A recent AmaWaterways riverboat trip captured the essence of travel; an interesting itinerary, beautiful scenery, historic landmarks, well-planned tours and wonderful surprises. Upon boarding and after a quick exploration of the boat, we happily settled into the leisurely rhythm of what I call river time.
River time refers to the ship’s pace as everything seems to slow down. There is time to read, relax and meet fellow passengers. It also affords panoramic photo opportunities along the waterway while transiting locks or gliding by pastoral scenes, villages and towns.
Our route was round trip from Paris to Normandy on the fabled Seine, France’s second longest river, which flows eastward toward the English Channel. Each day found us at a new destination where complimentary tours were offered.
Our favorite ports included two we could explore by bike: Rouen and Les Andelys. The ancient city of Rouen was home to Claude Monet and Gustave Flaubert and the site where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Picturesque Les Andelys is the location of Chateau-Gaillard, one of Richard the Lionheart’s castles.
In Giverny, we toured Monet’s home and spectacular gardens. We also visited a Degas exhibit in the world famous Impressionist Museum. Other excursions took us to a Calvados distillery in Normandy at the Chateau du Breuiland; Beauvron-En-Auge, considered by some to be the most beautiful village in France; and Van Gogh’s last home and gravesite at Auvers-sur-Oise.
Passengers are given a fact-filled destination guide that is a perfect trip companion. It detailed our route along the Seine, local history and lore, maps and even French phrases. Each day, the “Daily Cruiser” provided port information, weather updates and an hourly itinerary including evening entertainment. The breakfast and lunch buffets in the dining room offered extensive food choices (one could also order from a menu). Dinner featured local vineyards and cuisine. Complimentary wine, beer, soda, cappuccino and espresso were available with meals.
The ship has 75 comfortable cabins with plenty of storage space, in-room internet access, TV and panoramic windows. The staff is mainly Eastern European; well trained and friendly. The cruise manager — part concierge, part social director — was extraordinarily helpful. Powering the boat is a Cummings V-8, 1150 HP diesel engine.
One of the challenges traveling on European rivers is that water conditions can affect the schedule. Although that happened with us (high water from recent rains made it impossible to pass under some bridges), AmaWaterways made extraordinary efforts to keep its passenger safe and informed. It’s never the problem, but how it’s handled… they score an A+. For cruise information, logon to www.amawaterways.com or call 1-800-626-2915.
Pack light, include a spare pair of glasses and use a credit card that doesn’t charge for ATMs or currency exchanges. My Pop Top Carry-On (www.eaglecreek.com) eliminated unwelcome airline luggage fees. A couple of trips pay for the product. Teva’s Wander Lace (www.teva.com) is a comfortable walking shoe and ideal for the ship’s casual dress code. Teko’s stylish eco-performance sports socks (www.tekoforlife.com) are favorites of mine. Headwear? Go with Scottevest’s TEC cap, (www.scottevest.com); great fit, plus two secret pockets for Euros, ID or cabin key.
Safe travels and enjoy the journey….