Friday 18 August 2017

Rhine River Cruise: Ports of call abound on luxury river cruise

Party-girl Triona McCarthy only had to unpack once to take in several cities on a fun-filled trip down the Rhine

FLOATING BY: Cologne's fabled twin-spired cathedral tempted Triona to leave her luxurious stateroom for a tour of the city
FLOATING BY: Cologne's fabled twin-spired cathedral tempted Triona to leave her luxurious stateroom for a tour of the city

Triona McCarthy

I've never been cruising -- river cruising, sillies -- so I decided to dip my perfectly pedicured paw in and take the plunge on a "river cruise" down the Rhine with award-winning river-cruiseline AMA Waterways.

River cruises are perfect for the time-poor, as you get a lot of cities and sightseeing in a few days.

My trip began with a short flight from Dublin to Amsterdam where we transferred to the luxurious river-cruise ship. I had a stateroom, with a superb view from its floor-to-ceiling glass doors.

Now, my nickname is Triona Bed -- geddit? -- as I love my bed soo much and I had a seriously comfy bed on board. I could have just lolled about on it for the entire trip, watching my flatscreen TV, with its internet access, full range of channels and on-demand movies. It seriously battled with the view for my attention.

Being a beauty junkie, I had to investigate the beauty facilities on board. I was not disappointed. A super ensuite, equipped with terry robes and slippers, completed my mini pamper palace and I was pleased to discover the boat was furnished with a hair and beauty salon, a gym and sauna, as well as a walking track and whirlpool on the sun deck.

But Triona Bed had to turn into Party McCarthy fast, as there were welcoming cocktails and a gorgeous dinner that evening.

Hunger was never a problem. The food was always fantastic and already included in the fare. There was also unlimited wine with dinner. I took it as a personal challenge the first night and really, em, pushed the boat out! I got straight into party mode and after dinner decided to hit the town with a few of my fellow cruisers. You can hardly go to Amsterdam and not hit a few hotspots.

Next day, I was very glad of the late-risers' breakfast! There was also an early-risers' breakfast, a full-buffet breakfast, then lunch, afternoon cake and coffee, and the four- or five-course dinner with excellent waiter service every day.

On our first full day on board there was a more civilised trip into town to admire Amsterdam's beautiful 17th-Century homes, charming churches and 16th- Century merchant houses. After a guided canal boat tour there was a coach tour, including a photo stop at the Rembrandt Windmill, followed by free time.

Then it was back on the boat to cruise towards Germany. Next morning we arrived in Cologne and I decided to go on the walking tour through the old part of the city and visit the fabled 13th-Century gothic twin-spired cathedral.

All tours on the trip were led by English-speaking local guides, and we all also got a headset, so you didn't miss a word. Our guide in Cologne was very interesting and fun, and brought us to see the bronze figures of the two most popular characters in the city, Tunnes and Schal, who are kinda like Cologne's Laurel and Hardy.

I had to rub the bulbous nose of Tunnes, which has turned golden from rubbing, as it's supposed to bring good luck, and I was hoping, good looks.

We also paid a visit to Farina House, the world's oldest perfume factory. Beauty buffs such as myself will already know that eau de cologne -- water of Cologne -- was invented here by Italian Johann Maria Farina in 1708. He named it in honour of his adopted hometown.

The Farina family still makes the original citrus fragrance with the same secret formula. Records show Napoleon used a bottle a day, while Mozart, Voltaire, Princess Diana and Bill Clinton are also fans.

I finished off this thirsty work with a steaming hot glass of gluhwein -- mmm!

Then it was off to Koblenz, located at the confluence of the Rhine and the Mosel rivers. We had a quick gander on an after-dinner walk through this charming town, and then it was back to the boat where the lounge, with its panoramic windows, was great fun.

There was nightly entertainment but the piano was where the most fun was to be found. Let's just say we knew how to rock the boat, and I was always glad my room was within crawling distance from the lounge.

The day after Koblenz we sailed through the fascinating Rhine Gorge, passing castle after castle and the infamous Lorelei Rock, from where, legend has it, a siren used to sing out and lure sailors to their doom.

After lunch, we arrived in Rudesheim, and while the others set off for a wine tasting, I decided to explore the evocative and atmospheric Drosselgasse -- a narrow alley lined with wine taverns, restaurants and markets.

The ship moored there later that night and the following morning we transferred to Frankfurt Airport for our flight home.

I loved the fact that you only had to unpack once even though there were lots of ports of call.

I decided I'd love to do this again with my two best friends, Mary and Maureen, who both live in the US. We could just go cruising for a boozing, watching the world go by as we get sozzled and silly or stitching and bitching, as a lot of the American ladies on board were at whenever I eavesdropped.

GETTING THERE

TRIONA travelled on an AMA Waterways river cruise, courtesy of Sunway Holidays. River cruise itineraries are available year-round on the historic Danube, Main, Rhine, and Mosel rivers, as well as on the Douro River in Portugal, the Rhone in France, and the Volga-Baltic waterways in Russia.

Cruises available during April include the Tulip Time Cruise (from €1,736) and Vineyards of the Rhine and Mosel (from €2,323). Prices include: flights, transfers, pre- and post-cruise stays, all meals plus wine at dinner, a daily sightseeing programme and nightly entertainment. For more details, you can call Sunway on (01) 2886828 or visit www.sunway.ie

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