Danube (Donau) River cruise vacations depart from Passau, Vienna, or Budapest with stops at Melk, Linz, and Bratislava. Cruise extensions via the Main up to the Rhine River are possible.
The Danube River competes with the Rhine for being Europe’s most popular waterways for riverboat cruises. With up to a hundred river passenger boats cruising on the Danube each year, many routings are available for cruise vacations. Up and downstream cruises are usually of similar length but more time will be spent cruising when going upstream. The Danube River is particularly popular with American travelers.
The Danube is Donau in German, Duna in Hungarian, and Dunare in Romanian.
Return Trips from Passau in Germany on the Danube River
The classic Danube River multiple-day cruise routing is return trips downstream from the German city Passau, where the Inn and Ilz rivers flow into the Danube. Passau is on the German-Austrian border and by far the most popular departure point for Danube River boat cruises. Good transportation links to Passau brings the city within easy reach of many other parts of Germany. Hotels in Passau are generally much cheaper than in say Munich or Vienna adding to the appeal of the lovely Baroque old town of Passau.
Return cruises on the Danube usually go downstream from Passau into Austria and Hungary:
- Danube cruises from Passau to Vienna and back can be as short as three days but four or five days are more common.
- Return trips from Passau to Bratislava (Slovakia) or Budapest and Kalocsa in Hungary are usually a week.
- Passau to Belgrade and back is usually done in 10 days.
- Return trips from Passau to the Danube Delta range from a hasty 11 days to a more relaxed three weeks but two weeks on this route are more common.
Other Danube-Only Luxury Riverboat Cruise Routes
Danube River cruises are also departing from other Danube towns. Some other routings include:
- A-Rosa has seven-day cruises from Vienna to Budapest and back through Vienna to Melk before returning to Vienna again. Arosa often have cheap, short cruises on the Danube departing from Vienna.
- The very luxurious River Cloud sails from Budapest on weeklong, one-way cruises to and from Vilshofen and Regensburg in Germany.
- Bulgarian value cruise line Rousse have four-day return cruises from Melk in Austria to Budapest and back. These cruises are much cheaper than other luxury liners but of a lower standard.
Riverboat Cruises on the Danube – Main – Rhine – Moselle Rivers
The Main-Danube Canal links the Rhine and Danube river basins allowing for many cruises on rivers from both systems.
Rhine-Danube riverboat cruise combinations include for example:
- From Düsseldorf or Cologne (Köln) on the Rhine to Passau on the Danube and Inn (7 to 9 days)
- Nürnberg (Nuremberg) on the Main-Danube Canal is the departure point for many weeklong cruises. Possibilities include northwards to Amsterdam and Cologne (Köln) on the Rhine or Trier on the Mosel and downstream on the Danube to Vienna or Budapest. Cruises to Bucharest are usually two weeks. (Popular pre- or post-cruise extensions from Nuremberg are by bus to Prague in the Czech Republic.)
- Regensburg on the Danube with the best-preserved medieval city core in Germany is an 11-day cruise from Mainz at the confluence of the Main and Rhine rivers.
- Amsterdam to Budapest or Vienna takes around two weeks, a week more to Bucharest while cruises all the way to the Danube Delta can be as long as four weeks. The cruise is generally available in short stretches but it is possible to combine cruises and go all the way.
- Trier on the Moselle is often combined with the Rhine and Danube. Popular destinations from Trier include Nuremberg, Passau, and Vienna (7 to 14 days). (Paris is a popular pre- or post-cruise destination from Trier on the German-Luxembourg border. Amawaterways, for example, has a 21-day Ultimate River Cruise that goes from Trier on the Moselle to Budapest.