Riviera's William Shakespeare: A day with Phil
Riviera Travel very kindly invited me to spend a day on their most recent addition to their river cruising fleet - the William Shakespeare.
Lunch on Cologne sounded quite appealing so it would have been rude to say "No"...but joking aside this was an opportunity not to be missed and one that afforded me quality time on board this beautiful ship. An early flight from Manchester and a 45 minute transfer from Dusseldorf meant an arrival time of approx 11am by coach into Cologne.
As we crossed the river the ship was in full view berthed almost opposite Koln Cathederal, perfect!
I was welcomed onboard by the captain, offered a refeshing drink before starting a tour of the William Shakespeare. It's worth saying now that Riviera Travel has just received "Which" recommended status for the third year running and I was keen to understand how this accolade impacted on guests. It didn't take me long to find out.
I was dressed casual with no name badge and many of the guests were still onboard awaiting disembarkation so this for me was the perfect situation to mingle in and observe as I travelled around the ship.
Unlike an ocean cruise on disembarkation day this was quite different to my ususal experience. People were either sat down chatting ot taking advantage of a small buffet or simply sat on deck enjoying the last of the sunshine maybe reading a book. It wasn't chaos or a surge to get off, but then again this is an escourted city break on the water where everything is taken care or on a much smaller more personal scale.
I started on the sun deck and was immediately impressed by the cafe style seated area in front of the bridge. The seats / sofas / chairs were substantial not cheap and it's easy to see why this is the most popular area on the sun deck. You also get the birds eye panoramic view of what's ahead whilst cruising along the river.
From here I headed down the stairs to the outside area in front of the Globe Lounge. It's worth noting that this area is accessible to those who have walking difficulties, via a motorised chair (see above). Then it was through an automatic door and into the Globe Lounge.
This is a very tasteful lounge with plenty of space including the main bar, the piano and also a beatiful and quaint library area with two large dreamy chairs.
Everything that happens in the lounge is geared towards British guests because this is very much a river cruise for those who enjoy thos little British touches such as 100% English speaking tour guides. Tours that DO NOT take you to shopping outlets and entertainment that may include a "Pub Quiz" every now and then. Drinks are priced well there's never a feeling that you are being ripped off or sold something you don't really want. These are important points to make - oh and everyone will almost certainly have paid the same fare...!!! This is another good reeason as to why RiverCruising.co.uk works closely with Riviera Travel.
From the Globe Lounge I move past reception and down to Romeo Deck where there's 12 cabins plus the Sauna and Gymnasium.
These cabins are great with plenty of light and perfect for anyone who is looking to save money by not having French doors or a balcony. I am sure you will see this from the photographs I have taken.
Moving on up to the middle deck - Othello deck where the cabins all have French doors and ample space with great bathrooms. (the bathrooms are standard across all cabins) It's woth noting here that William Shakespears bathrooms are up there with the best as far as practicality goes and the put some ocean cruise lines to shame.
I then popped up to Hamlet Deck to have a look at the Suites. There's four of these on the William Shakespeare and they are very spacious indeed. They are not opulent or extravagent - but they do have an adequate balcony and as I said, lots of space. Personally I would be more than happy with any of the cabins on Othello or Hamlet Deck with the Fench Balcony that opens to give you full views of the river. But you make up your own mind.
At the end of Hamlet Deck you come to the Midsummer Bar at the stern of the ship. This is another great area to relax and probably a little quieter than the Globe Lounge plus you can open the doors and sit outside.
Walking to the side and up the stairs you come to the recreation area on the Sun Deck, complete with a small putting green and the obligatory super sized chess set which almost every river cruise line appears to posess. I've yet to see anyone playing chess on deck!
A leisurely stroll takes me back to the stairs and into the reception before making my way to the dining room for a sample of Rivera Travels wines and lunch / dinner dishes. Having heard about the standard of their food from passengers who have cruised on the Lord Byron, I expected great things on this new ship and I wasn't disappointed.
A white and red wine were offered to me to enjoy during dinner and they were fantastic (I know wine is a personal thing but in my opinion they really were good). The food was equally as good and I have enclosed a photo below. It probably doesn't do it justice however I have eaten food on some of the best river cruise vessels - and for quality, this was right up there. There is also access to the dining room via a lift for anyone with walking difficulties.
My experience of the crew was extremely favourable and nothing was too much trouble. I observed this from a guest perspective and then later in the afternoon the crew were very happy to engage with me and talk about their passion for this super product. It was clear that Riviera Travel's passengers are appreciated just as much by the crew as the crew are by the passengers.
It was like one happy family - that is the best way I can describe my experience of a day on board a Riviera Travel river cruise ship.
If there was one negative - it was the charge for a bottle of water in the cabin. I feel that this bottle on arrival should be free and I dont think there is a need for a posh glass bottle either. That's the only thing I would change.
On leaving the ship, it was great to get a snap shot of the Captain being thanked by Michael, the MD of Riviera Travel. A nice touch I thought and yet again another clear example of the relationship between this company and its employees.
If you would like more information about any of Riviera Travel's escourted tours, both on the river or on land - please call my team on 0800 810 8229.
Phil - MD
RiverCruising.co.uk from The Cruise Village