A coveted pawn of ancient empires, this noble Croatian island could recount many a tale of skirmish and glory. There's a history shrouded within these proud city walls, told in Gothic castles and marble streets. From the medieval market square to the terracotta roofs of the houses, secrets have been whispered for centuries and cast out onto the winds of the Aegean, immortalised in salt.
This was the best holiday we have ever had and we hope to do it again in a couple of years time.
R & J Whittle, Gourmet Italy
Bound for Europe's Far East and the Dalmatian Coast, we are Balkan bound on an Emirates flight via Dubai.
The Four Seasons Gresham Palace awaits our early afternoon arrival. We set the scene with a Welcome Dinner at the hotel watching pretty lights over the Danube fade to evening.
How will you unfold the mystery of the Hungarian capital today?
Tonight at Karpatia restaurant, an extravagance of local dining is illuminated with gypsy music performances.
Join Golden Eagle Danube Express
Our carriage awaits to take us to the Balkans this morning. We couldn't ask for better than the Golden Eagle Danube Express.
Settle in to your cabin as the train heads to Lajosmizse for a spectacular horse show. Back onboard, the train continues across the Great Hungarian Plain as we chug to Transylvania.
Our walking tour of Sighisoara reveals the sunny disposition of this medieval town.
We then uncover the dark secrets of Bran Castle in Brasov. Standing resplendent in a mystery of mountains, this fortress shrouds the legends of Dracula.
As the train climbs over the Carpathian Mountains bound for Bulgaria, dinner is served.
Bulgaria’s ancient capital, Veliko Tarnovo is a sight to behold. Nestled in a magnificent mountain setting, the stone houses balance precariously, one above the other, on the steep banks of the Yantra River. Every step you take seems to transport you further back in time – contemplating the preservation of Tsarevets Hill and castle you could even be in the ancient city itself.
We spend the afternoon in Plovdiv exploring the many sights in the charming Old Town including its ancient theatres, medieval walls and Ottoman baths.
We disembark to see the many sides to Belgrade's story, unveiling layers of Celtic history, medieval tombs and Turkish baths. We'll contemplate Tito’s memorial, Republic Square and Knez Mihajlova Street, the Varos Gate and mighty Kalemegdan Fortress.
We reach Mostar, crossroads of many civilisations, on the new dawn. Recently rebuilt after war, the town’s iconic bridge is a poignant reminder of a not so distant past.
Ornate mosques and minarets herald our arrival into Sarajevo, a city with a distinct East meets West aesthetic.
The city’s enduring history is told through a tour revealing the horrors of the Balkan War, as recounted by our local guide who experienced them first hand in the 1990s.
Rolling into Zagreb we're ready for a teasing taste of Croatia. The capital is a pleasure to navigate on foot where you will pass impressive Austro Hungarian architecture on wide boulevards. But our fleeting encounter with Croatia is over for today as we're all aboard express to Slovenia over lunch.
You might have to ask a local to help you with the pronunciation of Slovenia's capital city. Ljubljana is a delight to discover, where ancient architecture melds in harmony with a burgeoning youthful culture. The afternoon introduces us to all the sights including Preseren Square, the Three Bridges, Dragon Bridge and Plecnik Market.
Disembark Golden Eagle Danube Express
You may recognise the town of Trieste from Winston Churchill's most famous WWII speech. The view of Piazza Unita d’Italia square is surpassed only by the panoramic from the Church of San Giusto.
Chasing the contours of the Adriatic coast, towards Mestre, the train curves across the causeway over the Venice Lagoon into Santa Lucia station on the Grand Canal. We enjoy the kind of transfer you'd expect to the five-star Danieli hotel – by boat of course!
This fine hotel is just a short stroll from St Mark’s Square, the Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs.
Venice is a truly captivating city of romance; its unrivalled beauty takes away the breath of first time visitors and regulars alike.
Join MV princess Eleganza
Leaving Venice, we reach the seaside resort of Opatija, where a tour is rewarded with lunch at Bevanda restaurant, where we can expect fine dining by award winning chef Andrei Barbieri with views over the Adriatic.
Then to Zadar, where our journey takes on a watery theme and our cruise begins after a walking tour. What a pleasure it will be to explore the hidden charms of Croatia aboard the MV Princess Eleganza. This intimate small ship is at our disposal, privately chartered for the next seven nights, where we hope to discover a different side to Croatia.
We're all ashore to explore Zrmanja Gorge. At the dramatic entrance to the gorge, we will board a motor launch for the one hour cruise to Obrovac, where a lunch of local specialities awaits. Tonight, enjoy dinner onboard and perhaps a walk back into town to explore the harbour of Zadar by night under a dazzle of stars.
Breakfast is served as we set sail, cruising through scattered islands on our way to the waterfalls and wonders of the Kornati National Park. The roar and thunder of Krka precedes itself – here nature's power can be witnessed at first hand. Admiring the multiple cascades of Skradinki Buk falls you're experiencing a side to Croatia seen only by the locals.
Scudding along the water getting closer in smaller boats, our nature trail extends along wooden jetties and bridges to contemplate the falls from a different perspective, with plenty of time to stop and admire the unique flora and fauna.
After breakfast, enjoy a guided walk in the historic town of Sibenik. Visit the Cathedral of St James and see the fascinating old traditional buildings.
Split is on the horizon as lunch is served onboard. You might have heard of Croatia's second largest city, the toast of the Dalmatian coast, with a bright beauty and exuberance exemplified in its seafront promenade and plethora of chic bars and restaurants. But it's not all about the modern as a city tour of the Palace of Diocletian and the Old Town will confirm.
Docking in Omis, we transfer to small boats for a truly stunning voyage along the emerald green valley of the River Cetina.
On our return to the ship, we will stop at one of the picturesque sandy beaches that fringes the Dalmatian Coast before sailing to the island of Hvar. Enjoy dinner onboard tonight whilst moored at the picturesque harbour in Stari Grad.
A short drive this morning will take us to Hvar town where we will enjoy a walking tour of the old town starting in the largest piazza in Dalmatia.
Believed to be the birthplace of Marco Polo, Korcula is our next port of call.
It's easy to lose yourself in a labyrinth of crooked medieval streets, leading to squares flanked with palaces of the old nobility.
Seduced by our final port of call, dramatist George Bernard Shaw said that 'all who seek paradise on earth should come to Dubrovnik.' The Pearl of the Adriatic has earned its UNESCO World Heritage Site listing as you will see exploring sites like the Sponza Palace this afternoon.
We raise our glasses tonight at an onboard Farewell Dinner hosted by the Captain. It's sure to be a night to remember.
Unwind over one last breakfast on the water, before we transfer to the airport for a flight home via Rome and Dubai.
Back in Australia, we can proudly call ourselves experts in Eastern Europe when we arrive back home this evening.
Imagine a trip where you won’t have to lift a finger, or worry about bringing your wallet.
All meals are included with your tour price along with beer, wine and soft drinks. Dining experiences can range from Michelin-starred restaurants to intimate local eateries.
Based on per person, twin share in a in Heritage Cabin aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express and a Category 1 Cabin on the MV Princess Eleganza – from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane flying with Emirates. Prices from other cities are available on request.
Cruise & Land Only guests join in Budapest for dinner on Day 2 and depart Dubrovnik after breakfast on Day 19.
Princess Eleganza Cabin Supplements (add to base tour cost, per person, twin share)
Category 2 Cabin $240
Category 3 Cabin $480
Category 4 Cabin $960
Golden Eagle Supplements (add to base tour cost, per person, twin share)
Deluxe Cabin Golden Eagle $7,940
Single Supplement including hotels (add to base tour cost)
Includes Heritage Class and Category 5 (Single) Cabin $9,880
Single suites at above prices are limited. For details of other suite upgrades, please contact one of our Tour Sales Consultants.