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13 Best Rhine River Cruises to Book Today

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Flowing from the Alps just east of Switzerland into the North Sea in the Netherlands, the Rhine River is one of the largest and most important rivers in Europe. River cruising is also one of the most refreshing and beautiful ways to see much of the continent.

The best River Rhine cruises take you on a journey through history, into modern towns, and through a range of cultures along this European river. It’s a fabulous way to spend a few hours or days touring Europe.

The hard part is determining the best river cruises on the Rhine. Numerous options exist, and while not all of them are luxurious experiences, many offer exceptional opportunities with shore excursions, insightful history, and lots of fun on board the cruise. A number of Rhine River cruise lines are out there to choose from; here are some of the best and the cruises they offer.

Category Cruise Description
Best Overall Cruise Cruce Mundo – Christmas Markets on the Rhine A festive five-day cruise, visiting some of Germany’s most charming towns
Best Long Cruise Viking River Cruise – Grand European Tour Cruise Four countries over 15 days; the be-all and end-all of a luxury Rhine cruise
Best Day Cruise Siebengebirge Cruise: Cologne to Königswinter Cramming some of the most beautiful parts of the German Rhine region into a 4-10 hour cruise

Best Rhine River Cruises to Book Today

1. Avalon Waterways Romantic Rhine for Wine Lovers

Empty Deck of the Avalon Waterways Cruise
Avalon Waterways / Avalon Waterways

Cruise Locations: The Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland
Length: 8 days

Spend eight days exploring the wine country on the romantic, beautiful Avalon Waterways river cruise. Explore Cologne, a city that’s 2,000 years old and noted for its stunning Gothic architecture. This river cruise also has stops in Strasbourg, France, and Breisach, Germany, including into the Black Forest and Speyer.

In Speyer, you’ll enjoy a walk through the Wine Museum, visit a castle, and shop at numerous quaint shops in the city’s center. This is the best Avalon Waterways cruise for wine and history lovers. There could be local wine festivals taking place along the trip, which is well worth exploring.

Key sights along the way include:

  • Amsterdam’s streets and canal houses
  • A guided tour of the Jewish heritage sites in Cologne
  • Wine tasting tours
  • Tour of the vineyards of Rüdesheim
  • Tour the stained-glass cathedral and explore the La Petite France District

See Related: Best Wine Tasting in Paris, France (+ Vineyards)

2. Viking River Cruise – Grand European Tour Cruise

Viking River Cruise Ship in Rhone River, Lyon, France
Viking River Cruises / Facebook

Cruise Locations: Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Hungary
Length: 15 days, with other options available

One of the best-known Rhine Valley river cruise operators is Viking. Viking, which also offers ocean cruises around the globe, has long been one of the best options for those wishing to see the Rhine River and offers multiple options.

The best Rhine River cruise Viking offers is the Grand European Tour, a blockbuster trip spanning from Amsterdam to Budapest across 15 days. Other Viking River cruises are available.

Key sights along the way include:

  • 900-year-old castle
  • Medieval town of Miltenberg
  • The town of Regensburg, one of the oldest cities on the Danube
  • The wine-growing region, including Melk
  • Vienna’s parks and upscale boulevards

See Related: Day Trips from Vienna, Austria

3. Cruce Mundo – Christmas Markets on the Rhine

Crucemundo River Cruises Vista Exterior
Crucemundo River Cruises / Crucemundo River Cruises

Locations: Düsseldorf, Koblenz, Mainz, Rüdesheim and Colonge, Germany
Length: 5 days

This round-trip cruise leaves from Düsseldorf and takes you on a tour of many of the German Christmas markets and other destinations along the way along the Rhine River.

During the trip, you’ll enjoy all of the local traditions, including fabulous meals and traditional mulled wine. You can also go ice skating at a few of the excursions along the way.

Key sights along the route include:

  • Shopping in Düsseldorf and other cities
  • Explore Koblenz, one of the oldest cities in the country
  • Navigate the little shops and narrow streets of Mainz
  • Explore the history and museums in Cologne

See Related: Things to Do in Rhineland-Palatinate & Places to Visit

4. Siebengebirge Cruise: Cologne to Königswinter

Cologne Panoramic City Cruise
KD Koeln-Duesseldorfer Rheinschiffahrt / GetYourGuide

Locations: Cologne to Königswinter, Germany
Length: 4 to 10 hours

This is a much smaller, single-day cruise through the Siebengebirge. You’ll travel through the Drachenfels mountains, see the relaxing beauty of the waterway and the small towns, and make a few stops along the way.

Once the location for fairytale castles and picturesque villages, time has changed much of this area. You could keep it short as a one-way cruise or spend a few hours in Königswinter before returning.

Some of the sights along the way include:

  • See the ruined ancient castles in the Drachenfels mountains
  • Check out the waterfalls along the route
  • Enjoy audio history tours of the areas as you pass through each region
  • Exceptional views of the Rhine River Valley and the Rolandsborgen along the way.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in Germany

5. Grape Escape Rhine Valley – Personal Wine Tours

View of Weinköpfe vineyards on a Weinkopfe Rhine Wine Cruise
Weinköpfe / Facebook

Locations: Frankfurt and Mainz, Germany
Length: 7 to 9 hours

Leave Frankfurt for a day trip along the Rhine River. This is a private tour, which means you’ll be able to ask questions and get a more personalized experience. For those exploring the region’s history or who want to have the perfect trip into German wine country, this is an excellent choice.

Though one of the shorter European river cruises, it’s a great way to see the region when you’re already in Frankfurt.

Key sights along the way include:

  • Visit a few wineries and enjoy cellar tours
  • Learn about the history of numerous German vineyards and the storybook towns nearby
  • Sample wine from those lush vineyards, learning about the various types present
  • Relax on the sun deck and watch the lush wooded areas along the route
  • Choose your departure date and time, based on what fits your schedule

See Related: Best Family Vacation Ideas in Germany

6. AmaWaterways – Rhine Castles & Swiss Alps

View of vineyards on a Ama Waterways River Cruising Rudesheim
AmaWaterways / Facebook

Locations: France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland
Length: 7 nights

A fabulous exploration of the history and charm of this region, AmaWaterways offers an exciting trip. Along this particular cruise (there are several options to choose from), you’ll get to see the historic vineyards and fairytale castles along the Rhine River.

It starts off in Amsterdam, the Dutch capital, and takes you through to Germany, where you’ll see the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the River Gorge. Along the trip, you’ll see 40 castles that are located along the riverbanks. Once you reach the Swiss Alps, you’ll have some of the best views of the ranges right from the riverboat.

Key sights along the way include:

  • Cologne Cathedral and Holy City walking tour (choose a bike tour or a beer tour when there)
  • Enjoy wine tasting at the Rhine Gorge
  • Explore the Heidelberg Philosopher’s hike in Ludwigshafen
  • Take the Gem of Alsace tour in Strasbourg
  • Explore the City of Art in Basel and the panoramic views

See Related: Experience the Mt. Pilatus Golden Round Trip in Switzerland

7. A-ROSA: Experience the Moselle

River Cruise Ship A Rosa Flora in Cologne Germany.jpg
Rolf Heinrich, Köln / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0

Locations: Cologne, Cochem, Trier-Mehring, Bernkastel-Kues, and Koblenz, Germany
Length: 5 nights

Explore the river along the Rhenish Massif, a route that takes you along several smooth curves, where nothing short of stunning beauty awaits you around each bend.

You’ll get to explore several small towns, enjoy a vineyard tour of the area that makes Riesling, and relax. This is a slow cruise meant to be lavished and enjoyed at a much calmer pace than others. Still, there’s much to see and experience along the way.

The key sights you’ll see here include:

  • Tour Cochem, on the bank of the Moselle, where you’ll find the Reichsburg, a castle perched up on a hilltop and overlooking the waterway below
  • Explore the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Trier-Mehring, including the churches and historical monuments that dot this city.
  • Embark on a private wine-tasting tour at the Thanisch Winery
  • Explore Koblenz on a culinary tour
  • Take a cable car to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress

See Related: How to Plan a Trip to Germany

8. Croisi Europe Cruises: The Romantic Rhine Valley and the Rock of Lorelei

Cruise passing by the Lorelei mountain viewpoint in St. Goarshausen, Germany
saiko3p / Adobe Stock

Location: Germany, France
Length: 5 days

Explore the romantic Rhine Valley on board this cruise that takes you to the famous Lorelei Rock. This is the destination where legend has it a maiden threw herself into the river and transformed into a siren. She is said to continue to lure fisherman to their demise, and many a boat has been dashed against this rock.

There’s much more to see and do along this route, including exploring the historic cities and medieval towns along the route. This is an excellent Rhine River cruise for the whole family, though solo travelers are welcomed too and may even find love along the way.

Some of the experiences you’ll have here include:

  • Explore the local markets, taste local cuisine, and enjoy conversations in charming cafes
  • Sail past the historic towns of Kaub, Saint-Goar, Oberwesel, and Koblenz.
  • Explore the Stolzenfels castle.
  • Take a tourist train ride through the Rhine Valley along the way, enjoying a wine-tasting cellar along the way
  • See the history of the region in any of the museums along the route

See Related: Best Castle Hotels in Germany

9. Emerald Cruises: Jewels of the Rhine

Emerald Cruise Emerald Azzura Cruise Ship
Emerald Cruises / Facebook

Locations: The Netherlands, Germany
Length: 8 days

Spend seven nights on board an Emerald Cruises Star-Ship traveling along this Rhine River cruise. During this time, you’ll be able to embark on various excursions, including guided tours of Cologne’s Old Town, a canal cruise in Amsterdam, a local farm estate with a cooking demonstration, and much more.

The trip is one of the best options to see the Rhine River at a slower pace, with more river cruise excursions along the way.

Some key experiences you’ll have depending on your departure date include:

  • Walking tour of Koblenz and the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress
  • Bike tour of Waterland
  • Hiking Mount Königstuhl to Heidelberg
  • Exploring Strasbourg and Heidelberg
  • Taking a bike tour of Breisach

See Related: Two Days in Amsterdam Itinerary | How to Spend 48 Hours

10. Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours: Rhine Highlights

Scenic Luxury Cruises
Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours / Facebook

Locations: France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland
Length: 8 days

This Zurich to Amsterdam river cruise allows you to enjoy an all-inclusive experience in a luxury riverboat. You’ll spend your time exploring the history and culture of this region, including the sloping vineyards, the clash of German and French cultures in Alsace, and the legendary canals of Amsterdam.

This is luxurious river cruising at its best, especially if you want to explore the best restaurants and high-end shopping.

Some of the destinations you’ll experience include:

  • Explore Mittelbergheim in the French Alsace region to see the local wine industry up close
  • Explore the Black Forest and historic farmhouses in the area
  • Enjoy one of the spas in Black Forest
  • Check out Mannheim, also known as the location where Carl Benz developed the Mercedes-Benz
  • Take a walking tour of Cologne

See Related: Best Car Museums in Germany to Visit

11. 2 River Day Trip by Boat to Koblenz

Day-trip by boat to Koblenz from Alken
Personenschifffahrt MS Goldstück / GetYourGuide

Locations: Alken to Koblenz, Germany
Length: 1 day

For a day trip, consider taking a cruise from Alken to Koblenz. You will be able to explore the area of Deutsches Eck during your time in Koblenz.

This is a fun, shorter day cruise that allows you to see some of the best sites along the way. You’ll travel down the Moselle and Rhine Rivers.

Some of the destinations you’ll see:

  • The castles and mountain slopes along the Moselle
  • The conjunction between the Moselle and Rhine River
  • The UNESCO World Heritage Deutsche Eck location
  • Check out the bridges and views in the region
  • See the Wasserburg von der Leyen and Gondorf structures

See Related: Best Islands in Germany to Visit

12. Cologne: Top Sights Rhine River Cruise

Cruise ship in Rhine River, Cologne
Kölntourist Personenschiffahrt am Dom Gm / GetYourGuide

Location: Cologne, Germany
Length: 1 Day

This full-day trip along the Rhine River gives you an exceptional look at the city of Cologne, including the region’s 2,000-year history. This cruise is an excellent experience for those who want to absorb a bit of German history and culture while exploring this cosmopolitan metropolis.

Some of the sites you will see along the way include:

  • Note famous sites along the river while listening to the recorded commentary about the region
  • Find the five 5 Rhine River bridges and note their architectural beauty
  • See the Cologne Cathedral and Old Town areas
  • Enjoy some coffee, cake, and a Kolsch beer during the trip
  • Not the numerous L-shaped crane houses along the way

See Related: Best Breweries in Cologne, Germany | Top Beer Halls

13: Rhine Valley Trip from Frankfurt, Including Rhine River Cruise

Lorelei Rock Cruise in Rhine Gorge, Germany
johannes86 / Adobe Stock

Location: Middle Rhine area of Koblenz, Germany
Length: 1 day

A romantic, winding river cruise down the Rhine, this experience can be either a half-day or a full-day, depending on your goals. The trip is done along a traditional steamer vessel, and you’ll travel along the vineyards and medieval towns in the area.

Note the castles along the route. If you have a bit more time, take a tour of the vineyards while here.

Some of the sites you’ll see include:

  • Find the Lorelei Rock
  • Enjoy some wine tasting on a full-day trip
  • Explore the historic Rudesheim with a tour
  • Enjoy lunch at a riverside restaurant with views
  • Note the mountaintop castles that line the Rhine River along the route

See Related: Best Cities & Places to Visit in Western Germany

How to Choose the Best European River Cruise for You

Before you select any of these Rhine River cruises or others, consider a few details that may matter to you:

Onboard Amenities

While your goal is to see the Rhine Region, you want to ensure the vessel has everything you need for the right trip. Make sure the services and amenities you need are available to you. Depending on the cruise and the boat, that could include lunch, a fitness room, guided tours, planned activities, yoga, and meet-and-greets.

Excursions

When comparing your options, be very careful about what the river cruise is promising. You may see a range of sights along the route from the ship, but excursions can get you close and personal. Some may be included in the cost, but others will not be.

Cost

When exploring the Rhine Region, know that many of the ports are the most expensive locations for meals and shopping. Travel into the cities a bit more and take a tour of more of the local areas to save money and for a better look at the rich culture of the region.

FAQs

What cruise lines sail the Rhine River?

Numerous cruise lines offer a Rhine River cruise, including Avalon Waterways, AmaWaterways, Riviera Travel, Uniworld, Viking River Cruises, Emerald Waterways, and A-ROSA.

Which side of the ship is best on a Rhine River cruise?

It’s a big question, but one that doesn’t have a straightforward answer since you could be traveling in either direction. There’s no better side, though, on this cruise. We encourage you to check out the attractions and destinations offered and then plan your journey to be out of your stateroom so you can see everything along the main rivers here.

Where do Rhine River cruises start and end?

That’s dependent on the length of the trip and your goals. You will find some that begin in Amsterdam, Germany, Switzerland, France, and numerous destinations throughout the Rhine River Valley.

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