Danube River Cruise

September 3 – 14, 2024 • 12 Days • $5490 **

Romania * Bulgaria * Serbia * Croatia
Hungary * Slovakia * Austria

Transylvania Optional Pre-tour

August 31 – September 3, 2024 • 4 Days • $1650

** Does not include port fees of $196 per person (subject to change). Includes cabins on the Middle Deck during the cruise. Upgrades are available to the Upper Deck.

Join us for a unique Adventure that combines walking, river cruising, and Old World history and culture! This 7-country Danube River Cruise takes us through Eastern Europe, starting in Bucharest, and continuing through Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria. We will be on a small ship, the M/S River Sapphire, and will enjoy a program of walks and sightseeing that includes memorable moments such as:

  • Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest – three beautiful Old-World capitals built on the banks of the Danube
  • Serbia – with two fascinating stops, including surprisingly chic Belgrade, and a fun special lunch with authentic, home-made Serbian food, live music, and a solid dose of Serbian hospitality in a rural restaurant on the banks of the Sava River
  • A diverse series of walks – Bucharest, Romania; Belogradchik Rocks, Bulgaria; Belgrade and Novi Sad, Serbia; Vukovar, Croatia; Budapest, Hungary; and Bratislava, Slovakia

IVV walk stamps will be requested in 6 of the countries through which we sail. Due to the timing of the ship program, we have a walking tour of Vienna, Austria, but are not including a formal IVV sanctioned walk in Austria. Vienna is a world-class city and we decided not to crowd our schedule in Vienna by including another walk.

Travelers who would like to participate in an IVV sanctioned walk in Austria after the cruise are welcome to contact us for information on how to connect with a club in one of the towns near Vienna. The travel agent with whom we work would be happy to help you book a hotel for an extra night in lovely Vienna!

NOTE: This Adventure is currently FULL. Standby requests are accepted by clicking the CONTACT US button to the right.

Overview / Trip Details


Built in 2006 and refurbished in 2020, the M/S River Sapphire holds a maximum of 164 passengers serviced by a international crew of 40+.

Cabins are spread over 3 decks but all travelers receive a complementary upgrade to Middle Deck with upgrades available to the Upper Deck. All cabins on the Middle and Upper Deck have floor to ceiling French Balconies, sliding glass doors that slide open allowing for cool breezes and fabulous views of the passing scenery.

The on-board ambiance is casual and friendly, the food is superb, the program is delightful and sure to satisfy.

The River Sapphire has non-smoking interiors. On board currency is the EURO and Visa/MasterCard are accepted.


All cabins are outward facing. The tour price is based upon cabins on the Middle Deck and upgrades are available to the Upper Deck.

All cabins are the same size (161 sq ft). Cabins on the Middle and Upper Deck are identical in all respects and feature floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors which open halfway and have a railing across the bottom half (French Balconies). Upper Cabins have better views due to their higher vantage point.

All cabins include a desk and chair. All cabins are equipped with hairdryer, mini safe, flat screen TV and individual AC.

Upgrade fees:

  • Low Deck: None. Automatic upgrade
  • Middle Deck: None. Included in tour price
  • Upper Deck: $300 per person

A limited number of single cabins are available. Please contact WAI for more information.

Middle & Upper Deck Cabin with French Balconies

View river sapphire deck plan

Danube River Cruise


  • All land travel as outlined
  • Arrival transfers on first day
  • Accommodations for 1 night in Bucharest in a Superior tourist-class hotel
  • Accommodations for 10 nights in all outside cabins of M/S River Sapphire in choice of three categories***
  • 31 meals: All breakfasts, 9 lunches, and 11 dinners as denoted (BLD)
  • 2 glasses of beer, wine, or soft drink each lunch and dinner
  • 24/7 coffee stations, early riser breakfast, afternoon cakes & tea, and late night snacks
  • 7 walks as listed, with commentary by local guides
  • Fees for walking credit (IVV sanctions requested)
  • Onboard lectures
  • Live musicians each evening
  • Two WAI tour leaders throughout
  • Local guide service at ports of call
  • Cultural and historical expertise and on-board lectures by our cruise director
  • Tips to local guides/coach drivers (tips for on-ship personnel not included)

Shore excursions and visits to (including any admission fees):

  • Belogradchik Fortress and Belogradchik Rocks Natural Landmark – Bulgaria
  • Baba Vida Fortress – Bulgaria
  • Special lunch at a rural restaurant set along the Sava River outside Belgrade – Serbia
  • Serbian folkdance performance – Serbia
  • Gypsy duet – Hungary
  • Guided city tours by coach in Budapest and Vienna
  • More fun and educational activities than we can list!

*** See Cabin Upgrade information above

Optional Excursions:

  • Deuric Vineyard Wine Tasting Tour (Day 6)
  • Classical Vienna Concert – Austria (Day 11)

Transylvania Optional Pre-tour


  • All land travel as outlined
  • Arrival group transfers on first day*
  • Superior tourist-class or better hotel accommodations
  • 5 meals: All breakfasts and 2 dinners**
  • 2 walks as listed
  • Fees for walking credit (IVV sanctions requested)
  • Cultural and historical expertise of local guide throughout
  • Two WAI tour leaders throughout
  • Tips for guides, coach drivers and group meals
  • A limited number of single rooms are available for a supplement of $225. We also provide a roommate matching service.

Visits to / admission fees:

  • Peleș Castle – Sinaia
  • Braşov City walking tour with visits to multiple points of interest – Braşov
  • Dracula Castle – Bran
  • Special cultural dinner – Braşov


Click on each day to reveal more details.
BLD refers to meals included, Breakfast,
Lunch or Dinner.


You arrive today in the capital of Romania and be met by a representative of Walking Adventures as you exit customs at Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport.

We rendezvous this evening at our hotel in the heart of Bucharest for a Welcome Orientation, followed by a fun cultural dinner in a venerable, old, Romanian beer hall!

Walk #1: Bucharest, Romania Walk ––– 8km, rated 1A

This morning’s walk connects many points of interest of Bucharest, including the Senate, where despised dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu made his famous last speech, the lovely 19th century Romanian Atheneum music hall, the National Opera, and the massive Ceauşescu inspiration known as the Palace of the Parliament.

Following the walk, and free time for lunch, we depart by coach through bucolic Romanian landscapes to Turnu Magurele. Here we embark the M/S River Sapphire, our home for the next 10 nights on our voyage up the Danube River.

Walk #2: Belogradchik Rocks, Bulgaria Walk ––– 5 km, rated 2B

As we sail upriver this morning, a presentation from the Captain and his crew precedes lunch.

From the riverside port of Vidin, we drive by coach to Belogradchik Rocks, a group of bizarre formations hailed as one of Bulgaria’s natural wonders. Following an afternoon walk here, we return to Vidin for a short visit to 13th century Baba Vida fortress before taking dinner back aboard the M/S River Sapphire.

We cruise through a moving postcard this morning, with an invitation to participate in a free-style history/cultural discussion with our cruise director.

Today’s route transits the highest natural gorge on the Danube. Over 100 kilometers long, “The Iron Gates” posed a major navigational obstacle until the Djerdap Hydroelectric and Navigation System was completed in 1972. On both sides of the dam, two locks were built which enable safe passage for passenger and cargo ships all the way to the Black Sea.

Walk #3: Belgrade, Serbia Walk ––– 8 km, rated 2A

We start our day with an enlightening walk through the vibrant city of Belgrade passing the extensive grounds of Kalemegdan Fortress, massive St. Sava’s Orthodox Cathedral, the Parliament Building, and Princess Ljubica’s Manor. It’s difficult to believe this bustling, upbeat city was the target of NATO bombing raids a little more than 20 years ago.

Lunch today is in a unique restaurant off the ship, just outside Belgrade. Authentic, home-made Serbian food with live music and a solid dose of Serbian hospitality in a rural restaurant on the banks of the Sava River could make this the trip’s most memorable meal.

After dinner back aboard ship, a professional dance troupe from Belgrade provides a high energy performance of Serbian folk music and dance.

Walk #4: Novi Sad, Serbia Walk ––– 5 km, rated 1A

Pedestrian-friendly Novi Sad is the venue for our second walk in Serbia. Along the way we visit hulking, 17th century Petrovaradin Fortress, a strategic post during ongoing wars between Serbs, Austrians, and invading Turks.

Later, the route winds between traditional Old World architecture and past inviting sidewalk cafes in the appealing historic district.

Optional excursion ~ Deuric Vineyard Wine Tasting TourThis afternoon is free to explore Novi Sad on your own. Or consider a 45-minute drive through Serbian countryside to a small, but well-known winery in the midst of Serbia’s oldest national park, Fruška Gora.

The national park is an 80 kilometer stretch of rolling rural farmland known as a longstanding haven for Orthodox monasteries which preserved Serbian culture from occupying Turks between the 15th and 18th centuries.

Romans were the first to introduce vineyards during their tenure in the Danube region in the centuries after Christ. The winery we visit is set in a traditional part of Serbia but uses modern technologies and wine-producing methods. A possible exception is the strict use of barrels made from French oak. Three different premium wines will be sampled. Included: roundtrip transportation by bus; guided tour and wine tasting of approximately 2 hours. Price: $75 per person

During dinner this evening, we weigh anchor for Croatia.

Walk #5: Vukovar, Croatia Walk ––– 5 km, rated 1A

Following breakfast, we enjoy a morning stroll along the waterfront promenade and through the center of Vukovar, Croatia’s largest port along the Danube and a town known for its baroque architecture. We visit the Franciscan Monastery and Museum with an opportunity to sample a few local wines.

After lunch, we continue sailing upstream towards Budapest, Hungary’s magnificent capital. Enjoy the views from the Sun Deck.

Dinner is served as we cruise, with live music to follow in the lounge.

On board lectures and the relaxing pace of river cruising fill our morning.

Following lunch on board, we enjoy a guided coach motorcoach tour of this historic “Queen of the Danube” with highlights such as the Parliament Building, St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Opera House, Fisherman’s Bastion, Gellert Hill, and town park with Vajdahundyad Castle.

The Magyars of Hungary have a distinct ethnic, linguistic, and historical background.  With Buda on the right bank of the Danube and Pest on the left, Hungary’s capital has an mystique completely unique from its Slav and Germanic neighbors, amplified by the occupation of the Ottoman Turks for a couple of centuries.

Walk #6: Budapest, Hungary Walk ––– 10 km, rated 1A

The Hungarian walking club meets us today for a guided walk from the ship featuring Budapest panoramas along both banks of the Danube and out to Margaret Island. We finish by the Budapest Market on Vaci Utca, Pest’s famous pedestrian zone.

After lunch back aboard ship, the afternoon is free to explore Budapest, arguably the most interesting and beautiful town along the Danube.

A special concert by a local gypsy duet is offered this evening. Then, following dinner, join us tonight on the Sun Deck when the ship weighs anchor and sails between the illuminated bridges and monuments of Budapest! It’s one of the WOW moments of the tour!

Walk #7: Bratislava, Slovakia Walk ––– 5 km, rated 2A

We glide through picturesque Hungarian countryside this morning, enjoying a final lecture by our cruise directors. This stretch of the river takes us through Gabcikovo lock, the only lock on the Danube River located between Vienna and Budapest. The adjoining hydroelectric power plant is the country’s largest and most productive.

Charming Bratislava is one of the Danube’s best kept secrets. Following lunch, a guided walk takes us past highlights like St. Martin’s Cathedral, the Castle and Primate’s Palace, Michael’s Gate, Michael’s Tower, Main Square, Old Town Hall, and Slovak National Theatre.

Back aboard ship, this evening’s highlight is the Captain’s Gala Dinner!

Vienna is the historic capital of the Hapsburg Dynasty, the most powerful and enduring in European history.

The morning coach/walking tour highlights renowned architectural gems such as the State Opera, the Parliament, the Burgtheatre, and St. Stephan’s Cathedral, as well as the bustling pedestrian zone.

Vienna offers more than a curious traveler could explore in several weeks. Enjoy a free afternoon to sample your choice of Vienna’s many attractions! WAI will share ideas for those feeling overwhelmed by this cornucopia of history, culture, and architecture.

Following dinner back aboard ship, an optional evening classical concert is the preferred way to spend the night in Vienna.

Optional evening excursion ~ Classical Vienna Concert: The “Viennese Residence Orchestra”, a Vienna chamber orchestra, shares a program consisting of compositions by Johann Strauss, the “King of Waltz”, and musical genius W.A. Mozart. The concert takes place within the Imperial Palace (Hofburg) of the Hapsburg dynasty. Price: $99

Following breakfast, we say farewell to the crew of the River Sapphire. Travelers are on their own to get to the airport; WAI guides will help to batch into taxis those with similar departure times.

We leave Vienna, the City of Music, enriched forever by our connection with the history, culture, and scenery of the Danube River region.


You arrive today in the capital of Romania. You’ll be met by a representative of Walking Adventures as you exit customs at Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport.

This is a day of travel and no group activities are scheduled for this evening; dinner is on your own. Your guide team will meet you as you arrive with orientation tips and suggestions for those who wish to have dinner.

Peles Castle Walk – 2.5 km, rated 2B
Braşov, Romania Walk – 5 km, rated 1B

Following breakfast at our hotel, we leave Bucharest by coach for the Carpathian Mountain resort town of Sinaia, and a tour of Peles Castle, residence of the last Romanian monarch. The castle is accessed by a cobblestone road ascending through bucolic countryside offering lovely views of the castle between the trees on the hillside.

Our final destination is medieval Braşov, where a walk through this old Germanic town takes us into the intriguing First Romanian School, past imposing Black Cathedral, and down winding cobblestone lanes back to our hotel.

Transylvanian Alps Walk – 6 km, rated 3B

Today’s walk offers eye-popping panoramas of the Transylvanian Alps and traditional farms, with picturesque haystacks plopped on sloping hillsides like giant mushrooms.

After time for lunch in the village of Bran, we visit the “Dracula Castle”, 14th century testimony to the story of Transylvania and Count Vlad, “the Impaler.” Count Vlad inspired the fictional Count Dracula, popularized by Irish novelist Bram Stoker.

Later tonight back in Braşov, we enjoy a memorable cultural dinner accompanied by folk music and dance.

A morning drive takes us back across the Carpathian Mountains to Bucharest.

After hotel check-in, the afternoon is free to explore Bucharest with several options available from our hotel.

This evening, we rendezvous with travelers arriving for the cruise only main tour for a Welcome Orientation to the Danube River Cruise, followed by a fun dinner together at a traditional Romanian beer hall.

Before You Book

Click on each heading for more details.

To register, a non-refundable $500 deposit per person is required to hold your spot. A second non-refundable deposit of $500 per person is required by February 15, 2024.

A final payment is due 90 days before departure and is non-refundable after the due date. You will receive a prompt email from us 2 to 3 weeks in advance.

Soon after registration, an “Adventure Advice” email will be sent with critical information on flight arrangements as well as important steps to take in the months before your trip. Please do not buy your airline tickets until you review this Adventure Advice email.

Please follow this link to read our full General Tour Conditions.

With help from local experts and walking guides, these itineraries are crafted with extensive on-site planning by WAI tour planners.

When designing Classic Curated Tours, our objective is to capture the essence of a destination—the history, culture, and natural wonders unique to that part of the world. We then build activities and walks that take us inside these characteristics.

Yes, these tours are educational, but they are also interactive and immersive; walking gets us off the bus and penetrates local cultures to not only see, but also touch, smell, and feel these special spaces.

Along the way, interactions with locals amplify the experience by sharing insights into the magic of that particular location.

Part of the WAI travel philosophy is a continual fine-tuning of tours we already know well. In the case of the Danube River Cruise, our first tour was developed in 2008 for our 2009, 20-year anniversary reunion cruise.

Several iterations of the itinerary have been offered in intervening years with minor adjustments along the way. This 2024 itinerary is the sum of our experience along the Danube and in Romania on the Transylvania Pre-tour.

We generally walk at a pace of 2 to 3 miles per hour. Several walks on this trip are oriented more towards education, and therefore take longer due to stops for guide commentary. Nature walks, on the other hand, generally continue at a steadier pace because we’re stopping less to talk.

In most cases, we are not “strolling.” We are walking at a relaxed but steady pace. Your experience will be significantly affected by your level of physical fitness. If not walking regularly at home, we strongly recommend that you make a priority of “training” beforehand in order to both enjoy the trip and avoid medical issues due to overexertion. If you have questions about your ability to participate, please call our office at 1.360.260.9393.

We have adopted a walk difficulty rating system which contains a numeric indicator for trail incline and an alpha indicator for trail terrain. The explanation for this system is presented on the table below:


1. Minimal hills or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain: <200 feet.
2. Some moderate hills and stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain: 200-1000 feet.
3. Some significant hill or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain: 1000-2000 feet.


A. Almost entirely on pavement.
B. A significant part of the route is on well-groomed trails with very few obstacles.
C. A significant part of the route is on somewhat difficult terrain (rocky / rooted paths or soft sand).

The official start point for both the Transylvania Pre-tour and the Danube River Cruise (the main tour) is the Bucharest, Romania Henri Coandă International Airport (formerly Otopeni Airport), airport code OTP.

The official finish point is our ship docked in Vienna, Austria, best served by Vienna International Airport (airport code VIE).

More details about flight arrangements and travel agent contact information will be provided in an Adventure Advice PDF by email after you register for the Adventure.  Please do not book your airfare prior to receiving these flight details from us!

We recommend that you contact Laura Pfahler, the travel agent we work with, to help book your flight arrangements. In this age of airfare complications and airport uncertainty, using a travel agent is a good investment!

WAI believes strongly in the importance of travel insurance for financial and medical protection from any number of unforeseen circumstances that can arise before departure or during your Adventure. Many travel insurance providers are available for you to consider. Laura Pfahler and Sharon Mitchell of World Travel Inc. are travel agents who provides air travel and insurance services to many WAI travelers.

Laura Pfahler: 503-434-6401 or [email protected]
Sharon Mitchell: 971-261-2091 or [email protected]

Check out Insurance Tips from World Travel for a short introduction to travel insurance. (NOTE: WAI receives no commission or financial remuneration from World Travel Inc.).

Be aware that some travel insurance policies contain time-sensitive provisions (i.e. some benefits, such as coverage of pre-existing conditions, are available only if the policy is purchased within a certain number of days of the purchase of the travel package). In addition, remember that airfare is not covered by any travel insurance policy you may have purchased for the tour.

As always, do some shopping to ensure you are getting the best value. Using the SquareMouth.com website can be a good way to compare pricing.

Other options include:

  • Allianz
  • Betins
  • Travel Guard
  • Travel Insured International

WAI bears no responsibility for travel insurance benefits advertised by various credit card companies. If you are relying on this type of benefit for insurance, we advise you to verify coverage types and limits and that your purchase does in fact qualify you for this insurance.

NOTE: We suggest purchasing from a reputable, well-established insurance company (avoid buying insurance from an unknown company found only online). Travelers interested in purchasing “cancel for any reason” insurance coverage should be careful to check pricing and terms BEFORE they register for a tour. Recent changes in the international travel landscape has caused changes in the policies of some insurance companies, and made the purchase of this particular type of policy even more time-sensitive.

Walking Adventures International reserves the right to cancel this tour departure with fewer than 15 participants, in which case registered participants will receive a 100% refund of payments received.

This refund policy contains one exclusion. Many suppliers require non-refundable deposits as a condition of booking services. Though it is rare, unforeseen circumstances can force us to cancel a tour. In cases where supplier’s non-refundable policies are imposed, WAI attempts to retrieve as much of these deposits as possible but cannot guarantee a 100% refund. In cases where full refunds cannot be obtained for a cancelled tour, we will do our best to transfer unrefunded money as traveler credits to be applied to a future tour to that destination.

Our approach to wellness on tour has traditionally been to encourage travelers to:

  • Focus on health before the tour so you start healthy.
  • Pace yourself while on tour; travel is inherently stimulating and can produce adrenalin boosts that mask energy drain. Guard your energy reserves and consider the length of the trip and whether to opt out of some activities and/or walks.
  • Be self-aware. If you feel yourself tiring or feel a bug coming on, take precautions to block it (e.g. extra rest, extra doses of vitamin C, etc).
  • If you feel a bug coming on or if you take ill, distance yourself from others when possible.
  • If you feel ill, isolate yourself towards the back of the bus and away from others

Click WAI Wellness on Tour Policy to view the WAI policy on Wellness on Tour.

Soon after registration, an “Adventure Advice” email will be sent with critical information on flight arrangements as well as important steps to take in the months before your trip. Please do not buy your airline tickets until you review this Adventure Advice email.

A final payment is due 90 days before departure (June 5, 2024) and is non-refundable after the due date. You will receive a prompt email from us a week or two in advance. Please see our General Tour Conditions for the full terms and conditions for participation in this Adventure.

About 2 weeks before departure, you will receive a final email packet with details of the program, including hotel names and contact information, a list of fellow travelers, and a more detailed daily schedule.

We look forward to enjoying this fascinating region of Europe with you as we set sail on the Danube River Cruise!

Danube River Cruise Map

Adventure Pace

Tour Pace: 1 2 3 4 5
Walk Challenge: 1 2 3 4 5

About Adventure Pace

Important Info

Your Guides

Tim in Bulgaria

Tim Friesen has led our Danube River Cruise multiple times since 2013 and is eager to return to this storied section of Europe with another group of eager travelers.

Tim leads a range of walking adventures for WAI, both in Europe and the USA. He recently retired from a long and happy career as a high school choir teacher in Molalla, Oregon, which explains why he is sometime known to burst into song on the trail.

Tim & Christopher will be joined by a cruise manager from the ship dedicated solely to our WAI group and local guides who meet us at ports of call along the river.

Christopher Friesen brings a blend of musical artistry and cultural curiosity to Walking Adventures.

Christopher’s lifelong dedication to music as an entertainer and private educator has taken him abroad to destinations such as Indonesia, China, Japan, Estonia, and Scandinavia, broadening his perspective and respect for historical context and diverse worldviews.

Beyond musical pursuits, Chris is an outdoor enthusiast, engaging in mountaineering, backpacking, biking, and skiing. He is excited to assist his dad, Tim, in sharing new destinations with WAI travelers.

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Danube River Cruise 2024