Ahoy There - All aboard the AmaPrima
For weary landlubbers yearning to escape the relentless pressures of life in the fast lane, Rebecca Underwood discovers that AmaWaterways offers the ultimate retreat
Featured in the latest issue of the Berlitz Guide to River Cruising, AmaWaterways has achieved the highest rating for its European fleet and took the top spot in ten categories with my chosen vessel, AmaPrima, at number one.
AmaPrima is a sleek-lined, modern boat that provides the highest levels of comfort and service, and the 51 attendant crew members ensure that each passenger’s every wish is fulfilled. And the Enchanting Rhine cruise we were embarking upon covers 493 glorious miles, calling in at Strasbourg, Mannheim, Rudesheim, Koblenz, Cologne and Amsterdam.
Passengers are welcome to explore each port unescorted by foot or ride one of the onboard bicycles, or choose from a variety of excursions including gentle walks, hiking, wine and beer tastings and city tours.
The elegant and tastefully decorated ship offers accommodations which range in size up to a maximum of 300 sq ft. The three suites and the majority of the 81 luxuriously furnished staterooms feature twin balconies – the perfect spot for an afternoon tipple while gazing upon the scenic views of life on the river bank. Every state-room amenity is provided, including an Apple computer, which features a selection of international television channels, Hollywood movies on demand, a choice of music genres, the Internet and information on the ship’s daily activities and schedules. The ultra comfortable beds, swathed in crisp, white linens and plump pillows ensure a deep slumber, and the gentle movement of the shifting waters of the Rhine creates a soothing feeling of being cradled in Mother Nature’s arms.
We embarked in Basel, Switzerland. The check-in procedure was swift and efficient and we were pleasantly surprised to see our luggage in our accommodation when we arrived. Our delightful and charming stewardess, Alina, welcomed us on board and provided us with the utmost care for the duration of the seven-night cruise. After relaxing a while on our balcony we made our way to the main lounge for a light snack with piping hot tea, and met some of our fellow passengers from all corners of the globe.
AmaWaterways is an inductee of the prestigious La Chaine des Rotisseurs – an exclusive international culinary society founded in Paris in 1950 – and offers dining experiences like no other. Highlights include the elaborate Captain’s Gala dinner, served with much aplomb in the main restaurant. The succulent grilled Atlantic sole fillet, salmon with crab meat stuffing and tiger shrimp with Cognac sauce was superb. We selected the Moreau & Fils Chablis and enhanced by the vanilla, lemon and linden aromas, it was a simply first class dish. After dinner, ladies in their flowing gowns and gentlemen in their resplendent attire made their way to the main lounge, and the gentle strains of the music enticed couples to show off their nifty footwork to the delight of the admiring audience.
Guests are also welcome to experience the tasting menu, served at the Chef’s Table, and our menu featured a main course of delicious aged beef brisket with whisky sauce, pumpernickel foie gras, lamb rack, sweet potato peach salsa, mint jelly, corn soufflé, pumpkin mash and handmade ramson ravioli. Accompanied by our preference for the Chateau Magnol Cabernet Sauvignon, it was unforgettable.
After dining we made our way to the lounge for a cocktail or two and were entertained with an evening of French chansons with vocalist Muriel, accompanied by Armand playing his accordion with gusto. Other entertainment options included a toe-tapping tribute to ABBA and an excellent classical concert performed by talented musicians La Strada.
During the day, while the ship is sailing, the gorgeous sun deck is the place to be. Comfortable sun loungers with foot rests and wide, sturdy parasols afford the ideal spot for reading, followed by an afternoon snooze, and for those keen to keep in trim, there is a walking track. Water babes will be drawn to the outdoor heated pool with a swim-up bar, or for those of us more inclined to recline, there is a large cushioned seating area at the bow, which provides the perfect place to admire the approaching scenery.
For grown-ups entranced with the sight of fairytale castles and reminded of those magical stories of long ago, be prepared for an extravaganza. AmaPrima sails along the 65 kilometres of the Rhine Gorge, which was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002, and between Koblenz and Bingen we passed by the verdant tapestry of vineyards, quaint historic towns, and the most majestic and beautiful castles imaginable. Twenty-eight castles came into view, including the Koblenz Electoral Palace, built in the 18th century, the Konigsstuhl, known as the King’s Chair, which is located in Rhens and dates back to the 14th century, and Sooneck in Niederheimbach, which was constructed in the 11th century.
And as we enjoyed our serving of afternoon tea in the comfort of the lounge, we sailed on and on past the colourful kaleidoscope of the banks of the Rhine, bound for Amsterdam. We sipped on a glass of chilled Champagne and raised a toast to the words of American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: ‘Beneath me flows the Rhine, and, like the stream of time, it flows amid the ruins of the past’.