When it comes to history, culture, and natural beauty, few rivers can compete with the Danube. For centuries, it was the commercial thoroughfare of much of Europe, making its way from Germany to the Black Sea and connecting many of the continent’s countries. Today, it offers travelers an enviable mix of experiences and cultures.
On this 8-day Adventures by Disney Danube River cruise, you’ll stop in four countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary. Excursions include visits to palaces, farms, and abbeys. Whichever outings you choose, Adventure Guides will take care of all the logistics while also making sure that everyone in your entourage is engaged—from younger kids who may want to head to the petting zoo to older travelers who want to spend more time in museums’ galleries. The Adventure Guides are truly experts at creating activities and and making them fun for the whole family.
Here’s another benefit to your cruise: After you board your ship in Bavaria, you can spend the next eight days not having to worry about rental cars or checking in and out of hotels—one of the biggest pluses of river cruising as a way to explore the world. You’ll wake up each morning in a new port and enjoy activities that will take you into the hearts of the destinations you visit. This is an exclusive sailing with AmaWaterways—a leader in luxury river cruising. Add to that Disney’s legendary service, you’re guaranteed a Danube cruise that is memorable, enjoyable, and hassle-free.
Note: The river cruise described here heads east, starting in Vilshofen, Germany and ends in Budapest. Depending on the date of departure, cruises may start in Budapest and travel in the opposite direction.
Itinerary / 8 DAYSPLAN YOUR TRIP
DAY 1Board Your Ship
Your home for the next week will be the AmaLea, a new 78-stateroom ship inspired by the autumn harvest in Europe as well as luxury yachts. Details—like pops of color to the rustic wooden floors and a glass-enclosed show kitchen in the Chef’s Table dining room—create an environment that’s both warm and sophisticated. Though the AmaLea has the intimacy of a small ship, it still boasts many amenities: a heated pool, a massage and hair salon, and a Main Lounge with nightly performances.
After getting settled in your stateroom, you’ll meet some of your fellow travelers at dinner tonight, as you begin your journey down the Danube.
DAY 2Passau, Germany
Often called the City of Three Rivers (the Danube, Inn, and Ilz rivers converge here), Passau is famous for its stately Baroque architecture. The colorful roofs, the church steeples, and the town hall’s towers are impressive from the river, but this morning you’ll join your guide—in an 18th-century costume!—for a closer look, on a walking tour of the city. Your excursion will end on a sweet note, with a marzipan-making activity (you’ll get to take some of the almond-paste confection back to your ship). If you’d rather explore on your own, that’s an option too.
After lunch on the ship, you can choose from a number of different afternoon activities. An excursion to the Tree Path Kopfing, for example, involves exploring the forest canopy near Passau by walking a path of rope bridges suspended high in the air. Birders may want to bring their binoculars to spot some of the species that call the forest home, while younger travelers can burn off energy on the innovative playground.
Another option is to explore Bavaria’s beer-brewing traditions. The history of the Aldersbacher Brewery dates back to 1268. At that time, the monks of a Cistercian abbey created beers here, though since 1811 the brewery has been owned by the von Aretin family. On a tour, you’ll have a chance to sample some of the brewery’s 13 different beers, paired with a traditional German soft pretzel.
Then spend the afternoon exploring on your own, wandering the atmospheric streets of Passau’s charming old town. When you want to take a break, visit one of the five breweries in the city or one of the many excellent restaurants or taverns serving traditional Bavarian fare.
Tonight, you’ll have dinner as you sail away from Passau; later in the evening, kids enjoy a Disney movie night (though it may be a different activity, as the evening entertainment programming varies with each cruise).
DAY 3Linz and Salzburg
After breakfast on board the ship, you can join a day-long tour to a city that’s regularly voted by travelers as one of the world’s best. It’s easy to understand why, once you arrive and see its incomparable setting, with elegant palaces and other buildings surrounded by emerald-green hills. Your guide will take you to the most famous sites of Mozart’s hometown: the Dome Cathedral, St. Peter’s Monastery, and the enchanting alleys of the Old Town. Salzburg has been synonymous with music for centuries; the von Trapps are one of its most famous musical families, and your tour will include some of the settings from The Sound of Music.
You could also choose to visit Mondsee, the name of both a lake and the town on its shore. When it comes to picturesque settings, this pretty alpine town competes with Salzburg. It sits on a blue crescent-shaped lake, with the peak of Drachenwand mountain looming above. On your guided visit, you’ll stop at Mondsee’s abbey and St. Michael’s Basilica, where Captain von Trapp and Maria were married in The Sound of Music.
The name Salzburg translates as “salt castle”—a reference to the many barges that once sailed past the settlement, filled with salt mined in the area. Another excursion today visits one of the most famous of those mines, the Hallein Salt Mine. It’s among the oldest mines in the world, dating back some 7,000 years to the days of the Celts. No longer in operation, it is now a fascinating underground museum. You’ll take a raft down the mine and zoom along a mineshaft slide while learning about the history of the production and trade in Austria’s so-called “white gold.” Included on this excursion is lunch at a restaurant, where you can sample some local specialties.
This evening, back on board your ship, you’ll enjoy dinner with the skyline of Linz as a backdrop. Afterwards, you may want to practice your scales before joining a lively screening of, yes, The Sound of Music, that includes a spirited sing-along led by your Adventure Guides.
DAY 4Melk, Austria
After breakfast on the ship, you’ll depart on a guided tour of this architectural masterpiece. While an abbey has stood on this site since the 11th century, it’s most famous for the portions completed at the beginning of the 18th century; the elaborate Baroque rooms, including its famous library, are confections in white and gold. This morning, you’ll also have opportunities to learn more about the culture of this part of Austria. Adventures by Disney makes a point of providing unexpected hands-on experiences. In Melk, that means chances to make marmalade, taste local wines and juices, try a fishing activity, and take a class in traditional Austrian dance.
After lunch on the ship, you and your fellow travelers can choose between two different options for the afternoon. The first consists of a four-hour bike ride along the Danube, from Melk to Krems, with a stop at the picture-perfect village of Dürnstein. This stretch of the Danube, the Wachau Valley, is one of the most beautiful on the river, and you’ll pass vineyards and waterside towns as you pedal along. Perhaps best of all, the ride is almost entirely a gentle downward slope.
You could also choose to start your afternoon with an ice-cream party on board the ship and then pick from three different activities. The first is a shorter bike ride (about an hour) to the village of Dürnstein. You can also choose to join a guided tour of Dürnstein, and then hike up to the ruins of its castle. While it once famously served as a prison for Richard the Lionheart (who was confined there by Leopold V), today the castle is in ruins, creating an atmospheric landmark above the Danube. Finally, you can experience more of the area’s culture by visiting an apricot farm—this part of Austria is famous for its apricots. Adults can enjoy a glass of wine while kids can try some juice, and you’ll leave with a jar of homemade apricot jam as a souvenir of your visit.
Dinner is on board the ship, but later in the evening guests are free to venture into Krems for an after-dinner drink at one of its taverns or wine bars. There’s also a movie night for kids and karaoke for teens on the evening’s agenda.
With just one day to see this historic capital, this morning’s panoramic tour will cover many of the highlights, including the Ringstrasse, the grand boulevard that encircles the city’s historic heart and is lined with beautiful late 19th- and early 20th-century palaces and civic buildings. You’ll also see some of the sites associated with Vienna’s most famous cultural figures: Mozart, Haydn, and Freud, among others. Afterwards, you’ll visit another UNESCO World Heritage site, the Schönbrunn Palace. The seat of Hapsburgs is in the center of Vienna, and the palace is perhaps better described as “palaces,” with new buildings and halls added over the centuries. Its gardens, and especially its Baroque structures, are a fascinating glimpse of a vanished empire and the ruling dynasty that shaped much of European history.
While admiring portraits of royals and historic artifacts is appealing to many, it can sometimes feel like a chore to some younger travelers. But Adventures by Disney knows how to make historic sites engaging, even for skeptical kids. At the Schönbrunn, that includes an opportunity to dress up in historic costumes, a visit to the palace’s Children’s Museum, a private marionette show, and a strudel-making demonstration.
Get lunch in Vienna—perhaps trying the city’s signature dish, wiener schnitzel—or head back to the ship. The open-air Naschmarkt has dozens of restaurants to choose from if you want to eat in the city. In the afternoon, take a bike ride to Klosterneuburg Abbey, just to the north of Vienna, or explore on your own. The 900-year-old abbey is as famous for its collection of masterpieces as it is for its historic architecture. If you choose instead to visit Vienna on your own, there’s no shortage of world-class museums and charming neighborhoods to explore.
After dinner on the ship, evening excursions include visiting a traditional wine tavern, where you can enjoy a glass or two of local wines paired with bar snacks and a live music performance. Alternatively, head back to the Schönbrunn Palace for a Mozart concert in an incomparable setting.
A morning tour of the city includes stops at both medieval and modern landmarks, as well as a scavenger hunt—an engaging way to learn about the city’s history and legends. For lunch, you’ll head to the former summer palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy, Schloss Hof. Costumed storytellers will bring the history of the Baroque palace to life, before everyone is invited to the grand ballroom for a lesson in waltzing (the schnapps tasting beforehand may help adults get over any stage fright). Junior Adventurers can visit the petting zoo, dress up in historic costumes, and join a short baking class, creating a treat to take with them back to the ship.
Bratislava is only one hour from Vienna. If you didn’t see everything you wanted to in that city on the previous day, you can return to explore more on your own.
After dinner on board the ship this evening, a family karaoke night offers a chance for everyone to demonstrate their singing skills.
The city has emerged in recent decades as one of central Europe’s favorite destinations. Its years on the other side of the so-called Iron Curtain had one plus—much of its historic architecture survived, even if it was sometimes neglected. On the Buda side of the Danube, the castle and the warren of streets around it provide a glimpse of the city’s medieval past. The Pest side was mostly laid out at the end of the 19th century, and it reflects the peak of French influence on urban planning throughout the world. Its broad boulevards lined with handsome buildings would not be out of place in Paris.
After breakfast on board the ship, Adventures by Disney offers two excursion options. The first begins with a visit to Budapest’s Central Market—a stately, cast-iron building where you can peruse produce and pick up some typically Hungarian souvenirs, like paprika. You’ll then continue on to the Lazar Equestrian Park for a visit to a working farm that’s also a showcase for Hungarian horseback riders. Hungary’s cowboys, or csikósoks, are renowned for their skills; after a demonstration, you’ll enjoy a goulash cooking class. Lunch will be accompanied by a performance of Hungarian music. Kids will enjoy a visit to the petting zoo.
In the afternoon, you’ll return to Budapest for a panoramic tour of the city, with photo stops at all of its most scenic spots.
The second option today begins with a morning food tour that includes the Central Market Hall and stops at other gastronomic venues. You’ll get a quick and delicious introduction to Hungarian cuisine before returning to the ship for lunch.
In the afternoon, you’ll be free to explore the city on your own. Perhaps you want to visit one of its famous baths, check out the Dohány Street Synagogue and other landmarks of the Jewish Quarter, or ascend to Budapest Castle for sweeping views of the city and the Danube.
At the end of the day, your captain will host a farewell cocktail reception, followed by a dinner on board the ship that will include a cruise along the river. Budapest is especially spectacular at night, when structures like the enormous Parliament building, the castle, and the city’s many bridges are illuminated in stunning fashion. It’s a fitting conclusion to your Danube adventure.