Travel editor, David Powell, cruises through the waterways of Holland and Belgium in sheer luxury on AmaSerena, one of the AmaWaterways fleet.
Spring and early summer is an ideal time to visit Holland and with miles of tranquil scenic canals to explore I was looking forward to a weeks cruise on the luxurious AmaSerena. This was my first river cruise and what impressed me from the start was AmaWaterways’ attention to detail and personal approach, which made my wife and I feel valued and special guests. Two weeks before the cruise all the information needed arrived by post including the transfers in Amsterdam where our exciting journey was to begin.
After the short flight from London Gatwick to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport we were immediately met by Chris from AmaWaterways who escorted us through arrivals to our comfortable coach for the short journey to the port. For passengers who prefer not to fly, Eurostar are launching a direct service from London to Amsterdam in late 2017. Until then passengers may travel from London to Brussels and with a simple change of trains enjoy a high-speed journey direct to Amsterdam Central.
We soon arrive at the port and we spot AmaSerena for the first time … flags flying and looking rather splendid, we’re now eager to get onboard. Forget the luggage, that will soon be transferred from the coach and safely placed in our stateroom, for now a welcome glass of champagne awaits!
We walk up a short flight of stairs to Violin Deck (a glass lift is available) and here we find our luxurious stateroom. There’s a maximum of just 164 guests on AmaSerena and one of AmaWaterways’ groundbreaking innovations is the exclusive twin balcony. These consist of a French balcony plus a separate outside balcony. You simply slide open the floor-to-ceiling glass door to enjoy the fresh air and incredible scenery as you travel on the rivers of Europe. Stateroom furnishings included plush down bedding, a cosy sitting area, a flat cinema screen Apple TV/computer, hairdryer, safe, bathrobes, slippers, individually controlled air-conditioning, plenty of wardrobe and drawer storage and a spacious en-suite with all toiletries provided. High speed internet could be accessed in the stateroom and throughout the ship, subject to connection when cruising rurally of course, plus a good selection of TV channels with on demand movies were available.
The beauty of a river cruise is unpacking just once then relaxing knowing that each exciting destination will come to you! You can experience a sense of adventure and home all in one holiday.
Now it was time to head on down to the lounge for the welcome cocktail hosted by Captain Henk Klos, Hotel Manager Viktoria and our ever smiling and knowledgeable Cruise Manager Dejan who looked after our comfort and kept us informed during the entire cruise. After hearing plans for the coming week and the chance to meet and chat with our fellow travellers it was soon time for the welcome dinner.
AmaSerena is a stylish, luxurious ship, with lovely contemporary artwork to inviting hallways and lounges; AmaSerena is built to make you feel at home. The main lounge is extremely comfortable with glorious panoramic windows, ideal to watch the world go by when cruising. There’s a bar, piano and dance floor and close by a 24 hour coffee and tea station, gift shop and library.
Up on the sundeck there’s unimpeded panoramic views, an abundance of sun loungers, chairs and tables and a heated swimming pool. A walking track is clearly marked out or if you prefer there’s an inside fitness room on Violin Deck. Complimentary bicycles and helmets are also available and are set up ready for use as soon as the ship docks.
A river cruise was certainly very different to anything I had experienced before … and I loved it! This is a perfect way to discover some of the most beautiful waterways of Holland and in fact throughout Europe, as AmaWaterways, with a fleet of 21 ships, offer a lot of different cruise itineraries covering Europe and additionally Vietnam and Cambodia, Africa and Burma.
The highly professional AmaSerena crew worked together as a team providing the guests with a service that can only be described as outstanding. Nothing was too much trouble … guests were there to be spoilt and spoilt we were. As we cruise along the waterways we see life from a different perspective. It was fascinating to go on deck and see how Captain Klos and his Officers guide this really long ship into small locks and under bridges.
One of the highlights of this cruise, and there were many, was the fine dining. Executive Chef Sascha Buchmann and his team prepared fabulous meals throughout the week all accompanied by wonderful regional wines. There’s a main restaurant with open seating policy and an intimate chef’s table restaurant at the stern of the ship which is complimentary but has to be booked in advance.
Early risers can enjoy breakfast in the main lounge whilst a full buffet breakfast is served from 7am. At lunch everyday we found an enticing buffet laden with fresh salads, pasta dishes, hot entrees and desserts, as well as meals to order from the menu. Afternoon tea was available in in the main lounge together with sandwiches, pastries and cookies. Dinner was a wonderful multi-course affair every evening. Dress code being casual for breakfast and lunch and ‘smart casual’ for dinner. AmaWaterways has a very relaxed atmosphere onboard.
Fine free flowing wines … wonderfully prepared meals and fantastic service – the perfect combination!
Inclusive Shore Excursions
Holland is of course mostly famous for cheese, windmills and tulips and our cruise on AmaSerena came with a well-balanced itinerary of complimentary excursions every day and Dejan explained the following days programme each evening before dinner.
We took a scenic cruise through Amsterdam’s legendary canals, past elegant narrow buildings and the house where Anne Frank once lived in hiding. We sampled delicious locally made cheese in the town of Edam and ate lovely Belgian waffles near the magnificent cathedral in Antwerp. The windmills at Kinderdijk were a sight to behold and the world famous Keukenhof Gardens with more than 7 million planted bulbs in bloom was a stunning floral spectacle. We stopped at Arnhem and one of my favourite tours was the Arnhem Museum where events of the World War II battle inspired the movie ‘A Bridge Too Far’.
A choice of excursions led by top local guides was available and most allowed for a return to the ship for lunch. There was also the opportunity to explore many fascinating shops and markets along the way. All of the excursions took us to the heart of our destination creating special memories along the way. We made good friends onboard and each evening over pre-dinner drinks we would relax and compare notes of the days activities.
Before I knew it our 7-day river cruise had to come to an end. We had experienced Holland and Belgium like never before, enjoyed wonderful meals and fine wines and discovered beautiful canals, waterways and navigated through the locks and bridges along the route.
I would certainly recommend a river cruise holiday. My wife and I had a fabulous time enjoying the luxurious ship, making new friends and discovering wonderful destinations. AmaWaterways delivered a special and professional service from start to finish with exceptional attention to detail. I can’t wait to go river cruising with AmaWaterways again, a relaxing way to see more of Europe’s finest scenery, experience the history and local culture on AmaSerena or one of the many other luxurious ships in the fleet.
Thank you AmaWaterways for making this a special holiday and thank you fellow guests for your company, friendliness and good humour – here’s to next time!
For more information on a river cruise with AmaWaterways visit the website: www.amawaterways.co.uk