Comparing cruises: Danube River vs. Rhine River

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Our own personal experiences comparing cruises on two of Europe’s great rivers…

At the end of our cruise in July, my family was talking about how our two river cruises compared: the Danube two years ago and the Rhine this year.  We all kind of agreed that we liked the Danube better.


We felt that we had more quality time in the destinations along the Danube.  Perhaps we didn’t get to as many cities, BUT we had more time to explore the cities we DID visit.    We thought that this trip had too many half-day destinations.  I felt like we could have dropped a city or two along the Rhine in exchange for more time in Cologne or Heidelberg.  (My best advice?  Take a combo cruise and go all the way from Amsterdam to Budapest!)

Cities we visited on each cruise:

Nuremberg, Germany – 2 half days (Loved it! Still consider it one of my fave European cities.)

Regensburg, Germany – 1 day

Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic – 1 day (A special excursion that we had to pay extra for.  People who did not go on an extra excursion that day got to see Passau and Linz.)

Melk, Austria – 1/2 day

Vienna, Austria  – 1  1/2 days (Obviously THIS is a favorite city of mine – haha!)

Budapest, Hungary – 1  1/2 days


Zurich, Switzerland – 1/2 day

Strasbourg, France – 1 day

Heidelberg, Germany – 1/2 day

Mainz, Germany – 1/2 day

Rudesheim, Germany – 1/2 day

Cologne, Germany – 1/2 day

Amsterdam, Netherlands – 1 day

Time in the destinations.  That’s the number one primary reason we preferred the Danube.  Period.

(***Bear in mind, that cruise itineraries can change every year, so you may find a different itinerary on the cruise you’re looking at versus what you see listed here.)

Both cruises were with Avalon Waterways.  We were on the Luminary for the Danube, and the Felicity for the Rhine.  We like Avalon and chose it specifically over the primary competitor, Viking.

Both cruises had half day segments of cruising along castle-heavy stretches of river – where you just sat out up on the sun deck and sailed past castle after castle after castle.  Definitely a great highlight of each trip.

Overall we had wonderful weather on both cruises.  Lots of sunshine.  And the humidity in Europe is much lower than what we’re used to in the summer months here in eastern Pennsylvania.  Although two years ago it was cooler – I remember wearing my jeans a few times.  This year there was a bit of a heat wave and I stuck to sundresses and shorts.

The food was just as good on both cruises, so no complaints there.  Everything was beyond excellent!  Dinners were four courses with free unlimited wine and/or beer.  Nice buffets at breakfast and lunch.

The staff was just as hard working.
One thing that made this cruise different too had nothing to do with the cruise company or itinerary….. it was our fellow passengers.  It’s the kind of thing that no one can control and you just take what you get.  And because these river ships are rather small, you do indeed get the opportunity to know your fellow passengers, but you ultimately control how much or how little time you interact with them.  (You don’t ever feel like you’re stuck hanging around other people if you don’t want to hang around other people.  You can interact as much or as little as you like.  Although meal times are set, so you will all be dining at the same time.)

Two years ago, we had a ton of Aussies on board.  Even though they were our parents’ age, they were full-out party people, and were always friendly and fun.  I remember my sister and I hanging out several times late into the night drinking with those Australians.  (Our parents even stayed up late a bunch of times too on that trip!)  This time, there were lots more Americans.  And more specifically, a large group of middle aged single women who were traveling as part of a Singles Tour Group.  I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that they weren’t very nice to my sister and I.   We tried to be polite and smile.  But it usually didn’t work.   We just ignored the negativity by keeping it to ourselves and then keeping our complaints to each other when it was just us or our family.  Look, I know there’s rivalry amongst women sometimes, but we were clearly not trying to compete with them for any male attention.  All I was thinking about the entire week was counting down to seeing Miloš, and my sister is quite happy with her husband, thank you.  Anyway, what can ya do….
Not all the other people on the cruise were like those rude individuals.  It’s true that the negative ones were a bit of a stand out, but there were other nice people that we met.

I mentioned in my last blog how my sister and I became friends with Anne and her mother.  (They were from Australia, and were super fun and super nice.)  We also met a nice family traveling on an anniversary trip.  The happy couple was joined by their adult children: their son Gary, and their daughter and son-in-law.

There was also another really friendly group on board – a bunch of friends who had known each other since their student days at Gettysburg College, and were all out for a big trip to celebrate the approach of the big 6-0.  They were all personable and a lot of fun to be around.

Overall though, we had a great time again, and I’d recommend this kind of trip to anyone.  You go from one historic European city to the next.  Stroll off the ship and you’re right in the middle of history!  Quaint towns, grand cathedrals, authentic foods – you get to experience it all.   And all from the comfort of your floating hotel on the river!  No unpacking and repacking involved!

But if you do go, always remember to be extra kind to the crew – they are working for months and months with NO days off and hardly any sleep – please appreciate them!

Well, folks, until next time!  More adventures coming your way soon!  🙂

Next up will be more blog posts about Miloš and I in Croatia!

Here’s a family portrait from the first night of the cruise – my sister, myself, and our parents.


(P.S. If you need a well informed travel agent who KNOWS river cruising, send me a message!  I’d be happy to help you book your trip.  And remember – there’s NEVER a fee for my services!)


The whole Graf family!
The whole Graf family!
Photo of author
Jennifer was initially drawn to Europe for two reasons: music and love.  She lived in Vienna for four years, and now calls Croatia home for much of each year, as she married a native Croatian. Since 2015, Jennifer has worked as a tour director and cruise director on European river cruises for a major American travel company, and has become an expert in all of the cities along her routes on the Danube, Rhine, and Main Rivers. She also has traveled to Disney World almost every year since 1985, and knows Disney World inside and out. As a travel agent, Disney World is her primary specialty, and she has helped many Disney newbies and veterans have amazing trips with her insider information.

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