Romantic Rhine Amsterdam to Zurich
This was our first river cruise. With door-to-door service we felt looked after from start to finish. On arrival in Amsterdam we had to find the meeting point (Avalon could improve that) but once located we were transported to the new Avalon Artistry II which only went into service in April. She is a stylish ship with good sized cabins. We had a French Balcony cabin which had a small sofa, very comfortable beds and plenty of storage. At the end of the corridor was a seating area with hot drinks, juices, cookies and fresh fruit available all day (all good but if you like strong English tea, take some PG Tips!). The lounge and bar area was pleasant with plenty of seating. We didn't use the Sky Deck as much as we might have as the weather was a bit variable. So, to the restaurant - excellent! There was a good choice for breakfast. At lunch there was the option of a lighter selection in the lounge. At dinner the portions were just right and the service was spot on. The soups, in particular, were first rate. Trips were included but optional trips were available. In Amsterdam, we had a canal cruise included and added in a visit to the newly re-opened Rijks Museum which included a guided tour of some of the paintings but with free time to explore further. Cruising to Cologne took us through a couple of locks which, as river cruise novices, we found very interesting. A short walking tour of Koblenz one morning was followed by cruising along the part of the Rhine with the highest concentration of castles - marvellous, even in the rain! The visit to the Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments in Rudesheim was surprisingly entertaining. In Mainz, the visit to the Guttenberg Museum was much more interesting than one might have expected and the castle in Heidelberg was extraordinary and would be well worth a second visit. When we reached Strasbourg, we enjoyed the canal trip through such a beautiful city but were then disappointed that we were unable to cruise further down the Rhine due to exceptional rain and flooding. Never mind, we were entertained by a wood-carver from the Black Forest in the evening and the next day we had a trip which was basically a visit to his shop. It wasn't quite the scenic tour that we had anticipated. Nobody could account for the weather but one outcome of the closure of the river was that another cruise ship was moored adjacent to us - at least, we assumed that was why. Anyway, for the last couple of days we may as well have had an inside cabin! As we have previously been on ocean cruises, we had wondered about what a river cruise would feel like. The ship is much smaller and more intimate - only 130 passengers. Our fellow passengers were from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and the UK. We met some charming people and the whole atmosphere was very friendly. Unlike ocean cruising, the cruise is all about taking you to places so there is not so much to do on board. The dynamics of a river cruise are generally a bit different from ocean cruising where ports of call are combined with sea days. it can be a little 'full-on' with a whole week of waking up in a different port and getting off the ship for a tour every morning. However, we thoroughly enjoyed our holiday and are thinking, maybe the Danube......?
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