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Only a short walk from our hotel and turning the corner into the magnificent avenue of Champs Elysse, the Arc De Triomphe was a magnificent sight to behold.    Yes - we were in Paris and excited for the start of our European River Cruise adventure! 

We jumped onto the "Hop On/Hop Off" bus to tour this magnificent city of tree lined boulevards, grand palaces and the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.  

Our 4 night Paris stay included a private tour of the Fragonard Perfume shop, Garnier Opera House and lunch at the famous Angelina's café (thanks to Hayley for the reservation, we were able to skip the long queue).   Over the next 3 days, a Seine river cruise, a visit to the Eiffel Tower, an evening at the exciting Moulin Rouge Cabaret (optional) with plenty of free time to explore the sites of this amazing city – from Versailles, Louvre, Montmartre, and a visit to Roland Garros home of the French Open, awaited us. 

Paris is known as the "city of lights" so it was only appropriate that we finished our stay with a private night tour.  Starting at Montmartre with its panoramic views, we watched the city light up as we made our way through the iconic sights of Place De Vendome, Louvre, Sacre Coeur and arrived at the Eiffel Tower just in time to see it light up. 

After a comfortable coach drive the next morning and a stop in Antwerp, we arrived in Zaandam (30 mins out of Amsterdam) to embark on our luxury starship "Emerald Dawn '', our home for the next 15 days. Built in 2015, with 91 cabins with a capacity of 180 passengers / 51 crew it was truly luxurious…and after checking into our opulent cabins, unpacking and tucking our suitcases away for the next fortnight, we were ready for our cruise to commence!    

From Day 1, the Emerald Dawn had a comfortable and relaxed feel - from the personable cabin stewards, tour director, incredible restaurant staff right through to the captain (who was always ready for a chat), we knew we were going to be spoiled.  

At 6.45pm every evening, we would meet in the Horizon Lounge and Louis, our tour director, would take us through the next day’s activities and excursions.  Our amazing chefs would explain the specials for each evening’s dinner followed by the restaurant manager/sommelier providing a rundown of the wines that would be served.  Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner were exceptional, delicious and of the highest standards with special care given to dietary needs.  

Our first shore excursion was into Amsterdam and a guided tour through the Heritage listed canal system, before our first day of sailing through the Dutch countryside to the Rhine River.  

The sundeck was the place to be, whether it was to join in the early morning Pilates class, do a few laps of the deck or to just sit and enjoy the world going by.  

The next shore excursion was Cologne, one of the oldest cities in Germany and the largest on the Rhine.  After our guided tour of the city, we had free time to explore and shop (I bought a great pair of shoes!) before heading back to the comfort of our ship.  

 After dinner, social activities ranging from trivia, karaoke through to disco nights were thoroughly enjoyed, with the "Sisterhood" soon gaining a reputation to be reckoned with!   Movie nights and live entertainment were also enjoyed throughout the cruise.  

Travelling the Rhine Gorge, we leisurely sailed through fairytale-like castles and fortresses, with sloping vineyard hills rolling down to quaint townships on the river's edge.   

Most of the shore excursions were "Included” excursions " or "Emerald Active" excursions allowing you to choose and explore the towns at your own pace. A third option of "Discovermore" excursion (at an additional cost) was added if there was an opportunity to visit something of particular interest.  

Sailing on the Main River we had all fallen in love with the charm of the Bavarian countryside with our shore excursions taking us to the medieval towns of Miltenberge and Wertheim.  

As we sailed down the Main-Danube canal passing through Bamberg and Nuremberg, perfect weather made for sitting on the sundeck relaxing with a cocktail or taking advantage of the in-house health club for a well-earned massage.  

Our next stop was Passau with most of the sisters taking the "Discovermore" excursion to either visit Salzburg or Cesky Krumlov (Czech Rep).  I chose Cesky and to date, it is now one of my favourite towns.  

Sailing on the Danube and into the heart of Austrian wine growing country, our shore excursions included the UNESCO towns of Melk and Durnstein.  

Onto Vienna and a guided morning tour was followed by free time to explore the charm of this vibrant city, returning later that evening for a wonderful Viennese concert.  

Next stop was the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, with options to explore the city, hike to Bratislava castle, or do a Skoda tour of post- communist Bratislava.  I chose a home hosted coffee & cake with a local family, a wonderful glimpse of Slovakian home life.  

After an overnight sailing, we woke to be greeted by the magnificent city of Budapest with its imposing parliament building and sadly, the last port of our cruise.  

An evening's entertainment of a traditional Hungarian folklore dancing, followed by Louis explaining the following day's disembarkation details - and for the last time the chef, restaurant manager and sommelier we were taken through the last evening's farewell menu.    

Email addresses were swapped with fellow passengers, photos taken with the amazing restaurant staff and promises to catch up were made.  

Our cruise had ended, but not our travels - we still had Prague to visit!  

Prague, known as the Paris of the east, was the perfect ending to our travels…. with its wide boulevards, Prague Castle, Charles Bridge and its beautiful town square – after 3 days, our spectacular trip had come to an end. 

You know it’s been an amazing holiday when you close your eyes and can picture and feel the serene beauty of sailing on the Rhine.  

To all the wonderful sisters that I had the pleasure to share this experience with, many thanks for the company, laughter and friendship ..... till our next Sisterhood adventure!  xoxoxo Dawn - Hostess

Sisterhood Womens Travel's avatar

About the Author: Sisterhood Womens Travel

The Sisterhood Womens Travel team consists of experienced tour hostesses with over 70 years combined travel experience throughout 5 continents and we can’t wait to share our passion for travel with you! There really is no better way to travel!

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