Cruising the Rhine River in Germany
Germany has always been at the top of our bucket list, although we always felt it was a distant dream. A place we would visit “someday” and that someday always felt very far away. That is until we spontaneously booked a flight to Frankfurt when our plans to visit Australia fell through. Thank you, Skyscanner. The excitement of finally getting to see Germany definitely took the sting away from not going to Australia. In fact, I think I was even more excited…
Our three weeks traveling through Europe were truly incredible. We celebrated Munich’s birthday with the locals, took a day trip through the majestic Alps to the Eagle’s Nest, took an evening cruise on the Seine River and watched the Eiffel Tower glittering in all its glory, devoured beer and waffles in one of the most charming cities in the world, and strolled along the canals in Amsterdam gawking at those windows with the pretty red lights. The first thing most people asked when we returned home from our 21 days in Europe was “which country was your favorite?” For us, there was really no debate. Germany not only reached our high expectations, but it exceeded them in every way despite our first impressions of Frankfurt. While we both fell in love with Munich and are positive we will return to explore more of Bavaria, there was one place that caught us by surprise. In fact, it wasn’t even in our original plans but we decided to make a detour to meet up with a friend in Cologne and every one made it perfectly clear we could not leave Germany without a cruise on the Rhine River.
Where is the Rhine River?
The Rhine River actually begins in Switzerland and flows through Germany, eventually dumping into the North Sea in the Netherlands. However, the section of the Rhine that we were most interested in seeing is the 65 kilo stretch of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley between Bingen and Koblenz. This is said the be the most scenic section of the Rhine due to the number of historic castles, romantic towns and wine vineyards peaking over the mountain cliffs, which is why it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. Since then, it has been a huge draw for tourists all over the world to check off cruising the Rhine River from their bucket list.
Rhine River Day Cruise: Rudesheim to Koblenz
Cologne is a perfect base if you are looking to do a day cruise on the UNESCO section of the Rhine. While there are cruises that run straight from Cologne, you wouldn’t be able to see the UNESCO section in one day. Since we only had a day to spare, we decided to take the train from our Airbnb apartment (if you want to give AirBNB a try, sign up through our referral link and we both get a $25 credit…its a win win!—> click here) in Cologne to Rudesheim and then cruise downstream to Koblenz. By choosing this route, the cruise was only 4 hours, where if we had gone upriver, Koblenz to Rudesheim, then the cruise would have been closer to 6 hours.
Where to Buy Tickets
We had a really difficult time finding any information about how these day cruises actually work. In fact, we went to the tourism office in Cologne and talked to many other cruise companies along the river and they kept telling us what we wanted wasn’t possible – to cruise the UNESCO part of the Rhine in one day. They kept offering us cruises that left from Cologne, which wouldn’t have covered the area we were looking to see. Fortunately, we were able to find a phone number for KD, which is the boat company that offers these cruises and they were able to help us out. Unfortunately, this took us longer than we had anticipated and we nearly missed our opportunity by just barely catching the last boat of the day that would allow us to travel the entire trip between Rudesheim and Koblenz. This meant that we would not have time to get off the boat and explore the towns, but we were just glad to have made it on. That being said, we were able to purchase our tickets from the KD booth right at the port in Rudesheim. Most (or maybe all?) of the ports sell tickets right where you board the boat. You might be able to purchase online or by phone as well, but I suggest checking the website.
The cruise ship was much larger than we anticipated and surprisingly not that crowded, given it was June which is considered peak season. The bathrooms were very clean, the dining area was large and often empty and there was plenty of seating available indoors and out. There was a small playground for kids to play, as I can imagine this cruise might not be the most exciting thing for them. There was also a bar selling an array of wine and beer, as well as some snacks for the ride. For a more substantial meal, we decided to visit the dining room. We were among only 1 other couple in the massive dining room, so it was very peaceful and the views were spectacular – we never missed a beat. We were delighted to see that food prices were pretty reasonable and the food was really delicious. However, I think my favorite was the Loreley Wine, named after the famous Lorelai Rock that signifies that narrowest part of the river between Switzerland and the North Sea. Legend has it that Lorelai is the name of a woman that would sit upon the rock brushing her hair, distracting the sailors causing them to crash into the rocks. This is one of the most popular sightings along the cruise.
A Few Shots of the Many, Stunning Rhine River Castles
Costs of Cruising the Rhine River
As I previously mentioned, we opted for taking the train from Cologne to Rudesheim and then cruising the river back to Koblenz. From Koblenz, we then had the take the train back to Cologne.
|Train Ticket: Cologne to Rudesheim||30 EUR|
|Day Cruise Ticket after 20% discount||29 EUR|
|Train Ticket: Koblenz to Cologne||19 EUR|
|TOTAL||78 EUR/100 USD|
While 100 USD was quite the splurge for us and not exactly in our original budget, it was so worth every penny and we would definitely do it again if given the opportunity. However, next time we will plan ahead and take the first departure that would allow us to hop off the boat at some of the towns and explore a bit more. Each town had its own unique charm with castles and historic buildings to discover. You could easily spend days traversing the Upper Middle Rhine Valley and it still not be enough. That being said, we were glad we had even just a day to see it. It turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences we’ve had to date.