon, cruise towards Serbia's capital, Belgrade, via Novi Sad.

Mohacs Hungary Europe

Day 4 Novi Sad to Belgrade

Kalemegdan Fortress, Belgrade

Arrive in Novi Sad in the early hours of the morning and either go ashore for an optional walking tour of Novi Sad, or stay on board as your ship continues cruising to Serbia's capital, arriving around midday.

Enjoy an included tour of the city built at the junction of the Danube and Sava rivers. Belgrade has been destroyed and rebuilt an astonishing 20 times during its 2,000-year-history! Enjoy exploring one of the oldest European cities, which features a large number of monuments from different eras and cultures. Highlights include the National Museum, the parliament and St Sava Cathedral – the largest Orthodox church in the world. The impressive Kalemegdan Fortress, which you will visit during your tour, encloses the tomb of the Turkish Grand Vizier, Ali Pasha, and now serves as the city's central park.

Later this evening your ship departs and cruises overnight towards the Iron Gates gorge.

Belgrade Serbia Europe

Day 5 The Iron Gates

Iron Gate, Danube

Cruise along a particularly scenic stretch of the river, as the Danube passes through the southern stretch of the dramatic Carpathian mountains and the foothills of the Balkans to the ‘Iron Gates’, a gorge framed by sheer cliffs. The passage was infamous in ancient times as the water level was much lower, making navigation treacherous.

Your cruise continues this evening and overnight.

Day 6 Nikopol to Svistov to Rousse

Town Hall and fountain in Pleven, Bulgaria

Arrive in Nikopol early this morning where you’re sure to enjoy an included excursion to the town of Pleven where you’ll walk through the town with your guide to the Pleven Panorama and afterwards enjoy a glass of Bulgarian wine.

The ancient city is known for its museums and is famous for the 1877 siege which saw Bulgaria break away from Ottoman rule. This afternoon an optional excursion visits Veliko Tarnovo. The town sits across three hills beside the dramatic gorge of the Yantra River with a medieval fortress complex that was the centre of the Second Bulgarian Empire, which ruled the region from the 12th to 14th centuries.

Excursion participants will rejoin the ship in Svistov before you sail on to Rousse for an overnight mooring.

Rousse Bulgaria Europe

Day 7 Rousse to Silistra

Rousse architecture, Bulgaria

Rousse has been nicknamed 'Little Vienna' due to its belle époque architecture.

The city prospered from its location on the Danube, becoming Bulgaria’s main port, so it’s home to many grand buildings, a good example of which is the Building of the Tax Administration with its elaborate facade. Perhaps join an optional morning tour before your cruise continues shortly after lunch.

This evening your ship arrives in Silistra where it moors overnight.

Silistra Bulgaria Europe

Day 8 Silistra to Varna

Sea Garden Park, Varna

Disembark Spirit of the Danube after breakfast and transfer to the locally rated 5-star Rosslyn Dimyat Hotel (4Q) in Varna, a journey of approximately two hours.

Your two-night stay is on a half-board basis, with lunch included today. The hotel has a central location next to the Seaside Garden, Varna’s popular landscaped coastal park. Facilities at the hotel include a restaurant and lobby bar with a large terrace. There are 95 bedrooms, most of which have views of the Seaside Garden and bay.

Day 9 Varna

The Cathedral of the Assumption in Varna

Spend the morning exploring Varna, the largest city on the Black Sea coast, during an included tour.

Once one of the most important trading centres on the Black Sea Varna is still referred to as the ‘Sea Capital’ of Bulgaria. Highlights include the cathedral, the impressive Roman baths, a selection of museums and a large park where locals and visitors alike can stroll or visit the planetarium or aquarium. Enjoy an included visit to the fascinating Retro Museum, where Bulgaria’s socialist era has been lovingly recreated. To a background of Bulgarian music of the period you can view displays of artefacts of the time – 1944 to 1989 – from cars to waxwork images of famous people to everyday household items.

This afternoon you may like to join an optional wine tasting session or visit to the Balchik Botanical Gardens and Queen Palace.

Day 10 Varna to Burgas

Nessebar, Bulgaria

Check out of your hotel after breakfast and board your coach for Burgas.

En route you’ll stop off at Nessebar which you can discover on an included walking tour, with lunch included. Virtually an island, the walled UNESCO-listed old town on a man-made rocky peninsular is linked to the new town on the mainland by just a narrow isthmus or strip of land. Explore the narrow lanes and discover remains of Roman and Middle Age forts, the many Byzantine churches, and wooden houses from the National Revival period, of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Afterwards, continue your transfer to Burgas, where you’ll stay for two nights at the locally rated 5-star Grand Hotel & Spa Primoretz Burgas (4Q), on a half-board basis. The hotel, which is located in the Burgas Sea Garden next to the beach, has two restaurants, three bars and a spa and wellness centre with a gym and indoor pool. There are 87 air-conditioned rooms, each with cable television, telephone, cable internet access, a minibar (extra charge), safety deposit box and hairdryer. You have the rest of the day to settle in and perhaps do a little local exploring… Dinner is included at the hotel this evening.

Day 11 Burgas

Ancient fortifications in old town of Sozopol, Burgas

This morning you’ll have the opportunity to embark on an optional birdwatching trip or join an optional half-day visit to Sozopol, one of Bulgaria’s most popular seaside resorts.

Spend the rest of the day at leisure. Perhaps go exploring the fourth largest city in Bulgaria. Wander through the streets window-shopping or head to the beach front to discover the bars, cafes and casinos. Stroll through Marine Park, a scenic walking route along the coast where you might see art installations, live music and other events. Or venture further afield to Lake Pomorie and treat yourself to a therapeutic mudbath!

Day 12 Burgas to UK

After breakfast, travel to the airport for your return flight to the UK.

Gödöllo Palace

Gödöllo Palace, the second largest baroque palace in the world. This palace was the former summer residence of Queen Elisabeth & Franz Joseph, the Hapsburg Emperor & King of Hungary, which reflects their resplendent lifestyle.

Explore the interior of the palace with set rooms that tell the story of this royal family through magnificent pictures, furniture and artefacts. You can also enjoy the huge gardens of this restored palace & gain insight into the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Walking Grade 2

4 hours
Godollo Palace, Hungary
Gödöllő Palace Hungary Europe
  • Optional on 11 nights itinerary

Lazar Equestrian Park Horse Farm

This excursion will take you to the Lazar Equestrian Park, owned by the world champion horse and carriage drivers, the Lazar brothers.

After refreshments, you'll take your seats for a fascinating show demonstrating exceptional horsemanship: there'll be commentary in English to explain about the horses and the skills required. Afterwards you can take a carriage ride around the park.

You also have the chance to visit the stables where the Lazar's champion horses are kept.

Walking Grade 1

4 hours
Hungarian horsemanship
Domony Hungary Europe
  • Optional on 11 nights itinerary

Mohács Walking Tour

Walk from the ship into the city centre via the Jewish quarter. Visit the Busó yard where you can browse handicraft shops and observe mask carving demonstrations. See the Nagyasszonya temple and sculptures of Szechenyi Square and enjoy included entrance to the Kanizsai Dorottya Museum where you’ll see a variety of Hungarian costume.

You’ll have some free time before returning to the ship.

Walking Grade 3

3 hours
Szechenyi Square in Esztergom
Mohacs Hungary Europe
  • Optional on 11 nights itinerary

Kalocsa and Puszta

Discover traditional Hungary during this fascinating full-day excursion into the Puszta or Great Hungarian Plain. In this historic home of gulyas - cattle herdsmen, csikos - horsemen, and Hungarian Roma, the cattle, horses, sheep and buffalo roam free, controlled only by skilled riders. You'll be treated to astonishing displays of horsemanship that date back centuries, where the necessity for horses to lie down on command ensured survival in times of war.

Afterwards you will have an opportunity to ride in a horse-drawn carriage, and be offered a nip of local brandy and savoury scones. Refreshments are included. Later continue to Kalocsa and find out more about the Hungarian way of life with a visit to the Folk Art House to see wall and furniture painting in a former peasant’s cottage. You’ll also enjoy lunch and learn about the significance of the favourite regional spice with a visit to the Paprika Museum.

Walking Grade 2

Full day
  • Optional on 11 nights itinerary

Novi Sad

Novi Sad is the capital of Vojvodina, the northern Autonomous Province of Serbia. Situated on the Danube between Budapest and Belgrade, it's a treasured regional and cultural centre.

Enjoy a short walking tour of the old town centre, which boasts a fine selection of 18th and 19th-century buildings. Then continue to an old family wine cellar where you can taste the local wines, and also honey, produced here.

Walking Grade 3

3 hours
Novi Sad
  • Optional on 11 nights itinerary

Veliko Tarnovo

One of Bulgaria’s most stunning medieval towns, Veliko Tarnovo perches astride three hills overlooking the dramatic gorge of the river Yantra. Here you’ll see the ancient fortress of Tsarevets with its far-reaching walls that encircle the Royal Palace, the Church of the Blessed Saviour, and the monastery with its grisly Execution Rock.

Explore Veliko Tarnovo’s winding historic streets and admire the commanding views before enjoying lunch at a typical Bulgarian restaurant. If time permits, you may also visit the nearby town of Arbanassi, home to quaint, painted churches and unusual, fortress-style houses.

Walking Grade 3. Lunch Included.

6 hours
Tsarevets Castle
  • Optional on 11 nights itinerary

Tour of Rousse

After a short drive through the beautiful valley of the Lom River you can visit the only active rock monastery in Bulgaria. Situated 10 kilometres south of Rousse, it is devoted to a local saint, St Dimitrius of Bassarbovo. Once there, a short stone staircase will lead you to an extraordinary rock church and a rock cave where the monk lived in the 17th century.

After this visit you will be taken back to the city where you will enter the Holy Trinity Church to hear its turbulent history followed by a guided walk through the town. During the visit to Liberty square you'll be treated to a small Bulgarian snack with the local wine or coffee.

Walking Grade 3

3 hours 30 minutes
Rusenski Lom Natural Park, Bulgaria
  • Optional on 11 nights itinerary

Wine Tasting in Varna

Experience the unique atmosphere of an old wine cellar as a professional Sommelier chooses typical Bulgarian wines for you to try, complemented by some local appetisers.

Walking Grade 2

2 hours
Underground wine cellar
Varna Bulgaria Europe
  • Optional on 11 nights itinerary

Balchik Botanical Gardens and the Queen Palace

Transfer by coach from Varna to nearby Balchik to visit the Botanical Gardens, home to over 2000 plant species. The gardens are impeccably maintained and as you explore you will discover tiny villas, fountains, a waterfall and a holy spring. You’ll also find the Queen Palace, summer residence of Queen Marie of Romania. The palace was built for the Queen after she visited in 1921 during the Romanian control of the region.

Your tour will be escorted by a knowledgeable guide.

Walking Grade 4

2 hours and 30 minutes
Botanical garden at Balchik Palace in Bulgaria
Balchik Botanical Gardens Bulgaria Europe
  • Optional on 11 nights itinerary

Birdwatching in Burgas

Burgas attracts an abundance of birds in all seasons, mainly because the three reservoirs here offer different habitats and ecological conditions with super-saline, semi-saline and fresh waters.

Head to the nature conservation centre known as Poda, approximately a 15-minute drive from Burgas. This protected area shelters around 290 different bird species, including endangered species such as Dalmatian pelicans, sea eagles, white sparrow hawks and many more…

Walking Grade 2

2 hours 30 minutes
The Dalmatian pelican
Burgas Bulgaria Europe
  • Optional on 11 nights itinerary


Enjoy a scenic coastal drive to the seaside town of Sozopol, which according to legend was founded by Greek settlers in 610BC.

Contrast the cobbled streets, historic churches and 18th-century wooden houses of the old town with the thriving modern quarter where you’ll find numerous shops, cafes and bars.

Walking Grade 3

4 hours
The city of Sozopol on the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria
Sozopol Bulgaria Europe
  • Optional on 11 nights itinerary
The Blue Danube to the Black Sea Coast: From Budapest

The Danube