When I was a young girl, one of my favorite books was “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë.
I just could envision the brooding Heathcliff wandering the moors. I was quite pleased when I learned that we would be studying the classic 1847 novel in my high school English class.
Now, I can hardly believe that I will be cruising aboard the magnificent Riviera River Cruises’ MS Emily Brontë. The seven-night cruise will go from Cologne in Germany to Basel in Switzerland with stops in Koblenz, Rüdesheim, Speyer, Strasbourg, the Black Forest, Lucerne and more.
Photographs I have seen show a magnificent ship that is spacious and elegant. Ship décor is traditional with gold and silver accents and paintings adorning the walls. From its gleaming marble-floored gallery and stunning atrium to its wrought-iron staircase and lovely lounges, the MS Emily Brontë was designed with the comfort of passengers in mind.
When I embark, I plan to head up to the top deck and watch the shore slowly slip away. The Diamond Deck is said to be the heart of the ship with its observation lounge and bar. I can envision easing into a comfortable leather armchair or sofa to savor a glass of local wine. At the aft is the Bistro with its open kitchen and terrace.
The ship’s Ruby Deck in the middle is home to the main dining room. It’s always fun to peruse a ship menu and decide what scrumptious choices I will make. From the reviews I have read, the MS Emily Brontë serves some mighty delicious cuisine.
On the lower Emerald Deck is the fitness center to work out or to treat yourself to a relaxing massage. There’s also a hair dresser, plus manicure and pedicure treatments. After all, this is a cruise to pamper yourself and I’m looking forward to that.
Notice those names? First there is the ship herself – the MS Emily Brontë. She continues the Riviera River Cruises’ tradition of naming ships after famous authors. There’s also the Thomas Hardy, Oscar Wilde, Geoffrey Chaucer, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Lord Byron, William Shakespeare and William Wordsworth.
Then there are the deck names – Diamond, Ruby and Emerald – they definitely are jewels. From the brochure I have seen, all the decks are glorious gems. They seem easy to access either by the wide wrought-iron staircase or the attractive glass elevator.
The MS Emily Brontë was built in 2017 and carries up to 169 passengers plus 44 crew members. The vessel offers three cabin types – Suites, Superior Suites and Deluxe Balcony Suites. The balcony cabins are a first for Riviera River Cruises. All the suites are spacious.
The marble finished suite bathrooms feature large rain showers plus Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries. Standing under a lush rain shower is definitely going to be a pleasure almost as soon as I arrive to wash away travel fatigue.
All suites have a table, two chairs, flat-screen TV, hair dryer, safe, mini-bar, telephone and tea and coffee making equipment. Suites on the Diamond and Ruby decks feature French balconies with floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass doors. Suites on the Emerald deck have small windows.
For dining, MS Emily Brontë offers two dining options – the Bistro and the Restaurant. The Restaurant is the main dining room, serving a buffet breakfast and lunch, plus a four-or-five-course dinner.
For entertainment, the Panorama Lounge offers live music every night and enrichment talks about the itinerary. For exercise, MS Emily Brontë has a putting green and small pool along with that workout center and eight bikes with helmets that can be used ashore free of charge. The ship also has a gift shop, boutique and laundry service.
Aboard the ship, we’ll cruise past famous castles on the Rhine – considered one of the most beautiful stretches of waterway in Europe. Traveling on the Moselle River, passengers will enjoy the dramatic Rhine Gorge where the sheer valley walls tower overhead.
One of the pleasures of cruising is the shore excursions when a ship stops and we go ashore. The MS Emily Brontë has a wealth of great stops. For example, our cruise will depart from Cologne. If possible, I always advise people to arrive a day or two ahead of a cruise. That means you are there when it is time to board the ship, plus you get a chance to rest up from traveling and see a bit of the embarkation city.
Oldest Perfumery in the World
A Cologne tidbit I learned is that the world’s oldest perfumery is located in the city. It was here that Johann Maria Farina created the product that he named after his hometown – Eau de Cologne. The shop also has an interesting Farina Fragrance Museum that explains the history of Eau de Cologne and displays some wonderful memorabilia, including exquisite silver goblets from which Ludwig II of Bavaria drank as a guest at the perfumery. In the 18th century, making a purchase at the Farina House was an art form.
History notes that Napoleon Bonaparte loved Eau de Cologne so much that he ordered 50 bottles a month. The famous emperor used the fragrant water extravagantly and supposedly had special boots designed where he could stash an emergency bottle of cologne.
I’ve also been told that spraying a teeny bit of Eau de Cologne on a pillow can bring sweet dreams. Whether that happens or not, I’m going to see if I can buy some of Farina’s special perfume with its trademark red tulip on the label before the MS Emily Brontë departs on our cruise.
Cathedral de Notre Dame in Strasbourg
In Strasbourg, the Cathedral de Notre Dame deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful gothic cathedrals in Europe. The cathedral stands on the exact site of a Roman temple. Master builder Erwin von Steinbach started construction on the beautiful pink sandstone facade in 1277.
Along with magnificent stained glass windows and lovely icons, the cathedral also has a commemorative plaque honoring all the American soldiers who gave their lives to help free Alsace during World War II.
Located in the front of the church, the famous Astronomical Clock was originally built in the 14th century and was renovated several times, most recently in the 19th century. It includes a perpetual calendar, a display of the actual positions of the sun and the moon, plus solar and lunar eclipses.
Considered a mathematical marvel, the clock has a mechanism that shows the official time, the solar time, the day of the week, the month, the year, the sign of the zodiac, phase of the moon and position of several planets. Then there are all the animated characters that launch into movement at various times.
When the clock strikes half past noon, the apostles parade past Jesus while a cock crows and flaps its wings. On another part of the huge Astronomical Clock, the different stages of life are shown as a child, a teenager, an adult and an old man who pass before a scary death figure.
Music Museum in Rüdesheim
In Rüdesheim, I’ve heard about the wonderful Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum. Today, people can walk around with music in their ears whenever they want. They can plug in and tune out.
But back a couple hundred years ago, people didn’t have that luxury. Only the rich could afford musical devices. And those pieces of equipment were huge.
Hard to believe but the more than 350 musical cabinets in the museum are the collection of one man. The story goes that Siegfried Wendel visited Los Angeles on his honeymoon and came across a collection of player pianos and mechanical instruments. Many of the instruments were in poor condition, some destined for the scrap heap.
A craftsman, Wendel was fascinated by the self-playing devices and began collecting them. Wendel restored the musical works of art and then wanted to share the music with others.
That’s why in 1969 he opened his collection to the public in his hometown of Rüdesheim. Today, the museum is located in a 15th century manor. Some of the complex music boxes are so tiny – such as the bird on the ornate snuff box – that they can fit in the palm of your hand. Others are so huge that they fill up most of a room.
I’m still researching other places where the MS Emily Brontë will stop and possible shore excursions on this wonderful journey. For the Black Forest site, of course I hope we get to sample some of that legendary Black Forest cake. Granted, I could visit any of these destinations by car but then I would have to look for a hotel every night and restaurants to eat every day.
The MS Emily Brontë makes those driving worries unnecessary. Board the ship in Cologne, unpack once and know where I will be eating every day and sleeping every night. Plus, I will have excellent group tour leaders who know their cities well and will be touring with like-minded travelers.
The ship provides headsets for passengers to use during excursions. That is a big help because it makes the guide easier to hear while on a walking tour.
I’m sure my notebook will be filled with interesting information about what I’ve seen and heard. And my camera will be loaded with photos of the ship and the places we stop.
Also I’m taking a special book to read during quiet times aboard the MS Emily Brontë. Seems somehow appropriate to re-read “Wuthering Heights” as the author’s namesake cruises on some of the world’s most beautiful waterways.
Photos courtesy of Riviera River Cruises