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The Rhine River is one of Europe’s longest rivers at 766 miles in length, and it is studded with contrasts: bustling urban centers, deep forests, high mountains, castles and prehistoric fortifications that trace European history for centuries.Born from a glacier near Reichenau, Switzerland, the Rhine flows through or along the boundaries of Switzerland, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria and the Netherlands and into the North Sea. Ancient cities and villages grew up along this vital waterway, so river cruise passengers can step from their ships into villages and large cities and experience dramatic scenery from high gorges to the Black Forest and the Alps.
The following is a sampling of popular Rhine River itineraries from various river cruise lines.
AmawaterwaysAmawaterways has all sorts of variations on Rhine River cruises, from the 11-day Oktoberfest Escape, combining two nights in Munich, Germany, with a cruise from Nuremberg, Germany, to Amsterdam, Netherlands, priced from $2,699 (cruise only), to the 13-day Enchanting Rhine, with a cruise from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland, priced from $3,119, with two nights each in Switzerland’s Lucerne and Zurich. The line’s 21-day Ultimate River Cruise between Budapest, Hungary, and Trier, Germany, includes a 14-day cruise with land stays, including two nights in Budapest and three in Paris, plus a city tour in Luxembourg, all priced from $3,898 per person.www.amawaterways.com
Avalon WaterwaysAvalon Waterways cruises the Rhine on a number of itineraries, including the 13-day Upper Rhine to the City of Music, sailing between Zurich, Switzerland, and Vienna, Austria, priced from $3,859 per person, not including airfare. The eight-day Romantic Rhine cruises between Zurich, Switzerland, and Amsterdam, Netherlands, from $1,699. The same themed cruise between Amsterdam and Basel, Switzerland, also eight days in length, starts at $1,799 per person.www.avalonwaterways.com
Scenic ToursScenic recently tested a new 13-night Romantic Rhine and Moselle cruise for this fall, and it sold out in two weeks; the company has five spring and fall dates planned for 2011, with pricing starting from $4,370 per person, including free airfare from anywhere in North America.www.scenictours.com
TauckTauck has introduced a new eight-day Christmas Market cruise along the Rhine between Basel, Switzerland, and Cologne, Germany, priced from $1,990, visiting Aachen, Germany, and Colmar, France. Also new from Tauck is the 19-day Romance of the Rhine and Danube itinerary, priced from $6,790 with two nights in Strasbourg, France.www.tauck.com
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise CollectionUniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection sails the Rhine alone or combined with other rivers. Three nine-day cruises on the Rhine, all priced from $1,899, include the Castles Along the Rhine itinerary between Basel and Amsterdam, the Rhine Discovery from Nuremberg, Germany, and Basel and the Rhine Holiday Markets between Basel and Cologne, Germany.www.uniworld.com
Viking River CruisesViking River Cruises has several choices for sailing the Rhine, including the Rhine Getaway, which is priced from $1,516, sailing between Basel, Switzerland, and Amsterdam, Netherlands; the 15-day Treasures of the Rhine, sailing between Antwerp, Belgium, and Basel with overnights at both ends, priced from $2,562; and the 10-day Winter Rhineland cruise between Amsterdam and Basel, visiting Christmas markets along the way, with two days in Amsterdam, priced from $1,872.www.vikingrivercruises.com