An adults-only cruise through Central Europe is elegant, relaxed, and pretty
As we stroll through the pretty streets lined with pretty hanging baskets towards the TUI Maya cruise ship, we come across a sculpture of an elderly woman with her palm facing up.
“She was known to give candy to all the children in Boppard,” our tour guide, Angelika, tells us.
Placing a lemon sherbet in the steel hand of the statue, she adds: “In remembrance of the joy she spread, the townspeople leave candies in her hand for the children to take today.
And who doesn’t want to sow joy in the chocolate town of Boppard, one of the lovely stops on our TUI river cruise on the Rhine in Germany.
Departing from the medieval city of Mainz, we sailed down the Rhine aboard a brilliant four-deck ship with 79 cabins, two restaurants and a wellness area with sauna and whirlpool.
This adults-only ship is one of three new TUI River Cruisers offering wine-themed itineraries and party cruises to European destinations such as Hungary, Switzerland and Germany.
Unlike huge cruise liners, this river vessel is intimate and designed for tourism, with a seating-covered upper deck, barbecue area, and daybeds to soak up the heat during the summer months.
The emphasis has been on sustainability here – the rugs are made from recycled fishing nets and the ship has its own herb garden.
My standard cabin is modern with a rainfall shower, a comfy double bed, and a bathroom stocked with Molton Brown toiletries.
The space is comfortable, but airy with its picture window to soak up the view of the river. Upgrade to a bedroom with a French balcony and you’ll also enjoy opening double doors.
From our bay window, we can see in the distance the little houses of Boppard, soon replaced by pine forests bordering the river.
Other passengers carry bags containing leather goods, cold cuts and jewelry that they have collected from market stalls, as well as traditional food from cafes.
Not that you need to stock up on food when there is so much on the ship.
The main restaurant and bistro offer everything from German bratwurst 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 who want to dress up can don their cheerful rags and head to the Verdastro restaurant, then up to the upper deck to watch live violin shows or dance the night away at a silent disco.
The bistro offers a more relaxed setting for meals.
There’s also the Observatory, which sits at the heart of the ship and hosts relaxed quiz nights and cabaret shows.
The highlight of this ship, however, are the top deck barbecues held throughout the summer.
Overlooking the calm waters, we enjoy juicy burgers, hot dogs and chicken accompanied by large Mediterranean vegetables, Greek salads and chewy potatoes.
In the distance, the sun shines over picturesque villages and rolling countryside as the ship glides across the water. Every town on our Rhine Stops tour looks more charming than the last, and our next Rudesheim stop is no exception.
This pretty corner is famous for its Riesling wines and its ancient castles scattered among the half-timbered buildings.
From the port, we board a miniature steam train, which takes us to the heart of the city.
Many cafes here sell the traditional Rudesheimer Kaffee – coffee mixed with local brandy flambéed and topped with vanilla whipped cream. It is a must see if you are visiting.
Tasting the local wine is, of course, another must with the many wineries and rolling vineyards in the area.
There are also many boat and walking tours.
But if you just want to taste the wine, head to the Georg Breuer vineyard, which offers many tastings from 10 euros.
Bellies full of delicious reds and whites, we return aboard the TUI Maya for the last part of our journey along the Rhine.
Our river cruise had been a whirlwind adventure filled with cultural sightseeing and dancing on the upper deck.
Now that the cruises are back, this is perhaps the best way to explore the cities of Europe – aboard an elegant ship where every room has stunning views.
GO: TUI Maya
HOW TO GET THERE / STAY: A seven-night Wine Rhine cruise on TUI Maya starts at £ 799 per person, departing from Frankfurt and including flights departing from Heathrow on October 31st. Price is based on two adults sharing a standard cabin on the deck on Full Board Plus basis and includes a £ 120 excursion credit. Visit tui.co.uk/river-cruises or call 0203 451 2688.