We’ve compiled 2020 pricing comparisons for the Danube River. The comparisons derive true per diems that allow readers to determine how much they will actually spend on their Danube river cruises once all items are factored in – port charges, gratuities and other expenses that are not always included in the initial cost of a river cruise.
This post sets out to answer the following questions: What is the average cost of a Danube river cruise? How can I save on a Danube river cruise? Should I make my decision about which company to cruise the Danube based on the lowest per diem? What’s the best value for a Danube river cruise?
Danube River Cruise Prices Ranges & Averages
Prices on the Danube for summer 2020 range from a low of $295 per person a day (Viking’s July 17, 2020 sailing) to a high of $767 per person per day (Crystal’s June 19, 2020 sailing). The average per diem of a 2020 summer Danube river cruise for the dates we researched average $486 per person. AmaWaterways, Crystal, Tauck and Uniworld are above that average. Avalon, CroisiEurope, Emerald, Riviera, Scenic and Viking fall below the average price.
It’s worth noting that Scenic is all-inclusive and would normally be priced similar to competitors Crystal, Tauck and Uniworld but Scenic’s aggressive air-included offers result in the lower true per diem.
For the 2020 Danube river cruise shoulder season (autumn in this case) rates range from $238 per person per day on Viking (October 24,2020) to $573 per person per day on Tauck (October 14, 2020). The average shoulder season rate across all 10 river cruise companies is $420 per person. Avalon, CroisiEurope, Crystal, Scenic, Tauck and Uniworld come in above the average. AmaWaterways, Emerald, Riviera and Viking are below the average per diem.
In most cases, you should expect to pay close to $1,000 per stateroom, double occupancy, for each day of your cruise (excluding disembarkation day) during peak season, and just north of $800 per stateroom for each day of your cruise during shoulder season.
Those numbers, however, don’t tell the whole story. Upgrading to a balcony, for example, skews the per diems. Per diem rates for summer 2020 balcony staterooms range from $409 (Viking) to $953 (Crystal) per person for the duration of your Danube river cruise. For the autumn 2020 season, balcony upgrade per diem rates range from $309 (Viking) to $673 (Avalon). Worth it? Yes, if you have the discretionary income. We’ve enjoyed waking up in the mornings and stepping out on our balcony (or sliding open the doors of a French balcony) to admire the river. We’re sure you’d enjoy the convenience of a balcony too.
If the upgrade to a balcony stateroom does not break your budget, then we emphatically recommend going for it. Remember, you are buying an experience, and you want that experience to be as good as it can possibly be. This is not the time to be a parsimonious river cruise passenger. Splurge. You’re paying for your experience, after all.
How To Save On A Danube River Cruise
Cruise prices in shoulder seasons such as autumn or spring are generally lower in price than cruising in summer (peak season). It’s also worth noting the incentives the cruise lines offer. Incentives are factored in to the per diems in the pricing charts. Choosing an entry-level stateroom will also save you money.
If a balcony would break your budget, then by all means, opt instead for a fixed-window stateroom. You can leave the stateroom and go to the top deck for your “balcony” experience. It’s not quite as convenient as having a balcony right beside your bed, but if your budget is tight, go for the entry-level stateroom.
Choose a cruise outside of peak season. Shoulder season cruises on the Danube during 2020 are considerably less pricey than peak season cruises. Of course, this stands to reason, as pricing is based on supply and demand, and typically there is more demand during the peak season. The exceptions to lower shoulder season rates are Scenic and Avalon where the shoulder season rate is a tad higher than the peak season rate. CroisiEurope has the same rate in late October 2020 as it does in mid-June.
An autumn 2020 cruise with a balcony on Crystal is $545 per person per diem and for summer 2020 its $953 per person per diem. These savings are due to the season and also incentives offered by the cruise line for the autumn cruise. The cruise is still all-inclusive (except port charges). Another bonus is that the balcony staterooms on the autumn cruise aboard Crystal Ravel are 39 square feet larger than entry level staterooms. Not all balcony staterooms are larger. On Amawaterways and Viking you can actually lose some square footage when upgrading from entry level cabins to entry level balcony cabins. A criteria to consider when comparing rates.
Other ways to save: Take advantage of promotions. They happen frequently and they can convey a significant savings, especially if the offer is an air credit or a deep discount. River cruise promotions are a moving target, and while we do our best to let you know about special offers, keeping up with them is more than our small team can manage. We recommend that you work with a travel agent. Travel agents can tell you about all of the promotions instead of you having to go to each river cruise company website to look for them yourself.
Moreover, you will often get equal or better rates from a travel agent, plus possible perks that you may not receive by going direct to the cruise line. That equation could change, however, if your travel agent charges a fee. There are plenty of travel agents who do not charge a fee. They are compensated with commission payments from the cruise companies. What this means is that the cruise company pays the travel agent, not you. What’s the catch? There isn’t one. The cruise will not cost you more from a travel agent than it does from a cruise company. If it does, let us know. Something’s wrong.
Savings promotions and “all-inclusive” doesn’t necessarily mean the best savings either. The June 19, 2020 cruise with Crystal is listed at $11,398 per person. But then Crystal has a promotion for that cruise, offering “2 for 1 Fares” and all inclusive (except port charges). Even with the promotion that cruise’s per diem is still $767 per person for an entry level 188 square foot cabin. Compare that to Riviera Cruises, which prides itself on straightforward pricing and no gimmicks. A Riviera summer 2020 cruise on the Danube in a 183 square foot cabin dated June 29, 2020 is listed at $442 per person per day. That is Riviera’s brochure price with no special promotional savings. In addition that $442 per diem per person price includes port charges. Our true per diem takes into account what you would pay for extras, such as alcohol ($23 per person per day when you buy Riviera’s drinks package) and $21 in daily gratuities (per person) on shore and aboard ship. This is one of the reasons we research and publish these charts: River cruise pricing is needlessly perplexing.
Shouldn’t I Just Go With The Lowest Per Diem?
The old adage is at least partially true: You get what you pay for. With river cruising, that isn’t always the case, because all of the cruise companies, with few exceptions, offer good accommodations, complimentary excursions, included wine and beer with lunch and dinner, and much more. Some cruise companies go above and beyond, however, and this is reflected in their higher per diems, so, in effect, you are getting what you pay for.
What do those cruise companies do that is above and beyond? One example is AmaWaterways, which spends millions of dollars a year to provide its guests with fast free internet, not an easy task on a moving ship. In our experience, AmaWaterways has the most reliable internet – and the fastest – on the rivers. AmaWaterways also proclaims to offer the most active experiences of any river cruise line. The company provides bikes, gyms, yoga classes, hikes and more. Scenic, on the other hand, strives to be the most inclusive of all river cruise companies. Not only are gratuities and 24/7 bar included, but also laundry service and nearly everything else you can think of. Scenic also distinguishes itself with multiple dining venues, and it too carries a fleet of bikes on its ships.
Even companies with lower per diems excel in certain areas. Viking’s value proposition is what the company refers to as “affordable luxury.” To give you just one example of what Viking means by “affordable luxury,” the bathroom floors in your stateroom are heated. You won’t find bikes on Viking, but there are bicycling excursions (the bikes are simply stored ashore). CroisiEurope’s all-inclusive cruises impress us with their French flair, inventive itineraries and innovative ships, including paddle-wheelers that can operate on the Elbe and Loire. Plus, CroisiEurope is French, which has some cachet when cruising the Danube.
Which Company Is The Best Value For A Danube River Cruise?
Let’s break it down by the cost of a Danube river cruise cruise on a daily basis per square foot of stateroom. Why? Well, why not? It gives us a place to start the discussion. At first glance, Viking’s 150-square-foot entry level staterooms on peak season Danube river cruises arguably offer the best value, at $1.97 per square foot. During shoulder season, however, Viking and Emerald command the lowest spatial rates, at $1.59 and $1.60 per square foot, respectively.
It’s a bit of an absurd suggestion. After all, I’m doubtful that you’re going to be standing in your room thinking that this square foot cost me a bit more than $2 today ($4, including the spouse). It goes to illustrate, however, that choosing a river cruise can be challenging because of such factors, as well as the number of rivers in Europe and the number of river cruise companies operating on those rivers.
Even on a single river, such as the Danube, river cruising is full of complexities. Each river cruise company has its own style, and each has its own set of inclusives, which can make comparing companies difficult. It’s not like choosing a hotel, where all you get is a room, and possibly breakfast. With river cruising, you’re evaluating a number of variables, including room sizes, itineraries, excursions, costs and what’s included – and equally as important, what’s not.
The complexities are amplified for single travelers and for those at the other end of the spectrum, family travelers. Think you can cruise with your kids? Think again. Viking doesn’t allow them under age 18. Others have age-restricted policies as well. And traveling single? It’s not like a hotel room where you pay the same rate no matter if there are one or two in the room. River cruise companies impose single supplements, which are typically 200 percent of the cost of the cruise. That is to say that if you are occupying a stateroom by yourself you may as well find a friend to travel along with you, because you’re going to pay what two would pay anyway. River cruise companies sometimes waive single supplements or reduce them, but single supplements are just one more of the variables that make river cruising a complex buy. Saying that though shoulder season cruises or entry level cabins without balconies are factors to explore for savings for single travelers. Some of the cruise lines offer single savings in those categories. So be sure to check with your travel agent or the cruise line’s website.
That’s a long way of saying that there is no best value in river cruising. There is only a best value for you. Do your research and if you get lost, feel free to complete by Get My Recommendations form.
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