On a walking tour of Bamberg, Germany our Abercrombie & Kent group spent several hours exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site, following much the same path I had enjoyed on a previous visit. Realizing the similar walking itinerary, I broke off from the others to explore on my own, visiting areas not normally accessible this time of year. It’s one of the great parts of river cruising that allows each traveler to customize the experience, should they feel the need. Today I did.
It was a cloudy Sunday morning and most shops and services were closed. Normally a fan of the escorted orientation tours provided by river cruise lines, the unique opportunity I saw here was to capture some images of places normally clogged with people. Colorful buildings, monuments, streets and alleys in Bamberg’s historic old town were nearly empty. So off I went to see the area from a bit different viewpoint.
Becoming more interested in world history with each river cruise I take, Bamberg ‘s past can be confusing and difficult to recall without some focused study. Some river cruise lines help that process with rich video libraries, printed guidebook information and more. Still, we have to get through it and have a bit of a working knowledge for that information to be of value on the ground, at the site. A lousy student of history in school, I try to pick out major points to remember about each destination.
Three, Four And Five
Bamberg’s history dates back to the year 1007, when Henrich II was building the town with the intention of creating a second Rome, focusing episcopal and sovereign power in the area. I remember what I need to recall when visiting Bamberg as Three, Four And Five; The old town of Bamberg is divided into three historic districts, features four towers and five churches. Those elements contributed to the entire area being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and keeps Bamberg on the list today. It also serves as a great example of how many other European towns feature a city center with similar elements emanating from it. It’s a recurring theme seen on river cruise stops throughout Europe.
Practical Application: In other words, find the big church steeple and you can bet that the rest of the town will be there, complete with all the services, businesses and homes one would associate with a city.
German Beer and Sausages
Bamberg is also famous for it’s smoked beer, another unique element that we see repeated throughout this part of the world: regional breweries. Perhaps the origin of today’s popular craft beer movement in North America and around the world, regional beer in Germany is a topic that could keep an avid fan engaged for a lifetime.
A Best Experience- Find a city market in any German town and odds are there will be fresh grilled sausages for sale and a beer garden or two where visitors will find the best of both. If you remember no more than two words in German make them “wursts” and “biergarten” for an authentic experience that will leave you hungry for more. Don’t try to recreate the scene back home either. Believe me, we tried. No combination of bratwurst and beer from the local supermarket could match the experience of both on a hot summer day in Germany.
Speaking Of Getting Off The Ship
At many places along the river, ships stop in the center of town, making it possible to simply walk off the ship and explore on our own. But to say/believe all ships stop in the center of town would be incorrect. They don’t. That’s a big issue for those with mobility concerns and one that should be carefully considered.
The whole process of a river cruise requires a certain amount of mobility and is generally not recommended for those in wheelchairs or those who need to have medical professionals on hand in case of an emergency. River cruise ships are simply not set up for that.
Getting to the city center when a bus ride is required is not really a bad thing either. Along the way, a local guide has commentary that gives a general overview of what visitors are about to see. Once there, that guided walking tour provides a general overview of the area, followed by free time to explore on one’s own.
Bamberg is one of those places requiring a bus ride and takes about 15-minutes to reach the town center. Along the way, local guides prep those on board the motor coaches used for the transfer with interesting information about the area.
Cruise lines rate their stops in one way or another in terms of activity difficulty. Bamberg is always rated as ‘difficult’ due to uneven surfaces, cobblestone streets and steep inclines to access many of the interesting sites. I would not let that keep those physically challenged from visiting the area though; a taxi cab ride back to the ship is maybe a €10 ride and worth it to see the historic area.
The Abercrombie & Kent Difference
Going in to this assignment I was not sure which direction this report would take. Known worldwide for ultra luxury safari and other extreme travel options, A&K’s river cruise offering was yet undefined and little background information was available. In Bamberg we saw another example of what defines the A&K version of a river cruise.
We already touched briefly on the A&K ‘Guardian Angel’ element, an experience most closely compared the ocean cruise world to what readers will remember as an escorted cruisetour with Princess Cruises in Alaska. On the Princess product, a small group of travelers has their own guide, with them every step of the way. Such is the case with our A&K group on Amadeus Brilliant.
In Bamberg, our small A&K group was on a bus of its own, making the whole process of moving us more efficient. In town, our small group allowed a more conversational experience with the guide too. Both groups were equipped with headsets that made hearing guides easy. On the day we were there, the city was silent and the devices were probably not needed all that much.
The A&K element also makes the experience more inclusive as compared to that of other passengers on this cruise line. Priced lower than other options, those not in our group paid for bottled water (€1.50) to take on tours and paid for the tours themselves, the Bamberg version coming in at €24.00 per person. That’s not to say the Luftner Cruise experience is any less fulfilling, it’s just not as inclusive. We’re crunching the numbers right now (thank you Lisa) to reveal the comparative value and will have that information in an upcoming report. For now, here are some other images of Bamberg on an unusually slow day.
Photos- Chris Owen
Chris is on location this week, sponsored by Abercrombie & Kent touring Europe by river. On assignment with Porthole Cruise magazine, Chris is covering a variety of topics along the way, testing Boingo Wireless connectivity and a variety of travel products that have been provided for him. As always, Chris provides the details to let readers decide what resonates (or not) with them in an unbiased, factual manner. Click on the Live Events In Progress tab here for all the details. Also see our Facebook Photo Albums for more images and follow along live on Instagram