I’d always enjoyed my holidays in Europe, but on my recent Rhine and Mosel River cruise with Avalon Waterways, I think I fell in love for a second time with this boutique style of travel. I was once again seduced by the tranquillity of being on water, the rich architecture and culture of Holland, Germany, and Luxembourg.
My river cruise started in Amsterdam and continued the romantic Rhine with stops at the historic German towns of Cologne and Koblenz and pretty village of Rudesheim. The magical pretty villages of Cochem and Bernkastel on the Mosel were delightful before ending this 8-day cruise in Luxembourg.
There was plenty to discover in the scenery and places we visited, but the experience of being on board Avalon Imagery II was also most enjoyable.
I’ll begin with 7 reasons why you might consider booking your Rhine/Mosel cruise with Avalon Waterways Further below you can see the amazing places I visited.
1. SPACIOUS STATEROOMS WITH RIVER VIEWS
I enjoyed staying in a comfortable Panorama Suite with floor to ceiling windows which slid right back to create an open-air balcony with my own private river view. Sometimes at more popular destinations there would be another boat moored side by side which meant the view was into someone else’s cabin, in which case you needed to remember to shut your curtains before changing for dinner!
I loved the early morning views most, when the boat had been travelling overnight and I would wake to see the sun burning off the river mist and pretty houses passing by, before we arrived and moored up in time for breakfast. The mattress was super comfortable and was arranged so that you could lie in bed looking out of the window or sit on the small sofa with a drink on the adjustable table to watch the world drift by.
My stateroom was decorated in a warm colour scheme with dark wood furniture and plenty of mirrors over the desk and inside the wardrobe.
I thought the overall effect was modern and sophisticated with a real orchid on the desk. I loved my bathroom with a mottled brown marble surface and large bottles of all my favourite l’Occitane toiletries. The shower enclosure was spacious, with a powerful shower that was a pleasure to use. There were thoughtful touches such as different coloured towels so that you would not get them mixed up with your partner and everything was kept beautifully clean by the cheerful housekeeping staff.
2. EAT LOCAL ON YOUR CRUISE
One thing that makes my heart sink, is seeing a menu that is so international that you wouldn’t know which country you are in. Not so on an Avalon cruise where they take a lot of care to design menus that reflect the local cuisine, although of course there are a choice of dishes to suit all tastes. Initially being in Holland we could have Boerenkaas soep (Dutch cheese soup with rye croutons) or Dutch hutspot (traditional smoked sausages with crushed potatoes, carrots, and onions) for lunch. In the wine choices at lunch and dinner there were also local wines and beers.
The weather was so warm and sunny that one day there was a lunch grill served up on the Sky Deck. The staff who were always smiling and happy, served grilled steak, salmon and burgers with salads, wedges, and ice cream to finish.
Avalon are taking the concept of ‘Eat Local’ a step further, as they introduce their Avalon Fresh concept with an emphasis on healthy cuisine that both reflects and gives back to the local communities. The company sources from local food suppliers where possible, to ensure the freshest of ingredients.
3. GETTING ACTIVE, FEELING HEALTHY
These days many travellers are looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle balance while on holiday, rather than ending their cruise feeling like a stuffed turkey.
On my Rhine cruise there was some of the new Active Discovery excursions such as hiking and cycling which were great fun and a good way to bond with other guests. Each morning there was stretching exercises or pilates led by the Active leader.
4. EXPERIENCES THAT GIVE A SENSE OF PLACE
One of the joys of river cruising is that you get so much opportunity to see new places and discover their stories. Unlike sea cruises where there is plenty of entertainment to keep you busy on board, on a river cruise the entertainment is found in the places you visit. We had an amazing cruise director Carolein who constantly smiled, was always helpful and calm and full of enthusiasm for making sure all travellers had the best time.
Travel experiences that allow you to meet the locals and uncover their customs and traditions are very popular and Avalon is increasingly offering excursions that go beyond the typical walking tour. Some guests had private winery tours with tasting.
In Rüdesheim all guests were invited to share a Rüdesheimer coffee at a local café…and that was in a special cup of coffee, cream, and Asbach brandy, very warming!
5. A RELAXED AND FRIENDLY ATMOSPHERE ON BOARD
There was a lovely atmosphere on board which started with the helpful and good-humoured attitude of the staff. Among the guests there was also a happy holiday mood with plenty of opportunity to make new friends and chat to other guests about the day’s activities.
As on other river cruises, the dress code is relaxed and although most guests dressed up a little for dinner, there’s no need to pack your evening gown or tuxedo.
For those who wanted a quieter place to read or play games, there was the Club lounge at the back of the ship with comfortable seats, a TV area, and a small library and this amazing coffee machine, a large selection of tea and fresh pastries on the side.
The upper sun deck stretched the whole length of the ship with plenty of chairs to sit outside, and space to play games such as chess. Because we were travelling in May when the weather was changeable and because we spent a lot of time on excursions, we didn’t spend much time on the sun deck, but in summer I think this would be a lovely place to sit in the sun and take in the scene
In the dining room there was a free seating arrangement which meant that you could sit at a table with whoever you wished at each meal. At different meals you might sit with your own friends or with other guests who soon became your new best friends. The excursions were also a good way of meeting people and share tea and cake as I did after a guided walk in Cologne.
6. AVALON GOING GREEN
There were two glass bottles of water in each suite that were replaced each day….no plastic bottles in sight anywhere.
Each suite had a pen, wooden and not plastic. To save paper each guest had access to the AvalonGO Mobile app to view daily schedules, menus, and port information.
There were two drink stations on board, for tea and coffee, no plastic cups provided. In the Club lounge water was available where you can keep your water bottle filled with fresh, filtered, sparkling or vitamin-fortified water
When on the go with a local guide you were supplied with rechargeable wireless audio devices. Go Avalon!
7. MORE IS INCLUDED IN THE PRICE
When booking any cruise, one thing you need to check is what’s included in the price you pay, since the extras can really add up. That’s fine if you know in advance and have budgeted for it, but not so great when you find yourself stung for unexpected costs.
With Avalon you get a lot included in the price and could probably get away with paying hardly anything above the holiday price if you wanted to.
Here’s what’s included:
Some excursions, such as a guided tour of the places you visit which will be tailored to your activity level with an active group and a gentle walker’s group. Some more active excursions may also be included.
Excellent complementary quality wines, beers and soft drinks at dinner and lunch.
Return flights and airport transfers to take you to and from the ship
Wi-Fi, which as a blogger was most welcome and I found was pretty fast. Even if you’re not travelling with a laptop like me, many travellers these days use tablets and mobiles to browse the internet and keep in touch with loved ones when they travel.
On board gratuities. I personally prefer this approach as we British can get a bit anxious about when and how much to tip and find it more relaxing knowing that it’s been taken care of and is included in the price.
So, what extras will you need to budget for?
Some specialist excursions, for instance a visit to a winery or cycling excursion.
Drinks from the bar before or after dinner.
Laundry services if required as there are no self-service laundry or ironing facilities on board.
That’s not a huge number of extras and depending on how you like to spend your cruise, you could get away without spending much above the holiday price. The item that would probably add most to your bill are the special excursions and to give you an idea of the cost, on my cruise these ranged from around €50-60 per person for a half day or around €70 for a full day excursion.
So, as you see there are plenty of things to recommend an Avalon River cruise and the Rhine/Mosel cruise is a great choice if you are new to river cruising, since there are so many beautiful places to visit along the river. Most of the guests on board my cruise were couples and groups of friends aged 50+ with quite a few around their 70s and the cruise caters well for the active mature traveller. An Avalon River cruise will appeal to those who want to travel in comfort and luxury, enjoying a rich cultural experience with plenty of opportunities to stay active on their holiday.
If arriving in May, I’d suggest planning to visit the amazing and colourful Keukenhof gardens renowned for their display of tulips. My recent cruise started in Amsterdam with an included canal cruise which is the perfect way to take in the sights in a calm and relaxing way.
Cruising under the arched bridges and getting an up-close view of the decorative homes and storefronts that give the city so much character.
Back at the ship we cast off heading towards our first stop, Cologne with its soaring cathedral.
The stained-glass windows in the cathedral are stunning.
And near the cathedral we discovered an amazing café for tea and cake after a guided walk. Café Reichard
On to the Rhine Gorge! It is almost surreal as you glide through this most picturesque stretch of river. The cruise director narrates as you are surrounded by castles and vineyards that cling to the steep hillsides. I kept thinking to myself it must be a challenge to harvest those grapes.
I kept a keen eye out for the famous rock of the Lorelei where the siren would lure fishermen to their death. The story of the Lorelei is that she was a beautiful German girl who threw herself into the river over despair of being betrayed by her love. She would sing with an enchanting voice drawing them in and their boats would crash into the rock.
Romance aside, there are fantastic, included excursions included to keep you busy during the day.
I really loved the included excursion to Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum in Rüdesheim!
There was a piano that had several violins mounted inside, each violin played one string along with the piano creating a perfectly coordinated song.
It was delightful to spend a warm evening docked in Koblenz at the confluence of the Mosel and Rhine.
You can wander the historic centre of Koblenz, through delightful squares and down the quaint hidden passageways and discover one of the most beautiful and oldest towns in Germany!! While in Koblenz you may have the choice to visit Ehrenbreistein Fortress, Europe’s second largest preserved Fortress!
Just walking to the point where these two stunning rivers meet offers views of both the Mosel and the Rhine!
There are remains of the Berlin Wall in a poignant display. The next four days were cruising up the Mosel through several ever so tight locks.
Since the Mosel is a tributary of the river Rhine it comes as no surprise that its riverbanks are filled with picturesque medieval architecture and charming villages!
From its source in the Vosges Mountains above France’s Lorraine region, the Mosel flows 545km across North-eastern France, through Luxemburg and Western Germany, passing quaint hillside towns and historic wineries along the way.
Along the riverbanks of the Mosel, they have been producing wine since the Roman occupation; one moment you’re gliding past the steep vineyards, the next you’re arriving in another beautiful wine village!
Bernkastel is an old town full of history and culture, with an opportunity to hike to this lovely castle.
Surrounding the delightful cobbled market square is a unique collection of medieval half-timbered houses, many dating from the 15th century! Whilst visiting Bernkastel it was delightful to enjoy a glass of local wine – some of the finest wines produced in Germany are found in Bernkastel!
Trier Found at the heart of the Mosel wine producing region, Trier is not only the principal city of the Moselle Valley but is also the oldest city in Germany! Best known for its Roman past, Trier is a treasure trove of Roman Ruins! While in Trier Visit Porta Nigra – one of the best preserved and most important Roman structures in Germany! Also known as the ‘black gate’, they are the only city gates from the original four that still stand! Although it has become a church, there is not much to see inside and so if you do visit, I recommend you look at the view from the top!
Aside from the famous ruins, Trier has a lively market square, Hauptmarkt.
This is one of my favourite cities in Europe.
A full day excursion to Luxembourg city was included in this cruise, but as I had visited this charming city many times, it was good to spend the last day on the sun deck and have a stroll along the riverbank.
And visit the Avalon Waterways website for more information on your next cruise. I’d really like to take one of their storyteller cruises which are accompanied by a famous author capturing the narratives of their book.
Thank you to my new friend Penny for some of her super photos.