The river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest travels along the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers, with a few canals in between. It travels through the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. It takes 15 days and is a very popular cruise with Australians.
Starting with a day spent in port in Amsterdam, the Emerald Waterways cruise usually visits the following ports on the way to Budapest – Cologne, Rudesheim, Miltenberg, Wertheim, Wurzburg, Bamberg, Nuremberg, Kelheim, Regensburg, Passau, Linz, Melk, Durnstein, Vienna and Bratislava, with an option of visiting Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic or Salzburg in Austria via a coach tour. The cruise can also go in the reverse direction.
However the summer of 2018 was so hot and dry, that many cruise ships were unable to complete the full distance as the water in the upper Danube was so low. We had been booked to travel on the Emerald Sun, but the ship that we embarked upon was the Emerald Dawn, as the Sun was unable to reach Amsterdam on its return, not being able to proceed past Passau.
Then, when we reached Nuremberg, we were obliged to pack up and move to a hotel for a couple of nights while our cruise became a coach tour of the towns between there and Passau. We had elected to visit Cesky Krumlov, which was not affected by the upheaval, and then joined the Emerald Star in Linz. As a result of the low water, we missed seeing Linz but we were grateful for the extra time in Nuremberg as there was so much to see there.
Emerald Waterways compensated the passengers according to the degree of inconvenience, the number of days missed on the river and the standard of their accommodation. The staff on both ships were very helpful and our bubbly cruise director continued on with us. Emerald Waterways is part of the Scenic group, but not as expensive. However all dinner wines and many excursions are included in the price. We were fortunate to snag a bargain fare which gave us a Grand Balcony Cabin on the A deck, with all drinks throughout the cruise, some laundry, and daily plates of fruit and canapes in our cabin at no extra charge.
There were only about 120 guests on board, mainly from Australia, Canada and the USA, which made getting to know people easy. Special entertainers were occasionally invited on board, as well as various artisans with their handicrafts, and there were films played in the cinema which was by day converted back to the pool area.
The highlight of the cruise was Budapest, both by day and during the evening cruise where the city buildings were illuminated. Luckily for us, we were due to return within a week or so for another opportunity to see more of her.
We’ve been on ocean cruises before, with thousands of people, so this was a refreshing change. The amenities on these river ships are just as luxurious and the relationship with crew can be far more personal, leading to better service. You can bet we will be looking for another river cruise in the near future!