Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) and the Weisse Flotte Rhein are the best-known day-trip riverboat cruise lines on the Rhine River. Popular day-trip cruises are to tour the Loreley Valley between Rüdesheim, St Goar, and Koblenz, or offer panorama sightseeing cruises in larger cities such as Cologne, Düsseldorf, Cochem (Mosel), and Frankfurt (Main).
The Rhine River is a very popular day-trip destination from cities such as Cologne (Köln) and Frankfurt am Main. Trains run on both banks of the Rhein but nothing beats a cruise on the river itself. Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) has the largest number of boats on the Rhine River and many cruises through the lovely Loreley Valley. However, several further companies operate cruises on the Rhine and past the Lorelei. Special savings deals are available on many cruises.
On longer cruises, the KD Rhine Pass could be a great savings deal. It is not always available and not sold directly by KD but rather through resellers such as Get Your Guide. It cost around €35 and covers all regular cruises for a day. Note that the Rhine Pass is different from the KD RheinCard that gives a 50% discount on regular cruises for a year — also a great deal for frequent cruisers.
Tips on Rhine River Day Trips
Day-trip cruises on the Rhine River are very popular in Germany with departures available from many cities and even small towns on the Rhine. Reservations are usually not possible for regular day cruises but it is worth planning a bit in advance to take advantage of savings deals to get the best value (and finest views) from a cruise.
- Rhine riverboats differ in size in and between companies but there is little difference between boats. Often it is best to simply take the next boat to depart.
- Most boats cruising on the Rhine River have their own restaurants and bars but it is acceptable to consume your own food and drink on the open decks of Linienfahrten, i.e. cruises with stops en route,
- The high season for Rhine River day cruises is from end April to early October. However, regular cruises operate usually from late March to late October.
- Cruises in winter months are very limited but often a few cruises may be available during the Christmas market Advent season. Departures are most likely from Rüdesheim and Cologne.
- Return trips on most Rhine River cruise lines are only marginally more expensive than one-way cruises. Often cruising up and down river on a scenic part of the river may be more rewarding than going a longer distance in one direction.
- If space is available, bicycles are transported for free on some boats – KD charges €2.80.
- Show Deutsche Bahn tickets if applicable when buying boat tickets and discounts are often applied – check German Railways timetable and book train tickets online at Deutsche Bahn. The timetables sometimes include boat trips too.
- Smaller lines are often slightly cheaper than the Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) boats. However, the price difference is very small and the discounts offered by KD and the higher number of departures may well outweigh any price disadvantage.
See also Loreley Valley Rhine River Day Cruises for tips on sensible routings and cruise times between ports.
Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) – the Largest Pleasure Day Cruise Line on the Rhine
Köln-Düsseldorfer, or simply KD, is the largest operator of pleasure boats for day cruises on the Rhine River. KD has been in business since 1827 but the oldest KD boat in operation is the SS Goethe first launched in 1913.
Köln-Düsseldorfer is generally a good choice for day cruises on the Rhine. KD has the largest number of departures by far of all Rhine pleasure boat lines. This allows passengers to make more stops en route if desired — remember to indicate all planned stops when buying tickets as separate tickets are issued for each leg of the cruise.
During the high season, KD has at least two boats doing the daily cruise route from Rüdesheim and Bingen to Koblenz (and return) with further boats cruising between Mainz and Boppard. Many more KD boats cruise between Bonn and Linz with the occasional boat starting from Cologne.
In 2023, no regular Rhine boats cruise between Linz and Koblenz in either direction. KD also does not offer Mosel cruises other than the panorama cruise in Cochem.
KD also often has arrangements with other local boat operators to offer a high number of departures.
Köln-Düsseldorfer historic SS Goethe paddle steamer from 1913 is the oldest regular cruise boat on the Rhine River. The Goethe steams daily from Koblenz to Rüdesheim and back — just over 6 hours upstream and just less than 4 hours going back.
Depending on the season, KD has scheduled cruises on the Rhine, Mosel, and Main rivers and panorama cruises in Düsseldorf, Cologne, Cochem, and Frankfurt. The Middle Rhine and Loreley Valley remain the top cruise by far.
Special Savings Deals KD Rhine River Boat Day Cruises
Köln-Düsseldorfer offers a wide range of special savings deals to make Rhine River day trips cheaper. Different discounts generally cannot be combined and official identification may be required. Also, discounts are only available for tickets bought in person and usually only valid if KD’s own boats are used:
- Birthday Child – irrespective of age, a passenger and any partner may cruise for 50% off on the specific birthday date.
- Special family passes are good value. Sometimes the family day deals are available: Family Day — Wednesdays up to three children under 13 can cruise for free per paying adult.
- Children between 4 and 13 cruise on KD for only €6 per day as long as they are accompanied by a full-fare-paying adult (up to 3 children per adult). Children under 4 sail for free.
- School children and students under 27 pay only half price if the above discounts are not applicable.
- Seniors over 60 receive 30% discount on all cruises.
- On Tuesdays and Thursdays, cyclists sail two for the price of one on one-way trips (two cyclists and two bicycles – or a tandem – are required!). Ironically the bicycle ticket (€2.80 per bike per cruise) is not discounted.
For more details on these and other saving fares see Rhine River Day Cruise Saver Fares.
Weisse Flotte Rhein Rhine River Day Cruises
Five independent Rhine boat cruise operators cooperate under the Weisse Flotte Rhein banner. However, these companies set their own schedules and prices. These companies cruise on all parts of the Rhine but departures and cruises are most frequent in the vicinity of the Rhine where these independent boat cruise lines are based. Many cruise lines offer discount combination tickets for cruises and sightseeing sites.
Note that Rundfahrt (circular cruises) and Panorama Cruises usually mean that it is not possible to leave the boat en route or at a destination other than the original departure point, while Linienfahrten allow passengers to disembark anywhere en route, as is mostly the case with KD cruises.
Taking the Weisse Flotter Rhein companies in geographical downstream order:
Bingen-Rüdesheimer Rhine River Day Cruise Pleasure Boat Line
Bingen-Rüdesheimer offers cruises in the Rüdesheim and Bingen area, as well as up to three daily cruises through the Loreley Valley to St Goar and St Goarhausen. Rüdesheim has a popular Christmas market and is one of the few towns along the Rhine that offers some cruises during the winter season.
Bingen-Rüdesheimer generally offers the same cruise fare savings discounts as KD except no discounts for cyclists or family days but special cycling tickets are available to use any ferries all day in the region. Children 6 to 14 pay only €6 per cruise.
Bingen-Rüdesheimer still honors the tradition Geburtstagtarif — free cruises on a birthday.
See also Rhine River Cruises from Rüdesheim – a great town to start or conclude a Rhine day cruise.
Loreley Linie Weinand from Kamp Bornhofen
Loreley-Linie Weinand operates from Kamp Bornhofen with cruises to the Loreley Valley, Rüdesheim and Koblenz.
Hölzenbein Cruises on the Rhine and Mosel
Hölzenbein operates from Koblenz at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Hölzenbein offers cruises on both rivers as well as panorama hour-long cruises on both rivers.
Bonner Personen Schiffahrt Rhine Cruises
Bonner Personen Schiffahrt cruises on the Rhine mostly from Bonn with panorama cruises in the former German capital as well as Rhine cruises mostly to Linz but also to the Loreley Valley and the Mosel River.
Köln Tourist Personenschiffahrt am Dom
Köln Tourist competes with KD in its home town Cologne. Although it offers some excursion cruises, it mostly operates panorama sightseeing cruises in the Cologne area including special harbor cruises.
Rössler Linie Rhine River Boats
Rössler Line is based in Rüdesheim-Assmannshausen. Rössler has mostly shorter Rhine cruises in the Rüdesheim vicinity but Rössler occasionally cruise down the Loreley Valley past Die Lorelei to St Goar / St Goarhausen.
See also Loreley Valley Rhine River Day Cruises for tips on sensible routings and cruise times between towns from Koblenz to Mainz and Top Rhine Day Cruises from Cologne for similar information on cruises from Cologne (Köln), Bonn, and Düsseldorf to Koblenz and the Mosel.
More on the Rhine River
Day-Trip Excursions and Pleasure Cruises on the Rhine River:
- Middle Rhine (Loreley Valley) — UNESCO World Cultural Heritage-listed Area:
- Upper Rhine — Cologne, Düsseldorf, Bonn to Linz
- Special events: Cruises to Rhine in Flames Fireworks, Christmas and New Year’s Cruises in Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, and Rüdesheim
- Moselle River Cruises (Cochem, Bernkastel-Kues, Trier, Koblenz, Burg Eltz)
- Cruises on the Main River in Frankfurt (or better By Train from Frankfurt to the Best Rhine Cruises)
- Cruises from Worms, Mannheim, Heidelberg (on the Neckar River)
- Cruises from Speyer
- Rhinefalls (Rhine Waterfalls, Schaffhausen, Stein am Rhein, Kreuzlingen)
Tips and Savings on Day-Trip Rhine Cruises
- The best part of the Rhine for day-trip excursion cruises in the Middle Rhine between Rüdesheim / Bingen and Koblenz. See Savings Tips and the Best Cruise Lines cruising in the Loreley Valley.
- Save with a KD Rhine Pass on Rhine River cruises (unfortunately not always available but a potentially good savings deal on longer day-trip cruises).
- Check train times for Germany (and most of Europe) at German Railways.