We arrived in Frankfurt to be transported to Koblenz to embark on a 5 night Rhine cruise. The full cruise of 7 nights departed 2 days previously from Cologne.
Our particular river cruise itinerary would take us from Koblenz through the beautiful Middle Rhine Valley to the German town of Speyer, Strasbourg in France, Breisach in Germany and Basel in Switzerland where we would disembark..
We arrived at our ship, the Brabant, at the river cruise port of Koblenz around mid-day in soaring temperatures (38c) where we would be docked overnight. This gave those passengers, who wanted to, the opportunity of either taking one of the Fred Olsen River Cruise extended excursions or of going into Koblenz by themselves and to admire the many elegant buildings of Koblenz old town. Koblenz is tucked away between the three low mountain ranges of Hunsrück, Eifel and Westerwald where the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers joins.
As we boarded it was immediately noticeable how light and airy the Brabant is and, given the outside temperature, there is a very efficient air-conditioning system throughout. We checked in without fuss at the desk on deck 2 and followed our porter to our stateroom up one set of stairs to Mozart deck 3.
We had a Juliette Balcony Room which, as it turned out, offered everything needed for an enjoyable stay. Facilities include floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, an en suite bathroom with shower and toilet, a choice of bed configuration (double or twin), plenty of wardrobe space, a flat screen TV, a direct-dial telephone, a hairdryer, individual climate control and a convenient safe. There are just 33 rooms of this type on Mozart deck as well as 2 large suites. Strauss deck 2 houses 33 more rooms with Juliette balcony and Haydn deck 1 houses 11 generously sized standard rooms. The windows in the Standard Rooms are positioned high up and cannot be opened.
Whilst docked in Koblenz we took the opportunity of having a look round Brabant so first we went up to the sun deck which is deck 4. This deck is quite typical of a river cruise ship with lots of seating around tables as well as deck chairs. A number of areas are under cover just in case the sun gets too hot ( as with us) or one catches a passing shower. Having a length of more than 300 feet the sun deck is quite a large area but it is certainly the place to be to see and admire the wonderful passing scenery plus there is a small bar (Lido Bar) on there for any needed refreshment! Also nearby is a large chess board, shuffleboard and a (very) small pool for those looking to entertain themselves.
As well as accommodations Mozart Deck 3 has a number of public spaces starting with the Amadeus Club which is situated aft (rear). Here is a place where one can relax in leather tub chairs around a table and either take in the scenery through the huge panoramic windows or read a book or newspaper from the small library. As well as there being a small internet section here a hot drinks machine is also available 24 hours a day.
At the other end of the ship on this deck is the Panorama Lounge complete with a well-stocked bar. This lounge is a great place to relax and meet fellow passengers . A small selection of sandwiches and cakes are served here in the afternoon whilst in the evening there is usually live music (not loud) either from the resident piano or singer(s). The duet we witnessed were not at all good and we are reliably informed that they have since been replaced. Having said that this did not detract from our enjoyment. Guest lecturers will also use this room as well as the Cruise Director who will give a short lecture on the following day's events and some history of the area. Outside this area is (weather permitting) a small sun terrace complete with tables and chairs.
The Panorama Restaurant is housed forward on deck 2 near the reception area. This is a lovely room to enjoy a buffet breakfast, 3 course lunch and sumptuous five-course à la carte dinner. We found the food absolutely gorgeous and can thoroughly recommend both it and the excellent service given. Vegetarian options are available. Drinks are not included but a drinks package is available for a very reasonable (£15pp per day at present) fee. The package covers drinks served with meals only. Seating is open.
Brabant is Fred. Olsen’s first-ever dedicated river cruising boat. Built in 2006, this elegant and comfortable vessel is in keeping with the fleet of their ocean-going cruise ships.
The Balcony Suites have a Juliette Balcony and measure approximately 236 sq ft.
The spacious Juliette Balcony Rooms on Mozart Deck 3 and Strauss Deck 2 are approximately 161 sq ft. and offer a generous amount of room for an enjoyable river cruise experience. These rooms also include floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, plenty of wardrobe space, a choice of bed configuration (double or twin), an en suite bathroom with shower and toilet, a direct-dial telephone, a hairdryer, a flat-screen TV, individual climate control and a safe.
The Standard Rooms are on Haydn Deck 1 and measure approximately 161sq ft., There’s plenty of room to relax and each is fully equipped with everything you need for a comfortable and enjoyable holiday. Amenities include an en suite bathroom with shower and toilet, ample wardrobe space, a flat-screen TV, a choice of bed configuration (double or twin), a direct-dial telephone, a hairdryer, individual climate control and a safe. Please note: the windows in the Standard Rooms are positioned high up and cannot be opened and the rooms are approximately 161 sq ft.
For the ultimate indulgence, you might want to treat yourself to a soothing massage or luxurious bath experience at the Vital Club on Haydn Deck 1.
Next door to the Vital Club is the Hair Salon, where you can perfect your current look or perhaps try something new at the hands of the expert stylist.
If you want to ensure you stay in shape during your river cruise, you can do so at Brabant’s on board Fitness Room. It’s open around the clock, so you can work out to your heart’s content and at a time that suits you.
You can also hire one of Brabant's bicycles, with our compliments, for a leisurely bike ride ashore – it’s a great way to keep fit while exploring the charming towns, cities and villages on your itinerary.
There are numerous tours and excursions available to book on a Brabant cruise. These tours are not included in your cruise fare. However if you prefer to 'do your own thing' then many of the ports allow this and local maps are often given out at the reception desk if available. You will receive a comprehensive booklet a few weeks before your cruise with lots of information about tours including whether they are suitable for those with mobility issues including wheelchair users. Some maps are also included. Tours can either be booked online in the guest personaliser or once on board but as they are sold on a first come, first served basis, it is often best not to delay. A great value tour package can also be pre-booked (only) and entitles one tour for each port each day.
There are no facilities for children on board and Fred Olsen does not recommend this product for children under the age of 12. 3 berth rooms are not available on ms Brabant.
Gratuities are not included in your cruise fare and a charge of £8 per person per night will be added to your onboard account, to cover the crews' tips. However you can have these either amended or removed at reception if you would prefer to tip individually.
Our Brabant experience did surpass our expectations. We have cruised on other river ships but this was our best all-round experience. Maybe the fact that Brabant is geared for English passengers made a difference.
We found the whole crew very accommodating and friendly the moment we stepped on board and nothing was too much bother.
The food was first class throughout our cruise and service was always with a smile.
The tours were not the best that we have experienced although the Technik Museum at Speyer was extremely interesting and Strasbourg is one beautiful European City to vivit.
The entertainment on this particular cruise was mediocre at best. The 'resident' duo however have since ended their contract.
All in all this was an excellent value-for-money cruise and definitely worth trying.