I know it’s been awhile since my last update, so I am here to fill you in one of my latest adventure. I’ve been river cruising! If you don’t know, river cruising is very on trend in travel right now. River cruising is different from ocean cruising in that the ships are smaller. Think approximately 75 staterooms for 150 passengers, depending on the ship. Since the ships are smaller they can sail into ports that big ships can’t get to. So you get up close and personal with the port towns and the people in the port town. You get to know your fellow cruisers and the crew that is dedicated to taking care of you…from the captain of the ship to the person that makes the delicious ice cream that is served daily.
I cruised on AmWaterways’ Tulip Time itinerary. It sailed roundtrip from Amsterdam. I also chose to stay 2 extra night pre cruise in Amsterdam with the AmaWaterways pre cruise option. My trip dates were April 3-13, 2019 and the other stops on the itinerary were
Upon arrival in Amsterdam at 6 a.m.! and after we claimed our luggage, we were met by our driver who lead us to our ride to the hotel. Our ride was a brand spanking new Mercedes C-class sedan. The ride from the airport was 10-20 minutes to the hotel, Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, located right in the City Center next to Dam Square. We were intially told our room wouldn’t be ready until 3 p.m. but a very nice young lady at the registration desk took pity on my friend and me and found us a room that was ready and we were thankful. After a quick freshen up, off we went to find something to eat and explore. We headed over to the Museum Center to see if we could get into the Van Gogh Museum or Rijksmuseum. From the hotel, it’s about a 1.5 miles walk over cobblestoned streets to get there. If you’re a walker, no problem….but be mindful of all the people riding bikes and I mean ALL the people were riding bikes. If you are not a walker, then there is a tram that will take you to the Musuem Center. Van Gogh has timed entries tickets and we were able to score some tickets for entry to Van Gogh at the museum shop located in the center of the museum campus for noon, so we killed some time at a cafe before our scheduled entry to the museum. You could also try to obtain tickets to the Rijksmusuem at the musuem shop. The Van Gogh Museum was worth the wait and l loved seeing his famous Sunflowers painting.
Amsterdam is an amazing city filled with alot of history. We visited the Anne Frank Museum. This museum was a quiet reminder of what so many endured during World War II and all the visitors to the musuem were respectful of the space and memories held in the building. It is also worth the visit but make sure you secure your timed entry tickets at least one month prior to visiting.
Prior to the day of embarkation on to the AmaPrima we met our fellow travelers at a Welcome Reception in the evening where our Cruise Manager gave us the run down of what to expect for the next day…transfers to the ship, etc.
On the day of embarkation, those of us staying at the hotel were seemlessly transferred to the ship and met by the crew. They handled our baggage until our rooms were ready. No visit to Amsterdam would be complete without a canal tour. Canal tours meander through the extensive Amsterdam canals and you get to see the neighborhoods and sights from a different prespective. There is a whole community of people who live on house boats docked in the canals. Most house boats are updated to modern standards with modern conveniences, others not so much. There is a house boat tour but I’ll have to save that for my next visit. Most of the people that were transferred to the ship from the hotel were on the canal tour compliments of AmaWaterways.
We had a stateroom with a French Balcony on the Violin Deck. It was a small room tastefully decorated with a very tight bathroom that had very nice amenities. There is free WI-FI and a Apple computer in your room and a TV. There is a minibar stocked with water and a safe for your valuables. Closets and shelving are ample and there are two umbrellas for you to use. We met the the lovely woman, Ida, who was in charge of keeping our room tidy. She always had a smile on her face and was very attentive to our needs. One of the over head lights was out in the bathroom. I told her and it was immediately fixed. When we would return to our room at the end of the day, our room was turned down. One night, AmaWaterways provided a nice surprise gift for the women on the cruise…a beautiful limited edition scarf with a note from Rudy Schreiner, President of AmaWaterways.
Once everyone was checked in, we finally met all our fellow cruisers in the ship lounge for the Sip and Sail daily cocktail hour before dinner with complimentary wine, beer, spirits and soft drinks. Usually during this time the Cruise Manager gives the details for what to expect for the next day’s itinerary. Promptly at 7 p.m., dinner is served where there is complimentary wine and beer at dinner with a menu of different items to choose from everyday along with the Chef’s recommendations along with a choice of red or white wine from the region to compliment the meal of the day. The servers were great. Also very friendly and willing to please.
Everday AmaWaterways had morning and afternoon tours to choose from….walking tours, biking tours, sightseeing visits. Walking tours are divided by gentle, regular and active walkers. Tours are very well organized and tour guides were very knowledgable and friendly with great senses of humor. Bus drivers were great too! Tipping of guides and drivers is not required but is appreciated.
Following is a breakdown by port of my experiences
I went on a visit to a tulip and bulb field at Mr. Tulip tours near Hoorn. This is a family run business that grows tulip bulbs and gives tours explaining the growing and cultivation of the bulbs. The fields were not in full bloom yet but there was some tulips that provided breathtaking color. Did you know that the majority of tulips are grown for the bulb and not the flower?! Seems like a waste of a perfectly beautiful tulip but by removing the flower all the energy goes to the bulb. It’s quite the process.
In the afternoon, I chose to go on a walking tour of Middleburg where we were able to visit the Middelburg Abbey, get into the abbey gardens. We also had some time to tour the town center that was filled with cafes, flower venders and many shops. Unfortunately, that day, a Monday, many of the shops were closed.
In Bruges, I had a full day tour of Bruges and the Church of Our Lady located in Bruges. Bruges is a lovely cobblestoned town with all the streets leading into the town center. The first stop was the Church of Our Lady that dates back to the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. It is the tallest structure in the city and has the second tallest brickwork tower in the world. The church has a white marble sculpture of Mary and Jesus created by Michelangelo and is the burial place of Mary of Burgundy.
Bruges is filled with chocolate and beer shops along with many outdoor cafes. I did happen upon a shop that sold soaps and other such items made out of natural ingredients called Bubbles at Home…very cute and a great place for some unique souvenirs. They even have Belgium Chocolate scented soap, of course!
This afternoon we decided to go on a Belgian chocolate, beer and waffle tasting tour. It was a walking tour and our guide brought us to the town center and then to a local bar to sample several different Belgium beers. He explained the nuiances about the different beers as we tasted and why they are served in different shaped glasses. Next on the agenda was chocolate tasting where we were able to pick 2 samples from the many different offerings of chocolate and lastly, the waffle tasting. I ate and drank every last thing that was put in front of me. Thank goodness we had to walk back to the ship!
Gouda and Kinderdijk
Gouda is a quaint town with upscale clothing shops, many cheese and chocolate shops and a cafe know for it stroopwaffle.
Our morning tour to Gouda started with a walking tour through the Jewish Center of Gouda where we stopped at memorial dedicated to all the Jews in Gouda that were lost during WWII. During WWII, 80% of the Jewish community in Gouda perished under the Nazi regime.
We visited a stroopwaffle cafe that has been in business for generations. We had a stroopwaffle demonstration and we were able to make our own stroopwaffles while we were there. They were delicious hot off the stroopwaffle making machine. It was also Gouda’s market day. Vendors of all types were in the city center selling beautiful food items, clothes, flowers and bulbs and Gouda cheese, of course, and many other items! All the locals and tourists alike were milling about and purchasing goods, greeting neighbors and friends and enjoying the sun. Gouda also has it’s fair share of cyclists, so beware!
After returning to the ship for lunch, in lieu of going on a walking tour to Rotterdam, I chose to go on a cycling tour of Kinderdijk and the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site Windmills. There are still 19 working windmills in the area and they are still inhabited. The windmills are not used as the primary source for canal drainage these days. There are two modern pumping stations used for that purpose but the people who live in the windmills are provided with a stipend from the Dutch government to ensure the windmills are kept in working order.
It took a minute or two to reacquiant myself with riding a bike but once I got the hang of it, riding a bike through this area was the only way to go. The bike ride meandered down a paved 4 mile path through the canals lined with the windmills and through beautiful neighborhoods lined with homes. Though the houses were small they had gardens in the back with lovely blooming flowers and trees. The neighborhoods were lined with small canals instead of streets. The light from the late afternoon sun was the perfect backdrop for this lovely, tranquil, idyllic setting. This was my favorite tour of all.
On the last morning of our cruise we went to the Keukenhof Gardens. At the Keukenhog Gardens it’s all about the flowering bulbs. The Keukenhof is open annually from the end of March through mid May each year. The rest of the year the garden workers work on keeping the gardens maintained and prep for the next year’s blooming season. While open, the gardens are bursting with color from a multitude of different bulbs….tuplips, hyacinth, daffodils, blooming trees and bushes. The variety of each is mind boggling. This year the theme for the gardens was Flower Power giving the gardens a very psychedelic vibe. AmaWaterways was able to get us early access to the gardens. The crowd was tolerable in the morning but by the time we left in the early afternoon, the crowds were crazy. Insider tip, get to the gardens when it opens or later in the afternoon. You’ll be glad you did.
In the afternoon of the last day I decided to op out of going out in Amsterdam for the afternoon. Instead, I did some preliminary packing in anticipation of heading home the next day. After that, I made myself a cup of coffee that is always available in the boat’s lounge and hung out with my book on the Sky Deck. The warmth of the Sun was just what I needed to decompress and ponder the last week or so of adventures….Amazing, amazing, amazing! You’ll love river cruising and when you cruise with AmaWaterways, it will be an experience you’ll not soon forget.
Contact me if you have any questions about this cruise or AmaWaterways.