Walking through the beautiful streets lined with beautiful hanging baskets towards the TUI Maya River cruise ship, we pass a statue of an elderly woman whose palm is turned upwards.
Our tour guide Angelica tells us, “She was famous for giving candy to all of Bopard’s children.”
Holding lemonade in the statue’s steel hand, she adds: “In remembrance of the joy she spread, the townspeople leave candy in their hands to take the children today.”
And who doesn’t want to cheer in Chocolate Box Town Bopard, one of the beautiful ports of call for our TUI River voyage along the Rhine in Germany.
Traveling from the medieval city of Mainz, we boarded a shiny four-deck ship under the Rhine with 79 cabins, two restaurants and a wellness area with gold and whirlpool baths.
This adult-only ship is one of three new TUI River cruisers offering wine-based voyages and festive excursions to European destinations, including Hungary, Switzerland and Germany.
Unlike large cruise liners, this river vessel is ready for intimate and sightseeing, with the upper deck covering the seating area, a barbecue area and day beds to dissipate the heat during the summer months.
Sustainability is emphasized here – carpets are made from recycled fishing nets and the ship has its own herb garden.
My standard cabin is modern with a rain shower, comfortable double bed and bathroom full of Molton Brown toiletries.
The place is comfortable, but the floor feels airy with a roof-to-ceiling window to take in the river views. Upgrade to a room with a French balcony and you’ll also enjoy the double doors that open.
From the window with our picture, we can see that Bopard’s small houses fade away in the distance, soon to be replaced by pine forests along the river.
Plenty of food
Other passengers are carrying bags with leather goods, treated meat and jewelery they collected from market stalls, as well as the traditional fare from the cafe.
It is not that you will need to store food when you board the ship.
The main restaurant and bistro offers everything from German Brett Worcesters and Mexican tacos to Italian pasta dishes or American-style beef burgers, while the Club Lounge offers cocktails and candies.
The atmosphere here is beautiful but not perfect.
Those who want to get dressed can throw on their pleasant rags and head to the wordstro restaurant and then watch live violin performances upstairs or dance at a quiet disco at night.
The bistro provides a more relaxing atmosphere for eating.
There is also an observatory, which sits in the center of the ship and hosts relaxing quiz nights and cabaret shows.
The highlight of this ship, though, is the top-deck barbecue hosted during the summer.
Looking out over the calm waters, we stand with juicy burgers, hot dogs and chicken with greasy Mediterranean vegetables, Greek salads and spicy potatoes.
In the distance, the sun shines on strange villages and the ship passes through the water. Every town on our Wheelstop Rhine Tour looks more attractive than the last, and our next stop at Roadsheim is no exception.
This beautiful place is famous for its wrestling wines and ancient castles scattered in wooden buildings.
From the port we board a model steam train, which takes us to the heart of the city.
Many of the coffee shops here sell traditional road shimmer cafes – the coffee is mixed with flavored local brandy and topped with vanilla whipped cream. This is a must have, for any Affiliate, promoting any program.
Sampling local wines is, of course, a must in this area with lots of cellars and mountain vineyards.
There are also many boats and hikes.
But if you just want a sample of wine, head to the George Brewer Vineyard, which has several tasting sessions from 10 euros.
With delicious red and white bellies, we boarded TUI Maya for the last part of our journey with the Rhine.
Our River Cruise was a whirlwind adventure that took place on cultural tours and evening dances on the upper deck.
Now that the tour is back, this could be the best way to explore European cities – board a stylish ship where each bedroom offers amazing views.
Go: TUI Maya.
Getting there: Stay on TUI Maya for seven nights on the Rhine Cruise at 99799pp, which travels from Frankfurt and departs from Heathrow on October 31st. Price includes two adults sharing a deck standard cabin on a full board plus. Includes base and £ 120 excursion credit. Visit tui.co.uk/river-cruises or call 0203 451 2688.