Day 1 – Arriving In Frankfurt
Unlike most North Americans on board A-ROSA Silva today, my journey began this morning on an easy and fast flight from Copenhagen to Frankfurt (about 90 minutes). Shortly after landing, Monica and I picked up our bags, which arrived quickly thanks to the German penchant for efficiency, and wheeled them into arrivals hall. Although an A-ROSA representative was there to meet us for the transfer, apparently we had arrived early (thanks SAS) and had just missed the complimentary shuttle to the ship. The next shuttle would be coming for us — in 45 minutes. That was a bit discouraging to hear, because we were eager to get to the ship and explore Frankfurt. We considered taking a taxi (about 25 euros), but sat down for a bite to eat. Within 20 minutes we were summoned by another A-ROSA representative. Our chariot was waiting.
Bags were loaded into a van, and it was a quick and easy transfer from the airport to the city center, where A-ROSA Silva was docked in gleaming sunlight on the Main River just steps away from Frankfurt’s towering financial district.
Using the strict definition of skyscraper, defined as a building at least 150 meters (492 feet) tall, Frankfurt boasts 14 out of Germany’s 15 skyscrapers, according to Wikipedia. Whether that information is correct or not, I cannot say with certainty, but I can say that Frankfurt is unlike most other European cities I’ve visited in that its skyline is defined by skyscrapers and high-rises. That’s why you may hear it referred to as “Mainhattan,” suggesting the Main River city’s resemblance to New York’s Manhattan.
With temperatures in the low 40s and the sun shining, the river banks were busy with bicyclists, joggers and folks out for a stroll. Our driver cautiously weaved his way through the cyclists and pedestrians and deposited us right at the short gangway of A-ROSA Silva. Crew greeted us, our bags were quickly shuffled on board, then we proceeded through an easy check in at reception and, as were all guests, we were escorted to our room.
Room 322, situated port side and toward aft on A-ROSA Silva, resembled our room (325) this past summer on A-ROSA Stella. That was a wonderful cruise on the Rhône and Saône rivers in southern France that I would highly recommend to anyone. Read stories from our trip here.
On both cruises, ours was a Category D stateroom on Deck 3, featuring French-style, “Juliette” balconies with two doors that slide open (and have screens that can be pulled down from the upper threshold). The staterooms measure 156 square feet and feature attractive canopies above the sleeping area. The A-ROSA vessels are exotically — but tastefully — decorated, as the company believes that guests should experience something different — and perhaps a bit more playful — from their homes. After all, you’re on vacation.
To ocean cruisers, particularly those who frequent the luxury cruise lines, staterooms on river cruisers may appear a tad on the small side, but our staterooms on both A-ROSA ships were comfortable, with lots of space for storage, flat-panel televisions, desks and bathrooms with showers. There are larger suites on the A-ROSA ships, including two expansive “Balcony” suites measuring 312 square feet on A-ROSA Silva and four Junior suites measuring 225 square feet, all on Deck 3. Read about those suites here.
Our stateroom had all that we needed: a queen-sized bed, desk, bottled water, a bottle of sparkling wine that could be exchanged for a bottle of red or white wine, fresh fruit, internet vouchers for complimentary WiFi, plush bathrobes and more.
Frankfurt was calling, however, so we quickly bundled and trundled. Reception had readied two of A-ROSA’s excellent bicycles for us to pedal along the river and into the city center. I’m a huge fan of A-ROSA’s bicycles, because 1) they fit me at 6’5″ 2) they feature quality components and make pedaling and switching gears easy and 3) they also are included for us to use during our cruise at no extra cost.
The bikes make for a great way to explore the city in a fashion that is much faster than we could do on foot.
We pedaled along the river bank, crossed a bridge, snapped a few photos of A-ROSA Silva, then made our way to the historic city center (Altstadt) and the Christmas Markets, where the smell of Gluhwein and Gingerbread and local wursts permeated the air, along with a sense of spirited joviality. Tuesday, and everyone was at play. Does anyone actually work anymore? There were throngs of visitors, shoulder to shoulder, heel to heel, all happily exploring the Christmas Market.
We craved a coffee and ended up at a cozy, corner cafe that was advertised as Wacker’s Kaffee but was actually Natasha’s Cafe. We gleaned that information from the affable owner, Peter, who also informed us that Natasha’s Cafe had an unusual distinction: The cafe, with its home-baked cakes and delicious coffees, shared space with the oldest change bureau (Wechselstube) in all of Germany, if not the world.
Indeed, between serving coffee and cake to the dozen or so patrons who came and went, Peter also changed money. His cakes were more impressive than his exchange rates, I might add.
We explored Frankfurt for a few hours before heading back to A-ROSA Silva, where we enjoyed a good dinner with complimentary wines (in fact, all “adult beverages” are complimentary, all the time, on A-ROSA, with the exception of a few select, ultra-premium beverages).
As midnight approaches, we look back a wonderful day thanks to A-ROSA. As for A-ROSA Silva? If first impressions are of any merit, I’m extremely impressed. The ship, the product, the staff — all make an extremely good first impression. Let’s see where the week takes us.
A-ROSA, Christmas Markets Cruise
|Frankfurt is known for its “Manhattan skyline” with the Messeturm (convention tower) which is the highest building in Europe. The old imperial city is one of the most important trading and economic centres in Germany. Many important banks and the most important stock market are situated in Frankfurt. Frankfurt was the birthplace of J.W. v. Goethe and its many universities, theatre and museums provide a diversified cultural life.
|Speyer is a historic old imperial city, which is situated on the left bank of the Rhine. From 1294 to 1797 it was a free imperial city, and the Imperial Diet met frequently in Speyer during that period. It suffered severe destruction in 1689 during the war over the Palatinate succession. The symbol of Speyer is the huge cathedral, one of the most important cathedrals built in the High Romanesque period.
|From the Roman era up until the present day, Strasbourg has played a significant role and had an eventful history. The impressive buildings still bear testament to this today. Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace and a European metropolis with many research-, educational- and cultural institutions; it is also the seat of the European Council of Ministers.
|Mainz is a historic old town, a former Electoral residence, seat of an Archbishop and also the city of Gutenberg. The city is a focal point of the western end of the Rhine-Main economic region. Around 1450 Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of printing with movable type, set up his press in Mainz. Points of interest are the St Martin and St Stephen cathedrals, the castle of Mainz and the Gutenberg Museum.
|Cologne, the old Cathedral city, is also one of the most important traffic hubs and commercial centres in Germany, with world famous trade fairs and a busy shipping traffic. Cologne developed out of a Roman colony and looks back on a history of more than 2000 years. In the Middle Ages it was one of the leading towns in Germany. The Second World War destroyed most of the inner city; these parts were rebuilt in a modern style. The landmark and emblem of the city is the Cathedral, a masterpiece of High Gothic architecture and one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. Other tourist attractions are the town hall, the Malakoff Tower, the St Martin Church and the old abbey.
|Koblenz is not just where history meets modernity, but also where the Rhine meets the Mosel: at the “Deutsches Eck” (“German Corner”) the two rivers join each other in front of the equestrian statue of Emperor William I.
|Cruising The Rhine
|Cruising by the Lorelei & along the Mid Rhine after departure
|Rüdesheim, an ancient little town, stretches along the Rhine under the hills of the Niederwald. The best vineyards are traditionally said to have been planted with Traminer vines by Charlemagne. The excellent local wines and the charming and varied scenery have enabled Rüdesheim to develop since the end of the 19th century into one of the busiest tourist and holiday centres on the Middle Rhine, with a host of friendly restaurants and wine taverns, particularly along the famous Drosselgasse. Rüdesheim has two castles – the Oberburg and the Vorderburg – both were built in the 12th century.