In the distance, the twin spires of Cologne’s famous cathedral, the Kölner Dom, pierce the bright blue spring sky.
It’s day two of our Travelmarvel 15-day European Gems river cruise. We’ve already slipped into a deep state of relaxation as we sit on the ship’s deck in the sunshine, drink in hand, with nothing more urgent to think about than if we want lemon or lime in our gin and tonic.
Travelmarvel’s premium river cruises offer true “slow travel”, where not having to worry about details such as connecting flights, organising excursions or packing and unpacking each day means more time to enjoy this magnificent part of Europe in a meaningful and memorable way.
Already, we’ve cruised picturesque canals in Amsterdam on a glass-topped boat, joined locals cycling through the city, and – in our free time – snacked on sweet stroopwafel (thin waffles) and taken in world-famous works by Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt.
Other highlights of our European river cruise include visiting castles such as the resplendently rococo UNESCO-listed Augustusburg Castle, one of Travelmarvel’s unique “Insider Experiences”, baroque palaces and small Rhine towns of medieval half-timbered houses, on small group tours escorted by local experts.
How much or little you enjoy of what’s on offer in each destination is entirely up to the individual.
With Travelmarvel, you can see the essentials of each destination while still enjoying free time to follow your own interests. Like us, that might just be sitting in Vienna’s oldest coffee house, indulging in ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ and a spot of people watching.
Another welcome bonus of the trip is the inclusions. It’s not just the tours, but everything from meals (including beer and local wine, tea, coffee and water) to taxes and tips, that make Travelmarvel’s river cruises such exceptional value.
It also means we know exactly how much we have to spend and we can enjoy stress-free shopping for mementos, from a bottle of special Rhine riesling to souvenirs for friends and family.
Accommodation aboard The Diamond, which was refurbished in 2018, is four star. it has all the amenities of a fine hotel plus the bonus of waking up somewhere new each day.
For the 2020 cruising season, in addition to its classic fleet, Travelmarvel will introduce a new Contemporary Class river ship, a stylish, custom-built vessel with a rooftop bar, terrace garden, heated whirlpool and a range of dining options, including a bar with pub-style meals.
After winding through riverine Germany, with its vineyards and castles, stopping at picturesque towns rich with history, visiting museums and then the baroque grandeur of Vienna, our river cruise concludes in what turns out to be our favourite destination, Budapest.
We take the included guided tour of this beautiful city and wander the castle district high on Buda Hill, with its spectacular views, while our knowledgeable guide fills us in on Budapest’s fascinating history.
At night, there’s a special dinner on board farewelling newly made friends before a final adventure, a night-time cruise on the Danube, where all the city’s ornate structures, from the parliament building to the famous chain bridge, are beautifully illuminated.
If this river cruising is new to you, or you’ve yet to experience Travelmarvel’s hospitality, it’s definitely time to get thinking about making 2020 the year to get on board.