As I have been reviewing what we did on this cruise I had to self examine whether I liked/enjoyed this cruise. After all, as I have mentioned previously this was a bucket list trip for me.
I loved going to the Christmas markets and seeing all the decorations and the goods that were in all of the stalls. I loved the idea of going to the markets at night, having a mug of rouge or blanc gluhwein. It was like a winter wonderland, without the snow, walking around and seeing all the decorations. If this didn’t put you into a Christmas mood, I don’t know what would.
There was so much food available to purchase at the markets and I did my eat to try all (not really). The markets really weren’t that different from each other – some were larger and some were smaller and many had the same or similar items to purchase though some markets had very unique items. Some had items for sale that were made in China and some were uniquely German. The decorations were traditional in many ways but also over the top in a good way. People were outside at night when it was lightly raining, cold, windy and cool all enjoying the atmosphere. How often do you find a large group of people outside at night in winter?
As I mentioned here our trip was a little tarnished to begin with. First we were going, then it was “confirmed” that we weren’t going on the Rhine and then two days before we let we were going on the Rhine again. For me it was difficult to get the original excitement back particularly since we had already gotten use to a different itinerary and the lure of a free cruise which I had already mentally booked.
Our first night when we met our cruise director I felt an internal disappointment – after all we had been through we now have a rookie who hadn’t been almost anywhere on the Rhine in at least 3 1/2 months, since the boat had been stranded in Amsterdam due to the low water levels. He was confusing to listen to and one time the excursion that I signed up for online and had the confirmation, wasn’t even one that he mentioned or had a ticket for.
We did not receive the tour of the Cologne Cathedral because when the ship cancelled the tour, they must have cancelled the reservation for the tour as well. Another excursions was cancelled in Amsterdam and that was a walking tour of the Jordaan area.
Our room was upgraded from the first room on the 1st level, known affectionately as the Aquarium Class to the 2nd deck but back in the rear. I would have liked to have been asked if I wanted this change which Im not sure I did.
Our meals were fine, a good size for all the courses we had but the soups did not taste like what they were. In fact, they almost all tasted the same and we were all disappointed with them. Our bar attendant in the dining room never allowed our wine glasses to be empty. She was enthusiastic about her job and it showed. The entire staff was very friendly and helpful and we appreciated all of them.
For the cruise itself, I didn’t like the fact that I felt we were rushed while in port. Most days we were back on the ship for lunch – only about four hours in port. Since distances on the Rhine are not that far from each other, why couldn’t we have stayed longer and enjoyed a longer city tour and then have adequate time for the Christmas markets which didn’t open until 11:00 in the morning? I understand we had to leave Heildelberg early so we could sail the Rhine gorge while still light. We had only one day of German food – why not more since we were in Germany most of the time? While we were cruising in the afternoons, why not do a German wine tasting? We did that on our Rhone river cruise and we enjoyed tasting the different wines of the region.
What I did like about AMA, and it goes back to cancellation of our original itinerary on the Rhine, is that they gave us options. We could either cancel with no penalty and receive all of our money back or we could take the altered itinerary and receive a free cruise within three years. No other cruise line that I am aware of did that. Some just cancelled the cruise while others gave an altered itinerary and ship swaps. When AMA did an altered itinerary the passengers received a very healthy cruise credit. In fact, the cruise before ours, was suppose to end in Basel but since they couldn’t get up the river, AMA had to provide them flights from Amsterdam to Zurich so they could continue on with their trip or catch their flights home. Where they failed was lack of information of what was going on even though they had been having this situation for the past 3 1/2 months. Yes, it was a day by day decision whether there will be rain or not but they should have let us know the current situation and that some changes might be happening and to at least alert us to the fact that there could be changes and what the changes could be.
Would I do it again? Maybe and I know that doesn’t help you. I loved going to the different cities and markets and being on the cruise was an easy way of doing it without having to worry about transportation and luggage. I would be more knowledgeable and know that we are rushed and not to expect a lot of time in the markets and would inquire if any of the markets were at night because nighttime is worth seeing. My advise is when booking a cruise, try to find out how much time you will have after the city tour. If it is only about 90 minutes from the time the markets open, is that enough time for you. In the cities like Cologne and Strasbourg, explore on your own – don’t feel that you have to be part of a group. Look at what you think is important. Take time, if possible, to eat at a local restaurant and have a mug of Christmas beer…blend in and become local for a little bit of time.
If you haven’t been to Europe, these river cruises are a great introduction as the groups are small enough, at least on AMAWaterways. Our groups were about 20 people in each group. We saw groups from Viking that were about40 or more – that is too big for me.
Finally, know that the river levels anytime can change your river cruise to something else, like a motor coach tour, If you are uncomfortable with a little uncertainty, then river cruising is not for you. If it is for you, remember that AMAWaterways was the ONLY cruise line that gave options to the cruise passengers on my ship about cancelling or alternate cruise and they did it because we had no sister ship to swap with. Those that did a ship swap and missed a port did receive a healthy credit good for a future cruise. It was AMA’s way of making lemonade out of lemons.
I think that I would like to go to more markets but perhaps this time I will take the train. Some cities I would like to visit are Prague, Vienna, Nuremberg and finally, back to Strasbourg. What would you like to do and where would you like to visit?