By Andrea Stroh Thompson
Once upon a time we decided to take a trip to a land of knights, castles, and the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm. Luckily, as we found, a luxury German River Cruise is not just a fantasy, but a reality aboard A-ROSA Silva. From the welcome aboard at the gangway with a red rose, and the champagne chilling in your room, to the farewell party of Bavarian delicacies and Tyrolean folk music, this is a cruising experience like no other.
Our trip began with a stop in Regensburg, the first capital of Bavaria. We docked just a few hundred yards away from St. Peter’s Cathedral which is famous for its medieval stained glass windows and “smiling angel.” The cathedral is also the home to the Domspatzen Boys’ Choir, the oldest in the world at over 1,000 years. The old town square was home to the Christmas market where we stopped at the Almrausch-Hut and enjoyed a piping hot mug of gluwhein, the traditional hot mulled wine served at Christmas Markets across Europe. You are given your drink in a decorative ceramic mug which you are free to keep, or you can enjoy your drink and return the mug to receive your 1 euro deposit back. The Almrausch-Hut added rum and amaretto to their version of gluwhein so we only had one lest we have a hard time finding our way back to the ship! Another staple of each German town is their version of the sausage. In Regensburg, theirs is very short and very fat and tasty! They are grilled on a flattop and then slathered with mustard and stuffed into a crispy roll to enjoy while you stroll through the market and contemplate your purchase of a Christmas ornament or paper lantern.
Another favorite stop was Nuremburg, or Nurnberg to the Germans. Bavaria’s second largest city after Munich, Nuremberg was almost completely destroyed during World War II but meticulously reconstructed to its’ original state. It is also home to the second oldest and arguably most famous Christmas market in Europe (Dresden is the oldest). The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is kicked off each year by a teenage angel with long curly golden locks, and a beautiful flowing golden gown who comes out on the balcony of the cathedral and imparts a blessing on the children of the town and the holiday season. After singing a few carols, the market is officially open for the Christmas season. Children young and old turn out to catch a glimpse of the angel and enjoy her blessing before heading off in search of gluwhein and a few Nuremberg sausages, the tiniest little sausages in Germany named for their resemblance to “little fingers” and one of my favorites. Nuremberg is also home to lebkuchen, a German gingerbread found all over, but started right here in Nuremberg.
Unlike any other company currently in the market, A-ROSA includes everything you need for an exceptional trip with its’ all-in-one pricing: roundtrip airfare from most major US cities, all transfers, all gratuities, open bar throughout the ship, all port charges, taxes, fees, and a selection of port excursions. A word of caution, be sure to assess what your needs and expectations are before booking a river cruise: if you need a casino, 10 bars, 5 discos and thousands of other cruisers to entertain you, then an ocean cruise is for you. However, if you prefer a more intimate setting and get your thrills from tours of castles and bike trips through the wine valley, then a river cruise is for you. At A-ROSA, they take the worry out of trip planning and allow you to concentrate on the happily ever after, and that’s no fairy tale.