When the opportunity presented itself for us to spend 7 days cruising through the Moselle Valley with Avalon Waterways, we jumped at it.
The Moselle River is one of Western Europe’s significant rivers. It originates in the Vosges mountains of northeastern France and meanders through Luxembourg and Germany before joining the Rhine River at the town of Koblenz.
Stretching approximately 339 miles in length, the river has played a vital role in the region’s history and commerce for centuries.
The Moselle Valley, particularly in Germany, is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes. It is characterized by steep vineyards, quaint medieval towns, and castle ruins perched on hilltops. Historically, the valley has been a crucial transit and trade route, with settlements dating back to ancient Roman times.
One of its significant highlights is the production of Riesling wines, with the region boasting some of the world’s steepest vineyards. Hello, who doesn’t love a good Riesling? I sure do!
Our itinerary started in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, and ended in Frankfurt, Germany. Along the way, we stopped in Remich, Bernkastel, Traben-Trarbach, Cochem, Mendig, Koblenz, and Rudesheim.
The itinerary delivered everything we hoped it would. Spectacular landscapes, picturesque towns, terraced vineyards, hilltop castles, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the best rieslings in the world, and daily adventures.
Cruising the Moselle Valley with Avalon Waterways
Table of Contents
We took the 7-day Moselle River Cruise in partnership with Avalon Waterways to experience their Moselle Active & Discovery experience.
This tour type is designed to give you more flexibility, and the ability to combine your interests with the ease of group travel. Of course, in an upscale way by river cruising.
The Active & Discovery experience is a reinvention of European river cruising that focuses on being active. The idea is that you spend more time walking, hiking, biking, and exploring than you do sitting on a bus.
Of course, this is right up our alley, and how we already love to explore Europe! Having been to Germany several times, we were also excited to explore a region that is much less visited.
What really sets Avalon Waterways apart is their choice of 3 included excursion types on the Active & Discovery itineraries.
This includes a classic track, active track, and discovery track with the flexibility to mix them up along the way. We were always welcome to forego any of those in exchange for free time as well.
As strong independent travelers, we loved the concept of mixing tracks depending on the destination. We were very excited to see how it would work, as European river cruises are generally associated with a slower pace and only city tours.
The secret’s out, we loved it!
Read on for a full overview of our experience with Avalon Waterways on the Moselle River in Europe.
The Avalon Difference
So, what makes an Avalon Waterways river cruise different from any other cruise? Well, the answer came to me the second we set foot on the ship. They don’t call it the Imagery II for no reason.
The entire ship has floor-to-ceiling windows. There are no sectioned off spaces. No walls blocking your view. Every single space on this ship is designed to give you the absolute best vantage point possible of your surroundings.
The Gorgeous Avalon Rooms
The rooms are beautiful and the suites offer floor-to-ceiling windows that open completely to convert your room into a balcony! They also place the beds to face the giant windows, so you never miss a moment during your cruise.
The Aft Deck is Open to Everyone
They offer a Club on the aft complete with a 24/7 coffee and snack bar. It also featured a vitamin water dispenser and a water bottle refill station.
The club allows you to sit inside, again with floor-to-ceiling windows – or you can enjoy the back deck. In all the river cruises we have taken, six to date, we have never been able to visit this space.
We learned during our orientation that this space is normally reserved for high-end suites in other ships. With Avalon, they opted to make it a public space for all to enjoy, which was really appreciated.
Daily Included Happy Hour
Yes, you read that correctly. Every day, Avalon Waterways offers an included happy hour for all guests. The selection includes a nice selection of mixed drinks, cocktails, wine, and beer.
It’s worth mentioning that they also include delicious wine and beer, along with non-alcoholic drinks at all meals.
Day 1 – Arrival in Luxembourg & Transfer to Remich
We actually flew into Luxembourg a day early and spent a night at the Le Royal. This gave us time to explore the city before joining up with our Avalon Waterways itinerary. Luxembourg City was just as charming as we remembered from our previous visit in 2017.
We were also told you could fly into the Frankfurt airport and transfer to Remich from there.
Our morning was relaxed and allowed us to catch a late breakfast before grabbing a transfer from the hotel to Remich to embark on the Imagery II.
Our afternoon was spent getting settled on the ship, walking along the river, enjoying happy hour, dinner, and an introduction to the week ahead.
Day 2 – Remich, Luxembourg and Trier, Germany
Our second day started with a lovely lunch in the panoramic dining room and a reasonable departure time. We would be spending our morning exploring the quaint port town of Remich, Luxembourg.
Long considered the ‘Pearl of the Moselle’, it is a small town that rests on the border triangle of Luxembourg, France, and Germany. It’s a place that offers sweeping panoramic views of green spaces, vineyards, and classic European architecture.
From then on, we were officially immersed in the German wine country!
Hiking the Vineyards of Remich
The valleys that line the Moselle River are particularly known for wine production, and Remich is no exception. Seeing as one of the major draws to Avalon’s Active & Discovery cruises is the chance to get out and move, we opted to start our exploration with the Active option.
This would have us joining a hike from the port, through the city of Remich, and up into the steep vineyards above the city center. Leaving the ship, we set off on foot through the small town, learning some history along the way.
As we climbed up and away from the river, we found ourselves surrounded by rows of grapes that contribute to the famed Moselle wines. Not to mention the beautiful views of the town below us.
It was here that our tour guide shared some of the wine history of Remich with us, ultimately leading us to the small family winery of L&R Kox for a wine tasting.
This medium-sized winery has been a family business for over 100 years, and they strive to offer roughly 50 different varieties of wine! In contrast, most wineries offer an average of 8 varieties. This has to do with their ability to grow several types of grapes and experiment with mixing them.
While we of course sampled from the famed staple of Riesling, we also enjoyed several varieties of white wines including the pinot blanc varieties.
I have to say we enjoyed the sparkling Crémant de Luxembourg the most. This sparkling wine, like champagne, is produced only in Luxembourg under strict rules and is only available in the Moselle region.
Highlights of Ancient Trier
After enjoying a relaxed afternoon sailing on the Moselle River, we arrived in the oldest city in Germany, Trier. This city was the northern territory capital of the Roman Empire for more than four centuries, earning it the title ‘Rome of the North’.
Today the city features some spectacular, and well-preserved ancient world sites, including Constantine’s Throne Room.
We were bussed from the port to the city center where we set off on foot to explore and learn about this ancient city. This beautiful old city is a fascinating blend of half-timbered houses, stone structures, and modern German architecture.
Our highlight was undoubtedly seeing the massive Porta Nigra. This is a well-preserved Roman city gate that now holds UNESCO World Heritage status. Seeing it up close in the beautiful evening light was a magical experience.
Day 3 – Bernkastel and Traben Trarbach, Germany
Heading into our third day, we enjoyed a relaxed morning. This meant enjoying the views along the Moselle River and a later breakfast. By 10 a.m., we had arrived in one of the sparkling gems of the Moselle Valley, the town of Bernkastel.
Bernkastel Walking Tour
While this walking tour was part of our hike up to Landshut Castle, I feel it’s important to share more about this town! We’ve been to Germany many times before; however, this was our first experience in one of its classic half-timbered villages.
The small towns in the Moselle Valley have a completely different feel to the ones we’ve explored in Bavaria.
Bernkastel, with its ancient marketplace, feels like a journey back in time. Architectural marvels like the Town Hall highlight the town’s Renaissance-era significance.
The uniqueness is further emphasized by buildings like the Spitzhäuschen. This structure dates back to the 15th century and almost seems to defy architectural norms with its design.
Beyond architecture, the town’s essence is deeply tied to wine. The Moselle Wine Museum offers a history of winemaking in the region and celebrates Bernkastel’s role in that history.
Hike to Landshut Castle
After our walking tour of the town, we began our hike to Landshut Castle. We followed a trail from town that would take us through a beautiful park and up to the castle ruins.
We passed through towering trees, a lush forest, and a waterfall as we navigated a consistent grade to the top of the hill.
As we approached the top, the trees began to thin, and we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by vineyards. This is when the castle came into view. The hike took our group around 40 minutes to reach the top from the town center.
At the top, the ruins of Landshut Castle offered us some incredible panoramic views of the surrounding area. At this point, our guide disappeared. He then suddenly reappeared dressed in a costume to begin our tour of the castle.
We learned that Landshut Castle boasts a history that stretches back to the 9th century. It served as a place of refuge and defense, playing a significant role in the region’s tumultuous past. Over the centuries, it has witnessed numerous conflicts, changes in rulership, and the ebb and flow of empires.
Unfortunately, in 1692, a devastating fire reduced much of the castle to ruins. Despite its battered state, Landshut Castle remains a symbol of the region’s rich heritage. It offers visitors a glimpse into medieval life and the strategic importance of riverfront castles in the Moselle region.
Leaving the castle, we descended on a different path. This time down the steep slopes through thick rows of grape vines and back to the river Moselle.
Top Deck BBQ
Arriving back on the ship and learned that the Sky Grill would be open! This meant one thing, we would be able to enjoy a top-deck BBQ complete with good old-fashioned American hamburgers.
I feel this is worth mentioning mainly because it is unique to river cruising in Europe! Also, it was just a fantastic experience overall. We enjoyed a traditional BBQ atmosphere. The wine was flowing, and we were able to enjoy unobstructed views of Bernkastel and the Landshut Castle.
Traben Trarbach Evening Visit
After a relaxed afternoon of sailing, we arrived at another town along the Moselle River. The story of Traben-Trarbach is a tale of two towns, bisected by the Moselle but united in spirit.
Historically significant in the wine trade, Traben-Trarbach’s prosperity in the early 20th century is reflected in its Art Nouveau structures. This gives the town a unique architectural identity.
But amidst this modernity, the Bridge Gate stands as a relic from medieval times. It offers a stark contrast and a window to the town’s varied history.
So of course, we had to hop off the ship after dinner to explore a little! There wasn’t an organized tour, but we were able to explore on our own.
We just wandered to town along the river promenade and enjoyed some of the unique architecture of the town.
On our way back to the ship we spotted a beaver swimming in the river which only added to the awe of witnessing one of the most spectacular sunsets we’ve seen in a long time. It was the perfect way to end our day in the Moselle Valley.
Day 4 – Cochem, Germany
Day four started with rest and relaxation as we spent the morning just cruising along the Moselle River. This meant we enjoyed a sleep-in, and late breakfast, followed by coffee on the top deck. This is the best place to enjoy the views.
After lunch, we arrived in the charming German town of Cochem.
Walking Tour of Cochem
Cochem is a historic town located on the banks of the Moselle River. While the star of the show is the Reichsburg Cochem Castle, we really enjoyed our walking tour.
Cochem’s old town is characterized by its traditional half-timbered houses and narrow winding alleys both of which offer insights into the town’s medieval heritage.
Our walking tour highlights the most prominent buildings, squares, and shops while allowing us time to admire the beautiful architecture. Being able to enjoy a walking guided tour in each port in addition to our selected activity was certainly a highlight of our trip!
Reichsburg Castle Visit
After our walking tour, we hopped on a small bus to traverse the winding and steep road up to the Reichsburg Castle for a private Avalon Waterways tour.
The medieval castle was initially constructed in the 12th century and was rebuilt in the Neo-Gothic style in the 19th century after falling into ruins.
Today, you can visit this beautifully restored castle both on the inside and outside. Our tour took us through the many rooms, parlors, and courtyards while our guide offered fascinating stories and history about the people who occupied the castle through the years.
We’ve toured a lot of castles in Europe, but this was one of the best preserved and impressive castles that we’ve seen. Their collection of artifacts and period furniture was also extensive.
It was easy to imagine what it would be like to live there, enjoying the courtyards, gardens, and stunning views over the Moselle Valley.
Day 5 – Koblenz, Germany
Day five started early for us, as we had signed up for the optional excursion to Mendig to learn about the massive volcano that sits beneath the surface in Germany. Who knew?!
In the afternoon, we would rejoin the regular itinerary in the popular destination of Koblenz. Today we would also officially enter the Rhine River, as Koblenz sits at the confluence of the Moselle and Rhine rivers.
Something worth noting, if an excursion is offered to visit the Burg Eltz Castle during your stop in Koblenz, we would highly recommend that you take it. The is one of the most famous fairy tale castles in Germany, yet it sees far fewer visitors than others.
Magma and Monks in Mendig Optional Tour
This optional excursion ended up being extremely interesting and we were glad that we opted to do it. After leaving the ship, we headed for the town of Mendig, where we would pay a visit to the Lava Dome.
This interactive museum gave us a fascinating history of the volcano region of Germany. We learned about the earliest volcanic history up until the present day, including that a supervolcano essentially resides beneath this region.
Part of the museum visit includes a show that recreates a volcanic eruption, along with an immersive newscast show to demonstrate how catastrophic another eruption would be in the current era. It was an interesting museum; done in a way we haven’t seen before.
Following the museum visit, we walked down the street for a visit to the Lava Cellar. This basalt cave system was formed during early eruptions and was later discovered when the area was settled.
While it was originally used as a basalt mine, the consistent temperatures lent the cellar to be the perfect place for storing beer, so it was transformed in the mid-19th century.
After resurfacing, we learned more about the mining history of the basalt caves. Many of the tools sit as a living museum to this day.
As our guide shared stories, we enjoyed locally baked German pretzels and bottles of the famous Vulkan Beer.
We ended the tour with a visit to the Maria Laach Abbey, a German Romanesque monastery that was founded in 1903. Monks still reside here, producing handicrafts and growing organic agricultural products.
Overall this was one of the most fascinating day trips we’ve taken in Germany. Seriously, who knew there was a sleeping volcano under Germany?
Lahnstein Brewery Tour
Despite this trip focusing on the famed German wine valleys, we couldn’t visit Germany without enjoying some of its famed brews, too! This is how we ended up in the picturesque village of Lahnstein, a place filled with narrow lanes and picturesque half-timbered houses.
It is here that we enjoyed a full tour and tasting at the Lahnsteiner Brauerei. This local brewery was founded in 1667 and is a 10th generation owned brewery with proud brewing traditions blended with new craft brews.
While they brew a nice beer, the most intriguing part of our visit was that the brewery actually resides in and around an old castle! The family purchased and restored the property as their main brewery, and our visit came with a tour of the towers.
Touching back on craft brews, Lahnsteiner Brauerei is one of the leaders in breaking from German traditions with beer and experimenting with brews like sours, IPA, and fruit-infused drinks. It will be interesting to see how this scene progresses in the German beer industry in the years to come.
Day 6 – Rudesheim, Germany
Day six started with another slow morning, followed by a spectacular scenic sail through the Romantic Rhine Gorge. This stretch of the Rhine River features beautiful views of castles, vineyards, villages, and natural landscapes.
The beauty of the Rhine River is undeniable, so it’s easy to see why it’s a popular choice among river cruisers in Europe. The fact that we were able to experience the quiet charm of the Moselle River before joining up with the Rhine, is what really made this trip so sweet.
After enjoying a traditional German lunch on board, we arrived in Rudesheim, Germany.
Rudesheim Cable Car Experience
Rüdesheim’s cable car ride is an experience that offers a scenic journey from the heart of the town to the Niederwald Monument, set atop the hill.
Additionally, we were pleasantly surprised that the cable cars are not enclosed! So, you have open views all around you and no dirty windows.
As the car glided above the vineyards, we were treated to panoramic views of Rüdesheim, the Rhine River, and the surrounding landscape.
Arriving at the top we were met with rain, but it didn’t deter us from taking in the impressive Niederwald Monument, a symbol of German unity. There are plenty of trails at the top, too, along with cafes and souvenir shops.
Our visit was short because there was little shelter from the rain, but we made the most of it before heading back down to explore the town.
Exploring Rudesheim on Foot
After the cable car experience, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend some time exploring Rudesheim. This charming wine town is set on the banks of the Rhine River in the Rhine Gorge and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The hallmark of this town is the Drosselgasse, a vibrant and narrow alleyway filled with wine taverns, traditional shops, and live music.
We spent the better part of 2 hours wandering the streets, window shopping, and stopping in for live music at various places before heading back towards the ship.
As we got closer to the dock, we came across a lovely wine garden on the banks of the river. We stopped in for a delicious glass of crisp Riesling, and it was seriously one of the best wines I have ever had! We enjoyed the atmosphere and mingled with the locals before heading back to the ship.
Day 7 – Frankfurt, Germany
We have been to Frankfurt so many times, yet we have never actually been to Frankfurt. This is because one of our main routes when flying east is from Chicago to Frankfurt. I’m talking probably 50 times or more, yet we’ve never left the airport.
This time, we would actually see a bit of Frankfurt for a change! It would be our last official day of cruising the Moselle Valley, Moselle River, Rhine Gorge, and Rhine Valley.
Frankfurt Bike Tour
We couldn’t finish our trip with Avalon Waterways without experiencing one of their signature ways of exploring, by bike. So, we opted to join a guided bike tour around Frankfurt. Spoiler, we loved it!
While we love to bike, and often do a lot at home, we tend to stay away from bike tours when we travel. Simply because we find it easier to take photos and videos while walking. But it was invigorating and fun to pedal around the city and explore the various districts.
Frankfurt is often seen through the lens of its modern skyscrapers and as the host of the European Central Bank. It rarely makes it on people’s lists of must-see European cities. But we quickly learned that it has a historical depth that you shouldn’t overlook.
Our tour took us through both modern and historical Frankfurt, showing us iconic buildings like the Romer, the city’s old town hall, and St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral with its towering spires.
We visited the historical town square, with its colorful houses and classic old German architecture. In contrast, we pedaled over new-age bridges and admired the towering skyline of modern Frankfurt, too.
Frankfurt’s duality, where ancient meets modern, made it a fitting culmination to our journey through the Moselle Valley. I also must say, that I am hungry to return and spend a few days really digging into what Frankfurt has to offer in sites, history, and culinary delights.
Day 8 – Departure Day in Frankfurt, Germany
When we woke up on the last morning, I was immediately reflective of the week we had just experienced. What a joy it was to discover a part of Europe that is not bursting at the seams with tourism. I honestly thought this was something we may never again experience.
It left me refreshed, and hopeful that the tourism love will continue to be spread into some quieter and deserving corners.
We grabbed our last breakfast, said our goodbyes to new friends and staff, and then hopped in a transfer to the airport for a flight back to the Midwest. Auf Wiedersehen, Europe, and until next time.
Our journey along the Moselle River was part of a paid partnership with Avalon Waterways. However, all opinions, stories, advice, and love for Riesling are 100% ours, as always.
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