There are many River Cruise Lines to choose from, so which is best? What do I get different for the prices advertised? These are all good questions and why talking to a Travel Agent that specialises in River Cruising is a good thing, as they are unbiased and does not cost anything more to book through them.
Suitcase Travel is such specialist Travel Agent and the team have been on several cruises and visited many of the different ships from different cruise lines when they have been in port. Visiting ships and viewing the different cabin grades is certainly helpful, but to sail and do a full itinerary does really help to give a full understanding of what the holiday is like. You get to know the type of traveller and the mix of internationals. Some river cruise lines are predominantly a mix of European nationals, some are more North American and some are a good mix of Australasians and North Americans. In my opinion for the UK market, it is generally good to seek a predominantly English-speaking cruise, whether this is focussed on our American or Australasian cousins or on the UK itself.
I therefore recently jumped at the chance of an invite from Riviera Travel to join their Rhine, Strasbourg and Heidelberg River Cruise. Riviera Travel have wonderful ships that are easily graded as 5 star and I was joining one of their newest ships the MS Geoffrey Chaucer. They also market predominantly to the UK market, so after the many years I have done river cruising, travelling with predominantly UK passengers, was going to be a first for me.
Day 1 – This was the first sailing of the season, so flying into Dusseldorf we had a shorter transfer to the ship as this was waiting for us in Dusseldorf instead of the usual start point of Cologne. We set sail earlier in the evening and later that night we sailed through the city of Cologne, with it bridges and magnificent Cathedral all splendidly lit up.
Day 2 – Sail into Koblenz for a morning walking tour of the old town. Back on board for lunch to then sail onto Boppard. Here we had another short walking tour with plenty of free time to ourselves as we are moored here for the night. A Folk band with a modern twist and humour came on board to entertain us after dinner.
Day 3 – This morning we leave Boppard to sail through the magnificent Rhine Gorge, as we cruise through staring up at the many castles perched on top of the steep banks of the gorge, our Cruise Director gave us a guided talk of the many castles and the history and geology that we passed through. This afternoon we have a guided tour of the historic town of Mainz and visit the famous Guttenberg Museum – the early inventor of the printing press and publisher of the first mass printing of the Bible. There are only 48 surviving books in the world, each worth something in the region of $6 million.
Day 4 – We are in Mannheim and take a short coach journey to the quaint town of Heidelberg on the river Necker. After a short walking tour there is plenty of free time to enjoy tis beautiful town before catch up with the ship that has sailed in our absence down to Speyer. After lunch we were free to explore the town or visit the Speyer Tecknik Museum (see below – this is an amazing hidden gem!).
Day 5 – This morning we visit the French city of Strasbourg and have a guided walk of its historic centre and magnificent Cathedral. The afternoon was an optional onward tour to Colmar or return to ship for lunch (passengers visiting Colmar were supplied a packed lunch).
Day 6 – Today we are in Rudesheim. After a walking tour we had plenty of free time to explore on our own. I went to Seigfrieds Mechanical Music Museum, a fascinating collection of automated musical instruments. The ship was moored in Rudesheim overnight, so after dinner we went into town and joined in the party atmosphere created by other ship passengers also overnighting coming into town.
Day 7 – Setting off early this morning another chance to view the Rhine Gorge in the opposite direction whilst enjoying breakfast. The afternoon was spent in Cologne, again with plenty of free time for us, after a walking tour. One of the good things about walking tours is not only do you learn things that would have gone over your head if just wandering, but they also give you orientation to then go and explore on your own. I must profess that ended up being tempted of having a beer by the riverside! The final evening was the Captain’s Dinner (smart but not full black-tie event).
Day 8 – Day of disembarkation and today we say our final farewells to MS Geoffrey Chaucer and her crew.
“Highlight of the cruise”
I thoroughly enjoyed this 8 day holiday. I enjoyed Heidelberg and Strasbourg, but the unexpected highlight for me was Speyer and the Tecknik Museum. This is a large museum of aircraft, spacecraft, Locomotives (real and model), cars and marine boats (including a U-Boat!). The main feature is an original 747 perched up in the air on a metal framework with a stairway leading up to it, that you go inside and even walk on its wing. This is a place you could easily spend 2 days and still want to come back.
“Service was great and what is included”
The crew and ship staff were magnificent, always willing to help and go that extra mile in service. The food was also fantastically put together with plenty of choice. Breakfast and Lunch was a buffet of hot and cold dishes and the evening meal was Table D’hote with 2 dish choice (but always grilled chicken or salmon as a simple standby). There is also a third vegetarian option and Vegan diets are also catered for.
A Riviera cruise includes all your meals and excursions with coffee, tea and water available 24/7 from the coffee station. Drinks are not included but you can buy a drinks package for £99 per person giving you beer, wine and soft drinks with your meals. Drinks on board are not overpriced and are similarly priced to UK outside of London.
“Plenty of relaxation”
When writing the above itinerary and rereading, it appeared that the tour is full on with walking tours every day. But a river cruise is completely the opposite with plenty of free time to yourselves to wander and plenty of relaxing time in between shore visits, busking in the sun on top deck (there is shade too), admiring the views or having a read, as you sail on the river.
Call us to book this cruise or any other Riviera cruise – book by 31 May and get half price Drinks Package!
Current offers from Suitcase Travel (limited departures and availability): Prices are per person based on 2 persons sharing a cabin (call for solo deals)
*Rhine to Switzerland – from £1,199 (saving up to £1,350 per person)
*Amsterdam, Cologne and Flanders – from £1,199 (saving up to £1,040 per person)
*The Seine, Paris & Normandy – from £999 (saving up to £1,430 per person)
*Blue Danube – Vienna, Budapest & Salzburg – from £1,399 (saving up to £990 per person)
These offers were available at time of blog posting and do expire 31st May 2022 – please call for latest deals