Danube River Cruises – A Relaxing And Unique Break!

To savour the secrets of Europe’s cities and seek out their history, nothing beats a river cruise. And for sheer romance laced with eons of rich history, nothing beats the Danube river.

Danube river cruises are one of the best ways to see many inland countries that are usually inaccessible on ocean liners. The Danube River stretches over 2,000 miles and snakes through locations such as Germany, Croatia, Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia. These types of western Europe cruises are a wonderful opportunity to see the cultures of these countries first hand.

 

Why Danube River Cruises?

Cruise ships can take you too many of the world’s incredible places, but they CANNOT take you on the majestic Danube river. If you’ve not experienced this extraordinary journey visiting the historic sites and places of this fabled Eastern European River, you’ve got a very special vacation ahead of you, one that should be high on your personal bucket list.

A cruise down the Danube River is a journey with universal appeal. We all know that this is one of the most celebrated rivers in the world. Who hasn’t heard of “On the Beautiful Blue Danube”, the world’s most iconic waltz composed by Johan Strauss II? Remember the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey”? Who could forget the scene of the space ship docking with the space station with the strains of the Blue Danube Waltz playing in the background? So peaceful, so calm, yet with a beauty and grandeur all its own – not unlike a river cruise ship floating, no gliding, down the Danube River.

A Danube River cruise allows wine and beer connoisseurs ample exposure to fine European wineries and tastings, Music lovers more than enough time to embrace the home of the Waltz. For history buffs, there’s 2000 years of history around every corner and when you combine all of its attributes, a Danube River cruise will provide even the meekest photojournalist with incredible photo opportunities throughout each day.

Other important reasons that make Danube river cruise the best way to explore Europe are:

1. What a Hassle free Vacation – Your ship is your motor coach, hotel and dining room combined. Unlike a motor coach tour you pack and unpack only once and you don’t need to get up at some early hour. The crew is attentive and because these are smaller ships you have the opportunity to share experiences with the other passengers easily. As you travel through the heart of Europe you can explore or relax as much as you want. You are in a foreign country but all the arrangements have been made for you.

2. Choice of Danube River Boats – I had no idea of the large number of cruise lines sailing this historic route. And I shouldn’t really call them river boats as these are luxury ships a few stories high with fine dining rooms, libraries and other public rooms. Elegant staterooms rooms dot each side of the ships.

3. An Amazing Itinerary – The Danube is the longest river in Western Europe and with connecting waterways to other rivers there are an incredible diversity of itineraries available in varied lengths starting from 7 days. All the Danube cruise itineraries sail at least from Passau, Germany to Vienna, but may originate in Nuremberg or further upstream. Heading downstream the cruise finishes in Vienna or Budapest, Hungary. You Danube river cruise will always include Germany and Austria, but many itineraries also include Hungary, Slovakia and other countries as well.

4. Sightseeing – The ships dock right in the heart of your port of call so you are easily able to explore, return to the ship with your shopping and head out again. In Europe the main museums, churches, city squares, old medieval districts other attractions tend to be centrally located which is near where your ship (floating hotel) will dock. Many of the cruise lines offer interesting shore excursions including wine tastings, cycling, apple strudel making and others.

5. You Get Scenery 24/7 – On deck or from your stateroom there is always an interesting panorama along the blue Danube… the Austrian wine district of Wachau, the cathedrals at Melk and Passau, quaint shops in Durnstein,  castles, historic ferris wheel in Vienna dating from the 186o’s, the cyclists traveling along the bicycle paths on both shores and much more. I mentioned the wine district but of course Germany and Austria also have excellent beers which you can enjoy onboard the ship or in the beer gardens on shore.

6. Culture – Depending on your itinerary you may listen to music from the world’s largest pipe organ at St. Stephen’s in Passau, see the opera in Vienna. To me culture is sitting in an outside café with excellent coffee and a pastry for which Vienna is famous for and watching the people strolling the pedestrian only streets.

7. Pre & post tours – When your cruise ends you will be in the heart of Europe which is a great base to explore nearby cities such as Salzburg or Munich and the nearby Bavarian castles built by King Ludwig.   A Danube River cruise may be the easiest and most enjoyable way to explore historic Europe.

You are sure to experience so much along the way that you will treasure the memories long after your vacation is over.

 

The Experience Of The Journey

The barges tend to dock at smaller locations and you can disembark to discover a completely different way of life in rural areas of the varying countries you visit. The boats also dock in the well known towns and cities so you will not miss the chance to see famous landmarks.

It’s an experience totally unlike an ocean cruise. Sleek and slim, the ships are built to fit the river’s requirements — small ports, low, ancient bridges, and sometimes shallow water. Yet passengers are often amazed at the level of luxury the ships offer – compact but well appointed staterooms, nightly entertainment and good food. Buffets at breakfast and lunch and full table service at dinner provide excellent and copious meals with myriad choices for picky eaters or people on special diets. In fact, diets were severely tested by the variety of desserts and between-meal treats.

A resident pianist entertains frequently while special evening programs ranged from a Gypsy band to folk dancers to a quartet of classical singers. And the genial approachability of Symphony Captain Fabien Stein laced each phase of the journey with fascinating historical perspectives and good fun.

Cruising also allows for the comfort and ease of not having to pack and unpack and finding accommodation while visiting various destinations.

Best of all is the shore excursions – with a qualifies local guide or on your own. Often there is always time for both – getting the lay of the land with a guide then wandering off for leisurely shopping or new discoveries.

Long before expressways and airports, Europe’s mighty rivers were its highways and on their banks major cities flourished. And because they relied on the river for both business and transportation, the city gates tended to face the river. That’s the huge appeal of the river cruise – the ship docks just steps from the medieval heart of the city, where winding streets lead to ancient walls, fortresses, castles, cathedrals and quaint shops.

Depending on the ship you board, you may cruise from Nuremberg to Budapest with stops at Regensberg, Strasbourg, Melk, Vienna and Bratislava.

Nuremberg and Regensburg are two exquisite neighbours along the Danube, very similar at first glance thanks to their ornate old buildings, cobbled streets and medieval touches. But there’s a huge difference – Nuremberg is a ‘new’ city. During a fierce one-hour Allied air attack in January, 1945, some 90 per cent of Nuremberg’s medieval centre was destroyed. But the city rose again, almost immediately rebuilt stone by stone to an exact replica of its old self.

Noted for gingerbread and succulent little roasted sausages, Nuremberg is also a paradise for lovers of fine craft. In the shadow of the ancient city wall, the Craftsmen’s Courtyard is a collection of workshops and stores selling the works of 13 craftsmen, including fine pottery, exquisite leatherwork, toys and glass, jewellery, dolls and teddies. Two tiny restaurants serve local specialties. The Craftsmen’s Corner is open year-round but the city is also justly famed for its Christmas market, which features all of the above and more.

Regensburg, just downstream, was almost untouched by the war. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, its roster of delights begins with a river-front Roman fort built in 179. Once the capital of Bavaria, Regensburg’s wealthy past is reflected in its splendid town houses built in the Italian style in the 14th century, and its fine Gothic cathedral, built in 1634, with soaring twin spires added in 1869.

Now it’s on to Passau and a short bus ride to Salzburg. Lavish costumes and Mozart-style wigs are much in evidence here, as the town commemorates its most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and its most famous film, The Sound of Music. Another highlight is the famed Salzburg Festival, an annual banquet of outstanding music. A visit to Mozart’s home, now an interesting museum, is a must for music lovers. The city itself is a walker’s delight with ancient buildings lining narrow streets but some of the prettiest horses and carriages are a temptation to abandon walking for a gentle ride through the city.

The glorious Benedictine Abbey at Melk is vast and loaded with treasures. The single disappointment – it’s now a co-ed school run by the monks who leave distillation of the splendid Benedictine liqueur to their colleagues in Italy. No free samples! The town is made for walking – cobblestoned streets lined with 16th century houses and restaurant/taverns. The port for Vienna is a hefty bus ride out of town but the old city continues to deliver its kitschy style of romance amid baroque buildings that include the Hofburg Palace, the Vienna Opera House and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. A small group of Vienna choir boys provided a brief concert.

More accessible is Bratislava, capital of Slovakia where a whirlwind tour led us along steep streets below the 13th century Bratislava Castle, past the gothic St. Martin’s Cathedral and along pedestrian-only streets of smart shops and tempting cafes.

Final stop, Budapest, another revelation as we explored the twin cities of Buda and Pest with their thermal spas, vast parks and splendid buildings. The city market is a huge shopping emporium while Andrassy Boulevard, blessed with more than 30 theatres, is called the Broadway of Budapest. But Budapest’s crowning glory is the magnificent Parliament Building, overlooking the Danube, a gingerbread confection of marble, gilt and stained glass, where the crown jewels are stored.

Alternatively, it is also possible to enjoy themed Danube river cruises; you could specifically go on a musically inspired trip or visit the colorful Christmas markets to do some shopping. Also on offer are themes cruises relating to golf, walking and children’s activities.

The duration of your trip can vary in length; there are no stipulations about how long you should take for your cruise. Many packages are available from cruise companies; you could choose a mini break which lasts three of four days or a longer break lasting 14 nights.

The all-inclusive nature of the Danube cruises makes for easy budgeting. All meals and entertainment and most shore excursions are included. The passenger list is a pleasant mix of North Americans and Europeans, predominantly Germans, but most crew and staff speak several languages, including English.

 

Which Company Should You Choose to Cruise Danube River Locations?

When planning a European river cruise it is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of cruise lines and companies and it can become difficult to choose which one is right for you and your travels. Many world travelers plan to cruise Danube river locations every year and the number of ship companies available has tripled in the past few years. Here is a list of some of the most popular river cruise lines and what can be expected from each while aboard.

 

A&K Luxury Danube River cruises:

Founded in 1962, Abercrombie and Kent is one of the leading names in the competitive cruise industry. Originally formed in Nairobi, Kenya as a safari tour company A&K have been guiding travelers through exciting adventures from day one. If you choose to cruise Danube river locations with A&K you can plan on the best accommodations, guided tours and cuisine available on any river cruise ship.

 

AMA Waterways

To cruise Danube river locations with AMA is to know true comfort and service. The vessels used by this prestigious cruise company are immaculate and offer each and every guest the convenience of on board amenities such as a 24/7 fitness center, world renown masseuses and a breathtaking lounge which includes a panoramic view of the ever-changing landscape. Though the crews employed on AMA ships are from all over the world, the cruises are specifically designed to cater English speaking visitors.

 

Collette Deluxe Danube River cruises:

What sets Collette Deluxe cruises apart from other cruise companies is their impeccable attention to detail. Collette Deluxe chooses only centrally located hotels in each city and they make sure that all accommodations are an example of architecture and style of each unique location. Collette Deluxe also offers guests the opportunity to experience local entertainment, educational tours and even culturally inspired dinning experiences, all of which are sure to help in building lifelong memories.

 

Scenic Tours Deluxe European River cruises:

To cruise Danube river locations with Scenic Tours is to truly experience adventure as well as comfort. The four “Space Ships” operated by Scenic Tours are longer, wider and as a result more spacious than most other river cruise ships. Their unique luxury cabins offer every guest their own private balcony and personal butler service. Scenic Tours Deluxe European river cruises are the only way to experience and cruise Danube river locations.

No matter what your group dynamic is, you will find many Danube river cruises to suit your needs. They are a great opportunity to take in sights and sounds that would otherwise be missed. It is a great adventure that will stick in your mind for many years to come.

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