I’ve never been one for grand adventures. My bucket list doesn’t consist of faraway places and the word wanderlust doesn’t strike a particular chord with me. At the risk of sounding boring, I’d much rather curl up on my couch and watch a movie of someone else jet-setting overseas. So imagine my surprise when one fateful Thursday afternoon AAA Northeast asked me to join them on a Rhine River Cruise. Scheduled to set sail in 9 days.
It took me five minutes to respond. (Four minutes and thirty seconds more than it should have.) Single and with 30 on the horizon, there was nothing holding me back. Maybe a grand adventure is exactly what I needed. So I said yes. And 9 days later Goldalamode and I were boarding planes to Basel, Switzerland.
Aboard The Ship
As someone who has taken many ocean cruises, I thought I had an idea of what was in store for us on the AmaSerena (the most advanced river vessel designed in operation). But this was the Rhine River, the rules of the game had changed. The passenger count was less than 164, which meant by the first night I knew almost everyone by name and had a stack of their business cards to prove it. From secret service agents and magicians to students and retirees, the demographic was broader than I expected. That’s right – river cruises aren’t just for a mature crowd. Often after dinner the dance floor was packed with Baby Boomers and Millennials alike. Although Cara and I were usually in bed by then. (Call us old souls ??.)
The State Rooms
Speaking of beds, ours were turned down every single night with chocolate on our pillows and itineraries for the following day. What beats chocolate? The views outside our french balcony every morning. When opened all the way, it’s as if our stateroom was part of the scenery. With full length mirrors and ample closet space, our 170-square foot room easily fit two bloggers and their multiple outfit changes. As an added bonus, the AmaSerena offered complimentary WiFi and flat-screen televisions with entertainment. Electricity on board the ship was 220V with 2-pin power outlets, so our newly purchased travel adapters came in handy!
Travel Tip – Reception will provide you with straighteners and curling irons. One less thing to pack!
Beyond the walls of our cabin, the AmaSerena boasts four decks with stunning views in every direction. A seated breakfast, lunch, and dinner was served in the Main Restaurant with lighter portions offered in the Al Fresco Bistro. For the food connoisseur, a dinner reservation at The Chef’s Table included a seven-course tasting menu in an intimate setting.
When we weren’t eating or exploring, we’d make ourselves a cappuccino and head up to the Sun Deck. Surrounded by the sights of the Rhine River, this was the perfect place to lay out and relax or take a dip in the heated swimming pool. It’s also where the Wellness Host, Marcelo, held his daily fitness activities.
In the evenings, we retreated to the Lounge for entertainment, dancing, and the best coconut cookies a girl could ask for. Also on board the ship: a fitness center, beauty salon, and gift shop.
Travel Tip: Forgot to exchange your money back in the states? No problem! Visit the purser at reception to buy euros at the current exchange rate.
Not your average cruise ship food, the AmaSerena’s menu catered to all types of eaters with local cuisine from the destinations we were traveling to. For each meal, three courses were served with several options to choose from (including Vegetarian). And yes! They were always paired with unlimited wine and beer. The star of the show? The fish. From salmon to trout, every fish entree we devoured was flavorful and cooked to perfection. For those of us with a less distinct palette, pizza and burgers were available upon request. (Not going to lie, I had pizza twice. No shame.)
Whether I was biking through Breisach’s wine country or tasting my first real Rudesheimer coffee, the excursions offered through Amawaterways were always impressive (and included in the booking price). At each port we had several tours to choose from or the option of exploring on our own. More often than not, we opted for an excursion since the local guides were full of knowledge (and humor)!
Travel Tip: Tours are broken up into groups based on activity level. So don’t fret if you like to walk at a leisurely pace!
Day 1 – Embark: Flew into Basel, Switzerland where we took a quick walk around the city before boarding the AmaSerena and meeting the crew.
Day 2 – Breisach: While others took a walking tour of Riquewihr or Frieburg, Cara and I chose to cycle through Breisach’s wine country where we passed beautiful vineyards, orchards, livestock, and colorful houses.
Day 3 – Strasbourg: Our second and final bike tour, we rode through the streets of Strasbourg and visited Cathedrale de Notre Dame, La Petite France, and Parc de l’Orangerie. Then returned on our own time to take photos!
Day 4 – Ludwigshafen: We chose the Romantic Heidelberg tour in which we saw the Heidelberg Castle and Great Vat. After, we had time to explore the city and shop for souvenirs. (And flowers!)
Day 5 – Rudesheim: Docked in Rudesheim at night, we ventured out and enjoyed several local bars. In the morning we took a gondola ride up to the Niederwalddenkmal statue (Say that three times fast) and saw panoramic views of the Rhine River.
Day 6 – Cologne: Cara and I ventured out on our own and ended up stumbling upon Old Town, eating the yummiest ice cream, and snapping pictures on the Holhenzollern “Love Lock” Bridge.
Travel Tip – Download the Uber app to your phone! It’s easier than finding a taxi and quicker than traveling by foot.
Day 7 – Amsterdam: We picked the Canal Cruise tour in which we saw scenic views of the city and experienced our first ever Amsterdam Pride Day!
Day 8 – Disembark: A 4:15 am wake-up call and 20 minute ride to the airport where I bid farewell to the AmaSerena and the Rhine River.
I couldn’t wrap up this blog post without bragging about how utterly amazing the customer service on the ship was. From our Cruise Director, Jelena, who took care of my missing luggage to our favorite waiter, Yancu, who is an aspiring artist – everyone on staff went above and beyond to make our stay unforgettable.
So what does this small-town homebody have to say about her first trip to Europe with AAA Northeast and Amawaterways? I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Call me a convert but there’s something about the ease of seeing the world without all the hassle (no packing and unpacking) that has me sold. I guess that means I’m officially a river cruise kinda girl.