“AmaWaterways”:http://www.amawaterways.com Rhine Cruise aboard AmaKristina (Amsterdam, Holland to Basel, Switzerland with visits to Germany and France).
Excellent in every respect – Quality fittings in the ‘stateroom’ (cabin); friendly and professional ‘crew’; good food and wine; well thought-out itinerary with informative and entertaining guides; four-page ‘Daily Cruiser’ detailing the itinerary for the day, with descriptions of places to be passed/visited – and attention to detail prior-to and throughout the cruise that would take considerable time and effort to match.
The initial booking confirmation was quickly received by email attachment, including flight times, ATOL certificate etc.
On Monday 31st July – fully three weeks before the cruise – we received a very professional ‘pack’ with our flight booking, Cruise Vouchers (including transfer details from/to the airports at beginning/end of the voyage, which vessel we were on (AmaKristina), and which cabin we were booked into). A cruise ‘Itinerary Guide’; a Rhine River & Switzerland destination guide booklet; details of the online check-in procedure; and four smart baggage tags.
Day 1 – arrival onboard.
AMA has a portable reception desk at Amsterdam Schiphol airport (T3 arrivals) – and, as they knew which flight we were arriving on, one of their guys was waiting for us when we emerged from the baggage hall at T2 arrivals, to escort us to their desk. The (very plush) AMA bus then took us with two other cruisers to the AmaKristina dock close to Central Station. We were checked-in by pleasant reception right away (it was not yet mid-morning) and given our first ‘Daily Cruiser’ and, although cabins were not due to be available ’till 3pm, our luggage was looked after and we had lounge access (including tea/coffee all day, and sandwiches, soup & cake from 1100) – before we took a short walk into the town centre to visit Dam Square, the Magna Plaza shopping mall, and a number of the smaller/canal-side streets around central Amsterdam.
Returned onboard at 2.30 and were escorted to our (very nice) ‘stateroom’ shortly afterwards. Suitcases already there.
Fittings are plush. Good hanging space with plenty of hangers; good quality towels, robes and slippers; plenty of complimentary water in the mini-fridge; good sized safe; Apple PC for Internet/TV; USB charging points by the bedside for mobile phones; an umbrella; and a long-handled shoe-horn. Climate control. Compact but well designed shower room with good toiletries in this, the smallest-sized cabin onboard (one of only 12 on this lower level – hence fixed windows and no ‘balcony’).
Back up-top for a walk around to find the resident pianist doing a mellow ‘Hey Jude’, and a bigger selection of ‘tapas’, in the lounge.
Noted that WiFi was accessible wherever we went onboard (though mobile phone network access did vary on occasion during the cruise).
Welcome cocktails (and a rose for the ladies) and (entertaining) cruise & safety briefing at 6pm was followed by a very nice multi-course dinner in the restaurant – which lasted a comfortable two hours whilst we got to know the other guests at our table. A nightcap and early-ish night after our 0400 rise that morning back in Glasgow.
AmaKristina Rhine Cruise Day 2.
Awoke to find our AmaKristina had swapped places with AmaVerde – which was now alongside the jetty – leaving us clear to depart.
Large selection (hot and cold) breakfast buffet, and chef on hand to do omelette, poached, eggs Benedict etc if wanted. Waiters on hand to provide/replenish tea/coffee as required.
A number of fellow passengers then set off on the (included) Amsterdam canal cruise and scenic bus tour. Having done a canal cruise ourselves the previous month, we chose to stay onboard for what proved to be a relaxing yet stimulating first leg of the voyage along the Rhine Navigation Canal, to Wijk bij Duurstede – where the others rejoined the ship just before lunch – and then immediately thru our first lock, the ‘Prinses Irene Sluizen’ – which was followed by two others as the afternoon progressed. I took the opportunity to enjoy a very relaxing back-and-neck massage, at a very reasonable cost.
Another good dinner was followed by a classical music trio in the lounge as we cruised from Netherlands and into Germany for our expected 0830 arrival in Cologne.
AmaKristina Rhine Cruise Day 3
Arrived in Cologne waters during breakfast and secured alongside at 0845, to commence our walking tour at 0900. Tuned our ‘Quietvox’ unit to our tour-guide ‘lollipop’ (tap the device on the panel to register). Earbud provided – it’s a standard fitting so you can bring your own favourite headset/buds – and ready to go on an informative and entertaining ‘active’ walk thru the old town to the cathedral. There was also a ‘regular’ and a ‘gentle’ walking group – as well as the option to do a guided bike tour of around 18km/11miles.
As before, we avoided the 4-course restaurant lunch option (choose from 2 appetisers; 2 soups; 3 mains and 2 deserts) – opting again for the buffet selection ‘Tapas’ menu in the lounge – as we cast-off to head on to Koblenz.
On passing Konigswinter I, once again, succumbed to the 4 o’clock cake with my coffee (Margaret limited herself to the coffee and yes, I forgot to mention this yesterday…).
Before dinner we passed the towers that remain of the ‘Bridge of Remagen’ which, on one side, now to front a ‘peace museum’.
Dinner and a very short turn into the Mosel river allowed us to berth in Koblenz, where we had a short but very informative walk around this picturesque (and apparently affluent) town – then back onboard to complete the evening dancing to a lively (and appropriately costumed) AbbA tribute pair.
AmaKristina Rhine Cruise Day 4
Departed 0745 (as Uniworld’s SS Antionette waited to take our berth), and headed towards the Rhine Gorge. AMA had provided a handy list of castles showing their riverside ‘Kilometre marker’ – and whether left or right bank – and (Cruise Manager) Cesario provided a running commentary as we progressed thru the gorge, berthing in Rudesheim around 2 pm.
We chose to do the Rudesheim wine tasting tour – conducted by Bernd of the ‘Adolf Storzel Weingut’. Very informative talk at beginning and at the 3 wine tasting ‘stations’, appropriately lubricated. A few did have to abandon the talk after the first tasting due to the fairly steep walk and it being the hottest day of our trip so far. Would recommend this wine tasting, though we did see others advertised in town. As expected, we were able to purchase at the end but limited ourselves to two bottles – which were delivered to the ship and were waiting in our cabin after dinner.
Other options included the ‘Gondola Excursion’ that passed close over wine tasting stations 2 and 3 (see photo) and up to the Niederwald Monument – generating a bit of waving and good-natured, teasing comments from passengers who’d chosen that option!
After dinner, we enjoyed an evening visit to ‘Siegfried’s Music Cabinet Museum’ – where we were shown around as a group and some impressive exhibits were ‘fired up’, resulting in a bit of bobbing-and-wiggling from the more receptive ladies in the group (sorry- not posting the video or she’ll …. me). The Music Cabinet museum is worth a visit to see the building itself – and the exhibits are quite unique. Another group of passengers chose the ‘Rudesheim Coffee’ event (apparently a good way to get some alcohol disguised as coffee!).
AmaKristina Rhine Cruise Day 5
We’d departed Rudesheim at 0200, bound Mannheim – ETA 12 noon. Leisurely breakfast was followed by time on the sundeck as we progressed thru a relatively industrious riverside to starboard – before the alternative lunch option of a ‘BBQ grill’ on deck took the place of the usual lounge light lunch.
We went on the afternoon ‘Medieval Speyer’ tour – one of three tour options which, between them, offered ‘gentle’, ‘regular’ and ‘strenuous’ walking tours. Once again, we had a knowledgeable local guide who obviously enjoyed his role – this was typical of guides in the other towns, who AMA tell us are chosen because of their knowledge and ability to clearly explain those features of a town or other venue that might not be done as well with some guide companies. A second tour option was a bus ride to Heildelberg for a one-hour walking tour of the castle; another was the ‘Philosopher’s Path Hike’ – with a note that this would be a ‘strenuous climb’ (we well remember doing it in the ‘80s and yes – it’s a steep climb!).
AmaKristina Rhine Cruise Day 6
Having slept late (we awoke to the cruise manager announcing ‘last call for Strasburg tour’) – we didn’t get to the restaurant before the 9.30 close of breakfast – so took advantage of the ‘late risers pastries’ provided in the lounge from 9.30 to 11.30.
Decided to have a lazy day onboard despite there being other opportunities to take a coach tour followed by a 1.5 hour walking tour of Strasburg. Other options for the more athletic were the 2-hour ‘active’ walking tour, or the 14-mile bike tour.
We again skipped today’s (in this case ‘typical Alsatian’) restaurant lunch in favour of the lighter lunch in the lounge – followed by a lazy afternoon in the shaded area of the sun deck.
The Captain’s Farewell Cocktail in the lounge included a ‘meet the crew’ session before our Captain’s Gala Dinner.
Evening entertainment commenced with ‘Armand & Muriel’ – with their rendering of ‘French Chansons’ – which was followed by our resident pianist with his own added vocals – a revelation as we’d only heard Nikola ‘tinkling the keys’ before tonight. And we found ourselves on the dance floor (again)
AmaKristina Rhine Cruise Day 7 … last full day of the cruise. Vessel docked 0800 in Breisach, on the German side of the Rhine. Managed to get up for breakfast before the coach headed over the bridge to the French side on the 0900 ’45-minute panoramic bus tour’ followed by 30 minute walking tour (plus time on our own) of the medieval French town of Riquewihr (other options were bus and walking tours of Breisach & Freiburg; or 25km/16 mile Breisach Bike Tour). Yet again we enjoyed the commentary from the local guide (ok – she joined us on the German side of the Rhine and talked us around the French town … that’s allowed in the EU!). This was certainly a very picturesque town and although there’s a fair smattering of ‘souvenir’ shops, including a year-round Christmas shop with an ‘Ikea’ layout (you go in one door and follow your path to pass everything of the two floors before emerging at the cash desk by the exit) – there was a number of items that #1wife decided she’d like to take home from various shops.
Sailed at 13.30 and directly into our first of four locks of today (very tight fit – the wheelhouse had to be lowered as well as the for’ard mast) as we started our rise towards the mountains of the Black Forest – visible in the distance (albeit thru a heat-haze). Lock rise of 12 metres! Noted that the ship flew the German courtesy flag on the port side, and the French to starboard, as the Rhine forms the border between those two countries here. Also noted that the canal and lock area construction included a parallel waterway that took advantage of the 12 metre drop to have a hydro-electric power generation station installed … and the river banks had been artificially raised along the length of the river/canal between locks to make an effective waterway without flooding a vast area of plain, as happens with larger hydro-electric systems.
Margaret chose to visit the hairdresser in the afternoon and left me to attend the disembarking briefing at 2.30pm – which made sure we knew what to expect regarding airport transfers etc and, as with everything on this trip, showed a very well organised ship, with colour-coded luggage tags depending on where you were going (Switzerland to continue your holiday with AMA; Basel airport; railway station or whatever) – and at what time.
We had our invitation to the ‘Chefs Table’ for that evening – a mini restaurant for about 24 people (can be booked by anyone on a first-come, first-served basis – available every evening of the cruise). This had a very nice ‘taster’ menu which rounded the week off nicely.
Awoke Saturday for breakfast, and put our (tagged as requested) suitcases outside the cabin/stateroom by the required time (0900 in our case). We also had to vacate the cabin to allow it to be made ready for new passengers – but had the use of the lounge, with coffee etc, until our airport transfer at 11.45 for 14.20 flight. Taxi arrived on schedule and our suitcases were ready and waiting for us to check before they were loaded into the boot/trunk – then directly to Basel airport just a few minutes ride from the jetty.
So – that final part of the AMA arrangements fell into place to complete an entertaining, informative, efficiently-run, relaxing cruise – with a number of smaller, personal touches not mentioned in the review (and which you’ll just have to find out for yourselves!)
As someone commented earlier in the cruise “it isn’t cheap – but they don’t skimp on quality/attention to passengers/vessel/inclusive tours, etc’. On the subject of finance, the clear advice on tipping was also appreciated (and considered appropriate). This was our first ‘river crurse’ – now we just have to decide where to go next, and would certainly use AMA again.