Cruising The Danube & The Main-Danube Canal
Cruising from Nuremberg, Germany, to Budapest, Hungary, passengers witness an amazing spectacle: the crossing, by a river cruiser, of Europe’s Continental Divide.
To accomplish the seemingly impossible task, our vessel must transit a series of 16 locks over a distance of more than 100 miles to lift itself nearly 1,400 feet above sea level.
The Divide is represented by a concrete monument (pictured) on the banks, and as we passed, I expected the captain to speak the words reserved for airline pilots, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached our cruising altitude.” He did not.
Welcome To River Cruising On The Danube
Immortalized in Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz, the Danube River (Donau in German) is full of surprises for those who embark on Continental Europe’s most popular river for cruising.
Flowing through six countries, the Danube meanders for nearly 1,800 miles — from Germany’s Black Forest through Austria into the Balkans before dumping into the Black Sea.
Situated on the Danube’s banks are some of Europe’s most-fabled cities — Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest.
Most Danube river cruises span seven to 10 nights and allow sufficient time to explore the major cities along the river. Some vessels operate roundtrip from Passau; some operate one-way between Regensburg and Budapest; and others cruise between Vienna or Budapest to Nuremberg, which requires transiting the section of the Main-Danube Canal over the Franconian Alps.
Reaching The Danube From Germany
Cruises from the Main River frequently begin or end in Nuremberg. The center of the Nazi Party in the 1930s, Nuremberg was virtually destroyed during World War II. Only a few historic buildings survived the severe bomb damage, but the city itself has been restored.
River cruise passengers have ample opportunity to visit sites related to Nuremberg’s World War II history or, should they wish, a Medieval city tour. Nuremberg also hosts the world’s largest Christmas Market, featured on so-called Christmas Market cruises during the month of December.
Dating back to Roman times, Regensburg, Germany, was practically untouched during World War II. The city is the oldest on the Danube, tracing its history back nearly 2,000 years. Still standing are the Roman gates, Porta Pretoria, built in 179 A.D.
You’ll want to see the Roman history, of course, but Regensburg also lays claim to Germany’s oldest oldest restaurant, Alte Wurstküche, a small sausage kitchen and dining room situated right on the river and within walking distance of where most river vessels dock. For a real treat, head inside for a beer and bratwurst.
Afterward, head to the Cathedral. Construction of the Cathedral, regarded as the best example of Gothic architecture in Bavaria, started during the second half of the 13th century and was completed in 1525. If you’re lucky, while there, you’ll hear the “Regensburger Domspatzen,” a boys’ choir.
Still in Germany, Passau serves as a jumping off point for passengers who want to go on the optional excursion to Salzburg (about two hours away), birthplace of Mozart and the setting for the acclaimed musical, “The Sound of Music.”
Passengers depart during the morning from Passau and reboard in the late afternoon farther down river. If possible, however, take time to explore Passau, especially St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which features the world’s largest church organ (17,774 pipes and 233 registers).
Known as the City on Three Rivers, pretty Passau is situated at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz.
David Coberley says
My wife and I were invited to join family members for a July 2020 Viking Romantic Danube Cruise. We were looking forward to it until the COVID outbreak in early 2020. We were optimistic that it would all over with by then. Of course, we were wrong, and our cruise was cancelled. We re-booked for later that year, even though the rest of the family was no longer going and it was just us. Then THAT one was cancelled, and we hung on with Viking and didn’t accept the cancellation but re-booked for 2021 and talked some friends into joining us. Then THAT was cancelled, and Viking announced their daily testing protocols. Our friends (wiseley, as it turns out) took the cancellation, but we re-booked for August of 2022. Then at the end of 2021, Viking announced that all passengers on all cruises in 2022 would have to be vaccinated. THAT changed the terms of the deal. My wife and I cannot be COVID vaccinated for personal religious reasons and would never booked the cruise in the first place if that had been a requirement. I immediately began the process of trying to cancel our booking and getting a refund, only for the monies paid, not for any extra voucher credit. I agreed to go ahead and book after the last cancellation because I was assured it was safe due to Viking’s “Risk Free Guarantee.” Now I am being told that I cannot get a refund BECAUSE I booked. If I had just left the money “on hold” I could get it back, but because I put it towards a cabin, it is considered committed. Now they want to wait until April of 2023 to see what the situation is like. Well, they are already saying that all passengers have to be vaccinated in 2023, so the situation is not changing. They want us to sail in another year, but I have told them repeatedly we are retiring at the end of 2022 and will not have the spare budget for the extras to go on a cruise like this. They’re just earning interest on my money. One Customer Service rep offered me a 50% refund and told me “that’s the best we can do.” Obviously not true. If your policy is that I can’t get anything, but you’re giving me 50%, then you are already outside your policy. Go ahead and give me the rest. My position is that when they imposed the requirement for vaccination, they changed the terms to which I agreed to condition to which I CANNOT agree – under no fault of my own. Don’t believe it when they say, “Risk Free Guarantee.” It only means “Risk Free” for Viking.
Frank Ikenburg says
You lost my interest and all credibility at “no vaccine for personal religious reasons”. Sounds like you want the “freedom” to spread disease, kill, and make others sick. I sure hope you’re not on my boat.
Stay home then, Karen. And go out a mask on
Wrong dude. It is scientifically proven : COVID caccines do not stop spread or stop infections. Sorry you were lied to.
But more folks are dying who took covid jabs than those naturally immunized.
D. Wilder says
Are there any other ways to travel along the majority of the Danube, other than by organized river cruises (which only appear to cover certain installments)? For example, there is high speed service Bratislava to Vienna but is there any other ferry type services available on other stretches? Are there any shipping companies along the Danube that take paying passengers? I am most interested in traveling from Ruse, Bulgaria to Vienna, Austria.
Robert G. Davis says
will be traveling along the Main-Danube canal by train (close proximity) and looking for a direction on how to get to the continental divide marker by foot or motor coach. we do not have time for the river cruise you talk about here. we would however like to take a day cruise and go for several locks if we can. any hope for tht.
Ralph Grizzle says
I wish I could help. I’ve only done it on the river.
Barbara Demetrioff-Mielkie says
Any predictions for river levels summer 2019
What’s the high/low water prediction for late summer 2016? We have a Danube cruise end of July, first part of August and don’t want a bus tour.
I adored Passau! I knew nothing about it but quickly fell in love with the city!
Ralph Grizzle says
We love it too!