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notamermaid

The river Neckar infos and experiences

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First of all, where is the river and why do I start a thread on it?

 

The Neckar is a river in Germany for its entire length and is a tributary to the Rhine coming from the South East, i.e. joining the Rhine at Mannheim on the right bank. The Neckar is 362km long and has been an important trading route for centuries - first for food from the large foresty areas and later, since the industrial revolution, for the large factories developing on its banks. This may lead you to think that the Neckar is a dirty canalized river with little appeal - you are right to some degree, but also mistaken. I will come back to that later.

 

The Neckar has some relevance for river cruisers as it is not only a river used by barges but river cruise vessels are also allowed to sail it - up to a length of 105m, the ships that is. Ok, this would mean that you past cruisers on the large ships have not sailed the Neckar, but many of you have at least have seen its banks - at Heidelberg on an excursion from your Rhine cruise!

 

Here is the wikipedia page on the Neckar: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neckar

 

notamermaid

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I would love to do a cruise that included the Neckar! Does anyone do the Neckar besides Croisieurope? It seem that the 105 m boat limit is a serious impediment for other companies. Most of the "shorter" boats I see are 110m.

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I have mentioned that much industry has made the river suffer. Factories let their water water drain into the Neckar without treating it first, by the 70's the once beautiful but now partly canalized river had turned into a "sewer" - as one gentleman on a recent German television programme put it. But sewage treatment plants and factory closures have helped. Fish that were near extinct are greater in number again. The river is still canalized at the same stretches but measures are underway to return a few areas where it is still possible to a more natural state.

 

On the other hand there are plans to repair, extend and replace locks to make the river navigable for 135m ships. There is of course some opposition to those plans. A few turning places for ships of 135m have already been built.

 

Which brings me to the question of cruise ships on the river. From the days when ships did not have the regular sizes of 110m or 135m on the major rivers there are quite a few ships left over that could potentially sail the Neckar. You will be surprised... So there some companies apart from CroisiEurope that actually sail the river on more or less frequent itineraries this year.

 

More on this in the next few days.

 

notamermaid

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I lived in Neckarsulm in the 70s. It is a beautiful stretch of water between that town and Heidelberg, with steeply sloped banks with Vineyards (think the Mosel) coming down to the river’s edge, along with a large number of both inhabited castles along with ruins of others.

 

One would never swim nor wade in that river! There would be quite a bit of going from river to canal.

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Neckarsulm! Now that brings back memories of picking up my Audi S6 a few years back and touring the RS factory there. In the evening, while wandering the town looking for dinner, we ran into a huge street festival called the Ganzhornfest. Lots of beer, sausage, flammekuchen, Sylvaner... Then some photographer for an internet news site ran into us and wanted to know why two New Yorkers had come all the way to to Neckarsulm for the Ganzhornfest. Pictures and all. What a fun night!

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While stationed in Heilbronn in the late '60s, one of my favorite pastimes was to sit high above the Neckar at Hornberg Castle, sipping wine and watching the barge traffic below. Recently I make an effort to research what trips might be done on the Neckar, with little success. The CroisiEurope cruise goes only a tiny way up the Neckar (no further than Eberback, I believe). Would be interested in finding out what else might be available.

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Sloping vineyards, merriment, castles and cars, that probably sums up the Neckar valley quite well! :D

 

I suppose the Neckar is a mix of the landscape of the Rhine and Moselle valleys, not as busy as the Rhine, canalized and industrial nevertheless in parts, yet with castles on high rocks just like on the Rhine, just not as many. In other parts it is more tranquil, like the Moselle and meandering as well. The differences, first of all, are that the towns are different in their traditions with different rulers and while not as cosmopolitan in feel, more international in a learning kind of way. Think of Tübingen and Heidelberg, famous university towns up to this day. And secondly, in modern history, the American occupation/administration gave the Neckar area American army bases while the Moselle valley has had a French influence since Napoleon and again during the French occupation/administration.

 

 

French brings us onto CroisiEurope, and as you have correctly pointed out, DaveinCharlotte, the company only sails the Neckar up to Eberbach and then turns back. This is the itinerary offered to the US-American market: http://www.croisieuroperivercruises.com/cruises/snx_aipps-discover-splendor-rhine-neckar-main-moselle-and-saar-valleys or for a shorter trip, only cruising the Neckar from Heidelberg back onto the Rhine (after having taken the passengers to Heidelberg by coach) this one is available as well: http://www.croisieuroperivercruises.com/cruises/3-rivers-valleys-neckar-romantic-rhine-and-moselle

 

 

I need to correct my first post, it should read "...first for wood from the large foresty areas..."

 

DaveinCharlotte, you mentioned Hornberg castle. Here it is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hornberg_Castle_(Neckarzimmern), their own page: http://www.burg-hornberg.de/html/willkommen.html

 

More on other ships and companies to follow shortly.

 

notamermaid

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Ships and companies on the Neckar part 1

 

I have already mentioned CroisiEurope in my previous post. They sail the Neckar with their only ship that measures exactly 105m in length - the maximum size allowed - , it is the Leornard da Vinci.

 

While it was easy for me to find river cruises on the Neckar for the German-speaking market trying to find cruises in the English-speaking market or gearing towards it proved a bit more difficult for me.

 

I start with two companies, both based in Germany, that have a different approach from another both towards the river and English. First up is Phoenix Reisen. They have two itineraries on offer this year, one is called Rhein-Neckar-Sinfonie: https://www.phoenixreisen.com/rhein-neckar-sinfonie-36-3063997-1.html?source=overview&searchIdCruiseDate=3064002 the other one Mainzer Sommerlichter: https://www.phoenixreisen.com/mainzer-sommerlichter.html?source=overview&searchIdCruiseDate=3064431 that one is a one-off date for a special event in Mainz. Phoenix Reisen use their ship Switzerland, 100m in length. The company's website is only in German and they focus more on the standard river trips while also offering ocean cruises. One would need to find out if they have any way of crossing the language barrier for an English-speaking group on a river cruise, i.e. menus, guides, etc.

 

The company with a slightly greater variety of rivers in Europe and certainly more dates for the Neckar is the second German company, NickoCruises: https://www.nicko-cruises.de/en/ As you can see they have a website in German and English (at the switch of the flag in the top right corner) and the search for Neckar reveals two choices, which is actually the same route, just "eastbound" and "westbound": https://www.nicko-cruises.de/en/river-cruises/#river=30 The company uses the MS Casanova, which is 103m in length.

 

Both companies on this route will not offer the luxury experience possible on the new 135m ships geared towards the North-American passenger but will be closer to Croisi Europe. I have heard good things about Phoenix Reisen and reviews in German are generally good. NickoCruises re-emerged from insolvency a few years ago and have regained most of their strength it seems. I have heard no recent info from past cruisers but newer reviews on the internet sound generally good.

 

notamermaid

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Ships and companies on the Neckar part 1

German company, NickoCruises: https://www.nicko-cruises.de/en/ As you can see they have a website in German and English (at the switch of the flag in the top right corner) and the search for Neckar reveals two choices, which is actually the same route, just "eastbound" and "westbound": https://www.nicko-cruises.de/en/river-cruises/#river=30 The company uses the MS Casanova, which is 103m in length.

 

notamermaid

 

Thanks for posting this. The Saarbrucken to Stuttgart trip sounds like a great one. The big question for me would be how much English speakers would get out of the cruise. Nicko has done a good job of making the website bilingual, but there's no indication of how things are onboard the ship itself. One doesn't know if English speaking guides will be available for the excursions or whether wait staff speak English. I've been looking for Nicko reviews by English-speakers, but so far I haven't found any. Also, it's interesting to note that the only contact number on the Nicko web site is a German number.

 

Thanks again for posting.

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FuelScience,

 

so in the details not as good as I had hoped. Next I will explore the UK market. Coming soon.

 

notamermaid

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Ships and companies on the Neckar part 2

 

The UK market. I have been following what is happening on the UK market for some years (even used to get real paper catalogues), partly for professional reasons. From past years I was hopeful I would find several cruises on the Neckar, but sadly, this looks bleak now.

 

The tour operator with the largest fleet - Riviera Travel UK - is going for big with the 135m luxury vessels but have a very suitable ship in their fleet, the MS Swiss Ruby. Busy on another river I doubt very much they will deploy her on the Neckar in the future.

 

The River Cruise Line with its cute ship the MPS Lady Anne only does an excursion to Heidelberg. http://www.rivercruiseline.co.uk/our-ships/mps-lady-anne

 

Shearings - a nationwide tour operator with a long history of river cruising - has the MV Esmeralda but has sent her to the Danube for 2018. One would need to check their catalogue later in the year to see what 2019 will bring. Shearings is also going for the larger ships, having chartered ships (or just some cabins) from the Arosa fleet for 2018.

 

One other operator who I have been looking at for several years as they have interesting specialized land tours is Leger Holidays. The also charter the MV Esmeralda and actually sail the Neckar! https://www.leger.co.uk/river-cruises/tours/four-rivers-cruise-rhine-moselle-neckar-main Before you get excited, it is only to Heidelberg and back. This is the MV Esmeralda as advertised on the Shearings website: https://www.shearings.com/our-holidays/river-cruises/our-ships/mv-esmeralda

 

Another nationwide operator Newmarketholidays, using the small ship MS Olympia, does not offer the Neckar in 2018 either as far as I could see: https://www.newmarketholidays.co.uk/7/river-cruises

 

I doubt it will get better in 2019.

 

I have got the sneaky feeling it might help to be in the UK using the google search engine, but could be wrong of course. Knowing I am in Germany some sites keep asking me if I want to go to the German pages, like with CroisiEurope for example. Would be good to hear from you here if you find something, anyone.

 

notamermaid

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Ships and companies on the Neckar part 3

 

The Dutch, with their rivers and canals have a long history of river cruising on the Rhine. One of the largest companies is Feenstra Rijn Lijn and I see their ships frequently on the river. One would think that they would include the Neckar, seeing that they have several smaller ships like the MS Statendam and the MS Azolla that can sail the Neckar. They do! The MS Azolla takes you on an itinerary as far as Neckargemünd: https://feenstrarijnlijn.nl/cruises/over-de-rijn-en-neckar-naar-heidelberg-en-eberbach/ Now this is of course in Dutch, but the company has international folk in mind when they offer an English website. It makes perfect sense as the Dutch regularly charter ships to British tour operators. Change the website to English (in the top right corner) and see what happens. The Azolla and the Neckar neither get any hits with their search field.

 

Those with a knowledge of Dutch would be fine on their cruises - they could probably help out with language problems as well as the Dutch are generall very good at English - but such a cruise would not have English guides I should think. A pity I find as it is a nice itinerary on the Rhine and Neckar.

 

notamermaid

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Ships and companies on the Neckar part 4

 

So far this does not look like there is much activity on the Neckar with river cruises suitable for an international audience. I have mentioned a few small ships so far. But as regards ships there is certainly potential and some small ships sailing the Rhine are suitable for international charter. There are still some around and they need not be very old. The old ones will have been refurbished and brought up to modern standards to some degree anyway. The MS Statendam I mentioned is one such ship. When built in 1965/66, it was the modern, splendid KD ship MS France. She was sold, refurbished, renamed Avanti, later sold again and renamed Statendam.

 

Some more, of various sizes in length: Lale Andersen (German), Johannes Brahms (German), Horizon (Dutch), Swiss Crystal, Excellence Coral, Excellence Pearl. That is not the end of the list for the Rhine and rivers nearby!

 

And if we look East to the river Elbe, naturally we find short ones as well. The MS Saxonia sailing for Phoenix for example. The MS Sans Souci is a privately owned (!) ship and the Junker Jörg (ex-Viking Fontane) with her sister ship Clara Schumann are also suitable for the Neckar. But the former is very busy over there on the Elbe while the latter has been refurbished and will enter new service as the before mentioned Lale Andersen this coming season.

 

You might think that Viking, if they ever find the Elbe getting too tricky, could send their new ships to the Neckar. Unfortunately not as the Viking Beyla and the Viking Astrild are 110m in length. Quite long for the Elbe compared to other ships over there.

 

But the good news is, comparing ships and companies, I found the MV Patria and as that ship rang a bell, I looked further into her. At 67.1m she is a small intimate ship and has been given a focus on active cruising, bike tours in fact. I think she has been mentioned in an enquiry here on the river cruising board. Companies based in Germany and Austria offer cruises on her on the Neckar!

 

These are three itineraries from different tour operators on the MV Patria, also addressing an international audience on their websites:

 

https://en.radreisen.at/germany/bike-and-boat/rhine-neckar-bike-and-boat-mv-patria

 

https://www.eurobike.at/en/cycling-holidays/tour-type/bike-boat/rhine-neckar-bad-wimpfen-coblenz-ms-patria-8-days

 

http://www.se-tours.de/en/tour/from-bad-wimpfen-to-koblenz-with-bike-and-boat_t_39423

 

notamermaid

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Interesting info in this thread...much more than I was able to dig up on my own.

 

Question: Just how far up the Neckar can commercial traffic go? One of the companies you cited showed an itinerary further up than Stuttgart. Is the limitation the draft of the ship, or the length of the ship (locks)?

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Parts of the river itself is not navigable. River traffic is forced to use canals on those stretches which can often go through some particularly unsightly industrial areas.

 

An auto drive along the river from Neckarsulm to Heidelberg is a lovely trip. I don’t believe paying river boat cruisers would enjoy the canal portions of that trip.

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DaveinCharlotte,

 

the Neckar is navigable for commercial shipping looking upstream from Stuttgart up to Plochingen, the first major harbour. I have understood it from the literature as that being the spot where it made sense to start building a major waterway as the small river joining from the East called the Fils gave enough water to enable a lock/dam system to retain water and regulate the water flow, i.e. the depth of the river. The system was essentially agreed - and building work started soon after - in 1919. Over time the system has been expanded and updated of course. Today the river/canal has a guaranteed depth for commercial shipping of 2.80m - achieved with 27 locks - for the whole of the waterway from Plochingen harbour to Mannheim. This could only be done by digging out stretches of the river and moving ships to a side canal in other parts. See pinotlover's post.

 

Travelling on the Neckar river cruisers need to be aware that the navigation channel was not designed for them but for commercial shipping.

 

Here are three photos side by side to give you an idea of the variety of the landscape along the length of the river: http://www.anh.wsv.de/40-wassstr_neckar/20-bundeswasserstrasse/strecke.html

 

They are taken from the official website of the federal government's adminstration of German waterways. The pages on the Neckar are very informative, a little technical in parts for me though. Fun fact: just like the Rhine the Neckar was shortened due to the building works during the establishment of the lock/dam system. Along the waterway from Plochingen to Mannheim the river lost 10km and is nowadays 201km long.

 

notamermaid

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Parts of the river itself is not navigable. River traffic is forced to use canals on those stretches which can often go through some particularly unsightly industrial areas.

 

An auto drive along the river from Neckarsulm to Heidelberg is a lovely trip. I don’t believe paying river boat cruisers would enjoy the canal portions of that trip.

 

Pinotlover,

 

the Neckar is indeed a very varied river as regards nature and man-made sights. One really needs to be aware of that. But I think personally it gives you a glimpse into what the region is about; how people have shaped it over centuries and I like that. But then I took photos in Budapest of wall art from the Soviet era and the underside of bridges as well as appreciating the fact that our coach guide took as through the 1960's area of tower blocks!

 

If one is happy with that then a cruise on the Neckar is a good experience I think and for a cruise that starts in Stuttgart - an interesting city I find - a visit to the Mercedes Benz Museum is a must (video starts with music): https://www.stuttgart-tourist.de/en/a-mercedes-benz-museum

 

notamermaid

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As we are approaching Spring and snow melt the big question is also for the Neckar: can it flood? Yes, just like the other rivers controlled by locks in Germany the Neckar does still flood over. Regulation of water flow does not extend so much that such a scenario can be avoided. Shipping can be severly impacted depending on height of flooding level and duration of it.

 

As the Neckar has been dug out deep though, impact for river cruise ships is virtually non-existent as the guaranteed depth of the navigation channel is between 2.10m and 2.80m.

 

Oddly, a cruise with Nicko cruises from Stuttgart to Saarbrücken will give you a better chance of not being impacted by river levels in drought than a cruise on the Rhine, Danube or Elbe seeing that the ships have the added advantage over the large river cruise ships of being only a maximum of 105m long (see posts above)!

 

notamermaid

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I did not make this clear in my last post. The sentence should read: As the Neckar has been dug out deep though, impact for river cruise ships in low water scenarios is virtually non-existent as the guaranteed depth of the navigation channel is between 2.10m and 2.80m.

 

Sorry.

 

notamermaid

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notamermaid.

I'm in the process of booking Nicko's Sarbrucken to Stuttgart cruise for next April! We will do Teeming's Old Netherlands cruise from March 28 to April 6 and take a train from Amsterdam to Saarbrucken to embark on Nicko's MS Casanova for the cruise to Stuttgart.

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17 hours ago, FuelScience said:

notamermaid.

I'm in the process of booking Nicko's Sarbrucken to Stuttgart cruise for next April! We will do Teeming's Old Netherlands cruise from March 28 to April 6 and take a train from Amsterdam to Saarbrucken to embark on Nicko's MS Casanova for the cruise to Stuttgart.

Hello FuelScience,

I am delighted to read your post! First of all, I have seen your Douro cruise review and am of course relieved that your health has much improved and you are able to river cruise again.

You are almost venturing out into the wild and adventurous world of hardly known cruise lines - for the American market that is. :classic_smile:

It appears (a Spanish website gave me that clue) that the Royal Emerald is the refurbished Scenic Emerald. The hull certainly looks the same. In any case, it sounds like a good in-depth itinerary. I love Bruges, would be great to see that city again.

But to the nicko cruise you have just booked. Congratulations! I hope that you will have a great cruise. And I secretly hope you do not come back to tell me off how bad the cruise I suggested has been (a slight worry here).

I happened to follow the MS Casanova's journey yesterday on marinetraffic and I saw that she was able to sail through the Rhine gorge!

How do you get from Amsterdam to Saarbrücken by train, via Cologne or through Luxembourg?

And if you have a bit of time post-cruise in Stuttgart, here is an article that Deutsche Welle posted just yesterday! https://www.dw.com/en/10-reasons-to-visit-stuttgart/g-19416445

If you have just little time in Stuttgart do go and see the Market Hall, it is a delight.

notamermaid

 

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FuelScience, I just had a look at your itineraries. Very cool - the first one has a little too much Netherlands for me (I prefer Belgium for some reason). We were just in Bruges last month and it lived up to the hype. We only saw the train station in Ghent so I can't say much about that...

But the Saarbrucken to Stuttgart one is awesome! Great stops!

Mainz is underappreciated vis-a-vis tourism IMO. We stayed there for a few days during one of our car trips and had a great time. Lots to do there and in the surrounding area, and plenty of nice food. Hope you have time to see the Gutenberg museum.

Enjoy the Mosel; from our limited time driving there (same trip; one of the Mainz days was a day trip to Trier) we found it very beautiful. We drove through Bernkastel but didn't have time to stop. Trier is of course a very interesting stop as well; we spent most of the day there and walked to all of the sights.

Ludwigsburg was on our list too (a different day, obviously) but we got there too late to get in. So we only have pictures of the garden from outside the gate. You will have to come back and show me what we missed!

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JP and Notamermaid,

 

Thanks for the notes. Yes, the Royal Emerald is the old Scenic Emerald. I agree with JP that there’s a LOT of the Netherlands. Also, there are some very long days. What does one do in Hoorn after arriving at 2:00 a.m. and not departing until 9:00 p.m. There are similar all-day stays in Middelburg Haarlem, and Nijmegen. I suspect that the Ghent day will include the Brugges excursion.

 

The thing that really sold us on the Teeming cruise was the match-up with Nicko. We’ll get off the ship in Amsterdam and catch a train at 8:08 that will get us to Saarbrucken at 2:15 p.m. (one change in Mannheim). Also the prices are incredible. Cabins for a 10-day cruise start at $1,299 per person for a 160 sq. ft. standard cabin and go up to $2700 for the 325 sq. ft. Panorama Suite on the back corner of the ship with a balcony at the back and windows on the side. We were also looking at a post-Nicko 8-day Deggendorf to Budapest cruise on Avalon, and a top-deck 200 sq. ft. cabin was $3,500. I don’t want to sound too decadent, but we went ahead and reserved one of the two Panorama Suites.

 

The Nicko cruise will be something of a contrast. We’ll go from a large cabin to a small one (130 sq. ft.), but we’ll also go from flat Holland and Belgium to the gorgeous Mosel and Neckar valleys. We’re also looking forward to seeing some of the Saar.

 

The cruise will include a tour of Stuttgart after disembarking, ending at the train station. I talked to DW about spending the night in Stuttgart, but three weeks is a long time to be away from grandchildren, so I suspect that we’ll get on a train to Frankfurt and fly home the next morning.

 

I'll try to post from the trip. Any advice before leaving would be appreaciated.

Edited by FuelScience

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Fuelscience, I am greatly intrigued by your planned trip from Saarbruecken to Stuttgart.  Have been thinking about this ever since notamermaid posted info on Nicko, et al.  Would be nice to see Heilbronn again, and Bad Cannstadt where my son was born.  I gather you have signed up for the April 13th-to-20th trip, MS Casanova.  Like jpalbny, have little interest in Netherlands, but can see getting to both Nicko end points easily via DB (Stuttgart only an hour from Frankfurt, Saarbruecken less than three).  Encouraging to see that Nicko stresses English for most dates on the eastbound itinerary (odd though, none for the westbound itinerary).  Will be following your postings with interest.  Will be curious to find out what the tours cost if they are not included, and how satisfied you were with your cabin category.   

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