Rayleigh’s First River Cruise
In May of this year, I was offered the opportunity to board the Amadeus Silver on a sailing of the ‘Classical Rhine’ itinerary from the 21st to the 25th July 2017. This meant a full five-day trip exploring Koblenz, Cochem, and Cologne in Germany, alongside the wonders of Hoorn and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Of course, I jumped at the chance and, before I knew it, I was purchasing travel sized items, rolling up my clothes and packing my bags.
I write this blog as a first-time river cruiser. As I have worked for Fred River Cruises for three months now, it was the perfect time to get on board a river cruise ship for the very first time, explore the ship and put all of my ideas and thoughts into action. I went on board with an open mind and a small idea of what to expect and, to my excitement, these five days would consist of one of the most amazing experiences of my life time.
We met the ship half way through its itinerary after it had visited Basel, Strasbourg, Speyer, Mannheim and Rudesheim on the first three days. Starting in Koblenz…
The morning of travel had arrived ever so quickly. My manager, Brooke, and I set off to the airport for our early morning flight. We met one member of our group at the airport and ventured onto Frankfurt Hahn. From there, we took a coach transfer to meet our remaining guests, followed by a train to Koblenz which got us to the ship with lots of time. The weather was stunning and there was not a cloud in sight. We were all so excited to see the Amadeus Silver sail into port at 3.30pm along the glistening river.
We boarded the ship and were assigned our room keys by the very helpful reception team, who also took our cases to our cabins and greeted us with warm welcomes. We arranged to meet the group in the Panorama Bar on the Mozart (top) deck after placing our bags in our rooms and settling in. The staff greeted us with a selection of sandwiches for us to enjoy whilst we winded down in the lounge areas.
We prepared ourselves for our first meal around 6pm to meet at the bar for an early drink at 6.30pm. Some people enjoyed a cold beer, whilst others opted for cocktails, spirits, sparkling waters or fizzy soft drinks. Taking ourselves down to dinner in the restaurant on the Strauss (middle) deck at 7pm, we intermingled with the tables around us and got to know each other on a personal level. This is what is so exciting about river cruising; it is such an intimate environment you are likely to meet lots of new people and make lots of new friends who you can share lots of fond memories with in times to come.
The dinner was presented beautifully in front of us, with drinks on tap until dinner was over. No one went hungry or thirsty. After our set of courses had concluded, the onboard hotel manager, Hoimara, came round with a glass of bubbly for us to ‘clink’ as she welcomed us on board the second half of the trip.
After dinner, an announcement came over the sound system from the cruise director who was letting us know that entertainment would soon be beginning in the Panorama Bar. We joined all of the remaining guests and got involved with the dance quiz of the evening which was such a good laugh. When our dancing feet deserved a sit-down, our group went outside to the seating area and we were greeted by a fellow traveller who was guiding a group of river cruisers on the ship. He brought his guitar outside and started showing us the songs he enjoyed and telling us all about his passion. We all sat outside singing to the Beetles until the stars came out.
Before bed time, we thought it would be a perfect way to explore Koblenz before setting sail in the early hours by popping to a local bar and enjoying each other’s company. We put our dancing shoes back on and when the yawns started kicking in, we made it back to the ship and took to our comfortable beds for a good night’s rest.
Awoken at 8am by our body clocks, we decided to enjoy some of the morning by taking in the views of the Rhine. So we opened the curtains and took full advantage of the floor-to-ceiling drop down panoramic window. We sat on the velvet grey seating arranged at the window’s side and peered out. Our cabin was flooded with sunlight, the sound of a light breeze piled in with the tweets of birds in hills and ducks paddling alongside us. Our views were utterly spectacular - quaint German villages full of character, castles sitting on the edges of hills, just miles and miles of beauty unfolding with endless surprise.
We both skipped breakfast and opted for a later brunch up on the Sun deck at 11am where a traditional German Cuisine was served to all guests: sauerkraut (pickled cabbage), Bavarian weisswurst (German delicacy sausage), pretzels, potato salad, bread and various mustards and dips. Whilst we filled our bellies with delicious food, we sat back on sun loungers and deck chairs to experience a 360-degree view of the scenery around us. This was something you would expect to see in a film, being surrounded by miles of unspoilt scenery with the mountains around us hugging us in.
As we sailed into Cochem, the views just got better and better. The thing that caught my eye the most was Reichsburg. This is a large castle that nestles in between the hills and vineyards and towers above the city. It gives off a magical vibe and stands out, almost like a German Hogwarts. The remaining city blends in beneath it - the vintage buildings, quarries with children playing, the warm atmosphere given off by the locals, the flowers in bloom hanging down from the brick work bridge and the breathtaking panoramas beckon you to set off and explore the town further.
After a light lunch at 12.30pm aboard the ship, those who had opted for the excursion took a walking tour of the city with a wine tasting before dinner. Some of our group took the onboard bicycles and cycled around Cochem, stopping off at several places of interest. I and five others set off for the town by foot and explored the cobbled streets and local shops and bars, before returning to the ship for the afternoon tea at 4.30pm. We then decided to relax and enjoy the afternoon on the rattan furniture outside on the River Terrace, enjoying our group’s company and getting to know each other more.
The ship set sail from Cochem at 6pm. Ready for dinner by 7pm, another amazing set of courses was awaiting us. With so much to choose from, we were spoilt for choice with a starter, soup, main, dessert and option of cheese, alongside free-flowing wine, beer and soft drinks at the table. A fantastic crew on board meant we were never sat with an empty glass. We indulged in our delicious meals and watched the scenery unfold yet again whilst at our dining table. After dinner, we vacated upstairs to the Panorama Bar on the Mozart deck. There was a raffle prior to the evening entertainment of the wonderful singer Daniela alongside piano, where guests won various prizes such as jewellery and souvenirs. This was another wonderful night of socialising with the guests on board and the crew whilst enjoying the evening entertainment.
Waking up in a Cologne after a smooth night of sailing, we felt refreshed. Straight away, we noticed the difference compared to Cochem, going from a medieval countryside environment to an industrial gothic area. This is what makes river cruising stand out, getting to explore contrasting destinations and watch how each part has evolved over time.
After a breakfast display of fresh fruit, pastries, cereals, cheese, meats, or breakfast to order, we took to the city at 9.30am to explore. Taking in all of the gothic buildings and getting to see the world famous Cologne Cathedral was breathtaking. With it being such a big city, a few of us decided to go on board a sightseeing train around the city which took us to the Cologne Zoo and the Botanical Gardens. We were also able to squeeze in a cable car ride over the city and enjoyed a creamy milkshake in RheinPark before returning to the ship for 2pm.
Setting sail that afternoon, four of us decided to explore the facilities and used the onboard gym to burn off some of the food we’d been eating. After our gym experience, we settled in the Panorama Bar and Lounge where the chef did an apple strudel-making demonstration. Most guests attended the proceedings and just the smell of the ingredients across the room made our mouths water. We were sat on the edge of our seats waiting for a taste as the chef brought up a fresh batch from the kitchen alongside a pot and ladle with custard. I speak for myself here, but it tasted absolutely incredible - the pastry was perfectly buttery and flaky, the apple sweet, and the taste of infused rum essence gave it that extra zing. You will never go hungry aboard an Amadeus river cruise ship.
This evening was what we had all been waiting for, the Captain’s Cocktail and Gala Dinner. All guests on board had the option of dressing up in some of their best clothes for the evening. However, with Amadeus, the dress code is very casual and it is at the discretion of each passenger as to how they wish to dress. As long as everyone is comfortable, Amadeus like to give guests the flexibility to pick how they dress for the event, so black tie or ball gowns are not required.
To start the evening off we met in the Panorama Bar and Lounge for a cocktail with all of the guests. We were offered the most delicious Prosecco I’ve ever had when we walked in the room and then were served appetisers incorporating olives and cheeses. The crew were called up in departments so we could show our appreciation for each member and see how many crew run such a tremendous operation.
After a lovely first start to the evening, celebrating all of the crew’s achievements, we were escorted down to the restaurant and were served a seven-course meal including appetisers. The menu featured delicious smoked salmon to a mushroom ‘cappuccino’ soup, pasta cannelloni, sharp and fruity lemon sorbet pallet cleanser, succulent Chateaubriand and a baked Alaska presented to us by all of the chefs. We ended the night on a high, everyone was laughing and full of joy all evening. We joined all members on the dance floor to the sound of the wonderful entertainer, Daniela’s voice. After talking to the crew and the passengers and singing a few more songs with guitar man, our voices became husky and off to bed we went.
Feeling revitalised after a good night’s sleep, we woke up to the sun beaming through the crack left between the curtains and gazed out to the wide Rhine river as we sailed into Hoorn. We made an early start and dashed into the restaurant for a fruity breakfast. Brooke enjoying the plentiful croissants and dishes of Nutella.
Before we knew it, it was 11.30am. So, we had an early lunch to prepare ourselves for our excursion of ‘North Holland and the Amsterdam canal cruise’. We shovelled in lots of delicious foods, prepared our bags, grabbed our top of the range head phones and excursion equipment, and made our way to the port side where we met our lovely tour guide for the afternoon.
Firstly, we took a short trip from Hoorn to Volendam, spotting lots of wildlife along the way, including a herd of baby Bambis. The first experience consisted of a trip into Volendam, a beautiful town in North Holland full of atmosphere and unbelievable beauty. We walked through the town, pointing out pretty streams, bikes with flowers around the basket, houses with the most stunning frontal appearances, bridges that overlooked views for miles alongside the cobbled street and blue skies that met along the Holland coast - it was truly beautiful. After filling our boots with Volendam, we boarded the coach and went to a cheese farm just outside the town in Katwoude, where we met a wonderful cheese maker who explained to us what they do in order to make the cheese.
After this wonderful talk, of course, all of us were dying to try the cheese. They took us through to an open plan room where on every corner there were tastings of cheese in all sorts of different flavours. One of my favourites was honey. But, of course, the room was filled with an array of peculiar flavoured cheeses too. There was coconut, which left a warm oily taste in the mouth; green pesto, which was very flavourful and actually bright green; and their signature truffle cheese, which was truly delightful. Our group came out with bags of goodies to take home to families and friends - what better gift than cheese?
Now back on the coach, we travelled to Amsterdam. After a short coach trip, we pulled into the canal cruising port and boarded our canal cruiser. We explored the canals of Amsterdam, watching the world pass by and seeing how people live in Amsterdam – whether that be on land in a tall building with ravishing windows and doors, or in a delightful floating home on the river. It was so interesting to see how people live, as well as to hear about the history from our tour guide as we sailed.
We made our way back to the ship and dined for our final meal at 7pm, reminiscing about our truly spectacular experience over the past four days together. After the meal, we were treated to a performance by a local choir who were brought onto the ship. It was a truly happy and exciting way to spend our evening together. When the performance was over, we all decided to celebrate our final night by walking into Amsterdam to get a taste of the night life. There was lots of evening entertainment within the area close to the river docking location. We explored the area, meeting many of the locals and experiencing Amsterdam as the wonderful city it is.
By midnight, my sleep became most important to me and back to the ship I went.
We packed our bags and placed them outside our cabins, where the crew would take them port side for us. We dined one last time for breakfast and proceeded to the airport shortly after.
Now, I sit here, writing and reminiscing about my river cruise and can honestly say it was one of the best holiday experiences I have had. If you have the opportunity to explore the world, this is a fantastic way of doing it and experiencing the culture of several places. I would do this trip 10 times over to experience the beautiful views, meet the wonderful people, and be able to see many places that I would never have gotten to see without river cruising. I cannot recommend river cruising enough.
Why don’t you give it a try? Call us on 0808 231 6483 for more information or to book your river cruise.