Cruise Review: The Rhine with Amadeus

Date Posted: 07/03/2017

Jeannine Williamson sampled a Rhine cruise with Amadeus River Cruises now the line has opened up to the UK market.

One of the delights of river cruising is there’s always something new around the next corner or, strictly speaking, bend in the river. After encountering jovial sailors singing shanties, a vast stretch of water resembling the sea and a bunch of pirates (friendly I hasten to add), this was certainly turning out to be the case on my cruise down the Rhine.

Amadeus River Cruises might be a new name on the river cruising scene as far as Brits are concerned, but it’s set to make a splash with culture-rich itineraries and a fleet of modern ships that make it stand out from the crowd. The family-owned Austrian company has a longstanding pedigree in its homeland, having been formed more than 30 years ago, which makes it one of Europe’s oldest lines.

Recently it partnered with Fred River Cruises to spread the word further afield and sell its English-speaking cruises in the UK.

Boarding its newest vessel Amadeus Silver III in Amsterdam I discovered some of the unique features the minute I unpacked. All 84 cabins have walk-in wardrobes, a luxury usually reserved for expensive suites, if at all, on other vessels. Other thoughtful touches include a handy seat in the bathroom and ample shelves to stow away all your belongings.

The upper-middle Rhine

Pictured: The upper-middle Rhine.

Carrying fewer passengers than similar sized vessels creates more space for extra facilities, including a gym, massage room and hair salon, the latter a particular rarity on riverboats. If your group members are feeling energetic they can join a free morning stretching class on the sun deck – this is a lovely way to watch the river waking up and see the sunrise mirrored in the water.

Our one-week Classical Rhine cruise from Amsterdam to Basel covered one of the most popular stretches of European waterways, lined with more castles than anywhere else in the world. But along the way we experienced plenty of things that others don’t see. The first night got off to a rousing start with a performance in the ship’s lounge by the seamen’s choir De Raddraaiers who adapted their repertoire after enquiring about the different nationalities on board (in our case a rendition of My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean).

The first day started with an optional Amsterdam tour, including a boat trip through the maze of canals past the elegant former homes of rich merchants and multi-storey bicycle parks that are a modern day feature of the Dutch capital. We then headed out of Amsterdam by coach to the Henri Willig cheese farm for an informative talk on the cheese-making process and generous tasting session ranging from traditional Gouda to extraordinary flavours such as lavender, coconut and rum cheese.

When it comes to saying cheese, it was also interesting to hear that the thick rind keeps it fresh and odour-free, so it’s a tasty present to take home.

Gouda Cheese

Pictured: Gouda cheese in Amsterdam.

The tour continued with free time in the pretty fishing town of Volendam, where we treated ourselves to coffee and a slice of chunky Dutch apple cake in a cafe overlooking the water. In the meantime Amadeus Silver III had left Amsterdam to meet us on the edge of the IJsselmeer, Holland’s largest lake and one of the biggest in Europe.

I’ve never come across an itinerary that includes crossing the lake to meet the Rhine and it was one of the high points of the week. It was an amazing feeling, akin to being at sea, as we lost sight of the bank and joined yachts and other craft on the vast expanse of water.

It’s well worth noting that Amadeus bucks the trend when it comes to excursions, which many lines include in the fare whether you end up taking them or not. It’s a really useful feature when it comes to budgeting and tailor-making a cruise to suit your members and their interests.

GTOs can book a cruise without any trips at all, which would suit independent groups who want to explore ports of call alone, or pick from the ‘a la carte’ excursion programme (discounted if you book in advance), which ranges from a choice of around four shore tours during a week-long cruise to an action-packed schedule of up to two per day.

Other sightseeing highlights included Koblenz, strategically situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers and overlooked by a 19th century fortress. In the delightful wine-making town of Rudesheim we strolled along the bustling main Drosselgasse street, stopping for a glass of the local Riesling at an open-air bar, and marvelled at Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum where exhibits spanned thundering fairground organs and rather ghostly self-playing violins to an enchanting musical box topped by a tiny songbird.

Cochem

Pictured: The castle of Cochem.

The cruise also included sailing along the Moselle to Cochem, with its timbered old town and castle perched on a 300 foot promontory; the highest stronghold on the river.

The next day brought the UNESCO-listed Upper Middle Rhine Valley, with its gorgeous landscape of vineyard clad slopes, dense forests, rugged cliffs and castles. Myths and legends abound, none more so than the tale of the Lorelei siren who lured sailors to their doom.

Another standout feature with Amadeus is the food, as the evening meal is always a five-course affair and there are even late-night snacks, commonplace on ocean cruises but not on their river going counterparts. In between there is a big breakfast buffet, a served and buffet-style lunch and afternoon tea.

Free biscuits are available all day in the lovely Viennese cafe area and one day there was even a morning sausage and pretzel feast on the sun deck. Tea and coffee is freely available in the smaller panoramic lounge at the back of the ship, which also has a bar and is available for private group parties.

Another fun evening was the pirates’ night, another first for me on a river cruise. Your members can enter into the spirit of things by pulling together bandanas, eye patches and other impromptu accessories before entering the darkened dining room with crew members dressed as buccaneers and tables with upturned ‘plundered’ cutlery and the menu on singed paper.

With swashbuckling parties, sea shanties and sweeping scenery, the innovative cruise with Amadeus certainly provided plenty to write home about. 

Amadeus River Cruises, sold in the UK through Fred River Cruises, offers a variety of itineraries throughout Europe on the Rhine, Danube, Main, Moselle, Rhone and Saone. Fares include all meals, drinks with lunch and dinner, 24/7 tea and coffee and complimentary Wi-Fi. Flights, transfers and flexible excursion packages are also available, the latter discounted if booked in advance.

Contact
Fred River Cruises:
0800-0213 172
www.fredrivercruises.co.uk

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