28. May 2019
Classical Rhine Cruise...
After an interesting start which required me remembering my GSCE German to meet the ship, we arrived in the beautiful port of Rudesheim, on a stunning sunny Thursday afternoon. We were joining the ship halfway through the Classical Rhine cruise, where Amadeus Silver III would be home for the next 4 nights. Straight to lunch in what can be described as a very spacious dining room with plenty to choose from. Having been awake since the early hours to catch our flight to Frankfurt, we tucked straight into the salad buffet, followed by the beef roulade. I could certainly get used to this standard of food and hands- down beats the normal sandwich I have at my desk!
Sailing the Rhine I envisage castles nestled in the hills with picture-perfect moments along the way, surrounded by endless vineyards along the rolling hills. The only place to be this afternoon was on the sundeck, watching the scenery as you sail past. For a late September departure, we were so fortunate with the weather and I had wished I packed my suntan lotion.
Our port of call later afternoon was Koblenz, where we were met by our tour guide, a very comical local man named Heinz-Gerd. His tour highlighted the interesting facts of the town he calls home. We were taken to the monuments, shown some interesting ‘modern’ art and informed of the lifestyle locals enjoy. Koblenz has a big attraction for wine and tourism with it being around the half-way point along the Rhine. We stepped foot into the colourful flower gardens which were situated next to the Basilica St. Kastor, which has a heavily Romanic influence with a Gothic ceiling. Recently the Basilica has had a new organ installed, a gentleman was playing away to test it out which added to the ambience of our short visit.
In 1944, 87% of Koblenz was destroyed. Today it is home to 113,000 inhabitants who enjoy life in this quaint city. The city really does come alive in the second weekend in August for the annual Rhine in Flames celebrations with over 250,000 people descending in the area to witness to a spectacular firework display.
Oktoberfest was in full swing at the time of our visit and interestingly we discovered the reason for this annual event.
It allows the consumption of last year’s beer to be consumed before starting on this year’s harvest.
Back on board for our first night and a delicious a la carte menu to work our way through, many of us opting for the roasted duck breast for our main course. You can have up to a 5-course dinner accompanied by wine, beer and soft drinks. Those with special requests need not fear as the menu is detailed to highlight particular dietary requirements. We retired to the Panorama Lounge where the Amadeus Duo, Boriana and Vinci played a varied choice of songs. A perfect way to end our first day on board.
Following a breakfast which consists of fresh fruit, pastries, cold meats, hot options and copious amounts of tea and coffee, this morning on the cruise we sailed to the port of Cochem. This gives those on board a relaxing morning, perhaps a lay-in, or finding a quiet spot in one of the many public areas or relaxing on the sun deck. Along this section of the Mosel River, you pass many points of interest. Cruise Director Lorelay provides excellent commentary from the bridge so you know the areas you are sailing past.
The main language on board is English, however, I am amazed at her ability to translate in different languages with such ease, I was actually rather envious and wished I had kept up with my languages since school. The weather wasn’t as kind to us today so the sun deck was ruled out, however, we spent some time
in the Amadeus Lounge where you can look at the views whilst helping yourself to the 24-hr tea/coffee station. At 11 am, we were drawn to the hive of activity in the Panorama Lounge as it was Fruhschoppe time – a traditional German equivalent of brunch. The crew were kitted out in traditional clothing, the onboard entertainment were playing some music and a beautiful feast laid before our eyes. Even though it had only been 2 hours since official breakfast time had ended, we joined in with the Weisswurst, sweet mustard, pretzels and Weissbier – it would have been rude not to. However, it did seem strange drinking beer with brunch.
As Cochem is situated on the Moselle River and it narrows considerably, the ship has to turn around at the larger part and back into this charming town in order to be facing the right direction when leaving this port. Complete admiration for the Captain navigating the waterways of Europe and it is impressive to observe the trickier manoeuvres.
A light lunch was only needed and then we had the afternoon to explore Cochem. Our guide, Dorothy provided a detailed historical background to her hometown, which has an incredibly small population of just 5,100 people. We were taken by minibus to the castle which is perched beautifully in this town at is the main attraction, surrounded by vineyards. We were shown around the castle and taken to 7 rooms by our knowledgeable guide.
The rest of the afternoon consisted of wine tasting at Hieronimi Cellars – all in the name of research of course! Here, we learned the correct ways in tasting wine; a combination of sight, smell and most importantly taste. As the landscape is on slate soil, this produces excellent wine for the region. If there is an air temperature of 30 degrees, the slate can hold its heat with anything up to 62 degrees. With the desirable climate, these vineyards can receive up to 7,000 hours of sunshine annually, which assists in the wine they produce today. We had 3 tastings, table wine which is classed as an everyday wine, quality wine and quality wine with special qualities. There were opportunities to continue wine tasting and also purchase some to take home.
We ventured back to our home, Amadeus Silver III for a rest stop before enjoying a talk on tomorrow’s port of call, Cologne, where we were informed of a docking station change due to low waters on the Rhine. Normally river levels are in the region of 300-400m, however, due to the exceptionally warm September water levels have dropped to 160m. The only change was taking a short coach journey of 10 minutes to the centre of Cologne rather than stepping foot off the ship and starting the tour straight away.
Cocktail hour and port talk starts from 6 pm. Evening entertainment is low-key on board which suits the customers on board. There is the Amadeus musical duo who perform a fantastic repertoire of songs which for tonight, had many from the ship taking part in a music quiz. Songs for everyone to recognise and get up to the dance floor for those extra bonus points.
Our guide for the morning was Stefanie, a young lady who studied in Cologne for University and remained here ever since. Not only did she impress us with her local knowledge, the
history and the dates, but her English was incredible and I was mesmerized by the quickness from one conversation to the next.
The tour lasted an hour as she guided us around this impressive city, highlighting, in particular, the home to the symphony orchestra, the close proximity of the train station which was explained in detail, the city hall and the Cathedral.
Cologne has an impressive shopping street and is Germany’s second largest. You can clearly see why there is a big draw to this city leading up to Christmas with the main shops but also the Christmas Market which is a huge attraction. The city is the fourth largest in Germany with over 1 million residents which is increasing all of the time with the current migration patterns. Currently, there are 182 nations living in this thriving city. 95% of Cologne of destroyed in the war, surprisingly though, the Cathedral wasn’t. However back then, the Cathedral was only half constructed and remained that way for 300 years until original drawings were located in Paris and they continued constructing the main attraction of the city to how we recognise it today.
It is said that the Cathedral weighs 120,000 tonnes in Sandstone. To support this iconic sight, the foundations are to be said to also contain the same weight, to ensure this building doesn’t crumble away, unsure of how close the Rhine is situated to the sandstone construction underground. There are 52 stonemasons employed to carry out the constant sandstone creations of the Cathedral. Sandstone cannot be cleaned as it can then crumble, so what happens is that parts of the stonework are removed and newly created. There is constant scaffolding around the Cathedral as it requires work all of the time. In old money, the Cathedral is worth €27. However, the maintenance required to maintain such a building of significant importance requires an annual spend of €10m.
The railway bridge is usually featured in photographs of Cologne against the backdrop of the Cathedral. We learned that Germany is the only bridge in Europe to have kept the padlocks on their bridge. The weight of the padlocks is estimated to be 14 tonnes.
Cologne has invested heavily into their flood defence system by installing 70km of defence to protect the city and its inhabitants. It was built in 2010 and fortunately has not yet had to be used. They test the flood defence every 2-3 years to ensure the mechanics are still operational. The entire stretch can be constructed within 3-5 hours with a team of people on standby when such an issue may arise.
The city was ruled by the French for many years and whilst they were in Cologne they changed a couple of things which remain in place today. The streets were cobbled to tidy up the look of the city. Also, the French were unable to pronounce the name of the houses, so they changed the names to numbers. Even the Cathedral was numbered!
Having chosen a light option of pancakes for breakfast this morning, we returned to the ship hungry for lunch and all opted for the cheeseburger today. This appears on the lunch menu daily, ideal for those wanting something simple for lunch to tuck into. Those wanting a lighter lunch can sit in the Panorama Lounge for soup and sandwiches.
The next part along the Rhine is a long stretch, sailing over 400km to reach Hoorn, so it requires nearly 24 hours of sailing. Having an afternoon at leisure on board allows you to rest, take some time and relax in the communal areas, maybe book a hair or massage appointment. Hosted in the Panorama Lounge was an Ice Cream Social, we had all saved space for this. Various flavours of ice cream served with waffles or the option to tuck into pastries and sandwiches.
The penultimate night is when the Captain’s Gala dinner is organised. This is perfectly arranged to allow the official last night for people to pack and have an early night before onward travels. Although the dress code for all meals is smart-casual, tonight people can opt for something a little smarter. With a glass of champagne in hand, the Cruise Director introduces all departments of staff on board which allows customers to see the faces of all crew who create such a memorable river cruising experience.
Dinner is certainly a special affair, with various courses to work your way through. My main meal was surf & turf which was cooked to perfection. Prior to that, I enjoyed a fish dish, a cleansing sorbet and the highlight of the whole menu was baked Alaska. We then got the chance to meet all the chefs who work tirelessly behind the scenes and prepare all of the wonderful meals enjoyed during the sailing. A fantastic celebration to mark what has been a truly wonderful 3 nights on board.
Officially our last day and a scenic morning of sailing into the pretty town of Hoorn. Everyone on board was relaxing, either in their cabins or in the Panorama lounge, Amadeus Club or the Vienna Café. It is an early lunch to allow a prompt start for the afternoon’s excursion, which is an exploration around one of my favourite Dutch towns, Volendam. Our guide Philip, a knowledgeable Dutchman took us around the side streets informing us of this popular town.
It’s a coach journey to Volendam where you take in the sights of the surrounding scenery. This is a very popular place for the Dutch to live, where housing is at a premium. Interestingly each front door is different. The tale is that it used to make it easier for the menfolk to find their house after a night out!
Our next stop was a Gouda cheese farm just outside of the main town to be shown the processes. We learned all about the production of cheese before we went to try samples. This is a great opportunity to also purchase cheese to take home, we certainly did. Apparently, cheese accompanied by mustard is good for digestion.
Onwards to Amsterdam – the land of the bicycles and houseboats. There are a staggering 2,800 houseboats that line the canals in the city which came about when more housing was required for the Dutch. We experienced a canal cruise in the afternoon which allowed customers a different view of the city. Annually, 7,000 bicycles are retrieved from the canals every year and as you sail past you can see why so many end up in the water, as pathways lead straight to the water’s edge. I had expected the Panorama Lounge to be quieter on the last evening, however, the arrival of the Shanty Choir had the seats packed out whilst 13 ex-sailor men sang many songs to the guests encouraging everyone to join in and get up and dance.
This trip had so many highlights for me, sailing the Rhine Gorge was certainly up there. Amadeus Silver III created such a lovely home for the 4 nights I really didn’t want to leave. It made it such a lovely experience to unwind and relax and see various ports along the way, it won’t be long before I am back on board for my next sailing with Amadeus River Cruises.
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