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Best Rhine River cruise lines

Get more out of your trip to Europe with a jam-packed cruise down through the Netherlands, Germany, France and more.

Updated

View of the Rhine River in Autumn at Sunset

Once an integral cog in the industrial heritage of Europe, the Rhine now serves as the perfect river cruising destination. Starting from the Swiss town of Basel, the river flows for 435 miles through Germany, past France and eventually to the Netherlands, where it spills out into the North Sea.

Best cruises on the Rhine River

Best for short holidays: A-ROSA

With a selection of four to seven-day long cruises, a journey along the Rhine can be squeezed into a long weekend. While the four-day cruises will show you the highlights of the Rhine including Cologne, Mainz and Strasbourg, seven days or longer allows you to delve a little deeper into the old continent.
  • No free room service
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express

Best for shore excursions: Viking River Cruises

Viking’s eight-day cruise from Basel to Amsterdam stops at six ports along the way, all of which include a complimentary guided tour as an introduction to the town you’re visiting. Cruisers can also choose from a range of additional shore excursions to explore further afield.
  • Room service included
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover Card, Cheque
Price ($-$$$):
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Best for romance: Avalon

There is nothing more romantic than cruising along one of Europe’s oldest rivers with your loved one by your side, surrounded by ancient castles, gothic architecture and brightly lit promenades. Avalon takes it up a notch by offering its cruisers romantic, candlelit dinners onboard and intimate rides along Europe’s quaint canals.
  • No free room service
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Paypal, Cheque
Price ($-$$$):
Book now

Best for green policies: Croisi Europe

CroisiEurope has recently committed to introducing even more green cruising policies, so you can sail away guilt-free. Water-saving devices installed in its ships have reduced water use on board by 35%, while progressive technology is helping to reduce fuel consumption too.
  • No free room service
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Carte Blanche
Price ($-$$$):
Book now

Best for all-inclusive comfort: Scenic

You’re in for a treat when you book an all-inclusive river cruise with Scenic. Enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep in your spacious cabin, awake to a gourmet breakfast on your balcony, stay connected on complimentary Wi-Fi and enjoy free use of the ship’s e-bikes when you dock.
  • Room service included
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, American Express, Diners
Price ($-$$$):
Book now

Best for cultural dining: APT

Established in Australia in the early 1920s, APT has specialized in luxury cruises on smaller cruise ships ever since. Committed to providing a culturally immersive experience for everybody, the company adapts its cuisine to your cruising location. Think schnitzels in Germany and pastries in France.
  • Room service included
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, American Express

Best for boutique cruises: Uniworld

Inviting no more than 150 passengers on board one ship, Uniworld is considered to be one of the most boutique cruises across the globe. Their English-speaking crew members go above and beyond to create a comfortable environment for cruisers. So much so that they have been voted to have the “World’s Best Service” by the readers of Travel + Leisure magazine.
  • No free room service
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, American Express
Price ($-$$$):
Book now

How we picked the best cruises.

When singling out our top picks for this shortlist, we searched for culturally immersive itineraries that stopped at a number of key ports along the Rhine. Together with this, we took into consideration the quality of food onboard, the entertainment offered, the cabin amenities provided and the overall value to cruisers.

We compiled all of this information using our own experiences, along with highly-revered blogs, travel websites and reviews on unbiased sites, to bring you the most transparent information.

When is the best time to cruise on the Rhine River?

Similar to the rest of Europe, the peak time for cruising down the Rhine clusters around the summer months, thanks to guaranteed warm weather and plain sailing conditions. Of course, peak season coincides with crowded streets and busy waterways.

While the crowds will have disappeared by September, warm sunshine will remain, making this the ideal season to cruise. Prices are also lower at this time, so you’re more likely to bag a bargain for your dream cruise.

It’s worth noting that snow-melt in spring can cause the water levels of the Rhine to rise, making some bridges impassable. This can limit your itinerary significantly, as some areas will be completely inaccessible or the cruise may be cancelled altogether.

What are the must-do cruise excursions on the Rhine River?

To experience the best of the Rhine, you’ll want to book a range of shore excursions in different countries along the way. Just to name a few…

  • Strasbourg, France. Perhaps best known for its picturesque black and white timber houses that line the river, Strasbourg is also the perfect destination to sample the best Alsatian wines.
  • Cologne, Germany. Sitting dominantly in this vibrant university city are the UNESCO World Heritage Bruhl Palaces, must-visits for any history buffs on a Rhine River cruise.
  • Rotterdam, Netherlands. Get up close and personal to the iconic windmills of the Netherlands in the charming village of Kinderdijk.
  • Breisach, Germany. A gateway to the Black Forest, take an afternoon to explore the rolling hills and dense forests of Germany’s warmest region.

Bottom line

Whether you’re looking for a quick trip down the river or a longer cruise to really relax into, you’ll find something that suits you along the Rhine. Stay on top of the best cruise deals here.

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