Saturday, October 28, 2017

European Adventure and AMADANTE River cruise - October 2017

 European Adventure and AMADANTE River cruise - October 2017

Just the Facts:
Ship: AMA Waterways Amadante
Captain:  Andreas Zarwel
Cruise Manager:  Kata Paulovics
Embarkation: Wasserbillig, Luxembourg
Rivers:   Mosel River, Rhine River, Main River, Main-Donau-Kanal
Ports:  Trier, Bernkastel, Cochem, Koblenz, Rudesheim, Mainz, Wetheim, Wurzburg, Rothenburg (bus), Bamberg. 

This is my FIRST ever River Cruise and 132nd cruise overall.  I am sailing with my DW and it is her first river cruise as well.  I am looking forward to the new adventure and difference in cruising experiences.

Travel Day  -  Spring Hill Florida - Monday October 20
We slept in at the hotel and after breakfast reorganized for our flight today. We then went to the DD’s and her in-laws home this afternoon.  We had a very nice Cuban Sandwich for late lunch from an established local food truck.  After a very nice visit we were taken to the Tampa airport to begin the European adventure.  We took the 6:50 pm 7.5 hour direct flight from Tampa to Keflavick International Airport in Iceland.  Not as long as most direct flights and it was a value fare (~$720 for both of us). They do allow one bag, but charge for any additional as well as for meals.

Europe Day One  -  Iceland  -  Tuesday - October 21

Gullfoss Waterfall - Iceland
We took advantage of Iceland Airline’s layover program to have a full day in Iceland.  Once arriving at 6:30 am local time we took the 45-minute Gray Line Airport Shuttle service into downtown Reykjavik.  Our hotel, the Reykjavik Centrum, actually allowed us to check in at 8:00 am.  Amazing…we thought we would have to check our bags but were able to reorganize before the full tour we booked for the day.  We enjoyed a premium tour the Hot Golden Circle tour with the Gateway to Iceland group.  On this Hot Golden Circle tour, we visit the three major sights of the Golden Circle.
 First stop:  Thingvellir, site of the World’s first Parliament (Alþingi) that met each year, beginning in 930 AD and continuing until 1798. The expansive National Park Thingvellir located in this area is a geological wonder as at this location two tectonic plates meet – the Eurasian and American plates.  We visited a viewing area of the rift or valley between the two. The views of   Laugarvatan Lake and the mountains is spectacular.  Next stop was the Strokkur Geyser, a very active geyser that erupts about every six minutes.  There is also a very nice Visitors Center/Reception/Restaurant here.  We enjoyed a very nice soup for lunch on this cool day.  After lunch we were off to the beautiful Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland’s pride and one of Europe’s largest waterfalls. I love waterfalls and this was amazing and I was very surprised at the size and volume of water flowing.  Final stop was the Secret Lagoon, the hot springs nature bath. Locals named it that way because it had only been known to few, up until now.  It was fantastic relaxing in the hot water of the natural pool while enjoying a local Iceland beer (or three).  We arrived back in Reykjavik and walked around the old town area before heading back to the hotel.  It was a fantastic day in Iceland.

Europe Day Two  - Travel -  Wednesday - October 25
View from our suite - Trier Germany
The day started very early to catch the 5:00 am airport shuttle from downtown Reykjavik to Keflavick Airport for our flight to Frankfurt, Germany.  The airport itself is very self-service.  You check yourself in at a kiosk and get your boarding passes and luggage tags.  You then attach the tags and proceed to the luggage station, here I expected a service person, but no it is also self service.  You place the bag on a conveyor belt and it measures and weighs your bag.  Then it drops your bag onto the main luggage conveyor and you hope see your bag at your destination.  There is now no way to talk your way past an overweight bag as no live person.  Border control was as easy as stating verbally your home country, no documentation.  Our 3+ hour flight left Iceland at 7:25 am and arrived in Frankfurt about noon local time.  No border control here as we arrive from another European country.  Once we got our bags we were off to the train station and learned it was in Terminal One and we landed at Terminal Two.  We missed a connection in the process of taking the shuttle so had an hour wait,  but it was an easy process.  We had time for a wonderful buttered Pretzel...we have always loved the German train station pretzels we have encountered in our travels. The train fare was only €54 for both of us to Trier, a bargain.  The train basically follows the same route we will take on the river portion of our trip and once away from the commercial cities it’s a beautiful route by train.  When we arrived in Trier we took a taxi from the train station to our hotel the Romantik Hotel Zur Glocke arriving about 6:30 pm..  The hotel is in a historic 16th century half-timber building that primarily houses a very popular local restaurant and a few hotel rooms on the upper levels.  We had a beautiful suite on the top level with a wonderful view (photo) and huge and modern bath.  We settled in then went down to the restaurant for a wonderful dinner.  I ordered a Pork Veal Cordon Blu with Salad and fantastic Roasted Potatoes.  DW had the Farmer's Pan with Potatoes, Vegetables, Olives, & Feta. We shared a great Apple Strudel for dessert.  Perhaps the best meal of the entire trip.  It was a busy yet fun travel day.

Europe Day Three  - Trier Germany -  AmaDante Day 1 - Wednesday - October 26
Porta Nigra City Gate
I slept very well and went down to breakfast about 9:30 am.  They had a wonderful buffet that we enjoyed.  The fruit and breads were wonderful. We took advantage of the spacious room to reorganize bags.  No more air flights so location of liquids and weight of bags no longer a concern.    We then left our bags at reception so we could tour the historic city of Trier today.  Trier is the oldest town in Germany with many Roman era ruins and 8 UNESCO heritage sites.   We began at the Porta Nigra City Gate, a UNESCO site, and largest surviving Roman city gate in the world.  Here we bought out Trier Guide and began our tour.  We passed the unique House of the Three Magi (built in1238) on the way to the beautiful Main Square. In the square is the Market Cross (from 938), St.Peters Fountain (1595), original Ratskeller, and a wonderful collection of building from various periods.   Next stop was the Trier Cathedral (UNESCO site) built in various periods from 1136 although on the site of an earlier Roman Church from 336 AD.  Nearby is the Church of Our Lady (1235-1250) the oldest Gothic church in Germany and also a UNESCO site.  Then a short stroll to the Roman Imperial Throne Room.  It is the largest surviving single room from antiquity built around 310 AD and roofed in 350.  Very Impressive and yes a UNESCO site.  We then visited the Landesmuseum filled architectural excavation finds from the city.  Many Roman items including a horde of gold coins with various Roman Emperors.  We had a nice late lunch in the museum’s cafe.  We made our way back to the Main Square then the hotel and collected our bags for the journey to the river boat.  A taxi carried us the 12 miles to Luxembourg and we arrived about 3:45 pm.  Crew met us and carried our bags onto the ship and to the reception desk.  We were given our key cards and we proceeded to our cabin to unpack and set up.  Tired from our walking we rested until time for our first dinner.  They only have one setting for all 120 (only) guests.  Dinner was very good, I ordered the Chef’s selection Appetizer, Lobster Bisque, the Sliced Prime Beef entree with Fresh Vegetables, and Cherries Jubilee for dessert.  Riesling wine was served with dinner. After dinner we retired early to rest.  It was a fantastic day in Trier and easy boarding on the AmaDante.

Europe Day Four   -  AmaDante Day 2  -  Friday - October 27
Bernkastel Market Square
Very good and restful sleep…must be something about sleeping on the water.  Breakfast is served from 7:00 - 9:00 basically a very nice buffet style set up with an egg station.  I had three fried eggs over easy, bacon, potatoes, juice, and fruit.  It was very good.  We meet for our tour at 9:15.  They have three walking groups: active, regular, and gentle.  We choose regular for the Trier City Tour.  We are docked in Schweich and bused into Trier passing the Roman bridge and largest of three Roman Baths, two UNESCO sites we did not see yesterday.  We had a nice walking tour and learned some history, but we were glad we did the major sites yesterday as we only entered one site today.  We were bused to Piesport where we met the ship seeing some outstanding views of the Mosel River valley from the hills above the river.  As we were on the first bus we went straight into the dining room for a very nice lunch.  They have a nice buffet with carving station and you can also order hot items from the menu.  It was a very nice lunch that I enjoyed, but DW thought the vegetarian items could be improved.  Our next stop (yes river cruises can have more than one port a day) was in Bernkastel.  We walked into this quaint little town and saw the abundance of half-timbered houses surrounding the Market Square and important landmarks. A smaller but beautiful and colorful market square.  We then walked to the Bergweiler Winery where we tasted four of their wines. Riesling grapes account for more than 80% of the grapes planted on the Mosel River and we had very nice ones at our tasting.  A short walk back to the ship and short rest before our 7:30 dinner.  Dinner was very good, I order the Chef’s recommendations:  Shrimp Cocktail & Salad Bouquet, Foamy Carrot/Ginger Soup, and the entree Roast Veal Filet with Truffle, Vegetables, & Sweet Potato Mash.  Wine is included with all meals on the AmaDante and they were generous tonight with the Riesling.  After dinner we retired to the cabin.

Europe Day Five   -  AmaDante Day 3  -  Saturday - October 28

Reichsburg Castle
I slept very well again and went for breakfast about 7:15 am as we have an early excursion this morning.  At 8:15 we boarded buses for the village of Cochem and the Reichsburg Castle.  Perched on a hill overlooking the township of Cochem, the neo-gothic Reichsburg Castle was built for defense but is well decorated with Renaissance and Baroque furniture. The castle offered a wonderful tour that we enjoyed very much.  The original castle was built about 1100 and destroyed in 1688 by the French.  It was rebuilt during the 17th century and survived WW2 intact.  Wonderful decor and grounds.  Following the tour we toured the town of Cochem.  Beautiful old German half-timbered and medieval houses in the old town (most now businesses) were very nice .  We took a break at the large bakery/cafe Flair, a proper Konditorei (specialty cake shop).  I had a nice Black Forest Cake and wished I could have also had an Apple Struddel as it looked very good as well.  We then boarded our buses to meet the AmaDante in Koblenz.  We docked very near the Deutsches Eck where the Mosel River flows into the Rhine River so I was able to walk over to the large equestrian of William I, first German Emperor, erected in 1897 in appreciation for the unification of Germany.  We had a nice late lunch once boarding the ship then enjoyed the sailing up the Rhine river and viewing the numerous Castles and sites including the famous Loreley Statue and Loreley Rock.  This portion of the Rhine river is a UNESCO heritage site.  Dinner was scheduled early tonight due to the port call after dinner so we skipped dinner for light snacks. We arrived at our port Rudesheim about 8:30 pm the time the late excursions was scheduled to leave, but since they are running late and we overnight here and have an excursion going onto town tomorrow we decided to stay on board and relax.  I also finally had some time to update my notes and review.

Europe Day Seven  -  AmaDante Day 4  -  Sunday - October 29
The Niederwalddenkmal
It was the over-night change to Winter Time as they say in Germany or Daylight Savings Time so we had an extra hour and I slept well. About 7:30 am I went to breakfast and enjoyed eggs cooked to order, bacon, potatoes, and fruit.  We are still docked in Rudesheim and this morning we took an excursion into town to the Rüdesheimer Seilbahngesellschaft, a two person cable car (or gondola), that goes to the top of the mountain.  We went up over the beautiful grape orchards and had wonderful views up and down the Rhine Valley.  The highlight on top is the Niederwalddenkmal, a huge monument built in the 1870/80s to commemorate the Unification of Germany.  We walked around the village then returned to the AmaDante for quick Soup & Salad lunch.  We were off again at noon for our excursion to Mainz.  In Mainz we saw the old town and visited the Mainz Cathedral of St. Martin dating to 975.  The highlight of the excursion was to visit the famous Gutenberg Museum, home of the world’s first printed bible, middle age manuscripts, printing presses, and other typesetting machines of ages past.  They had three original Gutenberg Bibles on display in the vault...only forty now exist.  After the excursion we walked down to the river and boarded the AmaDante that had sailed from Rudesheim to Mainz.  As soon as the excursions were on board we set sail from the Rhine River into the Main River into the heart of Germany. onight is a special dinner: Chaine des Rotisseurs Dinner recognizing an award won by AMA Waterways for food excellence. The wait staff wore special uniforms and it was a French Theme.  I went with the straight Chef’s recommendations:  Pate au Foie Gras, Soupe a la Oignon (French Onion), Medaillon d’Agneau (lamb), and Variations de Desserts.  It was a very nice meal and Riesling wine was served with dinner.  Not as many vegetarian selections for DW this cruise and especially tonight with the special menu.  After dinner we went to the lounge and the entertainment was fair, I was disappointed to discover I missed a Marlene Dietrich show earlier in the cruise.  It was a nice day in Germany and on the AmaDante.

Europe Day Eight  -  AmaDante Day 5  -  Monday - October 30
The Bosses

I slept well and for first time we do not have an early excursion so a welcome change and longer sleep.  I did go to breakfast about 8:30 am. and spent time updating this review.  In addition to the buffet items and the Eggs Station, they do have specialty items such as Waffles and Eggs Benedict you can order from the kitchen.  They had a local glass-blower do a demonstration this morning in the lounge.  They do have a Glass Museum at our afternoon port. Guests really become a community…they lounge in the lounge, watch the activities, or the river views...all from the lounge.  This is generally not true on a ship with 1000’s of guests.  Today they served a German Lunch in the Dining Room…it was nice.  We docked in Wertheim am Main a bit early an hour before excursions and since this is a small town and are docked so close we struck out on our own.  We walked the old town, visited the church, and had a pretzel and proper Coke in the cafe.  Most shops are closed on Monday as they are in Bosque County or it's a Reformation Holiday here so we headed back to the ship to relax in the lounge (following the system). They have Tea with Piano music and snacks daily at 4:00 pm...very nice. Dinner was good tonight, I ordered the Chef’s recommendations again:  the Vitelli Tonato appetizer, Celery Creme Soup, Braised Black Angus Short Ribs & Grilled Pork Tenderloin with vegetables entree, and Ice Coupe Burgundy for dessert.  Riesling wine was served with dinner again tonight.  I’ve added links as Vitelli Tonato was a new Italian dish to me…and nice.  In the lounge they had a three piece group performing Classical Music as well as a few Gypsy fiddle tunes, it was very enjoyable.  Today was a much needed relaxing day on the AmaDante.

Europe Day Nine  -  AmaDante Day 6  -  Tuesday - October 31
Double gates at Rothenburg
I slept very well again.  I went for a light breakfast about 7:30 the prepared for our first excursion today as we docked in Würzburg, Germany.  We are now in the Franconian area of Germany.  Our morning excursion was to the jewel of Würzburg: the Residenz Palace, originally built for the prince-bishops of the Schonbrunn family. This extraordinary baroque palace is one of the largest in Germany and features an opulent interior replete with frescos, including a grand fresco by Tiepolo, works of art in stucco and statuary, and the gorgeous ‘Mirror Room.’ DW thought the Mirror room was more impressive than the Amber Room in St. Petersburg.  The room is impressive as is the entire palace especially to be located in a relatively small town.  It is a UNESCO heritage site.  We arrived back at the ship at 11:30 for lunch.  I had a nice salad and small steak with ice creme for dessert.  At 1:00 we took a premium (€60 pp) excursion to Rothenburg another UNESCO heritage site. This medieval town is one of the most beautiful in Germany. Surrounded by its walls, towers, gates, timber framed buildings and ancient churches.  We had a guided tour then over two hours of free time to further explore.  Being a holiday there were a lot of locals in addition to tourists in town.   It was quite an eye full with so many historic sites, quaint shops, and people to watch.  We met in the town square under the town clock with it’s hourly show at 4:45 pm where we bused to Kitzingen for a wine tasting.  We entered the largest wine cellar in Germany and enjoyed a variety of Franconian wines.  This was a nice change from the Rieslings we have been enjoying for six days.  After the tasting we walked through the village of Kitzingen noticing a few ‘trick-or-treaters’ and the call to services of the bells at the church.  The AmaDante was docked behind the church, a welcome sight, and we were greeted by the crew dressed in Halloween costumes.  Dinner was a special Halloween event with decorations, music, and the staff in costume.  I really think the Transylvanians enjoyed it as much as the guests.  Dinner was good, I ordered: The Mixed Green Salad,  Corn Creme Soup, the Seafood Entree of Lobster, Scallop, Butterfish, Asparagus, Truffle Hollandaise, Mushroom Risotto.  They had a nice Chocolate Pumpkin cake, but I had the Cherry Jubilee for dessert. They served Franconian wine tonight that was very appropriate as was the white asparagus since they are both local to the area.  They offered another wine tasting and a late Halloween party but we retired after a long busy day.  It was a unique Reformation / Halloween day in Germany.

Europe Day Ten  -  AmaDante Day 7  -  Wednesday - November 1
Bamberg Altstadt - City Hall
I slept well then went to the Dining Room for breakfast. I ordered the Eggs Benedict and they were wonderful…I should have ordered that much earlier in the cruise.  I did notice that we were docked and had been for a while.  I attended the Debark talk at 9:30 in the lounge, something I do not normally do, but we have some changes to out itinerary due to problems with some river locks.  Seems we won’t make it to Nuremberg but will debark in Bamburg tomorrow.  They offered German beer & pretzels in the lounge, but a bit early for me.  I did attend a lecture on the unification of Germany and Europe and the modern European Union.  Lunch was very good today,  I had Fried Chicken and Soup from the kitchen and a nice Salad and Pasta Bolognese from the buffet.  We will do our Bamberg excursion by bus since we will not dock there today.  At 1:30 we left for Bamberg another UNESCO Heritage Site.  Sites we visited included: Bamberg Cathedral (1237), with the tombs of Emperor Henry II and Pope Clement II,  Alte Hofhaltung, residence of the bishops in the 16th and 17th centuries, Neue Residenz, residence of the bishops after the 17th century, Klein-Venedig ("Little Venice"), a colony of fishermen's houses from the 19th century along one bank of the river Regnitz, and my favorite the Old town hall (1386), built in the middle of the Regnitz river, accessible by two bridges.  During our free time we had crepes and coke…although Branberg is known as the beer area of Franconia.  We arrived back at our ship just in time to prepare for the Captain’s reception and dinner.  We met in the lounge and the crew was introduced other than sail crew as they were busy casting off to sail to Bamberg.  We then went down to our final dinner and it was very nice.  I ordered: Mixed Green Salad, the Mushroom Soup, an excellent Chateaubriand with Bearnaise and Pepper sauces, Vegetables, and a Rosemary Creme Brûlée for dessert.  DW's vegetarian selection was a Spinach crepe.  We had our final farewell with new friends and retired to the cabin to begin packing.  It was a wonderful day in Bamberg and final full day on the AmaDante.

Europe Day Eleven  -  AmaDante Debarkation - Munich - Thursday - November 2
Marienplatz - Munich
 I slept well but was up early for debarkation.  I finished packing then went to the dining room for a nice Eggs Benedict breakfast.  They have furnished buses for those that need transport since we are not where we are supposed to be.  Since I had not purchased tickets with a set time we were actually free to take the latest bus (9:00am) to the Nuremberg train station.  Actually saves us a taxi fare.  We were on an ICE train to Munich by 11:30 am.  Ama Waterways did a great job for us.  Upon arrival we took a taxi to the hotel or as close as we could get as it is located in a pedestrian only zone and we were checked in by 1:30 pm.  We are staying at the Hotel Am Mark’t located at the old fish market and there is an active market still there today as well as a Beer Garden, fruit stands, bakeries, and more.  A very active neighborhood during the day.  The hotel is basic, but clean and the best location one can get only blocks from all old town locations. We had a pretzel and beer at Hofbräuhaus München only three blocks away to the north, then dinner at the Ratskeller only three blocks away in the Marienplatz or main square.

Europe Day Twelve  -  Munich Germany  -  Friday - November 3rd
Neuschwanstein Castle from Mary's Bridge
We were up early and walked to the Marienplatz to catch the underground to the train station as we were to meet our 10.5 hour full day tour near there.  We booked the Die Konigsschlosser or Royal Castles tour through Gray Line.  We met at 8:00 am and were off by 8:30 to visit two of King Ludwig II dream castles: Linderhof and Neuschwanstein.  We drove south into the beautiful Bavarian Alps for our first stop Linderhof Palace completed in 1878.  This Baroque palace with French architecture and German Rocco interiors is amazing with interior rooms of astounding opulence.  The park is beautiful although the fountains were already winterized for the season.  Our next stop was the amazing Alpine town of Oberammergau, we enjoyed the shops and architecture. I did purchase a German hat too.  Final stop is the beautiful fairy-tale castle of Neuschwanstein (the inspiration for Disney’s castle) located in Hohen-Schwangau.  Designed in a medieval style, but with modern (for the day) conveniences. It’s one of the most famous buildings in Europe and symbol of Germain  idealism.  The Throne Hall is magnificent as are many of the interior chambers.  There is a lot of walking and stairs on this tour and the final walk of one mile back to the bus was exhausting although satisfying once completed.  We arrived back in Munich about 7:00 pm and returned by subway to the Marienplatz then hotel. Excellent dinner and beer tonight at Der Pschorr a great Germain beer hall/restaurant.  It was a beautiful excursion to the Bavarian Alps.

Europe Day Thirteen  -  Munich Germany  -  Saturday - November 4th
Today is a semi-rest day from the long excursion yesterday yet we do want to see Munich sites so we were out to the Marienplatz to see the Glockenspiel at 11:00 am.  It was very interesting as is the story it tells.  We then walked to the Residenz München, a huge complex of former Palaces, Gardens, Museums, Theaters and more.  We ended up spending hours here, our favorite things were the Crown Jewels or the Royal Regalia of Bavaria, the Renaissance Saint George's statue, the Grottenhof, the Throne Rooms, and various Bedrooms.  This ended up being more walking than originally planned so we started back towards the Marienplatz.  We passed the Odeonsplatz and the Feldherrnhalle.  We stopped for an early dinner again at the Ratskeller as it was on the way to the hotel.  The meal was again very good, I ordered the Beef Rouladen and DW Potato Pancakes and large salad.  We just walked around the local market by the hotel then enjoyed an ice creme and retired early to rest and prepare for our Barcelona flight on Sunday.  It was a very nice day in Munich.

AmaDante Cabin
We had cabin 101 a cabin located midway on deck one on starboard side.  The room is the standard size 170 sf for a river boat with two windows.  It has the following: key pad safe, hair dryer, two full chairs, vanity/desk, nice shower door, storage in cabinets and under bed (drawer), flat screen TV/monitor, side tables, and good lighting. Very well designed.  The air conditioning & water pressure worked very well.  Excellent service from cabin steward with chocolates and bottled water at turn-down each night.

AmaDante Crew
Overall very good. Only 42 crew members so you become familiar with them soon enough…and they with you.  Most from Eastern Europe, primarily Romania, and very nice.  I thought the attention of the crew was outstanding…more like a charter yacht than an ocean liner.  Extremely good premium service.

AmaDante Food
Serving times vary to accommodate the ports times.  You must check the DAILY CRUISER for exact times.  One nice Dining room that can accommodate all guests at one seating.  Not as many options for food as on a large ship but quality is excellent.  Daily Tea and late night snacks in the lounge.  Two cookie Jars with changes daily.  Iced tea and water always available.  Bar located in  lounge, but with wine included with dinner not as busy. 

AmaDante Excursions
Excursions are generally included in your cruise fare.  Most days there would be two ports and several choices of activities.   Ear phones/receivers are furnished in each cabin for use on excursions.  All of the guides we had were very good.  AMA Waterways does a great job organizing the excursions to maximize the experience for the guests.

AmaDante General Comments
Took a few days to really get into the different style of river cruising.  It’s easy to make friends with so few guests on board.  I’ve never seen so many Vineyards in my life, all along the river valley, up steep mountain sides, in village gardens, pretty much anywhere and everywhere. 

Highlights of the
AmaDante Cruise
Meeting new friends
AmaDante Crew
Würzburg’s Residenz Palace

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