On 20-27 April 2018, we took an APTouring Springtime Discovery Of Holland and Belgium river cruise on the AmaVerde ship. APT arranged for us a complimentary VIP chauffeur-driven car to pick us up from home to Southampton airport. We then had a flight booked from Southampton direct to Amsterdam on KLM at times convenient for us.
We reviewed the KLM Cityhopper flight separately. This was a pretty new plane with excellent onboard service for a European flight, and included a light bite and a drink of choice, even in economy.
We arrived at Schiphol Airport where an APT representative was awaiting our exit from the customs area and we were escorted into a VIP private taxi through the maze of this huge airport and into busy Amsterdam. Our luggage was then taken care of right into our pre-booked, but upgraded, AmaVerde cabin.
Our first impression of this lovely blue and white ship was one of friendliness and efficiency. We were met by the Captain and escorted to the large, inviting lounge with lots of comfy sofas, small vases of tulips, and views over the water. In this room, there was a self serve coffee and tea station open all day throughout the cruise for hot drinks.
We were early and a delicious buffet lunch was provided in the lounge with tasty vegetable soup, sandwiches, tarts and fresh fruit. The all-day all-inclusive drinks made the atmosphere very jovial and relaxed, however no-one noticeably over-indulged! (You only had to pay for premium whiskies and champagne).
This river cruiser was built in 2011 and everything looked spotless. It felt enormously long (360 feet x 38 feet), but the Captain skillfully manoeuvered it in and out of huge locks and moorings and you hardly felt you were afloat.
The cabins were in the rear half end and the lounge and main dining room in the other, so it was quiet at night (though we did experience some rare loud cabin creaks during rough parts of the passages). On the top deck there was a heated swimming pool and plenty of loungers in the sun and shade. Bicycles were provided for your own use or for guided tours. One evening a Dutch lady singer was brought on board, she came dressed in a blue and white Delft pottery design dress and was very good. We also had a duo in the evenings, and the onboard pianist was very good too, except for one evening when he decided to sing!.
There were only (up to) 144 people on board, which means you soon get to know each other. There were about half Australians, and the rest were British and Canadian varying in age from 60-80+. The language on board was English throughout, and it was a very friendly atmosphere.
Our spacious two balcony cabin (235 sq. ft.) was delightful. We were lucky enough to be upgraded for free to a larger cabin on the middle deck and had silver butler service. We had 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. The silver butler service was a nice touch, but we only used the free bag of laundry and the delivery of Earl Grey tea and a slice of cake on our balcony on the two afternoons when we were free to relax. Luckily the weather was superb for April and we enjoyed sunbathing on the top deck one afternoon when it was 30 degrees passing Nijmegen.
Breakfast was largely buffet style with a delicious selection of fruit, yoghurts, 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. Uniquely, 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. Alternatively, you could eat lunch in the lounge where there was also soup, a hot dish and a selection of salads and cold meats plus a dessert and cookies. Dinner was a grand unhurried affair with many courses and a good selection including vegetarian dishes. The desserts were gorgeous. Additionally, there was a separate Chef’s table restaurant with lovely views to 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, where the food is prepared in front of you. The sommelier suggested suitable wines to accompany the menu, however, you were free to order whatever was on offer.
At the 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, a boat cruise in the morning was followed by a cruise up the Ijsselmeer to Hoorn which was a delightful old town. APT includes all tours which were excellently organized with knowledgeable guides. We then motored, usually overnight, down through Holland visiting such highlights as Arnhem, with the picturesque Open air museum and Kinderdijk with 17 windmills, to Antwerp. The ship stopped right in the centre of most towns and cities. Antwerp was a scenic old city, we took a culinary walking tour where we sampled a delightfully light and airy waffle with whipped cream, followed by a visit to the Chocolate line, and finished in a very old pub near the cathedral where we sampled three different beers. We visited Medieval Bruges by coach, this was scenic but cold and we had almost too much history! More than half the Netherlands is below sea level, thus we visited the Delta works in Zeeland, a series of flood protection systems that took almost 30 years to build. Upon return to Amsterdam, we visited the Van Gogh museum where we had the museum to ourselves for the first hour of a 2 hour visit, which was very unique and special. Of course, the highlight of this springtime itinerary was the visit to the beautiful Keukenhof gardens which has 50 million 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 Rumanian and Hungarian crew were some of the most obliging I have ever encountered, and the accommodations were eminently comfortable. Hedleigh, the cruise director was excellent, and the only downside seems to be that some of the cabins creak at night, especially in open waters, like a lake we traversed. We considered a cabin change but the other cabin seemed worse!
You may also be interested in our AMA Waterways AmaSerena tulip time cruise review.
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