My wife and I are in our mid-fifties. This was our first river boat cruise. We have cruised 9 times before (8 Caribbean & 1 Panama Canal). This was our 3rd trip to Europe. The first 2 were "on our own" style vacations.
Travel to Port of Embarkation
This proved to be the most challenging part of our trip. Our flight from St. Louis was delayed by 2 hours because of weather. We were concerned that we might not make it in time for our connecting flight in Chicago. Not to worry, our flight from Chicago to Amsterdam was delayed by 24 hours due to mechanical difficulties. United Airlines did provide us with food and hotel vouchers as well as a credit to be applied to a future flight.
The River Rhapsody is a small ship designed to travel European Rivers. There were about 120 passengers on our cruise. There are three decks and a sun deck. There is a lounge, dining room, and a small exercise room. The staterooms consist of two double beds (not convertible), a bathroom, desk, and storage space. We found the room to be adequate for our needs. There is a safe in each room. Electricity is European so you might wish to bring an adapter.
The service was the best I have encountered on any cruise. Everyone seemed to be fluent in English and all announcements were in English. This is a "cash-free" ship which means you provide your credit card information at time of embarkation and simply charge your on-board expenses(optional excursions, drinks & souvenirs) to your credit card. You will be given a detailed statement at the end of your cruise. All shipboard expenses are in US dollars. You will need a small amount of Euros for local purchases. We took e200 and came back with money left over.
This is really the heart of this cruise.
Amsterdam Since we were a day late in arriving, we did not have much time in Amsterdam (about 4 hours). We did take a tour (included) of the Red Light District.
Cologne In the morning we had a shipboard lecture on Germany Today and the Cologne Cathedral. In the afternoon, we had a walking tour (included) of the old city and then had some time to wander around by ourselves. The cathedral is truly magnificent. Note: unless you are an expert do not try to take pictures inside the churches and castles. They are too dark. You might wish to rely on postcards.
Koblenz In the morning, we had a walking tour of the old city (included) and wandered around by ourselves in the afternoon. There is a huge statue of Kaiser Wilhem I mounted on a horse. This is a must see.
Mainz In the morning, we cruised along the most beautiful section of the Rhine. Most of the river castles are located here as well as the famous Lorelei Rock. In the afternoon, we took a walking tour (included) of the Old City of Mainz. This is the city where printing was invented and the Gutenberg Museum is well worth the time to visit. In the evening, we took the optional tour to Rudesheim for a winery visit and dinner at a local restaurant.
Heidelberg Today was an optional tour to Heidelberg. Since we had been there three years ago, we opted to stay on the boat. If you have not been there, it is well worth the added expense.
Wertheim This is a charming small German town. There is an included walking tour. In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to visit the home of a local German family. It was interesting to see how they lived.
Wurzburg We did a tour of the Old City. Of particular interest are the Cathedral and the Residenz, one of the Bavarian King's Palaces.
Rothenburg We did the optional tour here and it is well worth the money. This is Germany's best preserved medieval town. Of particular note here are St. Jacob Church, The Christmas Museum, and the Museum of Punishment.
Bamberg We did a walking tour of the city (included) and a sample of the local delicacy "smoked beer." I tried it. It must be an acquired taste. A must see is St. Martin Church in the university district.
We did an included tour here. We saw the Nazi Congress Hall, the Nazi Rally Grounds, and the Palace of Justice made famous by the movie "Judgement at Nuremberg."
In the Old City, there are several churches worth visiting, as well as the "Beautiful Fountain."
Kelheim Here we took an optional tour of Kelheim & Weltenburg. At Kelheim, we saw the Liberation Hall Monument and at Weltenberg we visited a Benedictine Abbey. The beauty of the abbey is worth the visit.
The main attraction here are the churches and they are all close. First the cathedral, second the "old chapel," and finally St. Joseph.
The main attraction here is the Cathedral. It contains the second largest pipe organ in the world (the first is the Mormon Tabernacle).
Melk Abbey This is a large and very impressive abbey. Don't miss the chapel here.
Vienna We arrived late and most of the attractions were closed.
Dining There are three set open seating dining times. Breakfast (buffet), Lunch (combination buffet/menu), Dinner (set menu). There were limited choices, but the food was well prepared.
Fellow Passengers The average age was 60+. No Children.
Tipping 10-12 dollars per person per day for staff 4-6 dollars per person per day for cruise directors 2 dollars for 1/2 day excursions for local guide 3 dollars for full day excursions for local guide Same for local bus drivers.
This cruise is intended for people looking for an educational/cultural experience. It is an excellent value.