‘Reviewed by Senior Marketing Executive Sam’
I’m an 80’s baby, and have just had my first experience on a river cruise with Riviera Travel. I’d love to share my day-by-day experience with you first hand – I hope you enjoy it.
Arrival in Amsterdam, with an overnight stay in port
The capital of Holland, Amsterdam is a city that is full of all the best things, and I’m not just talking about the beautiful canals, architecture and lively nightlife. On arrival at Amsterdam airport, we were met by a Riviera representative who led us to the transfer coach that took us to George Eliot. WOW, I was very pleasantly surprised walking around the ship, which was beautifully decorated with boutique style décor and the cabin was sensational. I’ll get to that shortly.
After my first night onboard, I could not wait to get up and have the opportunity to explore the Floriade Expo in Almere (entry ticket included). This magnificent exhibition only takes place once every 10 years, from April to October, and is described as ‘the greenest day out’. You could opt for half a day, or a full day, so wanting to make the most of the rest of Amsterdam, I went for a half a day, but if you’re particularly green-fingered, you’ll be in your element here.
Tip: Watch out for the bikes in Amsterdam, it’s not the cars you have to worry about! You could even sample it yourself, as Riviera carry some onboard.
Day 3 in Rotterdam, and Kinderdijk
Arriving in Rotterdam, the second-largest city in the Netherlands, we had a guided tour of this vibrant metropolis and what an interesting city it was. Renowned for its strong maritime heritage and being heavily bombed in World War II, the city looks different to its neighbouring Dutch cities. Take a look at the Witte Huis (White House), which was once the tallest building, spanning 43 metres over 10 floors, and is a National Heritage site. The big white building, you can’t miss it.
Rebuilding the city after the war, the Dutch made the most of it, and it’s now full of fascinating modern skyscrapers and impressive buildings, like the ‘Cube Houses’ tilted at a 45-degree angle, optimising the available space. It’s an iconic attraction, one you can take a look around one from just 3 euros. It’s interesting to imagine where your furniture will go!
Leaving Rotterdam behind, it was time to see the windmills, many, many windmills. 19 to be precise, which were built from 1738. The local tour guides are extremely humorous, and you’ll get to know how the locals lived, how the canal systems works and how they now live in them to this day. (There’s even a waiting list if you want to live in one). Spot the little windmills built at the side of each one too; this was to train the children to become a miller when they grew up. Impressive, right?
Tip: You must visit the Market Hall in Rotterdam, a residential and office building, with the market hall underneath, and a market hall like no other
Day 4 arrival to Bruges and Ghent
Chocolates, beer, restaurants – that aside, Bruges is one of Europe’s most perfectly preserved medieval cities. After a short bus transfer, we enjoyed a guided walking tour, seeing such sights as the City Hall, the old Law Courts (spot the rings on the building, you were chained here for all to see if you committed a crime), Basilica of the Holy Blood and of course the Notre Dame Church. I couldn’t head back either without trying a beer tasting in a local off-the-beaten track pub. 12 short glasses of locally brewed beer, I felt like I was truly Dutch.
The city certainly is a must see, and best seen on foot. You’ll notice how it’s so clean, even the buildings, which is because the government implemented a clean-up operation and have maintained this ever since, ensuring no traffic comes into the heart of the square.
The ship will actually sail into the port of Ghent, so if you’ve seen Bruges before, or would like to explore Ghent, you will have time to do this as well. It holds unspoiled waterfronts, and is a medieval gem of a city.
Tip: Now it’s not so much the bikes you have to watch out for, it’s the horse and carriages. But this is a great way to see it all – prices were about 60 euros for 35 minutes and are located in the market square, carrying up to four people.
Day 5 in Antwerp
I thought I was blown away by Bruges, and knowing Antwerp was one of the world’s major seaports. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The sightseeing tour was fantastic, pointing out unusual monuments, statues on the buildings and things you just wouldn’t notice exploring on your own.
Outside of the main square, which is lined with gabled townhouses, the buildings have very impressive artwork (as we know it, graffiti).
Of course, I sampled a beverage in the square, people watched and felt blessed being surrounded by so much history along with a vibrant, hip atmosphere.
Tip: Spot the ‘Nello and Patrasche’ monument who are the main characters in the 1872 novel ‘Dog of Flanders’. A moving, famous story. I’ll not spoil it, but research it before your visit to Antwerp.
Day 6 Arnhem and Nijmegen
Best known for the site of the Airborne Museum ‘Hartenstein’, a poignant Commonwealth War Cemetery, this is an included excursion you can take advantage of.
The other alternative was a visit to Het Loo Palace Gardens, it was served as the royal family’s summer residence for a long time, and now is a magnificent museum.
Although I’m a history buff, I wanted to explore the Het Loo Palace Gardens. (Again, tickets to the gardens are included). If you wanted to go into the Palace Museum, you could do so from 19 euros with a guide, which you would need to arrange yourself upon arrival.
Anyway, again, my expectations were blown away by some of the best well-kept gardens and impressive statues. Having had a morning walking around, with plenty of picture taking and grabbing an ice cream, it was time to head back to the ship. I was looking forward to making the most out of the rattan (yacht style) lounges and relaxing on Sun Deck, just watching the world go by, before a few hours in the next port.
The oldest city in the Netherlands, it felt like an unspoilt destination, and where George Eliot moored, there were plenty of local bars and restaurants. I’d been dodging riding one of the bikes for the entire trip, but this felt like the place to do it. Being presented with a helmet and a bike from the ship, off I went, following some of the locals until I got used to being on a bike again, there was no stopping me. I explored with no plan in mind and it was lovely, local street musicians, and performers dotted around, it was a nice sight to see.
Tip: If you’re less mobile or have a disability, you can hire a wheelchair at the Het Loo Palace Gardens.
Day 7 and 8 in Cologne
It really is picture perfect. George Eliot moored up on the Rhine in front of the Hohenzollern Bridge, the most famous in Cologne. It’s also the busiest bridge with trains crossing over it, and a pretty sight to see the full length of the bridge, both sides covered in locks.
You can explore the city with a guided walking tour taking you to the famous cathedral. Feeling a little adventurous, I decided to again, like a true local, to get around the city on an electric scooter. From 22 cents a minute, this sounded like a win-win!
I ventured out of the city, over the Rhine and fell upon a traditional German food, beer and music festival, with local market stalls. I couldn’t be more excited if I tried. If you’re not quite sure if staying upright on a scooter seems like a good plan, explore the city by foot, or take the little Noddy train (Bimmelbahn) that runs every day, every half an hour that will take you past the zoo. You can get off and visit the Chocolate Factory, a little treasure advised by our Cruise Director onboard.
- Just a note: If you’ve got a late flight, Riviera Travel will provide you with a light lunch on the ship, and you’re free to relax onboard until your transfer is ready. Bonus, than getting off the ship first thing after breakfast. You could even squeeze in some last minute shopping.
Tip: Nearly all modes of transport are available in this city, electric scooters, cars and pedestrians, but if you don’t feel like doing anything, the views are pretty special from the ship anyway.
I got to enjoy this standard cabin, and it was a slice of heaven, floor-to-ceiling glass doors that slide away to create a French balcony with panoramic river views, bliss!
Extremely spacious, at 172 sq.ft, ample wardrobe space, a dressing table, fridge, safe and wait for it … tea and coffee making facilities with all the trimmings. We experienced the benefits of the Riviera Plus (which is only available on upper deck).
This includes: smart handset with maps, translator and currency convertor, unlimited internet use, L’Occitane toiletries, a bottle of chilled prosecco on arrival, platter of fresh fruit during the cruise and the added bonus of an aperitif each evening. It’s worth pricing up the difference when booking.
All in all, I’m 100% converted to river cruising, the small ship experience, included excursions, the best food I’ve ever had and the luxurious cabins. What more could you want? Oh, plus plenty of beautiful views along the way. Call our River Cruise Experts on 01246 819 819 for the latest offers with Riviera Travel