A short Danube river cruise with Emerald Cruises

At 2,850km long, the mighty Danube River roars from the borders of France and Germany straight through the heart of Europe. It visits huge country capitals and quaint villages with rolling vineyards before pouring into the Black Sea in Eastern Europe. Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine are all ports of call for this meandering river, meaning your Danube river cruise can be flexible and diverse. Cruise Connoisseur Emma Godfrey was aboard Emerald Cruises’ short Danube river cruise itinerary to get a flavour for what it’s like.

Danube river cruise: Day 1

I was recently lucky enough to experience a Danube River Cruise with Emerald Cruises, sailing for three nights from Vienna to Budapest. We arrived in Vienna in the evening, so we didn’t get to see much of the city, unfortunately. However, we were fortunate enough to experience a Viennese classical concert.


After arriving at the ship and being shown to our room, we were picked up by a private coach which escorted us to the beautiful concert hall at the Theatre Museum, a stunning venue worth a visit, if only to marvel at its impressive ceiling frescoes and paintings.

The concert included renditions of Mozart, Beethoven, and phenomenal opera singers in authentic costumes. The venue was absolutely stunning, and the performers were so talented; they put on an amazing show.

Danube river cruise: Day 2

We woke up in Bratislava after sailing through the night. We met our group after breakfast and headed out on our first excursion, visiting the home of a Slovakian family, hosted by Jane. Jane welcomed us into her beautiful, unique home and told us all about her life in Bratislava and her family history. She shared photo albums and then treated us to some delicious homemade apricot cake! Then we headed back to the ship.

After having some lunch back on board the ship, we headed out on a guided walking tour up to Bratislava Castle and its idyllic Baroque gardens, passing famous landmarks such as Michael’s Gate, St. Martin's Cathedral, and, of course, Čumil, the famous bronze statue of a sewer worker resting at the top of a manhole, "peeping" at passersby!


The walk to the castle was uphill but not too far, and our tour guide let the group stop for breaks whenever needed. Once we arrived at the castle, we had some free time to take pictures and admire the views. Our tour guide was really knowledgeable, funny, and had lots of interesting stories to tell about the history of Bratislava.

We headed down from the castle and into the town, filled with gothic architecture, lovely gift shops, and plenty of cafes, bars, and restaurants to choose from. This is where our tour guide left us, and we had some free time to explore the town at our own pace. Due to heavy downpours, we took shelter and opted for a quiet drink in one of the local bars. Anyone who wanted to head straight back to the ship could do so accompanied by the tour guide.

Danube river cruise: Day 3

We spent our third and final day in Budapest, which was the highlight of the trip for me. To begin our day, we went on a guided hike up to Gellert Hill to take in the lovely views of Budapest and the River Danube. This was a steep walk but still only takes around 30 minutes to reach the top. Unfortunately, the Citadel is currently closed due to reconstruction, but we still got to see stunning views of Budapest, the River Danube, the eight bridges crossing, Gellert Hill Waterfall, and Matthias Church.

After our guided hike, we headed to the Central Market Hall, filled with shopping stalls offering food, drink, unique gifts, and souvenirs. I would definitely recommend visiting here if you like to shop; you could easily spend hours browsing through all the stalls!

After a bit of shopping, we headed back to the ship for our lunch. We had free time in the afternoon, so we decided to take out the E-bikes provided on board. This was my favourite part of the trip! We were all a little wobbly at first but soon got the hang of the bikes and were flying through Budapest in no time! Taking in the sights whilst riding along the side of the river and through the town was just breathtaking. Just be prepared to use your bell a lot, as the streets can be very busy, so you do have to make your presence known to avoid running into people.


After dinner, we were treated to a traditional Hungarian folklore show on board, involving lots of dancing, singing, and even balancing bottles on their heads! After the show, we then headed up to the sun deck for our night cruise through Budapest. Passing under the bridges and seeing all the castles, basilicas, churches, and, of course, the Parliament Building all lit up at night was absolutely stunning, with lots of great photo opportunities. It was the perfect and most picturesque way to end a fantastic cruise.

Call Panache Cruises on 0161 513 8200 if you're interested in sailing the River Danube.

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