Clint recently embarked upon the one of the fastest growing trends in travel – a river cruise through the heart of Europe. Onboard the Travelmarvel Diamond, he began his journey in Amsterdam and cruised the Rhine and Main Rivers through to Nuremberg in Germany. So what was life really like on board, and what happened each day off the ship? We asked our PWG community to put forward all their questions and this is what Clint had to say…
You had never been on a river cruise before. What was the stand-out, number one highlight of travelling this way?
Nothing could beat the incredible views from the ship as we passed through the Rhine Valley and Rhine Gorge. To view the castles and forts high on the hills surrounding us, and a different view around each bend, all of which added up to thousands of years of fascinating history was just mind blowing. No one could put their camera down. Plus all of the vineyards climbing the steep hills… We all gathered on the sundeck for 360 degree views and it surpassed our expectations… plus Cologne Cathedral was spectacular from the river. There is just no way we could have experienced that welcome to Cologne, or the views of the Rhine Valley any other way.
What benefits do you think river cruising through Europe gives over travelling by road or train?
It’s a nice and relaxed pace, you unpack only once during your trip and yet you wake up in a new city every day. The scenery, experiences and culture all just seem to come to you, as opposed to you coming to them as the river cruise is just so easy. The service on board, comfortable suites, camaraderie on board – there is just nothing difficult or stressful about it. I have travelled through Europe before and this was by far the most relaxing. You could simply concentrate on enjoying yourself and maximising your experiences.
How easy was it to meet other passengers and make friends on board?
Incredibly easy! Everyone is there for the same reasons – to see the highlights of Europe – and we were all like-minded with a thirst for discovery. New friends were always made in the public areas of the ship, whether we were relaxing on the sundeck or taking photos, having a drink at the bar or catching up on the news back home via wifi in the lounge. Plus when you have breakfast, lunch and dinner each day there is always someone new to swap stories with!
How immersed in the local culture did you feel on your shore excursions?
This trip is all about immersion. From the places you visit off the ship which are steeped in history and tradition like Würzburg Residenz, Cologne Cathedral, or the towns of Rothenburg and Rüdesheim, to meeting the local people on a home visit in Miltenberg. Local guides are provided at each shore excursion so they know the local town and its highlights (and secrets). So much effort has gone into seeking out the most authentic experience for each destination and providing it to the passengers.
We were encouraged to try the Rüdesheim Coffee and the Bamberg beer while we were there – both of which were unique cultural experiences. And we were lucky enough to be in the town of Rothenburg while they were celebrating Whitsuntide with their annual historical festival – all the locals were dressed up and celebrating in the streets. We totally fluked encountering this but this cruise does allow the opportunity to discover these types of experiences. You never know what you will find next!
On our home visit, we were invited into the home of Monica and Manfred and we were spoiled rotten with cake, local stories and a schnapps from the cellar. We actually parted as friends which is hard to find when you are travelling independently.
Was there enough free time during the cruise?
Plenty of opportunities have been given. Not only is free time is built into the itinerary for everyone, you can also opt to take more in lieu of a shore excursion, it’s up to you. You never felt ‘locked’ into anything. Plus there are actually free bikes on board which you can take on the shore and explore the local town under your own pedal power which was brilliant!
We all hear about the food on these river cruises, tell us what was it really like and did you put on any weight?
Where do I start! The food is fantastic and great quality at every stage of the day. It’s almost very dangerous as you can’t help yourself but eat as much as possible, which resulted in my belt line expanding!!!! Food reflected the regions we were travelling through which was really special and there was always so much of it… It was a real highlight. Plus, if you can’t indulge on a holiday, when can you? (also a note, drinks were included with most meals which is also a plus – you are not always putting your hand in your pocket for a wine or beer!).
What kind of dress code was there on board, if any?
There was an expectation for smart casual dress for our dinners. At first I wasn’t sure about this but it actually turned out to be a really good thing. Getting ready for dinner became a daily routine for everyone and made each evening’s dinner and entertainment a little more special.
Does the ship moor at night or keep cruising?
Both! Depending on where we are on our journey. We were mainly moving during the night which actually help me sleep. It was fantastic also waking up to a totally new destination in the morning than where we were the night before… I would open my curtains to my French Balcony each morning having no idea what to expect!
How much opportunity is there to go ashore?
Every day, and so there is always something new to see! Unlike an ocean cruise which can sometimes have entire days at sea, this cruise stops every day at a new and exciting location so we always had something to look forward to. And at each new port, we had the choice of taking part in the organised shore excursion, or simply doing our own thing.
At meals, are tables allocated or do you sit where you want?
You can sit anywhere you want and with anyone you want. You could sit with the same people each day or change things up and sit next to someone new which adds to the whole experience. This is something that I loved as you get to find out where everyone is from, why they decided to jump on this cruise and what they loved about their day.
How did the onboard experience complement the places visited?
A real effort is made to reflect the regions you are cruising through with the service on board. From the meals which link to the local cuisine, to the activities such as our Bavarian sausage event on board! The wines are all local to the region too!
What entertainment is on board?
The crew are very entertaining! But seriously there were many different ways we were entertained on board, such as Bavarian sausage day and a local glass blower who was very funny. The local singers who entertained us at night were also spectacular and yes, there was quite a bit of dancing on board by the passengers too!
Is there commentary about the towns you pass as you cruise through?
Yes, our cruise director Andrew would share in-depth information about the areas we passed through which really added to the experience. He was also so animated that you felt like you were right there amongst whatever he was describing.
Did you get sea sick, even though it was on a river?
No, and I’m shocking when it comes to sea sickness, just ask anyone! The cruise is very stable and I felt safe at all times. No one ever complained about feeling sick.
Is it suitable for a single person?
Yes it is. We had many passengers travelling on their own. Although there were many couples, there were also many solo passengers who had a great time and they didn’t let being on their own stop them from enjoying the trip. Everyone mingled and made great friends and there was a definite effort to include everyone.
Got any more questions for Clint? Post them in the comments below and we will do our best to answer them! Please note that we answer questions based on our experience – we are not the operators of this cruise and do not know everything so please know that everyones experiences can also be a little different!