My husband and I chose this cruise in hopes that “by now” COVID would be over. Sadly, still not the case. We liked the fact that AmaWaterways didn’t require final payment until 90 days prior to the trip, and had Alliance’s travel insurance with a COVID rider, so after vaccination and a booster, we got ready to go. We used vouchers from cancelled 2020 flights to book our own flights and was disappointed to leave AMA wouldn’t sell us an airport transfer upon arrival because we didn’t book flights with them. But, we found a wonderful company called Travel Electric who picked us up in Amsterdam at the airport and delivered us to the Ambassade Hotel where we stayed for 2 nights. I can’t recommend this hotel enough. We had a large room with canal views and the staff treated us like family! Breakfast was excellent and the bed was soft and comfy! Fortunately, Ama emailed us prior to the trip. Since we were staying post-cruise in Basel, we were able to purchase a Swiss QR code to prove our vaccination status in Europe. Everywhere we went inside to dine or for a museum, we simply showed our QR code and ID and we’re granted access. The rules in Europe basically were masks on inside (KN95 bought on Amazon) and outside they were optional. After booking our own tickets to museums and indoor dining (we had to eat at 4pm due to 5pm curfew) we were delighted to have access to a very uncrowded city. We boarded the AmaSiena after a quick taxi ride from our hotel (at this time public transportation was limited to people going to work), and checked in. We had some finger sandwiches and tea in the lounge and then headed back off the ship for the canal cruise to see the first night of Amsterdam’s Light Festival. Due to curfew, we had to see it from 3:45-5 but fortunately the sun set at 4:30 so we could see a good number of the lights before making it back to the dock at 5. Dinner was at 7 onboard, and the AmaSiena cruised while we ate so they could get around this curfew restriction. We were assigned two table mates for all meals the entire trip (limiting exposure to COVID). Fortunately, the ladies at our table were lovely and conversation was relaxed and fun the entire week! Overall, I enjoyed the food. There was always a wide variety offered and the servers were authentic, kind and efficient. Our room was a small one, no balcony, but it was so cold, we found we didn’t miss it. As we made our way down the Rhine the US government changed the rules for re-entry so that they required a rapid COVID test no more than 24 hours prior to returning to the US. Our cruise director sent a paper to each stateroom to ask if we needed him to provide us a test. We had 5 nights on our own in Switzerland following our cruise so we let him know we didn’t need a test unless requirements changed again. Then, we emailed our hotel for our last night in Switzerland. They emailed us right back with information and location of a testing center in Zurich so we were all set. AmaWaterways did provide an extension (2 nights Amsterdam pre and 2 night Lucerne, 2 nights Zurich) for $2,500 per person. We decided that was too expensive so we did 2 nights in Amsterdam, 1 night in Basel, 3 nights in Lucerne, and 1 night in Zurich for $3,500 total saving $1,500 and having the flexibility of seeing what we wanted. A critique I have of the cruise manager is he seemed to give special attention to those who booked the extension and basically ignored those of us who chose a different option. That said, he did work his tail off the arrange testing for all who flew out after the cruise (and booked their transfers with Ama) and for those who paid for the extension with Ama. I’m sure the peace of mind was worth it for those who chose that option. The cruise itself was wonderful. We saw the Cologne Christmas Market (had to show our QR code to prove vaccination and wear masks) but the market stall next to the cathedral had a sweet older man who was blowing glass ornaments, and I managed to get my small snowman home safely in my carryon! Heidelberg cancelled their market so we went to Speyer and they even changed our port so we were docked within walking distance of Speyer. The local guide here was phenomenal as were all of the ones we had for each port. These excursions were included in the fare and I found it nice not to be “nickel and dimed” at each port. The cathedrals were amazing, and the markets we got to see were full of locals who were welcoming and seemed happy to be outside celebrating the season. There were some limited fitness classes offered one board (6 people only due to COVID) and it was too cold to take a bike tour, but the walking track on the sundeck made for scenic walks or jogs as needed. We paid for them to do our laundry before we disembarked for the Swiss leg of our journey and our clothes came back nicely laundered and neatly folded. We budgeted for this expense and aside from tips to our crew members, was the only item on our bill at the end of the cruise. Beer and wine were included in the fare at lunch and dinner so we didn’t feel the need to pay for additional drinks. The agenda changed as markets closed and protocols shifted in each country, but the Ama team rolled with it. For example, we were supposed to see 2 Christmas markets on the 5th day of the cruise. The afternoon one was cancelled so Ama readjusted the itinerary so we could stay in Strasbourg the entire day! There were shuttles going back and forth all day, and that adjustment was impressive. The “home of Christmas”, Strasbourg did not disappoint and we thoroughly enjoyed our day there. Another highlight was Riquewihr, France. This town is the one that inspired the setting for Disney’s animated classic “Beauty and the Beast”. Ama provided a short, interesting walking tour and then we were on our own. Each shop was lovelier than the first and decorated uniquely and beautifully. We met a beautiful lady who was baking gingerbread right there and she let us taste some as she infused various flavors into her dough. She spoke very little English, but I spoke just enough French for us to settle on a slice of apple-infused gingerbread. It was heavenly and we brought a piece back to share with our table mates who had now become friends. We were told there were 99 passengers on our trip (the ship holds 159, I believe) so it didn’t feel crowded. To our knowledge, everyone tested negative after the cruise, and even after 5 nights riding trains and eating bratwurst and fondue, we tested negative as well. As someone who likes to plan each detail of a trip, I learned a lot about being flexible and having a positive attitude. Our world has been through so much the past nearly two years now, and it is an absolute blessing to be able to travel again. We met so many kind Europeans and shared smiley eyes even though masks covered our faces. Traveling is worth it during COVID times, and AmaWaterways knows what they’re doing to keep you safe. If you choose to travel, my advice is to get vaccinated and booster, pay extra to use your smartphone internationally for testing results, QR code’s, etc. (ours was $10 extra per day with Verizon), take care of yourself mentally and physically, and be kind. Then, get out there and tackle that bucketlist!