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Oberammergau Cruise Tips: Seeing the Passion Play by River Cruise

Senior Editor, News and Features
Aaron Saunders

Last updated
Mar 10, 2021

Read time
4 min read

In Oberammergau, Germany, the world-class Passion Play takes place every 10 years, usually between May and October. Because the last Oberammergau Passion Play was postponed from 2020 to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the next event will take place in 2030.

Set in this charming Bavarian hamlet roughly an hour's drive south of Munich, the Oberammergau Passion Play focuses on the final period in the life of Jesus Christ and is performed on open-air stages. In 2022, river cruise lines tailored sailings and itineraries to allow passengers to take in this extraordinary spectacle. Avalon Waterways, CroisiEurope, Emerald Waterways, Scenic, Tauck and Viking River Cruises were among the lines offering itineraries. While we don't know for sure just yet which lines will offer sailings to the next Oberammergau Passion Play, this gives us a good indication.

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The Oberammergau Passion Play Has Been Performed Since the 17th Century

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.

The most recent performance saw more than 2,000 actors, performers and technical staff bring to life 100-plus performances of the Oberammergau Passion Play. Typically running between May and October, the play is a huge economic driver for the region; a local expression, Die Passion zahlt, translates as, "The Passion pays for it." Around 412,000 visitors attended the 2022 rescheduled event from all over the world.

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.

We Expect to See Several River Cruises Lines Offering Oberammergau Passion Play Itineraries

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 that offered Oberammergau 2022 itineraries included Avalon Waterways, Emerald Waterways, Scenic, Tauck and Viking River Cruises, among others.

Keep in touch with your favorite line; with itineraries released around 18 months - 2 years out.

Oberammergau Passion Play Overland Tours Are Typically Offered as Part of Rhine and the Danube Itineraries

Oberammergau, Germany, is located south of Munich, which means river cruise itineraries that feature visits to the Passion Play are often combined with an overland tour from the Rhine and the Danube. To give you an idea of what river cruise lines might offer for the next Oberammergau Passion Play, here's a breakdown of what voyages were available in 2022.

Avalon Waterways: Avalon Waterways offered three separate Oberammergau itineraries in 2022, ranging in length from 12 to 13 day river adventures along the Rhine and Danube. All itineraries were crafted around the Passion Play, with a full visit to Oberammergau available pre-or-post cruise.

Emerald Waterways: Emerald Waterways tailored a trip to the Oberammergau Passion Play as an add-on to six, eight-day river cruise departures on the Danube. The extension (which was available as a separate 10-day itinerary) included a one-night stay in both Munich and Oberammergau; a welcome drink; an orientation tour of Munich; breakfast and dinner in Oberammergau; admission to the Passion Play; and transfers to the pier in Nuremberg.

Scenic: Scenic offered five separate itineraries that included Oberammergau in 2022, ranging in length from 11 to 22 days. In keeping with Scenic's all-inclusive policy, these sailings were paired with inclusive transfers and hotels.

Tauck: Tauck had inclusive visits to Oberammergau and the Passion Play as part of three separate itineraries in 2022.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises: Uniworld Boutique River Cruises offered trips to Oberammergau as a four-night optional pre-cruise extension to select Danube river cruises in 2022. The four-night package included one night in Munich, two nights in Oberammergau, admission to the Passion Play and premium reserved seating, and all transfers.

Viking River Cruises: Viking River Cruises had four separate river cruise itineraries in 2022 that included a visit to Oberammergau's Passion Play. These include the 10-day "Oberammergau, The Passion Play" (Munich to Budapest); the 12-day "Oberammergau, Innsbruck & the Rhine" (Amsterdam to Oberammergau); "Oberammergau with Salzburg" (Oberammergau to Budapest); and "Oberammergau, The Alps and the Rhine" (Munich to Amsterdam).

Essential Tips for Planning a Future Oberammergau Passion Play River Cruise

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. Uniworld, for example, requires full prepayment of its Oberammergau pre-cruise add-on at time of booking.

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.

Publish date March 10, 2021
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