Viking River Cruises, Nicko Tours, Phoenix and Trans Ocean offer top luxury riverboat trips on the German and Czech Elbe and Vltava (Moldau) Rivers to Prague, Dresden, Wittenberg, and Berlin.
Luxury riverboat cruises on the Elbe River in Germany and the Czech Republic are far less common than cruising the Rhine and Danube (Donau). However, the area is rich in history, culture, and natural beauty and a favored destination for passengers preferring smaller boats and an interesting alternative to the better-known European rivers. Nicko Tours has four boats stationed on the Elbe while Viking River Cruises have three. Phoenix Reisen and Trans Ocean also have a permanent presence on the Elbe River while other companies also offer a few cruises each season.
Elbe riverboat cruise itineraries commonly include stops at Prague, Dresden, Lutherstadt-Wittenberg, Dessau, Magdeburg, Potsdam, and Berlin. Some boats going all the way downriver to Hamburg and Cuxhaven.
Luxury Cruise Boats on the Elbe River
The cruise boats operating on the Elbe River are generally smaller and less luxurious than the boats operated by the same companies on the Rhine and the Danube. This partly reflects the smaller cruise market for the Elbe but also the necessity for physically smaller boats to navigate the narrower canals and shallow Elbe tributaries. Do not expect gyms, spas, or Jacuzzis on these boats.
The most luxurious riverboats cruising on the Elbe are the Viking Schumann and Viking Fontane used by Viking River Cruises for internationally promoted cruise vacations. The other boats listed below are also very comfortable but mostly middle class (say three-star superior) rather than luxurious when compared to the latest five-star riverboats cruising on the Rhine and Danube.
Cruises on the Elbe River are generally one-week cruises but longer cruises up to 12 days are also available. Often Berlin and Prague are offered as add-on destinations, with the journey from the Elbe to these capitals done by bus. However, cruising all the way to Berlin, Potsdam and Prague is possible. Smaller, less well-known lines often offers the more interesting itineraries.
Families with children are more likely to receive discounts, and multi-berth cabins with the German cruise operators. The minimum age for children is usually three (occasionally two) years. River cruise boats have no special equipment, menus, or activities for children.
Solo travelers will similarly find single cabins on most of the German riverboats and thus savings over the single-occupancy surcharge when a double cabin is booked for solo use.
Nicko Tours Cruise Boats on the Elbe, Moldau, and Havel
Nicko Tours has four boats stationed permanently in the Elbe region. The MS Königstein, MS Frederic Chopin, and MS Katharina von Bora are all former Peter Deilmann boats and rated four stars (or at least three-star superior when compared to the best Rhine and Danube boats). The smaller MS Florentina cruises only in the Czech Republic and should be rated three stars in comparison.
Nicko Tours currently offer three weeklong cruise routes on the Elbe River:
- The 80-passenger MS Frederic Chopin and MS Katharina von Bora operate weeklong, one-way cruises between Berlin and Prague. Many cabins have French balconies.
- The 64-passenger MS Königstein cruises from Potsdam along the Elbe-Havel canal to Magdeburg, down the Elbe to Havelberg and then up the Havel River back to Potsdam.
- The 90-passenger MS Floretina cruises only in the Czech Republic on round-trip itineraries from Prague down the Vltava to Melnik and up the Elbe River to Nymburk and back to the Czech capital.
See Nicko Tours Cruise Boats on the Elbe, Moldau, and Havel for more details on Nicko Tours and its boats.
Luxury Elbe Cruises on the Viking Riverboats
Cruises on the Elbe sold by Viking River Cruises in the international market are on the 112-passenger Viking Schumann and Viking Fontane. These two boats are the most luxurious and largest on the Elbe and feature some large cabins with French balconies. These Viking cruise vacations are generally all-inclusive package deals, which includes excursions, drinks, and wifi on board.
Viking Elbe River cruises purchased in Germany and some other European markets, are on the less luxurious and smaller 88-passenger Swiss Ruby. Cruises on the Swiss Ruby are generally much cheaper than those on the Viking Schuman and Viking Fontane but exclude excursions and many other options.
See Elbe Cruises on Viking Riverboats for more details on these ships.
Other Riverboats Cruising on the Elbe
Several other, mostly German, cruise lines offer riverboat vacations on the Elbe. These cruises are often not actively marketed in English-speaking countries but can easily be booked through a German travel agent. All companies named below are well-known, well-established operators in the tourism and riverboat cruise market.
Trans Ocean charters the MS Sans Souci, a luxurious four-star boat for some of the most interesting itineraries of all boats cruising currently on the Elbe River. Cruises are often longer than a week and may be as long as two weeks. The Sans Souci cruises the full length of the Elbe from Cuxhaven and Hamburg while also visiting Baltic Sea ports as well as the Havel, Spree, and Oder. The Sans Souci can accommodate 81 passengers per cruise. Although cabins are the standard around 12m², beds can fold away during the day. The Sans Souci is usually the only riverboat on the Elbe with a sauna. (Plantours also uses the Sans Souci for similar cruises.)Phoenix Reisen’s MS Saxonia is a similarly luxurious cruise boat offering interesting itineraries on the Elbe, its tributaries, and canals in northern Germany. In addition to the Potsdam to Dresden or Prague return cruises, the Saxonia also cruise all the way to Hamburg as well as on the canals of northern Germany. The Saxonia can carry up to 88 passengers and has two single-berth cabins. The Saxonia is on par with the Swiss Ruby but probably slightly less well equipped compared to the Nicko boats. The French riverboat cruise line CroisiEurope’s Mona Lisa also cruises on the Elbe River, as well as canals in the region. The Mona Lisa is slightly less opulent than the German boats but often offer great value for money as well as interesting itineraries. The Mona Lisa can accommodate up to a hundred passengers. The onboard languages are usually French and German rather than English.
Cruises on the Elbe River are far less popular than those on the Rhine and Danube Rivers. However, the limited options mean that cruises on the Elbe, especially those by Viking River Cruises catering for the international market, tend to sell out fast. Early-booking discounts are available with discounts especially good on cruises book as much as a year in advance.