Published on February 5th, 2013 | by Ann Rickard0
Travel – Dream cruise a reality
The temperature is climbing steadily towards 35C but it’s deliciously cool on board the ms Amadolce. We’re in the German town of Trier, just embarked on this new river ship and we like what we see.
The maitre’d has welcomed us with cold towels before ushering us gently into the luxurious lounge where the temperature is fresh and the welcome is warm. The crew fuss over us: “Sit down, some iced tea, sandwiches?’’
This is good. The ship isn’t due to depart for another 12 hours but already we’re being encouraged to eat and drink.
The Amadolce is one of APT’s river ships. She’s long and sleek and very pretty.
The elegant lounge where we sip iced tea and nibble mini smoked salmon rolls, has surround floor-to-ceiling windows. Outside the river banks are dotted with charismatic houses and charming church spires backed by verdant hills. It’s so scenic we’re not sure we want to sail off.
But there are many pretty towns awaiting us along the river. We can’t quite pronounced their names yet – Bernkastel, Cochem, Koblenz, Rudesheim, Mainz (got that one), Frankfurt (familiar with that one), Miltenberg, Wertheim, Wurzburg, Rothenburg and Bamberg – but we’ll work on that.
We’re going to sail the Mosel, Rhine and Main Rivers. We’re excited.
So too are the Americans and Canadians when they pile on board later in the afternoon. And the Australians, and the smattering of Europeans.
River cruising is becoming as popular as ocean cruising and with APT launching more new ships next year offering deluxe facilities, unparalleled comfort and high-tech operations, it’s only going to get better.
Amadolce’s facilities are spanking new and super-luxurious – from the deluxe lounge and stylish dining room to the restful library nooks and carpeted alleyways. Cabins are spacious with good-sized bathrooms (quality toiletries), oodles of cupboards, internet and television and French balconies. It’s tempting just to open the sliding doors, sit in one of the lounge chairs, sip your welcome complimentary champagne, and let the glory of the rivers just glide by.
But up on the sundeck the views are even more splendid and there are plenty of sunlounges beneath protective shade. (There is also a walking track around the deck – we might give that a go later.) (There are bicycles too, to ride between villages – doubt we’ll get to them.)
Sailing the Mosel River flanked by lush vine-covered slopes ascending dramatically to a clear hot sky becomes a highlight among all my many travel experiences. The abundant green vines, the 16th century houses, the quaint streets and churches all come straight from a fairy tale. Add to that the thoughtful ministrations of the attentive crew – ferrying champagne and ice-cream up to us on deck as we glide serenely by majestic castles – and you have quite the dreamy situation.
In the pretty village of Cochem, we stroll the old town, sip a cold beer in one of the delightful cafes, then hop back on board to cruise through the most famous river valley in the world – the Rhine Gorge. Up on deck for this most scenic of all the river stretches, we cruise past more than 30 castles while Cruise Director Maddy commentates and those obliging crew members bring up just-out-of-the-oven cookies. We decide it can’t get any better than this.
In the evening it does.
We arrive in Ruedesheim and take a mini train through the attractive town to the Siegfried’s Museum on the top of the hill, then walk back through the Drosselgasse, a narrow alley lined with cafes and taverns, where we join the locals in some rousing singsong.
Each day brings another magical village, more Hansel and Gretel houses, further luxuriant landscape.
With the ship docking right in the centre of each town, walking tours are more than enough to capture the quintessence of Germany’s heartland.
And with the temperature still on the rise, there is always that moment of bliss back on board to sink into a comfortable chair in the cool lounge and allow the crew to dance yet more attention on us.
Then there is the eating. So much of it. Each meal is an extravagant feast – from eggs benedict and seductive pastries in the mornings, to innovative salads and pastas at lunch, to dainty cucumber sandwiches in the afternoon. Dinner is never less than five gourmet courses, often beginning with foie gras and ending in silky chocolate dessert, all presented by gracious waiters flourishing endless bottles of regional wines.
And after dinner – the dancing.
With musician Kiril playing the keys and the Americans sashaying around the dance floor, we enjoy a nightcap and reach for a nearby hand-made chocolate before bedtime.
At the end of seven days we disembark in Bamberg to bus to Nuremberg. We have sailed 742 kilometres, traversed 50 lochs, visited 14 towns, glided through some of Europe’s most gorgeous countryside and had an onboard experience we never imagined could be so comprehensively wonderful.
Ann Rickard was a guest on board ms. Amadolce
If you go:
APT’s state-of-the-art river ships are the most luxurious and innovative in Europe. They feature more space per guest than any vessel of their kind, boast the largest set of suites on the waterways and also offer the widest range of exclusive public areas.
In 2011, APT will operate eight luxurious ships: ms Amaverde (to be christened in 2011), ms Amabella, ms Amadolce, ms Amalyra, ms Amadante, ms Amacello, ms Amalegro and ms Amadagio.
Ship sizes vary from 110m to 135m and accommodate between 148 to 162 passengers.
APT river cruises offer fully inclusive pricing. From port charges to airport transfers; gratuities to onboard entertainment; gourmet meals to wine with dinner; small group shore excursions to signature experiences and more.
Further information on 1300 229 804, visit www.aptouring.com.au or contact your local travel agent