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Cruising Down the Rhine River: Cruise Lines and Popular Itineraries

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Maria Harding
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Marilyn Borth

Last updated
Oct 2, 2023

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3 min read

The Rhine River is an exceptionally popular waterway around the world, making it one of the most sought after European river cruising itineraries out there. Due to its indisputable popularity with river cruising enthusiasts, dozens of cruise lines float along its bustling banks.

Hundreds of riverboats cruise the Rhine every month from just April to October -- and that's not counting the excursion boats operating short hops along the river for people staying locally.

We'll go over the most popular cruise lines and the itineraries they offer on the venerable Rhine River.

Rhine River Cruise Lines Are Abundant and Reliable

Some of the major cruise lines operating on the Rhine River include Avalon Waterways, AmaWaterways, CroisiEurope, Emerald Cruises, Riviera Travel, Scenic, Uniworld, Vantage Deluxe World Travel, Tauck and Viking River Cruises.

Rhine River Cruise Itineraries Vary in Style, Length and Location

Basel (via Shutterstock)
Basel (via Shutterstock)

From short Rhine River cruises to comprehensive two-week sailings (and longer), there’s a Rhine River cruise itinerary to suit every type of traveler. For Americans, this could mean spending a short amount of time cruising, say four or five nights, paired with a longer land-based European vacation.

Short Rhine River Cruises: Three to Five Nights

Short and sweet, short Rhine River sailings last three, four or five nights. A typical three-night cruise will run roundtrip from Strasbourg to Koblenz, with an overnight at Rüdesheim, while a five-night trip might run from medieval Andernach to Cologne via Rüdesheim, Boppard (famed for its Roman walls), Koblenz and Bonn. If you’re new to river cruising, this is a great way of testing it as part of a longer European vacation.

Christmas Market Cruises on the Rhine

Festive cruises are popular in November and December, when people flock to the banks of the Rhine to enjoy the region's spectacular Christmas markets, twinkling lights and soaring green spruce trees.

Look for itineraries featuring Cologne, Strasbourg, Rüdesheim am Rhein and Basel, which put on fabulous Christmas markets.

Seven-Night Rhine River Cruises

Seven-night, or eight-day, cruises typically run from Amsterdam (after an overnight onboard) to Basel via Cologne, Koblenz, the Rhine Gorge, Rudesheim, Mannheim and Strasbourg -- or in reverse from Basel to Amsterdam.

These cruises venture beyond the Rhine to take in the sights along the Moselle and Main rivers. Boarding and disembarkation points vary, with some going, for example, from Luxembourg to Amsterdam via Trier, Bernkastel-Kues, Cochem, Koblenz (via the Moselle), Mainz, Rudesheim and Cologne.

Others start or end in Frankfurt or travel along the Rhine and Rhone rivers from Amsterdam to Avignon, visiting The Netherlands, Germany and France en-route.

Longer Rhine River Cruises: 14 Nights or More

Koblenz by night on the Rhine (Credit: Kelvin Yuen)
Koblenz by night on the Rhine (Credit: Kelvin Yuen)

If you have more time, a 14-night river cruise takes you from Amsterdam to Budapest via Cologne, Rudesheim and Nuremberg, connecting to the Danube River and on to Passau and other German stops, before visiting Melk and Vienna in Austria, Bratislava and Budapest.

Longer options include three-week North Sea to Black Sea sailings from Amsterdam to Bucharest. These span the Main and Danube rivers, as well as the Rhine, and travel through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia and Bulgaria.

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