Uniworld River Ambassador—Exploring Castles Along the Rhine

Take a Uniworld river cruise to enjoy the scenery in style

Medieval castles, breathtaking landscapes, and terraced vineyards are explored in style aboard the Uniworld River Ambassador, which glides along the Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel and in the reverse from Basel to Amsterdam.

The long and narrow vessel is built for river cruising and is adept at fitting under low bridges and through ship locks. It glides along the river effortlessly without much turbulence. I took along sea sick pills but never had to use them on my 7-night cruise which visited villages and cities in Germany and France. Everyday of the journey brought a new spectacular view of a castle, a city, a century's old village, or a stream of swans.

Uniworld Ship with swans
Uniworld Ship with swans | Larger

What I especially enjoyed about the Uniworld Cruise line is that it caters to English speaking people. In fact, you must speak English to take a Uniworld Cruise. The majority of the 132 passengers on my voyage were Americans along with Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders and Brits. The staff was also English speaking and the service was excellent because there was no language barrier. The smaller size of the ship and the open seating policy at dinners were conducive to meeting people. Unlike the large ships, where meals are a hurried affair with two seatings, the River Ambassador dining experience was leisurely and conducive to conversations among the passengers. The four course meals were excellent and local dishes from each area visited were among the selections on the daily menus.

Six shore excursions were included in the cruise price and they were hosted by local English-speaking guides. Passengers were divided into small groups and portable audio headset systems were used on all tours so that I didn't miss a word of commentary by the guides. The cruise manager on the River Ambassador gave insightful lectures on the areas we were visiting and the included excursions were outstanding.

Our first stop along the Rhine was Colonge, Germany's largest city until the 19th century. Today, this fourth largest German city is the home of the Gothic cathedral, the largest in the country. Our guide took us on a walking-tour through the narrow streets of old Town, passing tiny squares and little churches leading up to a visit of the Cologne Cathedral, the city's most famous landmark.

Colonge Cathedral
Colonge Cathedral | Larger

The ship stayed in Colonge until 2 a.m. affording passengers the opportunity to dine at local restaurants. I had a memorable meal at the Alter Wartesaal. The restaurant serves German-Mediterranean cuisine and is located next to the Colonge Cathedral in the former historic waiting area of the old Colonge main train station. The building was one of the few structures not destroyed during World War II. The atmosphere and the creative cuisine prepared by Chef Daniel Weiss made this a culinary highlight of the trip. I enjoyed the fried farm duck with apple-marjoram sauce, red cabbage and potato dumplings.

Alter Wartesal Restaurant
Alter Wartesal Restaurant | Larger

The ship left Colonge and cruised along the UNESCO World Heritage Rhine Valley with its many castles and the famous Lorelie rock and arrived in Koblenz mid-morning. In addition to watching the awesome scenery, the ship gave an interactive demonstration on how to make apple strudel and gave everyone a taste.

Apple strudel baking
Apple strudel baking | Larger

Our local guide in Koblenz gave us a walking tour of the city with its narrow streets, historical squares, picturesque alleyways and fountains. Koblenz is where Germany's major rivers, the Rhine and the Moselle meet. There are steamers, barges, tugs and river boats constantly moving up and down the river Tasting the wines and savoring the regional dishes is a must in Koblenz. If you see a sign with a broom, a bottle or a bunch of birch twigs tied up with colored ribbons, you will find homemade wine and food inside. Off the beaten path in Koblenz is the Stadbibliothek, Jugenbucherei Musikbucherei, in the old town. On the second floor of the building is a children's library. Adjacent to the library is a room that contains an exhibition of the Jews who perished in the Holocaust and once lived in Koblenz.

Koblenz memorial to Jews murdered in the Holocaust
Koblenz memorial to
Jews murdered in the
| Larger

Cruising down the Rhine, our next stop was Rudesheim, one of the most famous wine towns in the world. Beautiful vineyards on rolling hills are the scenic backdrop for this city of small cafes and delicious bakeries.

Vineyards | Larger

Located at the top of a mountain in Rudesheim is the Benedictine Cloister and winery St. Hildegard. Fifty-five women from several different countries reside in this Benedictine Cloister and winery. They take a vow of obedience and remain within the walls of this cloister for life, participating in daily prayers seven times a day and sharing in the work of the cloister and vineyards which produce some of Germany's best Reisling wine. Sister Benedicta spends her days restoring holy manuscripts and painting illuminations. There is a church adjacent to the nunnery where the public can visit.

Sister Benedicta with her illuminations
Sister Benedicta with her illuminations

Rudensheim also has an exciting array of restaurants with live music and dancing. I enjoyed a hearty, delicious meal and lively local entertainment at Breuer's Castle Rudesheimer Schoss, also a hotel located in the historical district. The smoked trout appetizer was one of the best versions I have ever tasted and the Rudesheim Reisling from the area was smooth as silk.

Smoked trout appetizer
Smoked trout appetizer | Larger

The Siegfried Music Museum is a fun place to visit. The museum has one of the largest collections of self-playing music instruments in Europe and is located just a few yards from the famous Drosselgasse Street in Rudesheim. The combination of music and old technology with the impression of being able to understand how these instruments make music is fascinating.

The River Ambassador cruise continued to Speyer, Strasbourg, and Breisach, with an optional tour to Heidelberg before concluding in Basel. Cruising on the Uniworld River Ambassador was a relaxing and beautiful way to see the countryside, spectacular scenery and numerous places of interest without the hassle of packing and unpacking.