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Review: Family from Hell enjoy their three rivers Christmas Market cruise with M/S Aurelia

Review: Family from Hell enjoy their three rivers Christmas Market cruise with M/S Aurelia

Postby tomvet » 07 Dec 2017 00:18

Daddy and his three girls aka as the Family from Hell have just returned from their three rivers (Rhine, Moselle and Main) Christmas Markets cruise on board Phoenix Reisen's M/S Aurelia. This was Daddy's treat for the girls while Mom headed westwards on another break.

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Motivation

We had actually booked this cruise before we had taken our first PR cruise so it was a bit of a gamble but after our M/S Sofia cruise we knew we had make the correct decision. We also liked the itinerary, a relaxed one with morning and evening ports of call with leisurely cruising along the Rivers in the middle of the day. It also fitted will in with a break Mai had from school (well the original cruise that we booked did). We had booked the cruise from 23.11 to 27.11, however on researching, I discovered the Christmas Markets did not start proper until December 26.11. I complained to our ever capable agent Riverscanner.com and the reply the next day was that PR proposed that we take the cruise from 27.11 to 01.12, however, the 4 bed cabin we had reserved was not available but they would give us to adjoining cabins at no extra cost. I took the offer with such alacrity I forgot about Mai and school so she lost a few days :oops: :oops: The cost was extremely reasonable. Besides the Christmas Markets is a fun thing to do. We watched many Youtube videos of the markets and we had a number of goals to me - (1) Buy a nutcracker (2) Get Granda (a carpenter) a chocolate hammer (3) eat a half metre sausage and (4) have a ride on the Merry go around at each market - were the goals acheived??

Itinerary

Aurelia_Route.jpg


The itinerary was as follows

Monday 27.11 Embark and Depart Cologne at 15:30
Monday 27.11 Arrive Bonn at 18.30 and Depart 21:00
Tuesday 28.11 Arrive Cochem at 10:00 Depart 18:00
Wednesday 29.11 Arrive Koblenz at 06:00 Depart at 12:00
Wednesday 29.11 Cruising the Romantic Rhine
Wednesday 29.11 Arrive Rudesheim at 17:00 Depart at 23:00
Thursday 30.11 Arrive Frankfurt at 06:00 Depart at 12:00
Thursday 30:11 Arrive Mainz at 16:00 Depart at 23:30
Friday 01.12 Disembark Cologne at 10:00

We topped and tailed the cruise with Ryanair flight from Dublin to Cologne Bonn Airport and a two night pre-cruise stay at the Smarty Hotel in Cologne. Flying time from DUB to CGN was just 90 minutes.

M/S Aurelia

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Aurelia is a more modern ship than Sofia and consequently more stylish. The ship has three decks. Deck 1 houses cabins that are below the waterline and the crew quarters. Deck 2 is similarly devoted to cabins with panoramic windows and crew quarters to the fore and the galley to the rear. Deck 3 has cabins with balconies and french balconies, reception with the cruise director's desk, panoramic lounge to the fore and the MDR to the rear.

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The ship did not have a lift but the stairs were nowhere near as steep as those on Sofia. There was a stairslift on the outside stair leading to the sun deck.

There was a single ladies and gent public rest room on board just off reception.

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A small corner of the panaroma lounge was sectioned off to house a library with some tables to play cards, board games etc. There was one internet point within this section.

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The ship was charmingly decorated for Christmas, with christmas trees in all public rooms and stairwell landings, ginger bread houses in reception. Each cabin door had a sprig of missletoe and a christmas bauble fixed to it. Poinsetta were on every lounge and dining room table.

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The sundeck was partially inaccessible to passenger as the Rivers were high and items needed to be collapsed to allow the ship to safely pass under the bridges. A small section with sun loungers and deck chairs was opened for the scenic journey from Koblenz to Rudesheim. The jacuzzi was not functioning.

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Staff

The onboard crew were mainly Bulgarian / Romanian and all spoke English so we had absolutely no issue with being non-German speakers on a German speaking ship. Menus for lunch and dinner were translated to English and were on our table each day at breakfast. We ordered at that time and any thing special could be ordered for the kids at that time - scrambled eggs / beans on toast were made to order for lunch on one day when the 'adult' option was cold smoked herring!

The family from Hell were the only kids on board and they were treated like Princesses by the crew - the crew showered them with gifts from the markets. I have never seen such a generous crew and travelling with PR is so refreshing from the ocean going cruises - the staff give you things be that time, conversation, a sense of value of being a customer etc as opposed to the latter always looking to get the last penny from you.

Our waiter was a tad inexperienced with kids but he coped very well. Our cabin steward was excellent. The kids did not want to sleep on their own with out Daddy so she arranged one cabin to sleep and the other to house our gear - the cabins became known as the 'sleeping room' and the 'dressing room'. :thumbup:

The cruise director was a sweet heart!! When we returned to the ship from Koblenz, she had a gift for the kids. When we left that morning, we told her we were going to take the Cable car - she advised it was closed. We headed into the city centre instead. When we returned the cable car was moving but NOT working! She could see it moving from the ship and felt bad she had misinformed us and got gifts for the kids to compensate for their disappointment which she thought she had caused! This human touch you would never get on an Ocean cruise! Now that I think of it, PR do not do shoulder shrugs!!!!

The two lounger waiters were so good to the girls - each time we entered the lounge they would signal and mouth 'drei milch' and the kids would be brought three glasses of milk - their beverage of choice! :lol: If we were late for afternoon 'kuchen' they always saved ome pieces for them.

Passengers

In a nutshell, older retired couples. All German speaking, the only exception being a St Lucian woman married to a German man. They were intrigued that 'single' dad would travel with three kids and moreoever fly to Germany to join the cruise. Most of them arrived in Koln in less than a two hour train ride. All were exceedingly helpful and two bought the kids gifts from the market - really nice souvenirs. Two women complimented me on my hair styling skills - I am now a dab had at plaitting hair!!!!!

Cabin 210 & 212

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As previously mentioned we used one as the sleeping cabin and the other as the dressing cabin. The cabin had a panoramic window and twin beds - on being a Pullman that folded against the side wall of the cabin and the other was a sofa by day and a bed by night. What we did was take the mattress from one cabin and place in on the floor between the beds of the other. Aisling and Una slept head to tail on the mattress with Mai and Daddy in the beds. Beds were most comfortable. The room had two european type double pin sockets, a flat screen TV with BBC World News, Euronews and France 24 as English speaking channels and an internal telephone. Under the window was a little table that could be folded against the wall if it needed to be out of the way. Storage was a double wardrobe one half being full length and the other half was half length as it also housed two drawers (with hairdryer inside) and the safety deposit box atop. Cases could be stored under the couch. There was a small vanity table with chair at the foot of the pullman bed and accross the way was the bathroom. It was a typical cruise ship bathroom without the shower curtain - replaced by a glass screen. Only issue I had was that those with a larger rear end when using the toilet would have the side of their rear wedged up against this partition. Space was tight!!

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Cabin was replete with ADA toiletries. A shower gel / shampoo dispenser within the shower and soap, body lotions etc in miniature bottles.

Dining

Meals were broadly as follow

    06:00 Early risers breakfast - tea / coffee / croissants / danishes served in the panorama lounge
    07:30 - 09;30 Buffet breakfast with cold cuts, fish, cheese, salads, fresh fruits, juices, yoghurts, cereals, bacon, sausage and egg, breads, pastries and muffins. Omlette were made to order. Porridge was cooked each day for the girls
    12:00 5 course lunch - salad, soup (choice of cream of & a consomme), main course (meat / poultry dish, fish dish or veggie), dessert, cheese / crackers / fresh fruit, tea and coffee
    15:00 Coffee and the most amazing kuchens
    17:00 5 course dinner along the lines of above
    10:00 Midnight snack

Lunch upon boarding on day 1 was sandwiches and cakes. All meals were excellent particularly the sirloin of beef on night one, the venison stew for lunch on day 2, though my portion of fish on one evening was a tad meagre. Baked Alaska parade was the order of the day on Captain's cocktail night - real baked alaska's alight and it was delicious!!!!

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Tea and Coffee station was open 24/7 and plates of cookies and chocolates were strategically located around the ship to enjoy with your hot drink. Gluhwein was served on deck during the scenic cruise and hot chocolate was served when one returned ashore. Fruit juices, house wine and some beers were part of the AI package. Spirits from what I can establish were reasonably priced (certainly cheaper than Irish pubs). Sodas or as you say 'pop' was similarly priced as here.

Phoenix Reisen Quirks

While we were given electronic key cards for our cabins, they were not used as onboard credit cards, anything you bought on board was signed for and manually put on your account.
When you leave the ship you are given a card that you return when you return to the ship. Card returned = person back on board. Card not present = person still ashore.
No hard sells whatsoever. There was a photographer taking photos on embarkation and that was it. We dont normally buy these pictures, but despite looking like drowned rats on boarding, it was a nice picture and presented very nicely with a photo of the ship and an icon from each of the ports.

Embarkation / Disembarkation

The day of embarkation was very wet. The day before we saw a PR ship docked North of the Hohenzollem Bridge so I made the assumption that Aurelia would be docked there also. I decided that as it was no near the train station, we could easily walk to it. When we got there, there was no Aurelia :shock: . We asked a bus driver that was dropping passengers to a Shearing's ship if he had seen the PR ship he said it was 500 metres south of the bridge. From where we were, that was 600 m away. We walked and walked in the rain and no sign of Aurelia. We were getting wetter and wetter!!! We finally found her docked on the south side of the Deutzerbrucke near the chocolate museum - 1.3km away!!! Note to self - never make assumptions!!!!! Once you get to the ship - you literally walk on, wait in the lounge and deck staff take your bags to your room. At 1400 lunch was served. 1430 keys handed out and you are excorted to your room by a steward.

At disembarkation- bags out by 0730, have breakfast at 0800, return to room to brush teeth and collect hand luggage at 0900, walk off ship at 0930 with cases awaiting on the dock for collection.

Ports

Cologne

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We had a day and a half free in Cologne prior to embarkation. On the Sunday our first goal was to climb the 533 steps of the south spire of the KolnerDom. Following that we crossed the Hohenzollembrucke with its 1000s upon 1000s of locks. On the other side we took the lift to the stop of the Koln Triangle - 54 storey building that houses the European Aviation Safety Agency - for the views accross the Rhine. We walked along the bank of the Rhine on the Deutz side, crossed the Deutzerbrucke, found some sculptures to play on before heading to the Smarty Hotel to rest before dinner.

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Next morning prior to embarkation we visited the 4711 Eau de Cologne museum and shop!

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Bonn

10 minute walk from the ship to Munsterplatz to the Christmas markets with a ride on the Ferris Wheel - Goal 4 on target.

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Cochem

A full day visit here. In the morniing we walked up to the Castle that overlooks this pretty town, took the guided tour. Returned to the ship for lunch before going back ashore to the markets. Goal 1 acheived - we got the nutcracker!!! Had a ride on the Merry go round - Goal 4 on target.

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Koblenz

Docked right by Deutches Eck - the junction of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Visted the monument of Willheim the first.Then we headed into town, added another Gluhwein cup to the collection and Goal 3 acheived -the half metre long sausage!!!

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Back on the ship at noon for lunch and then the scenic journey along the Rhine past its fortresses and castles and the Loreley Rock

Rudesheim

Evening visit to this delightful Christmas Market. No merry go around to ride - goal 4 still on target

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Frankfurt

Gave the market a miss this morning as they were not opening until 11 and all aboard time was 11.45. Instead we headed to the lofty height of the Main Tower stopping by the Euro sculpture and Opera House en route. Bright and chilly in Frankfurt with ice atop the tower. Finish call at the playground 3 mins from the ship!

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Mainz

Evening visit to the Chrismas Market plus ride on two merry go rounds - Goal 4 on target

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Cologne

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Chocolate Fountain with Aurelia docked right outside!

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Had until 5pm this day before we needed to head to the airport. Visited the Lindt Chocolate Museum and the Cologne Hafen Market followed by the Market at the Koelner Dom. With hours to go Goal 2 acheived - we got the chocolate hammer for Granda and a nail for good measure - we could also have got him some nuts and bolts, stilson spanners, allen keys, drill bits etc etc :lol: :lol:

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Final thoughts

An absolutely wonderful holiday, wonderful sensory experience - sights,smells, sounds and tastes of the Markets and a time that I will always cherish that I spent with my girls. I have to give special praise to Mai, I could not have managed the other two without her. She dragged cases, sorted out clothes, escorted the other two to the loo about 100 times a day and whatever she was asked to do she did it. Most parents would not attempt what I did, but then they dont have my kids who are now well used to be being dragged accross continents. What the week has made me realise despite what my main detractor says, I do not have the family from hell. I have three great girls that were well received and behaved impeccably on the ship. I just feel that my detractor may feel that he has missed out, perhaps now wishes that he had done what I currently do with my kids! Jealously is a terrible thing! Carpe diem!

It was the people once again that made the holiday! Actually people everywhere - even the Ryanair staff now help! They even helped the kids disembark the plane by holding their hand on the stairs!!! The Smarty Hotel staff were also excellent but head and shoulders above the rest were PR and its crew on land and water!!! They have to be the one of the last companies in the world that understands the real meaning of 'putting the customer first' - this they have done!

I send PR a complimentary thank you email when I returned and this was the response

Dear XXXXXXXXX-Family,

thank you very much for your kind words expressed in your eMail from yesterday.
Yes indeed, there are a couple of fellows here in Bonn who do understand and speak a little bit of English :-)

We appreciate your very positve feedback and are very glad to hear, that you enjoyed your stay on MS Aurelia.

Good to hear that your kids enjoyed the cruise as well. Since our customers are mostly of an advanced age, maybe the staff on board welcomes younger customers from time to time...whirlwinds are often useful to shake up outdated routines. So thank you for letting them roam the vessel ;-)

We will of course send your commendatory feedback to our colleagues on board and let them know, that "the XXXXXXs from Ireland" were happy with their trip.

We would like to wish you all a wonderful christmas time and look forward to see you again this coming April aboard MS Asara!

Best regards from Bonn

Franz-Werner Krausgrill
Team Service

Phoenix Reisen GmbH
Pfaelzer Str. 14
53111 Bonn, Germany
www.PhoenixReisen.com
Geschäftsführer: Jörg Kramer,
Benjamin Krumpen, Johannes Zurnieden
USt-IdNr: DE 122119344, AG Bonn HRB 1582



................... and we too look forward to seeing PR next April in Koln as we cruise northwards to the Dutch waterways and the Tulip bulbfields!!!! Roll - on Easter 2018!!! Daddy will be on board with his three angels!!!!!

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Last edited by tomvet on 07 Dec 2017 14:48, edited 27 times in total.
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Re: Review: Family from Hell enjoy three river's Christmas Market cruise with M/S Aurelia

Postby Camela » 07 Dec 2017 00:30

So Tom, in Ireland do you also get fined if you take children out of school in term time?
"Won't you let me take you on a sea cruise"
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Re: Review: Family from Hell enjoy three river's Christmas Market cruise with M/S Aurelia

Postby tomvet » 07 Dec 2017 00:57

Camela wrote:So Tom, in Ireland do you also get fined if you take children out of school in term time?


Nope! We are far more relaxed about those kind of things here. In fact we are far more relaxed about most things! If a fine was imposed, most wouldn't pay it!! :lol: :lol: :lol:

Our approach to rules is very differnt to yours - we see them as just guidelines - we put this down to the legacy of 800 years of occupation! :P :P
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Review: Family from Hell enjoy their three rivers Christmas Market cruise with M/S Aurelia

Postby judgegeoff » 07 Dec 2017 09:49

Many thanks Tom for your very interesting and informative review of your cruise with the girls. :clap: :clap: :clap:

A Christmas river cruise is now on my 'to do' list after reading your review. Most Christmas Market cruises on the sea going cruise ships only ever visit one or two Markets, so I find that a river cruise would be very appealing.

Mae and the twins are very lucky and I am sure that when they are adult and have flown the nest, they will have some amazing memories of all the wonderful places you have taken them and the experiences that they have enjoyed. I also hope that your OH also enjoyed her break.
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Review: Family from Hell enjoy their three rivers Christmas Market cruise with M/S Aurelia

Postby Borneo » 07 Dec 2017 10:17

Well I'm worn out after reading all that. Good that your a dad that can cope with kids three at that!! Wish it had been like that 43 years ago, couldn't get my ex husband to change a nappy!! Maybe that's why he's an ex :lol:

Lovely read, pleased you all enjoyed it. Hope OH had a lovely break roo.
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Review: Family from Hell enjoy their three rivers Christmas Market cruise with M/S Aurelia

Postby tomvet » 07 Dec 2017 11:00

judgegeoff wrote:Many thanks Tom for your very interesting and informative review of your cruise with the girls. :clap: :clap: :clap:

A Christmas river cruise is now on my 'to do' list after reading your review. Most Christmas Market cruises on the sea going cruise ships only ever visit one or two Markets, so I find that a river cruise would be very appealing.

Mae and the twins are very lucky and I am sure that when they are adult and have flown the nest, they will have some amazing memories of all the wonderful places you have taken them and the experiences that they have enjoyed. I also hope that your OH also enjoyed her break.


Would highly recommend a river christmas markets cruise - I have seen 4night holidays from Shearings and Newmarket holidays but they spend night one and two on a bus getting there - yuk! and still only visit one or two markets.

I am investing now in the kids so hopefully in years to come the dividends will reap and they will take me! :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Review: Family from Hell enjoy their three rivers Christmas Market cruise with M/S Aurelia

Postby tomvet » 07 Dec 2017 11:04

Borneo wrote:Well I'm worn out after reading all that. Good that your a dad that can cope with kids three at that!! Wish it had been like that 43 years ago, couldn't get my ex husband to change a nappy!! Maybe that's why he's an ex :lol:

Lovely read, pleased you all enjoyed it. Hope OH had a lovely break roo.


I think the person who dubbed is the family from hell may not have interacted with his kids either, probably has regrets and rather accept that none of us can turn back the clock, he chooses to try and reduce us all to his level!

OH had a fab time doing her thing!
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Review: Family from Hell enjoy their three rivers Christmas Market cruise with M/S Aurelia

Postby judgegeoff » 07 Dec 2017 11:11

I have just revisited your review Tom and see that you have now added the photos. It looks like the girls had a fantastic time and I am very envious of that half metre long sausage baguette . Mmmm! Brilliant photos, thanks very much. :thumbup:
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Re: Review: Family from Hell enjoy three river's Christmas Market cruise with M/S Aurelia

Postby Meg50 » 07 Dec 2017 11:19

tomvet wrote:
Camela wrote:So Tom, in Ireland do you also get fined if you take children out of school in term time?


Nope! We are far more relaxed about those kind of things here. In fact we are far more relaxed about most things! If a fine was imposed, most wouldn't pay it!! :lol: :lol: :lol:

Our approach to rules is very differnt to yours - we see them as just guidelines - we put this down to the legacy of 800 years of occupation! :P :P



Any sensible school would say - good luck - as long as Mai keeps a diary, and learn things - (which clearly she does on your trips - not spending 2 weeks on a beach!!).
By secondary school age - it's different - best not done then
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Re: Review: Family from Hell enjoy three river's Christmas Market cruise with M/S Aurelia

Postby tomvet » 07 Dec 2017 11:26

Meg50 wrote:
tomvet wrote:
Camela wrote:So Tom, in Ireland do you also get fined if you take children out of school in term time?


Nope! We are far more relaxed about those kind of things here. In fact we are far more relaxed about most things! If a fine was imposed, most wouldn't pay it!! :lol: :lol: :lol:

Our approach to rules is very differnt to yours - we see them as just guidelines - we put this down to the legacy of 800 years of occupation! :P :P



Any sensible school would say - good luck - as long as Mai keeps a diary, and learn things - (which clearly she does on your trips - not spending 2 weeks on a beach!!).
By secondary school age - it's different - best not done then


While I did have some guilt taking her out of school, it will be something that we will avoid. Our next 2 cruises are at Easter and Oct mid-term.
I agree best not done at all but certainly to be avoided at all costs as educational years advance.
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