James Gambling joins A-Rosa River Cruises for a festive sailing on the line’s new hybrid-powered ship A-Rosa Sena.
I’m barely through the door, having thrown down my work bag and plonked myself on the sofa when my wife asks, “do you fancy going on a river cruise?”
I am slightly taken aback, but decide on the spot it is the perfect solution to a cold, dark winter, as well as the ideal way to get into the Christmas spirit.
And so, we are soon ready to hop on board for A-Rosa Sena’s first Christmas Markets cruise in November.
Arriving in Cologne, we are greeted by the magnificent structure of the Dom Cathedral. Delving deeper into the city, we are delighted to find not one, but two Christmas markets. From festive treats of gluhwein, sweet pastries and traditional savoury snacks to trinkets and other gifts, we could happily spend a few hours just milling around.
However, my wife and I don’t have that much time as we excitedly prepare to board A-Rosa Sena, our home for the next five nights.
A-Rosa Sena: Green and clean
Launched in summer 2022, A-Rosa Sena can carry up to 280 guests at full capacity, with a team of 85 super-helpful crew on board.
She is one of the largest ships on the Rhine, however what is equally impressive is the fact that the ship is one of the cleanest and greenest vessels in the river cruise industry.
So, what makes it so sustainable? The fundamental difference with A-Rosa Sena is that it features an E-Motion concept. In practice, this means that it combines a diesel engine with an electric motor, powered by batteries, allowing extra energy generated by the diesel engine to be stored and used when necessary.
Therefore, the ship can switch to battery power when arriving and departing from ports. It can also connect to shore power while in port.
We also notice that A-Rosa goes out of its way to reduce plastic use and waste throughout the ship and in passenger facilities.
Spacious cabins and family areas
As for the all-important cabins, we are located on deck three. Our home for the cruise measures 21 square metres and has all that we could possibly want.
Our en-suite shower room is stocked with A-Rosa’s toiletries and the rest of the cabin features a comfortable sofa, dressing table with large mirror, a sumptuous bed, and of course a balcony.
Spacious family cabins are also available, as is a brilliant spa and gym, not to mention the kids’ club.
As such, A-Rosa can be recommended as an excellent choice when travelling with children, with a plethora of activities, films, games and entertainment aimed at different age groups.
A-Rosa Sena: A hive of activity
As the evening rolls around, we head to the speciality restaurant, Sena Grill, which serves up steak and seafood.
We stock up on the freely poured speciality wines and enjoy sushi, steak tartare, fillet steak and teriyaki salmon, leaving just enough room for a dessert of crème brulee and cheesecake.
At 39 euros per person, we certainly get our money’s worth, but we also very much enjoy the buffet that we indulge in the next night – with the same quality of food and wine.
We are quick to learn that life on board A-Rosa Sena is anything but dull. There are classes during the day, including a wine and chocolate matching held in The Winery, as well as masterclasses from the on-board culinary team.
In warmer climes, I can imagine the expansive sun deck, with its two swimming pools, being a great place to savour the river cruise experience.
What strikes my wife and I throughout our time on board is the warm and friendly atmosphere. There is an international mix of guests from the UK, Germany, France and United States, and I think I speak for most of them when I say that we all enjoy each other’s company.
Enjoying the delights of the Rhine
We also revel in the itinerary for our cruise, which after Cologne takes us to Rotterdam.
Here, we are welcomed by an eclectic mix of buildings, such as the Cube Houses, one of Rotterdam’s most iconic attractions, which are, as the name suggests, cubes tilted by 45 degrees.
However, my wife and I are focused on visiting Rotterdam’s Markthal, which is a residential and office building with a generous food market within. There’s so much on offer, but we opt for the freshly made stroopwafels – thin slices of cookie held together with a caramel filling.
Sure, these can be found in local supermarkets in the UK, but nothing beats having them made fresh.
The next day we sail to Amsterdam, where a wide range of excursions are available.
After walking from the ship into town, we head to the De Pijp district. Originally constructed in the 19th century, it’s now a thriving community and has the biggest street market in the Netherlands.
Utrecht is also another highlight, with a charm of its own. We admire the locals arranging their gifts for Sinterklaas, a Dutch festival that happens on St. Nicholas’ Eve (5 December) where gifts are exchanged with loved ones. We love this city so much that we make a mental note to return to soak up some quieter canal-city life.
Unfortunately, soon it’s back to Cologne to disembark and say goodbye to A-Rosa Sena.
It’s a ship with a difference, and in my humble opinion, a potential game-changer for the river cruise market.
- This cruise was booked through Newmarket Holidays, which offers various premium all-inclusive A-Rosa packages, including a six-day Rhine Christmas Markets cruise from £1,658pp. Visit newmarketholidays.co.uk/river-cruises