Cruising the Rhine
There is a huge choice of itineraries, including cruises that pair the Rhine with the Moselle, a narrow waterway lined with vineyards, for visits to the towns of Cochem and Trier, or with the Main, which flows into the Rhine from eastern Germany.
There are also two-week voyages along the Rhine, Main, Main-Danube Canal and Danube between Amsterdam and Budapest.
However, the favourite Rhine cruise is a seven-night sailing from Amsterdam to Basel – a journey that takes passengers through Holland, Germany, France and Switzerland.
These itineraries also include a transit through the Rhine Gorge, a 58-mile stretch of water that flows beside lush vineyards and below craggy cliffs topped with castles. At one end is the Lorelei Rock, where legend has it a beautiful maiden threw herself to her death over a faithless lover.
Top stops along the Rhine are Cologne, Rüdesheim and Mannheim in Germany, and Strasbourg, a city in France with a fascinating Franco-German culture on account of having changed ownership between both countries four times in the past 150 years.
The season for cruising the Rhine starts in spring and runs through November and December for the Christmas markets. Spring can be lovely but June to August is the best time to be sure of warm weather. Several cruise lines additionally offer sailings over Christmas – passengers can usually expect a visit from Santa! – and the New Year.
WHO CRUISES THE RHINEAmadeus River Cruises • AmaWaterways • APT • A’Rosa • Avalon Waterways • CroisiEurope • Emerald Waterways • Saga • Scenic • Shearings Holidays • Titan Travel • Uniworld Boutique River Cruises
WHAT TO SEE ON THE RHINE• The Gutenberg Museum in Mainz. It houses a 42-line Bible printed in 1455 by Johannes Gutenberg, who invented the printing process.
• Cologne’s Gothic Cathedral. Once the tallest building in the world, it took 630 years to complete and miraculously survived the bombs of the Second World War while the city around it was destroyed.
• An 800-year-old Jewish mikveh, or purifying bath, in Speyer that survived the Nazis and is now kept safe behind lock and key.
• The astronomical clock in Strasbourg’s Gothic Cathedral. It’s nearly 450 years old and still keeps perfect time.
• Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Cabinet in Rüdesheim. It is an extraordinary collection of music machines from the past 200 or so years and so odd it is definitely worth a visit.
• An old student gaol in Heidelberg, where young miscreants were locked up for getting drunk, womanising, duelling and other misdemeanors. The walls are still plastered with their satirical pictures, poetry and political comments.
• The Rhine Gorge. There are more than 40 castles and fortresses along the valley dating from the Middle Ages. The most famous include Marksburg, built around 1100, which was one of few to escape being destroyed by French invaders in the late 1600s. Burg Maus (Mouse Castle) is said to have got its nickname from the Counts of Katzenelnbogen, who built nearby Burg Katz (Cat Castle).
- 18th July 2016
- Chris Leviston