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I recently had the good fortune to travel with the luxury river cruise line, AmaWaterways, on an 8-day Enchanting Rhine itinerary from Basel to Amsterdam. If you’ve never been on a river cruise, or like me, were totally unaware of their existence, I can now say, first hand, that it is a lovely way to experience charming and picturesque small towns as well as bucket list cities.
My Experience River Cruising
My stateroom was spacious with twin balconies – a French balcony and a full outside balcony. Exquisite multi-course dinners, bountiful breakfast and lunch buffets, as well as the exclusive Chef’s Table specialty restaurant, featuring a unique tasting menu with perfectly paired wines, were all included. Enriching onboard programs, lectures, theme dinners, cooking demonstrations, music performances and afternoon/evening piano music added to the experience. Strolling the sun deck walking track, or relaxing in the heated pool with swim-up bar were welcome activities. A fleet of onboard bicycles allowed passengers to explore independently on shore. And if spending the day biking, or walking among the beautiful cities, isn't quite enough exercise, there is a well equipped fitness room.
Undoubtedly, my favorite part of the entire experience, were the tours. For walking tours, various levels of difficulty were offered, from gentle (maybe 0.5 mile of walking, mainly driving tour) to active (you start your tour the moment you are out the ship’s door and walk for the entirety of the tour, a surefire way to get those 10,000 steps into your day!). In fact, I was so physically active during my river cruise, I had to drink some local wines and beers just to offset all the health and wellness I was getting!
Day 1: Zürich/Basel, CHE
My sister and I, like most cruisers, flew into Zurich the day before and enjoyed the city. Lake Zurich was beautiful to walk around, and shopping is easily achievable in the city. However, the cheese, chocolate, and especially the butter were my favorite takeaways from this Swiss city. A short train ride the next day took us to Basel where we boarded the ship.
Day 2: Black Forest, DEU
Being a native Arizonan, I jumped at the chance to explore the Black Forest and see the real meaning of the fall season. During our hike, we arrived at a quaint little home which sold mouth wateringly delicious homemade Black Forest cake and beer. This forest is NOT the forest associated with the stories by the Brothers' Grimm, but I would explore here any day.
Day 3: Strasbourg, FRA
This beautiful city has a historical identity crisis, having at various times throughout the ages, been under German and French control. Since it is one of the most bike friendly cities in the world, we opted for a bike tour. We later took a stroll to see the astronomical clock in Notre Dame Cathedral which dates back to 1681 and still functions perfectly.
Day 4: Heidelberg, DEU
Heidelberg is a romantically beautiful university town with stunning views. Known as a haven for intellectuals and writers, one of it’s most famous temporary residents was Mark Twain who had a short stint in this city where he garnered inspiration for his novel, A Tramp Abroad, and reportedly even wrote a bit of Huckleberry Finn while there. Exploring the city and its castle provided a memorable day.
Day 5: Rüdesheim, DEU
I don't think anything caught me off guard more than Rüdesheim. I had no expectations for this small city, and it was wonderful. Sampling light and crisp Rieslings (from this side of the Rhine) and local bourbon that will set your soul ablaze was a delight. The Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum was melodious, but the “high point” was a gondola ride that allowed us to bask in the town’s charm. P.S. the Rüdesheim coffee is a must.
Day 6: Cologne, DEU
Cologne is a big city with much to offer, especially excellent shopping opportunities. Historical architecture and remnants of pre-WWII can be found throughout the city. The famous cathedral - a must see - began construction in 1248 and took 600 years to complete! Inside, encased in a golden coffin, is said to be the remains of the Three Kings of the biblical era. A tall glass of German coffee was the ideal start to the day
Day 7: Amsterdam, NLD
Amsterdam is of the most popular capital cities of Europe to visit. And even though you should learn how to say alsjeblieft (please), dank je (thank you), and een meer bier (one more beer) – it is polite after all – you don’t need to because the Dutch are as fluent in English as they are in cycling. Amaze your friends with your step count even after a day of exploring!
Day 8: Amsterdam, NLD
Whatever you have imagined about Amsterdam is probably true. However, beyond those preconceived notions, the people are wonderfully nice, the local street markets are fantastic, and the canals and landscape provide a serene backdrop. It absolutely has something for everyone from the budding artist, to the knowledgeable historian, or to the curious tourist.
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