After our coach experience, perhaps river cruising was taking a chance but I wanted to do something special for my 60th birthday. After looking at many very costly options I went for the 4 star MPS Rotterdam with Shearings. I was a little worried that we might still be a little young for the Shearings product and while I’m not going to pretend that 18-30’s would feel at home, it was fine for us. We were amongst the youngest on board but we found plenty of people with similar age and attitude to our own and soon got talking to a few people and we made a few new friends. I would say the average age was around 70, some more mobile than others, but we didn’t feel out of place and it didn’t feel geriatric.
Part of my decision to book Shearings was the price which was very competitive compared to some of the more well known names such as Viking. I did check previous feedback on the likes of Trip Advisor and it was generally very positive with some issues with the cabins and having started off with a cramped cabin with a steep sided bath and a tiny window before moving to a light and airy one in the middle I can understand that your perception of this particular cruise might depend on your allocated cabin. That is a shame because the standards of the food and service are definitely 5 star. There are one or two aboard that grumbled about the food but all can say is that they should have stayed at home.
Little things you need to know. There are plenty of plugs in the cabin, European round 2 pin, wifi is in the lounge only but it is free when working. There is a very small safe in the cabin free of charge. There is a hair dryer. Most cabins have a walk in shower. There is a stairlift for the less mobile. Tea and coffee are always available but other drinks are all extra. The clientele are Exclusively Shearings and commentaries are just in English.
From the moment we got on board, Melanie our cruise director was welcoming and almost all the crew were friendly, attentive and efficient. Rotterdam is a small ship with 107 passengers so we made friends very quickly.
The format is generally leaving the moorings at around 6am, sailing along until just after lunch around 2pm and then staying until early the following morning. Each morning Melanie pointed out the landmarks and the history and legends.
Breakfast was buffet and to be honest repetitive but sufficient. Lunch also buffet consisted of hot food and salad. Dinner was a choice of meat, fish or veggie. My husband who is vegetarian and diabetic was well catered for but for special dietary needs you do need to advise them in advance. Meals were imaginative and beautifully presented rivalling any top restaurant or 5star hotel. The Indonesian night was particularly nicely done with decorations, costumes and dancing, as well as delicious Indonesian fare part served and part buffet. The gala evening on the last night was fantastic too
Minor niggles, no toilet on the top two decks. Having to go down two decks was a nuisance and for most it was only slightly further to go back to the cabin. While the service on board was amazing the bar tender let them down
The cruise we chose was Colours of Autumn which included sections of the Rhine and the Mosel. Each day we sailed past pretty chocolate box villages, timbered houses, churches, railway tunnels and hillside vineyards. The Colours of Autumn were most evident further South .
Excursions cost around 30 euros and slightly cheaper to prebook in the UK
Day 1 – Andernach and Ahr Valley. Bad Neuer is a pretty walled town.
Day 2 – Rudesheim – we really loved Rudesheim, unanimously our favourite, very pretty with some lovely shops and some great bars, not overly expensive. We ventured out again in the evening with our new friends. There are a couple of unique museums, Siegfrieds music cabinet and the torture museum
Day 3 – Cochem, a bit disappointing after Rudesheim. Very crowded with tourists
Day 4 – Koblenz, the meeting point of the Rhine and Mosel. Get a cable car up to the fortress and look down over the contrast of the two rivers, the bluey green Mosel and the brown of the Rhine. A large monument stands between the two
I have thoroughly enjoyed the river cruise experience, something I would definitely do again.