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AmaWaterways Rhine Christmas Markets Cruise

Fri 29 Dec 2017

Our Product and Marketing Manager, Kathryn, recently enjoyed a Christmas Markets River Rhine Cruise with AmaWaterways. Read her exclusive review:

Christmas is my most favourite time of year, and the Christmas Markets on the Rhine river cruise with AmaWaterways was the perfect way to get into the festive spirit.

A luxury minibus picked me up at Basel airport, taking me straight to the AmaPrima, my floating hotel for the week. Despite arriving late morning, a few hours before the official check-in time, I was welcomed onboard. All of my luggage was taken off me and I was shown to the lounge where I could relax and enjoy a light lunch until the room was ready. Once the room was ready, I found my luggage was there waiting, and was shown how everything worked including the Entertainment-on-Demand system which had TV, Music, Films and internet – very useful for checking in for the return flight.

AmaWaterways has the highest rated fleet of ships, with its ships taking the top 10 spots in the 2016 Berlitz Guide to River Cruising. AmaPrima did not disappoint. The lounge was a great place to relax with new friends before dinner and a pianist played there most afternoons until dinner.

The main restaurant served a buffet breakfast, a choice of buffet or dishes from the menu at lunch, and a three or four course dinner in the evening. The restaurant had an open-seating policy with tables of two to ten, a great way to meet fellow guests. I found I spent most meals with some friends I had made on the first day. In the evening, guests could also dine at the Chef’s Table Restaurant, pre-bookable at reception, and enjoy a tasting menu which the chef prepared in front of you. Wine, beer and soft drinks were included with lunch and dinner, and they were definitely free-flowing! With a high crew to guest ratio, service onboard was impeccable. After just a few days, the waiters had learnt my preferences to the point where I could just smile at them and they would bring me a lemonade! AmaWaterways is a member of La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the exclusive international culinary society, so I knew the food onboard would be exquisite.

Cat C Cabin on AmaPrima AmaPrima lounge decorated for the festive season Talented chefs on board Delicious meal at the Chef's Table Restaurant Festively decorated AmaPrima Sit and watch the world go by Gingerbread icing activity

The fitness centre on AmaPrima was well equipped and although I went with the intention of burning off the delicious cuisine, I only went once. I did find it had everything I needed though with a cycling machine, running machine and weights system.

AmaPrima was ready for its festive sailings with decorations all around, a large Christmas tree in reception and Christmas music playing in the background in the lounge. There were plenty of activities on board, all of which had a Christmas theme – gingerbread icing, Christmas tree decorating and the real highlight, Christmas carols with the crew who all dressed up with festive accessories. Most evenings there was also entertainment after dinner in the lounge including an ABBA tribute act, a brilliant Rock and Roll singer, and a singer accompanied by an accordion.

After the welcome talk from Cruise Manager Frederico on the first day, I chose the excursions I wanted to do during the week. Each day there was a choice of excursions with three levels: gentle, regular and active. The gentle options showed guests the main sights at a slow pace with plenty of stops, ideal for those with some difficulty walking. Regular pace was a brisk walk taking in all the main attractions, and the active excursion often included a hike off the beaten track. Bike excursions were available, and guests could make use of complimentary onboard bicycles for independent exploration or cycling along the river bank.

Each day I chose the regular options. The first day I could choose between Frieburg and Riquewihr, so I chose Riquewhir in Alsace. The town, nestled among the vineyards, looked traditionally German even though it was in France. After a guided walking tour, there was free time to explore and get a coffee to warm up. Each day there was always some free time built into the excursion. In Breisach, I even managed to fit in a visit to the SeaLife Centre in the free time, a chance to warm up!

Beautiful city of Basel The magnificent Blue House in Basel Quaint Riquewihr Festively decorated houses in Riquewihr Strasbourg, the stunning capital of Alsace Explore the city of Speyer Pfalzgrafenstein Castle on the Rhine Scenery along the Rhine Siegfried's Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum Cologne's majestic Gothic cathedral Bridge over the river in Cologne Christmas baubles at a stall in Cologne

My favourite excursion was Cologne. I’d never been to Cologne before, although I had seen some photographs, and wasn’t expecting to like it. I was pleasantly surprised, and it helped that I had a fantastic guide, Markus Graf, who even made an hour in the cathedral interesting and funny with his enjoyable sense of humour. Cologne had some of the best Christmas markets in Germany, and the city had seven different areas filled with the traditional stalls. A little hop-on-hop-off train for 10 Euro took me round four of the main markets. Of course, you must sample the regional delicacy when in Germany – Bratwurst! As I had a full day in Cologne, I decided not to go back to the ship for lunch and instead have this delicious dish before Christmas shopping at the markets.

Even if you had been to some of the destinations before, there was often ‘special interest’ tours which took either took guests to see the city in a different way, for example the Jewish tour in Amsterdam, or to somewhere slightly different. As I had been to Heidelberg before, which was the main excursion offered one day, I chose the special interest tour to Breisach and just 13 people were on this tour.

After a week of delicious cuisine, visiting lots of Christmas markets and exploring the towns and cities along the Rhine, it was time to leave the AmaPrima but I will definitely be back on board in the future. I travelled with my mum and it was her first river cruise – I think she is now converted from the types of holidays she normally goes on! It’s also a great option for single travellers, as the lounge and restaurant were very sociable areas so guests quickly make friends.

Blue Water Holidays Blog