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One of the best things about river cruising, is that many things are included in your overall price. Different cruise lines offer different amenities and inclusions so when you compare them…look into it closely. Something as simple as GRATUITIES or TRANSFERS not included can end up costing hundreds of dollars more in your final price. All companies are NOT the same which makes it difficult to know where to turn. My advice is to look for a RIVER CRUISE SPECIALIST because they know the cruise lines and what they each provide. Why reinvent the wheel when you can get FREE PROFESSIONAL HELP from a proven TRUSTED source?
Shore tours or excursions are included on almost all mainstream river cruise lines. AMA Waterways, Uniworld, Avalon, Viking, Scenic and many more include tours. Some of these lines offer your CHOICE of tours in some locations. This means you get to select from some different offerings that interest you most. Scenic Tours has offered this for years but now Avalon has a choice as well. Many of these cruise lines also offer OPTIONAL tours which you will have to pay EXTRA for but Scenic Cruises does not. In my opinion, they have one of the most all-inclusive river cruises out there. Next year, they WILL have the most all-inclusive product as they introduce many more inclusions such as butler service on all decks, private airport transfers and open bar to name a few.
On this Rhine River trip, we took advantage of each tour offered. Our first tour was a walking tour in the city of Cologne, Germany. When you leave the ship for a tour you are free to pick a group number. This way, you can be sure to be with your friends or family. Tour guides meet you at the gangway and then you go from there for walking tours. You will bring your QuietVox headset so you can hear the guide no matter where you are. This is nice if you are distracted by something or linger to take photos because you won’t miss anything.
The walking tours move around at a slow pace and on this one it was pouring rain so we made frequent stops under shelter. It’s a good idea to bring an umbrella so you don’t get your camera wet when you want a picture. Scenic Tours provides a large umbrella in your room for your use which is very handy. Most of our city tours lasted around an hour and took us to the main attractions. In Cologne, the main site is the famous Cathedral. This gothic cathedral is a masterpiece! The detail when you get up close is incredible. Inside, the acoustics and stained glass windows are amazing. There is no charge to go inside and it’s well worth a visit. After our walking tour we had a little free time to shop or do whatever you like.
Scenic Tours is one of the few companies that own their own coaches to move guests around in. This is really nice because the coaches are always on time, in great condition and they will do everything the company needs them to do.
We went up the Moselle River to Cochem for our next stop. We took a walking tour of the town and then took coaches up the mountain to Reichsburg Castle. What a beautiful vista from the top of this mountain! On this day, the castle’s interior was closed to visitors. No
problem for us, because the guides still have access to the castle and they took us inside. (leaving the sad non-cruisers outside) The castle is amazing and filled with beautiful treasures of the past.
Next stop was Bernkastel, where the mere mention of the name makes wine connoisseur’s hearts beat faster! This town is the center of the vineyards of the Moselle Valley and they line the slate river banks for many miles. In Bernkastel, you could choose either a tour of the quaint city, a trip to Trier (the oldest city in Germany) or ride an hour and a half to Luxembourg. This is called a SCENIC FREE CHOICE and you must make your choice the day before so they can organize transportation. We chose Trier because the robe that Jesus is said to have worn during crucifixion was on display and we wanted to see it. This robe has only been displayed 17 times in over
2,000 years so this was an event NOT to be missed. Once we arrived in Trier for our walking tour, we cut away from the group and ventured out on our own. When we arrived at the cathedral to see the display there was a German mass going on. We watched the end of the mass and then proceeded through the sea of people to see the robe. I think everyone in that room was in total awe at what we were seeing and I can’t really explain how I felt standing there looking at it. It was one of those ‘awe’ moments you will never forget though.
Afterward, we walked around The Market Place, tried some apple strudel and visited the Porta Nigra which is a fortified gateway built by the Romans in the second century AD. It was a great visit to Trier despite the onslaught of rain.
Rüdesheim was the last stop for us and where this new beautiful ship would be christened in a grand ceremony later in the day. We disembarked the ship and checked into the Rüdesheimer Schloss Hotel right off the world-famous Drosselgasse. This is a lively area where you can shop, eat or hit the wine bars. We had a great German dinner at the Hotel Lindenwirt’s restaurant and wine bar that was delicious. Scenic Tours also provided transportation via train to the Siegfried’s Musikkabinett (Museum of mechanical music instruments) with admission as well as tickets to the cable car although we opted to tour on our own.
We headed to the cable car and rode to the Niederwalddenkmal at the top of the mountain. The view of the Rhine, the vineyards and the city below was nothing short of incredible. The Niederwalddenkmal is a statue commemorating the foundation of the German Empire. The statue was under construction during our visit and was very hard to see. The highlight was surely the view and the deer we saw run up the staircase to the statue!
Overall, the included tours on this Scenic Cruise were excellent. Guides and drivers did a great job and the attractions were top-notch. Free time was included at each stop and sometimes the stops seem a little short. Our cruise was on an accelerated pace because this itinerary was for travel agents, Scenic staff and press however.
Part 6 will follow this soon.