|Approaching a lock. This one has hinged gates at the|
|The duty captain steers skilfully into the lock. No other ship|
was using it at this time.
|Looking astern, the gates close behind us and the lock is|
filled with water.
|With the lock full of water the upper gate is lowered into|
the river bed and we sail on.
The port talk this evening had to be postponed and the Gala Dinner started a little late because the day excursion to Salzburg had been delayed in traffic. We had a chance to applaud the crew to thank them for all they had done to make this cruise such a great holiday.
During the afternoon there had been a short lecture about the building, design and use of the ship (and the river locks) and what each member of the crew did. I was amazed to find that the main propellors as well as the bow thruster can swivel though a complete circle, so either end of the ship can be steered in any direction: she can go astern as easily as ahead, and can even move sideways quite simply, handy when mooring alongside other ships.
Back aboard the ship before leaving Regensbourg we were entertained with a "Bavarian Evening," one of those entertainments where avoiding the front row is wise because a certain amount of embarrassing audience participation is expected ... then dinner while the ship moved off after the entertainers had left, and the ship's own music duo Katy and Dody played and sang for those who wanted to dance away their last night on board while most of us went to bed.
The following morning our packed cases were left outside our cabin and after breakfast we were taken by coach from the mooring at Passau to the railway station to begin the rail-born part of our homeward journey. we were soon aboard the first of three DB ICE trains which would get us to Brussels for the Eurostar to London. There is catering on board the ICEs but not included in the fare, so we had a light lunch, knowing that dinner was to come later. The first leg was to Frankfurt where a simple change of train took us onward to Cologne where we had dinner and spent the night at the Maritim Hotel. There was also some time for an exploration of Cologne before dinner, including a short stroll along the river front where Rhine cruise ships were moored, and after breakfast on the final morning we caught the third ICE for Brussels. We were right in the nose of the streamlined train, behind the driver, this time and could see forward as the train made its way towards Brussels and home.
One novelty on ICE trains currently is the distribution at intervals on the journey of little packets of jelly sweets shaped like ICE end cars. We consumed some ourselves and brought some home for the grandchildren. At Brussels we went through the now-familiar security and passport checks and waited for our train to London which again was one of the new E320 Eurostar trains, very comfortable and stylish, and a light meal was served as we were whisked back to the UK. This was our chance to thank our tour manager who had ensured we all made all our connections, and to exchange contact deals with the other "Pirates of the Danube" before we all went our separate ways at St Pancras, in our case taking the next fast train from Kings Cross that stopped at Peterborough and there connecting for our home in Stamford. Like us, Stamford had had a sunny week, but unlike us had suffered a very heavy shower indeed the previous evening and was still very wet as we walked home. Yesterday Passau, today Stamford, and not an airport in sight!
So we have added river cruising to our holiday experiences, and very enjoyable it was. Of course, not only do we wish to revisit some of the cities of which we had only a short glimpse this time, but we also now hanker after pushing further east along the Danube to the Black Sea ... maybe one day. But there is also a lot of Britain yet to visit, and much more, too. I think the mental "list" is going to have to take physical shape very soon now so that real plans can be made for all of this!