We boarded the MS Casanova on Saturday afternoon. We were shown to our room and got settled with no problem. After sitting through several announcements we approached the cruise director and asked about English announcements. He wasn’t aware that there were English speakers on board. We’ve figured out now that there are 6 of us, 4 from Finland and the two of us. So we’ve had individual briefings, and some announcements are given in English, but it’s pretty much a German cruise. This morning (Sunday) cruising on the Saar, there was a lot of commentary, but it was all in German. We didn’t reserve any tours before the cruise. The two Finnish couples who did apparently didn’t reserve them in English, so there will be no English speaking tours.
The CD is trying hard to make us feel comfortable. After his announcements, he will hold a small session with the English speakers to explain what’s going on. Nicko has assigned seating at meals. The 4 Finns are at a table with two German ladies who apparently want to practice their English and didn’t want to move. So we agreed to sit at a table for 2 for the trip. We’re O.K. with that decision.
The ship sails to Merzig tonight and leaves tomorrow morning for Trier.
We’re due in Trier around 12:30 p.m. Apparently we’ll be docked close enough to town to walk in, so we’ll do the city on our own, which is what we wanted to do anyhow. We’ll go straight to the Landesmuseum which DW hasn’t seen. The Landesmuseum was great. After touring the museum, we walked back to the ship going by the tourist office next to the Porta Negra and picking up some Karl Marx € 0 notes for some friends back home.
Nicko is very efficient with dinner service. Everyone gets the same starter, soup, and desert. The only choice one has is the entrée. You have to decide on your dinner (and lunch) entrée at breakfast. So the kitchen can get the jump on things and get the meals out quickly. With dinner starting at 7:00 p.m., we’re easily finished by 8:15 to 8:30 p.m.
After setting sail around 5:00 p.m., the ship docked in Bernkastel sometime before midnight. We skipped the guided excursion and wandered around Bernkastel-Kues on our own, doing a little shopping. We set sail around noon for Winningen, again arriving before midnight. Winningen is near the mouth of the Mosel. We set sail for tomorrow morning around 6:00 a.m. for Mainz. So we should pass the Deutsches Eck around breakfast time and sail the Rhine gorge during the say, arriving at Mainz at 4:45 p.m.
We got off to an early start, and then slowed down so that we would pass the Deutsches Eck at 8:00 as announced. It was a cool, foggy morning sailing down the Rhine gorge this morning. We sat on the top deck all wrapped up from Koblenz to the Lorely before retreating inside. I was a little disappointed at the Lorely. I’d heard that Germans always sing the song as they pass by, but no one joined in when they played it.
The lounge is nice, but the windows aren’t that big, so one doesn’t get a great view from there like one does on newer ships. Unlike newer ships, there’s about as much outer wall as there is window in the lounge. When you’re in the lounge, there’s no coffee machine where you can go and push a button and get a nice coffee, espresso, etc. If you don’t have the drinks package (€169 per person for a 7-night cruise), then you have to order your coffee from the bar and pay.
Speaking of ships, the MS Casanova is a nice old ship, but it’s beginning to show its age. For instance, the television sets in the rooms are old picture tube type sets with a screen about a 15” diagonal. There’s one channel in English so we can keep up with the news back in the U.S. Rooms have traditional metal keys rather than newer magnetic key cards.
We made use of The River Cruise App this morning on the Rhine and it was nice. The app runs on iPhone and Android. The info for this section of the Rhine (Mainz-Koblenz) was $4.00. As one cruises the river, the app uses GPS and starts the appropriate commentary at the right places. This was especially nice with the ships commentary being mostly in German. The CD did print out a copy of his “script” in English so that we could follow along if we wanted, but we tended to rely on the app. Note that the app won’t work in “background,” i.e., you can’t start up another app and the River Cruise App will keep playing its commentary. Activating any other app stops playback and GPS tracking. Other than that, it’s a nice app.
We enjoyed our day in Heidelberg. We arrived around noon, and we set out after lunch to walk around the town. I spent a year studying in Heidelberg in 1971-72, so walking around the town was something of a “sentimental journey.” I forced DW to walk by the Bunsen House (yes, he invented the Bunsen burner) where I’d polished my German at the Interpreter’s Institute. We walked the Hauptstrasse, much more relaxing now that it’s a pedestrian street. Back in the day there were streetcars and autos going up and down the narrow street.
We also walked by the Mensa (student cafeteria, but anyone can eat there). When I would go in during my student days, I would walk a gauntlet of students forcing pamphlets into everyone’s hands urging us to “Support the People’s War in Indochina,” or “Stand with the People’s War in Northern Ireland.” I didn’t see anything like this at today’s Mensa. The chemistry building where I spent most of my time was across the river in Neuenheimer Feld, and we didn’t have the time for a visit. Frankly a visit wouldn’t have meant a lot with all the folks I knew there now gone.
We did manage a visit to Käthe Wohlfahrt, but didn’t buy anything. We mostly wandered around the old time and stopped for a coffee and cake before returning to the ship for dinner.
We pulled into Bad Wimpfen around 8:00 a.m. It was a cool sunny morning, and we decided to wait until 9:30 or so before setting out on the town. There was a ship’s walking tour, but we decided that we didn’t want to pay for a tour in German that I would barely understand, and DW wouldn’t understand at all. We had a nice walk around the picturesque town (and a significant walk UP the hill from the river bank to get there).
There was excitement on the ship this morning. A Polizei (Police) boat pulled up alongside as we docked, and then customs agents came on board from the shore. Shortly after the tour left the boat, all the crew were called to the lounge, and from what we could tell, the police and customs agents checked everyone’s passports and work permits. They were on the boat for 2-3 hours, but it looks like everyone’s still here.
In the afternoon we took a walk along the Neckar, visiting the Ritterstifts St. Peter church. It was a nice walk before returning to the ship for coffee. Many of the cruisers took a new excursion to Buchen and a cave there. The excursion is scheduled for 6 hours.
After leaving Bad Wimpfen the boat sailed to Lauffen, the last port for this cruise. Due to work on the docks at Ludwigsburg and an event in Stuttgart, we couldn’t proceed any further in the ship. So we were here for the last two nights.
Friday morning we set out for our tour of Ludwigsburg castle (€38 each). After about an hour on the boat we arrived, divided into two groups and set out on our tour of the 452 room castle (the Swabian Versailles). The tour was entirely in German, but enjoyable nevertheless. I tried to listen and translate for DW, condensing a couple of minutes description of a room into a single sentence summarizing what I had understood. After the tour, we had over an hour to walk around the huge gardens where things were beginning to bloom. This castle is definitely worth seeing. I was surprised that I’d never heard about it until the cruise.
We returned to the ship for a one o’clock lunch and walked into town to get a little exercise and see the old town. Friday night was our gala dinner, and we prepared for disembarkation Saturday morning.
Two buses left for the Stuttgart train station at 7:30 and 7:45. Those who’d opted for the city tour were on the late bus. We took the early one and set out for our train to Frankfurt.
As always, I'd be glad to answer any questions. Also, I have the dailies from the trip, and if anyone's interested, I can post the pdfs on line and give a link to them.