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GCT Romance of the Rhine & Mosel – Trip Review

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GCT Rhine & Mosel - Introduction

This was our first river cruise but not our first time visiting the countries on this itinerary: Switzerland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Previous trips to (continental) Europe were short stays on our way to Africa. This trip was delightful. If my husband was retired and money was no concern, we might make a habit of traveling this way. But for now, I am contented to anticipate taking another cruise with GCT sometime in the next couple of years.

 

We made this trip with 4 other people, and we all decided to book rooms with balconies. The weather was unusually mild for November and we made good use of our balconies.

 

This review will take each day as it comes. I am still processing photos from the trip but will try to share some photos in the review and then perhaps, share a link to more of the photos later. This review and the photos are my attempt to thank the people on Cruise Critic who answered my questions prior to our trip and to pay it forward to future travelers. Whether you anticipate using GCT or have your eye on another river cruise company, I hope you will find this helpful!

 

GCT Rhine & Mosel – Flights and Arrival

November 8-9

We flew on British Airways from Philadelphia to Basel with a short layover at Heathrow airport. We decided to let GCT arrange our flights as they found a good price on our preferred alliance (so that we could accrue ff miles). We knew the risks of arriving the day of embarkation but were unable to leave a day early.

 

The flights were great but only three of us had luggage accompany us to Basel. The rest of us joined a long line of fellow passengers reporting lost luggage. Thanks to a tip found on Cruise Critic, we asked for amenity kits at the airport. And we had packed a change (or two) of clothing in our carry-on bags, just in case. Fortunately, our luggage arrived the next morning before our ship left Basel.

 

When we finally boarded the River Harmony, the crew welcomed us warmly. Our Program Director worked with the airlines to facilitate getting our luggage to us as quickly as possible. And the Hotel Manager offered free laundry service with a one hour turn around for those missing luggage.

 

There was no time to see Basel on our first day, but the weather was quite pleasant and I took a few photos from the sundeck that evening (see below).

 

 

Basel%20-%20Looking%20along%20the%20Rhine-6556%20c-L.jpg

 

Basel%20-%20Bridge%20at%20Night-6572%20c-L.jpg

Edited by Sapphire73

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Great start to your review!

 

Whoa Mama! about the luggage -- but great you had the CC tip, GCT was proactive, and then the luggage turned up before any great harm was done! Hope this was the only glitch, but you seem to have handled it with the right attitude.

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Basel, Switzerland

November 10 (Sunny, high 58˚F)

We had a good walking tour of Basel on a mild, sunny morning. We made our way to the Basler Münster (cathedral) and then back to the main square near the Rathaus (town hall). They were setting up for the Christmas market in front of the cathedral (making it difficult to get a good photo from the front) but it was a lovely place to explore.

We chose to use our free time exploring the lively market. Some of us returned to Basel after lunch to do a little more shopping. We found an unusual Santa cookie cutter in a department store and realized that we might be able to find some unique decorations, cookie cutters, etc. in other ports even though the Christmas markets weren’t yet open.

We sailed for Strasbourg, France at 4pm. We bought some wine at the bar - several bottles that we could drink on the sun deck, in the lounge, or with meals. We chose to sample some of that wine as the sun disappeared and we approached the first set of locks. With beauty all around me, friends relaxing together with some fine wine, and the novelty of going through the locks - my cup was full.

 

 

Looking out on the Rhine from a Window at the Cathedral

Basel%20-%20Thru%20Cloister%20Window-6687%20c-L.jpg

 

 

The Market outside the Town Hall

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Sailing toward Strasbourg, France

Basel%20-%20Sailing%20Away%20at%20Sunset-6945%20c-L.jpg

Edited by Sapphire73

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You went the wrong way! But thanks for the memories . . . looking forward to more. Glad you enjoyed GCT.

 

A tip too late for lost luggage . . . have the first photo on your camera be of your bags with a yardstick next to them for scale.

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Looking forward to the rest of you review. I've done this cruise with GCT twice and can't wait to do it again.

 

The last time (2011) I did this cruise BA lost my luggage. I was not as lucky as you. It took a week for it to find me. The hotel manager also gave me free laundry service since I only had 2 changes of clothes.

 

I have heard the BA often swaps passenger luggage for paying freight at Heathrow.

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You went the wrong way! But thanks for the memories . . . looking forward to more. Glad you enjoyed GCT.

 

Interesting comment about going the wrong way. We may have selected this itinerary originally because I had hoped to do the pre-extension in Switzerland in early November. But we decided to do the post-extension trip in Bruges, Belgium and thought - correctly - that we might see more Christmas specialties there toward the end of November.

 

We had several opportunities to buy lace ornaments in Antwerp and other places. But I was also happy to find some lovely red wooden ornaments made in France in a lace shop in Bruges. (This shop had stores in both Belgium and France, so it carried merchandise made in both countries.) The attacks in Paris occurred after our tours in French towns but we saw flowers and other tokens of sympathy in both Luxembourg and Bonn. And I liked the idea of giving the French ornaments to our (grown) kids, most of whom have visited France.

 

Could you remind me (and others) of the advantages of doing this trip in the other direction - from Antwerp to Basel? Thanks.

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Looking forward to more of your review, especially the photos. Thanks for taking the time to do it.

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I forgot the ;) . . . just that our trip went the reverse direction. I would go again either way in a heartbeat. If I really had to give a reason, a small edge to starting in Antwerp is that the scenery improves as the journey goes on.

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Your pics are stunning! While you were doing that cruise, I was on the GCT Eastern Europe cruise. Weren't we all lucky with the Weather! Btw, Delta didn't get my luggage home with me...at least it was when I was going home. I did get it delivered to my house 2 days later. Looking forward to more of cour comments and pics!

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GCT Rhine & Mosel – Strasbourg, France

Morning of November 11 (sunny, high 58˚F)

 

On Wednesday, we had a quick info stroll from the tram to Notre Dame Cathedral and then took the canal boat ride. It was fun to see Strasbourg from the canals but difficult to capture good photos as the canal boats were covered with a transparent, curved top. Our time in Strasbourg whet my appetite for returning to explore the city the next morning.

 

This was one of many stops where I really appreciated the timing of our trip. We saw a few other tour groups Wednesday and Thursday but it could have so much worse! We never felt that a port was overrun with tourists, and we were never rafted with another ship at a dock.

 

More often than not, I could move a short distance from our group during our walking tours, still hear the Program Director with ease, and get a clear shot with my camera. It would be fun to repeat this trip at another time of year but I still might opt for chillier weather and a bit of rain if that increases the odds of having relative solitude as I soak in the sights and sounds around me.

 

Note: We took the optional Alsatian Highlights tour in the afternoon and returned to Strasbourg again the next morning. I will come back to talk about those another day. But here are a couple of photos of Notre Dame Cathedral in Strasbourg and one of the Old Custom House by the canal.

 

Madonna and Child

Strasbourg%20-%20Cathedral%20mother%20and%20child-7136%20c-L.jpg

 

One of the Entrances to the Cathedral

Strasbourg%20-%20Door%20Notre%20Dame%20Cathedral%20bw-7116%20c-L.jpg

 

The Old Custom House along the Canal

Strasbourg%20-%20Old%20Customs%20House-7674%20c-L.jpg

Edited by Sapphire73

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GCT Rhine & Mosel – Alsatian Highlights Optional Tour

Afternoon of November 11 (Sunny, high 58˚F)

 

We had a pleasant drive to the town of Riquewihr in France with a stop at the Bott Freres winery on the way. The view of the countryside was lovely, and it was interesting to have a tour of this family winery. (This took a little longer than usual, I gather, because our Program Director had to translate for the owner. There is usually someone who speaks English to facilitate the tour.) We enjoyed our wine tasting and bought some wine before continuing on to Riquewihr.

 

The downside of traveling in November is that it gets dark earlier. This makes it easier to enjoy the golden light of the afternoon and see the sun set before dinner, but the sun was quickly disappearing when we reached Riquewihr. I was torn between wanting to explore the shops and wishing to take photos. I managed to do a little bit of both.

 

Purchases included a delicious assortment of macaroons and soft stuffed animals for our youngest grandchildren – purchased at a Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas store. I had to crank up the ISO to take photos in the waning light, so the best photos of Riquewihr may be the mental images I took.

 

I should add that we saw several touching observances of Armistice Day or Veteran’s Day - that day and continuing through the week. In Riquewihr, I saw flowers at a memorial near the cathedral. Back onboard the ship, there was a touching ceremony during dinner. And I noticed one of our servers wiping tears from her eyes as patriotic songs filled the dining area.

 

View from the Bott Freres Winery

Alsatian%20-%20Bott%20Frere%20Winery-7467%20c-L.jpg

 

The Post Office in Riquewihr

Riquewehr%20-%20Post%20Office-7516%20c-L.jpg

 

The Main Street at Twilight

Riquewehr%20-%20window%20shopping-7551c-L.jpg

Edited by Sapphire73

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Your photography skills are amazing and I am so enjoying your posts! Thanks for sharing.

 

Mimmy52, Barrheadlass, and purduemom1 - thank you for your kind words about the photos. Glad you are enjoying these images! Photography is one of my hobbies. And I found it very helpful when others on Cruise Critic shared photos from their trips.

 

I will write a post later about the photography equipment I took with me. But there is one tip I will share now. Before going on safari a few years ago, it was suggested that I buy a clear plastic sleeve kind of thing to help keep dust out of the camera. Its real purpose is to allow you to continue shooting in the rain without damaging your camera. I took one on this river cruise but relied on a shower cap if there was just a light drizzle. If it was raining hard, of course, the DSLR camera hid out in a Pacsafe camera bag (Camsafe V8) with waterproof protection and I took photos with a point and shoot camera instead.

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Your photographs are bringing back great memories.

 

Am I correct in assuming you did not visit the stork park on the Alsatian Highlights? We did that instead of the vineyard.

 

Keep it coming!

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Your photographs are bringing back great memories.

 

Am I correct in assuming you did not visit the stork park on the Alsatian Highlights? We did that instead of the vineyard.

 

Keep it coming!

 

We did that too with Vantage.....and never thought about taking a photo of our luggage before we leave home...Great idea!!!

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Am I correct in assuming you did not visit the stork park on the Alsatian Highlights? We did that instead of the vineyard

 

Yes, visiting the Bott Freres vineyards and winery replaced the visit to the stork park. Sounds like GCT has been trying out this change in itinerary. Not sure whether this was a seasonal change due to there being less activity in the autumn, when the storks are no longer caring for their young. We did see lots of empty nests and may have spotted a stork, too. (A google search indicates that "they" keep some in captivity for several years - so that the storks lose the urge to migrate - and then release them again. So perhaps we did see a stork.) We have seen storks in other parts of the world.

 

I enjoyed visiting the vineyard and the winery. The view from the terrace was lovely, I liked the wines we tasted. Note: Several in our group prefer red wines but found several white wines at this winery that they liked and purchased to enjoy back on board our ship. Our group of 6 took turns hosting a gathering in one of the cabins and/or balconies with wine, cheese, crackers, sausage, etc. - purchased in the ports we visited.

Edited by Sapphire73

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A seasonal itinerary difference makes sense. Autumn for the harvest and spring for the nesting.

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A seasonal itinerary difference makes sense. Autumn for the harvest and spring for the nesting.

 

We were in Autumn (Vantage)...no nesting....but lots of youngsters still being fed by Mom and some trying to figure out what those flaps on their sides were for.....they'll be gracefully flying a little later on. :D

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GCT Rhine & Mosel – Strasbourg

Morning of November 12 (Sunny, high 58˚F)

 

We got an early start to Strasbourg the next morning knowing that the (included) tour of Baden-Baden would be leaving shortly after 1pm. Our three objectives were to walk around for a while to photograph the canals and intriguing architecture, explore some of the shops, and get some food. We managed to do all three and get a lot of exercise in the process. (I was wearing a fit bit throughout the trip and I took over 12,000 steps that day.)

 

On the way back to the ship, we stopped at a chocolate shop, Au Doux Pays de France, and bought some goodies to take home with us. We had hoped to get some lunch in Strasbourg but the restaurants were not serving lunch early enough for our schedule.

 

Note: We had some difficulty purchasing tram tickets from the self-service kiosk, and I forget what eventually worked – so perhaps someone else can supply the technique to help others?

 

City Square not far from Cathedral

Strasbourg%20-%20City%20Square-7654%20c-L.jpg

 

Decorating for the Holidays Already

Strasbourg%20-%20Street%20with%20Christmas%20Decor%20bw-7775%20c-L.jpg

 

Swans A Swimming (just before we left for Baden-Baden)

Swans-7800%20c-L.jpg

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GCT Rhine & Mosel – Baden-Baden

Afternoon of November 12 (Sunny, high 58˚F)

 

We took a bus to Baden-Baden, driving through the Black Forest at one point. Our bus driver pulled over to let us get photos of a lovely vista. (Please note that the fence there is an electric fence. A young couple enjoying the view cautioned me as I stepped near it.)

 

Nicolas De Vos, our Program Director, gave us a good tour of the town, announcing several break off points for those who wanted to visit the spa or focus on shopping. We stayed for the entire tour even though we saw several interesting shops we wanted to explore. A

 

fter taking careful note of the meeting place near a café (where my DH waited for us) three of the women in our group walked quickly to cover a large area. I bought 2 hand-painted Christmas decorations (made in Germany) in one of the small shops in a side street. A friend bought children’s books in German for grandchildren who speak both German and English. Then it was time to relax at the café, sipping some lovely wine, before returning to the ship in Plittersdorf.

 

Lovely Vista on Our Way to Baden-Baden

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Street Scene

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Fountain in Baden-Baden

Baden-Baden_Fountain-8001%20c-L.jpg

Edited by Sapphire73

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Nic was on our Rhein - Mosel cruise during his orientation, prior to his initial tour as a GCT PD. He was a great Lorelei . . .

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I will get back to reviewing this trip when I'm home from a conference in Florida. Waiting to board a flight back to Philadelphia and the approaching storm.

Edited by Sapphire73

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I will get back to reviewing this trip when I'm home from a conference in Florida. Waiting to board a flight back to Philadelphia and the approaching storm.

 

Hope your plane outruns it.....here on LI, it's looking like sooner rather than later!

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I will get back to reviewing this trip when I'm home from a conference in Florida. Waiting to board a flight back to Philadelphia and the approaching storm.

 

Hope your plane outruns it.....here on LI, it's looking like sooner rather than later!

 

Me, I'd be sitting happily in Florida to wait for Philly to dig out! You must love your family.

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