River Cruising through ’Secret Germany’ aboard A-ROSA Silva
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This is the life. I’m people-watching in the German city of Wurzburg
with the help of a something cold after a hike up to the Marienberg Fortress that
sits high (very high, as I’ve just discovered!) above the town.
Even the pouring rain, can’t dampen my spirits. For one
thing, I’m nice and dry under a canopy of pub umbrellas and blue sky is starting
to peep through the clouds. For another, I haven’t heard a word about Covid-19 for
My husband and I were lucky. The short window in which we
were allowed out of the UK in 2020 coincided with a cabin becoming available on
a seven-night voyage from Nuremberg to Cologne with A-ROSA Cruises, one of the
few river companies that sailed successfully last year. We flew to Munich, took
the train to Nuremberg and an included coach transfer from the station took us
to the ship. Easy.
We’re cruising on A-ROSA Silva, a cheery vessel with bright
red lips on her bow and a penchant for colour inside. Yellows, purples, oranges,
reds. It makes a lovely change from the minimalist look in vogue these days.
She is designated ‘international’ by A-ROSA, a German company, which means
everything, from the menus to excursions, is in English and German.
Numbers-wise, she has three decks, holds up to 186
passengers, has 89 cabins and four junior suites with either fixed windows or
French balconies, and two suites with walk-out balconies. Features-wise, she’s
the perfect package, with a restaurant, spa, sauna and gym, lounge, pool and
putting green. The only thing missing is a lift, which could be an issue if you
struggle with stairs.
All meals on A-ROSA river ships are usually yummy buffets, but that has been one of the casualties of Covid-19. For the moment, everything is
served, which we rather liked, especially in the evening. The crew did a great
job; a few told us they had trained as waiters so were delighted to be back
doing what they loved.
Dining wasn’t the only tweak A-ROSA had to make because of the
pandemic. Our temperatures were taken before embarking in Nuremberg, masks were
de rigueur when moving around indoors, you had to fill in a form if you sat
with other passengers in the lounge and evening entertainment was limited to
recorded music. None of it was any hardship, and don’t be surprised if the same
rules are still in place for a while this year as well, but I did I miss not
being able to sit at the bar, which is always a good place to meet people,
especially as A-Rosa includes drinks in the cruise price.
A-ROSA Silva stayed overnight in Nuremberg so next morning
we headed into the city – an easy bus-metro ride from her dock on the
Main-Danube Canal. The city will be forever synonymous with the Nazi war crimes
trials held here, and on past cruises we’ve visited both the courtroom and
excellent Documentation Centre that tells of the rise of Hitler and life under
the Nazis, so this time we explored the town – a delightful place that was a
major trading centre in medieval times.
Our journey would take us along the Main-Danube Canal (it links
the Main and Danube Rivers by taking ships over the Franconian Alps by means of
16 locks) to Bamberg, where we’d join the Main River. Another 34 locks later we’d
pop out onto the Rhine. These locks are a mixed blessing. Without them, ships
couldn’t navigate the Main and the canal wouldn’t exist; because of them, the
sun deck is often closed (locks invariably come with low bridges). On this
cruise, a cabin with a French or walk-out balcony is a good investment.
A-ROSA offers excursions at extra cost at each port – mainly
city walking tours but with some guided cycle rides as well (bikes can’t be
borrowed individually) – but we opted to explore alone each day.
This part of Germany is steeped in centuries of history and
culture. There are castles, fortresses, grand cathedrals and palaces, beautiful
architecture and wonderfully quirky tales. My favourite was in Bamberg, a town stuffed
with half-timbered houses that could have come straight out of Hansel and
Gretel, where the burgers built their town hall in the river because the mean prince-bishop
who ruled here wouldn’t give them any land.
There is so much to discover. The aforementioned Marienberg
Fortress (it’s a bit of a climb up but the views are spectacular) and ornate Versailles-inspired
Bishops’ Residenz in Wurzburg; an ancient Jewish cemetery and yet another
castle in Wertheim; an immense Romanesque-style cathedral and the brilliant Gutenberg
Museum dedicated to the man who invented the printing press in Mainz (we were
supposed to be in Frankfurt, but the itinerary changed last minute and Mainz
proved a worthy stand-in).
By now we were cruising the Rhine and in the early hours next
morning set sail for the Rhine Gorge, the prettiest part of the river, lined
with vineyards, cute villages and medieval castles. Our cruise manager told us
their history as we sailed through (many were destroyed by marauding French in
various 17th-century wars), and also of the legend of the Lorelei, a siren who
lured sailors to their deaths with her hypnotic singing.
The French also left their mark in Koblenz, our last stop,
capturing the fortress there during the Thirty Years War and blowing it up
during the Napoleonic Wars. The ruling Prussians decided to build back better.
Unfortunately by the time they had finished, the balance of power had changed, so
it never saw action. So much for the vicissitudes of history! It’s definitely worth
visiting the fortress; helpfully a cable car goes from near where the ships
dock (A-ROSA also offers it as an excursion).
Next day in Cologne the crew were on the quay to bid us all
a fond farewell. Or auf wiedersehen – ‘until next time’ – as I like to think of
it. After all, I still haven’t had my day in Frankfurt.
Flight-inclusive river cruise packages with A-ROSA River
Cruises can be booked through Jules Verne.
This eight-day ‘Secret Germany’ cruise onboard A-ROSA
Silva is available on 22 May and 28 August 2022. Prices start from £2,125 pp (based
on two sharing on 28 August departure) and includes seven nights full board accommodation and drinks,
rail travel from London to Nuremberg and returning from Cologne,
five excursions with local expert guides plus the
services of a UK tour manager throughout. Based on two sharing.
before 30 June 2021 to save an additional £120 pp.
020 3553 3722
travelled in October 2020 as a guest of A-ROSA River Cruises.
Advisor recommends A-ROSA
More about JaneA prolific cruiser, Jane Archer is a whizz at geography – as long as you ask her about places with a port or river close by. Jane has sailed on and off the beaten track, and cruised the great waterways of Europe, Asia and the US, but says there is still plenty of the world to be explored. Jane is a regular contributor to national newspapers and a host of cruise and travel magazines.
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