Midsummer on the Rhine & Moselle with Fred Olsen
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There is something about ‘Fred’ that everyone loves and
after enjoying a week cruising on their riverboat ‘Brabant’ I can see why. This
was my first ‘Fred’ experience and I was immediately struck by their incredibly
loyal clients, returning year after year to enjoy cruises that can be relied on
to offer value for money.
2019 is the second year that ‘Brabant’ has been operating in
Europe, as Fred Olsen dip their toes into river cruising with great success.
Having never sailed on their ocean cruises I can’t compare, but all the guests
I spoke to were relieved to find standards were the same. Standards that I can
sum up as friendly, well organised and great value for money.
The holiday started with a British Airways flight to Basel.
Not without anxiety as it was the day after BA’s computer systems had failed
and Heathrow was in a complete mess. I was lucky – just a couple of hours
delay. On arrival we were taken by coach to the ship and I was soon settling
into my cabin. I would have liked a little longer in Basel with the chance to
explore, but this cruise had a tight schedule, so maybe another time.
My cabin was very comfy, an average size with all amenities,
plus a large sliding window so I could watch the scenery whilst lying in bed
with my morning cuppa. Meals were of a high standard, an extensive breakfast
buffet, 3 course lunch and 5 course dinner, plus afternoon tea if you could fit
Seating was ‘open’, so you chose to sit where you liked on
tables of 6-8 people. As on most river cruises, there was only one sitting for
The staff were a mix of many nationalities and all
incredibly friendly. Being a small ship (compared to cruise ships) crew often
doubled up in duties and all worked very hard. It was endearing to note that
they soon remembered guests names, likes and dislikes. Evening entertainment
was low key, but great fun, with quizzes, bingo and live music. Not forgetting
an informative ‘port talk’ each evening to set us up for the following day.
We set sail along the Rhine in searingly hot temperatures
and the ship’s air conditioning was very welcome. Our first stop was Strasbourg,
a beautiful city and very deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage status. I had
chosen an optional excursion of a canal boat ride which was a picturesque way
of seeing the beautiful buildings of the old medieval town known at Petite
France. We cruised under pretty bridges bedecked with flowers and passed by the
massive glass structures that comprise the European Parliament buildings.
Rather than return to the boat for lunch I had a typical French ‘tartine’ in a cafe
near to the cathedral and then followed a walking route along the river back to
my floating hotel.
Next stop was Speyer and a guided tour which started early
before the crowds arrived. Our guide explained the history of the imposing
Romanesque Cathedral and then took us to the Jewish Courtyard. Part of this
museum is a very well preserved Jewish ritual bathing house, the oldest in
central Europe and dating back to 1128. Sadly the main Museum was closed but
the numerous English information boards gave a good insight into the timeline
of the Jewish inhabitants.
During lunch on board Brabant we sailed along to Mannheim.
On arrival I took the free shuttle bus to the city centre and indulged in some
idle shopping for the afternoon. Suddenly my peaceful wanderings were shattered
by whistles, drums and deafening music as a massive carnival parade appeared
causing complete traffic chaos and crowds of revellers. It was colourful, good
humoured and great fun to watch. All part of life’s rich tapestry!
A dip in temperatures heralded Sunday morning and suddenly
Autumn was in the air with mist rising over the water. We docked in sleepy
Oberwesel for a wander around, then back on board and a relaxing sail to
Koblenz, one of the oldest cities in Germany. We docked alongside another big
celebration, this time an annual festival ‘Rhein in Flames’, a 3-day summer jamboree
of fairground rides, pop up beer gardens, live music and fireworks. I escaped the
revellers by taking a short walk from the ship to the cable car up to the Ehrenbreitstein
Fortress. High above Koblenz the views were breathtaking over both the Rhine
and the Moselle rivers.
We were now cruising the pretty Moselle river, surrounded by
vineyards and dotted with romantic castles and picture-perfect towns. We docked
early in the twin towns of Traben and Trarbach, both very pretty and linked by a
bridge famous for its attractive bridge gate known as the Bruckentor. We had
the morning to explore which gave me plenty of time to walk around on both
sides of the river and enjoy a coffee along the way. I came across the town
Glockenspiel which was lovingly restored in 2004 with 28 bronze bells each weighing
between 80 kg and 7.6 kg. The town hosts regular glockenspiel concerts when the
chimes ring out on specific dates and for special occasions.
Back on board for another tasty lunch as we sailed along to
Berkenkastel; these towns just get prettier and prettier!
Deep into Moselle wine country a wine tasting excursion was
almost obligatory, and I chose to join one in Berkenkastel. We learnt about the
conditions required for the local Riesling production and tasted 3 very
different wines. All much improved from the Riesling I remembered from my
We arrived in possibly my favourite town, beautiful Cochem.
I decided to walk up to the fairy-tale Reichsburg Castle along a very well
kept, but steep path through woodlands with views of the river at every turn. I
was lucky to catch a 40-minute guided tour in English for €6 which was very
informative and showed us around some of the furnished apartments. It is worth
noting you have to take a tour in order to go into the castle.
Back on board and overnight we left the picturesque villages
and small towns behind and woke up to the cityscape of Cologne. A city rebuilt
after WW2 with a lot of concrete and not much beauty it seemed to me. With the
exception of the iconic cathedral which is an awesome and unforgettable
experience. Beware of neck ache as you gaze upwards to admire the architecture
that rises high above you, especially the jewel like stained glass windows each
telling a tale of their own.
The final stop before our flight home was Dusseldorf and for
me it was an afternoon to wander along the river front into the city and enjoy
a summer afternoon relaxing with an ice cream.
One last delicious dinner and it was time for the dreaded
packing to begin.
As with our outbound travel arrangements, Fred Olsen had all
bases covered and the check out, transfers and departure all proceeded like
My week has shown me why everyone loves ‘Fred’. For me the
cruise has been both relaxing and informative and above all, enjoyable. The mid-summer
early mornings, watching the sun peep over the hillside, and the mist rise over
the Moselle, was my favourite time of day. I had the sun deck to myself, a hot
coffee to hand and was content to watch the day begin before everyone else. During
my week I dipped into some pre booked excursions but equally enjoyed exploring
on my own. Above all I liked unpacking just once and returning to the
familiarity of Brabant at the end of every day.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Fred.
Olen Cruise Lines.
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