Ama Viola Tulip Cruise
I am unable to get Cruise Critics to add this ship to the list so I can write a review. So I'm posting a rough draft here
AmaViola - April 20 to April 28, 2016. A new ship - this was her first cruise
My husband (Bob - age 80) and I (age 78 and mobility impaired) have been on 14 previous cruises together and I've also been on six cruises with my grandchildren. We've been on most of the mass market lines (in alphabetical order Carnival, Celebrity, HAL, Princess, NCL and RCCL) We have also cruised on our own boat and rented a canal boat that we cruised on in England. This was a wonderful cruise which had a few problems. Only one of those problems was attributable to the cruise itself.
One problem was my expectation for the cruise. I thought we would be traveling along rivers and canals and through locks so that we could view the passing scenery from our cabin, and then we could get off in towns and cities and either take excursions or wander around on our own. Unfortunately most of the traveling was done at night in order to maximize the time in port (which is good), and most of the excursions were walking tours. Even the 'gentle' walking tours had quite a lot of walking. The pace was exhausting because so much was packed into each day.
A second problem which was totally out of anyone's control was the weather. We had a few sunny (although cold and windy) days, but most days there was some rain, and there was also sleet, hail and snow. The temperature was rarely above 50 degrees F. and it felt colder because of the constant wind.
The one problem that was a ship problem was rescheduling of the ports. I particularly wanted to visit Volendam for an extended period of time (as it was originally on the schedule) and instead we went to Hoorn and our tour got to Volendam so late that the stores were closing and we were only there for a short period. I also thought we would be able to get off the ship in Kinderdijk but instead we had to take a bus to it.
The ship itself was beautiful. There was a lovely lounge with a lot of windows - you could look out over the bow from there. They also had iced tea and water and something to eat there almost all the time, plus games and books. There was also a bar where you could get drinks. There were fresh flowers everywhere including in the dining room. You could sit wherever you wanted in the dining room. There were set times for the meals and you were asked not to come in during the last half hour.
The elevator went from the third deck down to the dining room. It did not go to the top deck where the pool was, and there were some rooms on the lowest level that you had to go down stairs.
The service was great - the dining room personnel would remember what you wanted to drink and bring it without asking. A problem for me was that breakfast and lunch were partly buffet, and I just cannot do a buffet very well on the scooter, and I can't stand there long enough to get food without the scooter-my back is too painful. So I either ordered from the menu or Bob got me something from the buffet. They had a very decadent chocolate buffet, and Bob got me a plate of chocolate - I ate too much chocolate. Our room was kept very clean. Everyone was very helpful and cheerful.
Wine was included with dinner, but since we do not drink, this was not a benefit that we could take advantage of.
Travel to the port - I have been to Amsterdam twice before. Once in 1950 and once in 2009. So I did not expect to do much before embarkation. We landed the day before the cruise, so there were no people from AmaWaterways in the airport, but we didn't expect any. City Airport Taxis picked us up and took us to the hotel for 38 Euros.
Hotel - We stayed in the Movenpick and it is a nice hotel, and we had a nice handicapped room, but it is very expensive and while it is very close to the cruise docks, it is too far by land for us to get from one place to the other on foot with our luggage. So we had to take a taxi which was 8 Euros. The hotel also had a buffet breakfast which was MEGA expensive - $25.25 EACH for breakfast. Totally not worth it.
I had some things I would have liked to do in Amsterdam, but I ended up not doing any of them. The Marine Museum was closed for some function, and Bob was tired so on April 20th, all we did was check into the hotel and go and see where the ship was moored.
Embarkation was very easy (after we got the taxi from the hotel). We unloaded our suitcases from the taxi and they were taken to our room. We were earlier than the 3:00 embarkation, but they had pea soup and sandwiches so that we could have lunch. Since this was the maiden cruise for this ship, there were no outgoing passengers, and we could go back to the room and unpack.
Ports and Shore Excursions:
The first day we were to take a canal boat tour of Amsterdam. I wanted for Bob to see some of the city. When I was here in 2009, I took the Hop-on-Hop-off canal boat tour and it was great. The tour we had from Ama was not as good - I was disappointed in it.
Then we cruised to Hoorn (instead of Volendam) and had either a walking tour of Hoorn, or a bus to have a walking tour of Edam and Volendam.
BIG PROBLEM - we were rafted between AmaStella (outboard of us) and a Viking ship (on the dock) We could not just walk across the Viking ship because the decks did not match. So we had to walk up to the Sun Deck (the top deck), cross our Sun Deck, walk across the bridge to the top deck of the Viking ship and then walk down to the dock level. One of the ship crew, thinking he was helping took the scooter all the way to the dock. That meant I had not only to walk up the steps to the Sun Deck (would not be a problem) but walk along the deck, and across the two decks and up the other deck and down some stairs. At that point I said I knew that the Viking ship had an elevator, so I took that down to the dock.
I was disappointed in this tour because I would rather have skipped Edam and just gone to Volendam. There was a LOT of walking on these tours.
Day 3 - I picked the Het Loo Palace tour, and the weather was good and since I had to separate from the rest of the group to use the elevator, we went around the palace basically on our own. I would really recommend this tour. After that, we cruised to Nijmegen, but I did not take the trip up the steep hill into town. the folks that did reported that it was quite windy
Day 4 - Antwerp. I pick the tour to Ruben's house, but the weather was really bad today - it rained buckets and then sleeted and the wind blew everyone's umbrellas inside out. It was a long walk over cobblestones and bricks to get there and while the scooter managed, it was hard. I was allowed to do the studio of Ruben's house and the garden, on the scooter, but not the house itself. Which was not unexpected, so I was not unbearably surprised. I was however not feeling well (from the trip over - my back ached and I felt nauseated) and wanted to get a taxi back to the ship, so we left the group before they went to the Cathedral. Which was just as well because it was Sunday and they could not go into the Cathedral to see the Rubens paintings there - they had to stand outside in the cold and wind and rain and be told about them. I had intended to take a taxi to some locations I wished to see in Antwerp anyway - I just hadn't thought it would be that early.
Day 5 - The Captain decided that the weather in the North Sea would be too much for the ship, so we stayed in Terneuzen and did not cruise to Middleburg. We were still exhausted from the day before so we stayed in our cabin and did not go on any of the tours which were to Ghent and Bruges.
Day 6 - This morning we were in Willemstad, and for the first time, I had the opportunity to get out and roam around town on my own taking photos. I had a wonderful time. I did miss the organ concert that was the tour for this morning. When it started to rain, I went into a little shop and bought some souvenirs and then when it stopped I resumed roaming around town. I did miss seeing the church This was the day we were to have gone from Willemstad to Kinderdjik. Instead we went to Dordrecht and were to take a bus to Kinderdjik. Bob wasn't feeling well, and I'd been to Kinderdijk in 2009, so we decided not to go. The weather was apparently awful for those people that did go.
Day 7 - this was the day which we were to visit the tulip gardens - Keukenhof which was one of the main goals of the cruise for me. Goals were Amsterdam, Volendam, Antwerp, Kinderdjik, and Keukenhof. It was also Kings Day when everyone wears orange. We lucked out in that it rained fairly hard, but we were on the bus then (both going and coming) and was mostly sunny while we were in the gardens. It did rain one more time a little bit while we were in the gardens and we just went into one of the pavilions. We took a lot of photos of the tulips, and ordered some sent as gifts. We did not go to the village of Zaanse Schans because we were tired, and we had to pack.
Day 8 - Disembarkation. we had the latest time. We were to put our suitcases out about a half hour before our disembarkation time, and someone would take it down to the lobby (because the corridor is too narrow with everyone's bags in it. Then people shuttle the luggage down to a tent on street end of the pier. As your transportation gets there, you get your bags and you are off. Easy Peasy
The cabin was excellent - very comfortable. There was free internet on the TV and also many TV channels. The bow camera was the best I have ever seen and at night they used Infrared technology, so we could see even in the dark. There was a small fridge and a set-up to open wine bottles. There was a safe. There was an alarm clock and water on the nightstand. There were electric outlets for both Europe and US. There was a stool for me in the shower, and the was plenty of places to put things in the bathroom. There was a good sized closet with plenty of hangers. We could store our suitcases under the bed. After they took one of the chairs out, I could go in with the scooter and turn it around and park it to be charged, and most important, I could get in and out of the room on the scooter by myself because the door would stay open. The sliding windows were kept spotlessly clean so I could photograph the scenery through the window, or I could open the window and look out (although I didn't do that very often because it was cold outside). The bed was comfortable.