Our AMA Waterways cruise began in Minneapolis/St. Paul on Saturday April 18, 2009, at 7:30 PM on Northwest Airlines. The flight was non stop . We each had a window seat because the plane was full and could not get seats together.
When we got to Amsterdam at 10:30 AM the next day, we cleared customs and then looked for the AMA Waterways representative. Because we purchased the air separate from the cruise line, it was less cost to take a taxi then purchase the transfers from the cruise line. The agent, Paul, helped Bob get a taxi and some Euros. The taxi ride was 52.00 Euros. He was pleasant and ready to help. This was our first experience with AMA Waterways and a nice one. The taxi ride was about 30 minutes. Guests who purchased air with AMA Waterways had transfers included.
When we got to the port, there were about 6-8 river cruise ships at the port. To get to our ship, we had to go into the lobby of the Amadeus Princess, up the stairs to the sun deck and then across to the Amarelle sun deck and then down the steps to the reception desk. The ships were connected to each other in many places we visited.
We went to the sun deck to wait because the cabins were not ready. I found our cabin and the door was open and went into it a couple of times to take some pictures. We waited on the sun deck and also in the small lounge near our cabin. There are 4 decks on the ship.
The ship has two lounges, a small one aft and the Grand Lounge on the Violin Deck. This lounge had plenty of soft chairs for seating, to read, relax or have a conversation with new and old friends, a dance floor, a piano, some round tables at the back of the lounge and where we had the wonderful entertainment. This was a place to sit and have a nice view as we sailed and went through the locks. The lounge also has coffee (espresso, cappuccino, regular), cocoa, tea and ice water available at all times. There was always something to eat like a light lunch, cookies, desserts or a light breakfast. The aft lounge was smaller and had a computer, games to use (cabinets not locked), some tables and chairs; it is a nice place for a group to meet. There was a very small exercise room that had weights, a treadmill and a stationary bike. There was small beauty shop and also a sauna (I did not see that) which was at the back of the ship. The ship has a library and a chair to use on the Violin deck. There was selection of books including a world atlas and books on Europe; I left a paperback I had finished. The cruise director had his desk here also. The gift shop was small but had a nice selection of gifts and postcards; it was near the reception desk. Boarding passes are used for passengers getting off and on the ship. They are small laminated cards (1/2" by 2") that have your cabin number; passengers are to take them when they leave and return them when they return so the ship knows when you have returned from shore. There is a bar in the main lounge and a drink special of the day.
Peter was our cruise director. He was really good about his job and took the time to answer questions from anyone, anytime. He was on all the excursions and was quite knowledgeable about the area. He was pleasant and always helpful.
The dining room was on the Cello Deck has plenty of room for the one sitting for dinner and your choice of where to sit. Breakfast and lunch were buffet but you could also order optional items such as Eggs Benedict and a hamburger off the menu. The variety of food could please everyone: eggs, cereal, sweet rolls, croissants, cheeses, cold cuts and more were always available. Lunch has a variety of hot and cold and also buffet. There was a light lunch of soup, sandwiches and desserts in the main lounge daily. We ate there 3 out of the 7 days. The dinner also had a variety of choices, usually 3 entrees. The meat was always tender and flavorful; some of the best of any cruise line I have sailed. I never heard one complaint about the food. The food was fresh and hot. The maitre d always offered more servings of vegetables during the dinner by going table to table. Wine, beer and soft drinks were available for dinner for no extra charge. The wine was from a local area in most cases. I personally liked the red wine ( I normally drink white) because it was not a heavy red wine; some guests from California thought the red wine was not "bold " enough. Personal opinions. There were quite a few birthdays, including mine. My husband asked about something for me and they said it was already done; the ship must have checked the birth dates for the passengers and celebrated the birthdays automatically; this was another quality feature of AMA Waterways. They brought a nice cake. It was Turkey Independence Day while we were on the ship and they brought a large cake for the group of Turkish guests on board the ship to celebrate.
In Germany, the Southern part of Germany are mainly Catholic, the Northern area Lutheran and the middle section of Germany is a mixture of religions.
The words "berg" and "burg" in names have two different meanings. Berg means a hill and burg is fortress.
The Piano Deck is the lowest deck of the Amacello and has 2 windows instead of the French balcony that are almost level with the water; The elevator does not go this far and so guests who stay there, have to walk down steps. The crew also lives in this area. There is a window sill on the windows and a guest bought some flowers and put them in their cabin; her husband always buys her flowers for their Sabbath.
The ship has an audio headset system which allowed us to hear the guide using ear pieces without having to be next to the guide. We were given ear pieces the beginning of our cruise for us to use and keep, the receptive boxes we had were color coded and this was the same color as our guide used for the frequency so each group would hear their own guide; the color code was also the bus and guide we would use of that specific tour. The system can work a distance of 1 mile, so we were told not to go too far from the guide. I have never had this on a tour and it was so easy to take in the sights, take a photo and listen at the same time.
Our first port was Amsterdam; the ship did not depart until the second day. Our city bus tour and a canal cruise were included excursions in the cruise fare as are all excursions on the cruise portion of the trip. This is the way to see Amsterdam, the Venice of the North. The canal boats are covered and also has a restroom on board. The first night we were entertained by fun Dutch Folklore dancers in the main lounge. There was the Captain's welcome cocktail party and a Gala Welcome Dinner.
On Day 2 we left at 12:15 PM to sail along the Rhine River. Day 2 also had a safety drill on the sun deck. The entertainment on the second day was La Stada, a group that had 2 violinists and a guitar player. Their music was fitting for this river cruise and offered us some wonderful entertainment.
Day 3 we were in Dusseldorf, the capital of Germany, and the excursion was a panorama bus tour of Dusseldorf of about an hour; we then had free time of about 45 minutes to shop, sit or walk back to the ship which was docked about 1 kilometer ( 0.6 miles).
We departed for Cologne at 11:15 AM; we had a bus tour of Cologne as soon as we arrived and then some free time; this is where I purchased some 4711 original Eau de Cologne and the Dom Liqueur. At 7:00 PM we departed for Frankfurt.
Day 4 we arrived in Frankfurt. Peter gave us a briefing on the upcoming excursion. At 11:30 AM, "Fruhschoppen" was served in the main lounge which was beer and sausage (no charge); I was told this must be served before noon. A Bavarian lunch was served in the dining room for lunch. We arrived at 2:30 PM and left for a walking tour of Frankfurt and the Cathedral. We walked back to the ship. Most of these tours are not handicapped accessible.
This evening we had a trio called the Pitchfork who sang for us. They began with the song "Down by the Riverside" and had the audience hooked. We left this port at 3:00 AM the next day to sail to Mainz.
Day 5 we arrived in Mainz at 7:15 AM and had the choice of 2 excursions, Mainz or Heidelberg; we chose Mainz as I wanted to see the Gutenberg Museum where the first printed copy of the Bible was printed. The museum has old books which were interesting and an original copy of the Bible. No pictures allowed except for the area where the printed a page for us on an old press. This level has printers all types and you were allowed to use the camera here. Mainz had a small area that did not have any car traffic; this was done about 20 years ago. There were bakeries, a church, coffee shops. 55% of the people in Mainz are Catholic, 35 % other religions. In Mainz, the ship was docked about 1/4 mile from the city; this was a walking tour of about 45-60 minutes. The tours were in 3 categories; one was gentle for slower walkers, again with the different color codes.
The passengers who chose the Heildeberg tour had a bus ride of about one hour and 15 minutes. The ones who went said it was a wonderful tour to the old city. We sailed to Koblenz where we overnight. Peter took about 75 people on a night walk in Koblenz.
Day 6 we arrive in the fairy tale village of Cochem on the Mosel River (Mozelle is French and English spelling); one of the most scenic wine growing villages in the Mosel Valley. This is where we get to see the Reichsburg Castle. The minibuses drove us to the castle almost all the way. Because of construction, we had to walk up the rest of the hill to the castle. The walk down was not as bad as I thought it would be. What a beautiful view of the area. Lots of steps in the castle also. We saw several rooms of the castle. The trophy room had a door key for guests of the castle that had a little too much wine.; it was a V shape and the key could be slid down the opening and open the door. There was lots of waking on this stop and lots of steps. We had to dock across the river and then walk about 2 blocks, up stairs and across the bridge and down the stairs. There again, they had 3 groups for walking. People who wanted to take photos as well as slower walkers chose these groups. Bob and I shared a strawberry pie (good!!) at a cafe and I had a glass of local wine and Bob his coffee at a cafe before walking back to the ship.
Day 7 had us in Berkastel-Kues; a favorite of many passengers as well as for me. This was a village of half-timbered houses and lots of side streets as well as the medieval market square. This village is friendly, clean and really takes you back into time. The square is surrounded by many well preserved half-timbered houses as well as the Renaissance city hall built in 1608. Especially well-known is the very small and narrow so-called "Spitzhäuschen" (the "Pointed House") which dates back to 1416. At the center of the market square lies the fountain of St. Michael (St. Michaelsbrunnen).
Day 7 also took us to Trier, the oldest city in Germany. We again did a bus and city walking tour and using the Vox system so we could hear the guide. The bus took us to the top of the hill top to a city view and photo stop, and what a view it was. After the bus tour, we parked and did a walking tour of the town area. It was Saturday and there were lots of families shopping,eating and visiting the market square. The market had lots of fresh fruits and vegetables; they are known for white asparagus and they looked like nice stalks. Trier was founded in 16 BC under Augustus and today has the same population during the Roman Era, approximately 100,000 residents. We saw the Roman Baths, Roman Amphitheater and Porta Nigra Gate. The Porta Nigra Gate (Latin for black gate) dates from 180 BC and is the last remaining gate of the city; it is the symbol of the city. Trier is a city that would be nice for an overnight if you are flying in or out of Frankfurt which is 120 miles from Trier. We were there during the Holy Robe Days (April 24- May 3,2009) and were unable to go to The Cathedral of Trier, the oldest church of Germany, which was originally built by Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman Emperor; The Cathedral of Trier houses great works of art and a holy relic that draws many pilgrims: the Holy Robe, the garment said to be worn by Jesus when he was crucified.
We were docked at a small village called Piesport our last night and walked through the village to get to the ship which was waiting for us after the Trier bus tour; we again walked to the buses to go on the trip to Paris; The busses could not travel the narrow streets. Our cabin faced the Village Church and the cemetery. There was a walking path next to us and adults and children and biked along this area. It was quiet and peaceful.
This was a wonderful cruise. I have been on the Mississippi Queen but this is my first European river cruise. I have been on many cruises and have done most of the world but this is a wonderful way to travel to Europe and other parts of the world. ( AMA Waterways has many sailings.) I have seen many of the large cities of Europe, and this is a chance to see the smaller villages and countryside. The Rhine River was busy with cargo traffic; the rivers are their highways. The river was flowing quickly and had lots of locks. The people are friendly and most spoke English. We used the Euro for currency, even on the ship, throughout the trip. I am look forward to other river cruise sailings in the world. This has become so popular, there are more cruise lines and ships being built.
The hotel in Paris was the Crowne Plaza Republique at Republique Square. A 19th-century Neo-Baroque style building with a striking facade than had been renovated and was a nice 4 star hotel. We were near the Metro station. The rooms were good sized, a double sized bed, a large bathtub with a high side that you had to climb into, amenities in the bathroom, a table in the room and our room was at the front of the hotel. We were able to see part of the Eiffel Tower from our large window. Breakfast buffet was included in the rate of the room and there was a nice variety of food and drinks for any nationality. We found quite a few places to eat within waking distance including KFC and McDonalds.
The city tour the next day, included in the cruise package, was about 4 hours and took us all over the city including a visit to Notre Dame. Paris is large with many old structures and gardens. We bought a Metro day pass and this allowed us to use the train and bus, getting off at the Louvre (closed Tuesdays), the Eiffel Tower and Old Opera House.
Our trip ended with a Delta flight from Paris to Minneapolis/ St/ Paul on April 29, 2009; the plane was not full and so many people were able to lay on the seats and sleep; Delta served us a good dinner and also pizza before we landed. We got through customs, cleared and headed home.
This was a memorable trip for me and I look forward to my next river cruise.
There was so much more I could have added but thought I had written enough so if anyone has questions, please email me at email@example.com.