Review: Amadeus Classical Rhine Cruise from Basel to Amsterdam
If you’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt with backpacking and the typical British summer resorts, if the thought of sitting by the pool listening to other families argue makes you cringe and you just can’t be bothered to have to organise yourself, then a river cruise might be just the trip for you!
Amadeus River Cruises offer a range of holidays aboard their luxurious fleet along the Rhine, Main and Danube, visiting a multitude of stunning sights and picturesque cities and towns along the way.
In June 2018 I embarked on the seven night Classical Rhine Cruise from Basel to Amsterdam stopping at eight locations, detouring along the Moselle River and taking in the Middle Rhine Valley with the highest density of castles in the world, among many other things. It was fantastic!
Day One – Basel and The Ship
After a very warm welcome and an easy check-in process we (the other half, Nick, and I) found our room swiftly before setting off to explore the ship. The modern, smart and super-clean, Amadeus Silver II is decorated in stylish greys, berry tones, metallics and dark woods and can accommodate 168 passengers over 84 suites and staterooms.
Public areas consist of the Panorama bar and lounge, Panorama restaurant, sun deck with a giant chess board, Amadeus Club lounge with a self service coffee station, river terrace and Café Vienna, while facilities consist of a fitness room, massage room, hair salon, laundry service, Wi-Fi and gift shop.
Our room was very nice with a large bed, two swivel chairs, a small walk-in wardrobe, minibar, gloss surfaces, plush sower room with Rituals toiletries, air conditioning, TV and a floor to ceiling window with a drop down section.
The room was cleaned twice a day and was spotless with the décor matching the rest of the ship – browns, greats, metallics and flashes of cerise- it was a haven.
After a welcome talk in the lounge with cruise director, Marina, a drinks reception and introduction to the staff and captain, we made our way to the restaurant for our welcome dinner. Seats are assigned and we were on a table of six in the English speaking section – about 80% of passengers on this cruise were German speaking.
Dinner each evening consisted of a choice of two starters, two soups, three mains, a dessert and coffee or tea and all courses were well matched. There were always vegetarian options and also chicken with salad, cheeses and ice cream if something on the daily- changing menu didn’t suit our fancy and wines were filled up regularly.
I opted for tuna sashimi, creamy potato soup, John Dory with a potato rosti crust, curry sauce and rice and a chocolate dessert with a chocolate macaron. It was all delicious and so were the wines!
I didn’t expect the food to be as good as it was considering every guest sits down at the same time but the variety, quality, presentation and service was really good and it continued with each meal.
Day Two – Strasbourg
My first full day on the boat, I was looking forward to discovering Strasbourg on my own – there was a city excursion available but I hadn’t opted for that, instead choosing the Alsace and wine excursion in the afternoon.
With the promise of the boat arriving in Strasbourg in the morning I thought there would be plenty of time to discover this charming French city before setting off on the tour in the afternoon.
Unfortunately we learned that there are often delays when leaving Basel as it is such a busy, industrial city being the gateway to Germany, France and Switzerland. This meant the boat had to pull up and let others through and also the many locks outside of Basel are not quick to get through.
I would recommend booking the morning tour as the bus picked up the tour passengers further back so they didn’t miss out. I made the most of my time on the boat, however; relaxing on the sun deck, with a coffee in the Amadeus club, a drink and book in the lounge – I was on holiday after all!
The afternoon wine tour got cancelled, however when we reached Strasbourg at 5pm a coach was put on for those who didn’t get off earlier in the day and we got the chance to explore the beautiful city, even for a short while.
This diverse French city is certainly worth seeing with its beautiful, timber-framed buildings by the water, stunning cathedral and endless cafes to soak up whatever is happening in the city at that time.
Day Three – Speyer to Mannheim
We took part in the city walk excursion with Bettina in Speyer and, as a local to the area, she was the ideal person to talk and show us through the history of the imperial city.
There were about 8 of us in the group and we heard of the fire and war that destroyed a big part of the grand cathedral, which was built around 1030, before we stepped inside to view its splendour.
We visited the medieval Jewish site and the underground ritual bath, we saw the carved stone sculptures of previous dukes and the statue of Jesus and his apostles praying before Good Friday.
Back to the boat for a delightful lunch and our afternoon stop was Mannheim. From here you could take the tour to Heidelberg, we opted to stay in Mannheim but everyone we spoke to who took the tour couldn’t recommend it enough and the photos I saw looked great!
Another gorgeous dinner was had, which included the most beautiful pumpkin soup, stuffed pork tenderloin wrapped in Parma ham, chocolate charlotte and Austrian wines and we ended our evening with a few drinks on the River terrace.
Day Four – Rudesheim to Koblenz
After perhaps a few too many drinks the night before we had to be up early for our tour of Rudesheim, which included a guided visit to the Siegfried Mechanical Music Cabinet museum.
Nick wasn’t looking forward to the museum (I love a museum!) but later claimed that he enjoyed it – situated in a 15th century knight’s manor, the collection includes around 350 self-playing mechanical music instruments found and restored, dating back over the last three centuries.
During the tour some of the ornate instruments were played and included a large multi-instrumental piece found at a circus in Budapest and an Edison phonograph. After this we had a walking tour of the city and enjoyed a coffee at the Drosselgasse – we loved this place!
Back to the boat for lunch and a few hours of taking in the most stunning part of the journey – the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. This is where all of the gorgeous castles, picturesque vineyards and towns and the Lorelei sit.
I spied many tiny waterside campsites along the way and wondered how lovely it would be to holiday there! A visit to the sun deck to take many photos of these sights was a must – this was a highlight of the trip for me.
Koblenz is one of the oldest towns in Germany and happens to be very picturesque too! This was our afternoon stop and is a place where the Rhine and Moselle meet. With over 2,000 years of history this town has many sights to see including the Emperor Wilhelm Memorial, Schangel Fountain and St Castor Basilica.
Back on the boat and yet another delicious meal was served up of Asian duck salad with chilli sauce and orange, rib eye beef with a chilli sauce, potato, gravy and vegetables and Crepe Suzette – yum!
Day Five – Cochem
The morning was spent on the boat enjoying those glorious views on the way to Cochem and the staff put on a ‘Fruhschoppen’ with Wiesswust, Sauerkraut and pretzels. This traditional German fare was served on the sun deck by the ever-willing members of staff who dressed in traditional German outfits for the occasion.
Luckily we had opted for breakfast in the lounge – a lighter offering than the cooked and buffet options in the restaurant. The food served on the sun deck was glorious, Nick claimed this was one of his best meals so far!
We didn’t need much for lunch (which includes a buffet, soups and kitchen cooked options with wines and is just as good as the evening meal – you really get used to eating so much food!) so we relaxed and waited for our next stop.
The beautiful town of Cochem was our favourite stop of the trip and I was so glad we opted for the excursion. The first stop on our tour was a guided visit to the magnificent Reichsburg Castle high up on a hill. From there the views down to the town and the Moselle Valley were amazing and the castle itself was beautiful.
Afterwards we wandered the streets with the guide pointing out interesting sights and facts along the way before settling down to our local wine-tasting experience.
Back on the boat and after dinner we were treated to some truly hilarious planned performances from the crew. There were some comedians on board that night and every guest in the lounge was entertained for sure.
The crew really couldn’t have tried harder to make their guests’ stay an enjoyable and easy one – I felt well looked after throughout my trip and they really added value to the whole event, especially on this night!
Day Six – Cologne
The morning was spent docked in Cologne, Germany’s fourth largest city and one of the country’s oldest. Though bombed extensively during World War II, a lot of the landmarks were rebuilt and Cologne has many sights to see.
We opted for an open top bus tour of our own which passed the twelve Romanesque churches, which form a semicircle in the city centre as well as the grand and stunning gothic cathedral (Dom), which took 600 years to build. If you love shopping then this is certainly the city for you!
During the afternoon the boat made its way to the Netherlands and offered the ideal time to relax on board before the evening’s farewell dinner – or to sample the home-made waff River Cruiseles and ice cream served at tea time (yes, not only do you have two opportunities to eat breakfast, you can have lunch in the restaurant or lounge too, afternoon tea, dinner in the restaurant lounge and there’s even a late night snack to be had if you so desire!)
The Captain’s Gala Dinner was a six course extravaganza including marinated beef carpaccio, lobster bisque, surf and turf and baked Alaska – everything I sampled was delightful and I hadn’t tasted a wine that I didn’t like the whole week.
Dining on a boat sailing through some beautiful landscapes has to be one of the finest experiences, especially when the most beautiful sunset appears – to be enjoyed from the top deck, of course! Entertainment was provided by musical duo, Silviya and Slavi, who performed English and German-speaking songs each night.
Day Seven – Hoorn to Amsterdam
My favourite excursion of them all and certainly a country that I would return to, this tour from the pretty town of Hoorn to Amsterdam in the Netherlands was great value for money.
We journeyed through the Dutch Polder landscape with a knowledgable guide stopping at the picturesque Volendam and the Henri Willig cheese farm along the way.
After a tour of the factory and some cheese tasting (and buying) we ended up in the capital where we took a canal boat trip of the city with its 90 islands connected by 400 bridges – a truly beautiful place.
Our last night on the boat and we were treated to a pirate themed evening with a gorgeous selection of wines and food yet again, the crew all dressed up for the occasion and a local sea shanty band called De Raddraaiers performed after dinner in the lounge to great applause.
Check out the next morning was an easy process, we had to be out of our rooms for 9am but could relax in the lounge or sun deck until our transfer was announced.
My previous experience of cruising was on a 17 deck ocean liner with somewhere in the region of 4,000 passengers on board, this cruise was something rather different- not that I didn’t love my previous cruise but this offered a far more intimate experience.
The crew really are to be commended – they are a helpful, professional and friendly bunch willing to dress in fancy dress or sing their hearts out in the name of entertainment! The food and wines truly surpassed my expectations and I would certainly recommend the excursions, especially if there is a short stop.
This cruise is for you if you are interested in visiting a part of Europe that might not seem a typical destination at first but has so much to offer – a lot can be covered in just seven days and I was so glad I got the opportunity to go. It was eventful, yet relaxing and not only did I bring home some delicious cheese, I brought some very happy memories back with me too.
For more information on Amadeus’s selection of river cruises, visit amadeus-rivercruises.co.uk.