First Impressions Of A River Cruise
River cruise first-timer, Martin Day, sailed from Amsterdam on board the beautiful Amadeus Queen. Here are his first impressions of sailing through Europe...
I was very excited to be offered the opportunity to sail on the Amadeus Queen from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, my first river cruising experience. Although I had been to Amsterdam before and was familiar with the city, I was intrigued to learn about the other two ports of call – Antwerp and Rotterdam.
Day 1 – Embarkation, Amsterdam
Despite a very early morning flight from Stansted Airport, we were happy to arrive in the capital of The Netherlands. This was shortly followed by a taxi journey to the magnificent Amadeus Queen. After setting our bags down and a quick stretch of the legs, we were greeted with a light lunch of sandwiches and tea as we got to know our fellow cruisers. I took this opportunity to explore each deck and take a look at the various staterooms that were on show, including the cosy Amadeus Club that is tucked away at the back of the ship and the inviting indoor pool.
Following a short announcement from our Cruise Director, Lorelay, I collected my key from reception and followed a crew member to my cabin. A colleague and I stayed on the bottom deck in a Classic Stateroom which had more than enough space for two passengers and featured an en-suite with a spacious shower. Other additions included a TV, ample wardrobe space and two picture windows, which allowed for plenty of views during my journey.
Our first tour took us through the city of Amsterdam and was separated into three parts. We started on the bus with our tour guide who spoke about the city’s landmarks and how they have planned to expand Amsterdam’s subway system by freezing the soil beneath the ground. Briefly passing Madame Tussauds, we arrived at a local flower market boasting some of the best tulips I have seen. Fortunately, we were pre-warned about the issue of getting tulips back through the airport so I decided to hunt for a few local freebies instead.
Cheese and wine shops looked to be the best that was on offer and they beckoned us in with a surprising array of cheese to choose from. After 45 minutes exploring the market, we met back up with our tour guide and continued enjoying the iconic landmarks and stunning architecture along the way. One of the more interesting sites to be pointed out was an old converted crane that could be used as a chic, modern hotel – it was fitted with a hot tub too.
We arrived back to the ship and, after taking a few pictures, everybody met in the Panorama Lounge for an informative safety briefing before preparing for the night’s events. During the sail away from Amsterdam, we were treated to cocktails in the Panorama Bar and classical symphonies from the talented onboard pianist. I couldn’t believe how truly breathtaking the sailaway experience was; it almost felt part of a movie scene.
Promptly after a few cocktails, we turned our heads to a welcome meeting from our cruise director, Lorelay Bosca, who then proceeded to introduce us to the heads of each department: Stephan Busch (Hotel Manager), George Pereira (Executive Chef), Vlad Caldare (Maitre’D) and Costin Macovei (Head Bartender). Shortly after, we were treated to an authentic Dutch Shanty Choir who played both traditional Dutch music and some British classics. Overall, the choir brought a family feeling on board, with each member having his/her own story to help us quickly fall in love with the catchy tunes.
I had been highly anticipating our first five-course dinner and it didn’t disappoint. The main dining room was a sight to behold, boasting elegant décor and the ever-friendly staff that can be found everywhere on board. Settling into my seat, I was quickly reminded that we were cruising by the vast array of extraordinary views that passed by. The menu was packed with classic dishes with a modern twist. Each brought a smile to my face and, following the delicious meal, we adventured back into the Panorama Lounge for a final cocktail before heading off to bed.
Day 2 - Antwerp
Early in the morning (6:00am-6:45 am and 7:00am-7:45 am), there was the opportunity to take part in some yoga classes. I did not attend but fellow travellers were quick to inform me how great it was. Instead, I opted to head to the breakfast buffet for a well-earned full-English and a spot of tea, before going upstairs for a presentation. This gave us a great insight into how Amadeus is the leading river cruise company and what changes they are looking to implement from the feedback that they have received.
It was now 9:00 am and we were set to explore the city of Antwerp. This time around, we had a very short coach journey that only took five minutes and dropped us off near the iconic Hetsteen Castle. Luckily, I was able to take a few snaps of nearby monuments before we departed and our tour guide was ever-helpful for pointing them out. Our tour took us through the city streets and side alleys to Brabo’s Monument, the statue of Pieter Paul Rubens, Antwerp City Hall and, finally, the Cathedral of Our Lady.
Everybody in the tour was then given the option to adventure out and explore the various shopping centres around Antwerp or stick with the tour guide and look inside Antwerp Cathedral. I chose the latter, and we promptly stepped into a side-entrance due to the ongoing renovations happening to the main door. We looked at the works of top artists from the early 17th century, including Rubens’ Descent from the Cross (1612), Elevation of the Cross (1610) and the Resurrection Triptych (1612).
I was surprised to find out that the cathedral had suffered multiple attacks from Calvinists in 1566 and 1581 and, after all this, was threatened to be demolished by the French. I have to say that exploring the cathedral was my favourite part of the trip, seeing the beauty of this colossal masterpiece and learning about its in-depth history led to a sense of tranquillity. The tour ended and we were given an additional 45 minutes to do as we please around the city before meeting up again. I chose to stay inside the cathedral and discovered a small underground crypt where high-ranking members of the church were buried in the 16th century.
After heading back to the ship, we had the option of either a light lunch in the Panorama Bar or a full-course lunch in a restaurant. I chose the light lunch which was filled with soups, pasta and some delightful beef stroganoff. After, I decided to head back into the city to see what else Antwerp could offer apart from its iconic cathedral. I followed various maps, looking for any shops that might interest me, but many of the highstreets still had the well-known brands that you could expect from the UK. Nevertheless, I managed to bag myself a couple of souvenirs before taking the bus back to the ship.
When arriving back at the ship, I was met with some more free time, so a colleague and I headed up to the top deck for some stunning views and a few games of chess before getting ready for dinner. Fortunately, I won both games but, more importantly, I managed to snap a handful of pictures of the French Balcony show stateroom before I got back to my cabin. As everybody was more than settled in by now, dinner was a breeze, with amazing riverside views all around me, I was quick to get the best pictures that I could of Antwerp and its amazing street art.
Tonight’s dinner was amongst the best five-course meals I have ever had. Most notably, the pork had that melt-in-your-mouth sensation and is something I will never forget. Settling into the evening took us one last time to the welcoming Panorama Bar, where spirits were high and everybody prepared for the music quiz. Overall, the quiz was fast-paced and allowed everybody to get onto the dancefloor to dance the night away before heading to bed for one final time.
The next morning brought another lavish breakfast filled to the brim with pastries and bacon, which we enjoyed before we set off on our transfer back to Schiphol Airport.
To sum it up, I was very pleased with my cruising experience. It was my first time and I knew of the high standards of the river cruising industry, but Amadeus River Cruises still managed to exceed my every expectation on and off the ship. The food was delicious, there was plenty to do and every member of staff was extremely friendly, which helped me to feel at home. I would highly recommend a river cruise as it allows you to explore the best of each city in style and, most importantly, without overcrowding it.
If you would like to know more about our Dutch and Belgian waterways cruises from Amsterdam, you can contact the team on 0800 028 4272. Alternatively, click here to sign up to our mailing list and stay up to date with all the latest news and offers.