I will begin this by saying, this trip was booked for the sole purpose of visiting the Christmas Markets. My mother had been to Germany several times, and I was anxious to see the wonderful sights she had seen while visiting the Christmas Markets previously. We have traveled on several cruises together through the years, but always pn ocean liners. We researched the trip. We researched the destinations. We definitely did our homework.
That being said, I will refer to a particular evening when our Cruise Director was going over the following day's itinerary. I heard a passenger lament that we were going to "Another Christmas Market" with a groan and eyeroll as she said it. I turned to my mother and said, "How could she be upset about that? This was advertised as a Christmas Market Cruise!" I heard many of these rumblings throughout the trip. I was somewhat offended, because I will cherish the trip, the memories and the people we met for the rest of my life. I had an awesome trip, so I found it a little hard to stomach the ones that were saying such rude things.
I found the ship and crew warm and welcoming. The staff bent over backward to make us feel at home. Many of the crew members filled multiple roles. They did so with efficiency and kindness. As I said previously, we had been on several cruises. They were ocean cruises. This was the first river cruise I'd been on. I knew that the grandeur of a ocean cruise ship would not be found on a river cruise. I knew there would be no casino, no nightclub, no nightly shows. I knew there would be no midnight buffets with ice sculptures. I don't care about those things. We booked this trip to add to a lifetime of memories that my mom and I have been making together. We were not disappointed.
I found the ship to provide for every necessity we had, and provide well. The ship was well kept, it was lovely and when I compared it to other ships we saw cruising the Rhine I was pleasantly pleased that our ship was amongst the nicest.
Dining. I heard quite a few people complaining about the fare. I heard some rather needless and unkind things being said. So here is my assessment of the food and dining experience. I found the food to be good, plentiful and very tailored to the passenger pool. If we were to take a walking trip around the meal bar you would find: fresh cheeses, sliced meats, salad options, fruits, bread, desserts, hot and cold cereals, soups, rice, fish, sandwiches, hot veggies, meat choices, usually a pasta choice, omelettes to order at breakfast and the list goes on. If you want a lighter fare you can visit the lounge and enjoy a pancake, french toast, soup, pasta or sandwich at breakfast or lunch. At dinner the menu also plentiful. Typically there were 2 choices of appetizer, a soup, a featured item as main course and a dessert. If you did not care of the featured main course there was a choice of chicken, steak, fish or Ceasar Salad every night, as well. No, you will not find the vast array of food you'd find on an ocean cruise. That being said, if you find fault in the food on this cruise then I would say you should have booked a Cuisine Cruise instead. I found the food to be delicious, and I thought the Chef was wonderful.
Entertainment and Activities were not a huge priority to us. We did not book this cruise to be entertained and party. We were on this trip to enjoy time spent with each other and any new friends we would meet, and we did meet some wonderful people. We thoroughly enjoyed the glassblower, the cookie making, the musical entertainment, the movie nights, disco night and trivia. They were wonderfully presented and fun to attend.
Service. The ENTIRE staff bent over backwards to help us. If I were going to say anything on the downside, it would be that my mother and I are not alcohol drinkers. I found it a bit difficult at first to get a soft drink. The wait staff have to go to a different location to get a soft drink so it throws off their service rhythm. Which I totally understand. Dining on a smaller scale ship is like a well thought out ballet. Everything has it's place because of limited space. They are super organized and efficient. I felt I was inconveniencing them to ask for a soft drink. They are pronto with the alcohol, but soft drinks not so much. I worked it out by mid cruise, I began ordering my soft drinks two at a time so that I wouldn't have to ask for a refill later in the meal. Ironically, the majority of the ladies we sat with began doing the same so we became known as the soda drinkers. We also made sure to sit in the areas of the dining room that we knew the waiters were a bit more flexible. From the Captain on down to the room stewards, everyone was wonderful.
Ports, docking and excursions. Ports were wonderful. Transportation from the ship to our destinations was quick and efficient. I enjoyed the all the places we visited. I absolutely LOVED Rothenberg, which in our package was an excursion. It was my absolute favorite. If we had thought it through more, we would have gotten an earlier flight to Nuremberg and visited the Market there before boarding the ship. We enjoyed a diverse choice of stops with the commonality of the Christmas Markets, which we loved. If I was going to find a downside, I would have to say the arrival times to the Market locations. I had anticipated this experience for so long. After researching the destinations and seeing pictures of the marketplaces at each, I had a very clear vision in my head. I was mildly disappointed that the majority of the markets we visited weren't even open when we arrived, because we arrived in the mornings. I was excited to experience the markets in the evening when they were lit up to get the full effect of Christmas time festivities. I was grateful to get to see them, but would have loved to see them all at night. I understand we were at the mercy of our port time and sail schedule, but that would be the only thing I would say was disappointing.
Overall, this was the trip of a lifetime and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I would do it again and again, and I would sail with Emerald again to do it. It was a great way to "sample" some locations to possibly revisit so that I can spend more time in the places that truly stood out to me.
In an nutshell: I loved the entire trip. What I didn't love was the bashing being done by some of the other passengers.
We chose to go with the the lower level cabin. We've cruised many times previously and because we are active we didn't want to spend a great deal of time in our cabin. Thus, we went for the smaller, non luxury cabin and opted to spend our time within the ship or ashore.
The cabin was well suited our need. Plenty of room for my mother and I. We had the creature comforts of home on a smaller scale. Our cabin staff was wonderful. Petar did a fantastic job of keeping us well stocked and tidy.
The beds were very comfortable, and the room in general was welcoming and cozy.
Beautiful town. Wonderful historic sights to see. Several tips could have been given by the guides for optimal photo opportunities, but overall thoroughly enjoyed the town. The market was lovely. Many of the shops were beautiful also.
Not applicable. We only boarded the ship here, we didn't get to explore at all due to the late arrival of our flight. I would have loved to seen it.
Loved the music museum. I didn't think that I would, but it was fascinating. The town was enjoyable as well. It was back dropped by a wall of hills. Again, the shops and town had a strong medieval flavor to it. The Christmas Market was almost non-existent here, but we enjoyed the shops and made quite a few purchases here.
I cannot review Wurzburg. We did the Rothenberg excursion day. I was never more glad. It was exactly how I had imagined it. It was a true picture of a medieval village. It snowed while we were there, adding to the beauty of it. The shops were lovely. The Christmas Market was what I hoped I would get to experience at every stop. Picturesque and full of Christmas treasures. Even if you don't necessarily care about the Christmas Market, the town is simply seeping with history. The overwhelming feeling of stepping back in time is enthralling. I definitely needed more time there, and plan to go back!
We hit Koblenz at night. I enjoyed seeing some of the monuments on the bay. The town is more concentrated and more commercial. If you were looking for more of a "night-life" atmosphere this was a good place to hit the market. It was lit up and extremely pretty, but most of the stalls were wine stalls. The quality of the merchandise offered at the market was scarce comparatively speaking. All of the shops in the town were closed because of our arrival time. We did eat an excellent bratwurst here, though! Not many Christmas treasures to be found here.
The Cologne Cathedral was otherworldly! Beautiful and saturated in history. The town itself is compact and very populated. The Cathedral market was very good. Lots of variety and quality of goods was excellent. Prices were great also. We especially wanted to visit the "Gnome Market". We skipped out on the historical fact walk and moved on to the Gnome Market because we were very pressed for time. We managed to take a quick stroll around the Gnome Market and through the Cathedral Market on our way back to the bus. Made some great purchases and took some great pictures at the Gnome Market!
Loved the canal boat ride! Enjoyed seeing some of the highlights of the town. Our bus driver was kind enough to take us to a Windmill that served as a home. That was a great photo opportunity. There was no Christmas Market here, but the downtown shopping was good. We got to see St. Nicholas Cathedral, which was awesome. Yes, we did take a quick stroll through the "red light" district. It was entertaining to say the least. The history of the town was intriguing. We learned about "reclaimed" land. So interesting. Many of the houses are tilted this way and that, which makes for you appreciate the towns age and how it came to be.
I probably would not return there, but it was a great taste of it to last me.