By: Terri Henderson
It’s been a few months since my river cruise, and I still think of it often. It was really such a fabulous experience that I’ve been eager to share. River cruising is a trip I get asked about quite often lately, and after my recent cruise I’m not surprised why. This way of traveling has really taken off, as it offers a way to get into the heart of cities with ease, while enjoying excellent accommodations, dining, and included tours, and of course wonderful service. I decided it was time for me to experience this trip for myself, and sailed this past November with Avalon Waterways on their newer ship the Tranquility II, sailing the “Romantic Rhine” from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands.
My trip began in Zurich, where I spent one night before the cruise began. It’s a good idea to fly in the day before your cruise. Arriving early not only gives you time to see Zurich, but also allows you a little cushion before your cruise starts in the event there were to be any flight delays. Zurich is really a fantastic city, very pretty and easily walk-able. We took the train from our hotel to downtown Zurich which was quick, easy, and inexpensive. We walked through the newer section of Zurich to the older section, which was so quaint. Enjoyed dinner there at a small café, and made our way back to our hotel. I’d definitely like to go back to Zurich for a longer visit.
The next day we traveled by motor coach to Basel, on an Avalon excursion that included Mount Pilates and a quick visit to downtown Lucerne. I have wanted to visit Lucerne for as long as I can remember, and was very happy to check it off my bucket list. I would highly recommend this excursion, the views from Mt. Pilates were just beautiful, and the city of Lucerne is wonderful. I’ll definitely be back for a longer stay.
When we arrived in Basel we were taken to our ship, the gorgeous Tranquility II. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed the ship, which felt elegant without being stuffy. Although river cruises are small in comparison to ocean cruises, it never felt crowded on-board and I was always able to find a seat in the common areas. The suite cabins are very nice as well, spacious with great views from our sliding glass doors. I really enjoyed relaxing in our cabin and watching the scenery pass by.
Our first stop on the trip was Strasbourg, France. What a charming city! I loved strolling around, visiting the Gothic Cathedral, doing some window shopping, and just taking in the city while sipping a delicious hot chocolate. Oh, how I wish I could go back tomorrow!
The second day of our cruise we visited delightful Heidelberg. Our included excursion took us to the Heidelberg Castle, which is located up on a hill and gives you beautiful views of the city below. After our excursion we walked around this cute town, did some window shopping and had more hot chocolate. I really couldn’t get enough hot chocolate on this trip, it was delicious everywhere we tried it!
The following day we visited Mainz and then Rüdesheim. Our included excursion in Mainz visited the Gutenberg Museum, which was very interesting. We received a demonstration of what the first printing press looked like, and saw many old books, that I really enjoyed viewing.
In Rüdesheim we visited the Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it really was fascinating to see all the different musical instruments used years ago.
The following day we cruised the Rhine Gorge, and this really was a highlight of the trip. Such stunning views with castles dotted along the way. Just loved this part of the trip.
Next up was Cologne, a city we decided to walk around on our own, which was very easy to do as the ship docks right in the city. We visited another amazing Gothic Cathedral, enjoyed lunch and the famous Kölsch beer. Our visit ended at the Chocolate Museum, not to be missed!
Our last stop on the cruise was Amsterdam, a fascinating and bustling city. One interesting fact, Amsterdam has more bikes than cars, and you’ll see them everywhere. I really enjoyed the included canal river cruise in Amsterdam, which is great way to see the city. I also chose the Anne Frank House as my optional excursion, and was so glad I did, this is a not to be missed experience.
Sadly after Amsterdam it was time to head home. I really loved the Romantic Rhine itinerary, and hope to be able to experience it again someday, it truly was incredible.
A few things to note about the wonderful ship…
I stayed in a Panorama Suite, which was nice in size, includes a wall of windows, and a spacious bathroom. An unusual highlight of this suite is the beds face the huge window, allowing you a great place to relax and view the passing scenery. I highly recommend these suites and feel it really enhanced my river cruise experience.
I found the food on-board this ship to be excellent, really everything was tasty. There was a good selection and the included wines with dinner were always delicious. I was a bit worried about possible weight gain on this trip, but surprisingly I gained only 5 ounces for the 10 days I was gone. All that walking really paid off. In retrospect I should have eaten more!
A river cruise is definitely a different experience than ocean cruising. The evenings tend to be quiet, but there is live music played on-board every night. One night we had a real treat with a very talented violinist and guitar player. It’s a more subdued atmosphere, but one that I enjoyed, as it was nice to wind down after a day of touring.
I really can’t say enough about the staff. They were always eager to please and friendly. This cruise was their last sailing of the year for this itinerary, and you’d think it might have been reflected in the service as everyone I’m sure was looking forward to some time off. But this was not the case at all, you would have never known this was their last sailing of the year.
German Feast Night
I really can’t recommend river cruising enough. It’s a fabulous way to travel and Avalon was just superb.
River cruise vacations should be booked as early as possible, even a year in advance is not too soon, as the ships are small and can sell out early. Currently there are some excellent promotions available including free air or $1500.00 off per person (select sailings, terms and restrictions apply). For more information or to confirm your trip, please contact Geneva Travel & Cruise at 630-845-8999. We will help put together your own wonderful river cruise experience, offering assistance before, during and after travel.