Usually when we think of cruises, we think of luxurious ships that take us to the balmy Mediterranean or the hotspots of Rome, Paris, and London. Sadly, one of the most beautiful boat rides in Europe is usually overlooked. The Rhine River in Germany is an ancient history lover’s paradise, a boater’s dream, and a photographer’s nirvana. As you glide along the Rhine you will see dozens of medieval castles perched either high on land or situated smack-dab in the middle of the river. If this sounds like the perfect vacation for you and you can’t wait a minute longer to start planning, here are some do’s and don’ts to remember as you embark upon this fantastic journey.
Do bring your camera and plenty of film. If you don’t, you’ll be forced to store all the terrific scenery in your mind and that can be hard to conjure up in the coming years. Take a camera case, extra batteries, a memory card if you have a digital, lens wipes, and film if it’s a 35mm. Protect your camera from water damage. Check how many pictures can fit onto a memory card and don’t plan to take more than that amount. If you have a 35mm camera, you might want to find a kiosk at a visitor center or gift shop that develops film. It this doesn’t seem safe, you can always wait until you get back to have film developed, but there are too many possibilities of mishaps along the way in my opinion.
Do keep in mind that some of us aren’t cut out for water travel, so if even gentle rides leave you feeling woozy, you’ll want to bring medication and take special precautions. If you are sensitive to temperature changes see if the tour boat in question has a lower deck or an inside observation area. If you want to sit in a choice spot like the front row on the top deck, try to get there first (and find out if you need any special reservations). If you’ve never had any problems with seasickness or temperature changes, there’s nothing to fear.
Do try to research a bit before traveling the Rhine River Valley. If you are like me and love history, you will want to know exactly what you are seeing. Since the tour guide will probably be unable to point out every castle’s detailed history as you sail along, you might want to memorize some info beforehand. You may want to keep a list of each castle’s information and a short description so you can match up the pictures when you get home.
And now for the don’ts . . . though no horrible tragedy will befall anyone who misses these rules of thumb, it’s still a good idea to be prepared and read through certain precautions visitors should take.
Don’t think you can see everything in the Rhine River region in a day. Sure, a cruise can show you all or almost all of the castles, but then you would miss the often picturesque villages situated nearby, but not visible from the water. Try to find out what’s in the area after you take your cruise and are back on dry land. There is more to this region than pretty scenery. Some castles offer other services, such as Castle Liebenstein, which now boasts dining and lodging. I am sure I speak for many travel enthuasiasts (and those of German ancestry) when I say there is nothing more romantic than spending a night in a medieval castle along the Rhine River.
Don’t leave without visiting at least one of the these castles in person. Germany’s woodland and medieval scenery makes it one of the most quaint and beautiful European countries and every inch should be explored. Since this is impossible, research will again come in handy. Decide which villages have the most appeal. If you are cruising along and see a castle that is of particular interest to you, it will help to have a list that tells you if you can actually visit it. If you get excited about seeing a certain fortress and it isn’t open to the public, it’s a huge let-down.
Don’t pack for your cruise without being prepared. Weather in Germany is not known to be particularly warm and pleasant, and you will want to be bundled up, especially in the winter months. If you are planning to stand out on deck for hours, this is very important. Make sure your camera equipment and any other electronic devices are kept safe from ice, snow, water spray, or intense cold.
By Lacie R. Schaeffer