Zoe Holmes, Senior Sales Consultant at our Colchester travel agents, took a festive river cruise along the Rhine just before Christmas. Here’s what she thought of her tour around the region’s Christmas markets.
Destination: Christmas Markets on the Rhine
(Hotel names/Ship name): MS Serenade 1
Duration: 4 nights
The BA flight from Heathrow to Dusseldorf was good. Check-in was prompt and efficient, using the self-check in service. We were in economy, which was perfectly adequate and comfortable for such a short flight. We were met at the airport for our transfer to the ship, which was docked in Cologne about one and a half hours away.
This was my first time on a river cruise so I was looking forward to seeing the ship. Our home for four nights was MS Serenade, Titan's 4-star river vessel. The ship is a 'home-from-home', with 68 cabins across three decks. Serenade has lovely public areas; I enjoyed relaxing in the panoramic lounge, which was looking very festive for Christmas. It had a lovely, cosy feel and everyone was very welcoming and friendly. I would say the ship is more for the older British market, as our group was definitely the youngest onboard!
I had a superior cabin located on Chopin deck (top deck). The cabins are spacious and have a French balcony. Bathrooms all have a shower and separate bathtub, which came in handy when I wanted to have a soak after walking around all those Christmas markets. My cabin did suffer from a bit of noise and vibration, being slightly towards the back of the ship, so I would recommend trying to get one as far forward as possible.
The ship's restaurant was lovely and the food was one of the highlights of the trip. The service from the restaurant staff was superb and they were very attentive and entertaining at times. The food was of a very high standard; I didn't have a bad meal on board. The menus for lunch and dinner were put up in advance and if anyone had problems or allergies, they could speak to a staff member who would always try to help or accommodate requests.
The Titan staff were friendly and the entertainment suited the age group - quizzes, Elvis impersonator, live music from local bands etc. It was very low-key nut enjoyable nonetheless.
The weather was very cold and wet, so we didn't spend a lot of time on deck. However, we did manage to grab a complimentary hot chocolate and sit on the sun deck for about an hour whilst sailing down the Rhine, before we got too cold and had to retire to the lounge.
Overall, I think the ship is nice, very comfortable and adequate for our itinerary.
My Titan trip included flights, transfers, twin share cabins, 11 meals and drinks during lunch and dinner. Drinks outside of meals and gratuities are not included.
We were met and transferred to the ship, where we had light refreshments in the lounge. We had time to check in, unpack and get refreshed for our five-course evening meal. This was the ideal time to explore the ship and to get to know fellow passengers. We sailed overnight to Koblenz....
Today was spent in the beautiful town of Koblenz. It was especially beautiful in December, under all the Christmas lights. The ship was docked just five minutes’ walk from the Christmas markets. Located amongst some of the best vineyards in Germany, it is certainly one of the best places to sample the Gluhwein whilst looking around the traditional markets.
There was an optional tour to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, Europe's second-largest military garrison. We did not have this included so our group had some free time instead. Some of us went back to the markets whilst some of us chose to ride the cable car over the fortress. This was a lovely way to see the river from above and spot where the Rhine meets the Moselle. I imagine it would be beautiful in the summer.
In the evening, we set sail for Mainz...
We arrived in Mainz just after breakfast and had a walking tour included. Our guide was fantastic and we learnt a great deal about the 2000-year-old town. Mainz old town is charming, with half-timbered houses and winding alleys. It was very interesting and I would recommend the tour. Afterwards, we had some free time to explore the Christmas markets and, of course, sample a hot chocolate in one of the cosy log cabins.
We returned to the ship for lunch and set sail to our next port of call, Rüdesheim. Unfortunately, the ship had some engine problems, which prevented it from sailing, so we had to miss this port of call.
We eventually set sail for our final destination Cologne…
We set sail in the early hours of the morning and arrived in Cologne just after lunch. Due to our late arrival, we were docked in a different location along the Rhine and further away from the city. Therefore, it took us about 25 minutes to walk into the city centre, but it was nice to stretch our legs after being stuck on board for 24 hours. We all split up to explore the several different Christmas markets in Cologne. My favourite was the market next to the beautiful cathedral, as the setting was stunning and the atmosphere was very festive.
The food was one of the highlights of the trip. I really looked forward to lunch and dinner. Meals are served in one seating in the restaurant, with no fixed seating arrangements, leaving you free to sit where and with whom you wish. The cuisine reflects British tastes and regional delicacies. Lunch is a four-course meal with soups and salads, whilst dinner is a multi-course meal with a choice of delicious entrees. During meals, unlimited wines, beers and soft drinks are complimentary. Our cruise also included a gala dinner, a six-course affair that gave us the chance to dress up and meet the staff and crew.
My favourite port of call was Cologne. I loved the different Christmas markets, especially near the cathedral. It got us in the Christmas Spirit.
I would recommend this trip to first-time river cruisers or to those who are looking for a short break in December to enjoy the Christmas Markets.
Must see? The Christmas market in the shadow of Cologne Cathedral
Must do? Walking tour in 2000-year-old Mainz
Must try? Gluhwein to accompany your Christmas market experience
If you would like to enjoy a river cruise like Zoe’s, festive or otherwise, visit your local branch. We have travel agents in Dorchester, Lymington, Westbourne, Hythe, Christchurch and across East Anglia.