Who could say no to the opportunity to embark on a mini cruise aboard APT’s AmaPrima? I couldn’t believe my luck when the invitation came through - and the trip certainly lived up to (and exceeded!) my expectations.
The Adventure Begins
Our two-night luxury adventure began in Amsterdam. After a remarkably short flight (40 minutes!) and an even shorter (20 minutes) journey to Amsterdam Centraal, we were delighted to find that the port was practically on the doorstep of the station. This is the brilliant thing about river cruising – due to the relatively small size of the ships, they are often able to dock mere minutes away from the city centres of some of the world’s most popular travel destinations.
I’d never sailed with APT before or, in fact, ever been on a river cruise. Nothing could prepare me for the grandeur that awaited. Stepping on board was akin to stepping into the foyer of a luxury boutique hotel. The floor, walls, stairs and reception desk were decked out in gleaming marble around an opulent, cascading staircase that would lead us to our luxury suite.
The checking in process was effortless, and before we knew it we were being escorted to our room by a member of the waiting staff. Although the walk to our room was short, it still allowed plenty of time to soak up the ambience of the ship. The décor was incredibly pleasing to the eye and I was happy to see that there were works of art dotted around the ship from Gustav Klimt - my favourite artist!
We soon arrived at our room and after a tour of the mod-cons, we were left to our own devices. Our room was impeccably appointed; not only was our luxurious marble-decked bathroom a sight for sore eyes, but our two balconies allowed a gorgeous amount of sunlight to stream into the room! Then there was the technology – a flat screen Apple TV as standard with movies and television which also doubled as a computer (plus all guests receive free Wi-Fi)! Phew! It is one thing writing about these ships for newspaper adverts, but it is a completely different experience to see them for yourself.
As our Captain’s Welcome Reception wouldn’t take place for another few hours, we decided to take advantage of our close proximity to Amsterdam and wander into the capital to make the most of our time here. After shopping and enjoying the sights, we embarked the stunning AmaPrima once more and made our way to the main lounge for our Captain’s Welcome Reception.
The Captain’s Welcome Reception
All the staff were impeccably polite; wherever we went, housekeeping, bar staff, Captain’s crew and waiters greeted us with a smile. I cannot stress this enough – the staff made us feel like absolute royalty, as if our wants and needs were the only things that they were concerned with meeting – and this was no exception when we entered the Captain’s Welcome Reception.
We were met in the lounge by waiters offering champagne and as we sat in the comfy sofas, we had the chance to sample delicious canapes – from salmon blinis to delectable bites with names I couldn’t pronounce, the entrees were exceptional. It took all of my willpower to remember that dinner was in an hour and we had a four-course meal to enjoy – but more of that later!
I had been looking forward to the Welcome Reception as this was our chance to be introduced to our Cruise Manager (who turned out to be a charismatic gent from Australia) and our Hotel Manager (a witty Romanian) and our Captain (Dutch, and a self-confessed lover of cheese – obviously!)
As they introduced their respective teams, the level of intimacy struck me as unequivocally wholesome – where else does the Captain greet you and personally clink glasses with you when toasting the voyage ahead? Where else can you learn that the Cruise Manager lives 12 feet away from his mother-in-law (which is why he spends months of the year cruising Europe’s waterways)? Where else does your champagne glass refill without you even noticing? On board an AmaWaterways ship is where.
Once our Welcome Reception had come to a close, we were invited downstairs for our five-course dinner in the main restaurant. Upon being seated at our table, our waiter laid our napkins on our laps and proudly handed us the menu. The cuisine on offer was truly spectacular. From Chef’s Recommendations to a choice of dishes including foie gras pate, fennel cream soup and beef tenderloin, it was an almost impossible decision to make. In the end, I opted for the Chef’s Recommendation – after all, who knows better than the chef?
Amid much chatter around the dinner table, our personal waiter did a flawless job. From topping up our glasses, to his wonderful demeanour and attitude – the service he provided was only surpassed by the quality of the cuisine on board. The food, well, there are no words to describe how delicious it was – the soups were hot and flavourful; the meat, cooked to perfection; each meal was perfectly presented and the desserts were out-of-this-world. One thing’s for sure, you won’t go hungry on an AmaWaterways cruise!
After dinner, we returned to the lounge for the post-dinner entertainment – a classical trio named La Strada. The musicians greeted us as we took our seats and they began to play some of the most stunning classical music I’ve ever heard. The relaxed atmosphere allowed me to catch up with my fellow guests as the musicians played their exquisite music.
A Bountiful Breakfast
We begrudgingly retired to our rooms to settle in as we sailed through the night to the small Dutch town of Hoorn. The beauty of river cruising is that the movement you feel when sailing is minute – you may feel the slight judder of the ship as it slows and speeds up, but not enough to make you feel seasick. So, our night-time sailing to Hoorn didn’t interrupt our sleep at all and we woke to a stunning sunrise which we enjoyed in our PJs from the comfort of our private balcony.
When we eventually tore ourselves from the view, we headed into the open-seating restaurant, where we were greeted with more breakfast items than you could shake a stick at. Hot options included a fry-up, while the continental choices ranged from breads to sweet treats, cold meats, cheese and fresh fruit. Not only this, but the chef was on hand case you didn’t fancy anything on offer – although I don’t know how you wouldn’t, as the choice was bountiful!
Tulip Farm Discovery
It’s safe to say that our breakfast more than set us up for the day ahead, as we were due to embark on our choice of included excursion. A choice of excursions were available including the option to use one of the complimentary on board bicycles to enjoy a guided tour around Hoorn. But - in keeping with our Dutch surroundings - we opted for a visit to a family-run tulip farm! As we travelled on the coach, we were delighted to find that our local guide was a Dutch resident and he was able to draw our attention to important Dutch landmarks and interesting things to see along the way. With our visit occurring in March, we were a few weeks too early to see the tulips in full bloom, but there was plenty to see and do anyway.
We were welcomed by the farmer’s wife with tea, coffee and Dutch biscuits named Stroopwafel (a waffle made from two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle) – too good to miss, so good in fact that I brought some home with me! After our complimentary refreshments, the farmer’s wife gave an interesting talk about the history of the tulip and the tulip farm before we enjoyed a guided walk to see production for ourselves. The whole experience was enjoyable and informative and we left thoroughly enthusiastic about tulips!
As we made our way back into Hoorn, we were afforded more time to look around before boarding our luxury home once more. This is the beauty of river cruising - there’s no way that an ocean vessel would have been able to dock in the quaint town of Hoorn. I’m so thankful that we could visit this intriguing little town as it held many delights including traditional Dutch architecture, local eateries and an abundance of winding lanes to explore.
The Last Leg
Upon embarkation in Hoorn, we were invited to enjoy a scrumptious selection of cakes and sandwiches as it was time for Afternoon Tea in the lounge! A self-service affair, the choice of cakes on offer was impeccable and I could hardly decide between a glistening cream filled apple pastry or layered chocolate hazelnut cake. I went for the chocolate, which incidentally was the right choice, then went back for the pastry – oops!
The lounge is a wonderful space and I was surprised that with over 160 guests on board, the ship never felt crowded; in fact, she was highly spacious. Sadly, my time aboard was limited, but had I been on board longer and joined AmaPrima for a longer cruise, I would taken advantage of some of the amenities on board: flicking through a novel from the fireside library; visiting the at-sea spa; buying loved ones a trinket from the gift shop. If the weather had been warmer, I might even have enjoyed a dip in the swimming pool and relaxed on the Sundeck.
As such, there was still ample time to sit and enjoy the journey back to Amsterdam when, by the time we docked, it was dark and time for dinner! Another five-course affair awaited and once again I opted for the Chef’s Recommendation as it all sounded too good to miss and certainly got the taste-buds tingling. Pate accompanied by a walnut brioche; French onion soup with cheese crouton; beef tenderloin with port wine sauce and a trio of desserts – walnut bourbon, molten chocolate cake and mango sherbet. Yum!
Returning to our room that evening, I was sad to be bedding down for our final night on board. But as we were meeting for breakfast at 7.30am before our 9.15am transfer to the airport, an early night was much-needed!
Once in our room, I was thrilled to see that our housekeeper had crafted one of the towels into the shape of a crab, left a chocolate on each of our pillows and gifted us each a complimentary peach scarf. It’s these touches that place AmaWaterways at the front of the river cruise revolution – and as we disembarked and waved goodbye the following morning, I hoped that this wouldn’t be the last time that we would be seeing our glorious AmaPrima.
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