We did our own pre-cruise trips. Loved Zurich, Lucerne, Basel. The Swiss trains, trams and bus system is amazing! People were friendly, welcoming, and most spoke decent English. The countryside, the Alps, the architecture = spectacular!
Money: In Switzerland you can go to a bank for CHF. In our small cruise towns, banks did not exchange $s. You had to have an ATM card or go to the '"main bank,” or '"main post office” for EUR. The ship gave us the best rate $100= EUR 65.
Cruise: First time River cruisers. Mother had a wonderful time! Itinerary and pace was perfect for her. The fact that '"everything was taken care of '"was a big plus. Most cruisers were from North America, with a couple from each; Brazil, Colombia and Argentina. Australia? Most were seniors. The people we met played a BIG part in our enjoyment of the cruise. Very compatible crowd.
Ship: Nothing negative, clean and sparkling. It might be old but it was gold. Checked out the hot tub, exercise room, aft lounge and beauty salon, but never used them. Enjoyed the Lounge and Peter at the piano. Dining room was fine: tables for 2, 4, 6 very comfortable. Umbrellas and foldable stools at reception level for use, - besides umbrellas in room '" so no need to bring any for the cruise section.
Captain Henk Klos aka Hunky Hank, big and well-liked. Staff come and stay because of him.
Cruise Director: Reka Piros. Excellent. Has the right attitude, personality and tone for such a job. People were asking for her schedule to book future cruises with her.
Weather was good for most of the trip. Scattered rain here n there. Fall colors everywhere.
Cabin: 104 Piano deck, mother had no problem walking up and down stairs. Twin beds. Enough space. Bathroom was fine. Room steward Stephan kept our cabin spotless. Daily Cruiser delivered every evening during dinner. Bathrobes on the second night. Flat screen for information and internet. Bad weather or locks mean Wi-Fi was slow or unavailable.
Tours: All enjoyable. Guides very knowledgeable, friendly and willing to help. Sometimes humor is lost in the translation, accents and smiles vary as their personalities. Levels: Active walkers, Gentle walkers, Limited mobility walkers, and bikes, something for everyone! Picked up a map and list of tips (sights, food etc.) from Reka/front desk before every tour. VOX boxes = fantastic! Warm towel and a glass of hot tea on returning from tours = perfect.
Attention: Before every tour you collect a boarding pass and a colored ticket to show which bus you are on. On returning to the ship boarding passes MUST be returned so that they know you are back. (drop box)
Staff: Mostly Eastern European (Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Hungary etc. ) Their temperaments are different from the '"Latin” ones most North Americans are used to. We enjoyed ALL the staff we came into contact with, even when we thought a response was not quite suited to the service industry! It became our funny moments to remember ïŠ
Restaurant Food: Attractive and many options. They tried to have local dishes at every port. Whether your palate appreciates such food is another matter. Wine and beer as much as one wished for during lunch and dinner. Lounge: Afternoon tea had cakes, cookies etc. Coffee machine = 24 hrs. milk, coffee, macchiato, cappuccino, hot chocolate packages, teas, iced water and iced drink. Improvement needed: Cookies were the same every day, and Late Night snacks were sometimes inedible or insufficient.
Bar: Reasonable prices. People could drink their own wine in the lounge too.
Cruise Ports: There are probably many port reviews, so nothing here. Suffice it to say: All get a thumbs up! In addition, you need to have a few nice surprises ïŠ
Embarkation: Basel. At the main train station there is a Tourist Information office for maps etc. Tram 11 on Platform 5 took us to St. Johaan Tor. (8th stop). CHF 3.20 p/p. Exit and walk a few feet down towards the water. Staff saw us and came to get our suitcases. Mom had refreshments in the lounge whilst I walked the town. 3pm cabins ready. Passports are collected on arrival (for harbor authorities). Pick them up the next morning.
Docking was never a problem -even if we had to walk through Uniworld! Someone asked for and got a tour ïŠ Bring comfortable walking shoes. Stairs (on ship and tours) especially during the wet season, need extra attention. There was always a biergarten or café in walking distance for a local '"one 4 the road” and some fun after the onboard entertainment.
Gratuities guidelines: Cash or credit card. Crew (everybody but cruise director) E84/guest. Cruise Manager: E 21/guest or E 33/guest if pre-trip taken. Tip box at reception desk and envelopes in cabin. If someone has been especially nice '" an extra E1-5 may be given directly to the person/s.
Disembarkation: Early Breakfast served. at 6.30am with Early pastries etc. in Lounge at 4.30am. Luggage out according to your tag time, then board bus. At airport, staff member will help you get a cart for your luggage and then you are off. Independent Travellers; you have preordered your taxi with Reka the previous evening. 9am All Cabins Vacated. The Lounge is available till transfer time.
Sample of daily program:
6.30 am '" 7.30am : Early risers Pastries in Lounge
7.30am '" 9.30am : breakfast in Restaurant
9.30am '" 10.30am: Late risers Pastries in Lounge
10am: Reka gave a presentation on upcoming stops, briefings etc.
11.30am: lunch is served in Restaurant. Light lunch of soups, salads, in Lounge
1pm: Tours depart
4pm '" 5pm : Tea in Lounge with Peter playing music on piano
@ 6pm ish: Tours return
10.30pm: late night snack
NO walking or jogging on Sun Deck before 8am or after 10pm.
Shout out to Staff: Reka, Romeo, Stephan, Peter, Grumpy, Damien, Dorina, Boris……
THANKS for the memories to my fellow cruisers especially my Cali pals.
Travel again with AmaWaterways? In a heartbeat!