The Rhine River flows through four countries in Europe, touching some of the most spectacular scenery on the continent, which makes Rhine River cruises some of the best European vacations out there. Imagine a cruise that stops in Cologne, Germany before cruising to Strasbourg, France and ending in Basel, Switzerland. Now imagine it not costing you as much as you might think.
"Europe is, for all of us, the most important destination," says Patrick Clark, managing director of Avalon Waterways. "We all have ships there. The volume is there. That's where the best deals are always going to be."
Here are five tips for finding just the right Rhine River cruise prices for you.
The easiest way to make sure you are accurately comparing river cruise fares is to break them down by the number of nights and check cruise fares only, before any add-ons like airfare or extra hotel nights in the departure or arrival ports. For reference, the average cost of a Rhine River cruise as of August 2023 is around $350 per person per night.
You’ll pay more for themed cruises, like wine or golf-focused itineraries. You’ll also pay more depending on your choice of cruise line, cabin choice and the dates of your cruise. Value cruise lines like Avalon Waterways and Gate 1 Travel have Rhine River cruise prices as low as $225 per person per night.
On mid-priced lines like Viking, Uniworld, Emerald and even CroisiEurope, look for fares in the $350 to $400 per person per range on Rhine River cruises. More luxurious lines like Scenic or Riverside average closer to $500 and up per person per night, especially during peak cruise seasons.
It also pays to check carefully what each cruise line includes in their fares to get an accurate comparison. Most river cruise lines include all meals, Wi-Fi, beer and wine during lunch and dinner.
Value lines may not package all of that into the cruise fare; Gate 1 is an example of that. It includes beer and wine at dinner, but not lunch. The ship also lacks specialty dining options, which you’d find on most other lines.
Also, be clear what you get extra by booking through a charter company. Adventures by Disney operates cruises on the Rhine. You will be sailing on AmaWaterways, but at a higher price than the cruise line offers. For many, the added attention to detail provided by Disney staff onboard makes the difference worth it.
Be on the lookout for cruise line airfare add-on deals that can save you hundreds when compared to the airfare you’d pay on your own. For example, Viking frequently offers air add-ons.
We found round trip air as low as $799 per person for the upcoming season, and $599 for next year’s Rhine cruises. For airfares on Google Flights for the same dates, Viking offered deals that averaged $200 per person more.
Viking sweetens the airfare deals by including transfers with all air purchased through them, which can potentially save you another $100. And how are you going to beat an even less expensive airfare deal for early booking? Avalon often stacks up nicely compared to Viking in the airfare category.
The most affordable Rhine river cruise is the seven-night cruise between Amsterdam and Zurich, a staple of the region's cruise lines. Avalon offers lower entry level fares for non-peak season departures in late March, early April, late October and early November. During May through September, that same fare averages significantly higher per person per night.
You’ll often find cruises of 10-15 nights are packaged tours that include hotel nights at the beginning and end to create longer itineraries. Check the details of the route so you’ll know how much of the trip is cruise and how much is a land-based tour. This is especially true when booking through companies that charter space, like Abercrombie and Kent, which packages an 11-night Rhine River cruise with a land tour.
"What impacts price most is the season. Early and late are the best values. That's also the time when airfares are lowest," says Clark. Early means March and even into early May. Late means October through early November. Deals are still available during June, July and August as cruise lines push to fill ships in the peak season.
September and early October can have much higher prices, dropping again slightly for the Christmas market cruises between late November and the end of the year. Keep in mind that not all river cruise lines operate as many cruises during the Christmas season, which can affect price.
Tauck, for example, has fewer ships and higher prices in any season, but this is especially evident during the Christmas season. If you are loyal to a particular brand and plan to do a seasonal cruise, the best advice is to book early to take advantage of early bird discounts.
River cruise ships feature a variety of staterooms. The lowest decks generally have windows, often placed high on the wall. Move up a deck and most ships will have rooms with what’s called a French balcony that features a floor-to-ceiling door that opens but does not have room to step out. Some lines have staterooms with full step-out balconies. Opting for a window cabin can save you thousands.
Editor's Note: All prices listed are subject to change.