LUXURY AHOY: travels from Western to Eastern Europe on a river cruise that retraces the history of Germany and Austria.
EACEFULLY cruising down the Rhine and into the Danube, while watching the world drift by from the luxury of the recently launched MS Jane Austen, had seemed such an idyllic way to spend two lazy weeks in an early summer holiday.
Perhaps, when I booked the holiday. I should have taken more time to read Riviera Travel’s itinerary, for there, in every tempting detail, was a diary of the walking tours we were expected to take each day into the historic towns and cities where the ship would be moored.
It came as a welcome relief when, before departing from Cologne, the cruise director explained that the next 13 days was all about doing as much or as little as each of us wanted to do, though by now my better half had decided we were going to take part in everything on offer.
So the following morning I was dragged out of bed at some unearthly hour to see the imposing junction of the Rhine and the Moselle, and the immense walled fortress that surrounds the once heavily guarded Koblenz. What followed after breakfast was an intense feeling of euphoria when our first walking tour was little more than a gentle stroll as our local guide related the history of a city that dates back over two millennia.
Jane Austen certainly lived up to its description as the Rhine’s most beautiful ship, and having previously taken ocean cruises, we were delighted to find spacious cabins with floor-to-ceiling sliding patio-style doors opening onto a French balcony, and with plenty of room remaining for a king-size bed.
That feeling of shaping your own holiday extended to breakfast, lunch and dinner which could be taken when you wanted within two-hour time frames, and if you still felt peckish, there was an afternoon tea with gorgeous cakes you would find hard to resist. Well we could walk it off the following day, couldn’t we?
Budapest being our eventual destination, the first two days were dominated by the sight of fairy-tale castles precariously dotted along the verdant hill-sides that so beautifully frame the river, with the second morning requiring an early breakfast to take full advantage of our journey through the imposing Rhine Gorge. There the steep sides soar over a thousand feet, crowding in and narrowing the river as we passed by the Lorelei Rock where, legend has it,
ILLUMINATING SIGHT: The charming city of Mainz, which is located on the Rhine at its confluence with the River Main.