What to Expect on a Danube River Cruise with Emerald Cruises

Sailing along one of Europe’s majestic waterways elicits a feeling of luxury and relaxation. Emerald Cruises Danube Delights 8-day river cruise allows guests to explore 8 beautiful destinations without packing and unpacking suitcases, and worrying about travel logistics. A significant advantage of a small ship cruise is sleeping in a comfortable moving hotel! Guided excursions and experiences, mixed with free time is another perk of cruising. Guests choose how they spend their time in ports as well as on the ship.

Schloss Schönbühel, a 12th century castle. One of the beautiful highlights of sailing along the Danube River between Melk and Durnstein, Austria.

We’ve been on a few cruises, including a small ship cruise in Alaska, but we’d never previously taken a European river cruise. It has been on our bucket list and we’re thrilled we were able to recently tick it off. Our 8-day Danube Delights river cruise began in Nuremberg, Germany and culminated in Budapest, Hungary.

We traveled through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary without having to pack and unpack our suitcases. The itinerary included the German towns of Regensburg and Passau, Austrian towns of Melk, Durnstein and Vienna, and Bratislava, Slovakia. We’d previously visited Nuremberg, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest, but the captivating smaller towns on the itinerary were a first for us.

The Emerald Destiny has a capacity of 180 passengers. Amenities include an indoor infinity pool and lounge that turns into a movie theatre at night.

Highlights Aboard the Emerald Destiny

The wonderful staff aboard the Emerald Destiny charmed us each day. From cruise director Darren and Captain Vasiles down, they do a wonderful job of making the trip memorable for their guests. And activities director, Drazen, kept us laughing between leading guided tours to hosting nighttime entertainment, from trivia to dancing, in the lounge, each day.

We indulged in too much delicious food on the ship, so it’s time to make fresh juice in the nutri-bullet now! But there were always healthy options including lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, smoked salmon and oatmeal for breakfast, and a range of delicious fish options for lunch and dinner. I enjoyed some healthy options, but I definitely indulged in a lot of delicious rich foods as well.

Fun times with new friends over scenic vistas aboard the Emerald Destiny.

If you eat heavily, you can burn some calories by signing up for the Emerald Active excursions. A 28km guided bike ride from Melk to Durnstein, Austria is one excursion option. Bell biked between the towns, while I enjoyed the beautiful views from the sun deck of the ship. There is also a small gym aboard the ship if you want to lift weights and get some additional exercise as well as a morning yoga class. There is also a fantastic indoor infinity pool and lounge to swim and relax while taking in scenic views.

Hanging out at the infinity pool of the Emerald Destiny while docked in Bratislava, Slovakia.

What’s included sailing with Emerald Cruises?

Before diving into highlights of the itinerary, here’s what’s included when you sail with Emerald Cruises. In short, in addition to meals and taxes, the price includes gratuities, beer, wine and soft drinks with meals, and most excursions, activities and some performances. The excursions range from guided walking tours to active hikes and bike rides, as well as cultural activities like visiting a Slovakian home for cake and coffee. The price you see on their website includes:

Large panoramic windows and a comfortable king sized bed in our relaxing 180 sq. foot suite aboard the Emerald Destiny.
  • 7 nights on board an Emerald Cruises Star-Ship
  • Airport transfers to and from the ship
  • The services of an Emerald Cruises Cruise Director
  • Port taxes and charges
  • All tipping and gratuities

Guided Tours

  • A guided tour of Regensburg
  • Guided tour of Passau
  • A guided tour to Melk Abbey
  • Guided hike to Durnstein Castle
  • Guided tour of Vienna
  • Walking tour of Bratislava
  • Guided coach tour of Budapest
2 photos, first a lady is speaking into a microphone in front of a large bronze statue of a horse with cruise guests. Second photo the tour guide stands in front of a bronze statue of a children's author
Local tour guides in Vienna and Bratislava give great guided tours that are included with Emerald Cruises.


  • Traditional Bavarian band on board
  • Home-hosted coffee and cake with a Slovakian family
  • Traditional Hungarian folklore show on board

Emerald Active Tours

All tours are guided

  • Hike to Veste Oberhaus
  • Bike tour along the Danube River
  • Hike to Dürnstein Castle
  • Bike tour in Bratislava
  • Hike to Bratislava Castle
  • Hike to Buda Hill


  • 20 delicious meals including 7 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches, 7 Dinners
  • Including a Welcome and Farewell Reception & Dinner
  • Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks served with lunch and dinner on board
3 photos, one of prosciutto with melon balls, a second picture of salmon a top spinach puree and third picture of apple cake with vanilla custard and berries
3 delicious courses are served up every night on board the Emerald Destiny

Destinations on Emerald Cruises Danube Delights River Cruise

Nuremberg, Germany

The Maxbrücke Bridge in Nuremberg was built in 1457 and is the oldest stone bridge in the city.

Our cruise began in beautiful Nuremberg, Germany. We flew Delta from Tampa to Amsterdam via Atlanta, and then KLM from Amsterdam to Nuremberg (all booked through the Delta website). Sometimes this cruise begins in Munich. We have longtime college friends in Nuremberg, so we arrived a couple of days early to re-visit the city and spend time with them. If you fly into the city on the day of the cruise, Emerald includes a transfer from the airport to the cruise ship. This is among the great small ship cruises you can take.

Kaiserburg Castle

Bavaria’s second-largest city has a lot to offer visitors. Highlights include Kaiserburg Castle, where Popes once crowned German kings during the Holy Roman Empire. The medieval fortified buildings atop a sandstone ridge offers wonderful views overlooking Nuremberg.

Bell spinning the Schöner Brunnen Ring for good luck for smooth sailing in Nuremberg’s market square (Nürnberg Hauptmarkt)

Albrecht Durer House

Another highlight is the Albrecht Durer House. Durer was one of the most important German artists during the Renaissance. Nuremberg’s airport is named after him. The Albrecht Durer House offers a striking view of beautiful Tiergärtnertorplatz and Kaiserburg Castle from Durer’s former studio.

Across the street, our longtime friend, Felix Oettner, owns and operates the Durer Museum shop. A charming sixteenth century building houses the gift shop. It’s an interesting shop to learn more about the German Renaissance and pick up great Nuremberg souvenirs.

A collage of images from inside the Albrect Durer House in Nuremberg, Germany including Durer portraits and his studio
The Albrect Durer House in Nuremberg, Germany

Memorium Nuremberg Trials

Nuremburg’s WWII history is fascinating. It’s where the Nuremberg Trials took place. Visitors can tour the courtroom at the Memorium Nuremberg Trials. It’s where high-ranking Nazi officials were tried for war crimes. It’s still an active courtroom too. Read our previous article on Where to go in Nuremberg, Germany for more tips!

Alex drinking a beer in Tiergartnertorplatz in Nuremberg, Germany

Nuremberg bratwurst

Nuremberg is also home to traditional Nuremberg bratwurst. The recipe dates over 700 years. Nuremberg’s brats are some of the tastiest char-grilled pork sausages you’ll ever eat. They pair well with smooth German beers governed by beer purity laws since the early 1500s. We recommend arriving a day or two before your Danube river cruise if you can, to experience some of the highlights of the city.

Sailing Through Locks

There are many locks along the Danube River. They control the flow of water to help prevent flooding. On the first night after dinner, the cruise director, Darren, invited everyone atop the sun deck of the ship to experience going through a lock over a drink. The ship dropped some 50 meters and we were even able to touch the walls of the lock. This was a surprising experience that was a first for us!

Checking out one of the many locks along the Danube River while enjoying a drink atop the Emerald Destiny.

Regensburg, Germany

Regensburg, Germany is a great stop aboard Emerald Cruises Danube Delights river cruise. Its historic center is a protected UNESCO World Heritage site. The center boasts beautiful architecture, charming cafes and picturesque beer gardens. We started the morning with an included guided walking tour of Regensburg, before having free time to enjoy the city as we wished.

Regensburg, Germany’s historic center is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Regensburg is home to one of the world’s oldest kitchens. The Historiche Wurstcuche has been in operation for 870 years! Grab a table along the Danube River or order takeaway bratwurst. Soak up the history and ambiance over brats and a brew.

One of the highlights of Regensburg is St. Stephens Cathedral. Construction of St. Stephens Cathedral began in 1270. Due to various financial issues ranging from the plague to the reformation, it took some 600 years to complete the cathedral.

During our free time in Regensburg, we enjoyed drinking smooth beers at the spacious and picturesque Biergarten, Spitalgarten. Grab a seat on their terrace and enjoy lovely views of the Danube River and Regensburg over a tasty lager, weiss, pils, IPA or dunkel. Spitalgarten is a wonderful spot to spend an hour or two of your free time relaxing in Regensburg.

Left: Bratwurst at Historiche Wurstcuche, in operation for 870 years, making it one of the world’s oldest kitchens. RIght: Enjoying dunkel and weiss beers at Spitalgarten in Regensburg, Germany.

Passau, Germany

Passau, Germany is known as the “Three Rivers City.” The lovely town rests along the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers. The morning started with an included guided walking tour of the historic center of Passau. One of the highlights is St. Stephen’s Cathedral (a very popular name for cathedrals in the region!). The stunning Baroque church dates to 1688, and features a gorgeous interior.

Gorgeous views overlooking Passau, Germany, The “Three RIvers City” after hiking up to Veste Oberhaus.

The Emerald Active guided tour, led by the wonderful activities director, Drazen, included a hike to the top of Veste Oberhaus. The fortress was founded in 1219. It previously served as the headquarters for the Bishop of Passau. Its overlook offers majestic views across beautiful Passau and the three converging rivers. Veste Oberhaus currently houses a museum, a youth hostel, a restaurant with scenic views, as well as an open-air theatre dating back to 1934.

Passau is a strikingly beautiful and charming destination. After touring the town, we enjoyed a delicious lunch onboard the ship. After lunch, we enjoyed our free time strolling Passau, including sampling its local cafes. At every destination, there is also the option to tour the area on bicycles too.

Bicycling in Bratislava. Bicycles are stored onboard Emerald Cruises ships and are available to explore destinations at every port.

Melk, Austria

Melk, Austria is a charming destination along the Danube River. The highlight of Melk is Melk Abbey, an impressive Baroque style Benedictine abbey. The gorgeous abbey, adorned with elaborate frescoes, offers sweeping views above a charming Austrian village and the Danube River.

Inside the courtyard of Melk Abbey in Melk, Austria.

Melk is a wonderful village to stroll. Enjoy a coffee and pastry on a charming cafe terrace. Apricots are a local specialty in the region. Shops sell a variety of apricot liqueurs, jams and other products. We bought some jam and chocolates to enjoy later and to give to family and friends as gifts.

The gorgeous 28 km sail from Melk to Durnstein is strikingly beautiful. Bell enjoyed the guided bicycle tour from Melk to Durnstein. I enjoyed the castles, charming towns and vineyards from the vista deck of the Emerald Destiny. Staff came by and served us sparkling wine as we enjoyed the gorgeous Wachau Valley scenery.

Durnstein, Austria

Durnstein, Austria is another charming destination. Drazen, the activities director, led a guided hike to the ruins of Durnstein Castle. The medieval rock castle dates to 1145. It’s most famous for holding King Richard the Lionheart of England prisoner as a punishment for not sharing his bounty from the Crusades with the Duke of Austria.

Sailing through the Wachau Valley into Durnstein, Austria.

Durnstein is a great destination to purchase some gourmet chocolate and other gifts to bring home. Enjoy a coffee, beer or snack and soak up the quaint vibes of Austrian village life. Fewer than 1,000 people reside in the picturesque village known for grape growing. It’s an extremely relaxing and beautiful destination.

Each day of the trip was fantastic. But the day spent in Melk and Durnstein, while sailing between them, was possibly my favorite day. The towns are lovely and the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful. Read more about visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Wachau Valley in our article on it.

Vienna, Austria

Opulent palaces, grand boulevards, music and Viennese cafes make Vienna a gem of a destination. The “City of Music” was day 5 of our 8 day with Emerald Cruises. The ship docked in the morning and the day began with a guided bus and walking tour of Vienna. We then had the afternoon free to explore the Austrian capital at our leisure.

Vienna Highlights

Vienna is filled with opulent highlights including majestic palaces like Schönbrunn and Belvedere. St. Stephens Cathedral, completed in 1160, is a grand example of gothic architecture in the historic center. Another highlight of Viennese life is their spacious cafes, with a delicious assortment of pastries like strudel. On a side note, the strudel making demonstration led by the hotel manager aboard one afternoon was both educational and delicious.

Viennese Food and Cafe Culture

It’s hard to skip meals onboard an Emerald Cruise because they’re delicious. But Vienna was the destination we chose to skip lunch aboard the ship. We wanted to enjoy the city’s most iconic dish – wiener schnitzel (breaded veal) on a lovely outdoor terrace at Griechenbiesl.

Founded in 1447, Griechenbiesl is the oldest inn in Vienna. Famous guests have included Mark Twain, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Strauss, Pavaratti and Johny Cash. Wiener schnitzel is also one of the dinner choices aboard the Emerald Destiny, while docked in Vienna. So it was impossible to miss trying the popular Viennese dish!

Wiener Schnitzel for lunch at Griechenbiesl, the oldest inn in Vienna.

Be sure to indulge in Vienna’s popular cafe culture. Cafe Central is an iconic establishment for enjoying a delicious pastry over coffee, in an inspiring and relaxing atmosphere. Chocolate lovers should pop into one of the many chocolatiers that dot the city. A variety of chocolate assortments found throughout Vienna also make for great gifts to bring back for family and friends.

An Amazing Concert in the “City of Music”

An incredible concert in Eroica Hall in Vienna, where Beethoven first performed his Third Symphony.

Vienna is famous for being the “City of Music,” as Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss all called Vienna home. One of the absolute highlights was enjoying a live concert in Eroica Hall. Eroica Hall is a gorgeous concert hall where Beethoven performed the premiere of his Third Symphony to a private audience that included his patron, Franz Joseph Maximilian. Buses transported us to the concert hall and we enjoyed a glass of champagne in the lovely foyer before the performance. It was a strikingly beautiful concert, capped by a rendition of Johann Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz.

Bratislava, Slovakia

The capital of Slovakia is a charming and easy to navigate destination. Bratislava’s compact size makes it easier to see more highlights in a day. It’s much smaller compared to larger neighboring capitals like Vienna and Budapest. We enjoyed exploring Bratislava on day 6 of our 8-day Danube Delights river cruise with Emerald Cruises.

Main Square of Bratislava, Slovakia (Hlavné Námestie).

The day began with a walking tour of Bratislava’s historic center, led by an expert local guide. The Emerald Destiny docks in the historic center. So it’s a very short walk to Bratislava Castle and other attractions. The historic center boasts quirky architecture, chill cafes, good restaurants and a variety of craft beer bars. So there are a lot of great options on how to spend your free time there.

There is an included Emerald Active tour that covers a short hike and tour of Bratislava Castle. Emerald also offers an experience to venture outside Bratislava to enjoy cake and coffee in a Slovakian home. We wanted to be active that day, so we decided to explore the area on a bicycle, with Bell venturing over the bridge on a guided bicycle tour. I decided to explore Bratislava on my own by bicycle, cycling along the Danube River past Bratislava Castle and skirting the historic center.

One of the highlights in Bratislava was stumbling on a beautiful free outdoor concert. Another was enjoying some relaxing time at the indoor infinity pool aboard, with a lovely view of Bratislava. Sailing out of Bratislava, past Bratislava Castle, en route to Budapest is beautiful to enjoy just before sitting down for a delicious Captain’s Dinner aboard the ship!

View of Bratislava Castle as we sailed out of Bratislava, Slovakia at sunset.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary is a gem of a destination. The capital of Hungary boasts one of the world’s grandest gothic revival parliament buildings, relaxing mineral baths, striking architecture, great restaurants and a hopping nightlife. It is a fitting destination to cap off an 8-day Danube river cruise. We arrived in Budapest in the morning, and the Emerald Destiny did a 360-degree turn in front of the gorgeous Hungarian parliament. We enjoyed the views from the sundeck, but the scenery would have been equally dramatic if we watched through the large panoramic windows of our guest room.

Sailing into Budapest offers a dramatic view of the Hungarian Parliament atop the Emerald Destiny.

Budapest Spas

Budapest is known as “Spa City,” as it is built atop 118 natural thermal springs. That’s more than any other capital in the world. Large and small bathhouses are located throughout Budapest. Szechenyi is our favorite of the three baths we have visited over multiple trips to Budapest. Built in 1913, the palatial baths comprise 21 pools, saunas and it’s also a great place for a massage. Szechenyi even offers a beer spa. Rudas Baths are another favorite, with over 450 years of history.

Gellert Spa is another popular choice located right in the heart of Budapest along the Danube River. The Emerald Destiny docks on the Pest side of the city, near Central Market. Gellert Spa is only around a 10-minute walk from the ship, making it the most convenient of the bathhouses to visit during a river cruise.

Curious to read more about Spas in Budapest? Read our article that dives deeper into the most popular Budapest baths. If you have more time, it will help you decide which spas you should visit.

Castle Hill

The day in Budapest began with a guided bus and walking tour of Budapest, including Castle Hill. The lookout at Fisherman’s Bastion offers dramatic views overlooking Budapest, including the Hungarian Parliament. Built in 1905, the Hungarian Parliament is one of the world’s largest administration buildings.

The fairy tale towers of Fisherman’s Bastion (Halaszbastya) offer sweeping panoramic views overlooking Budapest.

The Royal Palace (aka Buda Castle), houses the National Gallery and Budapest History Museum. Famous magician and escape artist Harry Houdini was Hungarian and magic lovers will enjoy visiting the House of Houdini in the Castle District. It’s located just a hundred meters from the Royal Palace.

Szentendre, A Lovely Day Trip from Budapest

Szentendre is a picturesque artist’s village nestled along the Danube River, just 20km north of Budapest. We took a guided day trip there which is organized by Emerald Cruises. Szentendre is known for its baroque architecture, colorful houses, churches and cobbled, narrow streets. Fő Tér, the main square, and its surrounding streets are lined with art galleries, museums, cafes and shops (including many tasty ice cream shops!). The Greek Orthodox Blagovestenska Church dates to the 18th-century and has elaborate decor and an ornate partition screen.

Excursion to Szentendre, Hungary from Budapest.

The Micro Wonder Museum houses the incredible art of Mikola Szjadrisztij. The works are so tiny that they can only be viewed through a microscope. 10 displays include intricate art made on tiny items like a grain of rice. It’s unique art and an interesting exhibit that doesn’t take long to appreciate and enjoy.

After the river cruise ended, we stayed in Budapest longer to enjoy more of the city. We highly recommend this if you have time, as there is so much to experience in Budapest and nearby. One afternoon we caught a train to Vac, another charming town set along the Danube River.

Final Night Aboard the Emerald Destiny

Our final dinner was another feast featuring fresh local food. That meant delicious Hungarian goulash with spaetzle, fresh egg noodles. That paired wonderfully with delicious Hungarian red wine. Hungary produces excellent wines, especially red wines. After dinner, we enjoyed Hungarian folk music in the lounge, with traditional music and dancing. It was a fun way to cap a great week as we said farewell to new friends we made from around the world on the ship!

Emerald Cruises Danube River Cruise Recap

Tranquil sailing along the Danube River through Austria.

Emerald Cruises 8 day Danube Delights river cruise is a wonderful way to explore exciting European destinations with limited time. The comfortable floating hotel offers enough entertainment and relaxing options to easily occupy passengers while sailing.

The dining experience is wonderful, and we loved enjoying fresh local dishes, like wiener schnitzel and Hungarian goulash, customized to the nation we were visiting. We enjoyed so many delicious wines from the best wine-producing regions of Europe throughout the cruise – like German Rieslings, French Bordeaux, sparkling Italian wine, Hungarian red wine and Portuguese port wine.

Great for Active and Foodie Couples

This is a fantastic river cruise for a variety of couples. Active couples are well covered. There is always the option to tour locations by bicycle. And often, there is a castle to hike up to as well! The Emerald Destiny even has a small gym onboard where you can get in some cardio or lift weights. Couples will also enjoy spending some time swimming and relaxing by the infinity pool. As part of a wellness trip, you can visit the spas in Budapest and book a massage onboard the ship or off of it.

A scrumptious breakfast buffet, including freshly made omelettes, with views of Passau, Germany from the Emerald Destiny. A romantic spot to enjoy breakfast with your loved one.

Foodie couples will enjoy the cruise for wonderful meals throughout the duration of the trip. Highlights include smoked salmon and other smoked fish at the breakfast buffet, a variety of excellent cheeses from mild to aged cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on a variety of dishes. Local bakeries provide delicious freshly baked bread. Excellent pastries like traditional strudel served with cream covers the sweet spot of palates. There is also the option to enjoy so many delicious treats off the ship too.

Covid-19 Protocols and Safety

We felt safe aboard the Emerald Destiny for a variety of reasons. Passengers are required to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before embarking on a cruise. And all staff wear masks.

Guests are also required to wear masks when moving throughout public spaces of the ship indoors. We didn’t notice anyone sick on the ship and after a beautiful 8-day cruise, no guests tested positive and we were all able to depart safely. Several older guests remarked to us that they appreciated feeling very safe aboard the Emerald Destiny.

A negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of your flight is currently required to fly back to the USA, UK and many other destinations. Emerald Cruises handed tests out on the second last day of the cruise. So for those heading straight home, that was another detail conveniently taken care of by their wonderful staff.

In our case, since we stayed in Budapest an additional week, we used emed services with the BinaxNOW COVID-19 antigen self-test that we purchased online and brought from the US to test before flying home. We highly recommend this for anyone staying longer than the duration of the river cruise!

Update: Most countries no longer require PCR tests to return home. Cruising is mostly back to normal.

Disclosure: We were media guests aboard the Emerald Destiny. This has not impacted this article. All photos and opinions expressed here are ours.


  • Alex Kallimanis

    Alex Kallimanis is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner who has visited 67+ different countries, including all 27 European Union countries across all continents except Antarctica. He has resided around the world, living in countries like Australia, the Netherlands and Ireland for over 7 years combined. Currently residing in the Tampa, Florida, area with his wife Bell, he still spends much of his time in Europe as a dual Greek citizen. Alex is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor of arts degree in history, and was the president of Phi Alpha Theta (Honors History Society) during his senior year there. Alex is an avid enthusiast of sports, spas, delicious food, the outdoors, craft beverages, history and culture.

18 thoughts on “What to Expect on a Danube River Cruise with Emerald Cruises

  1. I didn’t realize you could be so active on a European river cruise. That’s wonderful that there’s bikes on board to explore those beautiful destinations!

    1. We loved that, Samantha! People often associate cruises with rigid itineraries and mountains of food at buffets (and the breakfast and lunch buffets aboard the Emerald Destiny were delicious). But yes, you can be as active as you’d like, with opportunities to exercise both on and off the ship, as well as flexibility with how you spend your time in each destination. Happy travels!

  2. Great article and love the pictures. We are taking this cruise in 2022 but we are pretty independent travelers. Does the ship dock in city centers ( particularly Vienna and Bratislava) so its easy to go off on our own?

    1. Thank you, Tim! That’s wonderful you’re taking Emerald’s Danube River cruise in 2022! You’re going to have a fantastic time! The ship docks in the city centers of nearly all destinations, including Bratislava and Budapest. In Vienna, the ship docked outside the historic center, so included shuttle bus transportation is included. The morning in Vienna begins with an included shuttle bus tour and walking tour of Vienna. Afterwards, you will have the option of returning to the ship before lunch or exploring Vienna on your own. Vienna was a rare day we didn’t return to the ship for lunch. We explored the city, enjoyed Wiener Schnitzel at a historic Viennese restaurant, and then caught one of the later shuttle buses back to the Emerald Destiny. Let us know if you have any more questions or need any recommendations! We’re happy to help 🙂

  3. We have booked Emerald’s Danube River Cruise in 2022 (Regensburg to Budapest) and it was wonderful to be able to read an article detailing what to expect. Thanks for the great information! Emerald doesn’t show a detailed itinerary of approximate arrival/departure times from each destination. Can you provide more information about that? We’d love to know how much time you got to spend in each city. Also, we are thinking about spending an extra night in Budapest before flying back home on the Sunday. You mentioned in your article that Emerald performed PCR tests on the second last day of the cruise. If 72 hour PCR tests are still required for our return flight, would Emerald’s PCR test still be valid for our early afternoon flight on Sunday? Thanks!

    1. Hi Diane. Thanks for your nice words on the article – we really appreciate it! That’s wonderful that you’re booked on Emerald’s Danube River cruise in 2022 – you’re going to have a wonderful time!

      Yes, Emerald doesn’t list specific times for arrival and departure in ports on their itineraries as times can change a little. But a lot of the sailing happens overnight, so the ship arrives at each destination in the morning and typically departs in the evening. A couple times the ship leaves late afternoon to sail through scenery that’s especially scenic. This was the case when we departed Passau for Austria, but there was still plenty of time to explore Passau, Germany (around 9am-4pm). Also, there was one day where we explored two destinations – Melk and Durnstein, which are 30km apart in the Wachau Valley. So that day is split to allow around 4 hours or so in each place. In Vienna we had the entire day and you could even go out at night if you wanted (though the ship offers fun entertainment too). Same with Budapest. You will have at least as much time in each port on your cruise because ours started in Nuremberg, so we sailed a little farther distance wise.

      Great idea to stay in Budapest longer. It’s an amazing city and since we stayed an extra week in Hungary we packed the CDC approved at home e-med tests and took them with us. I can’t say with certainty that your PCR tests on the ship will fall within 72 hours, but sounds like they might since it’s just 1 day extra you’re staying (but remember that technically it’s supposed to be within 72 hours of arrival in the USA, not departing Hungary). You may want to purchase some e-med tests as a backup at a local pharmacy if COVID testing is still required when you take the cruise. They’re around $25 a piece for the online proctored version https://www.emed.com/airline-travel?gclid=Cj0KCQiAys2MBhDOARIsAFf1D1dFqusbe7j4u73DLQ7SEz-TZBH0DupAxAllqCJWDrzC22X_pjylXAgaAjrsEALw_wcB. That’s what we used to fly back to the USA from Hungary.
      Also, if you enjoy spas, we highly recommend visiting one in Budapest (Gellert Spa is very close to where Emerald docks in Budapest. We wrote an article covering the most popular Budapest spas if you’re interested to read it: https://wanderlustmarriage.com/spas-in-budapest-hungary/

      Happy planning and let us know if you have any additional questions!

        1. Our pleasure, Diane! That was our first European river cruise and we had a blast – we’d love to take another one someday. You have an awesome trip on the horizon!

          1. We would like to stay an extra day in Budapest after the cruise but it presents a bit of a challenge if we want to take advantage of Emerald’s complimentary PCR testing. I was wondering if Emerald provided any flexibility for passengers with the timing of that final PCR test two days before disembarkation or is everyone tested at the same time (i.e. first thing in the morning before everyone leaves the ship for the day)? Our Canadian government requires that we must take a molecular test “within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time of our flight to Canada”. If Emerald is performing tests on the Thursday then we would need to have the test done in the afternoon to meet that government requirement If we wanted to stay an extra day in Budapest and leave on a Sunday afternoon flight. I’m hoping the government changes that PCR requirement by next year, but we have to plan our flights now thinking that requirement will still be in place. I’m not sure it would be worth the added expense of an another PCR test to stay an extra day in Budapest if Emerald doesn’t offer some flexibility with their testing window.

          2. Hey Diane. Unfortunately, now many countries, including the USA are requiring test results within 24 hours. Not sure if Canada has changed their rules yet – but I imagine they will if they haven’t already. So now assume that COVID-19 tests will need to take place within 24 hours of travel, meaning the PCR tests will likely be given in Budapest, instead of after departing Bratislava, on your cruise (I assume with the new rules).

            So yeah, if you don’t want to pay for an additional COVID-19 test, you won’t be able to add that extra day in Budapest unfortunately. The good news is that you’ll see many of the highlights of Budapest during your day there with Emerald Cruises!

  4. Great vacation report…based on what you presented my wife and I just booked an Emerald Christmas market cruise from Budapest to Regensberg/ Nuremberg …with a couple extras in Bamberg to visit cousins. Was the add on excursions worth the extra $? When does the boat leave from every city? Is their time to do excursions on our own and get back for dinner?
    Saw your comment of living only a few miles from Craig Park in Tarpon… we live at the end of Klosterman…maybe bump into you at Publix or at my new atf restaurant the Bayou bistro.

    1. Hey Bernie! Wonderful to hear – thanks for letting us know you booked the Christmas market cruise from Budapest to Regensberg/ Nuremberg! That’s going to be such a fun trip – also since you can stay longer and spend time with your cousins in Bamberg. The German Christmas markets are beautiful and so much fun.

      To answer your questions – some of the additional Emerald Cruises excursions are definitely worth booking. We both LOVED the concert at Eroica Hall in Vienna, where Beethoven premiered his Third Symphony, capped by an amazing performance of Johann Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz. It’s an all around incredible performance and very well priced for the experience too. Emerald Cruises departure times vary depending on the city – sometimes you depart earlier for picturesque sailing during the day (like through the stunning Wachau Valley of Austria) and sometimes you depart late, like in Vienna – so you can take in some nightlife in the city, etc.

      You always have the freedom to explore destinations on your own. It’s a good idea to plan to take one of the included guided tours in the mornings, and then spend some time taking in the destination on your own, which is what we did.

      Since you’ll be in Budapest, we recommend visiting one of the thermal bath houses. Here’s some helpful tips for planning if you’re interested: https://wanderlustmarriage.com/spas-in-budapest-hungary/

      That’s fantastic you live so close to us! We love Bayou Bistro too! We just had my cousin visiting from Buffalo and mother-in-law visiting from Australia and we just took them to Bayou Bistro this weekend for drinks and seafood. We’d love to meet you there and chat over a drink sometime!

  5. Thank you for your thorough and delightful information! We are/were scheduled for this cruise on April 3rd departing Budapest and traveling up to Passau then transportation to Munich. We were just informed that it got canceled due to the war in Ukraine. We were offered an alternative cruise on the Rhine river from Amsterdam and throughout Germany but after reading your wonderful review I really want to hold out for the Budapest cruise. They said they can rebook us on the May 1st cruise from Budapest but nothing is guaranteed. This is our first trip as a couple to Europe together (married 36 years) as our March 1, 2020 trip to Croatia got cancelled too. We’re not having the best of luck are we?
    Again, thanks for such an informative and fun article.

    1. Hi Dee, thank you for your nice comment. It means a lot that you enjoyed our article. Congratulations on being married for 36 years! We’re so sorry to read that the April 3rd cruise departing Budapest for Passau/Munich has been canceled due to the war in Ukraine (which is such a tragedy). We hope that this cruise can be possible on May 1st since you’d like to hold out for it. I also think you would really enjoy the cruise departing Amsterdam and traveling along the Rhine. We previously lived in Amsterdam for 3 and 1/2 years and it’s one of our favorite cities in Europe. The city center of Amsterdam is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s truly one of the world’s most unique cities. The towns along the Rhine River are beautiful also. Europe is a fascinating continent and for your first trip, you can’t go wrong with any of the itineraries. We wish you all the best with your upcoming travel plans. Thanks again for your lovely words and congratulations again on 36 years of marriage!

  6. We are booked on the Budapest to Regensburg cruise in July. We are arriving in Budapest a couple days early so we will have time to explore on our own. Can you tell me what site you visited during the Emerald tour in Budapest. I’m attempting to see different sites on our own than the one’s we would see on the tour. I also saw they offer the Emerald Active hike to Buda Hill. Do you have any details of what is involved with this hike? Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Bill. That’s fantastic you’re booked on the Emerald Cruise from Budapest to Regensburg! You guys are going to have a magical trip!

      That’s also great that you’ll be arriving in Budapest early to explore the city on your own. There’s so much to experience in Budapest. Bell and I stayed in Budapest longer and took the train to nearby Vac, a charming town along the Danube River just 30 minutes outside Budapest. On the late September day we visited, we barely encountered any other tourists. It’s easy to visit Vac by train from Budapest’s train station.

      On the Emerald Cruise, we took the afternoon tour to Szentendre, which is another charming town along the Danube River to visit. We didn’t take the Emerald Active hike to Buda Hill, so I don’t specifically know what’s involved in that, but I imagine the guide will share some interesting history and fun facts about Budapest during the hike. Buda Hill offers lovely views overlooking the city.

      Be sure to take home some paprika while in Budapest. It makes a great gift too. But maybe avoid buying the paprika gift packages at Central Market as sometimes those sit around for awhile – according to stories we heard from others. That market is great to try delicious Hungarian meats and cheeses. If you’re interested in visiting any spas in Budapest, you can read this article I wrote on them https://wanderlustmarriage.com/spas-in-budapest-hungary/. Happy travel planning and let us know if you have any more questions.

  7. Thanks for the great and in depth account. We’ve never taken a river cruise before, and this route and line will be our first.

    We are doing the 11 day starting in Prague in early September of this year. We’ll be going with three other couples. Your report fills in a lot of gaps.

    I do have one question. I’m torn between biking and floating between Melk and Durnstien. Your description makes it sound like one of the most scenic parts of the cruise. Would you ask your wife if she felt biking was equally as scenic? Would she do it again?


    1. Thanks for your nice words, John. That’s exciting that this will be your first European river cruise. It’s a great itinerary and you’re going to have a wonderful time with your friends!

      Great question regarding whether to bike or stay on the ship between Melk and Durnstein. The scenery between those two towns is strikingly beautiful and one of the highlights of the cruise. Bell and I just discussed this. She says she really enjoyed the scenery on the bike ride, and she would do it again, but it’s a good distance so be prepared for that. She’s in better shape than me. I would probably struggle with that length of a bike ride as I’m currently not in the best shape. If you stay on the ship, like I did, you can really sit back and enjoy the scenery. They stopped for a beer on the bike ride, but the time spent biking was longer.

      Another reason I’m glad I stayed on the ship was the hike up to Durnstein Castle. It’s a moderate hike up, a little tiring, but extremely beautiful. If I did the bike ride, I don’t think I would have had the legs for the hike. Bell did the hike also, but she was pretty tired after doing both. Hopefully that helps make your decision.

      Have a wonderful time and please let us know if you have any more questions about the cruise!

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