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I’m usually home for the holidays, but this year I took a cruise on the new Amadeus Silver II through France and Germany. Since it is such a long flight to Europe, I combined two back-to-back Amras cruises. My Rhine River cruise started in Basel on the French side and ended up in Cologne in Germany. In France, we visited Strasbourg. In Germany, it was Kehl, Mannheim, Speyer, Heidelberg, Rüdesheim, Koblenz, Mainz and Siebengebirge.
The first five-day cruise is called Advent on the Rhine. The next six-day cruise is Christmas on the Rhine. We visited quite a few Christmas Markets in beautiful towns along the Rhine River and enjoyed numerous excursions to learn more about the fascinating history of the places we visited.
Today we cruised The Romantic Rhine while sipping hot glühwein. The Amadeua Silver II’s sister, Amadeus Princess, cruises behind us.
At the delightful Christmas markets, Glühwein stands are scattered around. The traditional hot-spiced wine is common throughout the holidays and winter. A liberal translation of the name means “glow wine.” Easy to figure out that drinking enough of that powerful hot liquid would make anybody glow.
Glühwein is served in brightly colored mugs that are hard to resist. In fact, I adore the collectible mugs far more than the glühwein they contain. The mugs usually have a native scene or symbol on them, includes the name of the town and the year, and are not only beautiful but also serve a reusable purpose. To have glühwein served in one of the commemorative mugs, you pay a deposit for the mug and between 2 to 3 euros to have it refilled. You can return the mug to get your deposit back or keep it as a souvenir. It’s a great arrangement and it sure cuts down on disposable container waste. So far I have five mugs tucked into my luggage.
On Christmas Eve, we went to mass at a historic cathedral in Germany. After a mouthwatering Christmas Eve dinner aboard the ship, we walked from the ship dock at Speyer, Germany, down a beautiful long line of trees to Speyer Cathedral, which in 1030 when construction was started, was intended to be the biggest church in the western world. It has long ceased to have that honor but it is still the world’s largest surviving Romanesque church.
On Christmas Day, we visited a historic cathedral in France. After lunch we headed to Strasbourg, France. Presenting itself as the “Capital of Christmas,” Strasbourg is fittingly proud of its Christmas Market. In fact, it is the very first Christmas Market in Europe. The Christkindelsmärik (market of the infant Jesus) was first held in Strasbourg in 1570. Here, our English-speaking guide Juliette took us on a walking tour of Strasbourg, ending up at the amazing Strasbourg Cathedral.
Strasbourg Cathedral is so magnificent that it is hard to do it justice. One of my favorite tidbits is carved into the pulpit …an loveable puppy. He is small, made of marble and more than 500 years old. I learned the small puppy sculpture was created in honor of Jean Geiler de Kaysersberg who preached in Strasbourg accompanied by his dog. The little pup traveled everywhere with him, falling asleep below the pulpit during long-winded sermons. Petting the puppy is supposed to bring good luck.
Next, on a beautiful sunny winter day, three of us from the Amadeus Silver II took a walking tour of Cologne with Marcus, our English-speaking guide. One thing I really enjoy about river cruises is the ship’s ability to dock so close to towns and villages along the way. Many times, passengers can just stroll off the ship and take a short walk to the heart of the town. Our destination was the Cologne Cathedral — a sanctuary so huge it has room for more than 20,000 people and claims to house the remains of the three Magi who followed the star of Bethlehem to the stable where Jesus was born.
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Voyage Part Two: new itinerary, same ship, new dining companions.
Flying from Indianapolis to Europe is a hassle for a five-day cruise, so I added on a six-day cruise on Amadeaus Silver II. I would advise Americans to do that as well. If you are going to pay for a flight to Europe, you might as well make the cruise at least a week or longer. My first cruise flew by so fast; I felt I was just getting acquainted with the ship.
The ship décor is very appealing – light and open, stylish but simple. Floor-to-ceiling windows are everywhere with dominant colors of deep mauve and ivory. Lighting fixtures are sparkly crystal. Amadeus Silver II has one restaurant named simply The Restaurant serving international cuisine with an accent on Viennese, a large Panorama Bar where most activities take place, a small corner Café Vienna for relaxing coffee breaks, a bigger Amadeus Club room with a small library, and a glass-enclosed River Terrace that offers wonderful views of the river. The Sun Deck atop the ship is a great place for panoramic views of the river and scenery as the ship cruises, plus a Lido Bar, gigantic chess board and shuffleboard.
The main star of the cruise, in my opinion, is the river and the stops along the way. That is where the importance is placed on our cruise. Traveling to me should be both pleasurable and enlightening. I certainly had fun and learned quite a bit on my Amadeus Silver II adventure – the town where Johannes Gutenberg was born and invented the moveable type printing machine to produce books that would revolutionize the world; Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum filled with more than 350 ancient music machines in Rüdesheim; the meaning of the chalk writing on the massive wooden doors of the Basilica of St. Castor in Koblenz; learning the history of chocolate and tasting from the huge chocolate fountain at the Cologne Chocolate Museum as well as a tour of Farina House Museum in Cologne, Germany for the history of Eau de Cologne, just to name a few.
As my cruise had been arranged directly by Amras Cruises, all my excursions and important extras were included in the basic price. Other passengers had to pay for their excursions. I prefer the way Amras Cruises does it. It’s calming to board the ship and know that everything is included in the basic cruise price – all excursions, tours, transfers, taxes, WiFi, gratuities, and free-flowing wine, beer and soft drinks at lunch and dinner. All I had to do is sit back, relax and enjoy this beautiful part of the world.
At our last dinner aboard the Amadeus Silver II, two of my dining companions were already researching and choosing their next adventure with Amras Cruises. So when they asked me the big question: “Would you take an Amaras Cruise again on Amadeus Silver II, would you recommend it to others?” It was an easy answer…“For sure!” And that is the biggest compliment I can give any cruise experience.
By Jackie Sheckler Finch
Newspaper reporter, photographer and travel writer, Jackie has cruised on large and small vessels on numerous rivers and oceans.
To find out more about the cruises Jackie experienced and other journeys aboard our Amadeus Fleet of river vessels, visit amrascruises.com, email us at [email protected] or call 844-462-6727. Book any voyage with Amras Cruises for your client and receive a 15% agent commission.