This was the first time I’d done a river cruise. It was the start of the summer holidays and daughter and family were away, leaving me free of grandparenting commitments. It was too good an opportunity to miss. This was the only holiday I found for the dates I wanted which appealed to me – “Sights of the Southern Rhine”:http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/cruise/166414-review-sights-of-the-southern-rhine, booked through
“Titan Travel”:http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/travel-service/166363-review-titan-travel on the A Rosa Viva. This review just covers the boat as I am writing separate reviews for Titan Travel and the actual cruise.
Being an absolute novice, it was all new to me, so I apologise to experienced cruisers if what I am saying is obvious.
I’d seen pictures of boats used on river cruises – Viking advertise regularly on TV – but I wasn’t prepared for just how long the boat was. I booked a cabin on the lower deck with two portholes with the river flowing past at nose level. I was lulled to sleep by the sound of water. Knowing I was planning to spend all my time outside on the sun deck, I’d discounted a cabin with a balcony, working on the principle if the weather was too bad to be outside, it would probably also be too bad to be sitting on a balcony.
Cabins on the main and upper deck have ‘balconies’ although talking to other passengers, these were just an opening door and the balcony wasn’t large enough to sit on. I felt I’d made the right decision.
It was a large and comfortable cabin with two beds pushed together. With single occupancy I also got two sets of towels and two lots of water. There was plenty of space to store belongings as well as plenty of hanging space and coat hangers. It had a single chair. There was a flat screen TV but all the programmes were in German apart from CNBC and BBC World news. There was a safe, hair drier and laundry service. Free wi-fi was available on board, apart from when the boat was going through a lock.
Basic toiletries were supplied. Towels were good and were changed on demand along with the sheets. I appreciated the generous bath robe which swamped me.
The cabins were spotlessly clean and the bathroom area was checked twice a day and fresh towels provided in the evening if I had showered during the day. The domestic staff were mainly eastern European and were very hard working. They had very basic English but were always keen to talk.
There was a central atrium with a double spiral staircase to all three desks. There was no lift – a serious consideration for anyone with limited mobility. Reception was on the main deck. Reception staff were pleasant but I was surprised their English wasn’t better. They also had restricted knowledge about the ports of call.
On the top deck was the small and rather basic shop which had limited opening hours as well as the excursion desk. Next to this was the ‘library’ which was a rather strange selection of books left by previous passengers.
The lounge area with a very small dance floor, bar and restaurants were on the top deck. Tucked away at the front of the boat beyond the top deck cabins was the spa, massage and gym along with a small whirlpool bath. I never investigated these.
Separate stairs led up to the sun deck. The sun loungers were at the front under a large canopy. To the rear were tables with sun shades. In the centre was a ‘games’ area with crazy golf, shuffleboard and giant draughts. A selection of board games was provided in the lounge are along with a daily quiz sheet.
There was some entertainment provided on board, but it was easy to avoid if you didn’t want to join in. A DJ was in the lounge every evening which I avoided. On the first couple of days there was piped music playing through the loud speakers on the sun deck, but fortunately this didn’t last.
On a couple of afternoons there was a German film about other river cruises. There were also wine tasting and cocktail workshops, bookable in advance with limited numbers.
The main language on board was German although announcements were made in both German and English. Depending on where you were, these could be quite difficult to hear, especially in the cabins when you had to open the cabin door to listen unless you had the TV on, when they came through the TV speakers.
It was an international crew. The captain was Dutch. Officers were German as were the bar staff. Several of the dining room staff were Asian and the domestic staff were eastern European. All could speak some English. Staff were good but were let down by the bar staff who were often working under pressure and could seem abrupt. The bar did seem to be under staffed and they were often slow to serve, especially if making up a large order for other staff.
Food was excellent. All meals were buffet and there was no reserved seating in the dining room. I usually took my meal to eat on the sun deck, sometimes in solitary state. There was always soup, a variety of salads along with hot choices, deserts, cheese and fresh fruit. Breakfasts included a basic hot breakfast (forget the full English) along with fruit, yogurts, cereals, cold meats, cheese, salad, oily fish and a good choice of bread and rolls. Coffee and cakes were served in the afternoon, but I was often too full to consider them.
A themed four course dinner was served every evening for an additional charge. This had to be prebooked and numbers were limited.
I had hoped to sample a selection of German wines during the cruise, but the only selection available from the bar was a very ordinary red, white or rosé of unspecified origin. Special wines were provided for the prebooked meals but again weren’t German. The wheat beer however was excellent. There was also a diverse and very colourful selection of cocktails on offer.
We were given a nightly briefing from the International Hostess with details of the next day’s ports of call. Maps for the different places were stuck in the cabin doors each night. These were good and had some information about the sights and were much better than the google maps I’d gone prepared with.
I was concerned about the dress code before I travelled. I was told it was smart casual on board. I do comfortable rather than smart. I needn’t have worried and in my cargo trousers and seersucker shirt, I was probably a lot smarter than many people in shorts and skimpy tops during the day. Few people bothered to change for dinner, apart from putting on long trousers. A few having the pre booked served meals did make a bit more effort. A jacket and tie for men was the exception rather than the rule and these were often the more elderly passengers. River cruising is a lot more relaxed and informal than the large ocean liners with their formal dress at dinner time. I didn’t need to buy any special clothes or take the family jewels.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Apart from a couple of afternoons when I got rained off the sun deck, I spent all my time outside, just watching the scenery flow past. It was a very relaxing holiday and I could get used to it. The only niggle was there was nowhere to sit undercover outside if it did rain and I was also sharing the sun deck with the smokers.