So, you’ve decided a Rhine and Moselle cruise is right for you. Great!
No matter where your cruise starts, you'll probably want to spend a couple of days at - or near - the embarkation port to get acclimated to the time change and get your bearings before you meet up with the ship.
Embarkation ports can vary from big cities such as Amsterdam to smaller towns such as Cologne, Germany, or even lesser-known locales in Luxembourg.
Don’t worry, most cruise lines have pre and/or post packages with hotels and transfers to get you there safely and easily –especially if you book the entire package with them.
You may choose to do this – or you may choose to chart your own path and do your own thing – and that’s OK too!
Here are some of the most likely embarkation cities and a few suggestions of things you can do before you set out on your cruise:
Cologne is a great little city to begin your pre-cruise exploration. The perfect size to whet your appetite for what’s to come on your river cruise - without the overwhelm of a big city.
A short walking tour of the Old Town is a great place to start. Of course, you can NOT miss the Cologne cathedral which towers spectacularly over the city along the banks of the Rhine.
If food and drink are your “cup of tea” then Cologne will not disappoint. There's a chocolate museum for chocolate lovers and of course, it wouldn’t be Germany without a brewery or Beer tour.
A few suggestions for your time in Cologne:
Like most large European cities, Frankfurt offers the typical introductory tours such as the infamous Hop-on Hop-off tours or a city walking tour. Sometimes these tours can get a bad rap, but honestly, if you’ve just got off an overnight flight from Europe and you’re tired, you may not feel like walking around a big city where you have no clue where you’re going and don’t even understand the language.
These bus tours are a great introduction to any city – without a lot of effort on your part if you want to make the most of your time but feeling a bit jet-lagged. You can always make a mental note of places you’re interested in and head back after a good shower and something to eat. Walking tours are also a great way to learn about a new city from a local's perspective.
Here are some of the things you’ll see if you do a bus or walking tour of Frankfurt:
The City Hall
The fountain of Justice
Old St. Nicholas Church
The iron footbridge over the river Main
The Imperial Cathedral
St. Paul’s Church
The birthplace of Goethe
If you’re staying more than one night before your cruise, I’d recommend a full or half-day trip to Heidelberg – if it isn’t a pre-scheduled tour on your river cruise already. If you’re doing a self-guided trip you may want to include Schloss Schwetzingen and Koningstuhl to your itinerary as well.
Heidelberg is a beautiful, quaint, and charming University town with its namesake castle dominating the skyline. It’s the perfect place to simply roam around and explore the castle and its’ grounds, the University, and of course, the town of Heidelberg itself.
Luxembourg –Whether Remich or Wasserbillig is your embarkation point, Luxembourg has much more to offer besides a two-hour city tour. Did you know there are more than 50 castles and fortifications in the tiny country of Luxembourg?
It's true! Every time Luxembourg was passed from one European power to the next, the city walls were rebuilt and reinforced based on their latest occupants' needs. From Holy Roman Emperors to the Habsburgs, the French, the Spanish, and finally the Prussians, Luxembourg city is one of Europe’s most fortified places - and the only remaining Grand Duchy in the world. Grand Duke Henri is the Grand Duchy – reigning Monarch of Luxembourg and calls the Grand Ducal Palace – in Luxembourg City home.
The City of Luxembourg itself is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Amsterdam is a vibrant, bustling city with so much to see and do. I'd recommend taking three to four days to see the city properly. Highlights of Amsterdam include:
Ann Frank's House
Van Gogh Museum
Further reading on Amsterdam:
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