Danube river cruises become popular

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 or barges on the Danube:

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

We describe all three types on this page:

Cyclists-only Danube river cruises (aka 'Bike-and-barge tours')

MS Arkona in Grein/Austria
Bike-and-barge tours

The idea behind these holidays is that you ride every day. Alternatively, you are able to skip the cycling and stay aboard. Cyclists leave the barge behind in the morning and meet the ship again in the afternoon at the next port. By the end you will have cycled several bits of the Danube cycle path. These holidays are often marketed as 'bike-and-barge tours', by the way.

Since there is so much to tell about these tours, we put it on a separate page: Bike and barge tours Danube.

(Ordinary) Danube river cruises

Danube river cruises
River cruise ships on
the Danube in Linz

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.

Danube river cruises in the Wachau Valley
The Danube being a busy
river nowadays

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. Despite facing occasionally challenging water levels, river cruises and passengers keep coming at increasing numbers.

(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:

  • Backroads: Using the cruise ships of AmaWaterways
  • Butterfield & Robinson: Employing the river cruises of Uniworld
  • *UnknownOperator*: CroisiEurope's MS Beethoven
  • VBT: Partnering with Emerald Waterways
  • Trek Travel: Used to run an itinerary on Scenic Cruises vessels but eventually stoped running these cycle tours.

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.)