Day-trip boat excursion cruises on the Neckar and Rhine Rivers in Germany are possible from the historic towns Heidelberg, Mannheim, and Worms.
Visitors to the historic university town Heidelberg can enjoy pleasure boat cruises on the Neckar River or longer cruises that go to towns on the Rhine such as Mannheim and Worms. Cruises can be as short as 40 minutes but longer cruises to Neckargemünd, Neckarsteinach, and Hirschhorn are also popular. Special cruises go further down the Rhine or up the Neckar as far as Bad Wimpfen. The world’s largest solar catamaran cruises daily in Heidelberg.
The day-trip pleasure boat cruise season on the Neckar in Heidelberg is generally from Easter (or early April) to mid-October with the high season from early June to mid-September.
Round Trip Cruises in Heidelberg, Mannheim & Worms
The Weisse Flotte Heidelberg, or Rhein-Neckar-Fahrgastschifffahrt, is the main pleasure cruise boat operator on the Rhine and Neckar rivers in the Heidelberg, Mannheim, and Worms region. The largest number of departures is from Heidelberg.
Neckar River Boat Cruises from Heidelberg:
Circular sightseeing boat cruises (Rundfahrten) lasting 40 minutes depart daily during the whole cruise season from the Stadthalle pier in Heidelberg. Cruise boats depart every full hour from 10 am to 5 pm as long as at least ten adults are on board.
An interesting and environmentally friendlier alternative is the 50-minute cruises on the Neckarsonne. The “Neckar Sun” is the world’s largest solar catamaran and cruises silently up to six times per day from April to October (not on Mondays) from the Alte Brücke (Karl-Theodor-Brücke).
Another option is the Liselotte Neckarfähre that operates as a ferry service on the Neckar from early April to end October. It stops at the Mariot Hotel, Campus, Neuenheim, Stadthalle and Alte Brücke. This cruise is around half an hour each way. Passengers pay per number of stops traveled or buy a day ticket and stay on board for a round trip or more.
Neckar and Rhein Cruises from Mannheim:
During the high season, harbor cruises (Hafenrundfahrten) depart at 1:30 pm (sometimes 09:45 am as well) a few times per week from the Kurpfalzbrücke in Mannheim. These 90 minutes to just over 2-hour cruises are arranged by Kurpfalz-Personenschiffahrt. Ludwigshafen is a major industrial city on the opposite bank of the Rhine and has a very busy harbor.
Rhine Cruise from Worms:
On most Wednesdays and Sundays during the high season, 75-minute circular cruises from Worms through the Lampertheimer Altrhein departs at 2 pm from the Hagen-Denkmal (monument). These cruises pass through the Old Rhine – see Rhine Pleasure Cruises from Speyer for more details.
Scheduled Cruises on the Neckar River from Heidelberg
Scheduled cruises (Linienfahrten) are generally longer and more interesting than the short circular sightseeing tours. It is usually possible to interrupt cruises at any stop but enquire when buying tickets. Reservations for individuals are not taken for scheduled cruises.
Day pleasure boat cruises on the Neckar River from Heidelberg is usually referred to as the Burgenfahrten (Castle Cruises) as so many castles can be seen en route. Cruises upriver of Heidelberg pass through numerous locks, which help to explain why the upriver and downriver cruise times are virtually identical when cruising on this part of the Neckar.
The main cruise is Heidelberg to Neckarsteinach and back. This cruise takes place daily at 11 am and 2 pm, also at 10 am and noon on weekends and during the high season mostly hourly from 10 am to 4 pm.
During the high season, it is possible to go further upstream to Hischhorn on cruises that depart at 10 am on Sunday and Thursday, with the Thursday cruise often going all the way to Eberbach.
Approximate Travel Times in Minutes Between Stops on the Neckar River:
The influence of the locks can clearly be seen in these traveling times – the full length cruise is only 10 minutes faster downstream than upstream.
Neckar and Rhine Cruises from Heidelberg, Mannheim, and Worms
During the high season, it is possible to cruise from Heidelberg on the Neckar to the Rhine cities Mannheim and Worms. Cruises from Mannheim and Worms to Heidelberg and Neckarsteinach are also possible.
Cruises from Heidelberg to Mannheim and Worms on the Rhine and back are on most Wednesdays and Sundays during the high season. Cruises from Mannheim to Neckarsteinach via Heidelberg is possible most Saturdays. Occasionally, the cruise may start or end in Worms.
Approximate Travel Times in Minutes Between Stops on the Neckar & Rhine Rivers
The force of the Rhine is clear from these times – just the section on the Rhine alone (Worms to Mannheim) takes 30 minutes longer upstream than downstream.
Special Cruises on the Rhine and Neckar from Heidelberg
The Weisse Flotte often have special cruises on the Rhine and Neckar rivers. Individuals should usually make advance reservations for these cruises.
Special destinations on the Neckar include the beautiful medieval town Bad Wimpfen (a Michelin three-star sight often missed by foreign tourists) and on the Rhine as far as St Goar and the Loreley. Special event cruises to shows such as the Rhine in Flames fireworks are also popular. From these longer cruises, passengers often return to Heidelberg at night by bus.
Tickets and Savings Tips for Neckar Cruises from Heidelberg
Neckar and Rhine cruises generally do not offer the wide selection of fares and savings deals that are common on boats operating on the Middle Rhine. However, you may always cruise for free on your birthday. Small discounts are given on the HeidelbergBeWelcomeCARD sold by the Tourist Office.
Children 4 and younger cruise for free – maximum two children per paying adult. Children 5 to 15 pay slightly less than the adult fare, while return fares are significantly cheaper than two singles. Dog and bicycle tickets are €1.50 cheaper than the child fare. Family discounts (Familienkarte) are available for two adults and three children cruising together.
The most expensive one-way fare is Worms to Neckarsteinach at €27 (€36 return). Return fares from Heidelberg are €21 to Neckarsteinach, €21 to Mannheim, and €28 to Worms.
Reservations for individuals are not possible on regular circular tours or scheduled cruises from Heidelberg but usually essential for special destination and event cruises.
Often a minimum of around 20 paying adults is required for boats to depart. Enquire if such restriction applies before buying tickets.
In contrast to Middle Rhine Cruises, picnicking with own supplies are not allowed on most boats.
Cruises on the Rhine near Heidelberg are available from Speyer – a pleasant town with a magnificent Romanesque cathedral and interesting technology museum – and from Mainz. The most beautiful part of the Rhine for day cruises is the Middle Rhine between Rüdesheim and St Goar (just past the Loreley Rock). If doing this day trip from Heidelberg by train, start the cruise from Bingen (rather than Rüdesheim) for faster railway connections. Similarly, end the cruise at a station on the left bank of the Rhine.