David Powell takes a river cruise onboard one of CroisiEurope’s fabulous river ships.
This was the first time I had cruised the River Rhine and the scenery along the Rhine Valley as we head towards Koblenz really is stunning, with picturesque castles and churches perched high along the banks of the river. Most of the guests are out on the large sundeck of Lafayette this Wednesday morning taking in the fantastic views.
One of the many things I like about river cruising is that you arrive at the heart of a destination most times just a short walk to the city or town centre.
CroisiEurope have been cruising the rivers of Europe since the early 80s and now have an impressive 45 river ships. Their ships regularly cruise the rivers Rhine, Danube, Rhóne, Guadalquivir, Elbe, Seine, Gironde, Venice and the lagoon, Douro and the Loire. My wife and I chose the 6 day Splendors of the Romantic Rhine Valley on the beautiful Lafayette. Strasbourg in France was to be the start and finish of our Rhine river cruise.
With no flights involved we took the Eurostar to Paris and onwards by TGV direct to Strasbourg where we had decided to stay overnight before joining Lafayette. The TGV service is incredibly fast and according to an app downloaded to my phone we were averaging 150 mph and on a number of occasions reached a top speed of 199mph! Our overnight stay enabled us to explore the European Capital, Strasbourg, which is the second most popular tourist city in France; Paris being the first.
Lafayette is a premium ship with just 43 cabins and a maximum of 82 passengers. Our cabin, 209 on the upper deck, was climate controlled with bathroom, shower, satellite TV, radio, free WiFi and a safe. Best of all our comfy double bed was situated facing the large floor to ceiling picture windows and the Juliet balcony and each morning we awoke to super views as we cruised along the Rhine.
Embarkation at Strasbourg river station was a dream, easy to get to by taxi from our hotel and a lovely location. Two ships were in but the reception area was calm and uncrowded. As we made our way to Lafayette the crew were there to take our luggage onboard as we checked in at the ships reception. We had pre-purchased the classic excursions package for our cruise which I would highly recommend.
After settling in to our cabin we then made our way to the large and spacious lounge. Complete with dance floor and a bar (expertly manned throughout by Lorand and Alexa) the lounge is located at the front of the ship with panoramic views from all angles! Cocktails, games, dancing and other entertainment all happen here and this is where we had welcome onboard drinks and met the crew. CroisiEurope is of course French but we didn’t experience any language problems and announcements were made in both French and English. After exploring the ship it’s soon time for our first dinner and located on the upper deck the restaurant is where all meals are served during the cruise. We have a table for 4 and were joined by a friendly couple from Surrey. The atmosphere is casual but elegant and we enjoyed the first of many sensational meals all prepared onboard – black forest ham, chicken fillet Mediterranean style with fried potatoes and broccoli followed by Crêpes Suzette, tea and coffee. A selection of delicious wines was readily served throughout the meal.
Following dinner we were off on the first of the weeks excursions, an evening tour of the historic Petite France area of Strasbourg. Moored close to Lafayette we boarded a glass-domed boat and our tour took us past winding canals alongside charming, colourful half-timbered houses and narrow alleyways. We passed the Tanners Quarter, the Covered Bridges and saw the European Court of Human Rights Building and so much more.
Up early the following day and spectacular weather greets us. After a splendid buffet breakfast we head out to the sun deck with an easy fitness class led by Lea the cruise entertainment host, before relaxing and enjoying our first morning cruise. Plenty of chairs and sun loungers, it was never a problem finding somewhere to sit and watch the world go by.
In the early hours of the morning we had left France and were now in Germany heading for our first stop, Rudesheim, where we arrived just after lunch. A very pretty town and from the ship our tour included a ride on a little train through the vineyards, wine tasting and a very interesting visit to the Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments before free time along the famous Drosselgasse, a cobbled street filled with historic buildings, restaurants, bars and shops. The Drosselgasse attracts more than three million visitors on a yearly basis due to its authentic atmosphere.
Departing the next morning was a highlight of Lafayette’s journey, spectacular scenery with seemingly endless fairy-tale castles perched high on the banks at nearly every bend of the river as we cruised to Koblenz. On arrival again just after lunch, it was just a short walk to the city centre where we explored on our own and got slightly lost in the main shopping district! A friendly local pointed the way back to the river, always a good landmark on a river cruise! We were soon back onboard for a fabulous dinner of vegetable soup, salad, duck confit in orange sauce with gratin dauphinois and brussel sprouts followed by iced nougat, cheeseboard and tea or coffee. Lovely wines of course were flowing throughout.
The following morning and we’re off again this time cruising to Mainz where our afternoon tour included a professional guide showing us the highlights of the city and the Gutenberg Museum, the world’s finest museum of printing equipment materials and books. Here I was able to use a centuries old printing press with real ink to reproduce a page of Gutenberg’s bible on parchment paper – great fun!
All too soon our splendid cruise is coming to a close, our final day cruising to Mannheim where we take a short coach journey to Heidelberg (the city of the Romantics), visit the castle and admire the stunning scenery from high above the city before free time and return to the ship. It’s the Captain’s fabulous Gala Dinner and when we say goodbye to the lovely crew and newfound friends.
CroisiEurope gave us a superb cruise on the fascinating and romantic Rhine River, through its numerous legends (including the fabled Lorelei Rock), beautiful vineyards and castles galore, what a splendid way to travel and discover this part of Europe. Lafayette is a premium ship and so much is included, free Wi-Fi, and drinks including water, wine, beer, juices and coffee (as is usual premium spirits and drinks are at additional cost), breakfast lunch and dinner, repatriation insurance and port taxes.
We were made to feel welcome and at home throughout our cruise with a wonderful, smiling and dedicated team. I would definitely recommend CroisiEurope and my wife and I can’t wait to sail with them again and with 45 river ships, 1 ocean ship and lots of itineraries there’s plenty of fabulous choices!
2020 prices for the 6-day Romantic Rhine Valley cruise start from £756 per person based on departures on 21st October onboard the MS France and 25th October onboard MS La Boheme.
2020 prices for the 6-day Romantic Rhine Valley cruise start from £1,040 per person based on MS Lafayette departures on 5th and 26th August.
Prices includes all meals and drinks onboard, port fees and WiFi.
Call CroisiEurope on 020 8328 1281 or visit www.croisieurope.co.uk.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends CroisiEurope.