Strolling through scenic streets lined with beautiful hanging baskets toward the TUI Maya River cruise ship, we pass a statue of an elderly woman with her palms facing upwards.
“She was known to give candy to all the kids at Boppard,” our tour guide, Angelica tells us.
Holding a sherbet lemon in the statue’s steel hand, she continues: “In memory of the joy she spread, the townspeople today leave candy in her hand for the children.”
And who wouldn’t want to spread the joy in the chocolate-box town of Boppard, one of the beautiful ports of call for our TUI river cruise along the Rhine in Germany.
Setting sail from the medieval town of Mainz, we cruised our way down the Rhine on a dazzling four-deck ship with 79 cabins, two restaurants, and a wellness area with sauna and whirlpool baths.
This adults-only ship is one of three new TUI river cruisers that offer wine-themed itineraries and festive cruises to European destinations that include Hungary, Switzerland, and Germany.
Unlike giant cruise liners, this river ship is intimate and ready for sightseeing, with a top deck for seating, a barbecue area, and day beds to soak up the heat in the summer months.
There’s an emphasis on sustainability here – the 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 a bathroom fitted with Molton Brown toiletries.
The space is cozy but feels airy with its floor-to-ceiling window to soak up the river views. Upgrade to a room with a French balcony and you’ll also enjoy double doors that open.
From our picture window, we can see Boppard’s tiny houses blurry in the distance, soon to be replaced by pine forests on the banks of the river.
Other travelers are carrying bags with leather goods, meat and jewelery they collected from market stalls, as well as traditional fare from cafes.
It’s not like you have to stock up on food when there’s so much on the ship.
The main restaurant and bistro offers everything from German bratwurst and Mexican tacos to Italian pasta dishes or American-style beef burgers, while the club lounge serves cocktails and coffee.
The atmosphere here is elegant but not stuffy.
Those who want to dress up can throw on their happy rags and head to the Verdastro restaurant and then watch a live violin performance up to the top deck or dance the night away at a silent disco.
The bistro offers a more relaxed atmosphere for dining.
There is also the observatory, which is located in the center of the ship and hosts quiz nights and cabaret shows.
However, the main attraction of this ship is the top-deck barbecue held throughout the summer.
Overlooking the calm waters, we ate juicy burgers, hotdogs and chicken with chunky Mediterranean veggies, Greek salad, and fluffy potatoes.
In the distance, the quaint villages and rolling countryside glow as the ship glides through the water. Every city during our Rhine tour looks more attractive than the last, and our next stop in Rüdesheim is no exception.
This beautiful place is famous for its Riesling wines and ancient castles scattered among wood-framed buildings.
From the port we board a model steam train, which takes us to the heart of the city.
Several coffee shops here sell traditional Rudsheimer coffees – the coffee is blended with local brandy and topped with vanilla whipped cream. This is a must if you are traveling.
Sampling the local wine is, of course, a must, with the cellars and mountain vineyards plentiful in the area.
There are also many boat and walking tours.
But if you just want to sample the wines, head to George Breuer Vineyard, which hosts several tasting sessions from 10 euros each.
With a belly full of delicious reds and whites, we head back to the TUI Maya for the final part of our journey along the Rhine.
Our river cruise was a whirlwind adventure filled with cultural excursions and evenings dancing on the top deck.
Now that cruises are back, it just might be the best way to explore Europe’s cities – on a stylish ship where every bedroom offers amazing views.
Go: TUI Maya
Getting There/Staying: A seven-night wine on the Rhine cruise on the TUI Maya is from £799pp, including sailings from Frankfurt and flights from Heathrow on 31 October. Price is based on two adults sharing a deck standard cabin on a full board plus one basis and includes £120 excursion credit. Visit tui.co.uk/river-cruises or call 0203 451 2688.