We had never experienced a river cruise before, so we read everything we could in preparation for our April trip aboard the Avalon Affinity. We selected the Amsterdam to Basel route on the Rhine for a variety of reasons. Amsterdam was one place we really wanted to see during tulip time and it certainly did not disappoint! We flew into Amsterdam, arriving on a Thursday morning and stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast on the Prisengracht canal, The Posthoorn. Built in 1600, it has 3 rooms each with private bath and breakfast delivered to your room in the morning. It was wonderful and the host was outstanding. The first day we toured Anne Frank's house (only 2 blocks down the street) and took a canal boat tour. Purchasing tickets online was really smart as the line was very long. Friday was our "flower day" as we went to the FloraHolland auction in Aalsmeer and Kuekenhof. The auction was amazing, we rode the local bus from Centraal Station, but you have to go early as they shut down by 11:00 a.m. We then took another bus to the airport to catch the Keukenhof express bus. Keukenhof was beyond amazing. The weather was perfect and the flowers were unbelievable. I tend to take way too many pictures, and I took 500 just at Keukenhof! Saturday was our day to wander around Amsterdam. We visited the Amsterdam museum and the Bloemenmarket. Sunday, we left our luggage in a locker at Centraal Station and visited Zaanse Schaanse before retrieving the luggage and heading to the ship.
Our first impression of the Affinity was as expected, beautiful. The crew were very friendly and check in took all of 2 minutes. We opted for a lower level cabin to save the $$$ for the next cruise and it was fine. We had two windows at what my husband termed "duck level", but worked for us. It gave us light and we could still see out, just without the french balcony.
The cruise was just wonderful, we enjoyed each port very much. We visited Cologne, Koblenz, Rudescheim, Mainz, Heidelburg, Breisach, Strausbourg and Colmar. Walking tours of the ports usually took about an hour and a half and the guides were very good. We took the optional excursion to Colmar and highly recommend it. Like most cruises, you don't have enough time at each stop, but it gives you a little taste and helps you decide where you want to return to visit.
We thought the food was excellent and the crew was friendly and seemed like a close team. We were especially impressed with the captain, who seemed to pitch in anywhere help was needed. He was even carrying bags out on disembarkation day! The river cruises are much more relaxed and casual than ocean cruises and it is easier to get to know your fellow passengers and the crew. The highlight was cruising thru the Rhine Gorge. It was freezing cold and windy and we were the only ones brave enough to be on deck the whole afternoon, but it was worth it!
We thoroughly enjoyed our first river cruise and highly recommend Avalon. We had absolutely nothing to complain about and look forward to our next one!