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Trip to Essen, Dusseldorf and Cologne

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My husband and I are going to Essen the first week in May where he is giving a talk at a convention. The first night accomodations are being provided by our hosts. We would like to explore Dusseldorf and then spend time in Cologne. We would also like to go down to Mainz. We were told that one could take a boat ride down to Mainz and then get back to Cologne train the same day. I do have several questions since I don't know this area at all.
1. Can we get from Essen to Dusseldorf and back to Dusseldorf by public transportation easily? We are senior citizens. any idea of price? this wil be on a Sunday.
2. I understand we can we get from Essen to Cologne by train and that the trip is about 30 minutes. Any idea of price and how often trains run? this will be on a Monday
3. Any ideas of a nice clean hotel not ridiculously priced in Cologne?
4. We would like to go to Mainz. for one day. It would be nice to take a river cruise down there. I understand this is beautiful. How often do the boats run? How much would this cost? Can we get back to Cologne by train? Cost?
Any suggestions would be most appreciated. thanks
this is my first time on this site and I would be most appreciative of any suggestions
Thanks,

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