Today we were still in Koblenz, and had a full day tour planned. Due to the low water, instead of SS Antoinette sailing to Rudesheim, we would be going there by coach. But first we had a short 20 min drive to visit Marksburg Castle, one of the best preserved castles on th Rhine and one we saw yesterday on our Rhine Gorge cruise. After breakfast we all debarked SS Antoinette, boarded our buses and off we went – driving though Koblenz and then following the river to our destination. Driving along the coastal road we got a really good impression of just how low the waters were, with lots of exposed river bed and small islands popping up out of the waters. Usually waters feed the Rhine from the Alps, but for this year it has just not happened. This has had an adverse effect on the economy to – pushing up fuel prices as the fuel cannot be transported by boat.
We soon arrived at the majestic cream coloured Marksburg Castle, situated on the Rhine's right bank, upstream from its junction with the Mosel. Marksburg Castle is the only hill castle on the Rhine that has never been destroyed, and has been lived in for over 700 years and represents an ever-changing and developing building complex that has been growing into its present shape over the centuries.
Beginning with the construction of the keep in the 12th century, the castle grew into its present shape throughout succeeding centuries. In the Middle Ages, the strengthening of the castle's defences became essential and urgent by improvements made to firearms.
Now you can visit the most original castle in the entire valley of the Loreley. This impressive castle, home of the German Castles Association set up to preserve such ancient monuments, presents a host of fascinating artefacts that brings the Middle Ages to life.
After our visit here it was off to Rudesheim for lunch and then some free time for shopping. This town has a long history dating back to roman times and is considered one of the most charming of the Rhine Valley towns. The town is famous for the Drosselgasse, a narrow alleyway lined with taverns and shops, and it was here where had our lunch. We enjoyed a typical German meal here of pork, sauerkraut, mash and lashings of gravy, all washed down with some locally produced wine (a generous half bottle each!). Afterwards there was time for a little exploring and shopping then it was back on the bus for our wine tasting excursion.
We soon arrived at the prestigious Castle Vollards, which is situated in the vineyard-covered hills and is one of the world's top wine estates for Rheingau Reislings. Our charming host was Wilma and she told us all about the Castle and how they produce the wines. We tried a fruity 2010, a medium dry and then a sweet dessert wine. Naturally there was opportunity to purchase bottles but we also discovered you can buy it online from a company in the UK – so that's handy! We took a note of the wines we tasted!
By now it was getting late and time to head back on the bus for the two-hour trip back to Koblenz to re-join SS Antoinette. It was dark by the time we arrived and we just had time for a refresh before we had a cocktail party to attend in the Bar du Leopard.
The SS Antoinette has a unique design in that it has two public rooms on the top sun deck. These rooms, the Bar du Leopard and L'Orangerie, have hydraulic walls that can actually lower the ceiling to about half way, so that the ship can pass under bridges when the rivers are suffering from high water. This is a unique and innovative feature that allows the sun-deck space to be used in the evenings or in inclement weather.
After the party it was down to dinner. This was for me the second best meal of the cruise – stand out courses included a seafood linguini, a wonderful medium rare steak followed by a local dessert. It had been a day of a lot of wine and meat, and so after dinner we retired to the main lounge for a nightcap.
The entertainment onboard SS Antoinette is decidedly low-key. Most of the times it's George on his keyboard or piano, either playing background music or singing. Personally I would like something a bit more up-tempo one night, or maybe an alternative entertainment in the Leopard Lounge. I understand that I am not Uniworlds target market, however I have been on other riverboats where the evening's entertainment is a bit livelier, and the passengers loved it!
The SS Antoinette is unusual as it has an indoor heated pool, beautifully tiled with a mosaic created by the famous South Africa artist Jane du Rand. This is located all the way aft, and is surprisingly deep. It is surrounded by sun loungers and features a glass ceiling, making it light and airy. I would imagine this area to be great in the summer, however as we are on low water, the extra weight of a filled pool would make the ship too low on the river and so has not been filled for our entire trip.
We had the opportunity to view a category 2 grade cabin on the deck below ours. We are in a category 1, number 423, with the balcony/conservatory configuration as mentioned before. The grade 2's don't have this, but do feature a French balcony (again with the sliding glass window). This gives you the extra space taken up by the balcony inside the living space in the cabin. For cruising along the river at this time of year, I personally would opt for the category 2 grade, as we have not used our balcony at all due to very cold temperatures. The extra space inside the room makes a lot of difference so worth bearing in mind when selecting your cabin. Also, the bathrooms on the grade 2's feature marble, whereas we have plain white tiles in ours, I actually prefer the grade 2 style!
The wines served with dinner have all been excellent, however if you want other drinks there is a charge for these. Bar prices are reasonable, with cocktails starting at Euros 5,50, spirits at 5,00, brandies from 6,50, beers from 2,50, wines by the glass from 6,00 and soft drinks for 3,00. There is a tea/coffee station in the main lounge and also on deck 2, and this is available 24-hours day and is complimentary.
Tomorrow we sail for Cologne!
SS Antoinette River Cruise Blog - Day 1 »
SS Antoinette River Cruise Blog - Day 2 »
SS Antoinette River Cruise Blog - Day 3 »
SS Antoinette River Cruise Blog - Day 4 »
SS Antoinette River Cruise Blog - Day 5 »
SS Antoinette River Cruise Blog - Day 6 »
SS Antoinette River Cruise Blog - Day 7 »