For a newbie, the cruise market can be choppy waters to navigate.
Where to go, what to do and what cruising company to sail with (and how much are the margaritas onboard?) are just some of the questions a cruise virgin will undoubtedly need an answer for before they sign on the dotted line and book their seaborne adventure but let’s not forget that the options don’t stop at ocean cruises.
River cruises are growing and growing in popularity for plenty of reasons, including the more intimate boats, closer docking stations, less days at sea (and ergo less risk of seasickness for those of a delicate disposition) and the chance to explore towns and cities that would be off the map with an ocean cruise.
Where to start though?
With hundreds of cruiseable rivers snaking across the globe and plenty of itineraries that will appeal for various reasons, choosing your first river cruise can put you in the deep waters of indecision.
We believe the Danube is where it’s at – here’s why:
Close to Home
Embarking on a new adventure can be daunting, especially if you’re travelling for thousands of miles before you can even start your holiday.
Whilst a river cruise along the Irrawaddy in Burma may be something for the future, many may be more tempted by a cruise a little closer to home to get them started.
Almost like a cruise with training wheels.
After all, what if you don’t enjoy the experience (unlikely but stranger things have happened)?
At least you won’t have to worry about a lengthy flight back home once your cruise is over if you opt for somewhere a little closer to home – we all know how boring flights can get, even with a G&T!
If a river cruise sounds like it would be right up your, erm, river, a great place to start would be the River Danube. Part of mainland Europe, the Danube may be that little bit closer to home in comparison to the Yangtze all the way over in China but don’t worry, it’s on a completely different level to the Thames and the Mersey (and a river cruise ship is a far cry away from a ferry or a tourist boat too!).
With a Danube cruise, you will have the chance to sail through a myriad of countries ranging from Germany and Austria to Slovakia, Serbia and Romania – a perfect way to discover several parts of Europe that you may not have had the fortune to see yet, apart from on a globe that is, in one amazing holiday
Perfect for History Buffs
One of the many appealing reasons to embark on a river cruise is the unbeatable history, culture and adventure that you’ll experience on your way.
If you want a lesson in the modern history of Europe (and, let’s face it, why wouldn’t you?), a river cruise along the Danube will feel like you’re on one amazing field trip, only this time, you won’t have to share a bunk-bedded dorm (just a spacious stateroom with your inevitably snoring other half – don’t forget the earplugs!).
The cities and towns that are scattered along the Danube’s banks and beyond reflect the turmoil that this part of Europe has been through over the years; from the time when the Iron Curtain was well and truly closed and cities were out of bounds to Westerners, to nowadays, when the curtains have been drawn back and we have the chance to explore these fascinating sites and sights once more.
It’s not just modern history on offer either.
Many of the ports you’ll dock in and the excursions that you’ll embark on, take you to sites which have existed for centuries.
From the Benedictine Abbey in Melk, Austria to the architectural delights of Belgrade, you’ll certainly get your fill of history throughout the ages during your Danube river cruise.
If you’re interested in military history, the area is simply fascinating, and haunting at the same time. Nuremburg is home to the Zeppelin Fields, which were the Nazi parade grounds, as well as the Palace of Justice, renowned for the Nuremburg trials.
The Military Museum in Vienna has artefacts linked to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand on display, which is incredibly moving considering that act was one of the main reasons for WWI beginning.
Swot up in an enrichment lecture or in your ship’s library before you visit for an extra gold star from your tour guide.
Jam Packed Itineraries
The key to any river cruise is the itinerary that you’re signing up for.
After all, a river cruise is less about the days ‘at sea’ and endless activities to occupy you onboard and more about the land-based destinations.
You won’t find waterparks and climbing walls sailing down the Danube in all their brightly coloured glory, although most river cruises still include plenty of things to keep you busy during sailing hours – the pools, the restaurants, bars and, of course, the comfortable bed – to sleep in, of course. What were you thinking?
You can often see more than one city in a day on a river cruise, especially on the Danube, where you can wake up and eat breakfast in one port and dine in the evening somewhere completely different. If you’re after a jam-packed break that’s all about the itinerary-fillers, the Danube River is a brilliantly busy place to anchor. Perfect for those who get itchy feet after a morning on a sunlounger or in a spa.
Second to None Scenery
The scenery around the Danube is quite simply show-stopping and the great thing about a river cruise is that you won’t have to sail far before you can hop off the ship to explore with your feet as well as your eyes.
Go on a bike ride through the countryside of Durnstein, Austria, where you’ll find some of the most stunning scenery imaginable.
Run (or take a leisurely stroll) through the hills like Maria. (You don’t have to sing about them being alive if you don’t want to, nor do you have to wear clothes made from old curtains. Be warned though, if you do, someone will be taking photos!).
The journey through the Wachau Valley, between Melk and Krems in Austria boasts some of the most notable scenery on the voyage and of course, let’s not forget the Iron Gate Gorge found beyond Belgrade; look out for the carvings in the cliff faces – a perfect opportunity for a well-timed cultural selfie.
You need not travel half way around the globe to see something out of this world.
A River Danube cruise will prove just how much beauty there is on your doorstep; just step onboard and dive into the world of river cruises to see for yourself!
Once you’ve conquered the mighty Danube, the world’s your oyster. From the Seine and the Volga, to the Yangtze and the Nile, you’ll soon realise that on the river is the place to be.
Has out post got you interested in the Danube?
Perfect for first time river cruisers of all destination preferences, the Danube offers a number of different itineraries that can vary from a week to much longer.
Flowing from the Black Forest in Germany to the Black Sea in Romania, which is over 1,777 miles in all, it passes through the glorious scenery of Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania, so you can imagine just how much variation there is to explore.
Discover why Vienna is considered to be the waltz capital of the world (and have a go, if you don’t suffer from two left feet!), lose a few hours in Linz, an Austrian town in the heart of its wine-growing region (hic!), or explore Salzburg, famed for being the birthplace of Mozart and also being the home of the Sound of Music (the hills are aliiiiiive – ahem).
Sail past the white cliffs of the Iron Gate region, east of Belgrade. Will there be blue birds over the white cliffs of the Iron Gate?
Who knows, but the sights that you do see will stay with you forever, especially as the gorge narrows to 150metres in places – get your cameras ready and breathe in!
Visit the Nikola Tesla museum in Belgrade, where some of the exhibits are simply electrifying (do you see what we did there?), or spend some time exploring the old and the new that merge together in Budapest. As an amalgamation of two cities, Buda and Pest, there’s plenty to see that is both traditional and cosmopolitan – it just depends what side of the Chain Bridge that you’re on!
Why not prolong the Adventure!
With so many cities dotted along its shores, the Danube is the perfect river hangout for anyone who wishes to prolong their stay in mainland Europe.
Setting sail from Passau, in Germany?
The flight to your ship will take you to Munich, so why not fly a couple of days earlier and spend some time in this gorgeous German city?
They do great beer (it’s the home of Oktoberfest, after all) and the centre is crammed with palaces, churches and other places of interest for you to admire between pints.
Book an excursion to Neuschwanstein to see the castle built for King Ludwig II – the castle that inspired Sleeping Beauty’s.
Don’t worry though, there won’t be any cursed spinning wheels for you to prick your fingers on. Handsome Princes, however, are always welcome.
Alternatively, why not spend a couple of nights in the city where your cruising journey ends in? Budapest would be a cracking place to have more time in, and apt for a cruiser too, as it’s considered to be a ‘city of healing waters’.
Its spas are well worth wallowing in and super-impressive, even by luxury mega-ship standards! Shop till you drop in the three-storey Great Market Hall, and on an autumnal day, tuck into a hearty bowl of goulash before losing your way in the labyrinth in the grounds of Buda Castle.// END - About the Author ?>