The Rhine River in Germany evokes romantic feelings, with each twist and turn taking you further into a fairy-tale land voyage. The banks are full of picturesque castles, quaint towns with towering cathedrals and formidable fortresses presiding over the river from the surrounding hilltops.
In the early morning, when a dawn mist wafts gently over the river, you can hear the sound of the birds twitter cheerfully from the riverbanks. Breaking through the mist are castles and ruins of heavenly towers. As the day breaks and the first rays of sunshine shimmer on the gently flowing waters of the Rhine, the sun’s sparkling highlights bounce off the fine droplets of dew covering the vineyards.
The magical and romantic atmosphere of the Rhine is almost impossible to resist. Even around 200 years ago, painters and poets of the Romantic period discovered the fairy-tale beauty of these river landscapes between Lake Constance and the Dutch border. Philosopher Friedrich von Schlegel was impressed by the “proud castles on wild cliffs”, while poet Heinrich von Kleist spoke of the “most beautiful expanse of land in Germany where our great gardeners have so clearly worked con amore”.
Painters such as William Turner picked up their brushes to capture the magic of these landscapes for posterity. Poets including Friedrich Hölderlin and Heinrich Heine were inspired to pen lyrical verses. With artists in the role of pioneers, the Rhine’s reputation as a travel destination grew. By the start of the 19th century, a visit to the Rhine region was the highlight of the “grand tours” by English high society.
The sight of the Middle Rhine between Bingen and Bonn, carving a narrow passage through the Rheinish Slate Mountains, with vine-covered slopes, knight’s castles, magnificent palaces and quaint fishing villages thrilled the hearts of the early romantics. Today, the Upper Middle Rhine Valley from Bingen to Koblenz is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Lorelei and the legendary slate rock near St. Goarshausen, on which the blonde-haired woman is said to have sat, are the epitome of Rhine romance. The legend was invented by poet Clemens Brentano, and made famous by his literary colleague Heinrich Heine. In the version widely known today, the hapless maiden sits high on a rock, combing her blonde hair and waiting for ships that she can lure to their doom. She is wreaking revenge on her lover, who had betrayed her and attempted to escape on the Rhine. The story also has a very real background.
The place where Lorelei is said to have wreaked her mischief sits at the narrowest and most hazardous point of the Rhine, and in days gone by countless mariners capsized here in their compact flat wooden boats known as “barks”. Today, the 132-metre-high Lorelei slate rock is a viewpoint with a visitors’ centre. Breathtaking panoramic views over the Rhine Valley, the towns of St. Goarshausen with Katz Castle, and the neighbouring town of St. Goar and Rheinfels Castle are guaranteed.
There is no better way to experience this captivating river region than with Riviera Travel on board a river cruise. The 8-day Rhine, Strasbourg and Heidelberg cruise on MS George Eliot takes you on the Rhine River to explore on guided tours including Strasbourg, Heidelberg, Cologne, Rüdesheim, Boppard, Mainz and Koblenz, and a visit to Colmar.
With all cabins boasting river views, you only need to unpack once while visiting multiple destinations. Everything is taken care of with all meals on board from dinner on your day of arrival through to breakfast on your day of departure, welcome cocktails, a welcome dinner and the Captain’s Dinner.
If you are travelling solo, there are exclusive deals so you won’t feel left out, and between the other guests onboard and the friendly staff, you will never be alone.
Cruise Itinerary Name: Rhine, Strasbourg and Heidelberg departing on 05 October 2022
Cruise Ship: MS George Eliot – Built in 2019 – 36 Crew – 132 Passengers – 5 Star Rating
Departing From: Cologne
Cruising To: Cologne on the Rhine River
Ports of Call: Koblenz, Boppard, Mainz, Mannheim, Heidelberg, Speyer, Strasbourg, Colmar, Rüdesheim, Cologne
Cabin Booked: Diamond Deck (Upper), Cabin Number – 307
Before your departure, Riviera Travel provides you with a detailed portfolio of your cruise. This includes the ship’s contact details, a map of the arrival port and how to get there, the daily itinerary and useful information like health regulations, money, phone, what to pack and more.
Checking in is done on the day onboard the ship, where you will receive your cruise card used as a room key and for going on and off the ship. Guests are asked to contact the ship on the arrival day to re-confirm the mooring point, as these are occasionally subject to change. In this instance, we were told that the ship had not reached the embarkation point on the day and we were to embark at a different city location. The Riviera Travel and ship staff were fantastic in keeping us up to date on this, contacting us constantly via phone and messages.
The five-star MS George Eliot gets her name from one of the leading English novelists of the 19th century. Measuring 110 meters long, the ship is like a luxury floating hotel with its elegant lobby and marble floor. Its exquisite furnishings include sustainable hardwood furniture, intricate wrought-iron work, polished copper and brass railings, soft leather seating and tasteful Italian fabrics.
With different seating areas, inside and outside, there is plenty of space to relax and enjoy your voyage.
The five-star ship is further enhanced by the five-star service from the English-speaking crew and knowledgeable local guides, including the Riviera Travel cruise director and concierge. In total, there are 36 staff onboard and when full, just 132 guests, making it an intimate cruising experience.
From anywhere on the ship, you have views of the spectacular scenery so you won’t miss a thing. I found the best place to get 360-degree views was the top deck. Here there is plenty of seating ranging from deck chairs to sofa lounges. There is even a plunge pool (heated) and a mini golf course for added entertainment.
Although it is a luxury cruise, there is a casual approach to the dress code with smart/casual acceptable. For those who like to dress up, the Captain’s Dinner offers the opportunity to wear dressier attire.
The electrical sockets on board are all European electrical sockets, 220 volts (except for the socket in your bathroom, which is both 120 and 230 volts). There is a gift shop onboard where you can purchase souvenirs and even a hairdresser, with bookings essential.
Cruising on MS George Eliot is a full-board service, with all meals included. You can purchase a drinks package, allowing the choice of draught beer, non-alcoholic beer, soft drinks, juices, red, white and rosé house wines; and recommended wines from the menu, all by the glass. Drinks on this package are available with lunch and dinner in the ship’s restaurants. Any drinks not listed above along with all drinks ordered in the bar are charged to your onboard account.
In the morning a full buffet breakfast is available, lunch is a buffet and dinner is served a la carte – all on a free seating policy. The welcome dinner and the captain’s dinner are served at a single sitting, whereas other dining times may vary according to your itinerary and daily excursions. The ship caters for most dietary requirements and a vegan menu is always available.
Located on the Diamond Deck (Upper), the Standard cabin is one of the Riviera Plus cabins (upper deck cabin, deluxe or superior suite). These include a little touch of extra luxury with L’Occitane en Provence toiletries in your bathroom, a bottle of chilled prosecco on arrival, a platter of fresh seasonal fruits during the cruise and drink vouchers each evening for a drink outside of the restaurants.
The cabin features floor-to-ceiling glass doors that slide away to create a French balcony to enjoy panoramic river views. At 16 square metres in size, these cabins are spacious and even include a small table and chairs alongside the giant double bed. The bathroom is just as spacious with plenty of room to shower and move around.
Also in the cabin is a smart handset, which is like a mobile phone, loaded with maps, a translator and currency converter and unlimited internet use. This helps when going ashore and using it as a wifi dongle when away from the ship wifi.
In total, there are 70 suites and cabins, which all feature an en-suite bathroom with shower, individually controlled air-conditioning, flat-screen TV, hairdryer, safe, minibar, telephone and facilities for making tea and coffee.
The itinerary begins in Cologne and journeys south to the historic town of Koblenz, sitting at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers before continuing to the beautiful old town of Boppard. It is then time to wind through the beautiful world-famous Rhine Gorge onto Mainz, which is famous for the ‘Gutenberg’ Bibles. Taking in a guided tour of stunning Heidelberg, this journey follows the route of Europe’s ‘Grand Tour’, nestled by the picturesque river Neckar.
Crossing over from Germany into France, the next stop is Strasbourg, a city with its centre largely unchanged since the 14th century. Wander through the mosaic of winding alleys and lanes lined with quirkily crooked, half-timbered houses. Learn about the history of Strasbourg, which has been both German and French, and today you can see this influence in its language, cuisine and appearance, creating a truly individual city. A stop at Colmar is always a favourite, as this quaint medieval Alsatian town oozes perfection.
Returning downstream of the Rhine, the stops take in Rudesheim before continuing through the Rhine Gorge again to Cologne.
- Don’t forget to pack your swimwear as there is a plunge pool on the top deck that is heated – making it an ideal place for a dip while watching the scenery go by.
- I also recommend spending the day on the top deck when passing through Rhine Gorge as there is a high concentration of historical structures in this region.
- Lastly, don’t miss the famous Lorelei and the legendary slate rock near St. Goarshausen, on which the blonde-haired woman is said to have sat, singing sailors to their watery grave.
To book your Riviera Travel cruise, you can contact them directly at the below details or visit your preferred travel agent to book.
Phone Number: 1300 857 437
The writer cruised as a guest of Riviera Travel. These opinions and words are a true representation of their experience and have not been endorsed.
Disclosure: The writer Kate cruised as a guest of Riviera Travel. These opinions and words are a true representation of their experience and have not been endorsed.