By Lauren Ferrone
Published: Thursday, May 31, 2018
No seasickness or flying? Here's what it's really like to cruise Western Europe's second-longest river – the Danube – passing some of the continent's finest cities as you go. Words: Craig Tansley
For anyone who’s journeyed through Western Europe in summer, can you even imagine travelling between tourist hotspots like Vienna, Budapest and Prague and never having to fly? Without ever having to drive a rental car on the opposite side of the road, deciphering street signs in foreign languages? Never having to wait till 2pm before you can check in to your next hotel? These are just some of the benefits of seeing Europe on a river cruise.
A hotel that moves with you
A river cruise lets you see numerous European cities and regions without needing to stand in an airport line once. Instead, the continent will float right past you as you head down Europe’s second-longest river, the Danube (pictured at top). It flows for close to 3000km, from the north of Germany to the Black Sea beside Romania, travelling through 10 countries.
I’ll be seeing half of those countries aboard a cruise that starts in Germany and winds its way through the Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia, before ending in Budapest.
Until now, I resisted going on a European river cruise because I figured it was too pedestrian. But these days, cruise itineraries allow for all types of travellers – from adventure enthusiasts to art and culture lovers, from young to old.
Once I board and pack my belongings away in my room, a sense of calm washes over me: it’s the knowledge I won’t have to pack my bags again for an entire week.
From the top deck, I watch Germany pass by. There are fields of maize and paddocks of sunflowers and Catholic churches with skinny steeples, and families out for walks beside the mighty Danube.
I feel like a voyeur up here with wine in-hand – and a lazy one at that. I can glimpse into the lives of all those I pass by, looking for subtle differences in how they live and dress to determine which country I might be in.
Here on the Danube, it’s much easier to peer into the lives of locals than it is from any hotel.