Europe is teeming with exceptional rivers that are worthy of your time and consideration as you plan a European river cruise. The Rhine, for example, is one that deserves a placement at or near the top of your list. Although the river served as an important trade route during Roman times, it wasn’t until the Romantic period—from the late 18th century through the second half of the 19th century—that the Rhine became a popular tourism destination, attracting writers, artists, and wealthy world travelers who wanted to see and find inspiration from the river valley’s natural beauty.
We begin our journey with a few days on our own in Paris, after which we sail from the Swiss city of Basel, meeting fellow passengers in the bar before dinner. Each guest has the chance to dine in the smaller, private Italian restaurant one night; otherwise, it’s open seating in an attractive dining room with views of passing scenery. Cuisine tends toward nouvelle presentations of classic dishes — fancy works of steak, veal, pheasant, pork and numerous kinds of fish with beautiful side dishes. Each lunch and dinner brings an impressive selection of wines, most from Germany and France.
There’s no casino or theater; after-dinner entertainment ranges from live classical music performances to dancing.
Sailing usually happens at night, but one lazy afternoon we move slowly through the Rhine Gorge. Sipping champagne on the sunny deck, we gawk at one hillside castle after another, some 40 or so in a three-hour stretch. Those wanting narration about the warring families, who often built their fortresses right next to each other, tune in to GPS-enabled handheld devices with earpieces.