Rhine River Cruises:
12 Different Itinerary Types

You might already know something about Rhine River cruises, but you probably didn't realize there were 12 different types. So what exactly does that mean? Let me explain.

The Rhine River is one of the most popular rivers to cruise in Europe. Itineraries typically include travel in Amsterdam, Germany, France and Switzerland. There are also several rivers and other waterways, known as tributaries, that join the Rhine River along its course. Some of the tributaries you may already be familiar with, and some you may not be.

If you've already taken a cruise on the Rhine River, you might have traveled on some of these other waterways. Even if you have or you're new to Rhine River cruises, there are quite a few combinations that exist. Let's take a look at them.

1. Rhine River

Upper Middle Rhine Valley

There are more than 20 itineraries for cruises on the Rhine River. Most river cruise companies have one or two packages between Amsterdam and Basel. Travel in Amsterdam "technically" involves other waterways, because the Netherlands has several canals and rivers that flow through it. For the sake of simplicity, we'll just consider this as part of a Rhine River cruise.

Although, most itineraries are between Amsterdam and Basel, some river cruise companies have packages that only include a portion of the Rhine River. For example, CroisiEurope has five itineraries, but only one of them is from Amsterdam to Basel. Their other packages include travel that is round trip from Strasbourg. The Alsatian Art and Traditions' itinerarary is round trip from Strasbourg to Breisach, and The Romantic Rhine Valley and the Rock of Lorelei are round trip from Strasbourg to Koblenz. Neither of these packages include Amsterdam or Basel.

Tauck also has an itinerary that travels on the Rhine between Basel and Cologne and does not include Amsterdam. The Christmas Markets Along the Rhine package is available in November and December.

Rhine River Cities: Dusseldorf, Cologne, Bonn, Koblenz, Bingen, Mainz, Mannheim, Speyer, Strasbourg, Breisach, and Basel

2. Rhine & Moselle

Rhine River in Cochem

Most river cruise companies offer cruises that combine the Rhine and Moselle rivers. There are a few that do not have packages for just these two rivers. AmaWaterways, Emerald Waterways, Scenic and Vantage only offer packages that combine the Rhine and Moselle with other waterways.

Avalon Waterways has two packages that include both rivers. And Tauck, Uniworld, Vantage and Viking River Cruises each have one itinerary. These cruises are between 10 and 13 days long. Paris to the Swiss Alps is a 12-day package offered by Viking River Cruises.

CroisiEurope offers five different options,which range in length from 4 to 7 days. Cruises are between Strasbourg and Trier, Strasbourg and Cochem, or round trip from Strasbourg to Cochem. The Two River Cruise: The Romance of the Rhine and Moselle is a 5-day cruise between Strasbourg and Trier, and The Rhine and Moselle Rivers is also a 5-day cruise from Strasbourg to Cochem.

Moselle River Cities: Koblenz, Cochem, Bernkastel and Trier

3. Rhine, Moselle & Scheldt

Scheldt River in Antwerp

Only Grand Circle Travel lists the Scheldt River in combination with the Rhine and Moselle for one of its itineraries - The Romance of the Rhine & Mosel. It's a 15-day itinerary between Bruges, Belgium and Basel.

You may find other Rhine River cruise itineraries that include cities on the Scheldt. Travel by inland waterways in Belgium and the Netherlands is often just referred to as the Dutch & Belgian Waterways. That's because there are so many different canals and rivers that flow through this region of Europe. 

Scheldt River Cities: Antwerp and Ghent

4. Rhine, Moselle & Dutch & Belgian Waterways

Rotterdam, Netherlands

There are a few itineraries that combine a Rhine River cruise with waterways in Belgium and the Netherlands. Because there are so many different interconnected rivers and canals, it is often termed the Dutch & Belgian Waterways.

The Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt Delta is formed at the confluence of the Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt rivers. Some of the main cities located along the Delta include Rotterdam, Antwerp and Ghent. 

There are a few river cruise companies that offer packages that combine the Rhine with the Dutch and Belgian Waterways. CroisiEurope has an 8-day itinerary that is round trip from Amsterdam to Boppard. And Vantage has a 17-day package from Basel to Brussels.

Cruises that combine the Rhine, Moselle and Dutch & Belgian Waterways are also available. Scenic offers two packages: 1) 15-day Rhine and Moselle package; and 2) 19-day Rhine and Moselle with Switzerland.

Viking River Cruises also features the 12-day Rhineland Discovery, which includes land travel in the Belgian cities of Bruges and Ghent. The river cruise begins or ends in Amsterdam.

Dutch & Belgian Waterways' Cities: Antwerp, Arnhem, Enkhuizen, Ghent, Rotterdam and Zelzaate

5. Rhine & Main

Skyline in Frankfurt, Germany

River cruises that are on just the Rhine and Main rivers are actually rare. That's because it doesn't include the Main-Danube Canal. You'll find quite a few itineraries that include Nuremberg as the city where a river cruise begins or ends. But Nuremberg is on the Main-Danube Canal.

Avalon Waterways is the only company that has an itinerary for just the Rhine and Main rivers. And it's seasonal. The Christmas in Alsace and Germany is a 5-day itinerary between Basel and Frankfurt. And although there are several cities along the Main River, for this river cruise, you'll only visit the city of Frankfurt.

Main River Cities: Mainz, Frankfurt, Miltenberg, Wertheim, Würzburg and Bamberg

6. Rhine, Main & Main-Danube Canal

Main River in Cologne, Germany

River cruises that include these three different waterways are usually between Amsterdam and Nuremberg. The Main-Danube Canal connects the Main and Danube rivers. The man-made waterway extends from Bamberg to Kelheim, Germany. 

Itineraries often list Prague as the city where the trip begins or ends. Nuremberg is about 185 miles west of Prague. Depending on the direction of the river cruise, guests are transported between Nuremberg and Prague by motorcoach.

AmaWaterways has an 8- to 10-day Treasures of the Main & Rhine package.

Emerald Waterways has an 8-day Rhine-Main Discovery package.

Scenic has an 8-day Treasures of the Rhine package.

And Uniworld has a 10-day Rhine-Main Discovery & Munich package.

7. Rhine, Moselle, Main & Main-Danube Canal

Nuremberg, Germany

There are a few companies that offer river cruises on the Rhine, Moselle, Main and Main-Danube Canal. This is similar to the combination that we just looked at, except that it also includes travel on the Moselle usually round trip from Koblenz to Trier.

AmaWaterways has an 8- to 13-day Europe's Rivers and Castles' package that actually begins or ends on the Moselle. The 13-day itinerary is between Paris and Prague.

The 12-day Central European Experience by Avalon Waterways also begins or ends on the Moselle River. It is also between Paris and Prague.

Emerald Wateways offers several itineraries that feature this combination of rivers and waterways. The packages are from 8 to 14 days long and are between Trier and Nuremberg, Trier and Prague or Prague and Paris.

And Viking River Cruises has a 12-day package, Cities of Light, which is also between Paris and Prague.

8. Rhine, Main & Danube

Danube River in Passau, Germany

Cruises on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers are the most popular combination. The average itinerary length is 15 days, and travel between Amsterdam and Budapest is the most commonly featured.

All river cruise companies have itineraries for the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers, which also includes travel on the Main-Danube Canal.

Rather than looking at what each river cruise company offers, we'll first consider who has the most options. Avalon Waterways has about 10 different itineraries that range in length from 12 to 24 days. And Scenic also has about ten packages on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers that are from 15 to 23 days long.

All other river cruise companies have at least two itineraries on these rivers. While most are between Amsterdam and Budapest. You'll find some itineraries from Amsterdam to Bucharest, Amsterdam to Vienna, Zurich to Vienna, Vienna to Basel, Paris to Budapest and Budapest to London.

Danube River Cities: Regensburg, Passau, Linz, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Belgrade and Bucharest

9. Rhine, Moselle, Main & Danube

Moselle River in Bernkastel

This combination is similar to the one we looked at in the previous section. However, most river cruise companies do not offer packages that combine these five waterways. And of the few that do, they only offer one or two options. All cruises begin or end on the Moselle River and travel on the Rhine between Koblenz and Mainz where the Rhine and Main rivers meet.

AmaWaterways has a 15- to 20-day package on the Rhine, Moselle, Main and Danube rivers. The Ultimate River Cruise itinerary is between Luxembourg and Budapest or Paris and Budapest.

Avalon Waterways has two packages available. The 12-day Central European Experience is between Prague and Paris with the river cruise beginning or ending in Remich, Luxembourg on the Moselle River. And the 19-day Jewels of Central Europe package is between Paris and Budapest. Embarkation takes place in Remich, Luxembourg or Budapest.

10. Rhine, Moselle, Saar, Main & Neckar

Neckar River in Heidelberg

There are two rivers listed here that are not listed in any of the other sections. The Saar River is a tributary of the Moselle, and the Neckar River is a tributary of the Rhine. Let's briefly take a look at both of these rivers.

The Saar River begins in the Vosges Mountains in France and flows for about 153 miles until it reaches the Moselle River near Trier, Germany.

And the Neckar River, a major tributary of the Rhine, begins in the Black Forest region of Germany. The 228-mile long river is located entirely in Germany. It flows in a northerly direction until it meets the Rhine in Mannheim, Germany.

CroisiEurope is the only company that lists these two rivers. There are three itineraries in which the Saar and Neckar rivers are featured.

The Discover the Splendor of the Rhine, Neckar, Main, Moselle & Saar Valleys is a 9-day itinerary between Strasbourg and Saarbrücken.

Four Fascinating Rivers is 7 days long and is also between Strasbourg and Saarbrücken.

And the Discover the Splendor of the Rhine, Neckar, Main, Moselle and Saar Valleys features a 9-day river cruise between Strasbourg and Saarlouis.

Saar River Cities: Saarlouis and Saarbrücken

Neckar River Cities: Eberbach and Heidelberg

11. Rhine, Moselle & Seine

Confluence of the Rhine & Moselle Rivers in Koblenz, Germany

A package that includes these three rivers is actually two separate river cruises. There is a cruise on the Rhine and Moselle rivers and another cruise on the Seine River. You won't find this combination offered by most river cruise companies.

CroisiEurope has a 9-day itinerary Cruise on 3 Rivers, Rhine, Moselle and Seine. It's listed under their 2016 itineraries only, so I'm not sure if it will be available in 2017. The cruise on the Seine River is one way and is between Honfleur and Paris. And the cruise on the Moselle and Rhine rivers is between Trier and Strasbourg. 

Seine River Cities: Honfleur, Rouen, Versailles and Paris

12. Rhine, Rhône & Saône

Rhine River in Cologne, Germany

This combination of rivers is similar to the one in the previous section in that it involves two different river cruises. While not a very common option, there are two river cruise companies that feature packages for the Rhine, Rhône and Saône.

CroisiEurope has one package. The 10-day package, Travel from the North Sea to the Mediterranean and Discover Two Mighty Rivers, is between Amsterdam and Avignon. The Rhine River cruise is between Amsterdam and Strasbourg, and the other river cruise is between Chalon-sur-Saône and Avignon. There are actually three rivers featured in the package - northward on the Saône from Lyon to Chalon-sur-Saône and southward from Lyon to Avignon on the Rhône.

Avalon Waterways offers three different itineraries for the Rhine, Rhône and Saône. The river cruise is essentially the same for all of the packages, but the land extensions before or after cruise are different.

Let's look at the river cruise first. The 8-day cruise on the Rhône and Saône rivers is between Arles and Chalon-sur-Saône. Even though you'll embark or disembark in Avignon, the trip also includes travel to Arles, which is about 27 miles south of Avignon.

The 8-day Rhine River cruise is between Basel and Amsterdam.

Avalon Waterways has packages that combine the Rhine & Rhone Revealed river cruise with Barcelona, Aix-en-Provence & Nice, or Paris & London.

Rhône River Cities: Lyon, Tournon, Vienne, Viviers Arles and Avignon

Saône River Cities: Lyon and Chalon-sur-Saône

If you found this article helpful, check out my newest ebook "The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Rhine River Cruise Itinerary (Featuring the Top Seven River Cruise Companies). It offers a unique perspective on how the river cruise itineraries and destinations differ for each of the top seven river cruise companies.

Lauri Wakefield is a travel writer who specializes in  river cruises in Europe and the U.S. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.

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