Destination: River Cruises


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Rhine River

Discover fairytale castles where history meets mystery!

Imagine a 40-mile stretch of scenic landscape, dotted with grand hilltop castles and fortresses and marked by deep-ravined canyons that plunge to unbelievable depths. This is the Rhine Gorge — a UNESCO World Heritage Site that traverses from Rüdesheim to Koblenz, Germany and has connected the northern and southern halves of the continent since prehistoric times.

While aboard one of our award-winning ships sailing the Rhine River, you can take in the awe-inspiring scenery from the Sun Deck or enjoy a personal moment admiring the landscape from your twin-balcony stateroom or suite. Either way, the view is one you will always remember. A river cruise along the Rhine will transport you into a fairytale, and though the knights and lords are long gone, the majestic castles remain as a reminder of the past. Here are five of the incredible castles that hold court along the Rhine River.

Marksburg Castle (BRAUBACH, GERMANY)

Located just above the quaint town of Braubach, Germany, Marksburg Castle is the only castle on the Rhine that has fully withstood the test of time, having survived unscathed by the Austro-Prussian and Second World wars. It now serves as the headquarters of the German Castle Association and contains the largest library dedicated to castles in all of Europe.

Rheinfels Castle (SANKT GOAR, GERMANY)

After its expansions, Rheinfels Castle became the largest fortress of the Middle Rhine between Germany’s Mainz and Koblenz, and today, it is the largest castle ruin, with its labyrinth of trenches and tunnels that visitors can explore. This castle changed hands several times throughout history, and what remains of the castle now includes the luxury Romantik Hotel Schloss Reinfels as well as a museum detailing its history.

Stahleck Castle (BACHARACH, GERMANY)

Stahleck Castle overlooks the Rhine from 525 feet up offering an impressive view of the area. While the 12th-century fortification was destroyed in the late 17th century, it was rebuilt a few hundred years later. The brick and half-timbered façade and grey shingled roof make it a sight to behold, and while it is no longer serving its original purpose, today, Burg Stahleck is known as one of the most popular youth hostels in the region.

Drachenburg Castle (KÖNIGSWINTER, GERMANY)

Originally the home of a stockbroker in the 19th century, Drachenburg Castle stands atop a hillside near Königswinter, Germany overlooking the magnificent Rhine River. After the owner’s passing, the castle was repurposed several times before being damaged by Allied bomb raids in 1942. A private investor saved it from being knocked down at the last minute, and now the public can enjoy its stunning views, vast gardens and elaborately decorated rooms or visit for the annual Christmas Market for some added holiday magic.


The 13th-century Lahneck Castle is a medieval fortress located in Lahnstein, Germany. Its pentagonal shape is rare for castle towers, making it a definite stand-out. An exclusive shore excursion, offered for both active and gentle walkers, treats you to a closer look at this castle, which has been cloaked in mystery.

*Exclusive shore excursion available on our Enchanting Rhine, Europe’s Rivers & Castles, Rhine & Moselle Splendors and Rhine & Moselle Fairytales itineraries.

Join us on any of our Rhine River cruises for a view of the magnificent castles featured here, including Captivating Rhine , Enchanting Rhine , Rhine & Moselle Delights , Rhine & Moselle Fairytales , Rhine & Moselle Splendors , Europe’s Rivers & Castles , Treasures of the Main & Rhine , Vineyards of the Rhine & Moselle and NEW IN 2021: Rhine Castles & Swiss Alps.

What to Expect on a River Cruise

River cruises are brimming with onboard amenities. Stateroom are most often river-facing, and come equipped with hotel-style beds, private bathrooms, individual climate control, refrigerators, safes and TVs. Higher stateroom categories may have French balconies, verandas, and separate sleeping and sitting quarters. Rooms range from 150 to 600 square feet. Guests receive excellent and personalized service from on board staff. Additionally, ships include restaurants, lounges and bars, as well as free Wi-Fi. Some ships even come equipped with libraries, boutiques, pools and/or sun decks.

Guests are given a choice of dining options, including where and what to eat. Breakfasts can either be enjoyed al fresco or at the morning buffet, while lunches and dinners can be eaten while viewing passing sights or with friends in a common eating area. Open seating is offered, allowing guests to meet new people or enjoy the presence of the same people each day. Cruises offer regional cuisine and use locally sourced ingredients to help with their authenticity. Also common are wine pairings, selected from local tastes to help guests get a closer understanding of a region’s culture.

River cruisers spend more time in the cities, towns and ports along the way. Included shore excursions consist of guided tours that help guests become well-acquainted with the culture, art and history of their destinations. In addition to guided tours, guests can roam freely around local stops or arrange optional shore excursions. There’s always ample opportunity to find something to do in every port, whether it’s visiting an ancient castle, attending a classical concert or enjoying a famous museum.

Who You’ll Be Cruising With

While river cruises can be enjoyed by people of all ages, they generally appeal to people more advanced in age — baby boomers, in particular. Many river cruise lines allow children aboard their ships, although they may have age restrictions in place and usually there isn’t much for kids to do. The makeup of a liner can include people of a wide range of nationalities, but more often than not, guests come from English-speaking countries.

Best Times to Go

Whether you choose to travel in the on-season or the off-season, you’ll be able to gain a deep cultural experience in each of your destinations. In the spring and summer, you may witness local outdoor events and lively activities that only occur during the warmer months of the year. Cooler weather in the fall may mean you’ll run into fewer people in the streets of cities and ports you visit, which will allow you to take your time and get a closer look at sites that interest you without feeling rushed or crowded. And in the winter season, you’ll be delighted by festive Christmas markets and enchanted by the holiday traditions and celebrations of the locals.

What You Should Pack

Given that weather will be variable depending on where your river cruise takes you, bringing along both warm and light clothes is wise. Even during warm months, there is wind on the rivers, so it’s best to plan for layers even if the weather is hot. Additionally, you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking, so bring along comfortable shoes. Lastly, pack some dressier clothes in case you attend a formal event while visiting one of your cruise destinations.

How They Differ from Ocean Cruises

Although river cruises and ocean cruises share a number of similarities, there are also various—and considerable—differences between the two. For one, ocean liners are bigger and offer more stateroom accommodations on average. Appropriately, they’re able to host significantly more guests. The smaller scale of river ships means fewer guests, but more opportunities to get to know fellow travelers, which often lead to lifelong friendships.

In contrast to ocean cruises that may include multiple sea days, you will rarely experience a full day of sailing on a river cruise. Typically, guests will awake each morning to find themselves in a new port. With river cruising, you can also enjoy an ever-changing mural of breathtaking scenery from your ship, so the journey itself becomes part of your discovery.

For those without sea legs, river cruises have the advantage of smooth trekking, shallow waters and the gift of land that’s always in sight. Lastly, most river cruises offer inclusive value, meaning your Wi-Fi, water, alcohol and included excursions are covered in the price. However, ocean cruises tend to offer more upscale amenities, like fitness centers, multiple dining options and a variety of live entertainment.

Who Would Enjoy a River Cruise?

River cruises are great for everyone, especially those desiring a more relaxed and intimate form of travel. Individuals who’ve never stepped foot on a ship before will enjoy the relative ease of a river-bound trip with little chance of seasickness. Furthermore, with a focus on cultural exploration of locations, river cruises are perfect for those with a curiosity about art and history, or a general interest in travel.  Every river is unique and each tells a different story—not only of the countries through which it flows, but also of its locks, canals, scenery and bridges.

All information, inclusions, and amenities are subject to change without notice. Please contact us for the most up-to-date information.


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