My husband's and my 12-day AMA Enchanting Rhine land/cruise began in Zurich, Switzerland, where we spent 2 nights at the Marriott. Peter Whitehead, our outstanding Amalyra Cruise Director, was in the lobby when we arrived (we booked our own air and took a taxi to the hotel--CFH46.80, paid by cc, no tip required) and directed us how to begin exploring Zurich as the day was free. We found no ATM at the airport nor did the Marriott have one, but Peter directed us to the train station, where we got CFH100, which was plenty to get us through our time in Switzerland. Zurich is a lovely, easily-walked, clean, and quite enjoyable city, as well as having clean (and free) public toilets. We found Switzerland to be rather expensive but did have some lovely meals at not too exorbitant prices. The Marriott's full breakfast was included and very good. The first day we had a delicious bratwurst from a stand in the train station for lunch and that night a wonderful dinner in the Marriott's Thai restaurant, White Elephant. That may sound crazy, but we were bleary-eyed from our overnight flight and following exploration of Zurich on foot. The next morning we had a very nice city tour which began on buses through the University area and Lake Zurich Marina and ended with a walking tour of the Old Town. We had the afternoon to ourselves and had a very nice inexpensive buffet lunch at Limmatblitz near where the Limmat River, which divides Zurich, spills into Lake Zurich. That evening we had a nice dinner at Ruden Bar along the river walkway not far from the hotel.
I should stop here and say that throughout we were blessed with nice weather in the 70's, mostly sunny with a shower here and there only. We were told along the way that it had been terribly hot in June and July had been awful, but August arrived with glorious weather. Weren't we lucky?!
The next morning we were transported by bus toward Lucerne with breathtaking scenery along the way. We stopped at gorgeous Brunnen on Lake Lucerne, where we had a sandwich lunch (on our own) on the waterfront. We then boarded a ferry that took us across Lake Lucerne to our hotel (Radisson Blu) in Lucerne. (Luggage had been brought by the buses.) After settling in at the hotel, we struck out to explore Lucerne. What a lovely place! The Chapel Bridge is amazing! Again, very walkable, clean and just gorgeous with the Lake's blue water and surrounded by the Alps. That night we had a delicious dinner outdoors at Fritschi, a restaurant with a colorful fresco facade. I would suggest, however, if you go there, make a reservation as we saw them shooing people away for no apparent reason to us.
The following morning after breakfast (included) there was a walking tour of Lucerne, then a free afternoon. We had a delightful and inexpensive lunch of Swiss "canapEs" at Baeckerei Hug, a sort of deli place we discovered while walking around. After lunch we continued exploring areas we had not been to before and ended up on the Lake's waterfront park opposite the hotel, where we were treated to a really fun rock concert at the bandshell by the JayCee's. We had a fondue dinner that night at Hirschen, once again, a place we discovered while walking around earlier in the day.
The next morning we left by bus to head toward Basel, where we would board the Amalyra. On the way, we made a stop to see Lucerne's emotional Dying Lion deep relief carving in the sandstone cliff above the town, a tribute to the Swiss Guard who died in 1792 trying to save the life and honor of Marie Antoinette. (Note: Do NOT use the public toilet at this site! Gross!)
We arrived in Basel in time for a walking tour before lunch, after which we had a wonderful wurstwegge (sausage roll) from one of the carts in the Marktplatz. The thing I enjoyed most about Basel was watching the ferry cross the Rhine (from the bridge near the museum). The ferries are hand-operated by tiller, crossing the river by tacking against the current, held in position by a rope suspended above the river. We met the buses at the Kunstmuseum, which took us to the ship after a stop at the Switzerland, France and Germany crossroads monument. Check-in was a breeze and our luggage was already in our room 214, which was 170 sq. feet with French balcony, well-located, nicely appointed, with ample storage space, lovely toiletries, and a very comfortable bed. We did, however, ask for a top sheet rather than the heavier duvet provided (too much for us). That evening was the Captain's Welcome, at which all the ladies were given a long-stemmed red rose, perfect for the budvase in every cabin, and which remained fresh throughout the cruise.
The next morning we had the choice of an included tour to Colmar, France or Freiburg, Germany. We chose Colmar and can't help but think it was the right choice! We started at an Alsatian wine tasting at La Cave Wolfberger in the village of Equisheim, which proved to be an unexpected gem! What a whimsical and delightful place! We then moved on to Colmar, which also was a delight--colorful, picturesque medieval town dating back to 823 with canals throughout, and the birthplace of Bartholdi, sculptor of the Statue of Liberty.
The next day we had a wonderful canal cruise and walking tour of beautiful Strasbourg, the capital of the Alsace region of France. The afternoon was spent cruising to Speyer, one of Germany's oldest towns, where we had an evening walking tour after dinner.
The next morning we toured the Castle and Old Town in Heidelberg, and in the afternoon Worms (full of ancient history as well as the Reformation), then cruised to Rudesheim overnight, where the following morning we visited Siegfried's wonderful music museum, filled with his collection of fascinating music boxes. Do not miss doing this! After Siegfried's we went into the hillside vineyards for a wine tasting, after which we walked around the charming town of Rudesheim on our own. This afternoon we cruised through the scenic Rhine Gorge, which is lined with innumerable castles. That night we arrived in Koblenz, where we had an evening tour after dinner.
The following morning we continued cruising to Cologne, where we had an Old Town walking tour after lunch including the magnificent Gothic cathedral. Afterward we walked around on our own and had a glass of Kolsch, Cologne's beer specialty, at an outdoor cafe. Cologne was under construction everywhere it seemed (building a subway!) but was still an enjoyable place to visit. That night we were treated to the excellent La Strada trio, whom we had fallen in love with on our AMA Danube cruise last year, as the evening's after-dinner entertainment.
We cruised overnight and the following morning into the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal, arriving in Amsterdam midday. After lunch we had an afternoon canal cruise through the heart of Amsterdam followed by a bus tour of surrounding areas. We left the bus near the flower market for free time. We chose not to return to the boat by bus but rather to walk around on our own and then walk back to the ship (easily doable). The main thing we did while on our own was to walk through the Red Light District. Very interesting indeed!
We flew home the following morning. Peter pre-booked a taxi to the airport for us, for which we paid €35, tip included.
It was a truly wonderful trip from beginning to end. I would say that with the exception of the Rhine Gorge, the scenery along the Rhine was not as generally gorgeous as the Danube, but the ports were truly wonderful. I highly recommend this trip and I can't say enough about AMA! My husband and I are completely "hooked" on their excellence. As after our Danube cruise, a few days after coming home we received a thank you postcard, handwritten and signed by Peter (CD), Oliver (hotel manager) and Rein (Captain). Nice touch, don't you think!
I would be happy to answer any questions you might have by e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: You might also be interested in reading my review of our August 2009 AMA Legendary Danube on the Amadante.