There were those ships that went to war for the Kaiser on the high seas, those that stayed at home or otherwise played no significant part, and those that were commandeered (mostly in 1917 and by the United States) and used against Germany.
This is a well illustrated history, both practical and romantic, of the association each ship may have had with famous people and events of the war, and of the fates of the ships that comprised that fleet.
As the world plunged into war in August 1914, two German fleets and several cruisers lay beyond the North Sea, posing a serious threat to British merchant vessels and naval superiority. Beyond the British blockade, there was little chance of reinforcements and resupply of ammunition. Admiral Souchon crossed the Mediterranean with a superior French and British fleet in pursuit. Vice-Admiral von Spee had to decide what to do half a world away from Germany with colonies and friendly shipping rapidly being overtaken by Allied forces. With only the ammunition onboard his vessels, he had to fight his way through British lines to get his men home. Karl von Müller led the Emden on a daring campaign of commerce raiding as did the commander of the Karlsruhe.
Other cruisers also carried out warfare, seriously affecting Allied merchant shipping. However, the Royal Navy spent precious resources to remove these threats and Admiral Craddock swept down the coast of North America chasing phantoms only to find what he was looking for was at Coronel and the Falklands Islands.