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How to Choose a Danube River Cruise (Eastern & Central Europe)

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The blue Danube River - Europe’s second-longest river - has inspired travelers and artists for centuries with its gently meandering course through the scenic rolling hills of eastern and central Europe. 

The river winds through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Moldova. Cruises on the river make stops in historical, metropolitan cities like Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, Linz, Passau, Belgrade, and Novi Sad, among others. These cruises are perfect for people looking for a quiet and leisurely getaway or even a relaxed active tour through a part of Europe that was largely shrouded for decades behind the iron curtain. 

Before you book your adventure on this historic river, talk to our Trip Planners, who will help find the best cruise for you. Start by taking the following into consideration:

Choose when to travel
The most popular time to cruise the Danube River is during the summer months - from June through August - when the sun warms the whole Danube River Valley. The shoulder months in the spring and fall may also be good alternatives if you’re looking for a discounted rate. The frigid winter months from January through early March is the off-season, when you won’t find any cruises of the Danube (nor would you want to!)
  • The Danube River cruise season starts in late March and early April, when temperatures are a bit chillier and spring showers combined with ice melt make the river levels high (and occasionally impassable - which may require riverboats to dock for portions of the cruise). This is a good time to snag discount rates and promotions.
  • As spring gives way to summer, from May-August, you can expect warm to hot temperatures and more crowds. 
  • The fall months in September and October enjoy brisk autumn weather, and also might allow you to find a good deal in this shoulder season. 
  • November and December are definitely colder months for a river cruise, but they host the renowned Christmas Markets of the Danube in just about every Old Town plaza. 
Choose the length of your trip
Cruises along the Danube River can be as short as a 5- or 6-day closeup cruise of one specific part of the river, the standard week-long cruises that tend to visit several countries, or 2- to 3-week comprehensive cruises that travel either long stretches of the Danube or combine the Danube excursion with the Main and Rhine Rivers of central Europe for a more comprehensive experience. Depending on what your time allows for, each length can be a great way to get to know a piece of one of the world’s most ancient regions. 

Choose your destinations
Choosing to cruise the Danube River is just the first step in figuring out where exactly you will visit on your cruise. Round-trip cruises are generally shorter, and start and end in the same city, allowing you to get to know one region very well. Or you can take a longer cruise that starts in one port town along the Danube and makes its way to another port of departure. 

A few of the most common ports of embarkation or departure along the Danube River are Vienna, Prague, Bucharest, Budapest, or even Amsterdam, for cruises that also explore the Rhine River.

Choose your experience
If you prefer to narrow your cruise menu down based on the itineraries, consider looking at the various experiences the cruises offer, including food & wine cruises, cultural immersions, or luxury cruises. 

You can also choose cruises based on activity level. While all cruises will have light walking tours at the heart of the itineraries, some include more active options like biking and hiking tours. 

Choose your boat
Unless you start your process with one specific riverboat in mind to cruise the Danube, then selecting your boat is a big part of the experience. You’re in luck: since river cruising has become so popular in recent years, competition has improved the quality of all riverboats on the Danube, so even the less expensive boats offer at least a first-class experience, and the luxury class riverboats truly offer unparalleled service, cuisine, and comfort. 

Among the luxury option are all of the boats in the AmaWaterways fleetCroisiEurope (MS France, Beethoven, L’Europe, Modigliani, Symphonie, Victor Hugo, and Vivaldi) offers more affordable options by limiting cuisine options and operating slightly older (but still comfortable) vessels. 

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