Top Danube River Cruises

Top Danube River Cruises - Budapest at Night

Viking’s Romantic Danube is one of the top Danube river cruises, whether you are traveling as a couple or with a group of family and friends.

In a previous post, we compared the ocean and river cruises, which individually offer unique experiences. One’s choice is primarily dependent on personal inclinations and preferences.  We like the more intimate ambiance a river cruise offers as we explore historical sites, experience local culture, and wonder at natural beauties.  It maximizes the whole trip as there are no days-at-sea unlike ocean cruises, and can bring you to varied destinations -from quaint villages to metropolitan centers.

The River Boat

We enjoyed our experience cruising the Danube River with Viking Tor.   This four-deck riverboat carries 190 passengers.  Key features of the boat include:

  • 95 comfortable outside staterooms which include 7 Veranda Suites and 2 Explorer Suites
  • The suites have two full-size rooms with a veranda off the living room & a French balcony
  • All staterooms are equipped with a 40″ flat-screen TV with an infotainment system
  • Sun Deck with shaded sitting area, organic herb garden, putting green & walking track
  • Aquavit Terrace & Lounge, an indoor/outdoor viewing area at the ship’s bow for al fresco dining
  • Viking Lounge & Bar with floor-to-ceiling glass doors
  • Restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows for panoramic views
  • Elevator from Middle to Upper Deck
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Ecologically friendly hybrid engines producing fewer vibrations for a smoother ride

Viking Tor represents one of the company’s longships they use for European river cruises.  Check out below for a quick video tour of Viking Longships.

The Weather and Sailing Conditions

We always choose to travel during the shoulder season.  For this particular trip, we traveled in October when there were fewer crowds especially in the places of interest.

The weather during this time of the year is perfectly cool and comfortable. The sun was up for most of the duration of our trip but we were prepared for some rain based on our pre-trip research.  Luckily, we only got intermittent drizzles when we were at Regensberg and on our way to Salzburg.

We packed light, but we made sure that we had the right gear, one of them being nice rain jackets.

The Danube river and its tributaries gave us a calm ride as we cruised along.  On top of that, the longboat’s hybrid engines produced fewer vibrations for a smoother ride.  Our stateroom was at the lower deck, yet we hardly felt any vibrations.

The Cruise Itinerary & Excursions

Our cruise started in Germany and ended in Hungary (the cruise could go the other way around).  We flew into Frankfurt and were supposed to have a connecting flight to Nuremberg, which, unfortunately, ended up being canceled due to the delayed arrival of our aircraft from its earlier flight.

We were initially disappointed and anxious that we would miss our riverboat.  Fortunately, the airline company arranged for a coach to take all the passengers on that canceled flight to Nuremberg.  It was a two-hour coach ride that turned out to be a blessing as we enjoyed a peek of the scenic countryside.

Nuremberg 

We embarked at Nuremberg,  the second-largest city of the German federal state of Bavaria, and one of Germany’s most renowned and intriguing cities.

Nuremberg is famous for its historical landmarks such as the Kaiserburg Castle, its Old Town, and the lively Market Place.  During World War 2, the city was almost completely destroyed and it was amazing to see how it was restored to serve as a memorial for the war.  The city teemed with Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture with cobblestone-paved roads.

Top Danube River Cruises - Nuremberg Castle

We met an exciting group of people during our first dinner on the boat after the day’s tour –  a geologist from Texas, a nurse from Mayo Clinic,  and a real estate broker from California.  We ended up sharing the same table with this lively group for the rest of the cruise, enjoying regionally-inspired cuisine, and recounting the highlights of our Nuremberg experience and of the rest of the cruise.

Regensburg

Regensburg, a Bavarian city on the Danube River in southeast Germany, is known for its well-preserved medieval core.  This medieval city situated at the northernmost point of the Danube River has one of the largest groupings of 13th- and 14th-century church spires, towers, and patrician houses north of the Alps. We were in awe as we joined a walking tour through the scenic city the morning we disembarked.

Top Danube River Cruises - Regensburg and Stone Bridge

After the walking tour, we strolled along the streets, explored the local shops, and later met up with a friend who lived two hours away from Regensburg. We then drove to Weltenburg Abbey, renowned for the dark ale brewed here by monks since 1050.  Before we headed back to the boat, we visited a genuine Bavarian beer garden.  Check out our separate post for more on our Regensburg experience.

Passau and Salzburg

Our next port was the city of Passau known as the Three Rivers City as it is situated where the Danube, Inn, Ilz Rivers meet.  The cruise included a guided walking tour to explore the city’s narrow streets through Old Town and a visit to the Baroque St. Stephen’s Cathedral, among others.

We decided to forego the walking tour of Passau and opted for the full-day  Salzburg excursion instead.  A coach took us on a journey into the beautiful countryside until we reached Salzburg, the setting of the film The Sound of Music.

Top Danube River Cruises - Salzburg

Know more about our wonderful Salzburg experience.

Krems and Wachau Valley

Our next port was Krems an der Donau.  It is an Austrian town of almost 24,000 inhabitants and is the fifth-largest city of Lower Austria, around 70 kilometers west of Vienna.

After breakfast, we set off for Göttweig, a working Benedictine abbey, and a Baroque architecture masterpiece. An impressive ceiling fresco greeted us as we entered the abbey, one of the largest in the world. The monastery owns many of the vineyards along the Danube.

After everyone was back on the boat, we cruised leisurely through the captivating Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, enjoying the views of quaint towns and castle ruins along the way.

Top Danube River Cruises - Wachau

Vienna

Next on our route was Vienna, Austria’s capital that lies in the country’s east on the Danube River. The city’s artistic and intellectual fame was shaped by some of its famous residents that included Mozart, Beethoven, and Sigmund Freud.

Our cruise included a city tour that took us along the Ringstrasse, which replaced the city walls in the mid-19th century.  We also visited and viewed some of the city’s baroque architecture, which included the world-famous Opera House, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and Hofburg Palace. After a quick lunch at the boat, we joined an optional tour that visited Schönbrunn Palace, the Habsburgs’ summer residence, and considered the “Versailles of Vienna.”

Top Danube River Cruises - Schonbrunn

Budapest

Our disembarkation port was Budapest, Hungary’s capital.  Its two districts, the hilly Buda and the flat Pest sit on both sides of the River Danube, connected by the 19th-century Chain Bridge.

Included in our cruise was a morning panoramic tour of the city.  It started in Pest, the modern district of the city admiring the various buildings and taking a lot of the Hungarian history courtesy of our guide.  We then crossed the Danube and explored the traditional Buda side before we returned to the boat for a refreshing lunch.

Top Danube River Cruises - Buda Castle

We had free time in the afternoon so we took a power nap to have more energy to continue exploring the sides of the Danube.   We logged more than 10,000 steps during that stroll that allowed us to come closer to the Budapest Parliament Building and the Shoes on the Danube memorial.

Parting Thoughts

Viking’s Romantic Danube exceeded our expectations of it being one of the top Danube river cruises.  This 8-day cruise took us to 3 countries (Germany, Austria, Hungary) that included metropolitan centers, quaint villages, and beautiful countrysides, with each port of call offering a unique experience.

Check out our succeeding posts for more details on each destination above.  Meanwhile, if you have insights or comment on this topic, we invite you to leave them in the comments section below.

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(4) Comments

  1. Cameron

    Hello, 

    This was an interesting read and put me in the mood for travelling. 

    The photographs were a great touch. Germany is such a beauitful country. I visited Munich in 2012 and would love to go back again some day. 

    I’m not a great sailor so a river cruise sounds much better than an ocean one to me. 

    What did you do in the boat in the evenings? Were there any guest speakers? 

    Would any of the boats have a swimming pool?

    Best wishes, 

    Cameron

    1. JRandZen

      Hello Cameron,

      Thank you for your comments and kind words.  You may want to check out a separate post we had earlier comparing ocean and river cruises.  We think you will like the river cruises as we did.

      The days are quite busy as you would typically be out on on-shore excursions.  During cocktails and before dinner, there could be a talk by a guest speaker on various topics.  Dinner normally features local/regional cuisines of the city port you are in. After dinner, if you want to unwind, there music and drinks before you go to bed in preparation for the next day.

      Riverboats are small compared to ocean cruise ships.  I do not of one that features a swimming pool – certainly, our riverboat did not have one.  And typically, you would not have the time anyway, as there are no sea days as in the case of ocean cruises.

      Recommend you plan out your next river cruise.  Do let us know if you have other queries.

      Best regards

  2. Christine

    I always imagined a river boat cruise as so romantic. The waters are calm and the views are amazing. Although I do love the deep sea, I think that it is probably better to cruise on a river and see many more sites. The Danube is a beautiful river and it crosses through some amazing sceneries. I have lived in Germany and I have been to Austria many times. I still have not gone to Hungary, but I hope that one day I can go. 

    The bus trip to Nuremberg was indeed a blessing in disguise, since you got to see the German countryside, and Germanay is a beautiful country, so green 🙂

    Salzburg is a lovely city. Although I have visited Austria many times, I have never been to Salzburg and I also hope to see it one day. I was lucky enough to travel to Vienna on a business trip many years ago and it was an amazing experience. I love Vienna with its wide avenues. Budapest is also on my bucket list, I have heard how beautiful it is.

    I did not know about this river cruise, and I would love to do it one day. Are such river trips better for couples are they also good for singles?

    1. JRandZen

      Hello Christine,

      Yes, indeed our canceled flight from Frankfurt to Nuremberg was a blessing in disguise.  We have been to Germany several times but mostly in the major cities.  Our coach trip to Nuremberg was our first time to have a road trip and it was a great experience seeing the scenic German countryside.

      While river cruises are best enjoyed either as a couple or with a small group, it can equally be enjoyable for singles.  We recall we know a few who were traveling alone and they likewise enjoyed the cruise.  It is a great opportunity to meet people and you will surely not feel alone.  Are you thinking of going alone when the time comes?

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