STROLLING through the pretty streets lined with pretty hanging baskets towards the TUI Maya river cruise ship, we pass a sculpture of an elderly woman with her palm turned upwards.
“She was known for giving candy to all the children in Boppard,” our tour guide, Angelika, tells us.
Placing a sherbet lemon in the statue’s steel hand, she adds: “In memory of the joy she spread, the townspeople leave candy in her hand for the children to take today.”
And who wouldn’t want to spread joy in the chocolate-box town of Boppard, one of the pretty ports of call for our TUI river cruise along the Rhine in Germany.
Setting sail from the medieval city of Mainz, we’d been winding our way down the Rhine on board a shiny four-deck ship with 79 cabins, two restaurants and a wellness area with a sauna and whirlpool bath.
This adults-only ship is one of three new TUI river cruisers offering wine-themed itineraries and festive cruises to European destinations that include Hungary, Switzerland and Germany.
Unlike the huge cruise liners, this river vessel is intimate and geared up for sightseeing, with a top deck covered in seating, a barbecue area and day beds to soak up the heat in the summer months.
An emphasis has been put on sustainability here — carpets are made from recycled fishing nets and the ship has its very own herb garden.
My standard cabin is modern with a rainfall shower, comfortable double bed and bathroom packed with Molton Brown toiletries.
The space is cosy, but feels airy with its floor-to-ceiling window for soaking up the river views. Upgrade to a room with a French balcony and you will enjoy double doors that open, too.
From our picture window, we can see the small houses of Boppard blur into the distance, soon replaced by pine forests lining the river bank.
Other passengers are carrying bags with leather goods, cured meats and jewellery that they had collected from the market stalls, as well as traditional fare from the cafes.
Not that you’d need to stock up on food when there is so much on board the ship.
The main restaurant and bistro offer everything from German bratwursts and Mexican tacos to Italian pasta dishes or American-style beef burgers, while the Club Lounge serves cocktails and coffees.
The atmosphere here is elegant but not stuffy.
Those wanting to dress up can throw on their glad rags and head to the Verdastro restaurant and then up to the top deck to watch live violin performances or dance the night away at a silent disco.
The bistro offers a more relaxed setting for dining.
There is also the Observatory, which sits at the heart of the ship and hosts laidback quiz nights and cabaret shows.
The highlight of this ship, though, is the top-deck barbecues hosted throughout summer.
Overlooking the calm waters, we tuck into juicy burgers, hotdogs and chicken accompanied by chunky Mediterranean veg, Greek salads and fluffy potatoes.
In the distance, the sun glows over quaint villages and rolling countryside as the ship glides through the water. Every town on our whilstlestop Rhine tour seems more charming than the last, and our next stop of Rudesheim is no exception.
This pretty spot is famous for its Riesling wines and the ancient castles that are scattered among the timber-framed buildings.
From the port we hop on a model steam train, which carries us into the heart of the town.
Many of the coffee shops here sell traditional Rudesheimer Kaffee — coffee mixed with flambéed local brandy and topped with vanilla whipped cream. It’s a must if you are visiting.
Sampling the local wine is, of course, another must with the plentiful cellars and hilly vineyards in the area.
There are also many boat and walking tours.
But if you just want to sample the wine, head to the Georg Breuer vineyard, which hosts a number of tasting sessions from 10 euros.
With bellies full of delicious reds and whites, we head back on board the TUI Maya for the final part of our journey along the Rhine.
Our river cruise had been a whirlwind adventure packed with cultural visits and evenings dancing on the top deck.
Now that cruises are back, this might just be the best way to explore Europe’s cities — on board a stylish ship where every bedroom boasts amazing views.
GO: TUI Maya
GETTING/STAYING THERE: A seven-night Wine on the Rhine cruise on TUI Maya is from £799pp, sailing from Frankfurt and including flights from Heathrow on October 31. Price is based on two adults sharing a deck standard cabin on a Full Board Plus basis and includes £120 excursion credit. See tui.co.uk/river-cruises or call 0203 451 2688.
Source: Read Full Article