DAY 3 – COCHEM:
We woke up this morning fully expecting to be sailing and quite looking forward to a morning on deck as our arrival into Cochem was planned for 2pm. We were in fact already in Cochem….7 hours early! Apparently, we’d run the equivalent river journey of hitting every green light going and didn’t have to wait at any locks during the night, therefore a bonus morning in Cochem!
The 10.30am wine tasting seemed a little early so we decided to instead make the most of the early arrival and take a wander into town. We were docked just the other side of the bridge to the town so it was just a short walk. Marita on Reception pointed us in the right direction with a café recommendation and we were off. It’s such a pretty little town, just what you expect when you think river cruising – the fairy-tale castle on the hill and colourful buildings along the waters edge. We had a mooch, bought a magnet (obviously) and then headed back to the ship for lunch.
The afternoon saw us walking into town again, but this time with our guide who was taking us to the castle – Reichsburg Castle – for our tour. We walked through town, hearing lots of facts and figures as we went, until we got to the bus station where a bus picked us up. Thank goodness, as I didn’t fancy walking up to the castle – it’s a little steep (read sheer cliff face!) Once up the top, our guide handed us over to a castle guide and we toured the castle – there weren’t too many rooms we could go in however what we did see was beautiful – very gothic! We returned back down the hill and were dropped off in town. We took a slow walk back via a bakery we’d seen earlier and sat on the river bank eating delicious local pastries.
For dinner tonight, we’d booked into the Bistro. It may be a Viennese Café by day, however come 7pm, it serves a Tapas dinner option. Lovely and casual, we had a table by the window with a great view of the river passing by. The menu isn’t too large and the server takes you through it, recommending how many dishes would suit your party size. It all looks incredible and we ordered a little bit of most things. The good thing is, the portions are small so you can have a taster of everything, and then you can always order more if you want to. For starters, we opted for the goats’ cheese dip, olives and Caesar salad. And then for mains, it was pulled pork sliders, steak and jumbo shrimp.
For dessert, we opted for hot chocolate and cookies in our room as we had a busy day ahead tomorrow.
DAY 4 – BONN:
It’s a double tour day today in sunny Bonn so we’re up bright and early. We opted for a quick breakfast in the Bistro today. They have a great selection and are open later than Waterside if you’re a bit of a late riser.
Our first tour today was a walking tour of Beethoven’s Bonn with the lovely Sebastian – a student who had studied in the city and really knew everything about it. We had a good paced group – they’d actually split the groups according to pace so everyone would be comfortable with their tour – and we headed off in to town. Although it was a Beethoven themed tour, there was a lot of other historical references and facts as we walked around the town in addition to the musician themed ones. It was a really interesting tour which took in the old Palace, a concert hall and Beethoven’s house. After the walking part of the tour, we had 30-40 minutes free time before meeting back at a local café where we had a recital of Beethoven’s work while we enjoyed a drink and some local strudel – delicious!
After that, it was a gentle walk back to the ship, just in time for lunch and a refuel before our afternoon tour.
This afternoon we were visiting another castle (because there are never enough) – this time Drachenburg Castle – which again was high up on the hills overlooking the river.
The drive to the castle was around 30 minutes and you’re dropped off at the bottom of the hill by the coach. To access this castle, there is a railway, so we got our tickets and hopped aboard. It doesn’t take long – within 5 minutes we were at the castle and meeting our very knowledgeable and very funny guides. The group was split into two again and the guide took control of the listening devices so we could all hear. A film crew had moved in to the castle to prepare for filming the week after so everything was a little all over the place but our guide did a great job of telling us what things were and where they usually are. We also got to ‘cross the line’ into rooms that the public don’t usually see, and taking back stairs that would suddenly find us in a room through the secret door. This was one of may favourite tours and well worth taking if you’re ever in Bonn!
Two tours really take it out of you and we got back to the ship exhausted. We sat on deck for a little while and watched the world go by – the holiday book is getting ignored slightly as the scenery is just too enticing! We decided that getting ready for dinner was too much effort tonight so we opted to order room service – very easy to do on the in-room iPad – and within 20 minutes, Vinnie was knocking on our door with our perfectly cooked cheeseburgers and fries (they’d called ahead to check how we’d like them cooked!)
We were in an S2 Suite and in these rooms, the bed faces the window and you have a little space at the end – perfectly placed it seems to fit a table and two chairs where you can enjoy your dinner and the view at the same time. It’s a good point to mention the windows too – at the push of a button, the top half drops down completely giving you a fully open window and view of the outside – plus press another button, and a fly screen comes down to keep the pesky bugs out!
After dinner, we grabbed the iPad once again as it seemed like a hot chocolate and brownies type of evening and once again Vinnie was at our door within minutes. He also came back once we’d eaten to clear it all away. We slept well that night – a combination of all that walking and good food!
DAY 5 – ARNHEM:
Our final day – how did that happen! We had an afternoon tour booked today so it was a lazy morning, with a late breakfast in the Bistro and a spot of reading on deck – oh and the dreaded packing!
We were docked just by the bridge – ‘A Bridge too Far’ – and that was apt for our afternoon excursion. After lunch in Waterside, we boarded the coaches and headed off to the Airborne Museum. Here we leant all about the Battle of Arnhem, including meeting an eye witness from the battle – a man who was a 14-year-old boy at the time, living through this with his mother and sister – very moving to hear and not something you get the privilege of hearing very often. Following our visit to the museum, we visited the Commonwealth Cemetery where all the fallen soldiers from the UK and other Commonwealth countries are buried. You can’t really put into words what you feel being there – mostly you feel very grateful that these young men fought for our future.
Back at the riverboat, we finished off the final bits of packing before getting ready for our last evening. It was one last pre-dinner drink in Palm Court – a pink flower – and then dinner, as always, was delicious – veal cutlets were on the menu tonight.
For our final evening, we sat up on deck with a night cap – watching the world go by is by far my favourite thing about river cruising. You can see the shores so clearly and you’re going at such a gentle pace it’s just mesmerising. One final sleep in the comfiest bed in the world and then it’s home time.
DAY 6 – AMSTERDAM:
We arrived in a very wet Amsterdam for our final morning, and were in a slightly different docking location to usual as they needed to do some maintenance to one of the windows. We had opted to take the midday Eurostar back to London so we had a fairly late start for a debark day with breakfast about 8.30am and even time to enjoy a coffee before we debarked at 10am. One of the other things I really like about River cruising is you don’t have to put your bags out the night before – just 45 minutes before you debark, pop it outside your room and someone will carry it off for you and put it onto your coach or into your taxi. Because we were docked slightly away from the main city port, Crystal had arranged a taxi for us to the station which was much appreciated. It was a lovely end to a great cruise – very stress-free and not that early!
Crystal River Cruises have really raised the bar when it comes to European river cruising. For anyone who knows Crystal, you’ll feel right at home – this is the Crystal Family feeling on a whole new level – and for anyone new to the brand, this is the first true luxury river cruise line in Europe – true open seating dining with the freshest of ingredients, butler service in every suite and a crew that within hours of you embarking, know your name and how you like your coffee. It’s definitely one for you to try whether you are new to us or know us inside out. This was my first river cruise with Crystal and it certainly won’t be my last – I’ve found a new favourite!
If you’re feeling inspired to book a Crystal River Cruise, give your travel advisor a call or visit: https://www.crystalcruises.co.uk/experience/river to find out more information.