Danube river cruises become popular

Danube river cruises
Cruise ships, stacked up

River cruise holidays on the Danube become more and more popular each year. Now, more than 70 80 river cruise ships weekly land in Passau during peak season (a picturesque city near the German-Austrian border). Some of the harbour cities even face issues with the local popluation (noise, waste, overtourism) and have to limit the number of landings.

There are three different types of holidays that are based on river cruise ships along the Danube:

  • Cyclists-only river cruises,
  • (Luxury cycling) river cruises, and
  • Ordinary river cruises (with the occassional option to cycle a leg).

We describe all three types on this page:

Danube river cruises (for cyclists only)

The idea behind these holidays is that you ride every day (or nearly every day) or on a voluntary basis. You leave the ship behind in the morning and meet it again in the afternoon at the next port. By the end you will have cycled several bits of the Danube cycle path. The cycling itself is self-guided. At least on one of the ships, a cycling guide can be booked. If you prefer having a cycling guide, ask before booking.
A rental bicycle and maps are provided. A half-board meal plan is usually part of your package. These holidays are often marketed as 'bike-and-barge tours', by the way.

Following ships offer bike-and-barge tours on the Danube:

  • MS Theodor Körner (dep. Saturdays from 1.5 mi downstream Passau, self-guided, cycling guide available on specific departures [surcharge, 8 to 22 guests in group], max. 135 passengers)
  • MS Carissima (dep. Sundays from 1.5 mi downstream Passau, self-guided, cycling guide available on specific departures [surcharge, 8 to 22 guests in group], max. 150 passengers)
  • MS Normandie (dep. Mondays 1.5 mi downstream from Passau, self-guided only, max. 101 passengers)
  • MS Primadonna (dep. Fridays 1.5 mi downstream from Passau, self-guided only, max. 160 passengers)
  • MS Arlene II (dep. Mondays from Passau, self-guided only, max. 98 passengers)

German and English is spoken on all the ships as you will find guests from several nationalities. All barges depart and end in (or a bit outside) Passau. Passau is available by train. There are various options to park your car. And don't forget bringing ear plugs. Some cabins are closer to the engine than others.

Alternatively, consider booking a hotel-based guided cycle tour. The number of cyclists you travel with is significantly smaller, you cycle downstream every day and you dine at local restaurants. One tour operator even offers unrestricted access to the restaurants' full menues: Mercurio Bike Travel.

Call for pictures and contributions

We are currently looking for good pictures of the above mentioned ships, particularly from inside and of the bicycles provided. In case you have been on one of those, feel free to send pictures to barges [at] danube-cycle-path . com. We are also keen on receiving feedback about your trip. What did you like most? What went possibly wrong? Thank you very much in advance.

(Ordinary) river cruises on the Danube

Danube river cruises
Two Danube river cruises

These are the longships, that you certainly know from the adverts at home. They typically cater for a maximum of about 180 passengers. River cruises on the Danube existed for many years. However, only in recent years it became popular to offer excursions on bicycles as part of the cruise ships' program of acivitities. These excursions take about half a day, a couple of hours, and are led by either crew members or local contractors. Typically there are up to three excursions available, depending on the actuall itinerary of the cruise. Again, ask about your options to cycle before booking.

In our opinion, a few half-day long rides isn't really 'cycling the Danube'. However, it's better/healthier than no cycling at all.

Following cruise lines operate river cruises on the Danube: CroisiEurope, Amadeus River Cruises, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Viking River Cruises, Arosa Cruises, Saga River Cruises, Scylla, Tauck River Cruising and Fred Olsen. This list is non-exhaustive and will never be.

(Luxury) Danube river cruises where cycle tours are available

In 2015 North-America based cycle tour operators discovered the opportunity to combine their luxury bike tours with river cruises. The bike tour operator takes over a certain number of cabins and runs it's own itinerary.

In 2017, CroisiEurope started offering such cruises too. For 2019, VBT joined the pack. Despite the remarkable (some say: ridiculous) prices, these "cycling cruises" (or: "cruise bike tours") seem to sell very well.

You spend the nights on the cruise ship and cycle at daylight while the ship moves on. You either cycle along the Danube or get a transfer into the countryside by bus and make your way back to the cruise ship. Here are cycle tour operators that we are aware of:

Call for contribution: If you have been cycling the Danube with one of the tour operators/river cruises above, feel invited to drop us a line. We would love to hear about your experience. (Going there ourselves is way beyond our budget.)

Berth sites

In case you can't remember where to embark, here we post berth information that we stumbled upon: Passau berth schedule, Passau berth plan