Full disclosure: I have an aversion to cruises. There is something about being cooped up with a large number of strangers that gives my he creeps. Recently, stories about infectious illnesses breaking out onboard made that aversion much worse. And of course, I keep in mind this sort of thing
Having said that, I am less averse to a river tour. And the grand daddy of all Rivers to tour is the Rhine. So I started thinking about how one might do this.
You can go for the “active” river tour route. Or, if you are more like me, you could go for the wine and food options. Here hey are. Enjoy!
AmaWaterways offers a dedicated portfolio of “Wine Cruises,” combining all of the upscale line’s standard excursions and onboard offerings with wine immersion, both in port and on board. Extras—like wine-and-food pairings, winery tours, and tastings galore—are all factored into the fare, as is the tutelage of a North American wine expert (a winemaker and/or winery owner) who accompanies each sailing to lead onboard talks, conduct tastings, and provide insight into regional Rhine wines on hosted wine-centric excursions.
The seven-night “Captivating Rhine Wine Cruise” sails between Amsterdam and Basel, with stops in Germany (Cologne, Rüdesheim, Ludwigshafen, and Breisach) and France (Strasbourg). Itineraries cover wineries, vineyards, and cellars: Hike through the vineyards of the winemaking town of Rüdesheim; visit the “Great Vat,” an 18th-century, 49,000-gallon wine barrel in Heidelberg; or taste the famous white wines of Alsace in Riquewihr. Some varieties to sample: Riesling is known as the “queen of the grapes” along the Middle Rhine, where it flourishes in perfect growing conditions, while red wine drinkers will love Germany’s full-bodied and velvety spätburgunder (known as pinot noir in France). Choose between some half-dozen AmaWaterways riverboats (with passenger capacities for 144 to 162 guests) on special wine sailings in 2019 and 2020. Select sailing dates in July, August, and November of 2019, and March, April, July, October, and November of 2020; rates from $2,799/person.
Or if you fancy yourself more the foodie
Crystal Cruises—known for its opulent oceangoing cruises—joined ranks on the rivers of Europe in 2016, emerging as a particular hit among cruisers looking for an elevated epicurean element on their voyage. Four of the line’s 106-guest, all-suite riverboats—the Crystal Bach, Crystal Mahler, Crystal Debussy, and Crystal Ravel—offer plenty of refinement on the Rhine. Plush touches like personal butlers and an indoor swimming pool abound, but the ships really stand out in the kitchen, where cuisine strives for Michelin quality via regionally inspired menus powered by locally sourced ingredients, where possible.
Meals—served in the formal Waterside main dining room or more casual Bistro—might feature classic dishes like broiled fresh lobster and beef tenderloin, or Rhine-influenced specialties like a traditional German sauerbraten or veal goulash served with spätzle. Plates are paired with plenty of options for wines, including regional varietals (the onboard sommelier can fill you in on pours), while an open bar format is inclusive of fine wines, champagnes, local craft beers, and spirits. There’s 24-hour room service, too, and for a supplement, The Vintage Room features an intimate eight-course wine-and-food pairing dining experience that features courses like beef tenderloin and broiled lemon sole. But the foodie focus doesn’t stop on the ship: Excursions along the Rhine might include an Alsatian cooking lesson in the home of a local in Strasbourg or a winetasting event in Rüdesheim. Nine Rhine itinerary options run from seven to 16 nights in duration, between March and December; rates from $2,999/person; crystalcruises.com.
Here is a video promo for he inaugural voyage of one of the Crystal Cruise Rhine tour ships