Well another opportunity arose to sample the delights of award winning AmaWaterways and this time it was a pleasure to travel with Ann as she had never been on board their river ships before and had probably began to buckle under the tales of my previous river cruise with them and the wonderful time that I had. This time it was on board ‘AmaCerto’ and we were doing the Enchanting Rhine cruise…a river that is ideal to cruise if it is your first ever time trying this.
We flew out to Amsterdam from Manchester which actually took less than an hour flying time which is ideal. We decided this time to make our own way to the ship – and for around ten Euros we caught the train from the airport to Amsterdam Central. The train only took about fifteen minutes or so and before we knew it we were out of the train station and walking towards where the ship was berthed, about 500 metres away.
We were met by very attentive crew who took our cases from us dockside and the next time we saw them they were delivered inside our cabin. We had arrived a little early but that was no problem to the staff on board, we were made welcome and allowed to make full use of the on-board facilities including the free tea and coffees and soup, sandwiches and cake in the lounge. They told us that they would check us in as soon as they could – which they did.
We had been allocated cabin number 116 on Piano Deck, an E grade cabin and one that is on the lowest passenger deck and with high level windows that do not open (in fact this was the only grade available to book). Having previously travelled in their double balcony BB grade I was a little apprehensive as to whether it would be claustrophobic or thought inducing with it being technically in part under the water level but I soon forgot about all that.
The windows are a few feet above water level and albeit they are smaller in size than other cabins it was still as beautifully appointed with fine furnishings and marble bathroom with proper glass shower. An excellent Infotainment system in cabin with good choice of movies and channels – free wifi both in cabin and around the rest of the ship but could be a little temperemental at times though adequate for what we needed.
At 6.00pm we attended the Drill and Safety meeting/welcome cocktail party and met the ships Cruise Manager Dragan Reljic, the Captain Jan Tensen and the Hotel Manager Martina Seinen Peric. Here we were introduced to the ship’s crew including our dependant for the week, Executive Chef Bogdan Cetkovic !! Not long after we were sat in the dining room for our first night dinner served with free flowing wines for the duration of the meal – and they don’t hold back on the pouring. After a sumptuous dinner and wine…..and it having been a very long day, it was soon time for bed. We stayed in port overnight as our first day as the following morning it was time to tour the city of Amsterdam.
Up early and following a hearty breakfast consisting of Eggs Benedict and umpteen cups of coffee we were transported to one of the city’s canal boat cruisers for our scenic canal cruise through ‘The Venice of the North’ during which we passed Ann Frank’s House, the Skinny Bridge and numerous other city sights on what was a glorious sunny day. After the cruise we travelled by coach to pick up the AmaCerto which had sailed from Amsterdam and was now waiting for us in Wijhk bij Duurstede. During this journey we had time for a stop off at Rembrandts Windmill.
That evening after yet another lovely dinner we were treated to a classical Trio called ‘La Strada’ up in the lounge. Entertainment is quite low key on board Ama’s ships but it is balanced just right after what can be busy and active days out sightseeing.
The next day we arrived at the city of Cologne where we decided to do the Cologne Tour by bus complete with our QuietVox devices which are perfect and personally issued to your cabin in order that you can charge them overnight. The tour by foot consisted of looking at the spectacular cathedral, the Rathaus (Town Hall) and even some recently excavated roman ruins!
It was then back to the ship for a ‘German Lunch’ … Tasty sausages of great variety and sauerkraut whilst we cruised our way to Koblenz. The remainder of the afternoon was spent relaxing on board having tea and coffee in the lounge listening to the on board musician Geza and sampling a few cakes. After dinner that night Dragan the Cruise Manager had arranged an evening walk around the beautiful town of Koblenz and the opportunity was taken up by many on board.
Another day dawned and what a beautiful sunny day it was as we travelled along the Rhine Gorge about to be treated to over thirty castles up high on either side.
As we travelled the Gorge Dragan gave us an excellent commentary about the places we were passing and the history of the Rhine itself. We were also treated to some Rudesheimer coffees which were laced with a little alcohol and topped with whipped cream – the ideal drink when sitting in the fresh air up on open deck.
After lunch it was time to do our afternoon tour and we had decided upon the Rudesheim Wine Tasting tour…and why not? We were greeted by a rather eccentric vineyard owner and treated to sampling some of his Riesling wines… Obviously with an option to buy some at the end if we wished.
After the wine tasting we were then allowed some free time in the very picturesque town before heading back to the ship for dinner which was slightly earlier that evening as there were late evening tours happening later.
The next day we had chance for a slight lie in….and took advantage of the Late Risers pastries and coffees in the lounge as we travelled towards Mannheim for our trip to Heidelberg, an old university town. We were taken up to Heidelberg Castle which gave a commanding view down to the town and river in the Neckar Valley. After an enjoyable guided tour of the castle we were then taken back down into the town for a guided tour on foot of the city and then allowed some free time for some shopping….yes it apparently has nearly one kilometre of shops….a nice coffee and obligatory slice of cake!!
After a great afternoon at Heidelberg we headed back to the ship as that evening we were to be treated to a special dinner of the ‘Chaine des Rotisseurs’. In the restaurant we were invited by some people we had met to join them in the private dining room area where we were treated to a very tasty dinner, fine wines and excellent company….the perfect ending to a perfect day. As we ate dinner the ship headed to its next port of call Kehl.
Today was Halloween, the 31st October and we woke up in the misty but very pleasant weather wise port of Kehl, the German gateway to Strasbourg and France. Strasbourg has to be one of the most attractive cities in Europe and it did not let us down in that aspect.
We had decided to do the city foot tour which took in very pretty and picturesque streets and buildings nestled amongst little canals and rivers. As we walked the mist started to lift and we were met yet again with glorious sunshine… Incredible weather for this time of the year. The walking tour concluded by the spectacular Notre Dame Cathedral – perfectly timed as it rang its bells. This really was a beautiful city full of medieval buildings, scrumptious restaurants and high line shopping.
That evening we had booked the Chef’s Table Restaurant which is situated at the back of the ship. There is no extra cost to this and here you get to witness the chef through a wall of glass cook the meal for you. We had a truly beautiful meal including some succulent beef (in fact they brought me a second one but keep that to ourselves!!) paired with fine wines and the waiting staff had gone all out to create the theme of Halloween with decorations and even dressing up to add to the atmosphere. After dinner there was a Halloween Party up in the lounge and everyone made the effort to have a fun time as we set sail for Breisach.
Now it was the 1st November. We continued to endure the great weather and today was no exception. We did not dock in Breisach until after lunch and we had decided upon the Breisach and Freiburg excursion in Germany as opposed to the Riquewihr excursion over into France. Perhaps we had made a mistake as when we boarded the coach there was only six of us for this tour and the remainder had opted for the other one??
So we travelled through very picturesque scenery (including parts of the Black Forest) and eventually arrived in Freiburg a large market town where we walked with our guide around the centre. Here we saw the Freiburg Munster Cathedral and the Old and New Town Halls but alas the shops were not open so we had to then make do with a very welcome cup of coffee and one of the largest pieces of Black Forest Gateau I have ever had – and believe me it tasted nothing like they do in the UK!!
After our time in Freiburg we returned to the ship where it was time to get ready for the Farewell Cocktail party in the show lounge, an opportunity to meet all of the ship’s crew again and for us to show our own appreciation for the excellent service that had been provided the past seven days.
By now AmaCerto had set its course for our final port of call, Basel in Switzerland and as the gourmet highlight of the week it was also time to savour the Captain’s Gala Dinner with some newly made friends.
Alas our final day on board had now arrived. We needed to vacate our cabin by 9am and some passengers were already in the process of leaving the ship.
Our flight was not till later that evening and AmaWaterways very kindly allowed us to leave our cases with them for the day and if we needed to, make full use of the ships facilities until we needed to leave. Obviously this can only be accommodated if the ship is not leaving that port of call that day – so we were quite fortunate.
We decided to walk into Basel and visited the sites and as it had a decent selection of shops now was the ideal time to do that last bit of retail therapy and buy the necessary gifts for those at home.
Quite a lot of the passengers had gone on to do the Switzerland extension stay (mostly Canadian and US passengers – mainly because of the distance they had travelled I suppose) and had after a mornings walking tour of Basel travelled by coach to Lake Lucerne.
After our walk around pretty (and very sunny) Basel we headed back to the AmaCerto where we chilled with some coffee and cake before asking reception to phone for us a can to take us to Basel Airport.
Our private taxi arrived and the journey took around 15-20 minutes at a cost of approximately 30 euros. We were dropped off outside the main terminal and had checked in within no time.
Basel airport is not the biggest of airports and if using it we strongly recommend eating before arriving there as there is little choice of eateries within the airport terminal and what there is can be quite expensive.
In conclusion yet another thoroughly enjoyable cruise with AmaWaterways and I can certainly recommend this route for anyone new to river cruising. Our only question is which one do we do next…will it be the Danube or the Douro…or should we be even more adventurous and go for the Myanmar Itinerary??? Well our next river cruise blog will no doubt reflect our decision.