By Diane C. Short~Travel Consultant & River Cruise Expert at Bains Travel.
I have been sending travelers on gorgeous river cruises for 15 + years. I am very familiar with all aspects of every type of cruising, and wanted to share my experiences aboard one of my favourite River Cruises in Europe!
This 8-day cruise Avalon cruise on the wonderfully intimate and relaxing vessel known as ‘Felicity’ proved to be one of the most satisfying travel adventures I have ever had in my many years of world travel. Not only is the weather perfect in Europe in mid to late October(mid-teens Celsius, lots of sun, little rain) but this time of the year is ideal for the many shore excursions provided by the well-organized itinerary that Avalon arranges.
Starting with a warm captain’s greeting at the beautiful Moevenpick Hotel in Amsterdam, we met the crew and then saw Amsterdam by Canal Boat. It’s a marvelous way to see the city and the grand homes lining the riverbanks in one of the most sophisticated cities in Europe.
The next day we were off to Cologne via the Rhine River, which is incredibly scenic. Our accommodation aboard the Felicity was spacious and orderly, with very attentive service from the crew throughout the entire trip. What I especially enjoyed was the efficient luggage-handling by the crew, as well as the fact that this cruise is planned so well that you don’t ever have to think about packing up and repacking, and unpacking again at any point from beginning to end of the eight days. The Felicity carries 122 passengers, which in my view is ideal: the ship isn’t crowded or overrun, and the crew gets to know you and your wishes very quickly. It goes without saying that they are both highly professional and highly engaging.
Special mention must be made of the Cruise Director, Hendrik Jan Dadema, an extremely dedicated and talented man who seemed to work 25 hours a day, so efficient was he in keeping the passengers organized, involved and satisfied.
In addition, once you’ve paid for the cruise, there are no additional expenditures required. Wine and /or beer with dinner?-paid for. Shore excursions?-paid for. Of course, there are always the temptations once you get into those marvelous shops in Cologne or Strausbourg, and I have to admit I was glad I still had a bit of room in my luggage for some special items!
Highlights of the trip included seeing the great cathedral with twin spires in the city of Cologne, touring the beautiful village of Rudesheim with its narrow streets (rewarding ourselves with that fantastic Rudesheim Kaffee), and of course the afternoon cruising the famed Rhine Gorge with the Lorelei Rock overlooking the shore. The local tour guides were very good, as was the way the tours were conducted-in small groups of 25 or so, with each of us provided with an iPod-type headset that allowed for considerable freedom in walking about during the tours.
One such tour was the one we took in Mainz, where Johann Gutenberg was born. The tour showcased the Gutenberg Museum, where we saw an incredible display dedicated to the invention of book printing.
Another tour took us to the Black Forest in Breisach. The workmanship displayed in the woodcarving of those famous cuckoo clocks is amazing! I have to admit, though, that I was even more intrigued by the Black Forest cherry cake, which we had to sample.
Speaking of food, the dining experience on our good ship Felicity was excellent, though a trifle more Western than I would have wished. A few more authentic German, French or Swiss meals would really have added to the sense of adventure. That said, the entertainment on the ship was really first rate, with a wonderful pianist who played requests, and particularly the duo of classical guitar and violin!
On day number eight we reached Basel, in Switzerland, and from there I flew back to Canada, thinking all the while about how soon I could arrange to take another European River cruise! It’s the perfect way to see the cities, the towns, and the great rivers of Europe in a very organized and relaxing fashion.