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Cruising the Rhine on the Cheap

We have long considered doing a river cruise down the Rhine. Our interest was spurred by those slick Viking commercials, complete with soaring music as ships glided past splendid castles and enchanting German villages. While planning our trip to Rüdesheim, we discovered that we could enjoy the some of the same experience for a fraction of the cost of a river cruise. Of course a Rhine river cruise visits more than the Rhine Gorge, but for our purposes – seeing castles and scenic villages, we opted to board one of the modern passenger ferries that ply the entire Middle Rhine.


We used the KD line to see the dramatic 41 mile stretch of the Middle Rhine Valley between our homebase in Rüdesheim to Koblenz. In that span, there are nearly 60 picturesque small towns, extensive terraced vineyards and the ruins of castles that once defended trade on the river. From the ferry deck, visitors can see 40 hilltop castles and fortresses erected over a period of 1,000 years. There are so many that after the first dozen or so, you begin to get castle fatigue.

The boat’s PA system gave minimal information about what we were seeing. So to make a trip a lot more interesting, bring along a good guidebook that explains the history, myths, and legends associated with the castles and towns along the way. If you’re interested in history, consider timing your visit to historical and holiday markets, castle festivals and knight tournaments.

We purchased our tickets at the dock, although it’s possible to book online. There are several tour packages so make sure you do your homework to get the best deal. We cruised from Rüdesheim to Boppard, just short of the end of the line in Koblenz. We strolled the quaint streets of Boppard for about two hours — then sipped Riesling while we waited for our return ferry at the comfortable riverside patio or the Bellevue Hotel.

Due to river currents, the return trip to Rüdesheim took twice as long as the journey to Boppard. We didn’t mind. The skies cleared as we headed back, so we could lounge on the sunny outdoor deck and even catch a brief nap. We lunched in the boat’s large restaurant where we found the food to be tasty and reasonable. They also offered a good selection of beer and wine, with a cold beer on tap. The service is passable, but since we weren’t in a hurry, we just went with the flow (so to speak!).

Plan your Rhine River trip according to your comfort and interest level. Dress in layers; the weather can change dramatically on the trip. Itt was cool and breezy for most of the downstream trip and sunny and hot on the way back. The boat ride can take the entire day if you go both ways. A good plan would be to combine the boat ride with a train passage or even an overnight in one of the towns along the way. A train trip from Boppard to Bingen (across the river from Rüdesheim) takes 35 minutes; by boat you’d spend five hours. Trains run up and down the river on both sides stopping in all of the towns and villages. Be sure to have timetables for ferries and trains so that you’re not stuck someplace you don’t want to be overnight.

The Middle Rhine Valley is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and there are a myriad of ways to experience it. Whether you book a President’s Suite on a river cruise and or day-trip via ferry and train, you won’t regret one minute of this scenic journey. q

Ron James

Ron James

Publisher/Travel Writer at Wine Dine & Travel Magazine
Ron James is the “wine, food and travel guy.” The San Diegan, is a nationally award-winningprint and onlinejournalist, designer, television producer and radio personality.He has worked for San Diego Magazine, Time Warner, Broadband Interactive Group, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Uptown News and SDNN. The native Californian’s nationally syndicated wine and food columns for CNS have appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world. He is an avid world traveler who is passionate about great wine and food and enthusiastically enjoys them every day!
Ron James

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