This week, River Cruise Advisor‘s own Ralph Grizzle is sailing aboard A-ROSA Silva through the Christmas Markets of Germany. We’ll be running his full report here day-by-day. The fun continues next week, when Aaron Saunders sails from Basel to Amsterdam aboard Viking Baldur!
A-ROSA Day 1: Arriving in Frankfurt
Unlike most North Americans on board A-ROSA Silva today, my journey began this morning on an easy and fast flight from Copenhagen to Frankfurt (about 90 minutes). Shortly after landing, Monica and I picked up our bags, which arrived quickly thanks to the German penchant for efficiency, and wheeled them into arrivals hall. Although an A-ROSA representative was there to meet us for the transfer, apparently we had arrived early (thanks SAS) and had just missed the complimentary shuttle to the ship. The next shuttle would be coming for us — in 45 minutes. That was a bit discouraging to hear, because we were eager to get to the ship and explore Frankfurt. We considered taking a taxi (about 25 euros), but sat down for a bite to eat. Within 20 minutes we were summoned by another A-ROSA representative. Our chariot was waiting.
Bags were loaded into a van, and it was a quick and easy transfer from the airport to the city center, where A-ROSA Silva was docked in gleaming sunlight on the Main River just steps away from Frankfurt’s towering financial district.
Using the strict definition of skyscraper, defined as a building at least 150 meters (492 feet) tall, Frankfurt boasts 14 out of Germany’s 15 skyscrapers, according to Wikipedia. Whether that information is correct or not, I cannot say with certainty, but I can say that Frankfurt is unlike most other European cities I’ve visited in that its skyline is defined by skyscrapers and high-rises. That’s why you may hear it referred to as “Mainhattan,” suggesting the Main River city’s resemblance to New York’s Manhattan.
With temperatures in the low 40s and the sun shining, the river banks were busy with bicyclists, joggers and folks out for a stroll. Our driver cautiously weaved his way through the cyclists and pedestrians and deposited us right at the short gangway of A-ROSA Silva. Crew greeted us, our bags were quickly shuffled on board, then we proceeded through an easy check in at reception and, as were all guests, we were escorted to our room.
Room 322, situated port side and toward aft on A-ROSA Silva, resembled our room (325) this past summer on A-ROSA Stella. That was a wonderful cruise on the Rhône and Saône rivers in southern France that I would highly recommend to anyone. Read stories from our trip here.
On both cruises, ours was a Category D stateroom on Deck 3, featuring French-style, “Juliette” balconies with two doors that slide open (and have screens that can be pulled down from the upper threshold). The staterooms measure 156 square feet and feature attractive canopies above the sleeping area. The A-ROSA vessels are exotically — but tastefully — decorated, as the company believes that guests should experience something different — and perhaps a bit more playful — from their homes. After all, you’re on vacation.
To ocean cruisers, particularly those who frequent the luxury cruise lines, staterooms on river cruisers may appear a tad on the small side, but our staterooms on both A-ROSA ships were comfortable, with lots of space for storage, flat-panel televisions, desks and bathrooms with showers. There are larger suites on the A-ROSA ships, including two expansive “Balcony” suites measuring 312 square feet on A-ROSA Silva and four Junior suites measuring 225 square feet, all on Deck 3. Read about those suites here.
Our stateroom had all that we needed: a queen-sized bed, desk, bottled water, a bottle of sparkling wine that could be exchanged for a bottle of red or white wine, fresh fruit, internet vouchers for complimentary WiFi, plush bathrobes and more.
Frankfurt was calling, however, so we quickly bundled and trundled. Reception had readied two of A-ROSA’s excellent bicycles for us to pedal along the river and into the city center. I’m a huge fan of A-ROSA’s bicycles, because 1) they fit me at 6’5″ 2) they feature quality components and make pedaling and switching gears easy and 3) they also are included for us to use during our cruise at no extra cost.
The bikes make for a great way to explore the city in a fashion that is much faster than we could do on foot.
We pedaled along the river bank, crossed a bridge, snapped a few photos of A-ROSA Silva, then made our way to the historic city center (Altstadt) and the Christmas Markets, where the smell of Gluhwein and Gingerbread and local wursts permeated the air, along with a sense of spirited joviality. Tuesday, and everyone was at play. Does anyone actually work anymore? There were throngs of visitors, shoulder to shoulder, heel to heel, all happily exploring the Christmas Market.
We craved a coffee and ended up at a cozy, corner cafe that was advertised as Wacker’s Kaffee but was actually Natasha’s Cafe. We gleaned that information from the affable owner, Peter, who also informed us that Natasha’s Cafe had an unusual distinction: The cafe, with its home-baked cakes and delicious coffees, shared space with the oldest change bureau (Wechselstube) in all of Germany, if not the world.
Indeed, between serving coffee and cake to the dozen or so patrons who came and went, Peter also changed money. His cakes were more impressive than his exchange rates, I might add.
We explored Frankfurt for a few hours before heading back to A-ROSA Silva, where we enjoyed a good dinner with complimentary wines (in fact, all “adult beverages” are complimentary, all the time, on A-ROSA, with the exception of a few select, ultra-premium beverages).
As midnight approaches, we look back a wonderful day thanks to A-ROSA. As for A-ROSA Silva? If first impressions are of any merit, I’m extremely impressed. The ship, the product, the staff — all make an extremely good first impression. Let’s see where the week takes us.