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How to Choose a Rhine River Cruise (Central & Western Europe)

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River cruises are the hottest new way to discover the best that Europe has to offer. Dating back thousands of years, Europe was built on the banks of the rivers, and the Rhine River takes you through the heart of it all, as you travel through central Europe, including Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Once you’ve chosen the Rhine River as your river cruise destination, the next big question is: Which Rhine River cruise should I take? Take the following into consideration when looking at options, and don't hesitate to contact our Trip Planners with questions - we'll find the perfect cruise for you!

Choose when to travel
Other than the frigid winter months from January through early March, the Rhine River makes for a great destination in the spring, summer, or fall (and even early winter). It all depends on which season you most prefer. 
  • While the spring months are cooler and rainier, discount prices are a major attraction, the brisk autumn temperatures of September and October are another great alternative to the busy summer cruise season, especially if you’re hoping to avoid the heat that reaches its peak in mid-July and August. 
  • The Christmas Markets of November and December are also a major draw for travelers. 
  • We break down the specifics of Rhine cruising seasons here
Choose the length of your trip
Once you’ve chosen when you would like to travel, consider how long your trip will be. Rhine River cruises vary between just 4 days and 19 days. 
  • The 4- and 5-day cruises are great extension tours, but stick to just one stretch of the river, like the Tulip Time cruises that stay primarily in the Netherlands. 
  • Week-long cruises usually travel through several countries, spending most of the itinerary in Germany, bookended by stops in neighboring countries. 
  • The cruises that last over 10 days might combine your Rhine River excursion with other rivers like the Moselle and Danube for a more comprehensive tour of Europe.
Choose your destinations
Even if you’ve already chosen the Rhine River as your cruising destination, there are diverse itineraries that visit different cities along the way. If you want to spend more time in one region, consider a round-trip cruise. Or you can get a better sampling of the Rhine Valley if you start in one city and end in another (this is the more popular option). Common ports of entry and exit for Rhine River cruises are Strasbourg (on the France-Germany border), Cochem, Brussels, Zurich, and Amsterdam, just to name a few.

Choose your experience
Another great way to narrow your options is figuring out what kind of experience you’re hoping to have. Themed cruises like Food & Wine, Cultural, or Family-oriented might be good criteria. Others prefer to look based on the activity level, though most Rhine River cruises are considered easy active: Itineraries are mostly designed with walking tours and some light hiking, but there are usually options to up the adrenaline, with add-ons like biking tours or more hiking intensive options. 

Choose your boat
Finally it’s time to choose your boat. Fortunately for travelers who are new to river cruising, the recent surge in competition among operators has driven the quality up across the board. Still, there are certain boats that stand out as truly luxurious and others that strive to offer you great comfort for a more affordable price. Ideally, by the time you get to this step, there will only be a few boat options that offer the itinerary that suits your desires, making it an easy choice.

If having a luxurious on-board experience is one of your main requirements, you might want to start your process with a list of which river vessels you would travel on, and then follow the rest of the steps from there to make sure that you will be comfortable during your Rhine River cruise.

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