If you are looking for a luxury river cruise, we wholehearted recommend an AmaWaterways. The AmaWaterways staff look after you from the moment you arrive at the airport to the moment you fly home. From transfers to tours, fine dining to the excellent on board entertainment, AmaWaterways offers luxury river cruising as it should be. This is our story from the AmaWaterways Tulip Time cruise on their ship AmaSerena.
We arrived at Schipol Airport, just outside Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where an AMA representative was awaiting our exit from the customs area, and we were escorted onto the coach through the maze of this huge airport. Our luggage was taken care of right into the cabin, a bottle of water was provided, and there were only 4 people on this VIP transfer.
Our first impression on this lovely new white ship was one of friendliness and efficiency. We were escorted to the large, inviting lounge with lots of comfy sofas, vases of tulips everywhere, and views over the water. There was a self-serve coffee and tea station open all day for hot drinks. We were early and a delicious buffet lunch was provided in the lounge with tasty pea soup, sandwiches, salad, pasta, apple tart and fresh fruit.
The ship was built in 2015 and everything looked new and spotless. The ship felt enormously long (450 feet x 37.5 feet), but Captain Henk skillfully manoeuvered it in and out of huge locks and moorings and you hardly felt you were afloat. The cabins are at one end and the lounge and main dining room at the other so it was quiet at night. On the top deck there is a heated swimming pool and plenty of loungers in the sun and shade. Bicycles are provided for your own use or for guided tours. Evening entertainers were brought on board at several locations and the on-board pianist was very good too. There can be up to 164 people on board which means you soon get to know each other. There were about 80% Americans and Canadians on our cruise, plus British, Australians, and two Brazilians, varying in age from 45-80. The language on board was English throughout, and it was a very friendly atmosphere.
Our spacious two balcony cabin (210 sq. ft.) was delightful, on the middle deck, with a large comfy bed, thick terry bathrobes, huge flat screen TV/infotainment station (Hollywood movies, music, English/American TV) and free Wi-Fi. There were soft chairs and a glass table in front of the juliet balcony and a small outside balcony with 2 chairs and table through a glass door by the bed. The bathroom was excellent with all the usual amenities and a good shower.
Breakfast was largely buffet style with a delicious selection of fruit, yogurts, Bircher muesli, cheese, cold meats, and porridge to order. There was also an omelette station, and a menu for a full cooked breakfast or poached eggs. They had their own baker on board and a huge selection of breads, pastries, and delicious jams. Lunch was also largely buffet style for salads, cold meats and cheeses, desserts and ice creams with a menu for soups and hot dishes. There was free good quality wine and beer with lunch and dinner. Dinner was a grand unhurried affair with many courses and a good selection including vegetarian dishes. The desserts were gorgeous. There is also a separate Chef’s table restaurant with lovely views at the rear of the ship, you book this on board (no charge) on a night to suit you, and it has an interesting taster menu, the food for which is prepared in front of you.
At start and finish, the ship was moored in the centre of Amsterdam, a 25 minute walk took you to the old parts of the city and Dam square. Excellent maps were provided at reception for every stop. The cruise started with a day in and around Amsterdam, with tours to attractive old Edam and Volendam. AMA Waterways includes all tours which were excellently organized with knowledgeable guides. We then motored, usually overnight, down through Holland visiting such highlights as Arnhem, Nijmegen, and ‘Het Loo’ Royal Palace, all places that you wouldn’t easily see by car. The ship stops right in the centre of most towns and cities, and where they didn’t, at Ghent for example for security reasons, we were coached there. Antwerp was a scenic old city, we took the limited edition tour to Ruben’s house and the cathedral (one can sign up for limited capacity tours on line after you have booked your holiday, usually about 20 people per tour). In Ghent we took the limited edition Belgian chocolate workshop tour where we tried making the shells and praline fillings under the watchful eye of the chocolatier. This was messy but most enjoyable!! We had a glass of sparkling wine and some chocolates to sample to finish, and they sent us away with a small box of pralines each.
We returned via several beautiful little Dutch locations such as Willemstad, Middleburg, and Kinderdijk with 17 windmills. Of course, the highlight of this springtime itinerary was the visit to the Keukenhof gardens which has literally millions of tulips in a 70-acre park and glasshouses, including one with amazing orchids.
River cruising is without doubt an effortless way to travel, the mainly Eastern European crew were some of the most obliging I have ever encountered, and the accommodations were eminently comfortable.. John Riley, the tour manager, was very hands-on and seemed to be everywhere – he couldn’t do enough for us and when we arrived home to Southampton airport, I missed having our AMA rep. waiting for us in arrivals and taking care of us!
In summary, this our AMA waterways first river cruise experience was absolutely first class!
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