I’ve been lucky enough to cruise along both the Rhine and Danube rivers & I found them equally enjoyable , with both offering a relaxed ambience while passing by beautiful scenery and medieval towns.
Cruising The Rhine
On the 8 days Rhine river cruise the first day from Amsterdam to Cologne sails through quite an industrial area and you will see a lot of the working barges passing by. The Rhine is still a major waterway used for transporting goods and raw materials between ports. Once you reach Cologne on Day 2 it becomes very interesting and by then you have had time to explore the ship and get your bearings.
Cologne has a twin–towered gothic cathedral to visit and thence on to Koblenz which is a 2,000 year old town beautifully situated at the junction of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers. From Koblenz you sail though the dramatic UNESCO heritage listed Rhine Gorge for 6.5kms and pass the legendary rock of the Lorelei, where it is said that songs of sirens lured enchanted sailors to crash their ships onto the rocks or to run aground in the shallow water.
The Rhine serves as a border between Germany and France, narrows through deep gorges and meanders through steep-sided valleys overlooked by fairytale castles, fortresses, spires and vineyards. It is an interesting combination of history and culture where you can discover some of the oldest and most historic cities in Germany.
Depending on the river cruise itinerary you choose you may visit Strasbourg in France or Briesach in Germany on the opposite side of the river; the gateway to the German black forest region and then on to Basel or Zurich in Switzerland to disembark.
The Rhine is mostly a wide river visiting charming villages and with 12 locks along the way. The locks are approx 12 metres wide and as the ships are approx 11.5 metres it can be quite a tight fit. Going through a lock is about the only time you will hear noise from the ships engines churning.
Danube River Cruising
The Danube flows from the Black Forest in Germany to the Black Sea in Romania, passing through or between Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania on the way. A total of 19 locks. It is the longest river in today’s European Union and is an important transport route. With the breakup of both the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires after World War I, the upheaval of World War II, the Cold War, the Balkan wars and the formation of the European Union, the Danube region has seen many changes across the decades and so is rich in history.
I started my journey with a 3 day stopover in Prague in the Czech republic which I would definitely recommend as the medieval city of Prague was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. We boarded the ship in Nuremburg, Germany and sailed along the main Danube Canal through Austria to disembark 8 days later in Budapest, Hungary.
Along the way we took a memorable day trip to Cesky Krumlov in Czech Republic famous for its Old Town, with 300 protected medieval buildings, and its castle complex built in 1253. The architecture of the Castle and the town is a fascinating mix of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque.
The passengers who remained on the ship enjoyed a picture postcard day sailing through the scenic Wachau Valley, passing by small towns at the centre of Austria’s wine-growing region vineyards. The valley is also known for its apricots and grapes, which are used to produce some of the best specialty liquors and wines in the country. The many villages and cities we visited along this week long journey created an appearance of a very idyllic world.
All in all, I’d definitely recommend river cruising as a relaxing way to travel – unpack once and be pampered with fine food and wine along the way. No sea-sickness, daily sightseeing, onboard entertainment and cycling options often also featured. If time is at a premium or you just want sample river cruising and don’t fancy cruising both rivers (typically a 15-18 day journey) in one go, I’ll sit on the fence when it comes recommending which river you should cruise. Read through our itineraries and decide which cities and towns you would most like to see. I’m sure you’ll be happy whatever decision you make – the river cruise reviews we receive from past clients are overwhelmingly positive!