Overall Rating: Excellent
|# of Nights:||7 Nights|
ROMANTIC RHINE RIVER CRUISE
August 13 - August 22, 2010
Length: 361 Ft.
Crew Members: 39
Judson and Louise Patten
Louise and I flew into Amsterdam a day early. We flew out of Atlanta on Friday, August 13th (5:20 PM) and landed in Amsterdam on Saturday, August 14th (8:15 AM). We were booked into The Hotel NH Amsterdam Centre for the night of Saturday, August 14th. The cruise didn't actually begin until the afternoon of August 15th - Sunday at 3:30 PM. My travel agent had contacted the hotel and asked for an early check-in on the 14th and by the time we arrived at the hotel from the airport - the room was ready for us - there was no charge for the early check-in. If we had arrived on Saturday, we could have purchased airport/hotel transportation from Avalon but by arriving a day early, we grabbed a cab at the airport for 35 Euros - well worth it - Mercedes sedan.
After a couple hours rest, we ventured out to explore Amsterdam. Just across the street from the hotel was a small park with a canal running through the park. The canal was connected to all the canals that run through Amsterdam. We boarded a canal cruise boat (Lovers) for an afternoon cruise by canal through Amsterdam. It was a beautiful cruise. We got a good look at old Amsterdam. There are millions of bicycles in Amsterdam - the main way of transportation and they have the "right of way." The outside half of the sidewalk belongs to the bicycle riders and walkers beware. When you walk across the bridge that crosses the canal, you are in an area with lots of restaurants with sidewalk cafes. Saturday night, we found one that looked interesting and we spent almost 3 hours over dinner and wine and watching all those that were passing by. An interesting thing about the hotel - Once inside the room, you must insert your key card into a slot near the door for the lights inside the room to work - conserves energy - withdraw the key and the lights go out.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 15 - The NH Amsterdam Center was the headquarters hotel for Avalon and everyone taking this cruise had to make their way to that hotel for transportation to the cruise ship. There were 120 passengers on this cruise and by NOON on the 15th, they were all in a meeting room in the hotel. Luggage had been stacked and was in the process of being loaded for the ship. Avalon had arranged a couple of optional excursions in Amsterdam on the 15th for those that did not want to spend the day sitting and waiting to board ship.
One was to the RIJKSMUSEUM and the other was a tour out to an area to see windmills, how wooden shoes are made, and how cheese is made. We chose the windmill tour - 3 hours @ 29 Euros per person.
This was a good tour. (For the duration of this tour, the Euro was pegged at 1 Euro = 1.28 USD)
At the end of the tour, we were brought directly to the ship. At 6:30 PM, there was a welcome cocktail party (champagne) and a short safety briefing. We were told that if the ship went down and if we were on the top deck, our heads would be above water. The ship stayed docked in Amsterdam for the night. Dinner was at 7:15 PM. The food all week was very good - they prepared local dishes as we cruised up the Rhine. Wine flows freely during dinner at no charge - wines from the region.
"The Luminary" had only been christened two weeks prior to our cruse so we were only the 3rd cruise group to sail on her. After dinner there was piano and dancing music by Ivan in the Lounge/Bar.
MONDAY, AUGUST 16 - There was a full buffet breakfast at 7:00 AM and we were off the ship at 8:15 AM to board a bus that took us to an included Amsterdam canal cruise. We saw a different area of Amsterdam than we saw on our first day. We were back on board by NOON for lunch and for the ship to sail away up the Rhine to Cologne. Each night 15 minutes before dinner the cruise director, Hans Beckert, did a port talk for wherever we would be the next day. Dinner was at 7:00 PM with piano and dancing music in the Lounge. As you leave the ship, you are given cards with your stateroom number. You turn these cards in at the desk when you return to the ship so that all passengers can be accounted for before sailaway.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 17 - Buffet breakfast was served from 7:00 -9:00 AM. After breakfast, the cruise director met with those that wanted some more background on the day's activities, etc. "The Luminary" docked in Cologne during the buffet lunch. We divided ourselves into 4 tour groups. There were ear pieces and receivers for everyone so that we could all hear what our guides were saying during each of the arranged tours. We spent the afternoon walking through parts of Cologne - one of Germany's largest cities - and visited a Gothic cathedral only a few blocks from where the ship was docked on the Rhine River bank. The cathedral is very large and in constant need of maintenance. There was also time for shopping. Back on board ship, there was the port talk for Wednesday in Coblenz and Rudesheim by the cruise director and dinner at 7:00 PM. After dinner, there was a classical music concert by a group called La Strada - 3 people (2 violins and 1 guitar). The music was beautiful and the musicians were very talented.
One of the challenges before this trip began was to pack no more than one suitcase per person and keep it less than 50 pounds. To do this, we planned to use the ship's laundry to wash and iron all the clothes that had been worn up to this point - Laundry service: Men's shirt - 2.50 Euros, Men's pants - 5 Euros, Men's underwear - 1.50 Euros. Ladies blouse/shirt - 2.50 Euros, Ladies skirt/pants - 5 Euros, Ladies underwear - 1.50 Euros.
WEDNESDAY - AUGUST 18 - This is the day for two different stops along the Rhine - Coblenz and Ruedesheim. Buffet breakfast was at 7:00 AM and we were off the ship in our walking groups by 8:30 AM. Coblenz or Koblenz is located where the Moselle and the Rhine join. The ship actually docks on the banks of the Mozelle. One of the first sights to observe is the statue of Wilheim I astride his horse. There are many attractive streets and squares to explore in the old town. We were back aboard ship for sail away at 11:15 AM and lunch at 11:30 AM. The afternoon was spent on the upper deck watching scenery - We were never out of sight of scenery to watch. This was the day we sailed through the Rhine Gorge with the most beautiful scenery of the trip - all the castles alongside the Rhine - one right after the other on both sides of the Rhine. The game room/Library was always available. There was reading, resting, or whatever one might want to do. "The Luminary" arrived in Ruedesheim just before dinner at 5:15 PM. We did early dinner so we could leave the ship for an evening ashore. The dinner for the evening was a German buffet dinner. This was my least favorite of the dinners aboard. After dinner, there were two events planned ashore. One was the tour of Siegfried's Musical Instrument Collection and the other was a wine tasting at the Ruedesheimer Schloss. The musical instrument collection was housed in a two story museum and I thought the mechanical instruments were fantastic - well worth the visit. We walked half a block down the narrow cobblestone street for the wine tasting which consisted of 5 different wines made locally and they were all very good. We were back onboard "The Luminary" by 9:30 PM for a late night snack of home made Gulaschsoup in the Lounge and it was very good. As we were having our soup, we watched the ship set sail for Mannheim.
THURSDAY - AUGUST 19 - There was breakfast as usual at 7:00 AM with the ship arriving in Mannheim at 8:00 AM. We were off the ship and in our buses by 8:30 AM for the 50 minute drive to Heidelberg. Heidelberg is beautifully sitting on both sides of the Neckar River. Heidelberg is Germany's oldest university city. High above the city, you can see the ruins of a very large red sandstone castle - only a part of it has been restored. We boarded our busses and made the trip up the steep roads for a walk around at the castle. The views of the city laid out below were beautiful. There were always choices we could make according to what we wanted to do. Some wanted to wander more through the city and others wanted to return to the ship. There was an optional tour in the afternoon to visit the Carl Benz Mercedes Museum costing 39 Euros per person. We were not interested in taking this tour. Louise decided this was the afternoon to try out the on- board hairdresser. To wash, blow dry, and style was 18 Euros.
After dinner Thursday night, the crew entertained with their crew show. Following the crew show, there was piano and dancing music by Ivan.
FRIDAY - AUGUST 20 - Breakfast was at 7:00 AM and we arrived in Strasbourg at 8:00 AM. We were off the ship by 8:30 AM for a canal cruise through old Strasbourg followed by a walking tour of the old city. The walking tour was 1 - 11/2 miles. The Strasbourg Gothic Cathedral is large and beautiful. The city is also known as a shopper's paradise. Strasbourg is on the border of France and Germany and is the capital of the Alsace region. We were back on board for lunch. Those that wanted to stay for more time and lunch in the city had that option. There was an Avalon optional tour after lunch - an excursion through the heart of the Alsace winemaking country costing 36 Euros per person. We had opted to take this tour to get to ride through the country side for the scenery and it was a beautiful trip. We were back on board for "The Luminary" to set sail for Breisach and the Black Forest at 5:30 PM. Just before dinner, the cruise director discussed the plans for Saturday and the visit to the Black Forest as well as some of the disembarkation information. Dinner was at 7:00 PM with a Black Forest wood carving presentation after dinner in preparation for what we would see the next day.
SATURDAY - AUGUST 21 - Breakfast was at 7:00 AM and we were on our buses by 8:15 AM for our trip through the Black Forest. It was a beautiful drive through the region. A spot was found for taking pictures that had mountains and the Black Forest with all its thick pine trees in all directions. We arrived at the wood cutter's shop to see hundreds of cuckoo clocks for sale that he had made. We were also served Black Forest cherry cake. We were back on board the ship for lunch and there was an optional afternoon tour to Colmar and the Unterlinden Museum at a cost of 34 Euros per person.
There was a champagne reception with the Captain prior to a Gala Farewell Dinner. After dinner, there was piano and dancing music in the Lounge with Ivan.
SUNDAY - AUGUST 22 - "The Luminary" was scheduled to arrive in Basel, Switzerland by 6:00 AM. Breakfast began at 5:45 AM. We were scheduled to depart the ship at 6:30 AM and the luggage had to be in the hall outside the door at 5:45 AM. We were on a bus headed to the airport in Zurich, Switzerland by 6:30 AM. It was a drive of 50 miles. Our flight left Zurich at 9:50 AM. I was a bit concerned about the rime but all worked out perfectly. We landed at the Atlanta airport at 2:20 PM. There are 6 hours time difference. Then it was a 1 1/2 hour trip to Columbus from the Atlanta airport on Groome transportation. Groome in Columbus allows is passengers to park their cars in their large parking lot during trips at no charge.
It was a great way to see Europe and we will be doing other river cruises of this type. I have cruises on The Danube, The Seine, The Rhone, and The Mozelle Rivers pictured in my mind as well as Russia. Avalon Waterways river cruises are EXCELLENT and the ships are new and beautiful.
One extra observation that I would like to make concerns Euros. I had been told that there were ATM machines everywhere in Europe and that using a debit card linked to your checking account was the thing to do. I had purchased some Euros before leaving Columbus and in the Atlanta airport, I had second thoughts as to whether I had enough. I purchased more in the Atlanta airport. I did not see all those ATM machines that I was supposed to see in the areas in Europe where we were. I was very glad that I had purchased the amount that I did - I only have about 20 Euros left from what I purchased. I will be purchasing Euros in the US before leaving the country for future trips to Europe.
Tipping: From the cruise documents - "We recommend 3 euros per passenger per day for the Cruise Diirector and 12 euros per passenger per day for the crew. You will be able to charge it to your onboard account or you will be able to place euros in an envelope for the CD and an envelope for the crew and deposit the envelopes in a box located at the main counter in the ship lobby.