River cruising in Europe has become ridiculously popular (PBS fans, I’m talking to you!); on the day of our canal cruise (Sunday), there were no fewer than 8 ships docked in Amsterdam – all heavy with passengers and all heading in the same direction (well, there’s really only one choice). The River Empress, one of Uniworld‘s lovely boutique ships, wisely departs on a Wednesday – avoiding the crowds not only in Amsterdam but at many other stops along the way. After four days of exploring the canals and cobbled streets in Amsterdam, we made our way to the docks, found our floating home and boarded in high spirits (and not just because of the legalized ‘air’ in Amsterdam!)
With a minimum of fuss, our bags were whisked away, our empty hands were filled with champagne flutes and we were shown to our stateroom. Here’s what we found: (definitely enough room to swing a cat, if you’re so inclined – but then, if you do, you and I are no longer friends)
The ship was elegant throughout:
At promptly 4 PM, the River Empress set sail on calm waters. Against gray skies. A theme that will repeat itself in the coming days.
As we cruised along in the extended daylight, we saw scenes along the canal (we weren’t yet on the Rhine river) like this one:
Now that you’re back, here’s a photo of the REAL canal-side scenery from our first hours onboard (note: not a windmill in sight. Lots of trees, grass, a few sheep. Among the highlights were the manure barges that would pass in the opposite direction, trailing a whiff (what would be larger than a ‘whiff’? A ‘whooff’? Whatever.) of organic readiness. There will be lots of vigorously grown vegetables in the Netherlands judging from the canal traffic.)
Over the next fortnight, we would be dining sumptuously at least 3 times each day (more if the crew were able to chase you down with increasingly tempting treats), eating our way across Germany with sausage, spaetzle, struedel and an endless bar. (See photo, above.) Like many before us, we surrendered shamelessly to the cruise lifestyle.
Next: the cast of characters onboard