It sounds like the title of a Victorian novel – Travels with MS Jane Austen! Well, it is actually a few words about a delightful cruise, rather than about a literary excursion with a famous author. All the cruises in this collection from Riviera offer return travel and transfers, so it couldn’t be easier to connect with your cruise and start enjoying the experience. They have scheduled flights from 8 regional UK airports or, for those who hate flying, seats on Eurostar from London St Pancras International with regional rail connections. There are coach transfers to and from the ship, escorted by the tour manager or a guide.
The cruise was on MS Jane Austen which is a well-appointed boat in their fleet. The Jane Austen is new and it shows. It (or is it she?) was only launched in 2015. There are no corners looking down-at-heel, no scuffed edges and no worn carpets. The cabins and suites are amongst the largest you will find on a ship on any European river. They have en-suite bathrooms and our cabin had its own balcony where we enjoyed striking views as we slid by vineyards, castles and picturesque towns – and all while enjoying a nice cup of tea!
MS Jane Austen has all the amenities of a good floating hotel. Each room has the expected tea and coffee, TV and bathroom toiletries, but it also provides complementary wifi. Yes, you are on holiday but you will want to share your pictures on Facebook!
The cabin is comfortable but the rest of the boat is sumptuous with cosy nooks and convivial spaces just perfect for lone voyagers or those travelling with a group. There is a marble-floored lobby, tropical hardwoods, wrought iron, highly polished copper and brass, and soft leather chairs into which to sink with a good book and a glass of wine at one’s elbow.
This is a Swiss-operated vessel with 35 staff taking care of just 140 guests. All crew, tour managers and local guides are English-speaking and it’s much easier to get to know both crew and other passengers when one isn’t floating on a boat carrying several hundreds. The restaurants are not huge and anonymous, and there isn’t a seating plan which obliges travellers to sit with the same strangers every night. One can sit anywhere and make new friends or dine alone.
All meals are included and the food is of a high standard. There is plenty to satisfy the cravings of those with gastronomic inclinations as well as those who just like unfussy food. Breakfast can be an early-morning pastry or, later, the Full-English and everything in-between from the buffet. If one has a fancy for coffee and cookies during the day then they are available at the small bar area at the rear (stern), along with light fare for lunch. Afternoon tea presents a spread of pastries just in case you have a chink of space not yet filled. The midday buffet in the restaurant is memorable and the more formal dinners are outstanding, with silver service and a tempting wine list with very reasonable prices.
One won’t want to stay on-board and eat all the time – although one could. There are excursions to enjoy and walks to take. We were in Germany with visits to towns which offered charm, history, photo-opportunities, retail therapy of the highest order …and cake shops! This particular package included Koblenz, which found us spending a morning exploring this historic town sitting at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers; the beautiful old town of Boppard; through the natural beauty of the world-famous Rhine Gorge onto Mainz, celebrated for the ‘Gutenberg’ Bibles; stunning Heidelberg, by the picturesque river Neckar; Strasbourg, a 14th century city of winding alleys; Colmar, a quaint medieval Alsatian town; Rudesheim, one of the most popular towns on the Rhine; Cologne, to see the remarkable cathedral. Learn more about some of these towns here.
A cruise on MS Jane Austen with Riviera Travel might well convert those who have been hitherto sceptical about cruising. It appeals to those discerning travellers who appreciate quality. The boat is small enough to feel intimate, the service is more personal and corners are not cut. The included excursions are fun and informative, but one isn’t chained to the group – it’s possible to be independent and one is encouraged to stop at that little chocolate shop, have a stroll around the market, linger in the boutique. Make this YOUR holiday.
Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin, with a limited number of single cabins available on all decks with relevant supplement. Price includes full board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day (if you choose to travel on any of the full-day excursions by coach, a packed lunch will be provided; anyone choosing to stay on the ship can have lunch in the restaurant); morning and afternoon tea and coffee; all visits and excursions as mentioned in the brochure; airport/station transfers; coach travel as mentioned; travel to and from port of embarkation; and the services of a Riviera Travel Tour Manager.
Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018