Cruises along the Danube let your clients experience Europe’s baroque past in modern luxury.
Spanning ten countries, the Danube is a popular destination for river cruisers, allowing lovers of city breaks to visit the historic capitals of Budapest, Vienna, Belgrade and Bratislava from the comfort of a floating hotel.
Some operators combine the delights of Europe’s second-biggest river with itineraries on the Rhine and Main, allowing travellers to sail from Amsterdam to Budapest on journeys of up to 19 days.
This year there is a variety of themed cruises to pique customers’ interests. Golf lovers will have to go a fairway to beat AmaWaterways’ package that combines a seven-night cruise, three nights in Prague and the chance to play on five championship courses, including the venues of the Czech, Slovakian and Hungarian Opens. The golf package is available on every Danube sailing this year.
Jamie Loizou, sales, marketing and digital director for AmaWaterways, said: “The quality of these hand-picked courses means we have created a truly unique product, which we feel is unsurpassed by anything that is currently in the marketplace. This gives huge potential to harness a new emerging market, not to mention a fantastic opportunity to encourage new-to-river-cruise customers. A non-playing partner also has all the choice that our shore excursions offer, making our golfing packages even more appealing.”
AmaWaterways is teaming up with LGT Golf on the itineraries. Its managing director, Nicholas Boekdrukker, said: “Everything will have been arranged in advance for the guests – their tee time, practice balls for their warm-up and pull trolleys. After their round, they will enjoy lunch in the clubhouse while their clubs are cleaned by our staff. We then return the guests to their river cruise ship by private transportation – even if the ship has moved on to its next stop.”
If cruisers prefer music, Scenic has two eight-day trips from Budapest, one with Welsh singer Aled Jones in April and the other with Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts in June. Each will give a private performance in Vienna’s Arsenal, with Aled singing a collection of popular classics from his recent No.1 album One Voice. Both stars will also hold an exclusive question-and-answer session on board.
Or travellers might enjoy The Sound of Music cruise from APT with 66-year-old Nicholas Hammond, who played eldest son Friedrich von Trapp in the classic film. He’ll be talking about a few of his favourite things on a special 15-day sailing from July 9. The package includes three exclusive VIP events: a piano recital at Namedy Castle, a private rail journey on the Majestic Imperator from Passau to Linz, and a private concert at the Liechtenstein City Palace, Vienna.
APT also caters to more active passengers with a 15-day Cycling Magnificent Europe journey from Amsterdam to Budapest with seven excursions by bike, including around the historic streets of Cologne and Vienna.
APT’s UK sales and commercial manager Angela Waite said agents find the Danube is a versatile option for a range of clients. “First-time river cruisers like the fact that it takes in so many countries in a short space of time – Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Germany can all be experienced in just over a week. For those who are looking to spend more time cruising, it links seamlessly via the Main-Danube Canal to Amsterdam. The versatility means agents can secure sales across a much broader client base, securing more commission in the process.”
Saga claims to offer more variety than anyone else, from starter cruises of five nights to grand voyages to the Delta. It also has sailings that explore the tributaries of the Sava and Drava. Saga’s In The Wake of the Ottomans nine-night cruise includes the dramatic Iron Gates gorge as well as passages on the smaller rivers.
This year, Crystal launches its second river ship, Crystal Mahler. The new addition, with butler service for every suite, will offer 16-day trips between Amsterdam and Budapest along the Danube, Main and Rhine.
CroisiEurope is entirely renovating MS Symphonie, to be rechristened MS Symphonie II. Another of its ships, MS Beethoven, offers an eight-day Biking along the Danube round trip from Vienna.
Travellers who want to reach the Black Sea can take a 16-day round trip from Passau with Amadeus River Cruises on a selection of ships and dates. For those who don’t like to fly, Shearings offers coach, rail and ferry transfers to explore the Danube on the MS Serenade 2.
Alternatively, Great Rail Journeys is offering ten-day cruises on the A-Rosa Donna, travelling by Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels then high-speed train to Nuremberg and on to Passau to join the ship, travelling back via Cologne.
Hebridean has only one cruise on the Danube this year – ten nights on the Royal Crown.
1 Sell pre- or post-cruise extensions
2 Customers can be sold a variety of trips from five to 19 days
3 The Danube is only a 90-minute flight from the UK and can be reached by rail from St Pancras via Brussels and Frankfurt
4 Danube cruises tend to appeal to the over-50s, who enjoy city breaks, spectacular scenery and a good ship experience
5 Encourage passengers to travel with friends or in a group
VIKING CRUISES offers a 15-day Grand European Tour from Amsterdam to Budapest – taking in the Danube, Rhine and Main – from £2,695, including 12 guided tours, free wi-fi and drinks with onboard lunch and dinner service. 0800 319 6660
TAUCK has a 12-day cruise from Budapest to the Black Sea from £3,680, including gratuities, shore excursions, hotel accommodation and unlimited drinks. 0800 810 8020
THE RIVER CRUISE LINE offers a ten-day Cruise The Danube to Vienna and Budapest trip over 11 departure dates from £1,099 including return coach travel, ferry crossing from Dover and overnight hotel stays. The journey is also available by air as an eight-day itinerary from £1,149. 0844 544 7580
OTHER LINES OFFERING DANUBE CRUISES:
Avalon Waterways, Emerald Waterways, Noble Caledonia, Riviera Travel, Uniworld, Vantage Deluxe World Travel