Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Cruising the Rhine

I'm now back to reality after a lovely River Cruise sailing down the Rhine from Strasbourg to Amsterdam, with lots of interesting German cities and towns in between. Our boat was the Royal Crown - a unique and beautiful 1930s style vessel that normally takes only 60-80 passengers. It certainly attracted lots of attention when moored at the various river docks, mostly within easy walking distance of the towns.

From the excellent food to the friendly staff, it's a ship we would certainly use again, not least for its stylish décor and finish. With so few passengers and plenty of deck area and comfortable seats in the spacious lounge, complete with grand piano and pianist during afternoon tea and after-dinner coffee, the ship never seemed over full at any time. We could be as chatty or as quiet as we wished.

The cabin was perfectly adequate with the right amount of storage space (even for my excessive amount of clothes), and the bathroom had ample room for the walk-in shower. The tap water was even drinkable as they carry fresh water. Unlike the ships on a certain TV promotion, our graceful vessel had a wooden rail around the main entrance deck, allowing us to walk up and down each side if we wished.

The cruise itself was relaxing in between visits and very restful as we sailed gently down the river. Needless to say, a highlight of this itinerary is the Rhine Gorge, with the hilltop castles and the legendary Lorelei rock (or Loreley as the rock proclaimed). We were treated to an onboard story and song of the Lorelei maiden, or siren, as we sailed passed - there is now a statue round the corner from the rather unremarkable rock.

Some of my highlights were:

Strasbourg - very pretty areas down by the canal and lots of willow trees (my favourites). The inside of the cathedral was the most stunning we saw in any of the towns. I loved the astronomical clock, the pole of angels, and the Christ on the cross scene, which I managed to photo when illuminated.

Speyer - small, pretty town with lots of churches and old buildings. Loved the statue of the pilgrim on the pavement, setting off on his way to Santiago de Compostela.

Heidelberg - an ancient university town with pretty buildings, with a backdrop of the old castle on the hill which you can reach by funicular railway, or foot. We found a wonderful chocolate shop/café on the main street which drew me in with the quirky Forest Gump seat outside.

Rudesheim - a pretty small town with the most wonderful Siegfried's Musical Cabinet Museum. A knowledgeable guide showed us the most fascinating collection of mechanical musical instruments through the centuries and allowed us to hear many of them. My inner child kicked in at the circus display!

Koblenz - another pretty town with a beautiful river front. Superb cable car ride up to the fortress on the hill, with stunning views over the river.

My one disappointment was Cologne, but perhaps it was too busy as we arrived in the afternoon. We walked to the cathedral which was a truly awesome sight (in the real meaning of the word) but was strangely disappointing inside. I did, however, hear the story of the famous 4711 eau de Cologne, which does indeed originate here.

We didn't have time to take a tour of Amsterdam at the end as we flew straight home, but a group of passengers went off to do so before their flight. Fortunately, we've been there before so didn't miss much. We're used to cruising on larger sea-going ships, which we love, and were interested to experience the difference of a smaller vessel that is never far from land.

Piano in lounge

stairs up to reception

Although we do enjoy the slight anonymity of larger ships, and the variety of public rooms and restaurants, we can honestly say we would like to cruise down the Danube one day on this particular unique ship, the Royal Crown.

Everything slows down on a river cruise and the added rest from all Internet activity added to the pleasure. Even though I had my kindle with me for reading in bed, the first thing I did was to choose a book from the library. It seemed more fitting to read the old fashioned way on such a stylish ship while the world passed slowly by down the river.

If anyone is interested in such a journey on the Royal Crown, you can find out details of the ship's itineraries (which is sometimes hired by different upmarket companies) from my travel agent husband, Simon. He happened to hear of it through his company, hence the reason we booked ourselves this holiday.

Now it's back to work, and I'll try to catch up with everyone's blogs!


Wendy's Writing said...

What an amazing time you've had, Rosemary - I'd love to do that. The one cruise boat I've been on (on my honeymoon) held 3000 people! What different boats we were both on this summer.

Teresa Ashby said...

Wow, Rosemary it sounds fabulous! And the pictures are wonderful. Glad you had such a relaxing time :-) x

Joanna said...

That sounds like a beautiful cruise, Rosemary, and your pictures are stunning. i think I would enjoy it very much, especially Heidelberg. It's lovely to have you back and I'm so glad you had a wonderful time. x

Carolb said...

Looks wonderful, Rosemary, and a lovely set of photos too. :)

Now you're revitalised ready for all the writing to come.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

It's great to have such choice, Wendy!

Thanks, Teresa - the rest from online activity was also great!

Thank you, Joanna, it's good to be back. You would like Heidelberg!

Thanks, Carol - I've added two more!

Amanda said...

Sounds absolutely lovely, Rosemary. X

Jean Bull said...

I sounds like a lovely holiday, Rosemary. We drove down the Rhine about 25 years ago! It would be wonderful to see all those beautiful places again.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Amanda - thanks for your comment!

I'm sure you'd enjoy it all again, Jean!

Sara Bain said...

Fantastic tour of the Rhine, Rosemary, and your pictures are fabulous. Makes me want to go - but not by boat! I'm a terrible sailor.

Cara Cooper said...

Sounds absolutely fabulous, really enjoyed your photos. A cruise is definitely on my to do list!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thank you, Sara! The good thing about this kind of cruise (if you don't like sailing) is you're never far from land.

Thanks, Cara!

Vikki said...

Just catching up on blog posts just now...Your photos of the different towns are beautiful and the ship looks very classy.