In 2017 the Danube Commission recorded 102 passenger ships that are registered at a harbour within the Hungarian Danube section. They transport more than a million passengers each year and at Budapest the river is crowded with sightseeing ships. According to Kornél Schwarcz from Portum Lines, one of the service providers, about 20 passenger ships are in operation on the Danube in Budapest every day.

Tickets can be purchased directly on board or at small stalls. "With our company, people are buying tickets primarily online," Schwarz says.

Although the list of providers is quite long in the Hungarian capital, it is dominated by eight names: Legenda, MAHART PassNave, Program Centrum, Big Bus Tours, Silverline Cruises, Portum Lines, Riverride and Hungarian Koncert. Most of them offer short trips.

If you are planning an excursion outside Budapest, you can also choose to travel by water. MAHART PassNave ships operate daily between Budapest and Vác, Visegrád or Esztergom. Esztergom can be reached within 90 minutes, allowing enough time to discover the city before the ship returns to Budapest. A return ticket from Budapest to Esztergom costs about EUR 25. Silverline, on the other hand, offers an excursion to Szentendre, the home town of artists.

Besides the typical round trips, many operators offer the opportunity to rent a ship for several hours. No matter if it’s a wedding, birthday or New Year’s Eve, every occasion can turn out to an unforgettable evening on the Danube. Portum Lines, Silverline Cruises and MAHART PassNave offer special packages with catering and live music for these kind of events.

"Most people contact us with specific preferences," Schwarz says. "If they can be arranged, we prepare an individual offer." They are open even for unusual wishes. On one occasion, when the ship excursion was the scene of a marriage proposal, the client asked for a banner to be lowered from the Chain Bridge right when the ship was passing.

According to the MAHART PassNave website a ship for 200 people costs about EUR 174 per hour, while at Portum Lines you will be paying EUR 127 per hour for a significantly smaller ship that carries up to 38 passengers.

There are special offers for special occasions. For example, on the national holiday, August 20, you can enjoy the impressive fireworks from the water while they serve dinner accompanied by folk music.

At Christmas several providers offer a 3- to 4-hour round trip with a three- to four-course menu. Silverline Cruises has a 3-hour cruise on the Danube with piano music and Christmas dinner. Of course, there are many offers for New Year’s Eve as well.


Safety first

The tragic accident when two cruise ships collided and 28 people died in May was a real shock for the industry. According to Schwarz, demand fell back noticeably for several weeks but has since returned to normal. "During this period, the employees of Portum Lines were trying even harder than before to emphasise the safety rules on board to our clients," he says. Since safety had always been first for the company, it was not believed necessary to introduce additional rules.

You can find more information and offers in English among others at the following websites:

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