It was an early rise this morning but a short drive to Stansted Airport and a short 45-minute flight saw us landing at Schiphol Airport in no time. Although it is the third busiest airport in Europe, the process from plane to pavement was seamless and we were soon on our way to meet the beautiful AmaPrima in Amsterdam. Transfers from the airport to the port can be arranged with the Fred.\ Rivers team, however we opted for the train, just as quick and easy! In less than 20 minutes we were hopping off at the train station and a 5-minute walk found us standing in front of the beautiful AmaPrima. Rated the number one river cruise vessel in the Berlitz Guide she was as breath-taking in person as she is on paper.
We arrived earlier than the 4pm check-in time, so the crew on board took care of our luggage whilst we took advantage of the 24-hour tea and coffee station. Sitting in the open lounge area with the sun beaming through the vast windows we sipped on hot tea and tasted the delicacies that welcomed us which included some very delicious biscuits. Before setting sail for Hoorn later that evening we had some spare time and decided to take a short 10-minute walk into the heart of Amsterdam to see all this beautiful city had to offer. Rich aromas of coffee filled the air and the streets were littered with tourists catching memories on their cameras and locals enjoying a drink, sat outside cafés in the glorious spring weather. After ticking all of our tourist boxes we headed back towards AmaPrima, our home for the next two nights.
Back aboard the ship, a light lunch was available in the lounge which consisted of soup, sandwiches, cakes, tea and coffee and water. We sat in the lounge and treated ourselves to a lovely chilled glass of sparkling wine from the bar as passengers began to arrive, watching the ship slowly beam to life as more and more people arrived. It was time to head to our cabins after lunch, we were assigned a beautiful twin balcony cabin on the Cello Deck, graded BB, it was a great size for the two of us and we could take full advantage of the warm weather with a small outside seating area on the balcony, as well as an inside seating area for those times when the weather isn’t as amazing but the views still are. We arrived at our cabins and our luggage had already beaten us there. In our cabins, we found all of the expected amenities such as a hairdryer, TV infotainment system, safe, good amount of storage as well as a robe and set of slippers each. The bathroom was a decent size with a glass shower door, and the window between the bathroom and the cabin featured a switch to function a frosted or transparent screen! We were very pleased with our cabin which boasted plenty of room, brilliant views and space for our suitcases to slide under the bed.
After getting ready for the evening we headed down to the lounge for the Captain’s welcome cocktail party where all the guests were mingling and chatting about their experiences so far whilst sipping a fruity cocktail or sparkling glass of wine. We joined them before heading down to dinner. Tonight we were dining at the Chef’s Table, a small additional restaurant area at the aft of the ship. The restaurant seats up to 25 people and the same menu is served throughout the (usually) seven-night sailing, giving all guests the chance to dine once whilst aboard. This can be booked once on board at reception and I highly recommend choosing an evening when sailing if possible as this really adds to the experience. We were able to watch the chef prepare all of the dishes through the glass screen, and the food was beautifully presented and accompanied by delightful wine. Allergies and intolerances can be catered for and as a nut allergy sufferer, a different dessert was prepared especially for me at dinner which looked just as impressive as the featured dessert.
Following dinner, we headed back down to the lounge and met with the other guests for post dinner drinks and discussed the culinary adventures we experienced at dinner, whilst the piano quietly hummed in the background creating the perfect atmosphere. No longer had we clinked our glasses in cheers were we setting sail for the beautiful town of Hoorn. After an early start we retired to bed and before we knew it we awoke to the warm sun hitting our curtains in Hoorn.
As an early riser, I took full advantage of the fitness room on board which has a couple of exercise bikes, a treadmill, weights and yoga mats along with fresh iced water. After a quick shower, we headed up to breakfast which boasted a beautiful array of choices at the buffet including fresh fruit, cereals, pancakes and cooked options as well as an omelette station, and the option to order additional choices such as poached eggs on toast to the table. Tea and coffee are certainly not on rations at breakfast and we were kept well topped up with this, however there is also the option for a detox drink, fruit juices, water or even sparkling wine for those that want to start the day with more than one type of toast!
After breakfast, we went up to reception and waiting eagerly for our excursion. There were a couple of options for excursions including a bicycle tour, and a visit to see the tulips, only available during April & May. We opted for the walking tour of Hoorn, a small quaint town in the Netherlands. This took around an hour and our tour guide slowly walked us around the centre, sharing knowledge on why the buildings are built with a slight slant, and we were taken to a particular hill where everyone in the town learns to drive. The highlight of the walking tour had to be when we were told about the old town hall which is no longer standing. This used to house the local criminals, locked away for only weeks at a time, and next to where this used to stand was a small circle in the middle of the town square where the prisoners used to receive their punishments. For those accused of stealing, their hand was cut off, and those accused of lying, their tongue cut off. A great way to see a port of call is to take part in these excursions, and each passenger is issued with a state of the art headset in the cabin which allows them to hear and follow the tour guide, without having to stand a few feet away. Our guide could be 100 yards in front and we could still hear everything she was saying as clear as day.
Back on the ship, lunch followed our morning excursion, there were options for soups and salads from the buffet, as well as ordering a main dish to the table. There are always different options on the menus, which change on a daily basis, as well as a steak or chicken option, served with salad and chips, which is available every day. I opted for the steak and onion sandwich, followed by ice cream. Free flowing wine, beer and soft drinks are all included with lunch too which accompanies the food and service well. We enjoyed an afternoon of leisure as we sailed back to the port of Amsterdam and prepared for our captain’s dinner this evening. I highly recommend sitting up on the sun deck on the beautiful rattan furniture with a cup of tea, hot chocolate or even glass of wine whilst sailing to make the most of the amazing scenery, but be warned, the gentle cruise is sure to send you into an unexpected nap! Blankets are also provided on the Sun Deck for those afternoons that may be slightly more chilly than others.
Before dinner on the last evening, we enjoyed a glass of wine whilst the Cruise Director thanked all the members of staff for their hard work over the last few days. This is a great way to end the cruise and a good way to see all those staff members that have been hands on throughout the duration of the cruise but we may not have met. It was time for dinner and the food again did not disappoint. This afternoon we experienced some wine tasting on board, and we got to sample these fine wines again alongside our dishes which were just delicious. The entertainment tonight was a mix of a pianist and singer, as well as a DJ that saw us late into the night! We enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine after dinner alongside the brilliant entertainment and mingling with the other guests before heading to bed.
The following morning saw us go through a quick and easy check-out process before disembarking the beautiful AmaPrima. We paid our bar bill and handed our cabin keys back before making our way back to the airport. Some passengers may choose to extend their holiday before or after their cruise with a land stay, which can be organised with Fred.\ River Cruises. This allows them to explore the embarkation or disembarkation port, as well as all of the magical ports of call along the sailing itinerary. A short transfer saw us back at Schiphol airport in no time, and no sooner had we sped down the runway in Amsterdam we were touching down in Stansted. The trip was truly an experience that I will not forget, and one I hope to repeat in the future - until next time AmaWaterways!