Our arrival was very touch and go due to our delayed flight so it is advisable to either go the previous day to make the most of Amsterdam or to get a very early flight just in case. Thankfully as Amsterdam airport is very close to the city we just about made it with less than half an hour to spare
Check in on board was seamless and we were soon enjoying afternoon tea in the lounge on the sundeck enjoying the Amsterdam heatwave over a welcome blue champagne cocktail.
Day 2 – Cologne
We got a good view of Dusseldorf on the way to Cologne
I’ve been to Cologne several times before but this time we did a walking tour and learnt there is far more to Cologne than Chocolate, 4711 and beer. Colonia was originally a Roman city and most of it has been rebuilt. The cathedral was surrounded by scaffolding during our previous visit and the new restoration work is very impressive. There are plenty of museums in Cologne and good shopping to suit all budgets.
Day 3 – Koblenz
We had already been to Koblenz but had not done the cable car up to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. The excursion included both as part of the package. The cable car is the smoothest I have ever been on and the view on the way back down was awesome as you can see where the Rhine and Mosel meet.
We depart in the afternoon for Boppard where we stayed overnight.
Day 4 – Rudesheim
Rudesheim is one of my favourite places, a chocolate box German town with quaint little craft shops, a beautiful Christmas shop, a cable car, a few museums including a Mechanical Music museum, a Toy Museum and a torture museum so it would be easy to spend a few days here. There are plenty of lively bars too.
Day 5 – Speyer
Speyer is a really interesting and historic town with a 11th century UNESCO world heritage cathedral, very simple inside but with some unusual characterics outside including the earliest example of a colonnaded dwarf gallery.
Day 6 – Strasbourg
Strasbourg, the capital of the Alsace region. We approached it by canal boat so we saw the European Parliament, and learnt of its French and German history giving this city a unique character. It is a really impressive cathedral and some quaint little alleyways with colourful timbered buildings. Flowers cascade from balconies and bridges everywhere. There is a small market and both local and designer shops so it is a good place to shop. Beware of pickpockets though.
Day 7 – Colmar
Colmar, ,also in the Alsace region is not unlike Strasbourg, but it is much smaller. The colourful, timbered shops are full of character as they hang lots of things outside the shop giving it a real Hansel and Gretel feel. There is a covered market, a great place to buy local produce and the town is so quaint and pretty.
Overall I really enjoyed this cruise and would definitely do one with Uniworld again. It may seem expensive compared to other similar cruises but this is because all inclusive does mean precisely that. There is tea, coffee and biscuits available 24/7, water in the cabin as well as munchies, waiters keep coming up with cocktails to try on the sun deck and in the lounge, measures are generous and served in proper glasses. Most of the excursions are included and include entrance fees. The food is of course plentiful and they cater for all dietary needs and served with different red and white wines each day. The staff were very efficient and obliging and the excursions were well organised. We literally spent just a few euros on souvenirs and the odd drink on shore.
River empress has no pool and is not suitable for disabled as there is no stair lift to the sundeck