Richard & Sarah’s Time on-board their CroisiEurope River Cruise & Train to Paris
Amsterdam, Nijmegen, Cologne, Koblenz, Strasbourg & Paris
Ocean cruises have never appealed to me, however being given the opportunity to do a taster trip onboard a river cruise was too good to pass by.
We boarded ‘MS Douce France’ in Amsterdam on a very wet and windy afternoon in early November 2019.
My immediate impression was how friendly and relaxed the whole crew were. Our cabin had a contemporary and modern design; a good size and very well equipped. The shower must be one of the best I have ever used.
All areas of the boat were beautifully furnished and very comfortable. Croisi-Europe is French owned and the largest river cruise company; its head office is in Strasbourg. After Welcome drinks and a fabulous dinner, we boarded a smaller cruiser and had a guided night tour of Amsterdam’s numerous canals. It was spectacular. After this, we boarded the MS Douce again and travelled through the night to Nijmegen – one of the oldest cities in Holland.
Breakfast is buffet style and plentiful with very attentive staff. Shortly after, we boarded luxury coaches for a trip to Nijmegen to visit the Kröller-Müller Museum. It houses the 2nd largest collection of Van Gogh and was well worth the visit.
We woke to the beautiful city of Cologne. One of the many benefits of river cruises is the fact you moor up right in the centre. We enjoyed a tour of the city and amazing cathedral with a very humorous tour guide.
Christmas markets were in the process of being constructed and all were very close to the mooring. Cologne has around 4/5 Christmas markets including a medieval, Heavenue Cologne (gay Christmas markets) and alternative.
Like a lot of German cities on the Rhine; Cologne was bombed a lot during WW2 therefore most of the centre has been re-built in the old style and were possibly using old materials. Currently (winter 2019) they are excavating the area around the Rathaus (City Hall) where they have discovered a Roman Palace had once stood..
There is a museum that houses the second best complete Roman Mosaic floor outside of Pompeii and lots of amazing artefacts. The Cathedral is free to enter with some areas available to view at a cost. Before boarding back onto the cruise; a trip to the Lindt Chocolate museum is a must!
Later that day – Koblenz, Germany. We arrived after evening dinner ; which meant we were able to walk and explore the beautiful old town in the dark, a two minute walk took us right into the centre of a UNESCO Square; being in the centre meant we were able to try out one of the oldest bars for some authentic German Beer and we definitely were not disappointed.
It was interesting to take a guided tour today with a local tour guide, after having spent the previous evening walking and exploring by ourselves, we were amazed at how much we actually missed out on. Our guide gave us such an informative tour, full of interesting facts and pointed out historical moments which we never would have found out about on our own.
One fact being the ‘spitting boy’ – which is a statue in the town square. His image is on all the drain covers within the old town of Koblenz.
The town itself is full of independent shops/boutiques, wonderful cafes and historic churches. Again, they were in the process of setting up Christmas markets in every available space and the atmosphere was just wonderful. The rest of our day was spent sailing on the Rhine passing the most beautiful castles and villages – it was almost fairy-tale like.
There were various quizzes and games every evening onboard the MS Douce, you can take part or just simply enjoy the relaxing atmosphere. The food onboard was delicious and beautifully presented. A choice of local wines; Merlot, Cabernet etc. were available at every meal. Most lunches are buffet style and three courses. Evening meals can have 3 or 4 courses and are a set menu. This worried me beforehand as I am a very fussy eater, however I thoroughly enjoyed each one.
We arrived in Strasbourg at lunchtime in Croisi-Europe’s private mooring which meant a short transfer by taxi to our hotel for one night. I was totally blown away by Strasbourg. It is a truly magical city and is definitely on my bucket list to re-visit for a slightly longer duration. Petit-France is a medieval part of the city surrounded by canals. Most of the centre of Strasbourg has been pedestrianised and has so many interesting streets, alleyways and shops. Our hotel for the night; Hotel Rouge, had just been refurbished in Art deco style – fabulous.
Saturday morning, we boarded the tram, right outside the hotel. Which took us to the main train station. Here we embarked on the TGV (double decker express train) to Gare de l’Est. The journey was 1 hour and 45 mins and covered some beautiful countryside scenes. Paris is a city I have visited twice before and still haven’t managed to see it all.
We stayed in Hotel Joyce; a fantastic boutique style with amazing breakfast and in a great location. This time I really wanted to visit Le Marais district which is how the centre of Paris used to look like before Napoleon’s nephew re-built in the grand style we know today. Le Bastille is also in the district as well as the Jewish area. It didn’t disappoint.
Is a river cruise for you? I say it’s the best way to see come very interesting towns and cities on your very own floating hotel. I predict it’s the new way to see the world and I want to book another one!