|View from glass-top canal boat tour|
With ocean cruising, the embarkation process can be rather long; understandable with the large numbers on board. With a river cruise, however, our ship carrying less than 200 passengers, it was more like checking into a hotel: no queues or hassle. We were given name badges which was a nice touch for the first evening though I noticed some passengers wore them religiously throughout the week. As this was a press trip for me, initially the company didn't know my husband's name so one had been randomly chosen for him when making the booking. Alfred. What a hoot! This was corrected once our paperwork was finalised but Emerald Star still had Alfred on the name badge. I was all for sticking with this for the duration but Dougie refused (spoilsport) and his badge was duly changed.
A spot of lunch, a nose around the ship and then our rooms were ready. Lots of oohs and aahs as, true to form, I inspected toiletries (Prija), examined the shower (Grohe) and checked out the channels on the TV (LG). Alfred unpacked.
After dinner we decided to explore the city. Expecting this to take some time to arrange, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that we only had to pick up a card from reception so they knew we had absconded. After a wonderful hour or so just wandering around Amsterdam on a warm, summer's evening, we returned to the ship, armed with our special code to let ourselves back in. For some reason the code wasn't working so Alfred and I (I promise I will revert to his proper name when the novelty wears off), along with a few other guests, had to bang on the door to attract a passing steward. What larks! I'm not sure whether our other new buddies, Campbell and Alison, were with us as we tried to break back into the ship but I suspect they were. Campbell, a retired businessman, originally from Glasgow (think Billy Connolly: same voice and sense of humour), had a lifetime of hilarious stories to share and together with his lovely Irish wife, he entertained us many times during the week. It brings a huge smile to my face when, writing this some months after our trip, I remember the fun and mischief we had with them.
The following morning after breakfast we experienced our first excursion: a canal boat tour of Amsterdam which was breathtaking at that time of day. A short bus tour followed before we were dropped off and given some free time to explore. The morning was very well-organised with just the right amount of useful information together with those wonderful stories you might not find in a guidebook e.g. the Tower of Tears, so named because it was the spot where wives said goodbye to their sailor husbands . We mooched through the floating flower market, revisited Begijnhof and generally made the most of the generous time allowed in Amsterdam: a real plus with this itinerary.
Sail away was at 12.30 and what better way to mark the occasion than with a dip in the pool at the aft of the ship. We waved goodbye to Amsterdam as we propped ourselves up on our elbows, splashing about in the water as Emerald Star pulled away from its berth to start its gentle journey upstream.
|One of the charming houseboats on the canals: perfect drying day!|
|Supported by wooden stilts, the 'Dancing Houses' wobble on the Kloveniersburgwal canal.|
Our Rhine Cruise was commissioned by Cruise International magazine. Dougie and I were guests of Emerald Waterways. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.