Contrary to the popular Strauss waltz, the Danube is not blue. It is, however, one of the most popular rivers in Europe for river cruising. And for good reason. On our recent Danube cruise, we wound our way through 5 countries, visiting 2 major cities and charming villages along the way. A one week Danube cruise begins or ends in Budapest with the other end in Germany, usually Passau as on our recent cruise, or sometimes Nuremburg. Prague is situated on the Vltava River but not reachable by river cruise. All the major cruise lines offer the option of adding an extension in Prague and this opportunity should not be missed.
OUR DANUBE RIVER CRUISE EXPERIENCE
Our cruise started in Budapest. If you have time, allow an extra 2-3 days in Budapest. The Danube runs between Buda and Pest and is connected by several bridges. The most prominent is the Chain Bridge. Plan on one day in the older Buda Castle Hill section and another in the more modern Pest. An excellent hotel from which to explore both is the Sofitel located at the base of the Chain Bridge. If you have an additional day, plan to visit the thermal baths and/or the Jewish section. I recommend purchasing a Hop on/Hop Off bus pass before leaving home. We used it for transportation around Budapest as well as an orientation tour. You can get off wherever you like to explore, and get on later to finish your tour or go back to your hotel. Numerous stops in both Buda and Pest make it an excellent way to get around.
One of the most beautiful sights is pulling out of Budapest at night and sailing past the Parliament building, the third largest in the world.
The other major city on the Danube is Vienna. A treat for music, history and art lovers, there is much to see and do. Make sure to see the Hofburg Palace, home of the Lipizzaner horses. River cruises include excursions at each stop. Sometimes you have the choice of several so you can choose your own activity level or interests. A tour of Schoenbrunn Palace is usually an option offered at additional cost. If you have time it is one of my favorite sites in Vienna. The optional excursion we purchased was an evening concert. Listening to beautiful Strauss waltzes while sitting in a stunning period room in the Albertina Museum was truly memorable.
Though most people are familiar with Vienna and Budapest, often the best surprises come from the smaller towns and villages along the Danube. After an included walking tour, you are free to roam the old towns, shop for souvenirs and maybe, like we did, discover a carnival or see a wedding party leaving a local church.
Another stop offered three excursion choices. A Sound of Music tour of Salzburg, a visit to the Lakes District or Cesky Krumlov. My recommendation is to visit Cesky Krumlov, a world heritage site which is the second oldest preserved city in the world (Venice is the first). This is like a trip back in time and reminded me of a fairy tale town. If it looks familiar to film buffs, it’s because the movie The Emperor was filmed here.
AVALON WATERWAYS DANUBE RIVER CRUISE
The most scenic stretch of the river is the Wachau Valley. If the weather is clear, go to the top deck to view both sides of the river. We chose Avalon waterways for our trip as they have a split top deck. This allows at least part of the top deck to always be open, other ships often have to close the top deck to fit under bridges when water levels are high. I also love the extra spacious cabins on the Avalon ships. The layout is so smart with the bed facing a full wall of glass that can open to create an open air balcony in your cabin.
In Melk, visit the impressive Melk Abbey. This area is known for apricots and apricot preserves makes a great souvenir to take home.
As previously mentioned, we extended our trip and spent 2 nights in Prague and wish we had more time. It is one of the most beautiful cities we have ever visited. We took advantage of a Hop On/Hop off pass to explore and make the most of our time. Our stay at the Art Deco Imperial hotel with its beautiful art deco and art nouveau motifs added much to our experience. If you don’t stay there, make sure to have a meal there. The restaurant is tiled from floor to ceiling and truly spectacular.
If you’re considering taking your first river cruise, the Danube with its major cities combined with small villages is an excellent itinerary that appeals to travelers with many different interests.
BOOK YOUR DANUBE RIVER CRUISE AT KINGSBRIDGE TRAVEL
Contact Diane Ross today at Kingsbridge Travel to start planning your Danube River Cruise. You can also call us at (813) 972-3400 for Tampa and (941) 444-2427 for our Sarasotalocation.