Rhine Cruise Guide – Germany River Cruises on around and down the Rhine

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European Cruises Along The Rhine Germany

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Cruises On The Rhine
The steeply banked Rhine Valley is a landscape characterised by hundreds of castles with a formidable Medieval past, teetering above romantic towns, rolling vineyards and wooded mountains. This incredibly photogenic scenery earns the Rhine a top spot on the list of most popular river cruise destinations in the world. It is one of Western Europe’s mightiest rivers, flowing for more than 820 miles (1320km) from its source.
The Rhine River’s Route

The Rhine starts life as a fast-flowing Alpine stream in the Swiss Alps at the Rheinwaldhorn Glacier, some 3,353 metres above sea level. Just south of Chur in Switzerland, the Hinter Rhine, flowing north-westernly from the glacier, joins the Voder Rhine flowing from Lake Tuma – to form the Rhine proper at Reichenau.

The river gathers volume as it travels towards Lake Constance in Germany, and then west through Schaffhausen. Near Schaffhausen, close to the German border, the river plunges 23 metres (75 ft) over the dramatic Rheinfall, the widest plain waterfalls in Europe, before flowing on to the industrial city of Basel in Switzerland, with its Old Town heritage. At Basel the river twists north into a valley between the French Vosges Mountains on the west and Germany’s Black Forest (Schwarzwald) on the east, forming a natural border between the two countries.

The river narrows to pass through the famous 65 kilometre-long Rhine Gorge (officially called the ‘Upper Middle Rhine Valley’), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The gorge forms a steep-sided valley of castles and vineyards between Koblenz and Bingen in Germany, and reaches the Netherlands, where it joins several other rivers on its final journey to Rotterdam and to empty into the North Sea.

Castles On The Rhine
There are more castles along the Rhine than any other river valley in the world, many of them concentrated along the Rhine Gorge, perhaps the most spectacular stretch of river. Some are now crumbling, while other have withstood the ravages of time, war and neglect and stand proudly overlooking vineyards or on the cliffs above towns and villages. Feudal overlords built them to protect their lands from marauders, but today they’ve taken on a more romantic role, and simply add to the drama of the landscape.
Vineyards On The Rhine
Most of Germany’s vineyards owe their existence to the Rhine river, so they are also a prominent riverside feature. Each region produces a different type of wine – but as a general rule, Rhine wine is rich and full, and the primary grape is the Reisling.
Choosing a cruise
The Rhine is a long river, and most cruises cover just a small section of it. If you’re only going to travel along a short portion, and if you want to catch the highlights (castles, pretty towns and vineyards), look for a cruise that covers the German Rhine Gorge stretch between Bingen and Koblenz. Even though there are hoards of tourists in this area, its popularity is justified – so we’ve chosen cruises that include this unmissable stretch. Another big consideration is obviously how long to go for, as this has a bearing on the cost of your trip and how much of the river you can cover.
Budget Friendly Cruises

Viking River Cruises offer a four-day ‘Taste of the Rhine’ cruise on board the Viking Helvetica from Basel to Dusseldorf from £585, which includes flights from London. You fly from London Heathrow to Basel and transfer to the ship, where you sail through the evening to Strasbourg. The next day you see the sights of Strasbourg/Kehl and travel to Speyer by evening. The next day there’s a visit to the city of Mainz, then passengers cruise on to the Middle Rhine, with its famous, storybook castles.

The final day includes a trip to the city of Cologne before completing the trip in Dusseldorf for the return flight to London. This is a good itinerary because it covers the top ‘highlights’ and more besides in a short space of time – the downside is you won’t get much time to stop anywhere so you’ll only get a taster of what the region has to offer.

Full details at: http://www.vikingrivercruises.co.uk/experience-europe/rhine-main-danube/2009-A-Taste-of-the-Rhine-4-days/?action=overview

Mid-range Cruises Along The Rhine

For a lengthier, mid-range cruise, Blue Water Holidays offer a 7-night ‘Rhine Discovery’ cruise on board the MS Viking Sun (or the Helvetia), exploring the full length of the River Rhine from Holland to Switzerland, and costing from £1150 upwards (including flights from the UK).

The trip includes stop-offs in Cologne, Koblenz, Rudesheim, Mannheim, Speyer, Kehl and Breisach, finishing the trip at Basle – with additional land excursions away from the Rhine by coach. This package includes a lot – especially with all the additional trips away from the river – representing good value for money. Full details at http://www.cruisingholidays.co.uk/eriver.aspx?hid=R129

Luxury Cruises On The Rhine

eWaterways offers a five-day ‘Rhine Romanticism and the Mountains of Switzerland’ river cruise on the new (in 2008) Premicon Queen from around £1,759. This might seem like a rather high price tag for such a short trip, especially as it excludes independent travel to the starting point – but the Premicon Queen claims it will ‘throw overboard’ anything you’ve ever believed about river cruises. It has a sophisticated and luxurious interior, a spa, an on-board putting green, and more space than any other river cruise ship in the world.

It sounds like it’s aspiring to be more akin to the ocean liners typical of traditional cruise holidays, but as it’s visiting river destinations the boat’s capacity and facilities are always going to be limited and on a far smaller scale. The cruiser has, however, received some great reviews since launching, so may be worth the extra if you’re after luxury.

The cruise travels from Basel to Cologne via Mannheim, Rudesheim, Koblenz, and the legendary Lorelei rock, finishing the trip in Cologne.
Full details at: http://www.ewaterways.com/vessel/premicon-queen

When to go

Spring and Summer are popular times to cruise the river Rhine, when the cities are bathed in sunshine and the countryside is lush and green – but on the other hand a Christmas cruise means you can visit festive German Christmas markets (‘Weihnachtsmarkt’) and drink mulled wine in the towns en route, a popular German tradition – then if you stick around for New Year’s Eve you’ll see explosions of fireworks above the rooftops of riverside castles at midnight.

Many of the river cruise companies tailor-make special Christmas or New Year cruise packages. VFB Holidays, for example, offer a four-day ‘Magical Christmas Markets on the Rhine’ cruise from 」399 including flights from the UK and meals.
Full details at http://www.vfbholidays.co.uk/?c=river-Cruise-Germany-Rhine

Other useful link:

http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/ – Great for cruise reviews

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