Riviera's Rhine, Strasbourg and Heidelberg river cruise review

Riviera's Rhine, Strasbourg and Heidelberg river cruise review
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What they say:

Stepping aboard you will appreciate the superb surroundings of your floating luxury hotel for the next seven nights with spacious and well-appointed cabins or suites, private bathrooms and meticulously prepared fine cuisine.

From Cologne, we slip our moorings and head on our journey south to Koblenz spending a morning exploring this historic town sitting at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers then continuing to the beautiful old town of Boppard for the evening. Continuing our journey we navigate through the outstanding natural beauty of the world-famous Rhine Gorge onto Mainz famous for the ‘Gutenberg’ Bibles. Next we enjoy a guided tour of stunning Heidelberg, on the route of Europe’s ‘Grand Tour’, nestling by the picturesque river Neckar.

By day five, we arrive in Strasbourg, a delightful city with its centre largely unchanged since the 14th century, a mosaic of winding alleys and lanes lined with quirkily crooked, half-timbered houses. During periods of its history Strasbourg has been both German and French, and today you can see this influence in its language, cuisine and appearance, creating a truly individual city. Then to Colmar, almost embarrassingly perfect - a typically quaint medieval Alsatian town.

The following day we return journey downstream, stopping in Rudesheim one of the liveliest towns on the river, before continuing through the Rhine Gorge to Cologne. Here we enjoy a guided walking tour of the city with time to explore the stunning cathedral, an excellent finale to this most wonderful cruise.

What our reviewer thought:

Launched in 2015, the MS Jane Austen, with only 136 passengers and 36 crew members, has a very personal touch giving you the feeing of a home away from home. Riviera make sure that when you book your cruise, it is a simple process. Included is your flights or standard class reserved seating on Eurostar from London St. Pancras, and transfers to your ship, meaning everything’s taken care of from the very start.

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The cabins are much larger than expected, featuring an en suite, balconies and complimentary tea and coffee facilities. With all of this within reach, you really can sit back and just enjoy the spectacular views from the comfort of your bed. While a little shy on activities (it is only a small cruiser) it does offer you a putting green and a hot tub on the top deck, giving you the chance to relax as you pass through scenic views including Rhine gorge. Wi-fi is included throughout the ship, however it hasn’t the strongest of signals and drops frequently unless docked in a populated area. The ship has a relaxed atmosphere, and despite the grand look of the marble floor and sparkling chandelier in the lobby, it offers a warm and comfortable homely feel for the parts of the cruise with a long distance between excursions. Adding to this homeliness, the dress code is smart/casual, with the opportunity to dress more formally for the evening dinners if you wish. 

Provided you haven’t got too comfortable on the ship and don’t mind hopping ashore, the cruise includes guided tours through some of the towns and is a brilliant service provided by the ship. The tour guides are all English speaking and very friendly. The passengers who wish to embark on the guided tours of the towns are asked to bring the portable ‘Vox-boxes’ from their rooms. These are little wireless boxes with headphones attached, which allow the tour guides to speak at normal level and still be heard, and you don’t have to crowd around the tour guides to hear what they’re saying, meaning you can have a little wander of certain sites and take plenty of pictures - which you’ll certainly want to do. Back aboard the ship, sailing down the river, you’re provided with information about the scenery, castles and vineyards. 

All meals are included, and will satisfy the fussiest of eaters. Breakfast includes a variety of food, from pastries and fruit to cooked breakfasts, or even have an omelette made with your choice of toppings. At lunch, a buffet is laid out with a selection of salads and cold meats. The selection is limited compared with breakfast, but that’s not too much of an issue, as during the day you’ll mostly find yourself in one of the many beautiful towns where you’ll want to sample the local cuisine. At dinner, there are various options to choose from, and no two nights are the same. Satisfy your sweet tooth with the luxurious desserts that are offered. Tea and coffee with biscuits are available free throughout the day.

 What to do on a Rhine cruise

Each night in your cabin, you will receive an itinerary for the following day, as well as presentations being shown in the bar area about what you’ll be able to do. The presentations are great as they give you an insight about the towns and what you can do there, and let you know about inside secrets you might not have found for yourself. 

During the cruise we had the pleasure of exploring four of the old towns featured in the itinerary for the holiday. We were reminded to take the time to look up when exploring the towns, as beautiful buildings hide little treasures and perfect photo opportunities high up. 

A visit to Koblenz

Our first tour was of Koblenz. Here we experienced our first walking, guided tour. Vox-boxes at the ready, we were separated into three groups. It was a morning filled with learning about the history of the town, and we visited the Basilica of St. Castor, the oldest church in Koblenz. Once inside the church, look up and you will see one of the most beautiful ceilings. Every step you take down the cobbled pathways leads you to a piece of history.  

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Once in Boppard you are free to explore at your leisure. A small group of us took a 10 minute walk to a chairlift which takes you to Gedeon's Corner and back for just €7.50 per adult. Once seated you are whisked up over the vast hillsides with views as far as the eye can see. The lift lasted  20 mins before reaching the top. Hop off and take a little wander through the forest to find a cafe perched at the top of the hill. Here you can see “the bendiest bend” in the Rhine, and this is a spectacular view. 

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A day in Mainz

We next visited Mainz. Compared to Boppard, this town is very modern with a great shopping centre. While we were here we paid a visit to the Gutenberg Museum to learn about the printing press and the history surrounding it. There are some beautiful cafes here, and to fight off the cold weather when we visited, our hot chocolates came with a nice warm blanket. 

Visiting Heidleberg

Our last stop was Heidleberg. Similar to Koblenz, we had an informative walking tour. While on the tour we saw the ‘student prison’ and learnt that once upon a time, causing mischief would land you here. Nowadays, it’s a museum. Also on the tour, we passed many beautiful chocolate shops and bakeries, and were shown the best places to grab a german favourite of kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake). We made sure to have a drink in Zum rotten Ochsen (The Red Ox), which has previously had famous visitors such as John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe and Mark Twain. Stepping outside the pub, a short walk into the square nearby rewards you with a striking view of Heidelberg castle which, sitting atop a hill, overlooks the whole town.