The West

Riverboat royalty
Riverboat royalty

Sausages are not high on most gourmet food lists, but a cruise along Europe's Moselle, Rhine and Main rivers will convince passengers that snags can have surprisingly tantalising flavours.

What's more, sausages really need to be washed down by German beer that comes in many different guises, including a boutique brew that has a distinct bacon flavour.

Indeed, my lasting memory from a recent river cruise remains a landlubber's lunch of herbed Nuremburg sausages on a bed of potato mash with sauerkraut and radish dressing, all washed down by dark ale in a local pub.

Our cruise on Uniworld's River Princess starts weaving its magic in France's capital, surely the world's most romantic city. After a heady weekend in Paris, including a saucy show at the Moulin Rouge - where leggy dancers do an enviable high-kicking can-can - we transfer by coach to Trier, just over the Luxemburg border in southern Germany.

After touring Trier to see towering Roman ruins, we board our home-away-from-home for seven days amid fairytale scenery along 500km of serpentine waters, including 51 navigable locks, as we drift closer to the Czech border.

Every day we anchor at a new river port to explore villages with well-worn cobblestones in market squares surrounded by centuries-old steeply raked houses and narrow alleyways where close-knit communities thrive.

We take time to taste regional foods, sip local wines and beers and do a spot of shopping. Back aboard we cruise off to another port passing hilltop castles, medieval monasteries, steep vineyards with vines heavy with grapes and visit wineries.

It is relaxed travel. The hardest part is unpacking in a surprisingly roomy suite, with a private bathroom. There is no need to repack until the cruise is over.

River Princess has good public areas, with a big lounge and bar, a tea/coffee bar 24/7, library and sundeck. At each port, some passengers stay aboard, although sightseeing tours, at no extra cost, are hard for most to resist.

Food aboard is more Michelin-starred than run-of-the-mill, including many dishes of the regions we are sailing through. Open seating in the restaurant enables singles to make new friends and the large panoramic windows always keep the bucolic scenery in sight.

Our knowledgeable cruise director advises on all logistics, but it is the cheerful staff - who keep cabins ship-shape, the restaurant purring, and the central office manned - who steal our hearts with kindness because service is the name of their game.

River Princess carries 132 guests, mostly Australians and Americans who share a love of river cruising.

And while baby boomers make up the bulk, there are also families and groups of friends travelling together.

The daily sightseeing tour is included in the cruise price, with other tours at extra cost.


• Cathay Pacific has 10 flights a week from Perth to Hong Kong with twice-daily flights on to Paris,

• Uniworld's 11-day Paris & European River Romance from Paris to Nuremberg on River Princess, cruises along the Moselle, Rhine and Main rivers and visits the German winemaking villages of Bernkastel, Traben-Trarbach and medieval Miltenberg. From $4600 per person twin share,

Veronica Matheson travelled courtesy of Uniworld and Cathay Pacific.

The West Australian

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