It’s 7:45 a.m. and I’ve just woken up with a dry mouth from the previous night’s Prosecco. But the scene outside my window immediately distracts me from my hangover: a forested riverbank blanketed in snow with an old-world chocolate-box village nestled just beyond it. This lovely sight is fleeting, though: I’m on a river cruise on the Danube in
Bavaria, Germany, and the views change as we float along.

Arosa Silva, my home for a few days, has a colour scheme of green and bright pink – which is more stylish than it sounds – and makes very efficient use of its space. The size of river cruise ships is limited by the particular locks each one must pass through, of which there are many. As we set sail the previous evening, I stood on deck with a glass of bubbly and some other passengers as we went through our first lock: The ship entered a narrow passage with approximately 10-metre-high cement walls on either side. A large door closed behind us and then the water level, over the course of about 10 minutes, rose all the way to the top of those walls. The next door opened and we were on our way again. We were all amazed by this first lock experience, but quickly grew used to our ship suddenly rising or falling with the many locks.

Today our destination is
Regensberg, one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Cobblestoned lanes and attractive buildings of various colours – the same reds, yellows, blues and oranges they would have been painted in medieval times – are made even more becoming with tasteful lights and festive garlands strewn above. The weather is truly miserable (snow, wind, rain and freezing temperatures), but this is still a magical place. Our steadfast guide is determined to give us as much history as possible before our lips turn blue, and we learn that the city was the capital of Bavaria for about 600 years and was once a major international trade centre.

Read on for day two aboard the river cruise through Bavaria on the next page …

Evening is back on the ship, with a five-course meal that includes the most delicious pumpkin soup, onion tart and rich chocolate cake. Afterwards, everyone on the river cruise moves to the lounge for more drinks, music, dancing and general hilarity. The fun finally dies down by 3 a.m. – fortunately we don’t have an early start in the morning.

The next day, we arrive in
Nuremberg early afternoon and are chauffeured to the castle – an impressive 12th-century fortress that presides over the “old town.” The old town is filled with well-preserved timber-framed buildings, more cobblestoned streets and even a sleepy river through the centre to complete the scene. A short walking tour takes us to Hauptmarkt, where one of the
most celebrated Christmas markets in Europe takes place every year.

That evening is our last on the ship, and we have a buffet of traditional Bavarian fare before once again decamping to the lounge to toast a short but sweet jaunt down the blue Danube. It turns out a river cruise is a pretty charming way to see some countryside and an efficient way to take a tour of German Christmas markets. Particular benefits of going with Arosa include free shore excursions and open bar – all the time. But don’t blame me if you drink too much Prosecco.

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