The legendary "Father Rhine," as Germans call their country's longest river, flows past terraced vineyards, romantic castles, and ancient cities. A classic eight-day Rhine cruise takes you from Basel, Switzerland through Alsace, France and into Germany before traversing the Netherlands up to Amsterdam. Itinerary variations include combinations with other rivers such as the Main and the Danube.
The cruise season runs from March through December. There's a risk of high water in springtime and low water in the fall, though river levels can vary year to year.
What We Love
Wine and Food: Snack on German sausages or sample French Alsatian dishes like “choucroute garnie,” a huge platter of meats, sauerkraut, and potatoes. Wash it down with a Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) or a crisp Riesling.
Best Known For
Christmas Markets: Special cruises visit holiday markets filled with crafts, food, and wine. We especially like those in Cologne, Rüdesheim, and Strasbourg.
Shop for Cruises
Strasbourg: Visit the Gothic cathedral to see its performing astronomical clock (full show at 12:30 pm) and take in spectacular views from its platform. Then sample local gingerbread and circle the Old Town island on a sightseeing boat.
Cologne: Another spectacular Gothic cathedral awaits here, but there's also an underground archaeological museum, plus dockside cafés and shops.
Rüdesheim: Stroll the narrow streets of the Drosselgasse district, packed with half-timbered buildings decked in vines. History buffs will want to visit the 10th-century Brömserburg Castle.
Amsterdam: Wander the canals on foot or by boat, marvel at the Rijksmuseum's Rembrandts, queue up for the Anne Frank House, explore the street market along Albert Cuypstraat (closed Sundays), or shop the Jordaan district, full of galleries, restaurants, and shops.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It's Not All Picturesque: Some stretches of the Rhine are more industrial than romantic.
Gayle Keck is a San Francisco-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.