Of the four major lines providing river cruises in Europe, we picked Uniworld and we are happy to report that it was a great experience. Well, excluding the weather, it was a great experience.
In hindsight, I am not sure kind of weather what I was expecting, but high temperatures in the 50s and rain was not in my personal forecast. I didn’t need the shorts or sandals that I carried, but I did need the jacket that I didn’t pack. Fortunately, I did pack a sweater, a poncho, and an umbrella. Lesson learned: skip the warm weather gear and take a jacket! Like London, Amsterdam can be cool and damp in the spring.
Like all international flights, our trip from the middle of the US was long and tiring. We purchased “economy plus” seats from United, but those seats were bulkhead: no real room to stretch out and no place to store anything you wanted to use on the flight. Bummer… The “extra room” was not worth the $200 it cost for the “upgrade” on the overnight flight.We arrived in Amsterdam at 9AM the next day. It was a quick ride to the hotel thru old Amsterdam from the airport – the taxi charge was 40 Euro. Once at the hotel, we discovered that our room would not be ready until 2PM. Therefore, we left our luggage in storage and took a long walk thru the streets and canals of Amsterdam. It’s a very beautiful city! We did find the flower market and the flea market.
We had two extra days in Amsterdam. We spent the time enjoying the city and walking near the canals. We did learn a few things about the city:· The little old lady on the bicycle will run over you
· Street parking near our hotel cost $38 Euro a day
· It’s still cold/windy in Amsterdam – not the type of weather that I expected
· Many things that are outlawed in the US are legal here, marijuana, prostitution...
· Public restrooms are not free
· Many Europeans come to Amsterdam on holiday, like Americans going to Las Vegas
· Easter is a two day holiday in Amsterdam: Sunday & Monday
· Many Europeans take vacation during Easter week
On Easter Sunday, we boarded the River Empress. It is an older ship/boat in the Uniworld fleet, but it is in excellent condition. With the “extra touches,” it’s easy to see why Uniworld is considered one of the top river cruise companies in Europe. The cabins on the ship are considered as 5 star accommodations.
Many of the tours on the ship are complementary. While in the Amsterdam area, we took a canal ride, visited the Van Gogh museum, went to Keukenhof, and visited an old restored Dutch town – with working windmills! If you are in Amsterdam in the spring, make the trip to Keukenhof Garden, www.keukenhof.nl. It’s a beautiful flower garden that is only open for six weeks in a year.
Additional photos of Amsterdam & Zaandam
|Amsterdam - 2012
|Zaandam - 2012