My visit to Amadeus Silver II started at the red and white Meeting Point in the Arrivals Hall of Amsterdam Schipol Airport. 25 minutes later I was at the Veemkade docking point (near to the Movenpick Hotel in the middle of Amsterdam) and boarding my river ship, home for the next 2 nights.
Amadeus Silver II (built in 2015 and christened in Holland by Corina Luftner) has an unimposing dark green hull which is constantly being painted (even by the Captain himself). Once on board, the crew’s pride in their vessel is even more obvious and reflected in the good humoured camaraderie and feeling of family that is extended to, and envelops, guests as well.
Like the other Silver Class ships in the European Amadeus fleet, Amadeus Silver II is tranquilly contemporary in both design and colour scheme. Upon boarding, your eyes are immediately drawn towards the signature 5 suspended silver balls in the large Reception area and then to the deep magenta, shades of purple and the silver tones of the décor which is found throughout the ship. The colour scheme is even carried through to the waiter’s daytime waistcoats – dark lilac with beige trimmings, which are changed for a more formal and very smart black wear for serving at the Gala Dinners. In comparison, Amadeus Silver III is decked out in blue and yellow hues.
The Silver Class ships, being the newest in the Amadeus fleet (prior to the launch of Amadeus Provence this year and Amadeus Queen in 2018), do have some technological advances and some thoughtful touches in the form of walk in wardrobes (often mistaken for the bathroom, prior to complete cabin orientation!) French balcony cabins with drop down panoramic windows, an outdoor glass shielded River Terrace at the bow of the ship (useful for scenic cruising in inclement weather) and Café Vienna, just outside the Panorama Bar and Lounge. This is an extra seating area offering speciality coffees, at an additional cost, complimentary cookies and newspapers. As well as a space to chat and enjoy the scenery, it is based on Vienna Coffee Houses and a nice touch, acknowledging the Austrian roots of the Luftner family, the owners of the Amadeus fleet for the past 40 years.
All Amadeus European river ships have 4 decks and for ease of transfer across the brand, all the decks are named the same: Haydn (lower, deck 1), Strauss (middle, deck 2), Mozart (upper, deck 3) and the Sun deck. The Silver Class ships are 135m in length, whilst all the others measure 110m. Silver II & III can carry 168 passengers each, in slightly larger cabins and suites, whilst Silver I carries 180 passengers. This trend towards a more upmarket model also offers greater space in the public areas as well. The restaurant in particular is arranged so that you don’t feel as though fellow diners on adjacent tables are particularly close to you.
My cabin was a Mozart deck French balcony cabin and a very comfortable 188 sq ft. All the beds on the ship are of the ‘german’ style: two single beds pushed together with individual mattresses and separate duvets (so at least there is no fighting over who pinches all the bedclothes each night!) The grey mosaic effect tiled bathroom is a good size, complete with toiletries, glass shower door and two shower heads at different heights. As mentioned above, a most welcome improvement to the cabins are the large walk in wardrobes with ample space for hanging clothes (but not tall enough for long frocks), as well as six shelves, a safe, hair dryer and shoe cleaning glove.
The main body of the cabin houses a small table and two chairs, in front of the drop down panoramic windows (great for leaning out of to get a better view and a bonus for amateur photographers as it does away with the glass glare you can get on some pictures), a well stocked mini bar and 4 sets of 220V plugs (an absolute re charging necessity with complimentary wifi available on board). There is also a wall mounted flat screen TV offering up to 15 TV and 2 DVD channels.
Twelve suites sit midships on Mozart deck. They are 284 sq ft in size with the addition of an IKEAesque corner sofa as well as a small, walk out (just about) exterior balcony and a pink pouffe. The cabins on the lower (Haydn) deck are slightly smaller at 172 sq ft and have half height, non opening windows. The bathrooms and walk in wardrobes are also a little bit smaller and there is no mini bar, but the clever use of mirrors offers more light in these lower cabins than in similar cabins on other river cruise ships.
Although they may be a little cosy for two people (in comparison to cabins on higher decks), they are an ideal choice for single passengers (sometimes attracting no single supplement) and as I found – apart from the desire to sit and play with my windows for a bit – I really wanted to be out and about taking in the ship’s ambience and going ashore, not spending heaps of time in my cabin. Each cabin also has its own individual thermostat.
On Amadeus Silver III some of the cabins on the Haydn deck are interconnecting: the walk in wardrobes becoming walk through wardrobes, which are a useful additional for multigenerational family cruising.
The Sun deck has plenty of lounge chairs (complete with warm blue blankets when I was on board), as well as an oversized chessboard, a shuffleboard and in good weather the pop up Lido Bar. There are canopies available for shade and space for al fresco drinks parties and meals.
The majority of the public areas are on the middle two decks, so it is also worth mentioning the Hair Salon (near the Amadeus Club) on the Mozart deck and the Fitness Centre (complete with bikes and other cardio machines, free weights and a pilates ball) and Massage Room on Haydn deck. There is an unobtrusive lift that links the 3 cabin decks, but does not reach the Sun deck. However, the interior staircases are built in such a way that there is plenty of space to go up and down and their shape and width makes them appear to be less steep than some stairs on other river cruise ships.
The three main public rooms on Amadeus Silver II are the Panorama Bar and Lounge (forward on Mozart deck), the Panorama Restaurant (a deck below the Lounge) and the Amadeus Club (aft on Mozart deck). Socially and culinarily they are the soul of the ship. The Lounge and Bar has large panoramic windows and a selection of seating arrangements, providing space for small groups, larger groups and even quiet areas just for couples.
Although wine, beer and soft drinks are complimentary with lunch and dinner, the Bar Staff very quickly came to know everyone’s favourite non mealtime tipple. An Early Riser’s breakfast of drinks and pastries is served here, as well as afternoon tea, a small midnight buffet and a light lunch option, including soup, sandwich choices and other snacks. The Amadeus Club offers a quiet haven at the back of the ship. Again, there are 270 degree views from the windows, as well as a 24 hour tea and coffee station with a wide selection of different teas and coffees, a small library and a selection of games.
The Panorama Restaurant is the main restaurant on board: Breakfast is buffet style with a wide selection ranging from varieties of fruit juices, fresh, tinned and dried fruit, cereals and yogurt to continental cheeses, smoked fish and other cold cuts. Hot dishes include bacon, hash browns, sausages, scrambled eggs, pancakes and waffles, as well as omelettes and eggs Benedict, cooked to order. There is toast, croissants, ham and cheese stuffed savoury rolls, doughnuts and other pastries to round the meal off.
Lunch comprises a buffet soup and salad bar, followed by a waiter served main course (choice of 3 dishes including a vegetarian option) and dessert. I started with a Greek salad, whilst others plumped for a delicious cabbage soup and followed it up with melt in the mouth Traditional Tafelspitz (boiled beef in a horseradish sauce) and the most beautifully presented Dutch Apple Pie I have ever seen. Amadeus pay great attention to every detail of their river cruise operation and there is no better example of this to guests, than in the detail, presentation and quality of the food they serve up. Dishes reflect the company’s Austrian roots as well as drawing from the regions through which the ships sail. This is also true of the wines offered with meals. Whilst I would personally tend to choose New World red wines, the Austrian Blauer Zwegelt, I drank with lunch was really good.
Dinner starts typically at 7pm and in a single sitting. It is a 5 course gourmet meal, lasting several hours. It may be a leisurely affair, but the table service is attentive and efficient and if there had been cloches, these would all have been removed from plates in synchronicity – timing rarely seen even in upmarket land based restaurants these days. Most tables will seat 4-6 people, but should you wish to dine just for two, this can be catered for by the Maître D. Tables are usually assigned for the whole cruise with the option of moving around should you wish. There is a small curtained off area in the Panorama Lounge that is available for alternative dining, upon request. Here it is possible to create your own menu, in collaboration with the Executive Chef and at a small surcharge.
Each dinner in the Panorama Restaurant includes a salad course, soup, a hot appetizer, main course and dessert. Additionally I was also served a lovely apple sorbet/palate cleanser, complete with a tot of alcohol. Whereas I was only on board for 2 nights, it is possible to opt for healthier options, should you be cruising for longer – there is always grilled chicken and salad available at each meal as well as burger options at lunchtime and all listed on the menu. This is a work of art in itself as it also comes fully ‘keyed’ up to identify ingredients for a wide range of different allergy sufferers (in the region of 12 dietary allergens are considered). There are about 10 kitchen staff ranging from a washer up, through the pastry and sous chef stations to the excellent Executive Chef and they did themselves proud on my short cruise.
The main entertainment on river cruise ships are the shore excursions. Whilst on board there may be cultural lectures, cooking demonstrations (unfortunately I missed the one on Apple Strudel), a resident musician and visits by local singers, dancers and musicians. Amadeus are one of only a few river cruise lines, not including shore excursions in the cost of their cruise. Nevertheless they do offer a wide range of excursions, but allow guests the facility to just relax, do their own thing ashore or go on guided tours.
Guests can book one of three excursion packages in advance at a preferential rate, ranging from a package including a few selected highlights up to one offering two excursions each day. Individual tours can also be booked whilst on the cruise at the standard price. All the shore excursions are listed in the ‘Arrive and Discover’ pamphlet within the main river cruise brochure which gives information on duration, walking grade and cost. Independent travellers can gather information from the ship and also borrow one of the ships complimentary bikes.
During my time on board, I took a canal trip in Amsterdam and visited Hoorn. When I am cruising I deliberately stay away from any other mode of transport that requires me to journey over or in water, so a canal boat, would not have been my first choice. However, it is a great way to see Amsterdam and get a brief feel for local life and the layout of the city. Who knew that Central Station is built upon 7,000 wooden pillars? We also cruised past some very desirable residences in the form of house boats, that made British canal boats and barges look positively minute, as well as Anne Frank’s house, the KattenKabinet (a museum dedicated to everything to do with cats) and the Tassen Museum (the Museum of Bags and Purses) set in a traditional canal house.
In contrast, Hoorn is a small town in North Holland, on the banks of the Ijsselmeer. The harbour has the Hoofdtoren, a picturesque 16th-century tower at its entrance and walking past this you reach the Rode Steen (Main Square) in a largely 17th century town centre. Hoorn has several claims to fame: being the home base for the Dutch East India Company, as well as the home town of Jan Pieterszoon Coen famed for his violent raids on the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). Apparently he went through a period of disgrace, before redeeming himself – perhaps with the founding of Batavia (now known as Jakarta) – as he has a large statue in Rode Steen Square, in his memory. Cape Horn, the most southerly point of South America, was also named after the town by Willem Schouten, who rounded it in 1616.
It was nice to sit at an outside café in the Rode Steen, with a beer, on a Sunday afternoon, surrounded by the locals, all doing the same thing. There was a duo playing guitars and singing, a BBQ was underway, friends and families were out in the warm sunshine socialising and people were cycling about on bikes. This surely epitomises the true essence of European river cruising and an aspect you won’t find on an organised shore excursion. Like Pavlov’s dogs, we ultimately dragged ourselves away and back to Amadeus Silver II for another splendid dinner.
Amadeus currently operates a fleet of 10 ships on European rivers including the Danube, Rhone, Saone, Rhine, Main, Moselle, Seine, Dutch and Belgian Waterways. The Amadeus Provence will be the first Amadeus ship to include a swimming pool and will sail on the Rhone this year. Amadeus Queen, to be launched in 2018 will have a multi-functional pool area at the aft of the ship. Amadeus also charter ships sailing on the Ganges (India), the Irrawaddy (Myamnar), the Mekong (Vietnam & Cambodia) and the Amazon (Peru).
Eco friendly guests should also know that Amadeus is the only river cruise line in Europe to hold a "Green Globe" certification for sustainable travel. This requires the company to demonstrate energy and water saving measures, as well as ecological awareness in daily routines.
The standard of the food and service on Amadeus Silver II was the highlight of my 2 days on board and the cruise line prides itself on providing this same level of both service and food across the whole of its fleet. Amadeus ships may not be the most luxurious on European rivers and they cannot all boast unique features like infinity pools and cinemas, but for ‘foodies’ and others who appreciate fine food in a refined, yet unpretentious and friendly atmosphere, with efficient, attentive service, they are an excellent choice for a river cruise.