Saturday, December 9, 2017

Vision of the Seas - Mexican Caribbean Cruise December 2017

Just The Facts:
Captain: Marek Slaby of Poland
Cruise Director: Steve Davis of Milwaukee USA
Embarkation: Galveston, Texas   December 9, 2017
Ports: Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico - Cozumel, Mexico

This is my 28th Royal Caribbean cruise, first time on the Vision of the Seas, and my 134th cruise overall.  I am sailing as a solo, but have friends on board.  

Day One  -  Embarkation  -  Saturday - December 9th
Seawolfe Park - Pelican Island - Galveston
I had been doing the later later arrive of late when driving to Galveston, but I woke early so decided to leave early and was off about 6:15 am from the ranch.  I stopped to check air pressure, get gas, and to buy a tire gauge,  but still arrived at EZ Cruise Parking by 11:00 am.  It went from 30° to 58° from Waco to Galveston and traffic was fine.  Good timing on arrival as by the time we were shuttled to the terminal the early birds were already boarded.  There was no one in front of me at security, check-in, or boarding.  Once I had my card I basically just walked on board and was at the Windjammer by 11:40 am.  Perfect timing.  I didn’t even have a problem getting a table, ship must be not full or most guests will be late arrivals.  Just off the sister ship Rhapsody and noticed the Windjammer is not as large.  Buffet begins just as you walk in so I think may be a bottle neck but fine this morning.  After lunch I went to the Solarium and got a table to open computer and sign up for the Zoom Wifi.  I’m doing the ‘Surfer’ package and not the ‘Streamer’ package this cruise.  Price less than $20 with my Diamond+ discount.  I used my Galveston duffle  (largest that will fit in security scanners) so I carried my bag on board and could begin cabin set up as soon as the cabins opened at 1:00 pm.  I really like this cabin and balcony, it’s the fifth or sixth different Royal Caribbean ship that I’ve enjoyed this location with the special extended balcony.  Boat or Safety drill was about 3:15 pm.  I was a good guest and went although I sat in the old folks area after I checked in at my station.  Very few in the comfy chairs and drill was very short and sweet, I probably could have stood on the cool and sunny deck.  It was maybe all of five minutes…I was back at cabin by 3:30 pm.  I'm doing sail away from the aft facing balcony for a good view of the dolphin escort.  One of the sail always in many years: perfect weather and so much activity today.  Cargo Ships, Cruise ships, small craft, ferries, dolphins, Pelicans, sport fisherman off Pelican Island, and great weather and view.  (Photo: Sea Wolfe Park with WWII submarine the USS Cavalla and one of only three destroyer escorts in the world, the USS Stewart. The remains of the tanker S.S. Selma, the largest concrete ship constructed, can be seen in background-click photo to enlarge).  I went to the Diamond Lounge about 6:00 pm., it was not busy at all, not many Diamonds sailing on a 5-day cruise on an older ship.  I enjoyed a few Cosmopolitans and enjoyed great table service.  I have late dining @ 8:00 pm and dinner was interesting.  My friends are at next table, they messed up link, but should correct.  I ordered the Strawberry Kiwi Pineapple Medley, Seafood Spaghetti (my pasta as starter tradition), and the Slow-roasted Prime Rib with Baked Potato entree.  The Prime Rib was as tender and delicious as I have had on a cruise ship…pleasantly amazed.  I ordered a Carrot Cake for dessert.  I skipped the Welcome Show @ 9:45 although I would have time to attend, our waiter service was prompt.  I was anxious to hear who won the 2017 Heisman Trophy tonight so retired to the cabin after dinner.  Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma won so I’m very pleased with that selection. After updating my blog I turned in early after a busy embarkation and travel day.

Day Two  - Cruising -  Sunday - December 10th
Vision of the Seas- Centrum
Predominantly smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  It’s a mostly cloudy day and cool enough to get nice sea air through the open door of the balcony.  I went to the MDR for breakfast.  They are serving the Daily Specials (they did not on the Rhapsody) and I did order one: the Country Omelette.  Fortunately I also ordered a side of fried eggs and bacon as the omelette was only fair.  Rommel my cabin Steward was cleaning my cabin when I returned so I started my balcony time early today.  I did a walkabout on the ship and it is decorated very nicely for the Christmas holidays.  A very large tree in the lobby area and decorations throughout with a very large ten foot Santa and Snowman in the Windjammer.  I did use my $5 D+ voucher in the casino today… lost the $5 but cashed out with $6.20 so I can apply the big winnings towards my tip money.  I went to the Windjammer and they had Pork at the carving station.  I also had some nice Pork Chops with Mashed Potatoes and Corn on the Cob.  As on the Rhapsody the Cutlets & Chops are consistently good on Royal Caribbean.  The sun came out in the afternoon but it remained somewhat cool.  Still very nice balcony weather.  They delivered a bottle of wine on ice and later some very nice Petit-Fours.  This is the formal night and the Captains reception this evening, I no longer do dressy, but I have a nice Christmas shirt…who doesn’t like Santa.  Tonight I went up to the Concierge Club on deck 11 for cocktails, it was not too busy either and the Cosmopolitans were a little better IMHO.  Just not as many VIP’s on this older RCCL ship.  I went to dinner and sat with my friends.  They had messed up the dining link but corrected it this evening and same waiters and staff.  I ordered the Bay Scallop Gratin, Artichoke filled Crepe au Gratin (as starter), and the Roasted Sirloin of Beef entree.  It was good, but not as good as last nights dinner.  I know I could have had that same Sirloin sliced to order upstairs in the Windjammer, the better choice for dining on formal night on RCCL in my opinion.  But it was nice to visit with my friends in the MDR ad the Pistachio ice creme for dessert was good.  The production show Boogie Wonderland was tonight at 10:00 pm in the Masquerade Theater, but I had a short walkabout then retired to the cabin.  Guests were enjoying the evening especially the Battle of the Sexes finale in the Centrum was most impressive.  A very nice sea day on the Vision of the Seas.

Day Three  - Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico -  Monday - December 11th
El Faro from Costa Maya Pier
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  It’s a bright and beautiful day today. We are scheduled to arrive in Costa Maya about noon so off to the MDR at regular time (8:00-9:30) for a nice breakfast.  I ordered the Huevo Rancheros from the special of day AND an Eggs Benedict knowing not all specials are special.  Both were good, but glad I ordered the EB too.  The very efficient Rommel had my cabin cleaned by the time I arrived back…thanks.  It was a bit breezy this morning but great on the balcony.  We arrived about 11:00 am and guests were off right away.  I decided to wait a while.   We ended up backing in on the shore side so I have a front row seat of the pier, port area, El Faro, and the village in the distance.  Soon some xylophone players set up on the pier so I enjoyed music while on the balcony too.  The breeze dropped and the weather is perfect so I prepared to go to town for at least Guacamole and beer: Walking shoes, Pesos, Sunglasses, check.  I went up to the Windjammer just to see what was available about 12:30 before leaving.  Guess what? Mexican on the buffet including Guacamole.  The best item was the Sirloin Steak on the carving station and it was cooked medium well…perfect for me.  I had several slices with freshly Grilled Vegetables and Mashed Potatoes…excellent.  After eating lunch I fixed a nice Mexican snack plate and some steak sandwiches for later on the balcony.  So a great view, great weather, food, cokes, and music in the afternoon in a relaxing spot on my balcony.  So easy.  I went to get some cokes from the Diamond Lounge when it opened at 4:30 pm and continued balcony time through sunset.  At 6:30 I went to the Diamond Lounge for cocktails then met friends at the Schooner Bar at 7:00 a fun evening. For dinner tonight I ordered Summer Fruit Medley, and two entrees: Chicken Cordon Bleu and Braised Beef Duo.  The waiters also brought cheese plates for the table and Hearts of Palm for me to enjoy.  Super.  Cherries Jubilee was my choice for dessert.  The entertainment was a Journey cover band Resurrection, but skipped for comfort of my cabin.  It was an easy day on the Vision of the Seas.

Day Four  - Cozumel, Mexico -  Tuesday - December 12th

New sign in the main square
Smooth seas overnight for the short sail to Cozumel.  We docked early at the International pier. Very windy today. I woke early and went to the MDR for a nice country breakfast just after 7:00 am.  I watched the Carnival Dream struggle to try and dock at the Costa Mayan pier with eating.  It took them over a half hour to get in due to the wind.  We know first hand the thruster problems on the Dream class.  I decided to go ashore early to avoid the crowds as we have the Liberty of the Seas sharing our pier later this morning.  I made through the shops and no lines at security or taxi stand.  I was at the main square in San Miguel by 8:30 am (9:30am local) and just enjoyed the improved square for a while while waiting for the opening of the barber shop at 9/10. I visited Iglesia de San Miguel the church as usual as Martin is usually late by a few minutes.  After another great haircut I went to my Cozumel HQ: Woody's Bar and Grill just off the main square.  I visited with Nelly and soon some friends sailing on the Dream came by to share a few drinks.  I enjoyed my favorite Mexican beer: La Bohemia and some great guacamole & Pico de Gallo with chips.  The music was good and weather perfect.  Later Nelly insisted we share a Christmas lunch.  She's thinking of adding Bacon-wrapped shrimp so we shared one: very good.  I enjoyed the traditional beef (steak) tortillas.  Thanks Nelly.  We sailed away about 5:15 pm...very interesting being docked next to the other RCCL ship from Texas.  The Vision was dwarfed in size next to the Liberty of the Seas.  I went to the Diamond lounge about 6:30 then to the Schooner Bar about 7:00.  It was surprisingly busy for a Cozumel day. The Captain who is an excellent singer joined a group in the Centrum before dinner, my second singing Captain on Royal Caribbean.  Tonight was Italian night in the dining room (MDR). I ordered the Insalata Mista salad and added my special Hearts of Palm.  Also  the Lasagna del Forno (with two sauces) as a starter, and the Chicken Marsala entree.  I had Pistachio Ice Creme and an excellent Sticky Bun & Pudding served with Ice creme for dessert.  A nice dinner but I had nice food all day.  I retired direct to cabin after a busy day.  It was a great day in Cozumel and on the Vision of the Seas. 

Day Five  - Cruising -  Wednesday - December 13th
Busy in the Galley Bakery
Smooth seas overnight, but I was up a lot overnight but got enough sleep.  Beautiful sunny day today.  I went down to the MDR for a nice MDR breakfast about 8:30 am.  I then had the one hour VIP Galley Tour at 9:30 am.  The galley is not that large although on both decks four and five.  I enjoyed the Baking Area as I have experience there and the breads are so good on Royal Caribbean.  When DW sails she always orders room service  breakfast and about half the time they deliver coffee cup although we don’t order nor drink it.  As I suspected the room service trays are preloaded with certain items including coffee cups…thought so and tour confirmed it.  Lots of morning sunshine on balcony upon return.  I’ve enjoyed the Captain’s noon announcements (a regular thing on all RCCL ships) and port announcements, he lists guests and crew birthdays and has interesting messages.  I went to the MDR for lunch just because I saw the prep for the unique salad bar they set up during the galley tour.  I had the Seafood Risotto and Fish Enchiladas.  They were good, but I think the Windjammer may be better option.  Balcony time in the afternoon, nice sun going north bound yet cool enough to make it very nice.  Several friend came by to check out it out as well.  I do plan to cruise less but better in the future when it comes to cabin location and ship selections.  I went to the Diamond club for my final Cosmopolitans there then to listen to the Piano music in the Schooner Lounge until dinner.  Dinner ended up being a feast.  I ordered Pan Seared Bay Scallops (2), Shrimp Cocktail (2), a Green salad with Hearts of Palm, Rigatoni Pasta (as starter), and the Rosemary Lamb Shank entree.  All very good, the Scallops excellent, and the Lamb outstanding the best I have ever enjoyed.  For dessert I had Key Lime Pie and Ice Creme.  Yes a feast and it was served promptly as our servers other tables were a no show.  Romeo, from India, was an excellent server all week.  The big Thriller dance was this evening in the Centrum, I had been seeing guests rehearse all week…they really looked good.  I again retired early as I know I’ll be up early to pack the next morning.  It was a very nice day on the Vision of the Seas.

Debarkation -  Galveston, Texas -  Thursday- December 14th
Smooth seas overnight and I was up very early as the ship approached Galveston.  I had my final MDR Eggs Benedict as they opened at 6:30 this morning.  After breakfast I returned to cabin and packed, then left the cabin about 8:10 am.  No wait for an elevator, no line on deck four or at 'ding-out', fast moving line to Border Control, brief 1 minute wait at customs, then out the door.  I was on the EZ Cruise shuttle at 8:30 am.  Amazingly smooth debarkation.  I stopped to put air in my tires and was on the bridge by 8:45.  I took I-45 through Houston and stopped for a great lunch at Billy B's in Groesbeck.  At the ranch at 2:00 pm.

I had cabin 7152 an aft facing balcony cabin located on deck seven on the port side corner.  The room is the standard size for a balcony on this class ship (a bit larger than same on newer ships). It has the following: key pad safe, hair dryer, large couch, vanity/desk, nice standard shower, storage in cabinets and vanity, flat screen TV, and good lighting. There is an empty small refrigerator and they offer and they offer mini-bar service for drinks, etc.  Well designed.  The air conditioning & water pressure worked well.  Excellent service from cabin steward Rommel.  The key feature is the aft corner balcony (see photo below)


All service people have been excellent, they have an obvious ‘guest first’ attitude and it shows in service and attitude.  My cabin steward Rommel and waiter Romeo were very good.  Excellent Captain, he even wished all guests a Merry Christmas on the gangway as all debarked the ship.

Food / Bar

Overall very good food, better than recent Mariner and Liberty cruises and perhaps even better than the Rhapsody. Amazing that the better food is on the smaller ships. By far.  Excellent: Cookies, Ice Creme, Breads, Mashed Potatoes and entrees.  Continental Breakfast is complementary but a charge for Room Service meals delivered to the cabin. 

General Comments

I really enjoyed the cabin, it does spoil one and all other activities are different due to availability of your own nice balcony.  Great food, easy embark and debark, very nice crew and Captain, the Diamond Lounge was very hospitable, it was a very enjoyable cruise.


the End - Aft - fin



  ~~ Click on photos to enlarge ~~

Monday, November 6, 2017

Rhapsody of the Seas - Transatlantic Cruise - November 2017

Just the Facts:
Captain:  Juan Caranti from Argentina
Cruise Director:  Graham Seymour from England
Embarkation: Barcelona, Spain November 5, 2017
Ports: Lanzarote, Canary Islands; Gran Canaria, Canary Islands; La Palma, Canary Islands; and private island CocoCay, Bahama Islands

This is my 27th Royal Caribbean cruise, sixth time on the Rhapsody of the Seas, and my 133rd cruise overall.  I am sailing with my Dear Wife and this is the final leg of a European adventure.

Day One  -  Travel / Barcelona  -  Embarkation  -  Sunday - November 5th

View of our cruise ship from arriving flight
We had an early 6:00 am Lufthansa flight so met our driver before 4:00 am for the drive to the Munich airport.  It was a completely automated process at the airport.  We got our boarding passes from a kiosk, then found the auto baggage check-in.  We loaded each bag onto a conveyor that displayed the weight, then scanned the boarding passes on computer screen, answered questions, then baggage tags were printed.  We place the tags on the luggage, it scans them then the conveyor takes them away.  Glad we were able to do it as a live check-in agent wouldn’t be available until later in morning and we had a 5:30 deadline to check bags and boarding began at 5:50 am.  We enjoyed Lufthansa and the flight crew were very friendly,  we even had a choice of a Danish or small egg sandwich.  I had a nice view of the cruise ships in the Barcelona harbor as we landed about 8:00 am.  Once we retrieved our bags we found the Royal Caribbean airport representatives and were scheduled on the first shuttle to the ship at 10:00 am.  They even take your luggage to be delivered to your cabin.  An hour wait was fine with free WiFi and soon we were on our way to the ship arriving about 11:00 am.  We went straight through security and priority check-in and I expected another wait before boarding, but we went directly on board the ship.  Nice and easy we even had to wait a few minutes before the Windjammer opened at 11:30 am.  DW was very pleased with the better salad choices for vegetarians on the salad bar and I usually always enjoy the Windjammer, they had Roast Beef on the carving station as usual on embarkation day.  Cabins were opened at 1:00 pm and I found my two bags on the way to our cabin on deck four forward.  I began unpacking and cabin set-up then tried to take a nap.  DW retrieved her bags an hour later and did the same.  Boat / Safety Drill was held at 4:30 pm and following that we went to the Diamond Lounge that took up all of the Shall we Dance lounge on deck six aft.  It was really packed with guests.  We enjoyed two cocktails then went up to the Concierge Lounge on deck eleven…also packed completely including the overflow into the Viking Crown Lounge so we went to the Pool Bar and used our Diamond drinks vouchers on our card to get cokes to take to the cabin.  We went to the Windjammer for dinner then retired to the cabin after this early beginning day.  We are glad to be in the same bed for 14 days following our European travels.  It was a smooth and easy day of traveling and embarking the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Two  - at Sea -  Monday - November 6th
Shall We Dance Lounge
I slept very well and it was nice to sleep until 8:00 am.  We will enjoy having no schedule while on this cruise.  I did go to the MDR for breakfast and DW ordered Room Service which is our usual cruising morning ritual.  The cabin steward, Samson, made the changes to the cabin as we requested yesterday…we had the bed split to allow more floor and window access in our extended ocean view cabin.  We relaxed most of the day only taking a break for lunch in the Windjammer.  They had a nice Pork Cutlet and Roast Pork on the carving station.  Cookies and Bread Pudding were good too.  Lot’s of activities on the ship and the weather is warm enough for full deck activities as well.  Yes there are lifeguards on duty at the pools.  The aft pool in the Solarium is reserved for guests above the age of 16…that’s nice to have a pool safe for older guests.  Not many children on this cruise though. This was the Captains Formal evening so there was a Captains Reception where you can get a photo with the Master of the Ship.  Also entertainment begins in the Broadway Melodies Theater and tonight was Motown Music with William Hicks.  Our cabin is directly above the stage of the theater and we can certainly hear the show, I picked the cabin knowing this but wanted the larger cabin; however, it is more noise than I anticipated.  I went up to the Windjammer for a great freshly thick sliced Sirloin Steak that was delicious.  DW skipped dinner so we have yet to get to table 48 in the MDR for dinner.  We made an unscheduled brief stop in the port Gibraltar about 10:30 pm due to a medical emergency, those wanting a closer look at the ‘Rock’ got their wish.  It was a very restful recover day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Three  - at Sea -  Tuesday - November 7th
Another good nights sleep and an extra hour as we set our clocks back one hour for the first time this cruise.  It should happen 4-5 more times before we reach Tampa.  I went to the MDR for another great breakfast, so nice to have good service and nice table cloths.  We got a table on Lido deck near the pool for some nice fresh sea air.  We enjoyed the poolside entertainment with the Black & White Dance Band.  Lunch in the Windjammer, they had a meatloaf with egg in the center…similar to a Scotch egg.  Also some nice Veal Scallopini.  Cabin time the rest of the day as we are still in rest and recovery mode.  Nice to have a selection of TV channels in English as we didn’t in Germany.  We did go to the Diamond lounge about 5:30 and ending up staying until almost 8:00 pm.  Enjoyed too many cocktails and hors d’oeuvres so we missed dinner again.  We did meet some nice people and we will make it to MDR for dinner eventually.  It was a nice restful day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Four  - Lanzarote, Canary Islands -  Wednesday - November 8th
Arrecife Policeman
Slept well overnight and again went to the MDR for breakfast.  It’s very convenient as our cabin is on the same deck as the MDR.  We arrived at our first port today Arrecife on the island of Lanzarote a part of the Canary Islands.  We took a taxi into town (€5) then boarded a little Hop-on Hop-off train (€4 pp) that took us by the sites of the small port town of Arrecife.  We saw the beach, Castillo, parks, and public art.  We walked the pedestrian shopping area and they actually had some fashionable names as well as local businesses.  We taxied back to the ship early and had the ship to ourselves for a while.  I took advantage by taking some photographs of the ship.  We had a late lunch in the Windjammer, they had Roast Beef at carving station and some great pork cutlets.  I happened to mention that I was disappointed that hey didn’t have any mashed potatoes today.  Soon a chef was bring a bowl of nice hot mashed potatoes to my table.  Wow, some impressive service. We watched some vintage TV shows on this afternoon until sail away at sunset from Lanzarote.  DW has sore throat so we skipped the Diamond clubs this evening although I used my D+ card to get cans of Ginger Ale for the cabin.  I did go to the MDR for the first time tonight,  Table 48 is all the way in the back of the Edelweiss Restaurant, the waiter Vladimir from Ukraine was good.  Dinner was excellent, the menu was one only used on longer cruises.  I ordered Mulligatawny soup, Baked Cheese Cannelloni with beef Mushroom Ragout (my pasta as starter tradition), the Pan Fried Pork Medallions entree, and Creme Brulee for dessert.  I retired after dinner.  An interesting day on shore and on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Five  - Gran Canaria, Canary Islands -  Thursday - November 9th
Sidewalk Cafe / Bar DaVinci
Some rolling seas overnight and I slept very well.  This is my third visit to Gran Canaria and previously I have rented a vehicle and also done a private excursion so I have seen the very beautiful island.  Our plan is to stay in Las Palmas and have an easy day so no rush to get off even though we were cleared by 7:30 am.  Since I filled out the breakfast room service menu for the DW last evening I had also decided to also have a continental breakfast this morning.  It was delivered just after 8:00 am d the oatmeal was nice as they sent brown sugar and raisins.  Fruit Plate, Muffin, and Donut as well as juice.  We left the ship about 10:00 and walked into town.  DW wanted to visit the nice Department Store El Corte Ingles to purchase her favorite Jo Malone perfume to replace her purchase made in Barcelona  last year.  Very nice European style boulevard at the store location and nice shops and stores.  We then walked some pedestrian streets and really lucked into finding a wonderful bar, Bar Da Vinci Las Palmas, where we sat on the sidewalk enjoying the scenes and weather.  I had the local Canary Island draft beer and DW had an Iced Coffee.  We stayed for a second round and light snack before walking back through the park to the cruise pier.  We went up to the Windjammer before most returned to the ship for a nice lunch.  They had Turkey meatloaf at carving station (new to me…just fair) and very nice breaded pork chops.  I was able to enjoy a nice nap in the afternoon…a very restful afternoon following the walk around town. Sail away was an hour + late so the lights of the city were nice as we sailed from the harbor.  DW still a bit under the weather so I went to Windjammer for dinner.  A lot of guests eat there every night and the selections are very good.  Tonight they had Pork Roast on the carving station and several other meat entrees.  You can get a variety of wines as well.  A good option to the MDR.  The featured entertainment was Tracey Shields a vocalist who covers Celine Dion and others.  Only fair entertainment so far…IMHO.  It was an enjoyable day in Las Palmas today.

Day Six  - La Palma, Canary Islands -  Friday - November 10th
Typical Santa Cruz de la Palma architecture
Really rolling seas overnight but I enjoy that when sleeping.  We arrived early and were cleared by 7:30 am in San Miguel de La Palma, the most north-westerly island of the Canary Islands, Spain.  I have visited five of the seven primary Canary Islands.  Overcast today so no tours, but we did go into the town of Santa Cruz de Palma.  We really enjoyed the old cobblestone 'high' streets of the town and the very unique architecture. Many buildings also reminded us of Havana with the 18-19th century Spanish Colonial architecture.  Most of the old buildings contained modern shops and businesses.  Very pleasant browsing the streets and area.  We had a nice stop at La Placeta for drinks.  This was DW's favorite of the three Canary Islands we visited, I prefer Gran Caneria, but the town was most interesting.  I would not bother with an ship excursion here.  We returned to the ship for a late lunch in the Windjammer Cafe then rested from the walk. Cabin time primarily the rest of the day and just a light snack for dinner.  It was a new experience on the island today.

Day Seven  - at Sea -  Saturday - November 11th
Rolling seas overnight and I slept very well.  I went to the MDR for breakfast and ordered an Eggs Benedict + extras...all very good.  We had a lazy morning then went up to the Lido deck to enjoy the sea breezes and the Hott Sands Caribbean Band…they played for several hours...longer than the other groups that have played on Lido, but the Lido is their ‘home’ stage.  I thought it was perfect weather, but DW felt cool as did some leaving the pool…it was partly sunny to cloudy all day.  A Windjammer lunch then NCAA football all afternoon and evening.  I’m able to stream the games so it’s great on this sea day.  It was formal night tonight, but we quit doing formal many cruises ago, especially on a long adventure…not packing extra clothes.  The feature entertainment was male vocalist Jimmy Hopper and a Game Show.  It was German night in the Windjammer buffet tonight, they had Red Cabbage, Potato Pancakes, Pork Cutlets, Sauerkraut, Sausages, and other Germain dishes as well as the usual food items.  My alma mater Oklahoma has a late feature game (7:00 pm CST) at home so it’s not shown until 1:00 am Sunday on the ship.  No sports bar on the Rhapsody but I created one with my computer, Rhapsody cookies & snacks, and complementary drinks...a nice long sports day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Eight  - at Sea -  Sunday - November 12th
Salad Bar
Still rolling seas but calming a little.  We turned our time back an hour but I still slept until 10:40 am since I was up watching live football most of the night.  I had a sweet plum and cookie for breakfast and decided to wait until the MDR opened for lunch to really eat.  I had a nice salad from the salad line that was set-up.  Since the Rhapsody is a smaller ship the salad area was not as large as I am used to on most RCCL ships, but it had most of the usual salad items offered.  I also ordered the Fish & Chips from the menu.  We had our deck time by the pool after lunch.  In the late afternoon it began to rain so we retired to the cabin to try and watch a new Television series,  Good Behavior, that we discovered.  It took a while to stream but watched the premier episode.  We were off our eating schedule so actually went to the Windjammer close to opening time of 6:00 pm.  I enjoyed the Pork from the carving station with Mashed Potatoes, and various Vegetables.  Good basic food.  Didn’t attend the entertainment of a Hypnotist this evening. I actually retired early since I didn’t have much sleep that lead to both of us waking in the night.  We watched two episodes of Good Behavior as the steaming was perfect in the middle of the night with no guests online and better weather.  We're going to try to binge watch the show before end of cruise.  A nice easy and unusual day/night on the Rhapsody.

Day Nine  - at Sea -  Monday - November 13th
Edelweiss Dining Room
Still a bit of rolling seas and I slept very well.  We again set our clocks back an hour that helped with sleep since we were up in the night.  I went to the MDR for a nice breakfast.  We had a relaxing morning, I went to Guest Services to check my bill as there is no app or access on the TV for accounting.  All well on the bill, in fact they refunded everyone a day’s charges on the internet for the day it was down for several hours.  They have been very fair in any and every circumstance I have heard about.  They have offered good pricing on several mini-packages on this long cruise for specialty dining, spa, and beverages.  All seemed to be good values.  We had another Windjammer lunch today.  I am spoiled by the wonderful buffet offerings.  I usually don’t gain weight on a cruise, but I know I am on this one.  After lunch we were able to stream another episode of our new show Good Behavior.  We had some deck time again on Lido then went to the Diamond Lounge about 7:00 pm.  It’s not been as crowded since first night, I was told there are over 800 Diamond (and above) guests on board and we met some nice people.  We did make it to the MDR for dinner, first time for DW.  The new table location is excellent, we had a six-top for just the two of us in the center and a personal waiter, we were his only table.  I even had Hearts of Palm delivered by the head waiter.  I ordered Cock-a-Leekie Soup, Garden Salad (with the Hearts of Palm), Singapore Noodles (pasta as starter), and the Mustard Crusted Roast Beef entree.  The Singapore Noodles was fabulous, the beef only fair so I was glad I was given the full portion of noodles.  Dinner was very good.  The primary entertainment tonight was country music by Pure Country, they sounded good, but we retired to the cabin for another episode of Good Behavior.  It was a good day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Ten  - at Sea -  Tuesday- November 14th
Still a bit of rolling seas and I again slept very well.  The weather is brilliant.  We set time back for the third consecutive day, sleeping that extra hour a day.  I went to the MDR and ordered the Eggs Benedict, much better than previous order.  A relaxing breakfast and always an opportunity to visit with guests.  I spent some time online for Bosque Travel this morning then we went on a walkabout. Deck five is also a popular deck for guests to relax in loungers or chairs and enjoy the sea air.  We went up to decks 10 and 11 just exploring the ship before heading to the Windjammer for lunch.  Bandwidth too slow this afternoon to stream our TV show so relaxed and updated this and previous reviews for my blog.  We went to the Diamond Lounge for cocktails then to the Broadway Melodies Theater to see Craig Halliday the feature entertainer, it was an entertaining show with Halliday on violin/fiddle. We had time for another cocktail in the Diamond Lounge before our 8:30 dinner.  Our waiter was busier but we had good service and he brought a Cheese Plate to start.  I ordered the Tomato Seafood Risotto, the Four-Cheese Ravioli with Mushroom Sauce (pasta as starter), the Coq au vin entree, with Orange Almond Cake and Pistachio Ice Creme for dessert. After dinner we enjoyed two episodes of Good Behavior before sleep.  A busy day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Eleven  - at Sea -  Wednesday- November 15th

Fun in the Centrum
 Still a bit of rolling seas and I again slept very well.  The weather is overcast.  We set time back for the forth consecutive day, and needed that hour as we watched TV late.  The MDR was very busy this morning, I think many thought it was the chocolate breakfast…it wasn’t, but I had Eggs Benedict for a nice breakfast.  Very few in the pool today and there was some scattered rain showers but we sat out on Lido for a while for the fresh air.  A nice Windjammer lunch today as usual, starting to get a bit bored with selections though.  An easy afternoon about the ship and cabin, the wifi was too slow for streaming for sure.  We were able to get streaming wifi at 6:00 pm the time when most guests are at dinner.  We watched the final two episodes of season one of Good Behavior.  Basically skipping dinner and cocktails to see the thrilling ending to the show.  I did sneak up to the Windjammer for a light late dinner, it was also Mexican night on the buffet.  Then a walk about on the ship.  When we don't go to the Diamond lounge we have been getting six cokes from the lido bar on our Diamond card for use during the day.  That's good and easy to do.  Another nice day on the Rhapsody of the seas.

Day Twelve  - at Sea -  Thursday- November 16th

Caribbean Music on Lido
 Still a bit of rolling seas and I again slept very well.  The weather is beautiful and warmer.  We set time back for the fifth consecutive and final day, and we are now on Eastern Standard or Tampa time.  We went up to the Windjammer for breakfast as we were around early this morning.  I had Oatmeal just for something different.  Just the opposite of yesterday…many guests are in the pools, perhaps more than any day of the cruise.  Perfect day for it.  We listened to the Caribbean Band and enjoyed the sea breezes today.  DW went to the 1:00 pm movie and I had a Windjammer lunch.  We are also now getting some Florida TV stations so better local news and first sports reports.  I went to the Future Cruise Desk and booked another transatlantic cruise for 2018 on the Brilliance of the Seas, a 16-day from Amsterdam to Tampa on September.  This afternoon we watched the movie Frozen, I had never seen it before today.  This evening we took in the production show, Piano Man, in the Broadway Melodies Theater.  I’ve seen it on other Royal Caribbean ships and I can honestly say that this was by far the worst of any I have seen.  The saving grace is that you can use your Diamond cocktail benefits in the theater…that is a nice extra.  We listened to the resident Piano player in the Schooner Bar for a bit…he was good.  I had a beer at the Pool Bar before going to the Windjammer for a late snack.  They are open until 9:00 pm. although variety is less late.  It was a nice day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Thirteen  - CocoCay, Bahamas -  Friday- November 17th
The former TEXAS ship for RCCL
Again rolling seas overnight and I slept well.  Sunny and breezy today.  I went to the MDR just after 7:00 am as it opened early as it’s supposed to be a port day.  I had a very nice breakfast, but before it was over the Captain made an announcement that the seas were too high for tendering operations at CocoCay.  It didn’t surprise me a bit, I suspected that when the Captain gave his noon report on Thursday and mentioned possible high winds that we would not be tendering today.  We would not have gone ashore until after lunch for just for a couple of hours on the beach so not a big disappointment.We went on walkabout on the ship and found the Texas plaque (photo).  We sailed on the Rhapsody of the Seas several times out of Galveston when it was Royal Caribbean’s Texas ship.  In fact we were on the final Texas sailing in August of 2007 ten years ago.  DW attended the 1:00 pm movie again today in the theater, it was a full house for Logan Lucky.  I had a nice salad in the Windjammer for lunch then some computer time in the cabin.  The feature entertainment show tonight is Beatles-a Musical Celebration.  We both skipped dinner tonight, I had a few beers at the pool bar and then watched TV in the cabin.  A nice day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Fourteen  - at Sea -  Saturday- November 18th
Smoothest seas of the cruise overnight and I slept well although up early.  It’s a nice sunny day with a breeze.  I went to the MDR for a nice breakfast, both pancakes and Eggs Benedict since no dinner previous night.  We went up on deck a little earlier than usual for our sea air and deck time.  DW had her packing completed by mid-day, I had to have some NCAA football time.  And my OU football game streamed surprisingly well this afternoon.  DW even brought me beers so I wouldn’t miss any of the action.  We did visit the Diamond Lounge this evening and had good service from Mary and Fast Eddie.  After cocktails we then went to the MDR for our final dinner.  I had two pasta entrees as starters and the Chicken Marsala as main entree.  The service was very good.  We retired to the cabin after dinner to prepare for debark.  It was a very enjoyable final day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Fifteen -  Debarkation -  Tampa FL -  Sunday- November 19th

BettyJack's Food Shack
I was up early and about 6:00 am began packing as the ship  finalized its arrived in Tampa.  We are  doing self-debarkation and are supposed to go off about 7:30 am.  It was delayed that later cause a huge backlog of guests trying to disembark.  Full blame to U.S. Customs who only had three and occasionally four agents working to process the entire ship.  If you were in 1st group of self-debark you were in best position. Too many guests not following instructions and going down before luggage was opened didn’t help. The last 1/3 of the self-debark group got backed up due to lack of customs officials, then they allowed Gold cards, handicap, and porters to go to front of line creating bad feelings for many.  In line at Customs for well over an hour.  Worst debark I have seen in 133 cruises.  On the plus side our ride had time to scope out the situation so was able to pick us up almost as soon as we arrived in the passenger pick up area at 9:30 am.  We enjoyed a wonderful noon meal with DD and family at BettyJack’s Food Shack, a very cool kayaker’s hangout, in Weekie Wachee.   Following lunch we were on our way for the long drive home.  We stopped in DeFuniak Springs, FL on Sunday night.

We had cabin 4006 a cabin located far forward on deck four on the port side.  The room is the standard size for an O/V with large additional space at windows.  It has the following: key pad safe, hair dryer, small couch, vanity/desk, small standard shower, storage in cabinets and vanity, flat screen TV, and good lighting. Well designed.  The air conditioning & water pressure worked only fair.  Excellent service from cabin steward Samson.  You will hear music from the theater located above. Also above the forward thrusters so noise when we dock at ports.  Close to forward elevators to get to Windjammer and the MDR is on same deck so that was nice.

All service people have been excellent, they have an obvious ‘guest first’ attitude and it shows in service and attitude. 

Food / Bar
Overall very good food, better than recent Mariner and Liberty cruises. Excellent: Cookies, Ice Creme, Breads, Rice, Mashed Potatoes and entrees in Windjammer.  The MDR dinners were very good although we only went a few times.  The Diamond Lounge was always busy but adequate number of bar servers for number of guests. 

General Comments
We really enjoyed the first three days of doing very little and relaxing after a busy fourteen days touring Europe.  The Windjammer food was excellent, really exceptional and much better than the Mariner of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas that I have recently sailed. It was a wonderful relaxing cruise.

~~ Click on photos to enlarge ~~

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