Stacie Harvey, Senior Sales Consultant at our Bury St. Edmunds travel agents, had the chance to try a river cruise with Fred. Olsen River Cruises. Sailing on board Brabant, she spent time in Speyer, Strasbourg and Breisach.
Destination: Rhine River cruise
Operator/Host: Fred. Olsen River Cruises
Airline: British Airways
(Hotel names/Ship name): Brabant
Duration: 4 nights
We flew direct into Frankfurt Hahn Airport from Heathrow with British Airways. The check-in and boarding process was smooth and the cabin crew were happy and pleased to see us.It's only a short flight (one hour and 35 minutes) and, all in all, it was a good service.
Our inbound flight was still with BA again, but we returned from Basel. Unfortunately, this was not such a great airport experience but the short flight of one hour and 30 minutes was pleasant and we had a smooth arrival into London Heathrow.
We arrived in sunny Koblenz and, after a short transfer to Brabant, we was greeted by friendly staff with a nice cold drink and checked into our cabins.
I was lucky to have a Juliette Balcony Room on the Mozart deck. This was a good size cabin at approximately 161 sq ft. with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors. There was amble wardrobe space, as well as a desk and large mirror. All the cabins come with an en-suite bathroom with shower, sink and underneath vanity unit, which was great for toiletry storage. Small amenity kits were provided and they included shampoo, conditioner, soap, shower gel, lotion from Rituals – all nice quality products and replaced as and when needed.
The cabin had very good individually adjusted air-conditioning, a small TV with limited English channels and ship-linked speakers in the cabin which you can turn up or down for ship announcements etc.
Another plus and something that’s very rare on river cruise ships is tea and coffee making facilities in your cabin, along with bottled water topped up when needed.
Other areas of the ship were well-maintained and offered lots of seating areas inside and outside on the sun deck. The ship features a Panorama Lounge offering a good selection of drinks available at expected restaurant prices. The lounge has ample seating inside as well as a few tables and chairs on a small deck area just at the front of the ship. This is a perfect area to see how the ship is moved strategically through the many locks on the rivers.
The lounge is used or early rise breakfasts, teas coffees, pastries, lighter lunches, sandwiches,soups, pastas and afternoon teas. Away from mealtimes, it also hosts tour/destination talks, arrival and farewell get-togethers, quizzes and low key lounge-style singing acts. The entertainment is very low key and relaxed.
The Panorama Restaurant is light, well-spaced and never very felt overly busy. This is the only restaurant on the ship and offers open seating at breakfast, lunch and dinner so you can pick and choose where you would like to sit. The food we experienced was fantastic; never repetitive and also offered lots of choice.
The ship catered very well for any dietary needs and would meet cruisers individually to talk over their needs on arrival. Breakfast offered a buffet with mixture of hot and cold options. They even had British back bacon and the classic British sausage,which was always popular amongst the guests. Plus, there were cook-to-order options like poached eggs, omelettes, pancakes etc.
Lunch included a salad bar followed by soup, main and dessert options. There was always lots of choice and plenty of tasty lunch options. In the evening, dinner was ordered from a well thought out four-course menu and finished with coffee. The portions were a good size and not over the top so that we always came away felling full but not uncomfortable. Fred. Olsen offers a dining drinks package at the cost of £15 per person per day and it’s very much worth the money. It covers house red or white wine, beer and soft drinks and the staff kept the glasses topped up well.
The sun deck offers shaded areas with table and chairs, along with sun loungers and sun chairs. There is a very small plunge pool that’s only really used for a quick dip to cool off.
The Amadeus Club lounge is located at the back of the ship and offers 24-hour teas and coffees. There’s also a TV you can use if you want a larger screen, two computers and a small selection of board games and books to use. It’s a nice, little, quiet spot that’s perfect for reading and I never saw it busy. The door leading from this lounge to the outside deck is the only spot on the ship where smokers are able to smoke – a pleasant area with a few tables and chairs.
Speyer is one of the oldest cities in Germany, with a beautiful Old Town that’s home to a cathedral and memorial church. The Old Town also features a Jewish courtyard quarter,signifying its Jewish legacy. We spent our time exploring the Technik Museum with a guided tour of site. We had a great few hours exploring all types of transport; climbing into airplanes, boats and submarines. It was a really in-depth tour and I would highly recommend it.
Strasbourg is set between the River Ill and the Canal Du Faux-Rempart. Its UNESCO-listed Grande Ile has beautiful cathedral, where you can climb 332 steps to its viewing platform for a view over the Black Forrest and Vosges Mountains. We experienced Strasbourg via a canal boat ride, sailing past the main sights of the city viewed from its little canals.
The town was 85%destroyed during WW2 and has, over the years, been lovingly restored with pastel coloured buildings and cobbled streets. For our visit, we headed out into the Black Forest to sample the famous Black Forrest gateaux and look around a cuckoo clock shop. After a shot break, we headed off to the Black Forest Open Air Museum for a guided tour, exploring traditional houses dating back to 1559 and seeing how homes and the way of life has changed over the years.
I really enjoyed my time on board, relaxing and taking in the changing sights as we moved along the river. Strasbourg was my favourite port and a beautiful city to explore and I plan to go back again for a longer visit. The staff on board really made our time on Brabant a special one and nothing was too much for them. They were very friendly, natural and a credit to Fred. Olsen.
This is a great river cruise product with the British traveller in mind and so I would definitely recommend it. The food and service are both fantastic and the cabins are a great size. Overall, a very nice experience.
Must see? Strasbourg:a canal city with medieval half-timbered houses
Must do? Spend a relaxing evening watching the world go by from the sun deck
Must try? Take time to watch the ship navigate a river lock
If you would like to try a river cruise with Fred. Olsen or any of the other operators we have available, call us today or drop by your nearest store. We have travel agents in Lymington, Christchurch, Bournemouth, Westbourne, Dorchester and across East Anglia.