Rhine River Cruises – Best Lines & Destinations

Last updated on 02/11/2022

Best Rhine River Cruises

The Rhine River is one of Europe’s longest river, beginning in the Swiss Alps. The river has many dips and dives at the start and becomes navigable around Basel, Switzerland. This is where most Rhine river cruises begin.

The Rhine River travels through six different countries before it empties into the North Sea in Rotterdam: Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands. Because of this, there is much to see when cruising on the Rhine.

The Best of the Rhine

Rhine River Boat Tours

The 870-mile stretch of the Rhine is very diverse in its scenery. It’s an important river in Europe that continues to be important in the modern era. The banks of the Rhine are not filled with only castles and sleepy medieval European towns. There is also the glimpse of a factory or power plant, bustling modern cities, and sprawling countryside.

Because of this diversity, the river has a little something for everyone. If you are hoping to see a bit of European history and immerse yourself in what once was, the Rapunzel’s Castle area may be your ideal cruise itinerary. There are many castles along the Rhine River, but you may want to look for ships that are traveling through the Rhine Gorge.

As you cruise down the river, depending on which area of the river you choose, you’ll see a lot of what Europe has to offer. You can choose an itinerary that hops from the main cities on The Rhine: Amsterdam, Strasbourg, Basel, Mainz, Cologne and Rudesheim. This will allow you to see a lot of what Europe has to offer without getting too rural.

If you want to stretch your European experience, look into cruise itinerary that includes the Moselle River. You will be dazzled by not only beautiful scenery but also castles and vineyards along the smaller river.

The Best Time for Rhine River Cruises

Rhine River Sailing Tours

While river cruises will run from March to December, there are better times to cruise the river. Of course, the more popular times to cruise will be the more expensive. Even so, the Rhine especially has a couple times of year that you won’t want to miss.

In certain times in the summer, particular cities in the Middle Rhine take part in "The Rhine in Flames" between the months of May and September. Each area of the Middle Rhine celebrates at a different time. Anytime you go, if your river cruise overlaps these celebrations you’ll be delighted with street parties, dancing and festivals. Best of all, you’ll have the best seat in the house for the firework displays after sundown!

Another extremely popular travel time, although much colder, is during the holiday season. The streets of many sought after destinations along the Rhine transform for Christmas. Many travelers specifically chose to take a European river cruise just for the Christmas Markets at each port.

The Best Rhine River Cruise Lines

Choosing a cruise line is like choosing the perfect bottle of wine. “The perfect bottle” is going to be different for every person. River cruise lines are the same way. There are several cruise lines that sail the river and upwards of 300 ships will travel the Rhine at some point during the cruising season, if you include the local companies as well.

All of the cruise lines have ships and itineraries that range in trip length, price and destinations. Finding the right cruise does not have to be like a needle in a haystack. We recommend researching the top cruise lines first: Viking River Cruises, Avalon Waterways, AMA Waterways, Tauck River Cruises and Emerald Waterways. These will offer the most diverse itineraries and excursions.

If you can’t find what you are looking for with these larger cruise lines, then start digging deeper. There are several different smaller, more specialized cruise lines, too many to list really. But you can find a lot of great information on cruise sites like cruisecritic.com and rivercruiseadvisor.com.