A Peep Behind What Was the Iron Curtain with Croisi Cruise

Lucy Daltroff goes on a Croisi Cruise from Berlin to Prague.

Culture & History, Europe, Gastronomy

 “….and this is the Glienicke Bridge” says our Croisi river cruise guide Arnold, in his booming voice, “… perhaps better known as the Bridge of Spies”. We are in Berlin on the border of what was West and East Germany at the spot famously used several times for the exchange of captured spies. Suddenly the Cold War and of course, the Stephen Spielberg film of the same name, comes vividly to life.

Berlin is amazing in the number of ways it hits visitors between the eyes, by way of innovation, history and architecture and we are experiencing it all, in what must be one of the most comfortable ways – a well-organized nine-day cruise down the rivers and canals linking Berlin to our ultimate destination, Prague. The German capital is our first visit.

Croisi Cruise

We booked with the French cruise company “Croisi”, a family owned, French business and now Europe’s largest river cruise line. Our ship is specially designed and is a long and narrow paddleboat. This enables it to cope with the shallow waters of the Elbe and travel right into the centre of cities.

On the first day of departure there is a general air of competency that makes us feel we are in safe hands. The Elbe Princess II is a small boat carrying just 82 passengers. Cabins are not large, but are comfortable, and well equipped, all with large high windows. To me, the advantage of being on a river as opposed to the ocean is the ability to see the passing countryside and be able to do that, from you own personal space – even your bed, if you feel so inclined – which just adds to the overall feeling of wellbeing.

Restaurant on MS Elbe Princess ll CroisiEurope © Oliver Asmussen
Restaurant on MS Elbe Princess ll CroisiEurope © Oliver Asmussen

The cruise price is extremely competitive and includes all the excellent French meals of lunch and dinner accompanied by top French wines; a daily buffet breakfast; drinks cocktails, a gala dinner and free wi-fi. Every day there is at least one tour from a local guide (both in French and English); the only extras being the tours themselves, which are of course optional, and a small list of exempt drinks. In between there are activities on board or alternatively it is lovely to relax on the large sun deck…or perhaps just use it as a viewing platform when passing through the locks, some of which are awesome.

We are seated at mealtimes with other English speaking travellers and soon form friendships. The excellent meals are planned well in advance so, if possible, it is helpful to inform dietary requests when booking. Most of the exquisitely presented meals include a cheese course in the middle of the starters, main and desserts and all look so tempting they are extremely difficult to resist. Delicious highlights include an irresistible French onion soup and a deconstructed soft berry waffle with homemade ice cream.

From Berlin to Prague : Wittenberg and Meissen

The itinerary from Berlin to Prague means we are visiting places that have completely transformed since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

One of my favourite stops, Wittenberg, is known for its connection with Martin Luther and affectionally referred to as “the Cradle of the Reformation”. In the Middle Ages the town became famous for its trading position on the river Elbe and then, in 1502, Elector Frederick, founded the University, which attracted Martin Luther, a theology student and Philipp Melanchthon a languages specialist, who later became Luther’s friend and collaborator. Today the historic buildings associated with the two men are part of the UNESCO World Heritage list and include a preserved part of the Augustinian monastery in which Luther lived, first as a monk and later as the owner. It is now the world’s premier museum dedicated to Luther.

Luther’s theology challenged the authority and office of the Pope, after having been disillusioned by a brief trip to Rome and by the infamous sale of Indulgences. He taught that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge. He famously nailed his theses on the wooden church door. Wittenberg was also the home of the famous German painter Cranach, a friend of Luther.

China in Meissen
China in Meissen

The attractive city of Meissen is perhaps most famous for the manufacture of porcelain, based on extensive local deposits of china and potter’s clay and the first porcelain to be produced outside of the Orient. The extensive museum shows not only china used in the home, but impressive and startling expensive decorative items made for clients, I suspect just to show off their wealth.


When our boat anchored in the centre of Prague for our visit to the unique capital of the Czechia, we had departed the Elbe and were now on the Vltava river.

The morning part of the tour, was a visit to the castle which besides being the seat of the head of state, is also an important cultural and historical monument and houses the Crown Jewels and the relics of Bohemian king. It is well worth the climb to the top just to witness one of the most spectacular views in Europe taking in Prague’s fairytale like architecture.

Following a traditional Czech lunch with its emphasis on local meat, potatoes and dumplings we visit the “new town” (nearly 600 years new) and see the extraordinary town clock with its hourly model figure pageant. The crowds are always huge, but this doesn’t distract from either the views or the grandeur. Later a walk across the famous Charles Bridge is just a thrill, however many times you visit this beautiful city.

Prague, image Pixabay
Prague, image Pixabay

We loved our Croisi cruise, the ability to make new friends, not worry about dragging cases from one venue to another and having an attractive base moving everywhere with us, so it is no surprise to read that river cruises are getting more popular year on year.

Croisi Cruises

The eight-night Croisi river cruise between Berlin and Prague operates in April, May, October and November 2024 with prices from £1,867 per person. Prices includes the cruise with all meals and drinks, port fees and repatriation insurance. Visit CroisiEurope or call 01756 691269.

Main image: MS Elbe Princess ll CroisiEurope © Oliver Asmussen. Other images by Lucy Daltroff unless stated.

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Lucy Daltroff

Lucy Daltroff

As a journalism teacher and a freelance travel writer Lucy has visited many unusual places and met some remarkable people. Her work frequently appears in the national press, magazines as well on online websites and BBC Radio 4's "From Our Own Correspondent". Her hobby is portrait painting and talking to nearly everyone she meets.

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