The Danube is the quintessential river cruise experience. Lined with some of Europe’s most historic and culturally-important cities, to cruise the Danube is to step back in time. Picturesque villages line its banks, with imposing castles and cathedrals rising up and falling astern as you cruise down this scenic waterway.
The Danube is also a busy river, with other river cruise ships and cargo vessels zipping past at all times. A vital European waterway, the Danube was finally linked in the 1990’s to the Main River via the Main-Danube Canal. Now, it is possible to river cruise all the way from Amsterdam to the Black Sea in a single journey.
At first glance, the sheer number of Danube river itineraries can be overwhelming. This can be made even more complicated by the fact that the Eastern Danube is typically referred to as a separate region unto itself; everything east of Budapest, Hungary can be thought of as the Eastern, or Lower Danube.
We’re taking a look at the Upper Danube – the region that stretches from Regensburg, Germany to Budapest, Hungary. This is the “classic” Danube river cruise itinerary. Some lines will offer voyages from Nuremberg to Budapest; or from Passau to Budapest. Others offer voyages that might sail one-way or roundtrip from the stunning city of Vienna, Austria.
In the table below, we’ve tried to pick similar itineraries leaving on similar departure dates. In some instances, this isn’t always possible. Some river cruise lines don’t offer shorter weeklong river cruises, so in that case, we’ve used the most appropriate itinerary available for the purposes of these price comparison tables.
What’s really interesting with some of these numbers is that longer, more expensive sailings can sometimes offer a better value in the long run. Even more interesting is the fact that the longest voyage on this table – Tauck’s 12-night Danube river cruise – is already sold out, nine months in advance.
It is also worth considering the average per diem of these river cruises, purely on the raw cost of the cruise. AmaWaterways, which delivers a wonderful, semi-inclusive river cruise, is only $41 dollars less per day, per guest than all-suite, all-luxury Crystal River Cruises is on an eight-day voyage down the Danube. Both are great options, but it is really going to come down to your own personal preferences in order to choose between these two companies.
The price-leader on the Danube continues to be family-owned CroisiEurope. Aimed primarily at European travellers, adventurous North Americans will love the line’s European styling and value-priced offerings. Don’t expect anything lavish or luxurious like Crystal or Scenic, but do expect a very solid, uncomplicated river cruise at a price point that’s tough to beat.
A look at some June 2018 voyages along the Upper Danube:
|AmaWaterways||Avalon Waterways||CroisiEurope||Crystal||Emerald Waterways||Riviera||Scenic||Tauck||Uniworld||Viking River Cruises|
|Ship||AmaCerto||Avalon Luminary||ms Beethoven||Crystal Ravel||Emerald Sky||ms William Shakespeare||Scenic Jade||ms Joy||SS Maria Theresa||Viking Jarl|
|Sailing Date||June 2, 2018||June 17, 2018||June 15, 2018||June 21, 2018||June 22, 2018||June 21, 2018||June 25, 2018||September 12, 2018^||June 8, 2018||June 10, 2018|
|Number of days||8||9||8||8||8||8||11||12||10||8|
|Cabin Category||Category C||Category A, B, P||Main Deck Suite||Petite Suite with Panoramic Balcony Window||Vista Deck Balcony B||Standard Cabin - Middle Deck||Balcony BD||Cat 5||Category 3||Veranda B|
|Balcony||French||French||None||French||French||French||Step out||French||French||Step out|
|Per diem/per person||$506||$382||$322||$547||$506||$337||$554||$728||$519||$506|
|Port Charges||$168 ($21 per day)||$168 ($21 per day)||Included||$175 ($25 per day)||Included||Included||Included||Included||Included||Included|
|Gratuities (on ship - non-compulsory)||$136 ($17 per day)||$90 ($11.25 per day)||$90 ($11.25 per day)||Included||Included||$46 (€5 per day, approximately $5.80 USD)||Included||Included||Included||$127 ($15.87 per day)|
|Gratuities (on shore - non-compulsory)||$20 ($2.50 per day)||Included||$20 ($2.50 per day)||$20 ($2.50 per day)||included||$20 ($2.50 per day)||Included||Included||Included||$20 ($2.50 per day|
|Beverages||$80 ($10 per day)||$80 ($10 per day)||Included||Included||$80 ($10 per day)||$209 ($26 per day)^^||Included||Included||Included||$80 ($10 per day)|
|Laundry||$24 ($3 per day)||$24 ($3 per day)||n/a||Included***||$24 ($3 per day); included for suites.||$24 ($3 per day)||Included*||$24 ($3 per day)||Included*||$24 ($3 per day)|
|Optional Shore Excursions||all excursions included||$100 ($12.50 per day)*||all excursions included||$300 ($43 per day)||$100 ($12.50 per day)*||$100 ($12.50 per day)*||all excursions included||all excursions included||all excursions included||$100 ($12.50 per day)*|
|Incentive (links may have expired depending on end date of promotion)||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||Fly to Europe for $495pp. Source: Emerald Waterways||n/a||Fly for $595. Shoulder season sailings (March, April, October & November) receive air from $395-$795 per person. All other sailings receive air from $595-$995 per person. Premium Economy is available for $1,395 per person. Book & pay in full by October 31, 2017 and save an additional $500 per couple. Source: Scenic||n/a||Economy air included for those who book by September 30, 2017. Pay in full by September 30, 2017 for an additional 10 percent discount. Source: Uniworld||Economy air from $695 per person
|Our Estimated Value of Incentive||$0||$0||$0||$0||$1100 ($137 per day)||n/a||$1595 ($145 per day)||$0||** $1,595 ($159 per day), plus $519 ($51 per day) for paying in full by incentive end date.||900 ($112 per day)|
|True Per Diem||$559||$439||$336||$617||$394||$387||$409||$731||$309 with time-sensitive incentives; $519 as-is.||$438|
* Emerald Waterways and Viking River Cruises include at least one shore excursion in each port of call, with optional excursions for a fee.
** To calculate the value of included roundtrip economy air, I used Viking's $1,595 per person published rate from select gateways in North America.
*** Crystal River Cruises includes complimentary self-service laundry machines on all its river ships; pay-per-use service is can be arranged through suite butlers.
^June 2018 departures with Tauck are sold out on the Danube itinerary we selected; the next suitable departure was selected.
^^Riviera offers beverage packages starting at $129 per person for most weeklong voyages that adds beer, wine and soft drinks with lunch and dinner. Beverages purchased outside of mealtimes are still billed separately, so we've added $80 ($10 per day) to our valuation for beverages to bring it alongside with lines like AmaWaterways and Viking, which offer complimentary beer, wine and soft drinks with lunch and dinner. For non-drinkers, however, this total can be subtracted from the True Per Diem amount.