Euromost European Cruise Guide:
Cruises & River Boat Tours Along The Danube
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Cruises & River Boat Tours Along The Danube
Vienna Austria Bratislava Slovakia Budapest Hungary & Belgrade Serbia
River vessels are a lot smaller than ocean cruise ships, so don’t expect big entertainment areas such as casinos or nightclubs – river cruising is all about the scenery and the destinations outside of the boat, rather than the facilities inside.
The Danube River
The Danube is Europe’s second longest river (after the Volga), flowing east for some 1,700 miles from its source at Donaueschingen in Germany’s Black Forest, the point at which its two tributaries, the Breg and Brigach, merge. It then flows through Austria, past its capital,Vienna*, with its famous imperial palaces, and on to Slovakia, once again passing the country’s capital, Bratislava*. From here it turns south through Hungary, passing the capital, Budapest*, with its impressive castle and Baroque palaces, and through the Hungarian plains. The river then turns east again, flowing through Croatia and on to Serbia, where it passes the capital, Belgrade*. * euromost city guide.
At this point, you cruise into more rural landscapes, on to the dramatic ‘Iron Gate’ gorge cut between the Carpathian and Balkan mountains where the Danube forms a natural border between Bulgaria and Romania. The river then branches into three main arms before it enters the Danube Delta: Chilia, Sulina, and Sfântu Gheorghe – from where it empties into the Black Sea.
1600 of its 1770 mile route is open to river traffic, and the Danube is linked to the Rhine via the Rhine Main Danube Canal – making it possible for commercial vessels to travel from the North Sea port of Rotterdam to Sulina in the Black sea.
Choosing A Cruise
Many cruises focus on areas in the western half of the Danube (roughly west of Budapest), as the eastern stretches have generally been considered more functional and less scenic. In fact, the eastern part of the Danube is just as fascinating as the western part, so we’ve made sure we’ve included an options covering both stretches of river.
Decide how long you would like your cruise to last, as this obviously has a major impact on the price, and remember that the cruise costs quoted here don’t include transport to the starting point, and may add fuel surcharges and port fees on top.
One of the most affordable Danube cruises we found was the ‘Three Capitals Cruise’, a seven-night trip on the MS Beethoven along the Danube from Vienna to Bratislava and Budapest, and back to Vienna – costing from £699. The vessel has 90 cabins for up to 180 passengers, and although it’s not the most luxurious of vessels, it has all the essentials. The cruise visits three or the foud capitals along the Danube, and also takes in the beautiful Wachau Valley – so passengers enjoy a good blend of scenic landscapes with city architecture and history. Full trip details: http://www.cruisingholidays.co.uk/eriver.aspx
Viking River Cruises are one of the companies offering an Eastern European-oriented cruise: the ‘Eastern European Odyssey’, from Bucharest to Nuremberg. The focus is on the grand cities of the Hapsburg Dynasty, the ancient remains of the Roman Empire’s outposts, and the natural beauty of the landscape in between.
We’ve classed this as being for a ‘mid-range’ budget mainly because it’s more than a fortnight long (16 days/15 nights) for as little as £1995 (for a lower deck cabin). You get good value for money, too, because unlike on an ocean cruise liner where you often spend endless hours at sea, on the Viking River Cruise you visit a port each day. The vessel is also more intimate, with just 75 cabins and up to 150 passengers on board.
Beginning with an overnight stay in Hungary’s beautiful capital, Bucharest, the boat then works its way along the Danube through Bulgaria to the beautiful ‘Iron Gate’ gorge region with its white cliffs. It visits Serbia’s capital, Belgrade; Hungary’s capital, Budapest; Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava; Austria’s capital, Vienna, and several other historic towns, before cruising on to Germany where the trip ends in Nuremberg. This is a fantastic trip that genuinely takes in a good selection of the highlights of this eastern stretch of the river – and although you don’t spend a massive amount of time in each place it does give you a great taster of the region. Full trip details: http://www.vikingrivercruises.co.uk/experience-europe/rhine-main-danube/2009-Eastern-European-Odyssey.
Peter Deilmann Cruises offer an 11-night deluxe cruise on board the MV Mozart from Tulcea to Munich from around £4763 for an outside single cabin. With a capacity of just over 200 people, the Mozart is a bit larger than most river vessels. It also has some of the trappings of the more tradition ocean cruises in that it has more extensive facilities – such an indoor heated pool and sauna – and puts on daily entertainment for guests. There are also some rave reviews to be read about the food served on board this cruise – another definite bonus, particularly since there are six meals served daily!
The river trip starts in Romania from Tulcea, with its ruined walls and defending towers, through Giurgiu and Orsova (also in Romania); Belgrade (in Serbia); Mohacs, famous for its battles, and capital Budapest (both in Hungary); the beautiful Austrian capital, Vienna, and the small city of Melk, known for its massive baroque Benedictine monastery (‘Stift Melk’) – before ending the cruise in Munich, Germany. Full trip details:
When To Go
Spring and Summer are the best times to cruise the river Danube, when the cities are warmer and the countryside is green and beautiful – although the scenery is impressive year-round.
Other useful link:
http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/ – Great for cruise reviews