Besides going by train or bicycle, another great way to travel up or down the Rhine from Bacharach is to take one of the regularly scheduled ships run by the Köln-Düsseldorfer (K-D) line.
In the summer months they run five ships a day in each direction. Ships going downstream (north) towards Koblenz leave Bacharach at 10:15, 11:15, 12:15, 15:15 and 17:15. Going upstream (south) they leave at 11:30, 13:30, 15:30, 16:30 and 18:30. These times are from the summer 2020 schedule, which is unchanged from previous years.
Since the current is quite strong, travel times are much quicker going downstream than going up. For instance, it takes forty minutes to go upstream from Oberwesel to Bacharach, but only twenty minutes to go downstream from Bacharach to Oberwesel. (Including a stop at Kaub in both directions.)
Unlike the German railway system, which tries at every opportunity to eliminate human staff and make passengers buy their tickets from capricious ticket machines, the K-D ship line has at least one human salesperson at every ticket office.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, face masks covering the nose and mouth are now required at the ticket office and when boarding the ships. On board, the exact regulations vary depending on which Land (Hessen, Rheinland-Pfalz or Nordrhein-Westfalen) the ship happens to be going through. This has been a characteristic situation throughout the pandemic, that the different federal states of Germany have not been able to agree on a uniform set of rules for the whole country.
Nonetheless, Germany seems to have coped relatively well with the pandemic thus far, so I’m not complaining. In any case, it seems to me that as long as you stay outdoors on the deck of one of these scheduled river ships you’ll have plenty of wind and fresh air to disperse any viruses that might be lurking about. Other kinds of excursions, such as overnight cruises and party cruises, are on hold for the time being.
The Köln-Düsseldorfer company describes itself as Germany’s oldest joint-stock company and the world’s most experienced river shipping line. The K-D company has a fleet of fourteen ships of various shapes and sizes.
They say K-D is the only shipping company which operates daily scheduled services along the whole stretch of the Rhine between Cologne (=Köln) and Mainz.
Despite their name, the K-D no longer operates any ships between Cologne and Düsseldorf. On their website, they explain: “During K-D’s long history, the route network was constantly adapted and today the ships do not sail between Dusseldorf and Cologne, partly because the scenery along this part of the river is less attractive and also because the journey would take 5 hours to sail upriver and 3 hours downriver.“
The K-D ships on the Rhine have three sets of controls, one in a large elevated cockpit at the front end of the ship and two on either side to steer the ship as it is approaching or leaving the dock. Here the captain of the K-D ship “MS Godesburg” is tweaking the controls on the port side of the ship as it approaches the dock at Kaub, on the right bank of the river.
The MS Ehrenfels is one of five ships that belong to a smaller shipping company, the Bingen-Rüdesheimer cruise line. This is a company that offers day cruises down the Rhine from Bingen and Rüdesheim to see the many castles and the “Romantic Lorelei” rock. In addition to Bingen and Rüdesheim they also have docks at Assmannshausen, Trechtingshausen, Lorch, Bacharach, Kaub, Oberwesel, St. Goarshausen and St. Goar.
MS “Ehrenfels” seats 200 people on the sun deck, 180 on the upper deck and 170 on the lower deck. Since the lower deck is heated, they can also offer winter cruises such as a New Year’s Eve cruise (still on offer for 2020/2021, despite the coronavirus pandemic) with a five-course dinner and live music. At midnight they approach the city of Mainz so people can see the fireworks there to welcome in the New Year.
My photos in this post are from 2010. I revised the text in 2020.
See also: Castles on the Rhine.