When you think of cruising, images of sparkling Caribbean Islands, majestic Alaskan glaciers and glittering, ancient Mediterranean ports might spring to mind. Well what about the winding rivers and canals of Europe? I recently experienced a 10-night cruise of the beautiful German Waterways, and can say it was one of the most interesting cruise experiences I’ve ever had.
River cruising in an ocean cruise ship is a comparatively new venture for Fred Olsen Cruises, who will now be offering 11 cruises to German, Spanish, French, Danish, Dutch and Belgium rivers. On their expertly designed, smaller-sized cruise ships, these incredible itineraries allow you to sail straight to the heart of some of the world’s finest destinations, offering hours of unforgettable scenic cruising along the way.
I had the pleasure of a journey onboard the 929-passenger ship, Braemar, along with a group of 37 customers. Beginning with a coach from our local town, arranged by Miles Morgan Travel, we journeyed to Southampton, where we boarded Braemar, for a 10-night cruise of the German Waterways. The ship was gleaming like a new pin, freshly painted in her new livery, comfortable and spotlessly clean. These smaller ships offer an intimate feel and fantastic level of personal service, with staff catering to your every want and need, and sometimes even remembering your favourite tipple. Onboard there is always something to do, whether it be interesting talks and lectures, live performers, and brain teasing quizzes, but for most, the opportunity just to sit back and watch the breathtaking views from the Observatory Lounge is all you need.
The food was some of the best I have tasted in my 7 years of cruising with Fred Olsen. The Maitre’d had reserved us the very best tables in the Thistle Restaurant, right next to the sweeping panoramic windows, so we could enjoy our meals accompanied by spectacular views. The service was also impeccable, and the intimate atmosphere just added to the overall experience. With more casual buffet alternatives and alfresco dining, there’s something for any preference.
On our journey, we cruised down the Rivers Trave, Elbe and Weser, as well as the Kiel Canal and Flensburg Fjord, which border Denmark and Germany. It is so fascinating! You can see the huge variety of other ships close at hand, from ocean going tankers and cargo container ships, barges, fishing boats, ferries and pleasure sailing boats. You see the locks, the fields, the trees, the people fishing or picnicking on the river and canal banks as well as the gardens of the houses in the villages and towns.
In Travemunde we berthed right in the centre of the town, so we stepped off the ship right on to the main shopping street and Town Square. The centre of Bremen is like a scene from a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, with cobbled streets, painted Town Halls and turrets that Rapunzel would not have looked out of place in, all to the soundtrack of the golden bells of the town clocks, which chime on the hour. We also had the chance to experience the Beatles and Beer Cellars in Hamburg, where we just had to sample some of the local beer.
I was enchanted by the river cruise with Fred Olsen, and would recommend a stunning scenic river cruise to anyone. Take a look at the fantastic itineraries we have available, on board Fred Olsen's Braemar, Balmoral and Black Watch.