I already have some river cruise experience, but a gourmet trip on the water was not one of them – and so I went along at the end of October on the route from Frankfurt to Trier and back.
River cruise Moselle, Rhine & Main – my on-board diary
What I experienced on the Falstaff Wine and Pleasure Voyage, you can read here in my on-board diary. I have answered all other questions about this river cruise on the Moselle, Rhine and Main in the info box at the end of the article.
Day 1: Embarkation in Frankfurt
The journey is quite comfortable: With the ICE I am in Frankfurt in a little more than one hour from Stuttgart and there from the main station after a short walk at the Nizzakai, where my floating home is waiting.
The MS Voyager is moored at the Nizzakai, just behind the opera house. Ahead of us: ten enjoyable days on three rivers – Main, Rhine and Moselle.
Actually, the newest ship from the fleet of Nicko Cruises, the MS Nicko Spirit, was supposed to take over this trip, but a transport damage delayed the operation. I would have especially liked the gastronomic concept with several restaurants without fixed table times.
But the MS Voyager is a worthy replacement, also classified by Nicko Cruises as a 5-star ship – "with a bit of jazz" on board: pictures of jazz legends, the soul metropolis of New Orleans as well as the decoration give a little Mississippi feeling even without a paddlewheel.
It is already dark when our ship departs on time from Frankfurt. Skyscrapers of the skyline are few to be seen and also otherwise we leave the city unspectacular quietly. Without departure music and also the sundeck is closed, because we first pass some low bridges on the Main river.
In the lounge, cruise director Ferdinand gives us a preview of the coming days over a glass of sparkling wine: itinerary, safety regulations on board, excursions and everything you need to know on board. And the crew also introduces itself.
Our route: Main, Rhine, Moselle & retour
Many guests already know this, most river cruisers have already been on many rivers. This time we will sail from Frankfurt am Main to Mainz on the Rhine, from Koblenz up the Mosel to Trier and back down again. Unlike my last city river cruise on the Rhine from Cologne to Amsterdam, we also go during the day. So there is time to enjoy the landscape extensively.
Now in October I find this route through the wine regions especially beautiful, when autumn shows its wonderful play of colors and the slopes with the vines appear like drawings – from green, yellow, orange to flaming red.
River cruise: Who's on board??
Yes, the cliche is true with this trip. Most of the passengers are no longer the youngest: 65+ and mostly traveling as a couple.
It's different in the summer, when you're more likely to meet younger people on board," says a guest who traveled from the Douro to the Danube this year. There you can relax with a cocktail on the sun deck.
Especially in 2020 there were some people on board, who usually cruise with big ships on the world's oceans. And especially on this trip also more solo travelers than usual.
Falstaff river cruise: wine experiences on the water and on land
The wine and pleasure cruise was designed together with the wine magazine Falstaff – and begins on the first evening with a sparkling wine tasting. After dinner, Viennese sommelière Christina Fieber introduces three stylistically very different sparkling wines from Germany and imparts a lot of interesting information en passant.
In the next few days, according to the program, there will be further tastings at various Falstaff award-winning wineries along our route.
For enjoyment on board, the wine list features wines selected by the editors from Germany and Austria. Small drawback: already on the third day several wines were no longer available. However, the restaurant chef has taken great pains to find suitable alternatives.
While Randy, the ship's musician, brings the evening to a musical close in the salon, I retire to my cabin after dinner – a real place of well-being.
At 22 square meters, the Louis Armstrong Junior Suite is the size of a spacious apartment: armchairs and a leather couch in the living room, a mini-fridge, a whirlpool in the bathroom in addition to a toilet and shower – and a walk-in closet, too. The whole thing on the upper deck with French balcony.
The bed in the bedroom can be transformed into a relaxing couch at the push of a button, with the best view of the passing river landscape. Images from the captain's point of view are provided by the bow camera; another channel delivers the ship's current position to the screen.
The ship sails very quietly, at least in my cabin there are no disturbing noises to be heard. Nevertheless, you can't miss anything: important information such as the opening of the restaurant or the meeting point for the excursion is announced in the cabin.
By the way, it is cleaned every morning, water is refilled, in the evening nicely tidied up and the bed is uncovered.
The crew on our river cruise ship is a mixture of people from different countries in southeastern Europe – all friendly and courteous.
Day 2: Bingen
After the breakfast buffet, "Father Rhine" is waiting in Bingen – the city guide with costume and paddle explains during a very leisurely walk along the waterfront and many stops what makes Bingen worth seeing.
Father Rhine & Hildegard
Garnished with little anecdotes, he tells of the most famous herbalist of the Middle Ages, Hildegard von Bingen, of the mouse tower at the Bingener Loch and, of course, of the Rhine and its longest kilometer.
Our ship is anchored directly at the Vinothek, a wonderful place on the water for a cozy glass of wine. A few steps further on, a plaque on the Eiswein monument explains that it was invented in Bingen. At the time, pure coincidence, as grapes found to be too sour had simply been left to hang – and after the frost, found that the frozen berries now made a wonderfully sweet must.
For an ice wine the grapes are harvested even today only when the temperatures fall below seven degrees Celsius – a risk game for the vintner.
Loreley, the legendary mountain on the Rhine
We leave Bingen in the afternoon. The vineyards on the Rheingau side of the Rhine glow golden yellow, and orange-red at Assmannshausen, where many of the fine red Burgundies in the Rheingau ripen.
Magnificent castles, picturesque houses under steep rock faces, wine terraces – a dream. The panorama changes at every bend in the river and there are many of them in the Middle Rhine.
In the lounge, the crew pours sparkling wine and cruise director Ferdinand comments on what is passing by the panoramic windows: for example, the Loreley, the 132-meter-high slate rock that, according to legend, has been the undoing of many a captain.
In the evening, the captain invites you to a reception followed by a gala dinner, which is pleasantly casual. Dress up a bit and enjoy, without dressing up and stiff posturing – very pleasant.
The culinary promise with a pleasure journey like this is high and is redeemed. The numerous courses are varied, prepared from good ingredients and beautifully presented on the table. At noon there are three, in the evening at least four courses on the menu, optionally with meat, fish or vegetarian. The result of my gourmet week: one and a half kilos more on the scales.
I would have wished for a Falstaff wine tour, however, that a selection of high-quality wines would also be served by the glass. The open wines are limited to a Vin de France Chardonnay, Merlot and Rose.
Day 3: Treis-Karden/Alken
It is already dark when we reach Alken on the Moselle and stay overnight. A small winegrowing village with a pretty castle in the back, to which I take a walk the next morning. Together with the color rush in the vineyard below the castle Thurant a beautiful photo motif.
A bus takes us to Treis-Karden for a guided tour of the abbey. Although only 500 people live in this double village, Karden has a cathedral. It's not big, but it's quite pretty. A few anecdotes later, the group pays a visit to one of the local distillers.
A schnapps with the canon at the distillery
Michael Hambrech gives a small insight into the world of brandies, spirits, waters and liqueurs and then invites the guests to taste them. A steep staircase leads a few meters underground: candles burn between old barrels and a wine press from the past – cellar romance is included for free.
Williams Christ, vineyard peach, walnut or apple brandy, which is not allowed to be called that because Michael makes it in the style of Calvados … the choice is huge and the glasses filled with more than just a sample sip.
As luck would have it, there is nothing else on the program for this day, so that the siesta can be a little longer. While lunch is being served in the New Orleans ship's restaurant, the ship is setting sail. Next stop: Bernkastel.
Day 4: Bernkastel/Kues
In the middle of the night we reach Kues and its more famous local partner Bernkastel. A typical postcard town: narrow half-timbered streets, wine taverns, cafes, souvenir stores selling local wines and tourist kitsch. And a lot of tradition, the labels of most wine bottles were probably designed in the 70s. Most popular photo motive: the Spitzhaus.
Bernkastel/Kues is home to famous wineries such as Dr. Thanisch heirs, who own the largest share in the famous Doktor vineyard.
After breakfast: Wine tasting at Wegeler
Many people know the Wegeler VDP winery more from the Rheingau, where the family also produces wine. Today we will taste the Mosel wines of the Falstaff awarded winery.
Outside the sun is fighting its way through the fog, it promises to be a beautiful warm autumn day. In the hall where the grapes were delivered until recently, the wines of past vintages are ready for tasting.
The Rieslings taste wonderfully fruity and juicy, thanks to the racy acidity also as mature wine. A clearly noticeable residual sweetness also suits a Riesling wonderfully. Such a wine goes perfectly with curry, sushi, cheese or dessert.
Wow, what a view at the Piesporter Goldtropfchen
In the afternoon, a wine excursion is on the agenda, including a stop at the historic wine press in Brauneberg.
An amazing panorama of one of the most beautiful Moselle bends is offered from the vantage point above the Piesporter Goldtropfchen vineyard. As in the Alps, the road winds upward in serpentines from the Moselle River.
Short stop on the way back to the ship at organic winery Karp-Schreiber. Young winemaker Jobst Karp grows the typical Mosel Riesling as well as Sauvignon Blanc, which he learned to love during his time in New Zealand.
Day 5: River day on the Moselle
Today is a river day. Nonstop the MS Voyager continues up the Mosel to Trier. The sun deck is unfortunately closed, but it is raining anyway. Time for a few relaxing hours with a book and an aperitif at the bar at happy hour.
And again and again the view outside. Steep cliffs, vineyards in between, often small plots of land. Now in October in many shades of green and yellow. Rarely red, as white wines are predominantly made in the Moselle region. Sometimes the vines grow in rows aligned lengthwise, sometimes crosswise on terraces. In between, wild growth, vineyards that are no longer cultivated – a beautifully structured work of art.
Most of the time we make progress at 11-15 kilometers per hour, then again as if in slow motion: lock time. There are a few of them on our route: 22. The captain steers the 126-meter-long ship smoothly into the narrow lock chamber, with barely half a meter of space left on both sides. The water rises amazingly fast and already the front gate opens.
Day 6: Trier
Trier is the oldest city in Germany, so the tour of the city is steeped in history, which should please those with a particular interest in history. From the pier, it's about a 15-minute walk along a busy road into town. For those who have booked the official excursion there is a bus transfer.
Walk around the Porta Nigra
Trier's landmark, the Porta Nigra, is just as worth seeing as the cathedral. Around the market place there are also some pretty houses and the wine tavern of Kesselstatt.
Van Volxem: Wine & Architecture on the Saar River
An excursion highlight that not only I look forward to: visiting a top winery on the Saar River. The Saar flows into the Moselle not far from Trier. On the slopes of the smaller tributary, the Van Volxem winery presses fine Saar Rieslings. At the beginning of the last century, these were better known and more expensive than top French wines, as winemaker Roman Niewodniczanski knows from old wine lists from the restaurant trade.
Since 2019, he has been welcoming guests to wine tastings or events in the new building near Wiltingen, which, with its modern architecture, could just as easily be in South Africa or Spain: a light monolith, purist, clear lines, and an aging cellar like something out of a brochure.
During a guided tour and tasting in the panorama salon, Roman talks about the winery and himself in a promotional way. In the glass the current Rieslings dry and feinherb, in comparison a matured from the vintage 2015.
As with the other wineries we visit, guests on the Nicko cruise get the wines delivered to their homes at special rates.
What better way to end a day like this than with a gala dinner – which looked like this:
Truffled duck liver terrine | prune berry jelly | lamb's lettuce
Porcini Bisque | walnut kernels | herb croutons
Tempura salmon | Nori leaf | Igwer soy sauce | Sesame leaf spinach
Pink roasted roast beef | Bernaise sauce | vegetable basket | rutabaga potato gratin
Rosemary marinated grouper | red wine beet reduction | celery mousse | dill potato
Herb falafel | guacamole | celery puree
Ice cream parade MS Voyager | berry sauce
Day 7: Koblenz
From Trier we return overnight to the Moselle, without any further stop until Koblenz. We are moored very close to the German corner, where the Moselle flows into the Rhine. A visit to the fortress and a guided tour of Koblenz are planned for the afternoon. I feel more like going out on my own today.
With the gondola over the Rhine
Opposite the promontory with the monument to the German Emperor, Ehrenbreitstein Fortress rises on the other bank of the Rhine. You can get up there either on foot (take the ferry beforehand) or, like me, quite comfortably by cable car. Really cool: Occasionally there are wine tastings in the gondolas, which (hopefully) will be back in 2021. Then, Koblenz vintners pour their good wine while you float over the Rhine River.
Blue butterflies in the palace garden
On the next trip I am very excited about the Morphos. The blue butterflies from South America are in the hundreds at this time of year in the butterfly garden at Sayn Castle.
And indeed: countless morphos flutter around me, soaring, gliding, some in a swoop, others resting at the feeders and feasting on the fruits.
Taking pictures is not so easy. When morphos are sitting, you can't see the pretty blue wings, only the brown underside – a protection against predators. The blue is actually none at all, the scales on the wings are transparent. Through the refractive light, however, it appears blue.
Day 8: Andernach
A little detour to the north. From Koblenz we drive down the Rhine to Andernach and its attraction: the largest cold water geyser in the world.
Largest cold water geyser in the world
This can only be achieved on the water, so we change to a smaller boat. Autumn again shows its most beautiful side. Plantains on the boardwalk glow copper-colored in the afternoon sun, seagulls laugh.
A short walk through the nature reserve leads to the geyser and then you see nothing. Besides a reddish pile of stones. Tense waiting, a quiet Pffff. It bubbles and so slowly a fountain builds up. Every hundred minutes the water shoots up through the underground crater, with a pressure of 35 bar. Unlike in Iceland, for example, the water has only 20 degrees Celsius when it comes out of the ground.
Day 9: Rudesheim
Those who know the Drosselgasse will rub their eyes in amazement in the Corona Autumn 2020 in Rudesheim. Normally, life pulsates in the pubs, which are lined up here like one long bar. At the moment it is quite quiet in the most famous alley of Rudesheim.
Since we arrive in Rudesheim in the evening, there is no time to take the cable car to the Niederwald Monument, the Green Minna, which looks over the vineyards to Rheinhessen. With the Rieslingpfad a wonderful hiking trail leads past it on the heights – especially beautiful between Johannisberg Castle in Geisenheim to Assmannshausen.
Winery Georg Breuer: Tasting in the vaulted cellar
At the end of our wine and pleasure trip, after dinner we taste a few excellent Rheingau wines in the vaulted cellar of the Georg Breuer winery – Rieslings that are really fun to drink: lively acidity, juicy fruit and, depending on taste, more or less residual sweetness.
During the walk back to the ship through the alleys at night I let the last days pass once again in review.
And I am sure: This was not my last river cruise.
Day 10: Disembarkation and journey home
Packing suitcases, paying for drinks and excursions, filling the letter for the tip box – the organizational work is already done the evening before. How everything is well planned. Put your luggage in front of the cabin door by 7:30 a.m. (the crew will bring it ashore, sorted with colored ribbons depending on the departure mode), have a leisurely breakfast and then it's goodbye. If you want, you can also book a transfer, for yourself or just for your luggage.
Questions about the river cruise? Here you can find everything important at a glance:
For whom (what age) a river cruise is suitable?
For all those who like to travel in a relaxed and enjoyable way, the keyword is slow travel. If you can do without a party, like it more comfortable and don't want to worry about anything, you will feel comfortable on board – at 35 as well as at 70+. I (mid-50s) enjoyed it very much in any case.
There are many different routes and ships, but on the Falstaff wine and gourmet tours the focus is clearly on culinary delights and visits to wineries. If you prefer to organize the shore excursions individually, have a look at the respective sailing and docking times for planning individual explorations.
The choice of cabin is also important. The longer the trip, the more often you will find yourself in the cabin on board. In the warm season certainly more often on the sun deck, then evtl is enough. also a cheap cabin on the main deck.
Although couples are in the majority, a river cruise is best suited for solo travelers. If you want to, you can quickly make friends – over coffee in the salon, over a meal or during joint excursions. Privacy and retreat possibilities are nevertheless sufficiently, only the cabin surcharge for single travelers is relatively high with up to 75 per cent.
Addendum lt. Information from Nicko Cruises: To make cruises more attractive for singles, there will be regular "singles special" dates in the future, where the surcharge for single use of cabins will be reduced by 50 percent.
What activities & excursion programs are available? Are individual shore excursions possible?
The excursion program offers at least one excursion for each stop, be it a city tour, a sightseeing tour or a visit to an attraction. However, you can just as easily go out on your own and see what interests you at your own pace.
Just buy a shore leave card (and possibly. Pick up a city map at the reception and be back on board in time before departure.
Sometimes the ship anchors a little outside the center, then there is a transfer by bus even for guests who have not booked excursions.
Can you do sports or. what outdoor possibilities are there during shore excursions?
There is a small gym on board. You can also do a few 200 m laps on the sun deck. Otherwise, the motto is rather: chill instead of pumping 😉
During shore excursions, there is usually not enough time for extended hikes or bike rides in the surrounding area; however, smaller rounds are easily doable.
Food & drinks on board: full board with gourmet menus
One thing in advance: Yes, you gain weight on this trip. The food on board the MS Voyager during the Falstaff Wine and Gourmet Cruise was very good and varied, as well as much more upscale compared to my previous river cruises.
Breakfast is served as a buffet, lunch as a 3-course menu and in the evening at least 4 courses served at the table.
If you want to enjoy the meal and still keep an eye on your figure, you can order a half portion of the main course. A good idea at least for lunch.
Drinks are not included in the cruise price. Whether the offered beverage package for 230 € per person is worth it, you should calculate in advance. Included are between 9 and 24
- open house wines by the glass (white, rose and red)
- open house champagne in a glass
- Draft and bottled beers, non-alcoholic beer
- Cocktail of the day (with/without alcohol)
- all open non-alcoholic beverages
- cabin water and daily excursion water
- all coffee specialties without alcohol
- hot chocolate and tea
Note: Beverage packages can only be booked for the entire duration of the cruise and for all persons accommodated in the cabin.
What does a river cruise cost?
This of course depends on the route and duration. The eleven-day Falstaff wine and gourmet cruise from/to Frankfurt costs from 1.449 euros and takes place 2021 in July and September.
In addition, if desired, the excursion package for 159 € and the excursion in Trier with wine tasting for 69 €. This can only be booked in advance, all other excursions also individually on board.
Those who do not book a beverage package: The drink prices on board are similar to those in the gastronomy on land. A quarter of house wine, for example, costs € 4.90. Water for excursions is available at the reception (1,60 €/0,5 l), in the cabin you will be charged 3,50 € for the 0,75 l bottle.
Not obligatory, but appreciated: Tip at the end of the trip (recommendation from Nicko Cruises: 7-10 €/person and day).
Routes, ships, dates and booking possibilities
All routes, ships, dates and more about the cruises you can find at www.nicko-cruises.en.
I was invited to this trip by Nicko Cruises. This has no influence on the nature, content and scope of my articles, my opinion remains as always my own.