Though we have almost come to the end of our cruise, this is the most colourful page of the whole blog. I feel so cheerful and happy just by looking through all these wonderful and colourful pictures.
In Amsterdam, we had to triple park, so Crystal Bach was the one in the middle, with Belljour closest to the dock and AmaSerena arriving after breakfast on the outside.
At 9:30 am, we started our tour to Keukenhof Gardens which was a 1-hour drive from Amsterdam. We were all super excited to do the highlights of our cruise. Keukenhof was only open for 8 weeks throughout the entire year, from March 21 to May 19 in 2019.
We had only 2 hours to spend in the garden, so we had to fast track everything in order to visit all the different pavilions. My husband took a map and plotted a route so we could cover most of the gardens. We were only able to visit Oranje Nassau, Willem-Alexander, The Mill, Beatrice and Juliana/Tulpomania. We didn’t even have time to line up to order tulip bulbs. Oh well…next time!
As soon as we walked in from the main entrance, we were greeted by a sea of tulips.
Beautiful floral displays inside the Oranje Nassau
Then we walked to Willem-Alexander where we spent the longest time.
We didn’t have time to walk to the front of the windmill. Just the back will do for this time.
Garden staff dressed up in flower costumes of all kinds.
After breakfast, we boarded the coach to Bonn. As a musician, I was really looking forward to visiting Beethoven the famous composer’s birth place. It was unfortunate that his house was under renovation so we were not able to go inside. Many people did not take part in this excursion because there was not really much to see without Beethoven’s House.
After an hour’s drive, we arrived at Bonn. Sebastian was our guide and he was very good, very fluent in English. Originally we were going to look at the recital hall with some exhibitions and explanation, but the hall was only going to open at 11 am, so we had to do the Beethoven’s Walk in the area first.
Then we went to a local church where Beethoven’s baptismal font was housed. It was moved there from the old St. Remigius Church.
Next we walked to the Market Square.
Then we walked to Bonn University.
No Beethoven Walk is complete without seeing the statue of Beethoven. Here is one in front of the Post Office:
Beautiful flowers were grown around the statue.
We walked to the Bonn City Wall before going back to Beethoven’s House.
This was the recital hall inside Beethoven’s House.
After buying some souvenirs from the official Beethoven’s store, we walked around the area before having some snacks at the restaurant nearby.
Another unfortunate incident was that the pianist who was supposed to do a mini recital at the restaurant had train problems so she could not get to us on time. We were just having complimentary German sausages, apple strudel, coffee or local beer as snacks.
We left Bonn at 12:45 pm and got back to the ship for lunch at 1:30 pm. It was a pity that we did not have time to walk around the area as we had to set sail for Amsterdam at 3 pm. I went to Ana, the Crystal Society Hostess to book our next cruise. This time cruising the Netherlands and Belgian waterways in late March, so I can have more time at Keukenhof to see tulips and other blossoms.
We were tired after a lot of walking, especially a super late night in Cologne, so we did not even go to Palm Court for the Irish Pub Night with Joe & Liv. How we missed the Irish Guinness & the folk tunes!!
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
Back to the ship, we took more pictures of the Cologne Cathedral from the Vista Deck.
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.
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.
Gutenfels Castle, also known as Caub Castle, is a castle 110m above the town of Kaub in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 !
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.
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.
Time for lunch before sailing the Rhine River Gorge to Koblenz.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It was a quick 3-stop ride and we got off to walk to the Swing Bridge.
Then we walked further in Petite France to watch the canal boat passing through a narrow lock.
After all the video-taping, we strolled leisurely in Petite France, admiring the beautiful medieval buildings.
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.
After the closing of the cathedral at 6 pm, we attended a 15-minute organ recital, followed by a private tour of the cathedral.
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.
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!!
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.
The coach dropped us off at Republic Square(Place de la Republic) and we had to walk for about 15 minutes to the Cathedral.
Crystal provided shuttles from dock to city centre at 10 am, 12 noon, 2:30 pm & 4:30 pm.
This was where we went on the 1-hour canal boat cruise at 10:30 am.
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.
Followed the Crystal rep to walk to the shuttle waiting at Republic Square. Lunch on board.
After 1.5 hours, our flight from London arrived in Basel, Switzerland. Since Crystal moved the departure time from 8 pm to 5 pm, there was no time for us to visit the Basel Old Town which was directly opposite the dock.
We were the 1st ones to get to the passport control and got our luggage 30 minutes after arrival. Very impressed with the super fast service at Basel Airport!
As soon as we stepped into the airport arrival hall after collecting our luggage, we were greeted by a Crystal rep who ushered us to the luxurious Crystal Coach. The 15-minute drive to the dock led us past the Old Town to our boat.
When we arrived at the dock, we could only see the Crystal tent. Where was the boat?
We had to walk down the ramp to get to the boat. Having a Deck 2 suite on the Starboard (right) side of the ship, our view from the room was facing the dock. We booked too late last November so all rooms including the Petite suites on Deck 3 were sold out, so we had to take a less desirable room location on Deck 2.
Suite #205 was quite spacious with a King bed, bathroom with double sinks and a walk-in closet. I loved the panoramic window that could be lowered to form a balcony. It’s an extremely clever design. The lowering of the window took 39 seconds and as soon as the glass was touched, the window would stop moving as a safety feature.
After a quick cup noodle snacks, we attended the muster drill in the Palm Court with the new Crystal safety vest.