Top Danube River Cruises

Top Danube River Cruises - Budapest at Night

We share in this post our experience with Viking’s Romantic Danube we consider one of the top Danube river cruises, particularly if you are traveling as a couple or a small group with family or 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.  For us, river cruising is our favorite.  It allows us to explore historical sites, experience local culture, and wonder at natural beauties.  It maximizes the whole trip as there are no days-at-sea (much like on ocean cruises), with varied destinations that can include quaint villages as well as metropolitan centers.

The River Boat

Our riverboat (Viking Tor) was excellent.   It was built in 2013, has four decks and has a 190-passenger capacity, perfect for a European river cruise.  Below are the key features of the boat:

  • 95 comfortable outside staterooms (which includes 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 40″ flat-screen TV with 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 (no elevator access for categories E & F)
  • Free Wi-Fi (connection speed may vary)
  • Ecologically friendly hybrid engines producing fewer vibrations for a smoother ride

Viking Tor is 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 love the shoulder season for travel.  For this particular trip, we chose the month of October, during which time, the points of interest are less crowded.

The weather during this time of the year is perfect.  It is cool and comfortable for river cruises as most of the days you are out exploring the shore destinations.  Most of the time, the sun is up. But we were prepared for some raining weather based on our pre-trip research.  Luckily, we only got showers when we were at Regensberg and on our way to Salzburg.

When we were packing, we were very conscious of packing light, but we made sure that we had the right gear for us, one of them being nice rain jackets.

Being on the Danube river and some it’s tributaries, the waters when we were cruising were calm.  On top of that, the longboat’s hybrid engines produced fewer vibrations for a smoother ride.  Our room was at one of the lower decks, yet we hardly recognize any vibrations, especially when sleeping.

The Cruise Itinerary & Excursions

Our cruise started in Germany and ended in Hungary (some schedule is the other way around).  We flew into Frankfurt, the fifth-largest city of Germany and one of the world’s leading financial centers.  We were supposed to have a connecting flight to Nuremberg, but it was canceled (believe it was due to delays in the arrival of our aircraft from its earlier flight).

We were initially disappointed and were concerned 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 and turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it allowed us a free 2-hour journey enjoying the scenic German countryside.

Nuremberg 

Nuremberg was our embarkation port.  The city is second only to Munich as the largest city of the German federal state of Bavaria and is one of Germany’s most renowned and intriguing cities.

Nuremberg is renowned for its historical landmarks such as the imperial castle and its Old Town.  The Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architectures that were restored were terrific and we loved the steep cobblestone paths.

Top Danube River Cruises - Nuremberg Castle

When we had our first dinner on the boat that evening, we met an exciting group of people: a geologist from Texas and his husband, a nurse from Mayo Clinic Minnesota and his husband, and a real estate broker from California and his wife.  Our group turned out to be close during the cruise, and we would usually grab together a table to share for meals and share our experience during the day.

We will discuss further our experience of Nuremberg in a separate post.

Regensburg

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

Top Danube River Cruises - Regensburg and Stone Bridge

After the walking tour, we stroll the streets and shops until our friend (who resided about a 2-hour drive from Regensburg) and his family arrived to meet us up. 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.

We will discuss further our experience of Regensburg in a separate post.

Passau and Salzburg

Our next port was the city of Passau known as the Three Rivers City considering that 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 visit the Baroque St. Stephen’s Cathedral, among others.

We decided to forego this walking tour of Passau as we desperately wanted to visit Salzburg.  This excursion was an optional tour that we booked earlier and will take the whole day.  A coach took us on a journey into the countryside until we reached Salzburg, the setting of the film The Sound of Music.

Top Danube River Cruises - Salzburg

We will discuss further our experience of Salzburg in a separate post.

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, and had an impressive ceiling fresco in its stairwell, 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 then cruised leisurely through the captivating Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, enjoying the views of attractive 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 lunch at the boat, we joined an optional tour that visited Schönbrunn Palace, the Habsburgs’ summer residence, and admired as the “Versailles of Vienna.”

Top Danube River Cruises - Schonbrunn

We will discuss further our experience of Vienna in a separate post.

Budapest

Our disembarkation post 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

The afternoon was free time.  After a quick nap, we went out and strolled along the sides of the Danube.  From what we recall, we think we logged more than 10,000 steps during that stroll that allowed us to come closer to the Budapest parliament building.

We will discuss further our experience of Budapest (which included our extended stay post-cruise) in a separate post.

Parting Thoughts

Viking’s Romantic Danube lived up to if not 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 countryside. Each port of call along the Danube afforded us a unique experience.

This post provided you a preview of the historical sites we saw and the local and regional culture we uncovered along the way.  Look out for our other posts that will provide more on them.  In the meantime, if you have insights or comment on this topic, may we invite you to leave them through the comments section below.

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(2) Comments

  1. 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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