We recently welcomed our friend, Lynn Houghton, on-board Emerald Dawn for the Jewels of the Rhine itinerary. Lynn is a passionate river cruise fan, and writes about her experiences on the beautiful rivers of the world for Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Cosmopolitan and many more. Here, she details her stay on the Rhine with Emerald Cruises.
Dusk has come quickly on this November evening with stars already appearing in the night sky. It is chilly here in Koblenz, Germany, the air clear and bracing. Locals are decorating and setting up outdoor kiosks for their upcoming Christmas market - the finishing touches of evergreens and tinsel will appear in another week or two.
Sailing on the European rivers during the latter months of autumn is a crystalline and wonderful experience that I encourage others to try as well. River cruises’ ‘shoulder’ seasons, early spring and late autumn, are delightfully quiet and peaceful affairs.
This is, without doubt, a mystical and magical time of year to be sailing on the River Rhine and through the famous Rhine Gorge. Emerald Cruises’ elegant Emerald Dawn is the river cruise ship taking me on this unique adventure.
In this part of the world, history comes to life. Medieval castles are perched on enormous cliffs, flanking the river, peering down on the peaceful meander of the river below them. Gliding along, the ship’s guests admire historic villages and vineyards, now glorious in post-harvest ochres, yellows and reds.
We cast off from our moorings as the early morning mist floats off the surface of the water and is caught in the sunlight. Soon the Emerald Dawn is passing by incredibly beautiful castles such the Burg Stolzenfels; there is one castle after another as we count thirty along the gorge in total. But my favourite landmark of all is the Mouse Tower, right down on the bank of the river. I feel like I can almost reach out my hand and touch it.
There are about 180 other guests on this Jewels of the Rhine itinerary. Emerald Dawn is one of the newest ships sailing on the Rhine and has Wi-Fi, spa and fitness facilities and, at the touch of a button, a drop-down window which creates an indoor balcony in all the suites.
Each cabin has a top-notch TV entertainment system – with the TV plasma screen becoming a virtual fireplace when not in use –- perfect, in my opinion, for this time of year. I particularly like the cabinet doors in the bathroom, which are flush with the walls - simply push on the door and each one pops open. The double set of blinds means there is no light leakage for those who don’t want to be wakened at sunrise.
Accessories that furnish the 24-ft. high atrium are the perfect foil for a sleek ship as they are shapes and materials taken from nature. There are over-sized plants in the lobby, gorgeous vases, enormous shells and modernist art. From the glistening glass staircase to the low-hanging chandeliers and spacious and contemporary cabins, every detail has an elegant yet unique feel to it. Also among the Emerald Dawn’s many features, is a cinema and heated swimming pool (sharing the same space) with a retractable roof.
The perspective from our river craft is nothing short of inspirational. Virtually nothing interferes with the view of the scenery as we glide past. As our ship slows down to pass the famous, narrow bend in the river known as the Lorelei, music is played, intended to recreate the song of the sirens. In German mythology, the sirens drew the ships into the rocks intentionally, thus sending sailors to a watery grave. Thankfully, the reality of this beautiful stretch of river is far more peaceful than the myth.
During this segment, staff hand out mugs of hot chocolate to keep everyone warm while they take in the dramatic scenery. Attentive staff always seem to be on hand taking exceptionally good care of guests. From efficient servers to charming reception staff, nothing seems too much trouble for the crew of Emerald Dawn.
And speaking of servers, Reflections Restaurant (where all main meals take place) has superb serving staff. They go out of their way to look after diners’ requests. The five-course à la carte dinner service is excellent and loaded with choice. My favourites included the local specialities such as Wiener Schnitzel or Spätzle (German pasta). House wine and beer are served with every meal free of charge while desserts are crafted with care and enthusiasm.
Our next port of call, is the historic and picturesque town of Rüdesheim, famous for its own special brandy drink and one of the top stops to visit in Germany. The Wirtshaus Hannelore Restaurant on the historic Drosselgasse Street is a very traditional German tavern and does an excellent event around the tasting of the coffee brandy drink, accompanied by a local band. The inevitable conga line gets going once the music and beverages are flowing.
I would highly recommend spending as much time as you can in Siegfried´s Mechanisches Musikkabinett on Oberstraße 29. This museum is all about mechanical music machines: music boxes, merry-go-round calliopes, early record players and player pianos are a few of the items on show here. Completely different, ever riveting, and housed in an ancient property that has been in the same German family for hundreds of years, you can’t help but be charmed.
This is also the time of year when river cruise guests may encounter unexpected events. You may dock in Cologne, as we did, on 11 November and collide with the beginning of Carnival in Cologne. The locals dress up in costumes and wigs and pretty much party all day long. The shops may not be open but the atmosphere is as festive as any I have encountered. Hilarity and delight in equal measure make this a wholly unforgettable experience.
For beautiful, clear weather and to avoid the crowds while enjoying a luxurious cruise experience, I’d recommend booking the Emerald Dawn for the late autumn. You won’t be disappointed.
If you’d like to follow Lynn’s footsteps, you can find more details about our Jewels of the Rhine itinerary. Alternatively, to book your place on-board this amazing river cruise, call our friendly sales team on 0808 159 7231.