There is nothing to beat personal recommendation. Last year in Croatia we met a couple who had no hesitation in suggesting that we book a river cruise with Riviera Travel. They were right. We have just returned from a 7 day Rhine cruise from Cologne to Basel on MS Lord Byron and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Lord Byron is a modern Swiss-run ship which carries around 140 passengers. Décor is traditional and opulent featuring tropical hardwoods and marble. We had booked a mid-range cabin on the Ruby Deck. It was spotlessly clean, had ample personal and storage space and a large French Balcony Window. Unlike other reviewers, we were not troubled with incessant engine nor vacuum toilet noise.
Most passengers were British, a few from Ireland plus one party from the USA. This made for a pleasant yet diverse mixture of folk. We were grateful that, unlike some European cruise companies, Riviera Travel does not advertise extensively in the USA as large parties of Americans on a relatively small ship can be very annoying.
Food in the restaurant was excellent, especially at the superb Welcome and Captain’s Dinners. In addition we really enjoyed two leisurely dinners in the Lido Bistro, which offers informal gourmet dinners at no extra cost. Throughout the ship, staff were helpful and friendly. We must mention Marc, the Dutch Hotel Manager who was not only a great organiser but mucked in with his staff whenever there was extra work to be done.
Most of our visits were self-organised so we were free to discover new places on our own. A few visits were organised by Riviera Travel at no extra cost. Our well-planned itinerary was as follows:
Boarding at Cologne with the opportunity to visit the city in the evening.
Half a day in Koblenz. We particularly enjoyed a cable car trip over the Rhine to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress.
An afternoon and evening in Rϋdesheim. We took advantage of an organised visit to Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Museum, which was fascinating. Then we chose to visit to see the famous statue of Germania above the town. After dinner on the ship we returned to the town to enjoy a drink and musical entertainment in the yard of a hotel on the Drosselgasse.
An afternoon in Speyer. We walked through the medieval town to see the Gedȃchtniskirche, a world heritage centre.
An afternoon in Strasbourg. We joined the organised walking tour and visited the famous Cathedral. Afterwards we chose to discover Petit France before returning to the ship.
A morning in Breisach. We visited the Cathedral and the Jewish Museum but were not much impressed. The afternoon in Titisee where we enjoyed the scenery at a delightfully light Black Forest Gateau and bought a splendid cuckoo clock. We felt that it would have been preferable to spend less time in Breisach and more in Titisee.
A day in Switzerland. The ship docked at Basel and we joined an organised coach to Lucerne and Interlaken. We discovered delightful Lucerne on our own. At Wilderswil near Interlaken we joined an organised and spectacular cog railway trip to Schynige Platte. We marvelled at spectacular mountain views including the Schreckhorn, Eiger, Mϋnch and Jungfrau. We also enjoyed a walk through the Botanical Alpine Garden. Then it was time to return to Basel for our last night on board.
Altogether we enjoyed a superb week on MS Lord Byron. The one issue was that, unlike the ship’s crew, Riviera Travel staff, Richard and Hanna, were somewhat unprofessional. They both did what was necessary but no more. I have written to Riviera Travel in detail about this and expect a reply in due course.
We chose to travel to and from our cruise by Eurostar and TGV. I will write a separate review of our rail journeys.