A Danube Adventure Full of Majesty and History

Buildings along a river. A bridge crosses the water.

Emerald Waterways’ Danube Delights cruise covers one of the most popular stretches of the Danube, from Nuremberg, Germany to the Hungarian capital of Budapest. You’ll sail through four countries, whose citizens speak three different languages, and every day will bring you to a new city or town—each with its own particular atmosphere and highlights. The astounding variety of experiences on the Danube Delights itinerary embodies the best of European river cruises: Medieval Regensburg, Baroque Passau, and the 19th-century boulevards of Budapest are all waiting to be explored.

While many lines offer Danube cruises, Emerald Waterways’ various programs elevate their cruises to another level. EmeraldACTIVE excursions allow guests to explore ports on guided hikes or bike rides. DiscoverMORE activities are ideal for those who want to venture deeper into the local culture, whether it’s to discover Vienna’s classical music or Hungary’s folklore traditions. EmeraldPLUS experiences take you to meet residents, creating opportunities for connections that may prove more memorable than the most opulent palace.

A castle on a hill


Dürnstein Castle

You may feel like you are a knight taking a fortress as you hike up to Dürnstein Castle, where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned, on an EmeraldACTIVE excursion. At the end of your ascent, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the Danube.
Emerald Waterways


Emerald Waterways

Launched in 2013, Emerald Waterways has quickly been lauded by both travel professionals (receiving multiple awards from Cruise Critic and Travel Weekly) and satisfied guests. With river cruises in Europe, Asia, and on the Nile, as well as ocean cruises on the Adriatic, Emerald Waterways showcases a new model of cruising. The innovatively designed ships offer an inviting intimacy and flawless service, while EmeraldPLUS excursions provide opportunities to experience the best of local cultures and cuisines.
Scenic summer night view of the Old Town medieval architecture with half-timbered buildings in Nuremberg, Germany

DAY 1Arrive Nuremberg

When you land at Nuremberg’s airport, you’ll be met by a representative from Emerald Waterways and transferred to your ship. Before it leaves port, you may want to explore some of the highlights of Bavaria’s second-largest city. Many of Nuremberg’s half-timbered houses and Gothic churches have been lovingly restored. And students of art may want to visit the home of Albrecht Dürer, the painter and printmaker who was a leading figure of the Renaissance in Germany.

Nuremberg’s most famous landmark is the Imperial Castle, which looms over the rest of the city. The sometime seat of the Holy Roman emperors, and later of the kings of Bavaria, this imposing castle has been the site of many key moments in German history. After you return to your ship, you’ll get a close look at a more recent landmark, and an engineering wonder—the Main-Danube Canal, which links the rivers of Germany to the Danube. Then head to dinner and meet some of your fellow guests.
A cathedral across the water.

DAY 2Regensburg

As you reach the end of the Main-Danube Canal this morning, you’ll arrive in Regensburg—one of Germany’s best-preserved medieval cities. As you explore its narrow streets lined with buildings from the 11th to 13th centuries, it will soon become apparent why it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with so many Romanesque and Gothic buildings in such a compact area. Among the most notable are the market, the city hall, and the cathedral.

On board the ship, you can enjoy a first taste of the EmeraldPLUS approach to cruising. Emerald Waterways aims to make every guest’s experience of a destination richer as it goes beyond the ordinary. Today, that includes a live performance of traditional Bavarian music—a perfect accompaniment on your first full day traveling down the Danube.
A colorful town in the midday. A suspension bridge crosses the river.

DAY 3Passau

Almost completely destroyed by fire in 1662, Passau was rebuilt in the Baroque style, and its streets are still lined with elegant houses and churches designed by leading Italian architects of the period. Foremost among them is St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which you’ll visit on a walking tour of the city this morning. (The cathedral is also the home of Europe’s largest church organ, with some 17,000 pipes.) You’ll also see one of the rare buildings to survive the fire, the Oberhaus Fortress, which dates to the 13th century and still looks down upon the city.

After your morning excursion, you’ll return to the ship for lunch and to continue your journey down the Danube.

Alternatively, you can opt for a visit to Salzburg. This Austrian city was the birthplace of Mozart, and music remains at the heart of its cultural life. (The composer also loaned his name to one of the city’s most delicious exports, Mozartkugel—a dark chocolate with a pistachio and marzipan center.) The excursion to Salzburg is offered as part of the DiscoverMORE program (at an extra charge), and you’ll have to choose between it and Passau. But whichever option you pick, you won’t be disappointed!
A town across the river. A light blue tower rises above the city.

DAY 4Melk and Dürnstein

Passau’s buildings were just the first examples in your study of Baroque architecture. Today, you’ll see one of the most famous sights from that period when you visit Melk Abbey. While a community of Benedictine monks has lived atop this bluff overlooking the Danube for more than 900 years, the structure that visitors come to see today dates from the early 18th century. The Baroque masterpiece was designed mostly by the Austrian-born Jacob Prandtauer, though he worked with leading Italian architects of his day. Among the highlights of the abbey are its library, which houses many priceless medieval manuscripts, and a 640-foot-long corridor decorated in gold leaf and fresco-covered walls.

After visiting the abbey, you’ll travel by ship through the Wachau Valley, one of the most beautiful stretches of the Danube. You’ll pass riverside villages and vineyards that reach the water’s edge as you make your way to Dürnstein. The town is home to the ruins of Dürnstein Castle, where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned on his way home following a crusade to the Holy Land.

To add some exercise, choose from two EmeraldACTIVE excursions: a guided bike ride from Melk to Dürnstein, or a hike up to Dürnstein Castle.
A palace in front of the rest of the city. A tree-lined road divides the town.

DAY 5Vienna

Austria’s capital, Vienna, was once the capital of the Hapsburg Empire, and its monumental buildings speak to the city’s glory days at the turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries. Along the Ringstrasse, the road that encircles the historic heart of the city, elaborate palaces of culture—the Burgtheater, the Opera House, the Kunsthistoriches Museum—reflect the residents’ passions for art, music, and theater. You could also tour the sprawling Hofburg Palace or visit the gothic St. Stephen’s Cathedral (where you can take an elevator to the rooftop for bird’s-eye views of the city).

If you’d rather explore the city on two wheels (it’s relatively flat), there’s an EmeraldACTIVE guided bike tour. In the evening, you can embrace classical music in this city where Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, and others lived and worked for at least periods of their lives. Or choose to experience an exclusive DiscoverMORE concert (at an extra charge), featuring works by Mozart and Strauss.
A copper-tipped church spire in front of a riverside city. A large office building is seen in the distance.

DAY 6Bratislava

Bratislava has only been the capital of Slovakia for 16 years—since 1993, when Slovakia became its own country in the so-called “velvet divorce” from the Czech Republic—but its history goes back millennia. Archaeologists believe there was a settlement here as early as 5000 B.C.E.

Today it’s one of Europe’s smaller capital cities, with just over 400,000 residents. But, sitting at the crossroads of the continent, it has embraced a remarkable diversity of influences. Austrians, Czech, Germans, Hungarians, Slovaks, and others have all shaped Bratislava. Your tour will start in the Old City, where highlights include the Town Hall (with a museum covering the history of the city), the rococo Mirbach Palace, and the gothic Cathedral of St. Martin. The Primate’s Palace, next to the Town Hall, has a dazzling Hall of Mirrors and a rare collection of 17th-century English tapestries.

Looming above the city is the Bratislava Castle. A fortress stood on this site as early as the 10th century, though it was remodeled, expanded, and rebuilt many times over the centuries. For a period, it was one of the favorite residences of the Hapsburg kings and queens. If you hike to it with the EmeraldACTIVE outing, you can enjoy a slice of strudel when you reach the top without feeling any guilt. You could also skip the exercise part and go straight to the sweets if you join the EmeraldPLUS excursion that takes you into the home of Bratislava residents for coffee and cake. Just don’t spoil your appetite: The Captain’s Gala Dinner is scheduled for this evening.
A brightly lit bridge in front of a large government building at twilight.

DAY 7Budapest

Your last port of call is Hungary’s capital, Budapest. One of the most dynamic cities in Eastern Europe, the city offers a unique mix of old (mostly on the Buda side, to the west of the Danube) and new (mostly on the Pest side, to the east of the river). An EmeraldACTIVE guided walk will take you up the hill that leads to Buda Castle and the charming warren of streets in the oldest part of the city.

Over on the Pest side, a DiscoverMORE tour (with an extra charge, select sailings only) focuses on the city’s Jewish heritage. Among the more dazzling landmarks you’ll visit is the Dohány Street Synagogue, a glittering building from the 1850s that reflects the prosperity of Budapest’s Jewish community at the time. While thousands of Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust, an estimated six percent of Hungary’s population is Jewish. The Jewish Quarter is not simply a monument to a lost past; it remains one of Budapest’s most vibrant neighborhoods to this day.

In the evening, you’ll enjoy one of the most enchanting perspectives on Budapest as you travel along the Danube admiring the Chain Bridge, Buda Castle, and the neo-Gothic Parliament illuminated at night. Your final farewell dinner of traditional Hungarian dishes will be accompanied by a performance of folk dances and songs.
A brightly Budapest underneath a purple sky.

DAY 8Depart

This morning you’ll have to leave your ship and begin the journey home. If this glimpse of the Danube has left you wanting to see more, you may want to book a stateroom on one of Emerald Waterways’ Enchantment of Eastern Europe cruises. It begins where this one ends, continuing on to the lower Danube with stops in Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Or venture beyond to some of the many other rivers where Emerald offers cruises, from the Mekong in the east to the Douro in the west.
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