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Oberammergau Cruise Tips: Seeing the Passion Play by River Cruise

Decorated Passion Play Painted House in Oberammergau, Germany (Photo: Michael Warwick/Shutterstock)
Decorated Passion Play Painted House in Oberammergau, Germany (Photo: Michael Warwick/Shutterstock)

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The 42nd Oberammergau Passion Play was due to take place in May 2020. Numerous river cruise lines had planned sailings and expanded itineraries around this once-in-a-decade performance spectacle. However, the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic necessitated the postponement of the Passion Play for the next two years. The Oberammergau Passion Play will now begin on May 21, 2022.

The good news for those already booked on a Passion Play itinerary: most river cruise lines are developing plans to rebook affected guests from 2020 on voyages in 2022.

For those who haven’t had a chance to experience Oberammergau fever, or who haven’t heard of it yet, get ready to be inundated all things Passion Play in the run-up to 2022, as river cruise lines tailor sailings and itineraries to allow passengers to take in the spectacle. Avalon Waterways, CroisiEurope, Emerald Waterways, Scenic, Tauck and Viking River Cruises were among the lines offering itineraries -- and taking bookings -- for travelers looking to attend in 2020, and it is expected that all will continue to do so in 2022 (see below for a detailed look at each line and what their current plans for 2022 are).

Updated March 27, 2020

The passion play -- which sometimes runs well over five hours in duration -- has been performed by the villagers of Oberammergau, Germany, since 1634. Staged one year per decade, it tells the story of the Passion of Jesus, from the arrival of Christ in Jerusalem to his crucifixion, death and resurrection. Faced with the ravages of the plague that was sweeping Europe, the villagers vowed to perform the play every 10 years in the hopes that their tribute to the Passion of Christ would spare them from further suffering.

In 2022, more than 2,000 actors, performers and technical staff will bring to life 100-plus performances of the Oberammergau Passion Play. Running between May and October 2022, the play is a huge economic driver for the region; a local expression, Die Passion zahlt, translates as, "The Passion pays for it." An estimated 450,000 visitors were expected to descend on the town in 2020 before the performance’s postponement; a similar number can be expected for its rescheduled dates in 2022.

While the play has faced charges of rampant anti-Semitism in the past, modern iterations have strove to present a more balanced performance through the elimination of the play's more controversial elements. Revisions to successive performances are common, with the 2010 performance being noted for its radical changes.

For those wanting to attend the play, river cruises offer a real convenience. People attending independently must secure hotel stays, transportation, meals and tours, while river cruise lines are taking care of all of the logistic details on behalf of their passengers.

With the next Oberammergau Passion Play not scheduled until 2030, this could be the hottest ticket around for the next decade.

Oberammergau River Cruise Lines

If you've got a favorite river cruise line, chances are good that it will be developing an itinerary that includes admission to the Oberammergau Passion Play.

River cruise lines offering Oberammergau 2022 itineraries include Avalon Waterways. Lines that were offerings voyages in 2020, including CroisiEurope, Emerald Waterways, Scenic, Tauck and Viking River Cruises, are still reviewing their sailing options. This article will be updated as information becomes available.

Oberammergau River Cruise Itineraries

Because of its location south of Munich, river cruise itineraries that feature visits to Oberammergau for the Passionsspiele are often combined with an overland tour to Munich and can sail both the Rhine and the Danube. This leaves river cruise lines open to designing new and interesting itineraries that visit a comprehensive number of ports on these two famous waterways.

Exact itineraries for 2022 are not available yet. Those booked on an existing Oberammergau river cruise itinerary should see below for details on rebooking for 2022:

Avalon Waterways: Avalon is being proactive in offering those booked on cancelled 2020 Oberammergau voyages first crack at securing a spot on the rescheduled 2022 voyages – at the same price paid. In a statement, the line says guests can:

  • Reserve their sport for a 2022 Oberammergau tour or cruise date. New 2022 dates will become available in May.
  • Take advantage of Avalon’s new “Peace of Mind Travel Plan”, which provides affected passengers with a Future Cruise credit for all monies paid on current Oberammergau bookings.
  • Elect to cancel a 2020 Oberammergau booking by declining the option to rebook or receive a Future Cruise Credit and receive a refund of all monies paid.

Tauck: Tauck is reaching out to passengers on affected sailings to offer rebooking options for 2020 river cruises and beyond. Tauck kindly requests that passengers not ring the office at this time and advises it will be addressing those on booked sailing on a voyage-by-voyage basis.

Vantage Deluxe World Travel: Vantage is currently reviewing its itineraries and is reaching out to affected passengers. The company notes that wait times for the company’s contact numbers may be longer than normal.

Oberammergau River Cruises Tips

Book Early. With limited availability, early booking is essential for these voyages, some of which are already sold out.

Budget Appropriately. Because of the high demand for these special itineraries, some cruise lines are requiring additional deposits in order to make a booking. Avalon Waterways, for example, was requiring an increased deposit of $350 per person for its Obergammau Passion Play itineraries in 2020.

Check Frequently. Because these voyages are so far out in the future, a few river cruise lines are still determining the exact ships that will operate these runs. Each line is at a different stage for their Oberammergau voyages, making it important to check with your favorite river cruise company to see if they are taking bookings at the moment and, if they are, what (if any) special conditions will apply to these river cruises.

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