Titan’s exclusively chartered ship MS Serenade 1 offers superb comfort for exploring, says Mary Ann Pickford who joined the inaugural sailing from Cologne
The low sun is peeking out from behind Cologne’s imposing cathedral as MS Serenade 1 glides under Hohenzollern Bridge. On board, there’s an air of relaxed contentment as guests mingle, drinking Champagne while waiting for the Captain’s Welcome Gala Dinner to start.
Titan has a reputation for quality service that ensures their holidays run smoothly and we’re experiencing it first hand on board MS Serenade 1, the tour operator’s exclusive new charter ship. Originally built in 2005, the 136-guest vessel has been refurbished to a classic style with modern touches and, with only 68 outside cabins, there is a surprising amount of space throughout.
Our cabin is located on the Mozart Deck in the middle of the ship, and is a beautifully appointed sanctuary with a French balcony – ideal for enjoying the Rhine’s lovely scenery while sailing. The contemporary décor has warm hues of cream and orange while the generously sized en suite bathroom features both a bath and shower. It’s easy to simply stick around here to relax but the Panorama Lounge with its comfortable furnishings, the Sky Lounge and the Sun Deck are all equally alluring places to unwind, affording fantastic views of the surroundings. There is also a small gym and a sauna, while the Sun Deck has sunbeds, chairs and tables as well as giant chess. Venture downstairs and you will find the Beethoven Deck, while the upper deck houses the Chopin Deck.
Our four-day sojourn will take us along the Rhine River from Cologne to Amsterdam, with calls at the historic city of Arnhem and Hoorn in The Netherlands.
Every morning we enjoy buffet breakfasts of hot and cold dishes in the Restaurant on the Mozart Deck (the freshly cooked omelettes are a definite highlight). On our first day we join a walking tour of Arnhem, equipped with VOX portable audio headsets. Our guide reveals how the city was made famous as the site of a major Second World War battle and takes us through the centre, before we have free time to explore and admire its grand buildings, from the 15th century St Eusebius Church to the more modern functionalist-style City Hall, and delight in its café culture with a coffee stop.
Back on board, we meet our fellow passengers and enjoy an informal lunch in the Restaurant. There is no danger of ever going hungry on board MS Serenade 1 as four-course meals are offered daily for lunch and dinner with beer and wine included, and snacks are available any time you wish. Chef Nicu draws on locally sourced ingredients and has set up a carving station offering leberkäse, a speciality meatloaf comprising beef and pork served with onion sauce.
MS Serenade 1 itineraries are designed for British holidaymakers, so the cuisine is a local twist on traditional British classics; smoked pork is served with a dark beer sauce, while plaice fillets come with pomme frites. And ship announcements and tour guide commentary are in English.
The ambience on board is delightfully warm and familiar, like a home from home but with the added interest of exploring a new destination each day. Sailings also include Titan’s VIP door-to-door travel service, which made our quite early start for this cruise all the more bearable as we didn’t have to worry about making our own way to the airport and back. There are also dedicated tour managers and ours are as approachable and knowledgeable as the tour guides.
In the evenings we enjoy light entertainment with a pianist who gamely accepts a couple of requests at the very end of the night. For me this sums up the crew on board, who are all friendly, eager to please with high levels of attention to detail, offering bottled water before we disembark for the guided tours and leaving mini chocolates on our pillows during the day.
Following a night’s voyage north to Hoorn, we wake to bright sunshine and gear up for another day of exploring with an informative and enthusiastic guide. The Dutch harbour town of Hoorn is charming, with its cobbled squares, beautiful traditional buildings and picturesque waterfront.
As we sail from Hoorn to the Dutch capital city, we take advantage of the glorious weather and enjoy a couple of hours getting to know our fellow travellers on the very appropriately named Sun Deck, with hot drinks from the 24-hour tea and coffee station by reception.
We dock an hour early and disembark with free time to soak up the lively city’s atmosphere and grand buildings. Thanks to the balmy and sunny weather, everyone is in a
relaxed mood and we spend the afternoon wandering around and enjoying a Dutch beer al fresco with some of the lovely new friends we have made on board.
Watching barges glide by on the canal next to us, we clink glasses just like on our first evening on board and toast the wonderful time we’ve had on this Rhine sojourn.
To me there’s no doubt that MS Serenade 1 will entice travellers who enjoy supreme comfort while cruising Europe’s finest rivers.
GETTING THERE: A six-day Dutch Waterways and the Beautiful Keukenhof Gardens cruise sailing on board MS Serenade 1 starts from £1,149pp for a 31 March 2018 departure, including 14 meals, local wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner, three included excursions and Titan’s award-winning VIP door-to-door travel service. Ports of call include Hoorn, Enkhuizen for the Keukenhof Gardens and Amsterdam. For more information call 0800 988 5873 or see titantravel.co.uk/cruiseinternational.