The Heidelberg overnights at towns along
the Rhine and Moselle.
We are walking along Drosselgasse, the lively narrow pedestrian
street in the best known wine village along the Rhine River. It’s
Saturday night and the street is festive, with people dancing to
German folk bands in beer gardens and wine cellars on either side
of us. At one open-air beer garden, waitresses carry frothy glasses
of beer. At a wine cellar nearby, patrons sip the Rheingau’s famous
Rieslings, sparkling Sekts or locally distributed brandies.
Fortunately, we have plenty of time to soak in the local
culture. Our riverboat, Deilmann River Cruises’ Heidelberg, will
dock here overnight. During our seven-day cruise along the Rhine
and Moselle rivers from Mainz to Trier, the ship spends the night
in each port, within walking distance of the town centers. That
proximity allowed us to walk back into the towns after dinner. It
was as if we were staying in an elegant hotel in the center of
In fact, the newest of the Deilmann fleet, the 110-passenger
Heidelberg functions just like a deluxe boutique hotel. Each time
we disembarked the ship, we left the brass key to our stateroom at
the front desk, much the same as you would do at a hotel. Standard
staterooms were large, 190 square feet, with rich colors
golden-hued walls, light-wood tones and crown ceiling trim. The
queen-sized bed featured European-style duvets with feather
pillows. The bath was spacious, with floor-to-ceiling tile and
brass fixtures, a pedestal sink and showers so large that you’re
not required to step out of the shower if you drop the soap as in
the smaller showers on larger ocean liners.
Heidelberg features French balconies. You can’t step out on
them, because there is nothing to step onto. But with double glass
doors that slide or swing open, French balconies offer the same
functionality as a balcony on a large ship, providing open-air
views of the countryside.
Although Deilmann is a German line, non-German speakers will
find the ship a safe haven. The Heidelberg, staff spoke English
well, and they were there to direct us to whatever we needed
ashore. There is, however, a downside to Heidelberg’s bilingual
nature. One night, what might have been a great presentation on
Moselle wines turned into a laborious venture. The speaker had to
present in two languages. And, there were times when fellow
passengers (the mix was about 60 percent European, 40 percent
American) simply could not communicate. Even so, the atmosphere was
always friendly and collegial.
There are, of course, things about the Heidelberg that may irk
some travelers: smoking is permitted in a section of the lounge
(Deilmann will ban smoking on its river cruisers beginning in
2008); dining times and tables are assigned; there are only a few
tables for two; and for those who must remain connected, no
Cuisine on the Heidelberg is tailored for Continental palates.
That means that if you’re a fan of duck liver pate, you’ll love the
fare. At one point, I joked with a fellow passenger that if they
labeled the plates of herring “sushi,” Americans would be
clambering over one another to fill their plates.
Aside from the few dishes that Americans may not be accustomed
to, the food on Heidelberg was outstanding. Breakfast was
European-style, a smorgasbord that even offered champagne, or Sekt,
as the German sparkling wine is known. And on one morning of each
cruise, Bavarian Morning Pint is offered. It falls between
breakfast and lunch. On the menu: free beer, brats, sauerkraut,
German potato salad, pretzels, music and more.
The Heidelberg was one of the costliest river vessels ever
built, and attention to detail is evident throughout. For those
seeking an upscale European river cruise experience (and spacious,
well-designed staterooms), Heidelberg gets high marks as a floating
deluxe boutique hotel on some of Europe’s most beautiful