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One of the most elegant and worry-free ways to travel. Onboard, you’ll enjoy a continuous view of the incredible landscapes along the famous waterways, and you’ll also see a different side of Europe.

A river cruise is one of the most elegant and worry-free ways to travel. Onboard Emerald Destiny, all of your meals are included, as are standard cocktails, beer, wine, coffee, tea, and soft drinks. You’ll also have bottled water restocked daily in your stateroom. And with only 182 guests on the ship, not only is your VACAYA Luxe river cruise a great value, but it offers a truly intimate cruising experience, as well.

Onboard, you’ll enjoy a continuous view of the incredible landscapes along the famous waterways, and you’ll also see a different side of Europe – one that can only be experienced on the rivers that have helped shape the history and cultures of the places they weave through.

The Emerald Destiny

Emerald Waterways revolutionary “Star-Ships” aren’t like any other riverships. They’re designed to impress and inspire with every little detail, exceeding any expectation you have of what a rivership should be like.

With its striking minimalistic design, sleek composition, and stylish features, Emerald Destiny is comparable to a contemporary designed hotel. Only it’s better, because your hotel travels with you to a multitude of fantastic destinations, and offers incredible panoramic views of the stunning scenery you pass along the way.

We don’t want to just meet your expectations; we aim to create spectacular surprises that exceed what you’d expect from a rivership. That’s why we’ve chosen to partner with Emerald Waterways, whose new deluxe ships boast a heated swimming pool complete with retractable roof – creating a brilliant onboard oasis for you to relax, whatever the weather. And on selected evenings, the pool area inventively transforms into a cinema showing a collection of films.

At 135 Meters long and with 182 guests, 92 staterooms, and a crew of 47, Emerald’s Star-Ships are redefining river cruising on the Danube, Rhine, and Main Rivers. The Star-Ship sisters include Destiny, Star, Sky, Sun, and Dawn. Elegantly designed and effortlessly welcoming, they provide a sophisticated and comfortable passage along these timeless waterways.

The spacious, airy and contemporary reception area hosts a spectacular three tiered atrium which opens up the center of the ship, allowing natural light to pour through and illuminate the interior. Throughout the public areas, elegant furnishings, modern art, and mirrored walls create a refreshing and luxurious environment for you to enjoy, while floor-to-ceiling windows allow you to fully appreciate your time on the river.

Raise a toast with a cocktail and some new-found friends, and watch the endless vistas roll by.

There are no adds on in this Christmas Adventure.

– Boutique contemporary hotel feel.

– Spectacular onboard heated pool, cinema, spa, and lounge.

– Spacious, comfortable accommodations with an innovative open-air system for staterooms on the Vista and Horizon decks.

– Gourmet onboard meals and highlight dinner events, al-fresco on The Terrace or in the
well-appointed Reflections Restaurant.

– Enjoy in-depth cultural experiences with Emerald PLUS excursions, cheese and olive tastings, or Provencal dinners hosted by a local chef.

– For Owner’s and Grand Balcony Suite (Category S & SA) guests, enjoy Emerald’s Concierge Service, which includes continental breakfast, pre-dinner canapés, and after-dinner treats served right to your suite.

– A selection of complimentary house spirits, wine, beer, coffee, tea, and soft drinks throughout your voyage.

– Bottled water restocked daily in your stateroom.

– Built-in adventure, with an included onshore excursion in every port.

– Visits to many UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

– Emerald Active guided biking and hiking tours.

– English-speaking crew.

– Knowledgeable, personable local destination guides.

– Complimentary bicycles onboard.

– Complimentary onboard Wi-Fi.

– All airport transfers to and from the ship on embark and disembark days.

Our journey begins in Amsterdam, Holland’s sophisticated, modern capital! This delightful 700-year-old city with its elegant and classic architecture, cafés, and restaurants has a distinct ambiance.

If you’re flying into Amsterdam today, your transfer from Schiphol Airport to the ship is included. There’s free time this afternoon to enjoy the city in all its Christmas splendor. We’re overnighting here on our river ship, so dress in holiday style and jingle all the way as you explore our first Christmas Markets of the cruise!

“Go local” and explore the Dutch capital

There’s no better way to see Amsterdam than by canal boat or bicycle. Today, you have a choice between the two!  After our excursions, we’ll set sail this afternoon and head toward Cologne, Germany!

Take a canal boat cruise through the elegant grachten, which are lined with stately homes dating back to Amsterdam’s Golden Age. “Go local” with a bike tour through the city’s most beautiful streets.

Today we visit Germany’s gay mecca, Cologne. One of Germany’s largest cities and capital of the Rhineland, Cologne straddles both sides of the Rhine, and is known for its soaring, twin-steepled gothic cathedral. This morning, join your included guided city walk or explore the Christmas Market at your leisure.

The Old Town abounds with cafés, shops, and taverns.  Be sure to try a Kölsch pale lager, locally brewed in Cologne for over a hundred years. Wander through the fabulous and magical Christmas Marketsbefore leaving Cologne.

This morning, dock in pretty Rüdesheim, a typical Rhine Valley wine town. During this festive period the entire town transforms itself into one large Christmas Market, offering products and specialties from a number of nations, all presented in a distinctive manner. You’ll be spoiled by the selection of shops offering a vast variety of Christmas presents and decorations. Endless delights await around every corner.

Visit Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum to see and hear a large collection of self-playing calliopes and music boxes from the 18th to the early 20th centuries. In the Market Square you’ll find Europe’s largest nativity scene, with life-size figures.

Step back in time to medieval Miltenberg, Tucked away behind medieval defensive walls and towered gates, the picturesque Bavarian village of Miltenberg is a cultural gem on the banks of the Main River.

This morning’s guided walk will acquaint you with the town’s delightful Marktplatz (market square), which centers around a Renaissance-era fountain and features striking half-timbered buildings, cobblestone lanes, one of the oldest inns in Germany, Haus zum Riesen (the giant’s house), and the gothic splendor of the Merchant Hall. After our included tour, we’ll transfer to the stunning medieval glass-blowing town of Wertheim to enjoy free time until our ship arrives.

Known as the “Pearl of the Romantic Road,” Würzburg is surrounded by sloping hills covered with vineyards. The city makes an immediate impression with imposing Marienberg Fortress perched above town and the 15th-century Alte Mainbrücke (Old Main Bridge).

On your guided sightseeing tour, visit the magnificent baroque Bishop’s Residenz, home to the largest ceiling fresco ever painted. This afternoon you’re free to explore the beautifully decorated streets on your own and visit the Christmas Markets. You will also have the option, instead, to tour the town of Rothenburg today (extra charge). Rothenburg is famed for its medieval old town. Christmas shops abound in this charming hilltop village.

Bamberg, a storybook village come to life, Onboard this morning, learn all about your favorite Christmas traditions. In the afternoon, we visit medieval Bamberg, former residence of one of Germany’s most powerful imperial dynasties and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Your guided walking tour takes in the city’s historic center, including the great 13th-century Romanesque cathedral and the fascinating Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) – built on an island in the middle of the Regnitz River when the bishop refused to give the townspeople land for a town hall. This time of year, the town is completely decked out for Christmas. You’ll enjoy the many nativity scenes built by local citizens and exhibited throughout the town. Bamberg’s Christmas Market is known for its candles and decorations. You’ll also find abundant regional delicacies such as gingerbread and nut bread here.

Welcome to fascinating and historic Nuremberg, Although 90% of Nuremberg’s Old Town suffered extensive damage during WWII, much of it has been restored to the glory it once knew as the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire.

Your guided sightseeing tour will give you the chance to marvel at this thousand-year-old city’s medieval fortifications, gothic churches, and the Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle).  The Old Town is illuminated with festive lights and decorations, and the Christmas Market is one of the most famous in the world. You’ll find dozens of stalls offering traditional wares, including Nuremberg Lebkuchen (spicy gingerbread), baked goods and sweets, Christmas decorations, ornaments, and more. An optional Gingerbread Cooking Class (extra charge) will also be available today.

It’s time to indulge your love of sausage. Dating back to the time of the Celts around 500 BC, Regensburg is one of Germany’s best preserved medieval cities. Established during the Holy Roman Empire and the only German city not bombed during WWII, Regensburg has at least 1,300 listed buildings of historic interest. Architectural highlights include the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall), built in the 13th century, and Porta Pretoria, gates to an ancient Roman fort built in 179 AD.

Wander through the city’s lanes and alleys to discover the many mansions with high towers. Wealthy families built these towers to emphasize their status and wealth during the Middle Ages, and many still remain today. Walk across the 12th-century Steinerne Brücke (Stone Bridge), the oldest of its kind in Germany.

Grab a beer and enjoy a snack at the Historische Wurstküche (Old Sausage Kitchen), one of Germany’s oldest restaurants. Bask in the vibrant holiday atmosphere and take in the remarkable views along the river. During free time, explore on your own and visit the free public Regensburg Christmas Markets or the private one hosted by Thurn and Taxis Palace (7€). The tempting aromas of mulled wine, sweet roasted almonds, sausages, and gingerbread create an unforgettable atmosphere.

This “City of Three Rivers” will leave you breathless. Uniquely located where the Inn, Ilz, and Danube Rivers converge, Passau is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets lined with beautiful patrician houses. The Christkindlmarkt, Passau’s charming Christmas Market, is set against the stunning backdrop of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a masterpiece of Italian baroque architecture.

Take in the highlights of the “City of Three Rivers” on an included guided walk.  Alternatively, you might like to join a full-day optional excursion (extra charge) to Salzburg to see some of the sites from The Sound of Music, find out how mice caused the composition of the famous “Silent Night” Christmas carol, and learn how the Austrians celebrate Christmas.

Melk Abbey – a highlight of our adventure!

Welcome to the beautiful and romantic Wachau Valley, where so much of Austria’s excellent wine is grown and produced. Visit the impressive 11th-century Benedictine Abbey, which towers over the town of Melk. After Melk, lounge on the Sky Deck with a glass of white wine while enjoying the gorgeous scenery as you sail to Dürnstein, best recognized by its baroque blue and white Stiftskirche standing right on the river bank. The main street of this small town – with a population of less than 1,000 people – is lined with 16th-century residences and charming cobblestone streets.

Explore on your own or choose one of the popular optional excursions – if you fancy some exercise, perhaps a biking excursion (weather permitting) fits the bill? Situated above town are the ruins of the castle where England’s King Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in 1192. If you’re feeling adventurous, hike up to the ruins for spectacular views of the town and river in all its Christmas-time glory.

Decked out for Christmas, Vienna welcomes you!


Welcome to Vienna, Austria’s capital, known as the “City of Music” and the inspiration for the creative genius of Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss. Once the center of the mighty Habsburg Empire, Austria’s magical capital on the blue Danube is a showcase of gilded architecture. This is home to the lavish Hofburg Imperial Palace complex with its Vienna Boy’s Choir and the dazzling Lipizzaner stallions; the neo-renaissance Vienna Opera House; and awe-inspiring St. Stephen’s Cathedral—plus, countless other sights your Certified Local Guide will show you during an included city sightseeing tour.

With plenty of time to explore on your own, delight in the shops of the pedestrian Kärntnerstrasse, and be sure to take a break and enjoy a piece of decadent Sachertorte or Apfelstrudel in one of the classic Viennese coffee houses, historic institutions that helped shape Viennese culture; or perhaps visit one of the many magnificent museums; or browse through the Naschmarkt, Vienna’s main outdoor produce market for over 80 years.  We will be in Vienna through the late evening to give you the opportunity to visit Vienna’s incredible Christmas Market.

A lovely day awaits in this idyllic city


Bratislava is the dynamic capital of Slovakia at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains.

Join your Local Guide for a tour of the city, including a guided walk of its fascinating Old Town, where winding cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways twist and turn to reveal the Town Hall, one of the oldest stone buildings in the city. Also visit gothic St. Martin’s Cathedral, coronation church for the Kingdom of Hungary from the 16th to 19th centuries.


And, of course, you’ll have plenty of time to explore on your own.

Welcome to Budapest! Enjoy the night in town!


Spanning the banks of the Danube, Budapest is one of Eastern Europe’s liveliest cities. Whether you’re seeing the sights, shopping for handcrafted embroidery or Herend porcelain, or basking in the coffee house culture over a rich cream cake in the renowned Gerbeaud Café, Budapest’s unique energy is positively palatable.

On your guided tour of the city, see Heroes Square as well as the massive hilltop castle complex with its remarkable Fishermen’s Bastion and 11th-century Matthias Church. Be sure to take note of the city’s eight bridges. Which connect ancient Buda on the right bank with Pest on the left. You may even want to walk across Chain Bridge, built in 1849 and a symbol of Budapest. This afternoon, explore this vibrant city at your own pace. Perhaps visit St. Stephen’s Basilica, with marvelous views of the city from its viewing platform, or stroll along Váci utca, the main shopping street. Enjoy a free day and night to explore Hungary’s exciting capital.

Visit one of the many exciting museums, take a walk to see some of the remaining communist statues, shop at the Great Market Hall with its 180 vendor stalls, or wonder around the Royal Palace and Buda Castle grounds. Whatever you choose to do on this final day and night of our voyage, this gorgeous city is sure to impress!

It’s so hard to say goodbye


Our journey ends in Budapest, eastern Europe’s liveliest and most cosmopolitan city. It’s also one of the most popular destinations on our cruise. Today, disembark our rivership for further exploration of Hungary’s capital city on your own or to head home.

If you’re flying out today, your transfer from the ship to Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport is included. If you’re looking for something incredibly authentic to do today, we highly recommend visiting one of Budapest’s historic public baths, which have soothed tired muscles for hundreds of years.

Our favorites include Szechenyi, Gellért, and Rudas.  After our cruise has wrapped, we recommend staying a few extra nights in Budapest on your own. Our favorite hotels include the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace (at the foot of the Charles Bridge), Corinthia Hotel Budapest (the inspiration for Wes Anderson’s Oscar-winning Grand Budapest Hotel), and the Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace (for an entirely unique experience).

Make the Yuletide gay as we explore the Christmas Markets of Europe! Spend your holiday season with friends aboard the luxurious 5-star Emerald Destiny as we sail from easy-to-reach and über-gay-friendly Amsterdam to stunning Budapest. We’re serving up three magical options to make the most of your European holiday:











Enhance the Experience We have been booking with Concierge Travel for many years. They provide access to all of the Gay Travel products available and are able to provide advice on which type of travel or specific trips will meet our needs. Concierge team members often join us on the trip and provide a few little extras to enhance the experience. We would never consider using anyone else.

Joe and Keith Houston, TX

Joe and Keith