Continuing our river adventure aboard Luftner Cruises Amadeus Brilliant, we visited Rudesheim and Koblenz, Germany. Along the way, we enjoyed scenic cruising through one of the most beautiful places on Earth
Arriving early, we docked within walking distance of the city center in Rudesheim. Some in our group went off on an informal tour with our Abercrombie & Kent guide. Others went riding around the area on bicycles provided by the cruise line. I walked the streets then hiked high above the city, getting close to vineyards typical of we see all along the rivers.
Groups from the ship went with a local guide, stopping by the town’s main attraction, Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Museum. Before lunch, we sailed off to Koblenz, one of my very favorite places on the Rhine. More on that shortly. Along the way was scenic cruising though the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, the entire area a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Scenic cruising is one of the best parts of a summer river cruise and this sunny day was perfect for it. The 65-km stretch of the Middle Rhine Valley is dotted with castles, historic landmarks, towns and vineyards. Boasting a dramatic and varied natural landscape, most passengers were on Amadeus Brilliant’s top deck, cameras at the ready as the ship’s cruise director narrated what we were seeing.
Practical Application: On your very first river cruise, buy a laminated, fold-out map of the rivers of Europe, particularly the River Danube, Main and Rhine rivers. Don’t buy it at home or online, get it while on location and bring along a fine pointed marker with permanent ink. You’ll want to mark the places you have seen. Odds are one trip through the area will not be enough to see all attractions. That thought brings us to a related topic; itineraries.
One might think that a sailing on any river would be a one-time event, not to be repeated. That would be a bad assumption. I have sailed on the Rhine several times and stopped at popular destinations along the way multiple times as well. But also included are secondary stops that are not included as standard fare in cruise line itineraries. That’s probably one of the most attractive parts of river cruising vs. big ship ocean cruising in the Caribbean; if making that comparison, and many travelers do.
For example, in previous reports from this journey we talked about stopping at one port, dropping off passengers on tour then immediately proceeding to the next port. In each case on this itinerary, one or the other of those two-a-day ports I had not visited before and found each as enchanting as others along the way. Surely, there is only one Cologne, Budapest, Nuremberg or other iconic destination associated with river cruising, but the secondary stops along the way can be just as engaging if not moreso.
As we continued down the Rhine, we passed a number of castles, one of my favorite structures since childhood when I would doodle them and not pay attention in elementary school. While traveling around the world now I wish I had paid more attention, especially to geography, the many castles we see along the Rhine and other rivers in Europe have special meaning. All the better that Amadeus Brilliant’s cruise director offered to share her script used during narration, something most cruise lines offer to those interested.
Some Scenic Cruising Tips
On the Rhine, when traveling downstream (with the flow of the river) the West Bank is on the left hand side of the ship and the East Bank is on the right hand side. When traveling upstream (against the flow of the river) those directions are reversed. That’s important if reading a list that shows towns and landmarks; they invariably include the km marker (physical monuments with a number on them, like mile markers on a highway) just before the feature and note that it is on the east or west bank.
Photographers: be patient and be constantly aware of where the sun is. Any photo skills source worth paying attention to will tell you that photography is all about light. Having the sun at your back goes a long way to capturing a good image. That the image is a huge castle combined with the fact that the river bends, allowing photography of the same place from different views, makes for a nice variety of shots.
Shooting with two image-capturing devices is a good idea too. A smartphone is smarter than one might imagine and can make some automatic corrections we might miss with an actual camera. I look at my iPhone images as backup in case something goes wrong with images captured by my Nikon D-5000.
A highlight of a previous sailing, a 15-day journey on Viking River Cruises’ Viking Odin was a day trip to Marksburg Castle which we also passed along the way. This one I almost missed. While the ship’s lunch schedule was modified to allow time for passengers to give scenic cruising their undivided attention, Marksburg Castle is further downstream than the lions share of others seen along the way.
I just happened to look outside and see that we were approaching Braubach and Marksburg and was able to capture a number of images that will be part of an upcoming Exposure photo storybook. Significant to this one, Marksburg Castle is the only one not bombed during World War II and stands today very much like it did in the year 1000.
The day ended in Koblenz, a lovely town where last year a summer festival was being held when we visited. This year, no summer festival but typical of summer by the river, couples walked holding hands, curious locals walked by the cruise ships and the aroma of fresh grilled wursts filled the air…and me. That night, few of our fellow travelers were found at dinner on the ship, most opting to stay shore and take advantage of our late departure time.
The Abercrombie & Kent Advantage this day was our tour leader’s familiarity with the area and ability to recommend specific restaurants to those who wanted to dine ashore. A&K, we come to find out, tests local restaurants on a regular basis, providing a list of suggestions for their tour leaders to work from. Another A&K advantage that was especially appropriate this day, the gift of one of the abovementioned foldout maps. Rounding out the A&K advantage list for the day, one of our group members had lost their luggage along the way (actually it was the airline that lost the luggage, not the traveler) and while British Airways never did find it, A&K’s efforts did.
Not an exclusive A&K Advantage: the scenic cruising experience. This is one to study up for and get an idea of what one might see along the way to truly appreciate it, then plan on spending the day on deck if weather permits or in an inside location enabling views from both sides of the ship. Regardless of the ship, sailing date or cruise line, what comes up on both sides of the river make for golden memories.
See more castle photos in our Exposure Photo Story Book: Castles, A Best Part Of Any Euro River Cruise
Chris is on location this week, sponsored by Abercrombie & Kent touring Europe by river. On assignment with Porthole Cruise magazine, Chris is covering a variety of topics along the way, testing Boingo Wireless connectivity and a variety of travel products that have been provided for him. As always, Chris provides the details to let readers decide what resonates (or not) with them in an unbiased, factual manner.
Also see these related Exposure Photo Storybooks
- On Location: Munich
- Hotel Torbrau- An Enchanting Gem In Munich
- Friday Night In Munich: A Summer Market And Bier Garden
- Nazi Germany- A Sobering Look Back
- Castles: A Best Part Of Any Euro River Cruise