Amadeus Silver FAM Trip -
Friday 21st July
With our flight leaving Manchester reasonably early this morning I had decided to travel down the day before and spent the night at the Radisson Blu. The Radisson Blu at Manchester airport is a little on the expensive side but it is conveniently located and this morning I only had a short walk to my terminal.
I awoke at 5.30 am (I don’t know about you dear reader but I never get a good night’s sleep before I travel, I think it’s a combination of excitement and fear) and checked, double checked and then triple checked that I had packed everything (I had) before setting off for the terminal.
Check-in was a little chaotic to say the least. Three members of staff were handling multiple flights for multiple airlines and a family trying to travel to Dubai without the necessary visas weren’t helping the situation. After what seemed like an eternity (it was actually more like an hour and a half / two hours) I was all checked-in and had made my way through airport security.
I had arranged to meet some of my fellow agents and so, after a quick browse in some of the shops, I headed to The Grain Loft where they were awaiting my arrival. We exchanged introductions and swapped check-in stories over drinks before making our way to the gate to board our flight to Frankfurt. The flight went as well as could be expected.
Upon arrival in Frankfurt we made our way through customs and headed towards the Frankfurt (M) Flughafen Regionalbahnhof Train Station to meet Brooke (UK Sales Manager), Rayleigh (Sales Consultant) and the rest of the group and to catch the train to Koblenz. Fun fact: Koblenz is situated on the banks of the Rhine at its confluence with the Moselle and the name comes from the Latin ‘Confluentes’ (well it’s a fact, it might be a little lacking in the fun department). The train from Frankfurt to Koblenz took approximately 90 minutes and, for the majority of the journey, the track runs parallel to the river resulting in a picturesque and relaxing ride. At one point we actually passed the Amadeus Silver and, like fans at a sporting event who have just caught a glimpse of themselves on the big screen, we all got a little too excited.
After three trains and a flight all that stood between me and my first experience of a river cruise was a short walk through Koblenz. When we finally made it to the ship we were warmly welcomed aboard by a number of crew members and offered a complimentary drink. We were then informed that we had arrived a little too late for afternoon snacks but that the chef had kindly agreed to prepare a few things for us. After a few hours of rest and relaxation we met in the bar for a pre-dinner drink. The Panorama-Bar offers an extensive drinks menu and the staff will try and accommodate any requests for drinks not featured. Twice I ordered off menu and on both occasions the staff were more than happy to oblige.
After a wonderful first meal onboard, a few of us decided to make the most of the ship being docked in Koblenz overnight and headed into town for a few drinks.
Saturday 22nd July
This morning the Amadeus Silver was sailing down the Moselle from Koblenz to Cochem, a charming German town with half-timbered houses and an impressive castle, and so this time was spent at leisure, sitting on the sun deck, marvelling at the never-ending picturesque scenery.
The chef prepared a traditional German lunch, consisting of Weisswurst (white sausage), sauerkraut and a potato salad, to be served up on deck. The sausage, having been boiled in milk, was a bit of an acquired taste but the sauerkraut and potato salad were delicious.
After a couple of hours in the mid-morning sun a few members of the group decided to relocate into the Panorama-Bar and Lounge. During this time I headed off to the Amadeus Club to make the most of the free tea and coffee facilities. Unfortunately I was bested by the coffee machine and instead of the coffee I was hoping for I ended up with a cup of warm milk.
When the ship arrived in Cochem a few of the more adventurous members of the group opted to take advantage of the complimentary bicycles and cycle along the river, shockingly I wasn’t one of them! I, along with a few others, opted to undertake the short walk into town, where we enjoyed a drink on a rooftop terrace that afforded us stunning views of the aforementioned castle.
Back onboard ship I decided to check out the gym. The gym is spread across the Mozart and Strauss decks and features exercise bikes, a treadmill, a rowing machine and a selection of weights. It also features floor to ceiling windows, offering lovely views of the passing scenery. Having passed on the bikes earlier I decided I would have a leisurely cycle, although I soon got a little carried away (something I am sure I will regret tomorrow morning!)
Another lovely dinner onboard, with the staff once again offering excellent service. After dinner we headed back up to the bar to enjoy a few post-dinner drinks. As the ship was sailing through the evening to Cologne we decided to sit outside and enjoy seeing the river in another light. Although the weather soon put a stop to that plan as we found ourselves sailing into a storm - torrential rain and thunder and lightning (very, very frightening).
Sunday 23rd July
Awoke this morning to find the ship had docked in Cologne, although due to low water levels the ship had been forced to dock further down the river than originally intended. Therefore complimentary shuttles were provided. We were informed that they would depart every 30 minutes (for the next few hours) and that they would drop us off beside Cologne Cathedral. The last bus would be heading back to the ship at 1pm.
We decided to have breakfast onboard before jumping on the 9.30 am bus (the last one). Upon arriving in Cologne the group split up and headed off in different directions, some looking to browse a few shops, some looking for a bar and some looking to see some sights. I (somewhat regrettably, for reasons that will soon become clear) decided to join Brooke, Rayleigh and a few others as they climbed aboard a small train that transported you from the cathedral to the zoo.
We were kindly (or unkindly, depending on how you look at it) informed by the driver that our train ticket would allow us to ride the cable car for a discounted price, a piece of information that greatly pleased my companions (Me? Not so much). We therefore disembarked the train and headed towards the Kölner Seilbahn. Opened in 1957 (a fact I am glad I did not know at the time!!) the cable car connects the two banks of the Rhine, from the zoo / botanical gardens to the exhibition sites in Rheinpark, transporting passengers a distance of 935 metres.
When we finally made it to the other side I was a complete wreck, so Brooke, who was wonderful throughout, suggested we go and find somewhere to sit and have a drink so that I could compose myself before we made the return journey. After walking through the park we found a small stand selling an assortment of milkshakes and when it came to my turn to order I decided I would try and do so in German. Unfortunately the man couldn’t understand me at all as I attempted to order a ‘shockolade milch’ and so I had to, somewhat sheepishly, revert back to English. We finished our milkshakes before walking back to the cable car so that we could return to the other side of the river.
In all seriousness, for those of you not afraid of heights, the cable car is a great way to move across the river and offers wonderful views of the city (if you don’t spend the majority of the journey with your eyes closed!). At only €6 for a return ticket, it really is great value for money.
We made our way back to the famous Cologne Cathedral and decided to take a quick look inside. (Sidebar: On our way into the cathedral I was stopped by somebody collecting signatures for some cause. I have no idea what the cause was as she didn’t speak English and, evidently, I can’t speak German). An imposing structure, the cathedral is the largest Gothic Church in Northern Europe and, rich in history, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.
For one reason or another we ended up missing the last bus back to the ship and we therefore had to travel by taxi. I did consider trying to converse with the driver in German but after the chocolate milkshake debacle I decided against it and, more importantly, I had no idea where the ship was docked. Brooke rang the ship and a crew member kindly explained the situation to the driver and provided him with directions to the ship.
The ship departed Cologne at 2.30pm and with an approx. arrival time of 1.00pm in Hoorn tomorrow afternoon, the best part of the next 24 hours was to be spent sailing. Not to worry, there was plenty to do onboard. As well as the gym (which I foolishly visited again) and massage room, there was an Apfelstrudel demonstration (and tasting) to attend.
Tonight was Captain’s night, a farewell cocktail party in the Panorama Lounge followed by a gala dinner. A wonderful evening during which the guests are introduced to the fabulous crew who have provided such high quality service throughout the cruise.
The food these past few days had been delightful but the gala dinner was spectacular:
Salmon Two Ways
A fantastic evening was finished with a few post-dinner drinks before retiring to bed in the early hours.
Monday 24th July
With the ship not due in Hoorn until this afternoon I took the opportunity to have a leisurely morning. After a short lie in I made my way down to the restaurant for a coffee and a bite to eat. Breakfast aboard the Amadeus fleet is served in two stages, a buffet breakfast in the restaurant served from 07.30 till 09.30 and a continental breakfast served in the panorama lounge from 07.30 till 10.30.
At 1.00pm the ship made a short stop in Hoorn to allow the excursion guests to disembark. We had been booked on the ‘North Holland and City Tour of Amsterdam Incl. Canal Trip’ excursion. After a short bus journey, the excursion began in the old fishing village of Volendam, built on the shore of the former Zuiderzee. After a stroll through the old village we reboarded the bus and drove out into the countryside to visit a local cheese farm.
The Henri Willig cheese farm has been producing traditional cheeses for over 40 years and now exports its products to over 30 countries around the world. Whilst here we learnt how Dutch cheese is made and enjoyed a few samples (and by a few I mean lots and lots and lots of samples. At this point I think I was more cheese than man!).
After another short drive we found ourselves in Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, where our tour would end with a canal cruise boat trip, arguably the best way of experiencing this historic and culturally rich city.
After a day full of exploration it was back to the ship (that had now docked in Amsterdam) for a quick freshen up before our last dinner onboard. After stuffing my face with cheese earlier I wasn’t particularly hungry and so I opted for just three courses this evening!
The ship would be docked in Amsterdam this evening and so after dinner the whole group decided to wander into the city centre for a few drinks.
Tuesday 25th July
Up early (7.00 am) for a final breakfast onboard ship, which, after a night in Amsterdam, included copious amounts of coffee. After drinking as much coffee as is humanely possible I returned to my cabin to pack away a few final items before heading to reception to settle my bar bill. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my bar bill came to a reasonable €69, not bad considering I had spent the past four nights drinking cocktails.
After everyone had settled their bar bills and checked out, the group set off towards the train station. If any of you have been on a river cruise that started or ended in Amsterdam you may have noticed that Amsterdam Centraal Station is conveniently located a mere 5 minute walk away from where the river cruise ships are docked. A train ticket to Schipol Airport costs €5.40 and takes around 17 minutes. The trains really are a very cheap and easy way of travelling between the city centre and the airport.
After saying goodbye to the few members of the group travelling on different flights, the majority of us made our way to check in before joining the back of the longest security queue I have ever seen. The only place I have experienced longer queues is Disneyland!! (Not that I did much queueing there, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to learn that I am not the biggest fan of rollercoasters!!)
After finally making it through security and into the departure lounge a few of us decided to head to McDonald’s. We used a couple of self-service machines to order and, unfortunately, the one I had chosen was currently set to German. Still, I soldiered on and managed to order some chicken nuggets and a large coke. I may not be able to speak German but it seems that I can read it. Granted the pictures helped but after my previous failures I’m counting it as a win!
Afterwards we made our way towards the gate, our flight was currently showing as being delayed but we figured if we were going to sit and wait somewhere it might as well be at the gate. An hour after the scheduled take-off time our plane finally arrived at the gate and honestly when I first saw it the following thoughts went through my mind –
“That’s not a real plane!”
“Where’s the rest of it?”
“Seriously is that a toy?”
“Oh my god, are those propellers?!”
“Why does it have propellers?!”
Once again the flight went about as well as could be expected. After making our way through passport control (and a much shorter queue than the one we endured in Schipol) we collected our luggage and said our goodbyes.
After a couple more train journeys I finally made it home at around 10.30pm. I was shattered, and a little traumatised, but it was worth it. I had had a wonderful time (for the most part) aboard the Amadeus Silver and I wouldn’t hesitate to sail with Amadeus again, I’d just make sure the itinerary didn’t include Cologne!!