Written by Travel Beyond consultant Sande Kouba
One of the first things I noticed when boarding my river cruise was the lack of lines. We got off the bus and walked up to the ship and boarded. Let me repeat that: we walked off the bus and boarded the ship. Those of you who have ever cruised will know what a big deal that is. Waiting in line for a cruise ship in Florida ports usually features thousands of people in line, bags everywhere off to be scanned before disappearing for several hours. We boarded the ship, met all the staff upon arrival and our bags were in our cabin within minutes, not hours. I think I could get used to this.
The cabin was beautiful with soft colors and light streaming in from the window overlooking the river. The room looked like it came out of a brochure for a small boutique European hotel. Granted, the bathrooms were small compared to what we expect in the US, but certainly not small compared to European bathrooms or other ships. They were stocked with large dispensers that have shower gel, liquid soap and shampoo. Thank goodness!
Life aboard the ship was wonderfully relaxing. Just watching the scenery go by kept me entertained like many books fail to do. The landscapes and terrain of the area were so interesting. I was aboard in March with warm days and chilly nights. The greenery was just starting to peek out after the long winter. Trees were still stark and leafless, but grasses were starting to turn green. Because of the lack of leaves on the trees the hillsides were open, providing beautiful and clear landscapes–hillside after hillside of vineyards, farmers starting to till the land in preparation for the summer growing season.
Who would have thought Germany was so filled with vineyards? I thought of Germany as the far distant Aunt of Wisconsin, the land of brats and beer. These vineyards were something that I hadn’t expected. This was a cruise you could take three seasons of the year and it would look different to you each season; spring with arrival of the buds and greens of the fields, the vibrant colors of summer all in bloom, and just think of the wonderful colors and smell of fall! Truly a different experience for each season.
Days on board were spent in various ways. Many mornings I woke to find myself in a small town already docked in the center of the city with townspeople going about their normal daily activities. Never once during my entire trip did I ever hear “Hey Lady” when getting off the ship, taking a walk or joining the group tour. Breakfast could be taken at leisure before the walking tour of the town left in the small groups. These groups were never very big and were always easy to keep up with. The Vox headset made it easy to hear the guide while still hearing the others in the group around me and still carrying a conversation. Often times I would break away from the group to spend a bit more time at something or to stop in a shop that piqued my interest. The towns were small and quaint and it was easy to always catch up with the group again or to join one of the other groups from the ship.
After exploring more of the town on our own we were back on the ship for lunch, and the River Princess slipped out of the town and down the Rhine River. Our afternoon was spent on deck as the ship sailed down the Rhine and listened to the cruise manager comment on the area of the Rhine Gorge. I hadn’t imagined seeing as many castles as we did just from the view of the ship. They looked so incredible up on the hillside and all so uniquely different, while made me stop and think about how things use to be when they were the bustling center of activity.
Dinners on board were spent with the friends I met during the day or more intimately if we preferred a table for two. It was my choice—no assigned seating. Meals had several menu choices, all prepared with a local touch or flair. If we requested something that is not on the menu, they were happy to accommodate. Lunch and dinner also came with local wine choices, which was a delightful touch and gave me the option to try some wines that I had never tasted.
Another thing that I hadn’t expected on the trip was just how many locks that the ship goes through on a 7-day trip. When I think of locks I of course think of the Panama Canal and also the locks in St. Paul, where I used to love to go in the summer to and watch the ships and boats go through. On our 7-day trip we went through 39 locks! We were going through locks even during the night. One night I woke up to complete blackness in the cabin and realized we were in the lock and outside of our window was the cement wall. Even going through the lock in the evening the ship was so smooth. No rocking, pitching or rolling, just smooth as silk as we sailed along.
Sadly our cruise came to an end too soon. Now I know why others book the longer cruises. It really is one of the most relaxing and enriching vacations I have been on, and I can’t wait to explore other areas on a Uniworld Cruise. Want more information on upcoming Uniworld itineraries? Let us know or browse river cruise itineraries.