In December, I took a wonderful FAM trip river cruising down the Rhine from Basel to Amsterdam onboard AMA Waterways ship, the AMA Serena. At first a little leery about cruising, as I am not fond of being around that many people, but once on board this small ship with less than 200 passengers and crew, I had an absolutely wonderful experience. Deep rooted in holiday traditions, these cruises take place during the most festive time of the year in Europe. These river cruises are so unique and are a perfect option for incentive travel. Here are my top reasons why.
From the wonderful steamy glühwein while at the Cologne Christmas Market located in front of its UNESCOdesignated Gothic cathedral to the "Capital of Noël," Strasbourg, the oldest and largest Christmas Market in France, to the world’s largest Advent calendar in Gengenbach, with its brightly lit windows of the neoclassical town hall open and behind each one is a picture by a famous artist, such as Andy Warhol, guests will marvel at the quaintness of each market.
Unlike most large cruises, there was not a set time or seating for meals, especially for dinner. Guests can choose from the multi-course selection or choose a la carte from the menu and partake any time in the evening. Each night, a certain number of guests can join the chef for a wonderful 8-course dinner in the private dining space. The food and service are impeccable, and the staff is well trained in learning early on guest’s culinary desires.
Every night and some afternoons, there is entertainment on board the ship. A talented pianist entertains while the guests imbibe on unique drinks created by the bartenders. Tree and cookie decorating are fun ways to pass the evening and get to know other guests on board. Custom activities can be designed for any required meetings or teambuilding.
One the best features of these cruises, are the optional tours. For instance, the Schloss Johannisberg bike tour or vineyard hike and the huge favorite, Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Museum. Located in Rüdesheim, this museum houses hundreds of mechanical devices, dating back centuries. Afterwards, tasting one of the town’s special delights, Rüdesheimer coffee, is the other must. Visit the enchanting Alsatian town of Riquewihr, beautifully dressed in her holiday finery with twinkling decorations and a lively town, which was the inspiration for Belle from Beauty and the Beast’s hometown. Strasbourg is even more alluring during the season of Advent, where guests will find the Cathédrale de Nôtre Dame with its famous astronomical clock.
Perhaps the best feature of these cruises is the ability to unpack only once. Most of the traveling across the river is over night and each morning guests awake in a different city. Each of these particular types of ships have views of the river and very large accommodations, especially and surprisingly, the washrooms.