Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 5 – April 4, 2019 – Koblenz to Cologne (2-8 pm)

Docking Location in Koblenz: Peter Altmeier Ufer Docking Location in Cologne: Pier 5

Crystal Bach docked at Koblenz, with Starboard side facing the river. We had to go up to the top Vista deck to get off the boat. Being a rainy day, the ramp was a bit slippery.

boat docked at Koblenz

This morning, we paid 49 Euros each to join the ship tour to the Medieval Eltz Castle. We left at 8:45 am and arrived at the castle 1 hour later. Then we had to take a castle shuttle from the parking lot to the castle itself. Walking from the parking lot to the castle was a 30-minute walk downhill.

Eltz Castle is a medieval castle nestled on the hills above the Moselle River between Koblenz and Trier in Germany. It is still owned by the Eltz family who lived there since the 12th century, 33 generations ago. As we were on the 1st shuttle, we had a bit more time taking pictures.

The fairytale Eltz Castle

Look at the people holding the Crystal umbrellas before starting the tour. Although it was raining, the tour was mostly inside, so they collected our umbrellas at the castle entrance and we didn’t have to hold on to any umbrella while we toured.

We started the 1.5 hour guided tour with Christian. Here are some of the rooms inside the castle.

This is the kitchen.
Look at the rifles on the right!
These cannons were super cute!
The courtyard
We didn’t spend much time in the museum.
The side view of Eltz Castle
Flowers started to bloom in spring

It was good that the rain stopped when we finished the tour, so we could take better pictures before we left. Yesterday and today were the 1.5 days that rained during the entire 7-night cruise. It’s not bad considering it’s spring.

On the way back, we saw the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress on the hill. That was a complimentary ship excursion offered by Crystal but we did not take it.

After a lot of walking, we were tired so after lunch we took a long 3.5 hour nap, waking up just in time for the Crystal Society Party in Palm Court at 6:30 pm. It’s a pity that we missed all the Crystal Enrichment talks. We heard from fellow cruisers that they were all very good.

After the party, there were 9 of us having dinner together at the Waterside. The service was super slow as the kitchen had to wait for all 9 dishes to be brought out at the same time. Some of the items were not even hot enough like the mushroom soup. We had to send them back to be reheated. My pork loin was so dry and practically inedible. The executive chef came out to apologize and said that he would take it off the menu completely. We spent 2.5 hours to eat dinner and we had to take our coffee to the Palm Court to attend the Spotlight Showtime presented by the soprano, Ioana Mitu and pianist Sophia. Ioana had a beautiful voice and the program was quite enjoyable.

After the show, it was only 10:30 pm, so we headed out to take some awesome night shots of Cologne and walked around the cathedral area for a little bit. We felt safe even after midnight in the area. We crossed the bridge and walked to the opposite side of the river to take the pictures. Look at all these locks on the bridge!!

Locks on the Deutzer Brucke Bridge

During the 30 minutes we spent there, there were police patrolling the area in his car . Below is a great long exposure taken by my husband showing our boat on the river with the Cathedral in the back and the Deutzer Brucke Bridge on the side.

Spectacular night view in Cologne
Cologne Cathedral

Back to the ship, we took more pictures of the Cologne Cathedral from the Vista Deck.

Our room also offered more or less the same gorgeous view, just 2 decks lower.

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 4 – April 3, 2019 – sailing along the Rhine Gorge (3-7 pm) to Koblenz

Docking Location in Koblenz: Peter Altmeier Ufer

This blog is the hardest to write, as I have to spend lots of time trying to figure out the names and locations of numerous castles, churches, ruins and towns we passed by. Nonetheless, I have to give photo credits to my avid photographer husband, Brian, who captured tons of beautiful landscape along the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, despite the lousy and rainy weather. Being so wet and cold, it was really unfortunate that we could not go on the top deck to enjoy the best scenery of the whole cruise on both sides of the Rhine. Crystal’s Destination Manager, Viktoria, was giving commentary all along but we were too lazy to go and join her outside. Sitting on the bed in our robes to watch the scenery pass by was the best, with the TV showing the camera on the other (Port) side of the boat, though the camera showed some delays on many occasions. Huge applause to the one who designed the room to make the bed facing the river with the panoramic window.

Leaving Rudesheim to start the Rhine Gorge sailing
Cable cars to the Germania Monument in the background
Passing by the town of Lorchhausen, with the tiny chapel of Clemenskapelle on the hilltop
and the big St. Boniface in town

Another view of this lovely town of Lorchhausen and the vineyards on the hill

Cruising along, there was a castle right in the middle of the Rhine on an island, the Pfalzgrafenstein Castle. Pfalzgrafenstein Castle is a toll castle on the Pfalz Island in the Rhine river near Kaub, Germany. Our boat sailed right beside this picturesque and unique setting.

Above & below: different views of Kaub

Gutenfels Castle, also known as Caub Castle, is a castle 110m above the town of Kaub in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.

Gutenfels Castle

Then we saw the beautiful Schönburg Castle in Oberwesel. It was first built in the 11th century, got enlarged in the 13th century and restored in the late 19th century by a German-American banker, T. J. Oakley Rhinelander from New York.

Church of Our Lady with Schönburg Castle on the hilltop in Oberwesel .

Passing by the famous Loreley Rock

I was looking very hard to find the Loreley Statue but couldn’t see it anywhere, even with the help of the binoculars. The Loreley Rock is a 132 m high, steep slate rock on the right bank of the River Rhine in the Rhine Gorge. This historically treacherous river bend has been associated with a legend that Loreley committed suicide here and her spirit distracted sailors with a sound or siren that led to shipwrecks. The Rhine at this point is up to 82 feet deep but only 371 feet wide. The we reached St. Goarshausen and saw the Katz Castle.

Katz Castle in St. Goarshausen, built in late 14th century

Then we reached Koblenz and saw the off-white yellowish Stolzenfels Castle. It is a former medieval fortress castle turned into a palace, which was ruined in the 13th century.  It was rebuilt in the 19th century in the Gothic Revival style by the Prussian Crownprince, Frederick William.

cruising to Koblenz, passing by the Stolzenfels Castle

The boat arrived at Koblenz at around 7 pm. After a quick buffet dinner, we boarded the Crystal coaches to attend the Crystal Signature Event: Sonic Bliss in the Gateway to the Gorge at the Electoral Palace in Koblenz performed by the string quartet, La Finesse.

A very entertaining night

Our coach took a wrong exit and went over to the other side of the river and had to take a long way back to the performing venue. The string quartet chose a good program and it was pleasing to most people. It’s the lighting that hurt our eyes and I didn’t understand why lights were put behind the performers, instead of in front or on top of them.

La Finesse with one violinist, Anna-Maria, who performed on the Bach 2 nights ago

Being the first group of the river cruising season attending a concert in the Electoral Palace, we had to wait for about 15 minutes before someone unlocked the gate so we could drive back to the boat. Hopefully Crystal could iron out this wrinkle in future sailings.

This was the performing venue, Electoral Palace, as seen in day time. We were not able to take a night shot there.

The Electoral Palace

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 4 – April 3, 2019 – Rüdesheim am Rhine, Germany (12 am-3 pm)

Docking Location: Pier No. 4

It was the 1st rainy day of our cruise and we were glad that we didn’t go on the cable car. Instead, we joined the ship tour to take the miniature train ride directly from the pier to the Mechanical Music Museum.

Crystal Bach docked at Rüdesheim on a rainy day
The Miniature Train was waiting for us right at the pier next to the ramp.
Passing by many vineyards before getting to the Mechanical Music Museum in town
Mechanical Music Museum

The Miniature Train dropped us off outside the Mechanical Music Museum. Unexpectedly, it became my favourite excursion of the whole cruise. What we saw was extremely interesting. I was totally impressed with such a huge collection of automated musical instruments. I got so fascinated that I bought some mini music boxes for my grandson. The museum guide did an awesome job during the 45-minute tour, explaining how various instruments worked with fantastic demonstrations of the sounds. What a great way to spend a rainy day in Rüdesheim !

My favourite sounds in the Mechanical Music Museum

When we left the museum, it started to rain so we went to Eis Cafe Engel on a side street to enjoy the special Rüdesheim coffee made with brandy. It cost us 18 Euros for 1 special coffee, 1 regular coffee and 1 slice of apple strudel.

special Rüdesheim coffee made with brandy

After the snacks, we walked around the quaint little town, bought some souvenirs and followed the river bank to walk back to our river boat.

walking in the rain
an easy 15-minutes stroll back to the boat

Time for lunch before sailing the Rhine River Gorge to Koblenz.

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 3 (con’t) – April 2, 2019 – Mannheim, Germany (2-6 pm)

Docking Location: Mannheim Mauer

As the ship was late arriving at Mannheim, we did a mini city tour in Mannheim, stopping at the main attraction of the city, the Water Tower.

A huge open space leading to the Water Tower
lots of beautiful flowers in Mannheim

After a quick lunch on the boat, we joined Dagi for a city walking tour, passing by the Mannheim Baroque Palace, which claimed to have 1 more window than Versailles.

Mannheim Baroque Palace

The palace was under renovation so we could not go in for a visit. Another unfortunate event was that out of 9 people, 5 did not bring their listening devices and 3 could not hear well even with the device, so the guide decided not to wear the microphone as mine was the only one that worked. We had to stay close to her to listen to her. Dagi did not control the time very well so we ended up being 10 minutes late to get back to our coach. Since we drove past the palace and the water tower earlier on, the walking tour was like taking a long walk to get our gingerbread cookies and the gelato.

Coffee house and bakery since 1838
The famous original Mannheim gingerbread
Ice cream at Eis Fontanella

Although there was a long line up for the ice cream, we got ours very fast because Crystal pre-ordered everything. The sampling portion was big and delicious with nut sprinkles & strawberry syrup. We also got their spoon as a souvenir.

Something sweet to compensate the not-so-interesting city walking tour

After walking for 8.1 km with close to 12,000 steps, we did not join the “Majority Rules Game Show” after dinner. We retired early that night…praying that there would not be pouring rain in Rudesheim.

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 3 – April 2, 2019 – Karlsruhe (Heidelberg), Germany (7 am-10 am)

Docking Location: Steiger Hafenbecken 2

This day turned out to be my least favourite day of the whole cruise, not because of Heidelberg but because of the non-productive time in Mannheim. In order to visit Heidelberg, Crystal docked at Karlsruhe, another industrial port.

Crystal Bach docked at Karlsruhe

While we were doing our ship tours, the boat left Karlsruhe for Mannheim. Unfortunately due to river traffic, Crystal Bach could not dock at Mannheim at 2 pm as scheduled. We ended up circling around Mannheim, doing a mini city tour and visited the main attraction of the city, the water tower.

After a 1-hour drive, we arrived at the beautiful ruins of Heidelberg Castle. Our guide, Mike, was humourous and informative.

the romantic Elizabeth Gate, built by Friedrich V in a single night in 1615 as a surprise for his wife Elizabeth Stuart.
View of the Old Town from the castle
The ruins of Heidelberg Castle with Gothic & Renaissance designs.
Friedrich Building is the only building that was resotred in the whole entire castle.
The wine cellar has the world’s largest wine barrel with a capacity of 219,000 litres (57,853.6795 U.S. gallons).

After the 1.5 hour guided tour in the castle, we were dropped off in the Old Town where we had 1 hour’s free time. The Heidelberg Castle nestled on the hill 80 meters (260 feet) above the city of Heidelberg offered a breath-taking view.

Heidelberg’s Old Bridge on River Neckar
Church of the Holy Spirit is the tallest and most famous church in Heidelberg.
This Gothic church stands in the middle of Marktplatz.

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 2 (con’t) – April 1, 2019 – Strasbourg, France (9am-10pm)

After a quick lunch on the ship, my husband and I took the 2:30 pm shuttle and went back to Strasbourg city centre for more exploration. Since my civil engineer husband loves taking photographs, he would not want to miss the Medieval architecture in this quaint little place.

After getting off the shuttle, we took a tram (line B or F) from the Republic Square to Petite France. It cost € 1,80 per person and we used our credit card to pay at the ticket machine at the tram stop.

Tram stop at Republic Square

It was a quick 3-stop ride and we got off to walk to the Swing Bridge.

We waited for about 20 minutes for the swing bridge to make an opening for the canal boat to pass

Then we walked further in Petite France to watch the canal boat passing through a narrow lock.

water level rising while canal boat was in the lock
Fast track of how the canal boat passed through the lock

After all the video-taping, we strolled leisurely in Petite France, admiring the beautiful medieval buildings.

St Pierre-le-Vieux Church, Petite France in Strasbourg
The Tanner’s House on the left with other half-timbered medieval houses
Rue du Bain aux Plantes, Petite France in Strasbourg

Walking along the lovely street of Rue du Bain aux Plantes to the Cathedral Square, we were eager to try some French coffee at Christian Patisserie before attending a private organ recital in the Strasbourg Cathedral.

Stained glass with the beautiful organ on the right

After the closing of the cathedral at 6 pm, we attended a 15-minute organ recital, followed by a private tour of the cathedral.

The Strasbourg astronomical clock in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame
Touch the dog’s nose to make a wish come true
We walked past this model of the Strasbourg City, with the cathedral in the middle. and the canal around it.

After dinner at Bistro, we attended “The Modern Strings”, a well-presented show by a virtuoso violinist, Anna-Maria Barth. It was pleasing to the general crowd with pretty good violin skills.

A very pleasant first full day of our river cruise, with beautiful nice warm weather that a jacket was not even necessary in the afternoon.

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 2 – April 1, 2019 – Strasbourg, France (9am-10pm)

Docking Location: Strasbourg Pier 11, Rue de la Minotarie

We passed through many many locks on the first day, some through the night, but it didn’t bother our sleep, though we could feel the difference in movement and faintly hear the engine.

As soon as I woke up and opened the curtain, a very disappointing sight appeared…we docked with our side against the dock and our view was completely blocked by the concrete. Next time we have to book a deck 3 room to minimize such views!!

Just one deck higher would offer a much more pleasant view

Crystal Bach docked at Strasbourg, France, with industrial cargo docks surrounding us

Other than the not very desirable docking location, Strasbourg was probably my favourite day of the entire cruise, with so much to see in one day.

At 9:30 am, we departed for the 4.5 hour complimentary tour: Panoramic Tour of Strasbourg & Canal Boat Cruise. Make sure you sit on the left Of the bus as there was so much more to see on that side going from the dock to the city centre. We passed through the bridge linking the trams between France & Germany, Russian Orthodox Church, Council of Europe, Jewish Synagogue and many more sights. Along the way, we saw many storks in their nests on pruned sycamore trees.

Storks in their nests on almost every tree we passed by

The coach dropped us off at Republic Square(Place de la Republic) and we had to walk for about 15 minutes to the Cathedral.

Big open Republic Square

Crystal provided shuttles from dock to city centre at 10 am, 12 noon, 2:30 pm & 4:30 pm.

Strasbourg Cathedral, our meeting place

This was where we went on the 1-hour canal boat cruise at 10:30 am.

canal boat cruise
Vauban Bridge – Where the canal boat turned around

There were so many beautiful sights (e.g., locks, canals, swing bridge, Petite France, etc.) we passed by that we decided to go back to town so we could explore more.

During the 1-hour free time, we got on the Petite Train from the Cathedral Square, then went back to ship for lunch using the Crystal Shuttle that departs at 1 pm from Republic Square. The Petite Train was 7 Euros each and the whole journey was 40 minutes. The narration was great and it gave us some directions of where we should go in the afternoon.

Petite trains that run every half hour
Passed by the Vauban Dam where our canal boat turned around
14th century stone towers at Ponts Couverts

Followed the Crystal rep to walk to the shuttle waiting at Republic Square. Lunch on board.