Oberammergau Passion Play crossings sell out fast: Travel Weekly
The Oberammergau Passion Play epic is about to return to the stage in the German village where it began nearly 400 years ago. And several luxury lines offer itineraries specially designed around the unmissable event.
The production is staged entirely by the people of Oberammergau – up to 2,000 of them. It has historically taken place every 10 years, at the start of every decade, but due to the pandemic it had to be postponed from its original date of 2020.
Performances this year will take place from May 14 to October 2.
Some of the river packages offer Passion Play as a pre-cruise offer, with short one or two night stays in Oberammergau or longer multi-day stays that include land tours of the Bavarian village and surrounding communities.
“Land tours featuring Oberammergau have been designed specifically to link with a variety of our Scenic river cruise options,” said Elliot Gillies, spokesperson for Scenic. “Short three night land extensions linked to seven night cruises up to seven nights visiting land sites linked to our 14 night cruises.”
Other itineraries will offer Passion Play as a post-cruise offer.
“Oberammergau’s location in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps is approximately 200 miles and 150 miles from the Rhine and Danube respectively, so it’s really not possible to incorporate Passion Play as a featured activity during the cruise herself,” Tauck said. vice president of global operations, Joanne Gardner. “When you include the Oberammergau Passion Play in a river cruise experience, you’re basically adding it as an add-on experience at the start or end of the cruise.
Tauck offers Passion Play cruises on the Danube aboard the 130-passenger Savor, seen here near Durnstein, Austria. Photo credit: Courtesy of Tauck
What to expect in the era of Covid
Tauck’s Oberammergau offerings cover both land and river cruises. Gardner said the luxury supplier has been ready to relaunch its Passion Play routes for a year. She said guests on a Tauck package can expect the exact experience originally planned for 2020.
“We actually started planning the 2020 performances in 2015,” Gardner said. “Despite the onset of Covid and its myriad impacts, we were able to preserve all of the experiences we had built into our planned 2020 Passion Play departures. This has been a key priority for us, as 90% of our customers who ‘d booked a 2020 Passion Play tour or cruise with us chose to postpone his trip and see the play with us this year, rather than cancel.
Overall, Tauck offers six Oberammergau itineraries for land and river cruises.
“Given the high demand we’ve been experiencing, we’re pretty much sold out for all of our Passion Play starts in May and June. We still have availability in July and August, but we’ll likely end up selling out those months as well. said Gardner, who noted that the company also offered Passion Play packages in 2000 and 2010.
The anticipation is perhaps even higher for this production, and for good reason: the Oberammergau Passion Play 2020 had to be rescheduled twice due to the Covid.
“We’ve seen strong demand for these river itineraries, even well before the pandemic delays, so we know our customers are looking forward to these trips,” said Richard Marnell, Viking’s executive vice president of marketing. “Currently availability for our Oberammergau sailings is extremely limited; several departure dates are completely sold out, but we still have cabins available on other departure dates.”
Timing is key
With or without the many challenges of Covid, scheduling river cruise deals that coincide with Oberammergau’s four-month performance window comes down to one thing: timing.
On Amadeus River Cruises’ Oberammergau-bound river cruises this year, guests will catch the show on day two of a two-night pre-cruise tour before boarding the ship for a cruise to Budapest or Amsterdam via the Danube and the Rhine, respectively. According to Executive Vice President Marcus Leskovar, it takes meticulous planning to get it right.
Cruises must be ready to depart the night of the show, Leskovar said. “For example, if Oberammergau ends on May 28, then we need a cruise that is ready to embark on May 28. Otherwise, if we have in-between or overlapping days, it wouldn’t work…it you have to be precise in order for these routes to circulate.”
For Austrian-born Leskovar, the return of Passion Play this year has a special meaning, and not just because he and Amadeus have deep roots in the region. He spoke about the origins of the event, how the tradition began in the 17th century when, after months of suffering and dying from the plague, the people of Oberammergau pledged to perform the play of suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ once every 10 years.
“This year, with the [backdrop] of the current pandemic, this is even more meaningful and powerful, because everyone has been affected by the pandemic in one way or another,” Leskovar said.