A river cruise is the ideal way to explore Europe, and the Rhine is a truly stunning waterway that provides access to some of Europe’s most beautiful areas. I have created this guide to help you learn about the Rhine and find the Rhine River Cruise that is right for you!
- Imagine visiting multiple locations on one journey but only unpacking once.
- Imagine traveling in a floating boutique hotel right to the heart of some of the world’s most romantic and historic destinations.
- Imagine experiencing this with the people you love most from the vantage point of a beautiful cabin with floor-to-ceiling views of fairy-tale countrysides.
The River Cruise Experience
A Rhine River Cruise lets you experience the landscapes of The Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland from a unique vantage point. You dock right in the middle of the destination and walk off the ship to the center of town.
Your excursions will take you to castles and cathedrals, breweries and wineries, and everywhere in between. Many of the ships have bicycles ready for you to use in your explorations. Or you can simply wander the city, town or village at your leisure.
In order to navigate these waters, the ships need to be small in size: they hold no more than 150- 200 passengers. So every aspect of your experience – the service, the dining, the tours – is personal. No waiting for the buffet, no lining up for excursions.
Finally, river cruises are all-inclusive. This means that almost every part of your cruise, from your food and drink to your excursions and other activities, is included in the price, leaving you free to relax and enjoy your vacation.
The Rhine River – an overview
Flowing northwest from the Alps, the Rhine passes through Switzerland, France, Germany, and The Netherlands, before ending in the North Sea. Most Rhine River cruises either begin or end in the quintessential European metropolis of Amsterdam. If you embark there, you will begin by passing through the low country of The Netherlands and Northern Germany. Then the landscape changes dramatically as you cruise through the Rhine Gorge, where steep hills are home to vineyards and medieval castles all of which provide breathtaking views from the water. Continuing southward, the valleys open into a wide floodplain between the Vosges and Haardt Mountains with its own European charm.
As you approach the Rhine’s headwaters the river becomes less navigable, which is why most river cruises end their journey in Basel, a small Swiss city near the border of both Germany and France. At this point, you will have experienced the delights of four of the most incredible countries in Europe.
Some Highlights of a Rhine River Cruise
Amsterdam – This captivating city is known for its canals, architecture, food, its friendly people, and (a bit more notoriously) its nightlife. Most Rhine River cruises give you a full overnight here, which is still not nearly enough time to see everything, but your trip can easily be extended by a few nights to give you time to explore. While you’re in Amsterdam, be sure to do a canal boat tour, where you’ll be able to experience exactly why these waterways are a UNESCO world heritage site. Later, let yourself be captivated by the art at the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Museum before taking some time to wander the city by bike or on foot.
Cologne – As Germany’s fourth-largest city and the largest metropolis in the North-Rhine region, Cologne is a must-stop location on any Rhine River voyage. Here you will find an abundance of incredibly diverse museums catering to interests as varied as art, Roman history, and chocolate. No trip to Cologne is complete without a visit to the Kölner Dom, the twin-spired cathedral that looms over the city and happens to be the largest cathedral in Germany. Finally, be sure to make a stop at a beer hall for good food, a boisterous time, and to sample a delicious Kölsch, the signature beer of Cologne.
The Rhine Gorge – The Rhine Gorge is a 40 mile stretch of the Rhine where the river has carved a deep path through the landscape. The effect is a stunning hilly landscape dotted with more than 40 medieval castles and countless vineyards. Pay attention as you pass through this region as there are many noteworthy sites with deep histories – including the famous Lorelei Rock at the tightest bend of the river. In fact, this entire area is so rich in beauty and culture that the Rhine Gorge has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. You’ll be able to experience this area firsthand on your stop in Rüdesheim, a small German town at the center of the area’s wine-making industry and with incredible access to the natural beauty of the region.
Strasbourg – Located in the Alsace Region of France, this town of about 200,000 people is characterized by its proximity to Germany, its fairy-tale charm, and its deep traditions of wine-making. When you tour Strasbourg you will be transported into the past as you explore the gothic cathedral, the European Parliament building, and the “La Petite France” district, where the 16th and 17th-century homes will make you feel like you’re in a tale by the Brothers Grimm. Don’t miss the famous “Astronomical Clock” in the cathedral, which puts on a mechanical show each day at 12:30 pm. The real star of the show in Strasbourg, though, is the cuisine, which includes unique Alsatian dishes and some truly fine wine.
Basel – Basel is situated in Switzerland right over the border from both Germany and France, making it a truly multicultural city. The dominant language here is Swiss-German, however, you are almost as likely to hear French spoken here. This diversity in language and culture is just one of the draws of this city, which also boasts an excellent art scene, many museums, delicious food, stunning architecture, and beautiful vistas due to its location upon the Rhine. And once you have arrived in Basel you are just a stone’s throw from the Swiss Alps, where you will find unprecedented access to mountains reaching heights up to 15,000 feet.
Choosing Your Rhine River Cruise!
Now that you know more about what you will see and do on your Rhine River cruise, it’s time to find the cruise that’s right for you!
Have you decided whether you would prefer to start or finish in Amsterdam? Or maybe you want to extend your trip at the beginning or end for more exploration in Europe? Whatever itinerary you choose, there are some other things that you should consider as you prepare to embark on your epic journey on the Rhine.
When do you want to go?
One of the first things you need to decide is when you want to travel. You can take a River Cruise on the Rhine from mid-March through the end of the year, and every season brings its own delights.
Holiday sailings are particularly special – you will visit some of Europe’s most delightful Christmas Markets, and enjoy Europe during the most festive season of the year!
How Long of a Cruise?
Most Rhine River Cruises sailings last 7 nights, but there are a few that are shorter (4 or 5 nights).
So if you are squeezing in a vacation with a limited amount of time, or want to combine your River Cruise with other tours, you want to consider one of the shorter cruises. However, if you have more time to explore, ask about exploring the Moselle or Danube Rivers along with your Rhine Cruise.
Special Interest Cruises
Do you love wine or are you obsessed with beer? Or perhaps you’re a history buff? Or would you like a River Cruise that incorporates your favorite outdoor activity such as biking, hiking, or golf?
There are many options for special cruises that focus on your interests and passions no matter what they may be! Let me know if you would be interested in more information.
Pre- and Post-Cruise Options
You can extend your vacation on either end of your River Cruise by adding a pre- or post-cruise land extension. Amsterdam, the spas of Baden-Baden and the Swiss Alps are just a few of the places you can explore before or after your cruise.
Which River Cruise Company?
You will want to pick the River Cruise company that fits your style. Some ships are more ornate, some more modern; some have more inclusions upfront and some give you more a la carte choices; and some are better options for families, couples, or singles. Tell me about yourself and I can help you make this important choice.
As a River Cruise expert, I will help you sort through all the different options and find the perfect Rhine River Cruise for you! Reach out to me and let’s start planning!