Cruising the Rhine and the Moselle on Fred. Olsen’s Brabant
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beats down gloriously and the Rhine shimmers in a heat wave. I’ve just joined the throng boarding the Brabant,
the latest addition to the Fred. Olsen family of cruise ships, eagerly
awaiting a voyage along two of Europe’s most iconic rivers. I’m surrounded by a host of loyal Fred. Olsen
fans but this is the first river cruise for many and the ship is abuzz with a
sense of anticipation and adventure.
acquired by the Fred. Olsen company, the sturdy 156 guest Brabant has
had a smart make over prior to the company’s first offering of river cruises on
the Rhine, the Danube, the Moselle and the Main. Fresh from its face lift, the Brabant
is stylish and comfortable with well-kitted out cabins, an elegant lounge
and dining room, a library, gym and beauty salon. The vast top deck is perfect
for sun bathing and leisurely strolls and for relishing a bird’s eye view of
some of Europe’s most entrancing scenery which is soon on display.
the seven-night Romantic Rhine and Moselle Marvels, will take us through
Switzerland, France and Germany and to a galaxy of gorgeous, historic towns
that flank the river’s shores. First off is Basel where we explore the city’s
lovely medieval heart and stock up on chocolate. Then we’re off, cutting a
regal swathe through the broad waters of the Rhine to Strasbourg, a delectable,
fairy-tale city ribboned with canals, gently arching bridges and flower decked
timbered houses. The monumental
Strasbourg Minster towers over the surrounding square which is ringed with
eateries offering the delicious local tarte flambe.
landscape steaming out of Switzerland on our first day was a tad underwhelming,
we are soon in picture-perfect Rhine country. Vine-clad hills tumble down to
the river and pretty villages nestle amid the greenery. Speyer, founded by the
Romans and one of Germany’s oldest cities, turns out to be a true delight.
Garlanded with leafy parks, it’s presided over by a massive Romanesque
cathedral where eight Holy Roman emperors and German kings lie. Compact with a
languid atmosphere, its broad main street is crowned by an ancient gate. But
Speyer’s surprise lies nearby - the Speyer Tecknik Museum - a vast assortment
of vintage cars and planes, worth a whole day of exploring itself.
The Rhine is
famous wine country so at Rudesheim - noted for its Riesling - we take a wine
tour and try to emerge from the taverns that line its narrow streets sober
before settling in a cafe for an invigorating coffee. But this is castle
country too and we are soon cruising through the steep gorges of the Middle
Rhine Valley, a stretch of river justly known as the `Romantic Rhine’, gazing
up at a host of castles that crown hilltops at every turn. At Braubach we
explore the renowned Marksburg Castle, perched high on a mountainside with
panoramic views. With its massive walls and broad halls, it feels like little
has altered since its medieval heyday. Further on, at Koblenz, the Rhine and
the Moselle and several mountain ranges converge in dramatic style. We stroll
around the elegant town in the twilight and gaze up at the monumental statue of
Emperor William I which towers over the meeting of the rivers.
are plenty of tourists about on shore, we can enjoy the peace of the Brabant
which offers plenty of space. We make friends and the ship has a country-house
feel about it. A singing duo serenade us in the Panorama Bar every evening and
the food is delicious. Up on the top deck we all star gaze and marvel at a
spectacularly bright moon. Swinging into the Lower Moselle Valley, we are even
more bewitched by the landscape; heavily wooded hills encircle us and the
riverscape feels decidedly mysterious. On a sweeping bend on the river, we
arrive at Cochem, a town replete with half-timbered houses, cobbled streets and
sunny squares. We climb the steep, winding streets to the 11th century
Reichsburg Castle where we pause in the cafe to admire the spectacular vista of
the river and town far below.
blistering heat has eased, and we make the most of the top deck, immersing
ourselves in the views from our loungers before we reach Cologne. The city’s
mighty cathedral miraculously survived the last world war and is justly known
as one of Europe’s finest with its soaring naves and spires. Broad paths line
the river and the locals are out with their pooches enjoying the sun. We say
farewell to the ship in Dusseldorf. By now, many of our fellow travellers are
eager to enjoy more river cruises.
It’s not hard to understand why. Crowded
airports, bag packing and sea sickness pills become bad memories. Coasting
through some of Europe’s most engaging attractions in total comfort could be
habit forming. If that’s the case, the Brabant can take the credit.
Travel Advisor recommends Fred. Olsen Cruise
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