SAGA Amadeus Royal River Cruise Review
Recently I was lucky enough to win a SAGA river cruise with my Mum on board the Amadeus Royal, sailing from Amsterdam to Nuremburg. SAGA is an over 50’s cruise line so I was a little apprehensive of how I would be received on board – my Mum however couldn’t wait as it was her first time sailing on a river ship!
A short 1-hour flight from Manchester to Amsterdam and we were met by our SAGA rep at the arrivals gate, we had to wait around 20 minutes for all the other guests on other flights to arrive then we walked to our coach waiting outside the terminal.
The ship wasn’t ready to be boarded until 3pm so our bags we’re loaded on to the coach and we were treated to an unplanned tour of De Zaanse Schans. It’s a small area in the Dutch town of Zaandam (about 25 minutes outside of Amsterdam). It looks like an 18th/19th century village with wooden houses and rows of traditional windmills. We had around an hour here, just enough time for a snack and a drink before we boarded the coach to the ship.
Checking in was a fairly simple process, David the SAGA cruise director, introduced himself on the coach before we were invited to board the ship to have tea & coffee in the lounge whilst our bags were loaded on board and placed in our cabins. Once this was complete, we collected the keys to the cabins and went to unpack.
We were treated to an A grade French Balcony Stateroom. Being quite a small river ship the cabins aren’t huge, but they are more than adequate. Room for your suitcases under the beds, a table and chairs by the sliding French Balcony doors, sliding wardrobe doors by the main cabin door with plenty of room and bathroom with shower opposite.
I took myself for a quick look around the ship whilst my mum unpacked. On the lower deck there was a small gym which consisted of a rowing machine and 2 exercise bikes facing out of a porthole window. A great view to work out to! Next door was a massage room which carried a supplement.
The middle deck was home to the bar & lounge at the front of the ship and the Amadeus Club where you are welcome to tea & coffee at all times. There is also a selection of board games and books for you to enjoy.
At the back of the ship is the restaurant where we would have our buffet breakfast, 3-course lunch & evening meals.
There is plenty of room to relax on top deck with tables & chairs under a light cover and deck chairs around the perimeter. There is a small plunge pool behind the wheelhouse at the front of the ship (it was far too cold to venture in there though!) And there was a giant chess board at the rear.
Evenings on board consisted of a 3-course meal with wine, beer and soft drinks included. We were sat on a table for 6 with 2 other lovely couples. We were told that should we make friends then we were more than welcome to move, we just had to inform our waiter.
And now to my favourite part… the food! WOW what can I say, being one of the older ships in the Amadeus fleet I thought the food and service may reflect this. How wrong I was. The friendly waiters and waitresses delivered the most incredible 3-course meals night after night! Salads, chicken, beef, soups, vegetarian options… we were spoilt for choice. One thing is for sure, you will never go hungry on board!
After the evening meals we headed to the lounge for some entertainment with the SAGA entertainment host, Michael. A real nice guy, happy to chat and have a laugh with the guests. There was a real mix of entertainment from local musicians to quizzes and talent shows! And each night the lounge was full with everyone enjoying themselves and chatting over a wine or two. Again, not what I expected a SAGA cruise to be like!
PORTS OF CALL
Excursions are not included on a SAGA/Amadeus cruise which is great if you like to do your own thing and head into town. It also keeps the initial cost of the cruise quite low. The ships are usually docked quite close to the centres so you will find they are only a short walk away. You can book on to any excursion and there are discounts available if you book multiple tours. My recommendation would be to book them as soon as you can as they are capacity controlled so if not many people sign up the tour may be cancelled.
The first day we were in Amsterdam and we had friends visiting for a birthday, so we strolled into town which was about a 15-minute walk and met them for a beer. The town was preparing for the famous Kings Day so everywhere was decorated with orange, blue and white balloons! Other guests chose to book on to the Amsterdam walking tour but having been before we decided against this.
Cologne was up next, and this is one of my favourite German towns. We chose to do our own thing again as I’d been before, so we headed along the river front to the bars and restaurants and sat to watch the world go by.
We had 2 towns to visit on day 4. The first being Koblenz (the German Corner or Deutsches Eck). As it was a Sunday it was very quiet, so I spent an hour in the gym before walking down the quayside to the headland where the Moselle joins the river Rhine. There is an enormous statue of Emperor William (the first German Emperor) right on the corner. There is also a cable car that runs from the corner right across the Rhine up to Ehrenbreitstein Fortress! It is 890m in length and is 112m high! We didn’t have enough time to get up to the fortress and back so we headed back to the ship ready to sail up the Rhine to Rüdesheim.
There is a real change in scenery along the river from Koblenz. Up to now it’s been quite flat and looked very industrial. But all that has changed as we sail between huge green hills. I now know why the Rhine is so famous for its castles and vineyards!
As we approach Rüdesheim we hand our keys in at reception and get our boarding cards to go ashore. As Rüdesheim is so famous for its wine, it would be rude of us not to book on the wine tasting tour. We are escorted by our host to a small road train that takes us up the hill to the town. Rüdesheim is a picturesque town with narrow, cobbled streets and traditional shops and bars. The tour takes about an hour-and-a-half and we are taken on a journey of how the grapes are grown and the different varieties. We get to taste 3 different types of wine with a pretzel in between to cleanse the pallet! The presenter was a very funny guy and was well fluent in English humour, I can definitely recommend this tour. At the end you are able to purchase the wine and they even offer to deliver it back to the ship for you!
Day 5 brought us to Miltenberg. It was a little overcast today, so we decided to book on to another tour. This time to Brauhaus Faust, the only remaining independent brewery in the city founded in 1654, which is right by where the ship is docked! We were shown through the whole process of how they make the beer and let me tell you, if you like a beer or 2, you won’t leave this tour sober!
Würzburg was our next stop on day 6. As the centre of town is up quite a steep hill SAGA offered to coach the guests up to Würzburg Residenz Palace which is right in the centre. I chose to walk as it was nice and sunny! We had a quick walk around town before heading to Alte Mainbrücke (Old Bridge) where you can enjoy a glass of local wine or beer surrounded by spectacular views of the river and Fortress Marienberg. Back on board we were informed that the sailing between Würzburg and Nuremberg passes through a stretch of river with very low bridges so whilst we were sailing the top deck would be shut.
The next day we visited Bamberg. It was German Labour Day which is a bank holiday. With Bamberg being a student town, the streets were filled to the brim with people partying and celebrating! It was a great atmosphere. Bamberg is another traditional town with cobbled streets and timber-framed houses. Right in the centre lies the old Town Hall situated on a bridge between the river, a spectacular sight. After enjoying a few drinks with the locals, it was back on board to enjoy the Captain's farewell dinner as we sailed overnight to Nuremberg.
After a glass of champagne in the lounge, the captain introduced all the crew who had worked tirelessly to make sure our experience was on not to forget. And after dinner we enjoyed the classic baked Alaska parade!
We were informed after dinner that there was a problem with the locks near to Nuremberg so there may be a delay in us getting there. We were kept up to date and informed later that we’d need to disembark 30 minutes earlier in the morning as we were being taken off at a port a few miles away from Nuremberg. This was no issue at all, and the coach was there as promised to take us all back to the airport.