Moselle: Taken to the river

Donna McIntyre documents a day sailing on the Moselle.

We wake up early this Monday, about 6am as we want to have our breakfast before the other 147 passengers on board.

We’ve cruised through the night along the Moselle River from its confluence with the Rhine at Koblenz, where the mighty statue of Kaiser Wilhem I, the first emperor of Germany after its unification in 1871, marks the point where the waters meet.

The morning meal is a magnificent spread. Fresh fruit, mueslis, yoghurt, breads, cheeses and sliced meats, a chef to cook your eggs as you like them (omelette with ham, spring onions, cheese, tomato and mushroom please). Coffee or tea delivered to your table in the Crystal Dining Room. Help yourself to a chilled Moet from the ice bucket or a selection of chilled fruit juices.

The staff — mainly Eastern European or Indonesian — prepare the tables the night before, reporting into the kitchen at 7am to start serving at 7.30. Don’t worry if you are hungry before that, there always something to eat by the 24/7 coffee and tea supplies, an earlybird breakfast from 6.30-7.30am in the River Café and if you are lucky enough to have slept late there’s the late risers option in the Portobello dining area.

We do manage to beat the crowd — first in for the buffet breakfast — then we retreat to our balcony suite, a cabin with bedroom, en suite and a ranch slider opening to the balcony where a floor-to-ceiling window is filled with river views. This window slides down to halfway if you want fresh air.

On the walk back to our cabin we’ve picked up the daily news bulletin printout from New Zealand plus the Monday crossword or sudoku, another cup of coffee, and perhaps a biscuit or two.

Today’s programme is a walking tour through the riverside town of Cochem and up to the Reichsburg Castle. We wind our way through the cobbled streets, past the centuries-old city gates, the market square (Marktplatz) and steeply roofed buildings, some dating back as far as the 12th century, and see the high-water marks of the river through the centuries: the damage is easier to imagine when we look at the photos of flooding late last century. A small bus takes us up to the hilltop castle, a must-visit on this tour. This rebuilt castle has passed through many hands and now has been returned to the people of Cochem. The castle and its beautiful gardens are postcard pretty, the seven rooms we see are furnished with beautiful antique furniture — at times with quirky details — and there are amazing views of the vineyard-lined steep valley, the bridge and river boats tied to the tree-lined banks of the Moselle below.

We opt to walk rather than ride back to the village (population 5000-6000) and back to the boat.

On board we head to the bar and Portobellos dining area where the light lunch option is served (you can go one floor below for the fine dining option). Today’s offerings include creamy carrot soup, cheese and crackers, salads, a pasta dish and — apparently popular with Aussies and American passengers — hamburger and chips. On Scenic all drinks are included in the price you pay, so you can select beers and wines, cocktails or spirits.

Or water, juices, coke, coffee or tea, of course.

We have the afternoon free to do as we please — explore, relax, read or watch one of the new release movies in the cabins.

We opt to take e-bikes for a ride along the riverside and make our way with some fellow passengers for a 15km return ride, with a stop at the village of Ernst for a thirst-quenching beer halfway.

We take the north bank out and the south back, followed by another look around Cochem.

Bikes, helmets and keys handed back, we report in with the boat by scanning our name cards, catch up for (another) beer with fellow guests then freshen and frock up for a port talk, dinner and disco night.

We’ve submitted a substantial list of songs we’d like to hear and are hoping it will be a highlight of the cruise’s evening entertainment.

At the daily port talk cruise director Szilvia Magyar tells us about tomorrow’s sailing and the tour options — a guided tour on the e-bikes, or galley tour with the chef. Cocktail of the day is tequila fever, then it’s down to the Crystal Dining Room for a la carte dining.
For the disco night, a local DJ has come on board to play our requests. Befitting the name of our vessel, the Scenic Pearl, it’s a pearler party night with all ages getting up to enjoy the fun.

We return to our cabin just on midnight where housekeeping’s turn-down service has left our comfortable beds ready with the special pillows we have selected from the pillow menu (age defying, neck support).

After enjoying the square of Valrhona chocolate left on our pillows, the room bathed in the ambience of the log fire filling out the TV screen, we take a quick look at the views of the river and the lit-up castle watching over the valley, then catch some zzs so we’ll be ready for the next day’s sailing to Bernkastel.

Scenic‘s 15-day ‘Romantic Rhine & Moselle’ cruise sails between Basel and Amsterdam, along the Rhine and Moselle rivers, which pass through Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Prices start at $6255pp, twin share (including the early payment discount of $300pp when paid in full by October 31) for a standard suite, departing Zurich/Basel on October 23.

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