Sign up to our newsletter

Castles to cobblestones: Cruising the Rhine on a Riviera Travel river cruise

Riviera Travel offers a luxurious journey along the Rhine River aboard its newest five-star vessel, MS Geoffrey Chaucer cruise ship. Sailawaze tagged along for the eight-day, seven-night trip, exploring charming towns, tasting local culinary delights, and admiring scenic landscapes across three countries.

Words by Barbara Balfour

It’s only been an hour since I had breakfast but I’m already hitting the bottle. Or to be more precise, the mug, from which I’m savoring every mouthful of Rüdesheimer coffee, each one more delectable than the last. A traditional treat named after the town of the same name, this concoction of flambéed brandy, strong coffee and vanilla cream goes down way too easily for anyone’s own good.

Of course I’d expect nothing less from Rüdesheim, the birthplace of German wine. This lively town is only one of the seven stops I’m immersed in as a guest with Riviera Travel river cruises aboard their newest ship, the MS Geoffrey Chaucer.

There are worse things you could do, I suppose, than gaze at the serene Rhine River all week long while being plied with the regional libations and delicacies of every town you visit across three countries, although there are plenty of other ways to keep entertained…

Riviera Travel excursions and cultural activities

Riviera Travel cruises tend to run smaller in size; at just under 170 guests, the vibe onboard feels especially cozy, offering an intimacy ideally matched to the leisurely pace of the week’s itinerary.

Our journey begins in Cologne, where the Gothic spires of its world-famous cathedral scrape the sky and the scent of history permeates the air. It’s but a brief taste of the architectural marvels yet to be experienced in the next eight days.

The next stop is the old town of Koblenz, where the Rhine and Moselle Rivers embrace, but not before I witness a breathtaking panorama of carefully-tended rolling vineyards, quaint waterfront villages and the forested Siebengebirge – Seven Mountains which inspired Snow White and many others of the Brothers Grimm’s legendary stories.

Other guided Riviera Travel excursions include a pretzel-fuelled stroll through the charming cobblestone streets of Strasbourg, a visit to the resting place of countless Holy Roman emperors and German kings in Speyer, and a tour of one of the world’s largest and most whimsical collections of mechanical musical instruments in Rüdesheim.

Riviera Travel entertainment and onboard amenities

After days packed with activities, Riviera Travel keeps the onboard tempo upbeat with a nightly evening performance in its elegant lounge. Local entertainers offer lively folkloric dancing, violin performances and the ever-popular post-dinner tickle of the ivories.

Many cruisers tend to retire soon after dinner, while others linger well into the evening over conversation and nightcaps. It’s a comfortable home base from which to explore Europe, with plenty of alternate options for evening activities.

Amenities onboard include a small fitness center, a spa and salon where you can book yourself a massage, haircut or manicure, a gift shop to stock up on souvenirs, and a small splash pool and putting green on the upper deck.

One thing I particularly appreciate about this ship is never having to fight for a good seat on the outdoor deck. There’s no shortage of sun loungers, both shaded and exposed, or tables and chairs at which you can sip your morning coffee (spiked like mine or not, the choice is yours) and watch the world flow by.

On lazier mornings when I prefer to unwind in the privacy of my own upper floor Diamond Suite, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything thanks to the panoramic floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that bring riverside life practically to my bedside, along with a spacious seating area boasting two comfy chairs and a table.

Riviera Travel cabins: Well-appointed suites aboard MS Geoffrey Chaucer

Overall, the MS Geoffrey Chaucer is an exceptionally spacious ship, presenting well with gleaming marble floors, a lobby flooded with natural light and rich hardwood and wrought iron accents throughout public spaces.

Every suite comes with individually controlled air-conditioning, a hairdryer, safe, mini-fridge, telephone, your own water bottle to refill at a 24/7 self-serve coffee station, and tea and coffee-making facilities. The shower pressure is excellent and the toiletries, provided by L’Occitane, include enough conditioner to detangle my often unruly curly hair.

The cotton bathrobes are a nice touch, too, allowing me to sip a quiet morning coffee by the window while remaining decent in case another ship suddenly pulls up alongside us.

Housekeeping comes twice daily and turn-down service benefits from a nightly chocolate on the pillow. However, while wifi is provided free of charge, it’s often spotty and I find myself on the hunt for better connections off the ship.

Riviera Travel dining: a feast for the senses

Seafood, meat, vegetarian or vegan selections are available at every meal. At breakfast and lunch you can help yourself to a buffet of fresh salads, freshly baked goods and delectable appetizers, in addition to ordering à la carte dishes off the menu. Dinner is served only at the table.

A second smaller restaurant is located at the stern of the ship on the Diamond Deck. Menus at this casual bistro are designed for smaller groups and reservations are usually limited to once per guest. Wine pairings (red, white and rosé) are included at lunch and dinner no matter where you choose to dine, and the pours are always generous.

Even the pickiest eaters won’t go hungry (or thirsty) here. In my week onboard, I feast on options as wide-ranging as slow-roasted black Angus beef tenderloin, delightfully crispy fish and chips, and a traditional Bavarian beef stew cooked in beer, called bierfleisch.

Every evening two vouchers are left in my cabin for a complimentary aperitif in the lounge, including my choice of a port, sherry, gin and tonic, house wine or daily cocktail. That’s on top of the complimentary bottle of champagne that awaits me in the fridge when I first check in.

Basel farewell caps memorable journey

On my last night in Basel, I sip on a nightcap on the upper deck as the sun sets on another enchanting day along the Rhine.

As the gentle sway of the ship mirrors the peacefulness of this week-long journey, I reflect on how the flavors of the local cuisines, the bustling life of every charming town, and the beauty of the landscapes of three different countries have become part of a tapestry of unforgettable memories. I’ll definitely be back.

Published 09.19.23