Castles on the Rhine River Uniworld tour 2016
Just returned from a very enjoyable river cruise on the Rhine (Castles along the Rhine) aboard Uniworld's S.S. Antoinette. We did a pre cruise day in Basel Switzerland and a post day in ... Read More
Castles on the Rhine River Uniworld tour 2016
Just returned from a very enjoyable river cruise on the Rhine (Castles along the Rhine) aboard Uniworld's S.S. Antoinette. We did a pre cruise day in Basel Switzerland and a post day in Amsterdam on our own) but I'll focus this review on the cruise.
This was our first river cruise and even after reading many online reviews, we were a little hesitant as to the possible lack of amenities and "activities" on a small passenger ship as opposed to the large cruise ships we are familiar with. It turned out that we didn't miss or lack for anything and were extremely happy with everything available on this type of cruising vessel.
We flew from our location in the states on a Friday, leaving Dulles at 10:30pm for an overnight flight to Basel eventually arriving in Basel at 4:20pm Saturday the next day. We chose to fly Business Class in order to have the ability to lie down to sleep. We were fed and rather refreshed from the flight. Caught a taxi to our hotel Radisson Blu which we had prepaid from the states and chose “Business Class” which meant for a sparkling clean room. We were a group of 20 traveling as passengers for the cruise, I think there were a total of 100 passengers on the ship itself. We caught up with our friends and had a dinner at a nice Swiss restaurant with a reservation made one month ago. We caught the trams as we needed for our travels. The next morning on Sunday had our free included breakfast and then we were off in our private bus transport for the hour and ½ ride to Breisach Germany because the port in Basel is closed for repairs or the Rhine is not deep enough to get us there. Our other option would have been to get back to the Airport where Uniworld would have picked us up for free and transported us to the ship.
Our ship was at the dock and we arrived at 11AM, we were quickly processed in, told to wait on the top deck where we could have lunch, drinks and our rooms would be ready by 2:30pm. This is where we met Ilian and Dejan who would watch after us daily and help us The only couple complaining was the one who had just flown in from overnight and wanted their rooms right away. Another couple who arrived by 3pm had experienced major flight delays due to storms out of New York. We have learned to fly out of Dulles in the Summertime……
Basel can be expensive, so, if you choose the cruise that goes from Basel to Amsterdam and have a time limit, you can just fly overnight into Basel and take Uniworld’s bus to the ship.
The ship and the crew are absolutely divine! No complaints, the service is outstanding, the food, the accommodations, you will not want to leave! We had WiFi and a TV, but, who is watching Movies when you have this scenery? Breakfast and lunch are buffets with many homemade items, Dinner has enough choices to please almost any diet. I simply cannot do the food or level of service high enough.
Do not worry about renting a car unless there is something specific you want to see. Everything is geared that you are up in the mornings by 7:30am and off by 9am, you are usually back on by 5pm and then relax and dinner awaits. I did not wear a dress, just took a lot of chicos and pretty tops. You will not get bored as the scenery is so charming.
The cruise is like a dream come true, we really enjoyed it and we had sunshine 8 days in a row, even in Amsterdam. We took our raincoats and never used them once. Weather was low 80’s for the highs and 60 at night.
As I said, we got to the ship and made the decision to stay on board. At 6 pm we moved to a closer dock where you could have gotten off, walked to one or two cafes, but, why?? It was Sunday and everything closed. Besides the Grand Salon was serving light snacks and the drinks were free. We were in Cabin 411 which had a French Balcony. We had a lovely blue Toile print. We unpacked and had ample storage for all that we brought. We were both impressed with the roomy bathroom. It had a large drawer under the sink to hold all your toiletries and did not have to clutter up the countertop. The shower was roomy. Helga was our room Attendant and she did an Outstanding Job!
Once we got settled in it was time for the Safety drill which was held in the Salon. It is the area where daily meetings are held and is also a bar. The meeting took only about 15 minutes. We changed for dinner which was served freestyle from 7pm to 9pm.and overnighted in Breisach. The next morning was Monday the fourth of July. We had breakfast and headed out on a private tour with a wine tasting at a 200-year-old winery in the Alsace Region, lunch at a gourmet French restaurant and a tour of a castle I cannot say enough how charming these French Towns were. The restaurant even set out an American flag for us to enjoy on our holiday.
Back at the ship by 5pm, we had a cocktail in our room, enjoyed our balcony and changed for dinner. 6:00 -- 9:00 PM -- Captain's welcome cocktail followed by the welcome dinner. The welcome cocktail was in the Grand Salon and we were introduced to the entire crew, which made the ship even more personal to the passengers. After the welcome cocktail, we all went down to dinner for the Captain's welcome dinner. This and the farewell dinner on the last evening, is as formal as the dining gets and the entire was more casual than formal dinners on the bigger cruise ships. That being said, most men wore a sport coat with open collared shirts (some wore ties and I saw a few suits) and the women mostly wore nice dresses or pants suits for these "dressed up" dinners. All other dinners we dressed in business casual attire and felt quite comfortable.
The port talk was at 6:45 in the Salon every night and well worth listening to. The Sommelier Ivian would discuss the wine pairings he had chosen for the evening and others would talk about the events planned for the next day. The boat sailed at 7pm and we went thru one of the first of 19 different locks. Amazing how there are just inches on either side. They say Leonardo Da Vinci invented the lock system as a way to navigate the Rhine. The locks and barges became much more frequent as we neared Amsterdam.
The next day Tuesday was Strasbourg and we elected to not do the included walking tour as we were tired. So tired we slept past the 10am deadline for breakfast. The ship has little maps they hand out of each town, so, we got one and waited for noon to have lunch and catch the 1:15pm shuttle into town. We knew the last bus leaving Strasbourg was at 5pm. We caught the bus and ended up on a 40 minute bus ride because the ship had to dock so far out. There was confusion for the folks on the Black Forest tour because the bus did not leave till 12noon. With a 2 and ½ hour bus ride each way, I think they had to cut out one of the stops and did not get back till 6:30pm I asked how they liked the tour and none of them raved about it.
Anyway, we went into town, got off the bus and while we were gathering our things got approached by a man trying to give us a plastic elephant from “Kenya” He wanted money and we said No. We walked to the Cathedral which was a 15-minute walk. Notre Dame was lovely. After we came out, there was a public restroom nearby. YAY!! Then the policeman with UZI’s came walking up and one posted by each entrance to the cathedral. I looked at perhaps 200 people gathered there, having drinks and something to eat and said we need to leave. We thought about taking the mini train ride around the city and decided not to take the chance of missing the 5pm bus back to the ship. We walked back, got a delicious pretzel and caught the bus on time. I would not hesitate to take a canal boat ride although some were not impressed. Lines were long.
Strasbourg was busy and noisy with young people and lots of traffic. I decided not to try any pastries because the ones on the ship are also homemade and delicious. We got back to the ship at 5:45pm, changed and had dinner. It was not long after we arrived home from our cruise that the people in Nice were attacked and killed…………
I would not do Strasbourg again. Part of the charm of these villages is they are quaint and small, not so with the larger cities.
That night they had the “Fine Dining Experience" for our 20 plus group. It was held upstairs at the L'Orangarie. It had a set menu with the entrée being a particularly fabulous tenderloin of beef. Ion the Head Butler oversaw the entire meal with his sophisticated White Gloves. He was a very impressive and professional Head Butler! The entire staff was that way even when they did not know you were watching.
The next day was Wednesday and a 9am leave time for the 40-minute drive to do the Vinegar tasting at Doktorehof. We were able to see a lot of agriculture along the way. In fact, we have seen agriculture all along the Rhine from Amsterdam. Beside vineyard after vineyard there are all sorts of crops along the way.
The Vinegar tasting experience was wonderful. I had read on Cruise Critic that this was not to be missed and I agree with that assessment. We enjoyed the trip ad bought some vinegar to take home. I was one of the lucky 12 who got to take the 4-hour cooking class by the head Vinegar Maker. We had a four course meal we prepared using some of the vinegars we had tasted. We went for cocktails afterward on the ship where Ana the waitress and Alexander the Head Bartender looked after our every need. Alexandru even made sure I had fresh unsweetened Ice Tea in my room every afternoon.
Dinner was divine as usual
Thursday was a morning arrival to Rudeshiem, the town is very touristy, and charming. They offer Rudeshiem coffee which is made with a shot of brandy, maybe I will try it next time.
The first thing we do is go on the wine tour of Schloss Vollrads.which has the most wonderful Alsace Riesling. The ship also carries it and that is what I drink from now on. After the tour of the winery where we had our first tasting on the lovely grounds, second in a parlor and third in the dining room. It was delightful and a wedding was to be held there that afternoon. We went into Rudeshiem and walked the narrow, old, steep and charming streets to the Christmas Shoppe. Alas, the prices were sky high on the items that interested me, although they definitely had a wide variety of things. Some elected to have a pastry and a coffee, it was alittle bit of a walk back for me so we headed to the ship where the crew had prepared a delightful Octoberfest meal, we had them carry plates for us to our room. Again, they are very accommodating even making sure I had a fresh pitcher of unsweetened tea in my room every day. We returned to the ship, I went and chose my lunch and Alexander the waiter delivered it to our room, so, I could watch the start of the castles go by
Up next the Castles on the Rhine! We then sailed a 40-mile swath of the Rhine. As we watched the Castles go by. Anthony narrated and told us the name and history of each castle we passed. We passed by castle after castle hearing how they were all destroyed by the French in the 19th century and all been rebuilt. The quaintest villages with gorgeous churches and buildings. My husband took almost 100 pictures. It was as if we stepped into a fairy tale. The staff was serving us the beautiful orange cocktails; it was all so luxurious.
As we sailed into Boppard (where you can walk into town and get educated on German wines) some chose to do laundry on the ship where they have 6 machines for you to use and will give you the detergent. I for one bought second hand items to wear and leave behind, laundry was not a problem for me. More room to pack in souvenirs too., this was an overnight so some went into town to watch the soccer match after dinner. Our group had a private cocktail reception at 6pm in the Leopard Lounge, so we chose to enjoy the view of the lovely town of Boppard. Then from 7:45pm to 8:45pm, there was an opera singer entertaining us in the Grand Salon, I felt like I was at Spoleto.
Friday at 8am the ship was set to sail and those who wanted to ride bikes into Koblenz took off as we sailed into Koblenz at the confluence of the Moselle and Rhine rivers, they were offering the black forest cake demonstration at 9:30am. The problem is they had major tours starting at 10am and no one wanted to miss it. I was the only one who showed up, but, I was late and they had canceled, so, they said they would save me a piece (and they did!). We had plan to take a slow walk into town and then they arranged a gentle walking tour!! Perfect for us slow ones. We had a lovely slow tour seeing a church where Napoleon stowed his horses and a clock where the man rolls his eyes and ticks out is tongue on the quarter hour. The tour was so good, I felt I missed out on some very good guided tours. But…….if you have trouble walking you will just slow the group down. After the tour, we were back on the ship, had lunch and chose to go up on top and enjoy the rest of the afternoon, it threatened to rain, but, held off. At 5:30pm to 6:30pm they had a local quintet come aboard and perform. I sat pinching myself as I looked at the charming town of Koblenze, with this beautiful local talent playing. It just does not get any better than this
We set sail that afternoon towards Cologne and docked later that evening.
Saturday we had a 9am tour to Cologne and the ship was leaving promptly at noon.
We were taken by the noisy bumpy mini-train to the Cathedral. Saw some f the most pitiful beggars………. Our tour guide had to get approval on an entrance time for us, so we finally got in around 10am. We had on our quiet Vox so, we had a wonderful tour. Saw the gold burial crate of the 3 wise men and a number of interesting facts. We were thru by 10:45 and some left to catch the 11am train back to the ship. I elected to go in one of the nearby souvenir shops and purchased some 4711 colognes. We caught the 11:30 train back to the ship. And at 12:30 we were off to our final destination of Amsterdam. The Wine sommelier Ivian elected to hold a 1-hour wine and cheese tasting which was educational, delightful and delicious. It was time to go pack because we would be up by 6:30am to eat breakfast and leave the ship by 8AM
Sunday, our intent was to be off the ship by 8am, check into our hotel Radisson blu, store our luggage and be in line for the Anne Frank museum by 9am. There were several staggered bus departures taking passengers to various points. Earlier in the week, each cabin was requested to submit their departure plans (flying out after disembarking, trains, taxis to airport, extending in cities, etc.) and the crew efficiently used this information to use the buses to get us to where we needed to be.
We got to our hotel by 8:15, we had previously reserved and paid for this room and upgrade to Business Class. We were told we could get in the room by 10am. We were also told the Anne Frank Haus were only accepting on line ticket purchases from 9 am to 3:30pm and afterwards walk-ups could purchase a ticket. I had been trying to buy on-line tickets since March. They took the site down in June for the United States BECAUSE SCALPERS WERE BUYING THE 9 EURO tickets and then selling them for higher prices to those standing in line. So……….we decided to wait on the 10am check-in time, then the system went down and no one could check in, we finally decided to do a one hour canal tour, got directions, went the wrong way and a kind Dutch gentleman stopped us and said we were headed to the red light district. We went back to the hotel, all was well and we checked into our room. We headed back out and they are right, watch out for the bikes!! Took the canal tour which was lovely. We then caught a Pedi cab to the Rijk’s Museum where we had no line and still no rain!! We saw the Rembrandts and the Masters, it was great. It was now 3:30 and we caught a cab to the Anne Frank house for 6 Euro’s. We waited in line for 1 hour and 15 minutes and got into the house. It was everything they said it would be, the worst part seeing the picture of Otto Frank standing in the apartment where his family hid for 2 years and seeing the sadness in his eyes. It was now 6:20pm and we caught a cab to Casa Di David where the remnants of our group was meeting for dinner. Fabulous Italian dinner then back to the hotel where we flew home. Amsterdam was lovely, 750,000 people and yes they had cars, but most walk or ride their bikes. Everyone is probably healthy, but, houses are very tall and skinny with tight staircases. They are all 16th century in the historic district, just lovely!
The biggest question, would I do this cruise again? Yes, after I take one on the Danube, I would love to cruise from Amsterdam to Basel! Read Less