River cruises are a great way to experience a number of cities you can’t travel to easily on a cruise ship voyage and a number of these cities and indeed, sometimes the rivers on which they are situated, play host to a number of special events, which it’s often possible to experience as part of your cruise. Here’s a look at a few of them.
Rhine in Flames Festival
Rhein in Flammen, to give it its official German title, is the country’s oldest fireworks festival, held close to Koblenz, which is a popular port of call for a number of Rhine river cruises. Held during the summer, it typically draws a quarter of a million spectators to the banks of both the Rhine and Moselle, when it’s common practice to enjoy a glass or two of the local vintage while taking in the show, when some of the Rhine’s castle and fortress ruins provide a dramatic backdrop to the displays. A number of operators, including Shearings, offer itineraries which visit the river during the festival and depending on which line you travel with, you may even join the festival flotilla.
Budapest Summer Festival
This arts and music festival is held in Hungary’s capital throughout the summer months, between June 14 and August 31, so there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy at least some of the festivities if you book a Danube cruise between those dates, as you’ll almost certainly visit the city on your itinerary. There’s all manner of musical performances to enjoy, from productions by the Budapest Symphony to small jazz combos, as well as exhibitions, ballets and open-air theatrical productions.
The Vienna Festival
The Vienna Festival (Wiener Festwochen) which takes place each year in Austria’s capital and traces its origins back to 1951, is now regarded as one of the world’s top cultural festivals. As a city with such a celebrated musical history it’s a natural location for such a festival, and the 2013 event saw 40 productions take place, from classical performances, to operas and exhibitions, with a number of performances being free. Book a river cruise between the middle of May and the middle of June for a chance to experience the festival.
New Orleans’s Mardi Gras is one of the world’s most famous and colourful festivals. Much in the tradition of the Rio Carnival, it’s a pre-Lent blow-out where you can watch parades and floats daily. The French Quarter is where the most frenzied action is, but if you want to take things a little easier, the celebration is city-wide, with parades through the streets, picnics and balls all taking place.
By Simon Brotherton