By Ian: Our Marketing Analyst
I had never been on a river cruise before so was very interested to see how it would compare with the ocean cruises I have experienced before. I was not quite sure what to expect. Overall, I was highly impressed by the quality of service, guided tours and the much more personal nature of Riviera Travel’s river cruise ships compared to the larger ocean-going cruise ships I am used to.
If you love learning about new places, history, small group organised tours, fantastic wine, beautiful landscapes and easy access to some of the best sights that Europe has to offer, then a Rhine River cruise is for you. So read on to get the lowdown on a river cruise along the Rhine from Switzerland.
If you are a regular ocean cruiser you may be missing out on some of the best cruise holiday opportunities out there if you’re not also doing river cruises – just give river cruising a go – see what you think – you will not be disappointed.
Read on below to find out what you can see and do on a Rhine river cruise.
Basel – Day 1 – Arrive
On arriving at Zurich airport, there was a short coach transfer between the airport and the ship docked in the Basel dockland area. We arrived mid-afternoon, which gave ample time to settle into the cabin and have a leisurely stroll around the ship, say hello to the friendly Riviera ship staff and some of the other guests before dinner.
Drinks And Drinks Packages
As our cabin was a suite on the top deck (Diamond Deck – Riviera Plus), a complimentary bottle of Champagne was chilling in the fridge on arrival and there were two complimentary tokens (issued daily) for the ‘daily aperitif’. We decided to include a drinks package on our cruise. The package included all wine, beer and soft drinks served with lunch and dinner – this cost around £16 per day per person and seemed like good value. But even without a drinks package the prices are not expensive and are very similar to pub prices in the UK. It’s worth noting that the drinks package does not include speciality drinks like gin and tonic and cocktails, and only includes drinks during meals.
Note: From the start of 2024, all Riviera cruises will include a superior drinks package worth up to £400pp per week with all cruise bookings. Find out more about the free Superior drinks package here >>
Overnight in Basel
Basel – Day 2
Good Morning – Switzerland – Coach to Lucerne
- Up early to a fantastic breakfast – leaving the ship at 8am
- A very pleasant packed lunch was provided today as we had a whole day away from the ship and would only return in time for the evening dinner. We picked up as much as we liked at the packed lunch station – don’t be shy as it is quite a long day.
- A coach journey through beautiful countryside took us to the very picturesque city of Lucerne on the banks of Lake Lucerne where the River Reuss meets the lake. Lucerne is a city of water, town squares and churches. There was a short guided tour from the coach drop off point in the centre of the old town in Schwanenplatz to the Iconic and very picturesque covered Medieval Spreuer Bridge (Spreuerbrücke). We then had some free time to explore the ancient lanes and squares of the old town. We had 1.5 hours and could have easily spent more time here, but this gave us ample time to explore a bit of the old town and have time for an ice cream and coffee at a riverside cafe in the sun.
Afternoon – Switzerland – Coach to Bernese Oberland
- Schynige Platte Railway Excursion
This was undoubtedly the highlight of the holiday for me as I have never been to the Swiss Alps and Burness Oberland before. While I have seen the Alps in films, I was unsure what to expect but did expect it to be breathtakingly beautiful – I was not disappointed.
The area we visited is probably one of the most beautiful alpine regions in Switzerland primarily due to the three big mountains you can see from here – the Eiger (ogre), Mönch (monk) and Jungfrau (maiden).
The railway itself is a funicular with small carriages which slowly climb up the slopes to the Schynige Platte with breathtaking views all the way. We took the railway from the small railway station in the small alpine village of Wilderswil for the 30-minute ride to Schynige Platte at 2,099-metre altitude.
When we arrived at Schynige Platte, the mountains were covered in cloud which slowly lifted to reveal the beautiful views that they had been obscuring.
At Schynige Platte there is also an alpine garden full of local plants and a restaurant with breathtaking views of the mountains. The train ride and the view of the mountains is definitely the star of the show though.
There is a restaurant at Schynige Platte with wonderful panoramic views serving drinks and meals if the mountain air is making you peckish. There is also a small shop in the railway station building that sells bottles of beer and light refreshments.
There is also a well stocked supermarket at the railway station at the bottom station at Wildeswill where we took the funicular railway from.
Overnight in Basel
- We arrived back at the ship just before dinner after a long exhilarating day. We had time for a quick freshen up before dinner. An early night was had by all.
Breisach – Black Forest – Titisee – Day 3
Morning – Anchors away! – Cruise to Breisach
- We are underway before breakfast to our next stop – Breisach. There was time for a lie in after yesterday’s early start followed by a leisurely breakfast. The river is covered in mist and we go through a number of large locks. It is very atmospheric as we glide though the misty landscape.
- Following breakfast there was an introductory talk in the lounge about what we would be seeing this afternoon on the Black Forest and Titisee coach tour as we continued our cruised along the Rhine.
- Afternoon – Breisach (Arrive 13:30)
Black Forest drive
- The drive through the Black Forest was very picturesque and relaxing as we passed through a number of traditional small hill villages and farmsteads.
- Titisee – free time two hours. There was an organised demonstration of cuckoo clocks in a shop in the main street – we opted to chase down some Black Forest Gateau instead. We were rewarded with some lovely Black Forest gateau and coffee. At this time of year (October) it was quiet, and easy walking.
- Overnight in Breisach
Strasbourg – Day 4
Morning – Cruise to Strasbourg (arrive 7:00)
- Guided walk of Strasbourg (approx. 1.5 hours)
- Strasbourg has got to be one of the prettiest towns I have ever seen in France.
- The coach dropped us close to the centre of Strasbourg. There was an easy walk into the old centre of the city.
- We passed through La Petit France district on the way to the Cathedral. It is incredibly beautiful with its cobbled streets, canals, beautiful food shops, timber framed houses and ancient city defences.
- There was a little time after the tour which ended at the Cathedral to do some shopping or just amble around the narrow pedestrian streets before meeting again outside the Cathedral to walk back to the coaches.
17th Century Barrage Vauban defensive weir
Afternoon – Cruise to Speyer (arrive 21:30)
- The afternoon cruise was delightful – the sun was warm and a perfect opportunity to have a soak in the splash pool and indulge in some mini golf. We also selected the Bistro for lunch (no extra charge but it’s advisable to book) – The Bistro with its open kitchen served up some superb burgers and fries. The rear patio doors were open so we could see the river glide away behind us as we took a leisurely lunch with a cocktail or two.
- Overnight in Speyer
- The ship arrives at about 21:30 – after dinner – depending on the timing – If you fancy a short stroll after dinner there is a lovely pub on the river (Biergarten Alter Hammer – closes 10-10:30pm) that serves beer in the iconic dimpled glasses of the district and has a fantastic beer garden that overlooks the river. Or catch it on the way back to the ship tomorrow.
Speyer – Day 5
Morning – walking tour of Speyer from the ship
Speyer is one of the oldest cities in Germany. The walking tour ventured to the old part of the city with timber framed building and quaint narrow cobbled streets.
Afternoon – cruise to Rudesheim (arrive 20:30)
- Rudesheim is at the heart of a renowned wine producing area. There are a wide selection of wine cellars and bars within easy walking distance of the dock. I would suggest that this evening after dinner you should have a gentle amble into the small town and locate a wine cave or two to sample the local produce – Riesling of course – a beautifully crisp white wine that is a million miles away from the ‘supermarket plonk’ wines normally associated in the UK with Germany such as Black Tower, Liebfraumilch and Blue Nun.
- If you are looking for The Place to sample the local produce this has got to be Schloss Johannisberg (closed Monday and Tuesday). Nine minutes by taxi from Rudesheim. This sumptuous castle has a superb location with a restaurant and bar with the best views over the Rhine valley – recommend for a fantastic romantic dinner. Reisling is what their vineyard produces and that’s what you have to drink. I once made the mistake of ordering beer here – the sommelier was not impressed and suggested politely that I should consider the wine menu. I would recommend you don’t make the same mistake! Get more info at – https://schloss-johannisberg.de/en/restaurant-schlossschaenke/
Rudesheim – Koblenz Day 6
Morning – Rudesheim
- There is a tour to the Siegfried’s Music Cabinet museum. We opted out of this so we could spend some time mooching around Rudesheim buying a few presents and seeing the sights.
- Rudesheim is a small picturesque German town with some interesting sites, small shops for some holiday trinket browsing.
- The five-minute cable car journey is a must. It runs above the vineyard from the centre of town to the very impressive 35-metre high Niederwald Monument commemorating the 1871 Franco-Prussian war and creation of the German Empire. The view over the Rhine from here is fantastic. The return journey is 10 Euros and there is a café at the top should you require refreshments. For more information about the cable car. https://www.seilbahn-ruedesheim.de/en/ You can also walk to the monument and back via the road through the vineyards, or take a one way journey to the top and walk back down.
- Don’t miss the ship though as MS Oscar Wild departs at 12:25 from Rudesheim – and you need to be onboard at latest 30 minutes before departure.
Cruise Along The Rhine Gorge
We departed Rudesheim and the warm sun was a delight laying on the loungers on the top deck as a multitude of castles drifted by. I don’t think I have ever seen so many castles in a day. Just a few examples of the castles we saw along the Rhine Gorge can be seen below. There was a very interesting commentary through the ships speaker system when we were near to significant historical or folkloric locations.
Afternoon – Koblenz
- After arrival (around 16:30) there is a short (1.5 hours) walking tour from the ship – easy pavement walking.
- We walked along the river side from where the ship had docked past three sections of the Berlin Wall to a very imposing monument at the confluence of the Mosel and Rhine Rivers called Deutsches Eck (German Corner). The monuments is to Kaiser Wilhelm I (First German Emperor) which was first constructed in 1897. It was also adopted by the Nazi party as part of its imperialistic cult worship. The bronze statue was destroyed during the Second World War by heavy land bombardment by American troops. And it was controversially reconstructed in 1993 as a symbol of the unification of Germany.
- The walking tour continued into the old town centre – there are very few ancient buildings due to the war but there are non the less some interesting landmarks we saw on our walking tour – these include the most impressive History Column located in the centre of a pretty garden square. The column displays the 2,000-year history of the city of Koblenz in 10 scenes from Roman times to today.
The walk went on to Jesuitenplatz. The square is notable for its Christmas market when they illuminate the windows around the square as advent calendars when the market is on. There was classical music from buskers in the square which was beautiful.
We also visited the iconic symbol of the town called the Schangel FountaIn (Spitting Boy Fountain) which intermittently spits water over unsuspecting passersby – good fun to watch. The relief at the base of the fountain illustrates other mischievous boys. I am not sure what the significance was but it was an interesting place.
We returned to the ship for the Captain’s Dinner.
MS Oscar Wilde – Captain’s/Gala Dinner
- The Captain’s Dinner was the formal dinner for the cruise. Otherwise, dining was an informal affair, although people tended to dress up for most diners. Dining tables were dressed beautifully, and the food was superb and artistically presented on the plate. All accompanied by very fine wine.
Overnight – Koblenz
- The Peanut Bar – You will undoubtedly have had your fill during the Captain’s Dinner, but for the night owls that like to savour some local colour, there is a small bar very close to where the cruise ship docks called the ‘Peanut Bar’. We had a great evening here savouring the local beers and we even ventured to have a few Jägermeister shots (when in Rome!). But be warned the bar is not for the faint hearted but is great fun. And yes peanuts are served at the bar and entirely covered the floor by the end of the night.
Cologne – Day 7
- Morning – Cruise to Cologne
- Afternoon – Walking tour of Cologne
There is plenty to see in Cologne, the Cathedral with its imposing spires is obvious when you are approaching the city on the river.
- Overnight – Cologne
Return flight to Manchester – Day 8
Passengers flying to London had a day in Cologne as their flight was later in the day. I was on an earlier flight to Manchester at 10am from Cologne airport which was a short coach ride distance from the mooring on the river. I was home in time for tea and relax to sort out all of the photographs! Wow, what a fun filled trip that was.
Note: If you do not like flying, this cruise can be done by train from the UK using Eurostar. This would be a lovely option if you live close to the Eurostar terminal, and is lighter on the planet if you are considering your green credentials.
Ship Information – MSC Oscar Wilde
The cabin contained information folders about the cabin eg. How to use the safe, TV, telephone etc. as well as very useful maps of all of the ports of call and a foldout map of the River Rhine. I found these very useful when we had time to explore by ourselves.
This information was are supplemented with the daily itinerary for the following day each evening or was available from the front desk if not in your cabin.
Inside The Cabin
We had a top deck standard suite on the Diamond Deck. These suites are slightly larger than Ruby Deck suite at 17m2. The suites on the lower Emerald Deck are slightly smaller.
Our cabin was very nicely provisioned with not only a complimentary bottle of Champagne in the fridge, but also a superior toiletry range compared to the lower decks. The L’Occitane shower soaps and body lotion in the bathroom were very nice.
There was also a safe for your valuables, passport etc.
Diamond Deck state rooms also receive a complimentary bottle of Champagne.
My Conclusions About River Cruising On The Rhine On Riviera Oscar Wilde
I loved the river cruise I went on, hands down the best holiday I have had in years!
If, like me, you’ve never done a river cruise before you may be missing out on some of the best cruise holiday opportunities out there – just give river cruising a go – see what you think – you will not be disappointed.
You can also do this river cruise in the opposite direction which may be an even better way round to experience this river cruise.
If you’re considering a river cruise, be sure to give our Cruise Experts a call on 01246 819 819 and they will be more than happy to advise you on your options.