Top Rhine River Day-Trip Cruise Lines in Germany

Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) and the Weisse Flotte Rhein are the best-known day-trip riverboat cruise lines on the Rhine River in Germany and are good choices for short to all-day excursion cruises. Popular day-trip cruises are to tour the Loreley Valley between Rüdesheim, St Goar, and Koblenz or panorama sightseeing cruises in larger cities such as Cologne, Düsseldorf, Cochem (Mosel), and Frankfurt (Main).

KD MS RheinEnergie Rhine Cruise Boat in Cologne © KD Deutsche Rheinschiffahrt AG
KD MS RheinEnergie Rhine Cruise Boat in Cologne © KD Deutsche Rheinschiffahrt AG

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 has many cruises through the lovely Loreley Valley that could be as short as an hour or all day. Several further companies operate cruises on the Rhine and past the Lorelei (Loreley). Special savings deals are available on many cruises.

The KD Rhine Pass savings deal has not been on sale in recent years but Get Your Guide offers easy booking (and often sensible cancelation options) for day-trip cruises on the Rhine departing from many popular cities such as Cologne, Düsseldorf, Bonn, Koblenz, Boppard, Ruedesheim, Cochem, and Frankfurt. Most cruise lines now also accept online ticket purchases but several still prefer to sell tickets directly at the quay or on board cruise boats.

Tips for the Best Rhine River Day Trip Cruises in Germany

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 often 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 are little real noticeable differences 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 €3.50.
  • Show Deutsche Bahn tickets (or often any public transportation ticket) 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 on the very popular Middle Rhine Valley.

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Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) – the Largest Pleasure Day Cruise Line on the Rhine in Germany

SS Goethe Historic Paddle Steamboat on the Rhine River
SS Goethe Historic Paddle Steamboat on the Rhine River © KD Deutsche Rheinschiffahrt AG

Köln-Düsseldorfer, or simply KD, is the largest operator of pleasure boats for short and full single day cruises on the Rhine River in Germany. 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.

SS Goethe Historic Rhine Steam Boat on a day trip cruise
SS Goethe Historic Rhine Steam Boat

Köln-Düsseldorfer historic SS Goethe paddle steamer from 1913 is the oldest regular cruise boat on the Rhine River. The Goethe steams daily (except Monday) 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 for regular cruises and are 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 cruise for free per paying adult.
  • Children between 4 and 13 cruise on KD for only €8 per day as long as they are accompanied by a 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 20% 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 (€3.50 per bike per cruise) is not discounted.

For more details on these and other saving fares see Rhine River Day Cruise Saver Fares.

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Weisse Flotte Rhein Rhine River Day Cruises in Germany

Four 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.

The four 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 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 — some may be booked online. Cruises between Linz and Koblenz are rare and usually only for repositioning boats after Rhine in Flames fireworks shows.

Rössler Linie Rhine River Boat Cruises in Germany

Rössler Line is based in Rüdesheim-Assmannshausen. Rössler has mostly shorter Rhine cruises in the Rüdesheim vicinity but Rössler occasionally cruises down the Loreley Valley past Die Lorelei to St Goar / St Goarhausen. The shorter cruises in the popular Rüdesheim area are particularly popular and may include visiting castles or winetastings — many may be booked online.

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 and cruises with an emphasis on culinary events, dancing, and parties.

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.

More on the Rhine River in Germany

Day-Trip Excursions and Pleasure Cruises on the Rhine River:

Tips and Savings on Day-Trip Rhine Cruises

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