In mid-October, my travel buddy, Judy, and I flew to Zurich to embark on a Basel to Cologne Rhine Cruise offered by Riviera Cruises. Our transportation was not included, so we flew to Zurich and then took a train to Basel, where we boarded the ship.

Evaluating the Cruise

Scoring is done for each category with a maximum of 10 points each.

10/10  Boarding and Disembarkation: Upon landing, guests with airline packages from Riviera are transferred to a coach and brought directly to the ship docked in Basel, Switzerland. Others arrive on their own by taxi. On the final morning of the cruise, all guests disembark in  Cologne., Germany. Their luggage gets picked up outside staterooms, transferred to a holding area, and rechecked with each guest before departing. Seamless!

Why choose Riviera: I’ve taken two Riviera cruises, and they successfully provide a high-end cruising experience at a value price. They offer very similar facilities and destinations when compared to luxury brands. I would not hesitate to recommend and would love to take another Riviera River Cruise.

10/10  Ship Design: The Geoffrey Chaucer, Riviera’s newest boat, is an ‘all suite’ ship, Swiss-operated, and genuinely world-class. The ship carries a crew of 44 who serve 169 guests. The public areas include surrounding glass windows, so you always keep sight of what’s outside. The upper Sun Deck offers a splash pool, putting green, and 360-degree views. The ship also has a fitness center, sauna, steam room, and an elevator between floors.

Geoffrey Chaucer

10/10  Staterooms:  Cabins measure 183 square feet, among the largest on any cruiser gracing any European river. Rooms were designed to offer a place for everything. The floor-to-ceiling windows slide open, so you feel like you are standing outdoors even without a balcony. Marble bathrooms are compact but functional.

10/10 Drinks: Complementary wine, beer, and soft drinks are served with lunch and dinner. Guests on the Diamond Deck (upper) receive a coupon for a complimentary cocktail each day. Bartenders are very knowledgeable.

5/10  Shopping: River cruise itineraries highlight historic and cultural sites, making shopping less important. The ship contains a small gift shop. Guests receive limited time to buy items in the Black Forest, Strasbourg, Rudesheim, and Lucerne when ashore.

5/10 Entertainment: Evening entertainment on this river cruise is limited. Occasionally, a local musician or dancer performs. The resident piano player was good, but his voice could have been better. Most guests retire after dinner to prepare for the next day’s activities.

10/10 Staff Attitude:  All the staff and crew were very friendly and helpful. Servers in the dining room quickly learned individual preferences. Housekeeping staff cleaned cabins twice a day. The cruise director gives daily informative presentations about upcoming excursions in the lounge. FYI:  Staff tips are not included, so envelopes are distributed at the end of the cruise.

10/10 Communication: Riviera’s online communication was easy and efficient. A packet of travel documents was sent ahead of time that answered every question. Emergency numbers were provided if a guest encountered delays in arrival. Wi-Fi onboard was free and surprisingly good.

9/10 Dining Aboard the Geoffrey Chaucer:

The Main Dining Room can accommodate everyone in one sitting. Riviera’s policy is open seating, so when you enter the dining room, you can find your own table or join others.

The central area serves a breakfast and lunch buffet. In the morning, the buffet presents just about every breakfast food you can imagine. There’s an omelet station at one end, or you can order breakfast off the menu.

Lunch brings a full salad bar, a variety of bread and cold cuts, a pasta of the day station, and a choice of other daily menu features (always including a hamburger). Of course, you may choose among many delicious desserts.

Dinners are more gourmet four-course meals (appetizer, soup, entrée, and dessert) and wine (included in the drinks package.) You may choose from three entrees of the day (one is vegetarian) or pick from the always-available salmon and beef dinners. Anyone still hungry may ask for seconds. The dining room staff are friendly and most helpful.

A smaller dining room option on the Diamond Deck is the Chef’s Restaurant. Guests can reserve a spot for dinner, but lunch here is first come, first served. Diners can watch the chef prepare entrées from the open kitchen. I felt this intimate restaurant offered a higher quality meal. Early risers will find pastries available before the main restaurant opens.

10/10 Ports of Call:  One of the best benefits of a Riviera cruise is that all shore excursions are included. Typically, they involve a walking or a bus tour at least once a day. Expert local guides lead the tours in each city. Passengers board the ship in Basel. Switzerland. They spend the following day in the Bernese Alps. Half-day excursions include the Black Forest, Strasbourg, Speyer, Rüdesheim, Koblenz, and Cologne, Germany.

Switzerland – The journey through the Bernese Alps, some of Switzerland’s most iconic countryside, is absolutely outstanding. The cogwheel train to the summit at Schynige Platte brought breathtaking sights. It’s impossible to describe the picture and emotion of standing before the legendary triumvirate of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. As a bonus, participants were greeted by two men dressed in traditional costumes playing Alphorns, those lengthy musical instruments.

Black Forest – This excursion begins with an early afternoon drive through the picturesque Black Forest to the crystal clear Titisee Lake. We stopped in the town of Titisee, where we saw a demonstration about cuckoo clocks. Some stopped for a slice of iconic Black Forest cake. Unfortunately, Titisee doesn’t offer much more than souvenir shops, so I was disappointed.

Strasbourg, France –  We were extremely lucky in Strasbourg because our guide moved our group into the empty cathedral directly in front of the famous astronomical clock. We were the only people there! The group was fortunate to see the clock in all its glory and watch the movement when it chimed on the hour. We also walked past the city’s canals and around the area called Le Petite France. Afterward, the outing included free time to explore and shop. Strasbourg offers fascinating history, detailed architecture, a fabulous cathedral, and fun shops.

Speyer – The boat traveled overnight, and the following morning, we visited Speyer. Unfortunately, it was Sunday, so many places were closed. We took a guided tour of the picturesque medieval town, highlighted by the city’s stunning Romanesque cathedral, founded in 1030. It contains a unique crypt and the tombs of eight German emperors, kings, and three empresses. However, mass was underway at the cathedral, so we couldn’t go in. In 1981, Speyer’s cathedral was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, one of the largest and most important Romanesque structures.

Rüdesheim –  This stop brought a guided tour of the charming wine city of Rüdesheim, including the Drosselgasse, the heart of the old town, and Brömserburg Castle, dating back to 1275. Those who paid a bit extra were delighted by a tour through ‘Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet.’ Before returning to the ship, we enjoyed a special Rudesheim coffee made with Asbach brandy over three sugar cubes, hot coffee, and whipped cream with chocolate shavings. Yummy!

Koblenz – Rain was falling when we arrived in Koblenz, where Rhine and Moselle’s rivers meet. Nevertheless, I took an excellent guided tour of the historic center. I wish we’d had a chance to go up to the fortress, but we sailed onward toward Cologne in the early morning.

Rhine Gorge: – The afternoon brought one of the cruise highlights: castles. We passed through the famous Rhine Gorge, seeing picturesque riverside views of many castles. It’s no wonder the region is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cologne – We docked in the late afternoon, and many rode the coach as far as permitted and then walked to the cathedral. Cologne’s Gothic Cathedral stands a whopping 515 feet tall. The foundation was laid in 1248 and gradually added on until 1520. But, the church remained unfinished until the 19th century. The exterior suffers from pollution and needs cleaning. The interior is also rather dark.

Areas for Possible Improvement

The short time allotted in Lucerne is not long enough to allow participants to take in the memorable city highlights. The box lunch for this full-day Switzerland excursion could have been more hardy. Riviera offered no guided tours of Cologne’s cathedral, which would have been welcomed.

About Riviera River Cruises:

Riviera River Cruises offers river journeys through Europe on the Danube, Douro, Main, Moselle, Rhine, Rhone and Seine riversThe company also offers small ship ocean cruises in the Adriatic.

Riviera attracts nearly all their guests from the United Kingdom, typically 50+ year-old couples. However, you’ll find some Americans and other English-speaking individuals aboard. The cruises focus on visits to historical and cultural sites. Guests are prepped for excursions by experienced cruise directors. The tours are led by local guides who are caring, professional, and highly knowledgeable. They are passionate about sharing what they know.

Why choose Riviera

I’ve taken two Riviera cruises, and they successfully provide a high-end cruising experience at a value price. They offer very similar facilities and destinations when compared to luxury brands. I would not hesitate to recommend and would love to take another Riviera River Cruise.

Photos credit Debi Lander

Cover photo: Castles on the Rhine

Thank you to Riviera River Cruises and All Things Cruise.

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