European River Cruise Vacation: Part 1
European River Cruise Vacation: Part 1
Cruising through Holland & Belgium on Tulip Time Cruise onboard AMAWaterways AMACello. Plus, Budapest to Passau on Enchanting Danube Cruise onboard Uniworld’s River Beatrice.
April 23 – Hello from Amsterdam
It turned out to be easier to get from airport to ship than I originally thought; about a 15 minute train ride from the airport to downtown central station, then walk out the back door, turn right and then walk about a block. Of course that's not what I was told to do at first, so I saw a bit of Amsterdam with my luggage bouncing along for the first 30 minutes or so. I then dropped in at a hotel and was given proper instructions so I made my way back and all was good. Overall, it took me about an hour to get to the boat with my very tired feet and calloused hands from pulling about 50 pounds of luggage behind me.
Everyone is so friendly on the boat, dinner was excellent. Yes, I ordered the unusual stuff and was pleasantly surprised with everything except the duck breast with red cabbage salad. No way to disguise the very gamey duck taste. Guess I just don't like duck.
I met some very nice ladies from Texas at the Captain's Welcome and they invited me to join them at dinner, so I'm already making friends. I'm not quite the youngest person on the boat, but certainly one of the youngest five. It looks like one of the couples may be on their honeymoon, maybe in their 20s; the other couple looks to be in their 30s. Everyone else looks to be from 50-80 or so and all move around quite well as far as I can tell.
On this voyage I am on the bottom deck with a short window that starts at my eye level, so right now I’m looking up at the deck. There is a tiny winding staircase to get down to my deck, which is the same deck as the restaurant, but not accessible from here. I have to walk upstairs to take a few steps to walk back down stairs...weird. Also, the elevator takes you from deck 3 to deck 1, but only to the restaurant side of deck 1, not the staterooms; one of those "can't get there from here" deals. I went up on the sun deck this afternoon (the weather is incredible, mid 70's by the way, and very unusual for this time of year) and looked at some of the other ships docked together. We are tethered to the dock and another ship, which is tethered to another ship, so their passengers had to walk through our reception area, across a gang plank to get to their reception area. I didn't leave our ship, so not sure what the access to the 3rd ship is like, but this is very common along the river; everyone sort of double/triple parks. I had heard of this but just never saw how it worked.
Tomorrow (well, in a few hours) we take a city tour of Amsterdam on motor coaches, then back to the ship for lunch and cruising to the fishing village of Volendam. There is a 3-hour optional bike ride planned upon arrival so will have to see how I handle that. Everyone rides bicycles here, very similar to Copenhagen. There are huge bike parking lots; however people here lock their bikes up, unlike Copenhagen. Was warned about pick-pockets in the market areas in our briefing this afternoon, so will be leaving most of my money in my cabin safe.
There is 24-hour coffee served in the lounge upstairs, which I have not needed yet, but may check it out later. There is a group of 85 people from a Texas church onboard, out of a passenger total of 127, offering church services at 7am for anyone wishing to attend. I'm guessing it will be some kind of protestant service since they suggested Catholics attend mass at St. Nicolas onshore.
April 25 – Hello from Belgium (Almost)
It's been a fun few days on the river. Yesterday was the bicycle tour around Volendam and up to Edam. Volendam might have been a quaint little fishing village, were it not for the thousands of people crowding the streets and walkways. We ended up biking the outskirts of town to avoid the crowds. We road along the dyke through the countryside, to the town of Edam, famous for their cheeses. We tasted a few varieties and my favorite was the green pesto cheese and the walnut cheese.
We were in Arnhem this morning and the place was still asleep. Our morning tour took us out the battlefield and landing site for the British and Polish airborne divisions landed, then to the war museum. We also drove past (and later, cruised under) the "Bridge too Far" from the movie.
After cruising through lunch we ended up at Nijmegen (pronounced Ny-megan), a place of another landing site, but this is a very busy resort town for the locals. There were carnivals and street vendors all over the place. The crowds were so thick with people on bicycles and walking with kids and babies in tow, and dogs all around. Everyone takes their dogs everywhere. It was fun to see, but glad we were only there for a few hours.
Tonight after dinner they had a 60s dance party in the lounge. Boy, these seniors can boogie when they want to.
Anyway, tomorrow we arrive in Belgium, with our first stop as a walking tour of Antwerp, then a side trip to Brussels, the "capitol of Europe". Couldn't miss that! There is a cooking demonstration later in the afternoon on how to make Belgian waffles, but I think I will still be in Brussels...oh well. Too many choices and not enough time for it all. Wait, wasn't a river cruise supposed to be relaxing? I'm exhausted already!
My group of ladies has expanded, and a few of them even outside the church group. I've received several invitations to dine with other tables, or hang out on the sun deck, etc. so I really don't feel like I'm traveling solo at all. Who knew it would be this easy to mingle?
Tonight I was talking with a couple from Calabasas who is doing the same two cruises as I am, and booked the Danube first just like I did, then added this Holland/Belgium cruise for the same reason I did. What are the odds? They were in the dance-a-thon this evening and just a bit more party-animal than I am, but it was fun watching them.
I'm looking forward to getting off the Dutch diet and trying something a bit less unrecognizable. Today at lunch I ordered beef stew with spaetzle, which was delicious, but it was served with a fried egg, sunny-side-up (yuck!) and a fanned out gherkin. Say what?!!! What do pickled and nearly raw eggs have to do with stew? My table mate was so grossed out she asked me to flip the egg over so it would quit staring at her. I noticed a woman at another table also ordered the stew and had the same shocked expression on her face when she was served. At least I knew what spaetzle was, she did not. Tonight I wimped out and had fish, but it was garnished with caviar and fried onions. I had already had the figs in vodka for my appetizer, not at all what it sounds like, and still very yummy. All of us at our table opted for the appleflappen for desert, which turned out to be apples deep fried in a beer batter with two different sauces drizzled on them to make them taste a bit like a wet apple fritter, without the sugar glaze. All of our desert plates would have been licked clean if we thought we could have gotten away with it.
Well, that's it for this edition of life on the river. More to come later...
For more information about river cruises, call 800-300-4567 or click HERE.
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