My travel bucket list has always included a visit to Amsterdam - and the famous Keukenhof gardens - during tulip season. After much research, I chose a river cruise on AMA Waterways and the AMAKristina as my first European river cruise. AMA offered an itinerary that included tours of all the places I wanted to visit - Keukenhof, the Kinderdjik windmills, DeltaWorks and a full day excursion to Bruges Belgium. The cruise began and ended in Amsterdam, making round trip air travel simple and reasonably priced.
Boarding the AMAKristina was quick and easy. I’d received detailed information about the docking location and a cab quickly took my husband and I to the dock at the 3:00pm check-in time. We were greeted, and immediately shown to our cabin, which was clean and ready at check-in. The entire ship - inside and out - was spotlessly clean throughout the cruise. I had been concerned about tying up next to other river cruise ships to access ports. There were often many river ships at popular ports, but walking through them to reach the shore gave me a chance to check out other cruise lines I’d considered - and wasn’t particularly inconvenient. But there was no thought of using the balcony when the balcony of another ship was only feet away!
Our double-balcony cabin was nicely decorated however, and offered enough space to store all our clothing and bath supplies, and just enough underbed storage for two large suitcases and two rollaboards. Both the cabin and bath were cozy, but larger and more comfortable than we expected. We especially enjoyed the Mac system included in the cabin - a large screen used for TV and movies, but including a keyboard and mouse so it could also be used to access the internet and shipboard information. The bed was very comfortable and the bath had a great shower, with both rainfall and removable shower heads. My only complaint was lack of any shelf space in the shower for holding shampoo etc - seems like such a simple thing to be omitted!
After unpacking, there was time to explore the ship and take photos before dinner. Light snacks were available in the lounge, as they were at most times during the cruise. There was a great self-serve coffee and tea station available 24x7 which included specialty coffees like espresso and cappuccino and a good selection of teas. The lounge is the social center of the ship with the bar and lots of comfortable seating. There are doors from the lounge to outdoor seating in the stern of the ship.
A round glass elevator and stairs on both sides led to the dining room below. There were a number of large tables along the windows, with booths in the center of the dining room which seated 4 people very comfortably. Buffet counters were located at the rear.
The upper deck featured a heated pool, a giant chess set and outdoor seating. The weather was mostly very chilly during our April cruise, but several passengers still enjoyed a dip in the pool! We were told there is a library and fitness center, but we never had enough time to find them ourselves.
Dinner was served shortly after we finished our tour. There’s no fixed seating; you can select your own table and dine with anyone you choose. Times for each meal are shown in the Daily Cruiser program, and you can arrive at any time. Dinner always followed the “Sip and Sail” happy hour in the lounge, when complimentary cocktails were served. The dinner menu included a choice of appetizers, entrees and desserts served a la carte. Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks were always served at lunch and dinner. The food was very good and there were enough choices to please everyone. Service was excellent and the food arrived promptly even with a full dining room.
Breakfast and lunch were served in the dining room, and included a choice of menu items and very nice buffet selections. There were always fruits and salads, as well as several hot items. The timing of each meal was determined by the arrival and departure times of the morning and afternoon excursions - a nice change after many ocean cruises where I had to rush to lunch or dinner before the restaurant closed after a late excursion!
Each evening during the “Sip and Sail” hour there were descriptions of the next port and tours available. After dinner, there was entertainment in the lounge from the talented ship pianist as well as various singers and other musicians. Our favorite evening featured a spirited and talented classical string trio.
The excursions were the highlight of the cruise. At each port, there was a choice of excursions offered at no extra charge. I had chosen our excursions on the AMA website prior to the start of the cruise - but it was no problem to change or select an excursion while on board. Walking tours had separate groups for fast, regular and “gentle” walkers - so everyone could enjoy the tour at her own pace. Most guides were excellent - they lived in and knew the visited towns well. Tickets for the sights we visited were always provided by AMA at no charge to us. When a bus was necessary to visit a sight, the buses were clean, comfortable and convenient to the ship. The extraordinary cruise director, John Riley, arranged for taxis if the buses were too distant for “gentle” walkers. In fact, he arranged everything incredibly - he was never too busy to answer questions or help in any way. There were bicycles and a biking tour at almost every port too. We didn’t bike, but those who did really enjoyed the tours.
The very best part of the cruise happened at the very end, when I asked for our bill and arranged for gratuities. Gratuities were not automatically charged to our bill - we decided how much to leave, and could chose crew members to receive gratuities. As veterans of many ocean cruises, we were shocked to find that we had NO bill to pay at the end of the cruise. It was truly all-inclusive! And about a week after we arrived home we received a handwritten thank you note from our crew - a really delightful surprise! A lovely ending to a very hassle-free and relaxed vacation.
Cold and rainy, not a very interesting tour. We ditched the tour after the Cathedral and took off on our own for a great day! Had a fabulous lunch of moules & frites, then went to Museum Plantin-Moretus which was incredible.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We were disappointed that the tour only included the interior of Mauritshuis Museum/art gallery. It was nice, but other buildings listed for the excursion were only seen from the street.View All 11 The Hague Reviews
Arrived in Bruges (from Ghent) early enough to beat the crowds. Excellent walking tour, including the Church of Our Lady. Spent the rest of the day touring independently. Don't miss the blessings at the Basilica of the Holy Blood.View All 1 Our Lady's Church Reviews
Local guide lives in Bruges and was simply wonderful.View All 51 Walking Tour Reviews
AMA arranged for enough boats that they were not full or crowded - much better than we could have done booking on our own.View All 311 Canal Tour Reviews
Our fabulous cruise manager, John Riley, arranged for our buses to leave earlier than scheduled so we arrived at Keukenhof when it opened on Sunday morning. He said we would arrive before the crowds and the first bus would leave at noon as the gardens became crowded. He was absolutely right, and we had a beautiful morning touring these stunning gardens.View All 88 The Keukenhof Gardens Reviews