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Family-Friendly River Cruising in Europe

by TRAVEL talk

We arrived dockside and 2 smartly dressed crew member came to greet us, a young lady took my laptop case out of my hand and a burly Hungarian man took the 2 large holdalls from my husband and son! We must have looked a little stunned and I knew from that moment before we even boarded the Gerard Schmitter CroisiEurope riverboat that we were going to be looked after!

We were heading for the CrioisEurope Family Club cruise: The Romantic Rhine Valley and Rock of Lorelei – a port to port cruise on the Rhine between Alsace and Germany.

Now onboard and in reception, the welcome from the cruise director Corinne was one of warmth. I knew I was going to really enjoy our stay with Corinne and her team. Once checked in we were briskly escorted to the upper top deck and along a lushly carpeted corridor to our double cabins. One ample spaced cabin for Jim and just next door a double cabin for Nigel and I. It was so luxurious. The beds made to perfection and towels folded neatly with a welcoming CroisiEurope chocolate to boot! The décor sang of “French” style in bright, chic, luxurious colours and with ample space for the 2 of us. The bathroom was kitted out “cabin” style giving us a great feel of life on the water.

We were given an hour or so to settle in then invited to the bar for an aperitif “welcome cocktail”. Again to my delight, the décor was attractive to the eye. Soft leather settees and chairs with light coloured wood and matching curtains. The ambiance complete with a musician playing softly on his piano.

Corinne our cruise director introduced everyone to her “equip”. Firstly and most importantly our captain (good to know who he is!) then the Fred our French chef, think I’m going to like him and his team. The bar staff, Nigel will get to know very well and more importantly for the sanity of the parents on board the Animation team! Lucas and his team of 4 who was an instant hit with the kids!

After the formalities – what to do where to go should you hear the alarms, we were invited into the dining room for our first meal on board. The waiter/waitresses were attentive, smiley and very hard working! We got on first name terms with a few of them and they seemed to enjoy practicing their English with us! A 4-course meal of Smoked Black Forest ham to start and Chicken breast stuffed with broccoli served with croquette potatoes and of course Crepe Suzette for dessert! And all served with the choice of local red, white or rose wine or soft drinks (this is all included in the price) the standard of food is exceptional, hot and totally satisfying.

After dinner we took the optional family excursion, a riverboat tour of Strasbourg at night.

A glass-covered boat for seeing the beautiful sights of Strasbourg steeped in history and transmitted in English through our earphones! It looked stunning from the river view and of course an important trading city as the capital of Europe.

After arriving back on our ship we took to the spacious upper deck to see our boat and it’s very efficient captain and crew cast off and head upriver for our first nights sailing. We decided to stay on the top deck to see it leave the base and through the first lock. We have had the pleasure of using various small boats and driving them ourselves on the Charente and the River Nivernais but wondered how on earth the captain was going to get through a lock with a boat this size (11.40 meters wides and 110 meters long) very interesting for my son of 16 years old who knows first-hand the workings/maneuverings of a canal boat, he was very impressed.

We finally retired to our cabin for our first night aboard lulled gently to sleep with a soft slow sway of the ship. You can barely feel any movement, but it’s very exciting to know you are cruising whilst you sleep. We had to set off to make haste in the night to get to our first location of Rudesheim by lunchtime the following day. Due to the thickness of the curtains in the cabin, I woke thinking it was still nighttime. To my shock as I opened the curtains, it was morning and to find we were still cruising along gently up the Rhine. I woke Nigel up for him to see what he was missing, he had the bed next to the window so you can imagine his surprise when he opened his eyes! We had a fantastic view from the beds right out onto the river and watched contently as the German countryside passed us by!

Breakfast was a buffet-style continental with ample amount to choose from. Meats/cheeses/cereals/yogurts/croissants/patisseries/tea/coffee/hot chocolate/fresh juices/eggs/chipolatas/lardons/fresh bread. We were spoilt for choice every morning!

After breakfast, we returned to the upper deck to watch the surrounding countryside and the children were entertained by the animation team playing team games and getting to know each other. By lunchtime, we had arrived at our first destination. A “joue aperitif” was offered in the bar area for all to enjoy a bit of fun with a film and music quiz. The kids loved this enjoying a spectacular win against their parents!

We arrived at the charming village of Rudesheim. Before disembarking we were called again to the dining room and served with a delicious 4-course lunch of deviled eggs for starters, salmon fillet on vegetable tagliatelle and gnocchi, cheese and the most delicious chocolate cake to die for!

After lunch we embarked on the family tour around the village of Rudesheim, starting on a mini tourist train, great fun for the children as we chugged along through this pretty village. Now for the parents, a tour around a historic wine cellar, entertaining wine tasting of the famous wines from that region (don’t worry the children are served apple juice!) and the final stop a Mechanical Musical Cabinet museum. A magical place for both the young and the old.

Back on board and showered ready for aperitifs in the bar. The routine was setting in and I was starting to look forward to my pre-dinner gin and tonic! Dinner was served and again to a very high-class standard. I would think the French on board are enjoying this cuisine as they have very high standards when it comes to food and to say about 95% of the passengers were French on this cruise I would think that Fred had a tall order to achieve! Well, he certainly had achieved it in our eyes!

The evening meal consisted of the most delicious vegetable soup, a hearty beef stew and to finish plum pie and cream!

I’m started to expand at the waist now! But I cannot say “no” to any of this cuisine and why should I? I’m on holiday! The evening was enjoyed strolling along the famous Drosselgasses (narrow streets).

Lights out again on a content and happy family cruising the river Rhine!

The next day after breakfast we set sail cruising the Rhine and heading for Koblenz. We spent the morning cruising and listening to the ship’s tour guide talk us up the Rhine and through the most beautiful and romantic part of the Rhine, the Rhine Valley. This narration can be heard in the privacy and comfort of your cabin or on top deck.

This area has been gifted with legend and the famous Rock of Loreley. So legend has it Loreley would wait on the banks of the river attracting young fishermen into her spell and then drowning them! Something to do with getting hurt by her first lover who left her for another! This region has a pleflora of hilltop castles, sprawling vineyards, and beautiful lush green hills.

I am now safely down to the 8kmph speed limit! And Jim hasn’t touched a PS controller since we left our house 4 days ago! I’m liking this.

We arrive in Koblenz but unfortunately, the weather isn’t in our favour and it’s throwing it down! So a brief tour of the city and back on board to the safe haven of the cocktail bar whilst the animation team are on full speed ahead and entertaining the kids until this weather improves! Koblenz is over 2000 years old and is steeped in history and culture it’s a shame we didn’t get to see this city in its full glory!

You are never far from another meal onboard a CroisiEurope river cruise and the lunch of Duck terrine with bell pepper pearls for starters, Pork tenderloin in hunter sauce with Duchesse potatoes and green beans in parsley with Jim’s favourite of all desserts, Floating island! A meringue-based pudding floating in crème anglais and cream left us feeling complete once again!

We decided to venture to our cabin whilst the rain cleared and chilled out with our books and an afternoon snooze whilst Jim joined Lucas and his team with the other kids for a cookery lesson with Fred in the ship’s kitchen.

The evening arrived and after a delicious 5-course dinner, we were treated to a surprise by the crew with an all-singing, all-dancing, theatrical performance and the audience was encouraged to join in with fun and games for the children too. After the show, we ventured off the boat to get a little taste of German nightlife and didn’t have to venture very far literally only 10 steps or so on the quayside we discovered a great little bar named The Peanut Bar. It was named the peanut bar as you were served peanuts in their shell with your drinks order and encouraged to throw the shells onto the floor, totally against my upbringing to litter the floor with my shells as you can imagine but I joined in nevertheless to form a light brown carpet of peanut shells! We were told to be back on board by 1am as we were sailing overnight. Best not be late back as we didn’t want the boat to go without us!

We spent the morning of Day 4 cruising and taking in the gorgeous landscape of the Rhine Valley as we cruised towards Mainz. Here you can take another family tour of Mainz and the Gutenburg Museum. We decided to give this one a miss as Jim was enjoying the ever-entertaining animation team and had met some new friends. Taking advantage of this free child time Nigel and I had a chill out on the top deck where the sunshine had returned.

We were looking forward to lunch today as we had seen on the “in-cabin” tv that they were to be serving a traditional Alsatian dish consisting of German sausage (wurst), meats and sauerkraut. With the second course of Munster cheese with cumin and to finish off this very filling meal, a light lemon pie.

We took an afternoon stroll through Mainz to see the magnificent cathedral and indulge in the rich medieval past of the city. As we headed back to the ship we were pleased and surprised to see the port side come to life with the Mainz annual music festival. A great way to sample the atmosphere of Germany and in true German style the steins were overflowing!

Back on board and evening meal consisted of Smoked salmon rolled in white cheese and horseradish, Stuffed Rabbit saddle with mashed potatoes and vegetables and a warm pineapple skewer to finish! Our attentive waiter and waitresses were on top form again and enjoying the banter exchanging a few English words with us.

In the evening we took a meander through the festival stopping to listen to some street music and soak up the ambiance, the Germans certainly know how to party! This was a great taste of Germany for us.

With our after-dinner drinks, we watched the party from the top deck continue into the night!

Sadly our final full day had arrived, we spent the morning cruising to Mannheim. Here we took the family excursion to visit Heidelberg. Surrounded by forest, Germany’s oldest and most famous university town, its beautiful riverside setting and evocative half-ruined hilltop castle drawing millions of visitors a year. They follow in the footsteps of the famous William Turner, who was inspired by Heidelberg to paint some of his greatest landscapes. And you can see why as we meander through the hilly streets to the castle and then take in the breath-taking view of Heidelberg’s red-roofed townscape of remarkable architecture.

Tonight we experienced the ships Gala Dinner, if we had already thought we had been totally spoilt with the food onboard then chef Fred “pièce de résistance” really did sweep us off our feet! The menu consisting of Amuse Bouche, followed by foie gras with Bayonne ham accompanied with spiced caramel sauce and mini brioche. For main it was Crispy veal shank fondant with buttered green cabbage and port sauce, cheese course – cheese matchsticks made in a traditional way! And to finish off the lights were dimmed and Fred emerged from the kitchen with Baked Alaska flamed in Grand Marnier a speculator finale to the most delicious cuisine I think my palette has had the pleasure of tasting.

Sadly we cruised overnight back to Strasbourg.

I really didn’t want this cruise to end and teary-eyed I enjoyed the last buffet breakfast on board the Gerard Schmitter before disembarking at 9am.

In total we had sailed 600km without even realising and seen the most beautiful side to Germany.

Family-friendly river cruises with Croisi Europe

So you will be wondering how much a cruise similar to this one would set you back. Here is the best bit of all. We obviously wouldn’t have reviewed this trip if it didn’t have a benefit to our families!

  • FREE for kids up to 16 years old (excursions not included and limited to 2 children per one paying adult)
  • A cabin next door to Mum and Dad (5 years old and up) or accommodation in the same cabin (max 1 child)
  • Animation kids club running every day from 9am- 9pm
  • Kids menu

Price example: For a family of 4 (2 adults & 2 children) aboard the MS Gérard Schmitter you will have 2 spacious and comfortable cabins with a large double bed or 2 singles, a bathroom (sink, shower and private toilet, towels provided), hairdryer, television, safe and radio. Located on the main deck, with a panoramic view of the countryside. Date of departure: From 27/07/2020 to 31/07/2020 – 5 Days – 4 Nights. Cruise Itinerary: STRASBOURG – COBLENCE – RÜDESHEIM – Heidelberg – MANNHEIM – STRASBOURG 

€1550 with all-inclusive onboard:

  • Accommodation in an air-conditioned double cabin with shower and WC
  • Full board from dinner on Day 1 to the breakfast buffet on Day 5 –
  • Beverages included at meals and at the bar (excluding special drinks)
  • Refined French cuisine – Dinner and Gala evening
  • Official welcome from the crew and welcome cocktail
  • Free Wi-Fi zone available in the lounge & bar areas
  • Assistance from the multi-lingual host/hostesses
  • Audio system during excursions
  • Presentation of the commander and his crew
  • Onboard entertainment including the Kids club animation team
  • Assistance / repatriation insurance
  • Port taxes included

Transport to the boat not included. You can add daily excursions off of the boat at extra cost see full details at CroisiEurope.

More info here on this price example

Prices correct at time of publishing. See Croisi Europe Website for up to date information

Other family cruises are: 



The good news coming out of the bad news is that you can book your 2020 cruise and pay only 15 days before your departure. For all new reservations made before June 15, 2020 for departure is between August 1, 2020 and November 30, 2020. This offer is valid on all CroisiEurope Cruises.

They will secure you a place on board, but you won’t have to pay until 15 days prior to cruising. At that time, payment in full is due. And can cancel up to 16 days before your departure, we give you the option to cancel without being charged any fees. More info here

Although you’re staying safely at home for now, there’s nothing to stop you dreaming about your next adventure. Their boats are ready and waiting to whisk you away to new places and new adventures, just as soon as the time is right.

So you’ve booked?

Excellent! Let me help further, I searched the internet before we departed as it was my first river cruise and I was unsure what to take so to make it a little easier I have compiled a What to pack for a river cruise

Hope you find it useful 🙂

Bon Voyage!


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About The Author

Smalltalk Magazine

Since 2005 Smalltalk Magazine is a printed A4 information magazine aimed at parents, distributed throughout the Yorkshire region. Printed 6 times a year it is distributed free to over 300 parent-friendly locations in the area. Full of useful and informative articles about family life.