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jpalbny

Uniworld, SS Antoinette – Basel to Amsterdam 3/30/14 on Tape Delay

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Thursday 4/3 - Boppard

 

As if we haven't seen enough amazing sights so far today!

 

Soon enough we're arriving at a big bend in the Rhine, and pulling into Boppard. The clouds were starting to break up and the weather was feeling a touch warmer. The city looked nice from our vantage point:

 

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We hopped off for a walking tour, stopping to admire our beautiful ship! It's facing back the way we have just come, and the Rhine makes a tight bend to the right just beyond us. We'll head that way tomorrow!

 

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There are some Roman ruins here just in the middle of town, with that pesky tourist who keeps cropping up in Chris' pictures. Who wears open-toed shoes while walking in the sewer? Tourists!

 

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Here's another overview of the Roman ruins. This is the ruins of a fort, not surprisingly, as the Rhine was a longstanding border between the Roman Empire and the Barbarians on the other side of the Rhine. Some graves were discovered outside the walls during a recent excavation. The rectangular boxes were erected to protect the gravesites:

 

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This gate in the City Wall looks very old, but it's comparatively new, only dating back to the Middle Ages:

 

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We took the same cruise, in reverse, about 3 years ago. Your pictures brought me back...loved them and your comments. Thanks so much.

 

 

Upcoming: Hurtigruten Trollfjord Nov. 14: Searching for the Northern Lights!

Rhine Christmas markets on GCT, Dec. 14

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4/3 Boppard, last post of the day!

 

The town was pretty in the evening light. There were a few nice fountains; the one on the left in Marktplatz, the one on the right in a park on the bank of the Rhine:

 

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Otherwise we spent the early evening wandering the town on our own, enjoying the colorful architecture:

 

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The riverfront has lots of nice houses:

 

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It's been an incredible day with so much to see! In retrospect, I wonder if it might be even better to do the itinerary in reverse. That way, I see two potential advantages: (1) you're sailing upstream, against the current, and maybe you'd have to go slower and have more time to enjoy the sights; (2) you start in Boppard in the morning, and end in Rudesheim for the evening / overnight. Rudesheim looked like a real party town, and it would have been fun to linger there, explore the Biergartens, Weingartens, etc.

 

We will stay docked here in Boppard overnight, so that we can sail through the remainder of the Rhine gorge tomorrow, during daylight hours.

 

Tonight was "Epicurean" night onboard; the dinner menu had some fancy locally sourced food items on it. Delicious, as was every other meal on board... Some local entertainment on board after dinner, then our usual dance duo. Early night tonight - after all that work exercising my shutter finger, I need a rest!

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Friday 4/4 – Koblenz

 

We started with scenic cruising at 8, though it was cooler and much more gray today. There were a few more castles to see along this stretch, but not as many as further south. Just around the tight bend in the Rhine is the lonely-looking Liebeneck Castle, sitting above the village of Osterspai. It's small, but very cute - might make a nice starter castle!

 

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One of them was Marksberg castle, sitting above Braubach. It has the distinction of being the only castle here that was never taken by invaders – all the others have been destroyed and rebuilt (or not). We will be storming this castle later in the afternoon, on another optional excursion. It looks very modern with its nice paint job:

 

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Next was Lahnstein, where the Lahn River joins the Rhine. We had time for a very quick glimpse as we passed by:

 

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And of course, there was a castle on the hill, Lahneck Castle:

 

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One more castle to go until Koblenz, where we meet up with the Mosel!

Edited by jpalbny

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Approaching Koblenz, our last castle on the Rhine was Schloss Stolzenfels. This looks beautiful from every angle, and you can tour it.

 

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Hildegard said that they painted the whole castle last year except for the big tower in the back that's now covered in scaffolding. I bet it will look even nicer once that's done.

 

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It was a short scenic stretch, then on to Koblenz which is the point where the Mosel and Rhine Rivers meet. At the junction there is a large statue of Kaiser Wilhelm at Duetsches Eck, which was restored after being badly damaged in WWII. The original statue was reclaimed and the metal was reused; a new statue was built about 10 years ago. You can see the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress in the background, across the Rhine. We have just turned into the Mosel in this photo, so the water in the foreground is the Mosel, and the Rhine is running right to left, behind the statue, out of view:

 

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It was a pretty nice sail-in, and we're ready for a walking tour of Koblenz this morning, followed by a visit to Marksburg in the afternoon.

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Thursday 4/4 - Koblenz:

 

We're off the boat within minutes of docking for a walking tour. This town has a lot of interesting statues, many of which are tongue-in-cheek. This lady is wearing a swimsuit, goggles, and flippers, sitting up on the wall by the banks of the Mosel preparing for a flood:

 

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This little girl was known for walking her geese through the town:

 

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This mischievous boy looks innocent enough, but if you're in the wrong place, he'll make you pay for it:

 

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Good thing I brought a waterproof camera!

 

 

This column in a large public square has layers that represent different historical periods in Koblenz - from its Roman beginnings, through the Middle Ages, WW2, and into the future. We liked the Romans, with their boats and wine barrels:

 

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We are amazed at how green the grass and trees are. It's nothing like this at home!

 

Our guide was very nice but after an hour, she offered people the chance to go out on their own for free time, while the rest could stay with her to walk to Deutsches Eck. One of the couples from our group commandeered her, and kept asking questions so as to plan their free time, which the rest of us stood there waiting...

Edited by jpalbny

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4/4 Friday, Koblenz walking tour:

 

After 10 minutes of waiting, we gave up and walked to the Deutsches Eck ourselves. There were a few scenic areas along the way; the Basilica of St. Kastor with its very tall towers (it looks fenced off, like you can't climb them...) and more funny statues that said, "climb me."

 

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More trees with fresh green early Spring leaves - this promenade along the Rhine was very picturesque:

 

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We climbed the monument and enjoyed the views. The Eck looked like a cruise ship with its bow sailing along the river. The Mosel is flowing from the left, and the Rhine is on the right. This picture is pointing downstream from the confluence of the two rivers. Beautiful!

 

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Finally after another 10 minutes our guide showed up with the rest of the group – how long had those people kept the group waiting? Interestingly, though, the Quiet Vox systems had worked over almost the entire distance. Deutches Eck is over 1/2 km from the place where we left the tour group, and I kept my device on and could hear our tour guide almost the entire time.

 

Not much to do but pose for a gratuitous selfie with the Rhine as a backdrop, then enjoy the view of our ship docked in the mouth of the Mosel:

 

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Time for lunch! We will undoubtedly need some sustenance in order to storm Marksburg later in the afternoon.

Edited by jpalbny

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4/4 Friday - bonus time in Koblenz!

 

We walked to the ship for lunch - which was a nice traditional German meal that we were eagerly anticipating! One last look at the memorial at Deutches Eck, and then we encountered a veritable dilemma along the waterfront... Ice cream? Beer? Both? Sign me up! Luckily, the ship has both available!

 

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After a delicious lunch of sausages, potato salad, multiple types of cabbage and sauerkraut, and Kaiserschmarrn for dessert, we found that we had some extra time before our tour of Marksberg. So we decided to go out again on our own, as we figured there were more fountains and statues to discover:

 

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And we found the food choices interesting as well. The Pizza Hut building is gorgeous; haven't seen any like that at home. We found the mixed language Kartoffel King amusing.

 

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But there were a few more buildings to visit further away, so we decided to push it and see if we could get to them before we had to leave for Marksburg...

Edited by jpalbny

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4/4 Friday - Koblenz and Marksburg

 

We pushed on to the edge of town to the Elector's Palace which was very picturesque:

 

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The front of the palace faced the river, and there were nice gardens. By then it was time to dash back to the ship to catch our tour to Marksburg. Only time to take pictures of the Weinstuben, no time for tasting:

 

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We made it back with a few minutes to spare!

 

Now on to Marksburg. This was an optional tour that was €39 extra; again, we had OBC to cover the amount so it was a freebie for us. After a ~20 minute bus ride we were there. A short walk, up a few flights of stairs, and we were there peeking through the door, looking for someone to greet us:

 

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Soon enough, we were in and enjoying the views of the Rhine. It was gorgeous, no matter what direction you looked! Fun to look down on where we had sailed by just a few hours ago:

 

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Now, to explore inside the castle.

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The tour inside the castle wasn't as exciting as we'd have liked. They had a few interesting exhibits, including the wine cellar:

 

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The exhibits on different types of armor used throughout history was interesting:

 

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There were some interesting helmets on display, including one you could try on for size. It was pretty difficult to see with this thing on!

 

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After that, we had some time in the gift shop, then time for one last photo op on the way down to the bus:

 

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Tonight was relaxed; the past cruisers' reception was held in the bar up on the top deck. Even though we'd not been on a Uniworld cruise before, our past stay at Hotel 41 in London (owned by Red Carnation, an affiliate) gave us past guest status, so we were invited to attend. Other than that, it was a nice quiet evening on board, on our way to Cologne.

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JP, I almost feel like I was there with you two as your pictures and review tell a great story. For exploring Koblenz on your own did you use any particular city map, was one provided from the boat?

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Great pictures we did this cruise last year with Scenic and it was a tad gloomy then. The castle/toll house on the island has a prison in the cellar which floods during high water, just one way I suppose of getting rid of unwanted guests. I have been told there are more caravans/trailers in Germany than even in the UK, yes your right try following one for miles, mind you if we did not have splendid castles, cute roads etc no one would visit, life would be quite boring.

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Yes, we are on the Antoinette and will pass on your regards..

 

We've been in Amsterdam since Monday, lots of fun. And, a neighbour lent me a Canon S 100, which. Has a 24 - 120 equivalent Zoom, so that's my compromise.

 

Again, my wife and I are very glad we found your thread, thanks!

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For exploring Koblenz on your own did you use any particular city map, was one provided from the boat?

 

Thanks for following along!

 

Uniworld gave out maps for each stop that showed the highlights. I supplemented them with Google Maps on my smartphone. Every time before we left the ship, I opened Google Maps, and cached the map of the current city using the ship's wifi. No data charges!

 

 

Sent from my DROID RAZR HD using Forums mobile app

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Great pictures we did this cruise last year with Scenic and it was a tad gloomy then. The castle/toll house on the island has a prison in the cellar which floods during high water, just one way I suppose of getting rid of unwanted guests. I have been told there are more caravans/trailers in Germany than even in the UK, yes your right try following one for miles, mind you if we did not have splendid castles, cute roads etc no one would visit, life would be quite boring.

 

Thanks for your comments - I didn't know that the prison in the cellar floods. A pretty gruesome way to deal with overcrowding...

 

I was surprised that we didn't see many RVs at all on the road in Germany last year. There certainly were enough along the Rhine!

 

Yes, we are on the Antoinette and will pass on your regards..

 

We've been in Amsterdam since Monday, lots of fun. And, a neighbour lent me a Canon S 100, which. Has a 24 - 120 equivalent Zoom, so that's my compromise.

 

Again, my wife and I are very glad we found your thread, thanks!

 

Glad to help whet your appetite for the upcoming trip; we had a great time and I bet that you will enjoy it as well. As your first stop after Amsterdam will be Cologne, I'll get to that post shortly! I hope your weather there is better than ours was...

 

Your 24-120 zoom should be perfect for landscapes and moderate close-ups.

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Saturday 4/5 – Cologne

 

Our streak of nice weather was coming to an end but we really couldn't complain – compared with what was at home, this was still wonderful. Today we're visiting Cologne, which is actually a pretty big city of 700,000 – huge, compared to the small villages we've seen so far. It is almost completely rebuilt, though many buildings look old, as it was nearly completely destroyed in WW II.

 

We had a great tour guide today, Franke, who took us on a nicely paced walk through a number of highlights of the city. We finally got an explanation of all the padlocks we've been seeing on the railings of various bridges in Europe over the past year or two. Apparently in a movie a few years ago a couple engraved their names into a padlock and locked it on a bridge in Rome, then threw the key into the river to symbolize the eternity of their love...

 

Since that movie, this tradition has become so popular that the inner rail of the pedestrian walkway of this main bridge in Cologne is chock full of padlocks, and there isn't much room for more!

 

And according to Franke, it's becoming a safety hazard because of all the people diving off the bridge, looking for the keys!

 

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The cathedral looked magical in the misty, light rain that we had this morning:

 

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There are lots of outdoor cafes, and many breweries to try. Not a good day for sitting outside, though:

 

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Pretty public squares, and nice architecture. We have to visit when we have more time, and nicer weather.

 

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Next, some local color - some historical, some humorous, and some religious thrown in for good measure!

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Saturday 4/5 – Cologne, continued:

 

Lots of history here. Two examples are the famous Farina perfume manufacturer, and a plaque commemorating a visit by JFK, 3 days before his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech:

 

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Here is a little political commentary... The person living in the house in the left-hand picture faced the Rathaus, across the square. He didn't agree with local government, so he erected this statue, expressing his opinion. The local officials responded with the clock on the right, which stuck out its tongue...

 

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Lastly, the cathedral - started in 1248, finished 600 years later, and housing the remains of the three Magi:

 

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As well as a sculpture for Pope Benedict's visit in 2005 for World Youth Day. John Paul II is symbolically handing over the logo for the celebration to Benedict XVI.

 

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There are 500+ steps in the tower... Think we should climb it?

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Saturday 4/5 – Cologne, finishing up

 

So, we decided to climb the tower which was just under 100 meters to the viewing platform, 533 steps. To add insult to injury, you have to climb DOWN first, enter the basement of the cathedral, and then start climbing!

 

The exercise was good for us, and the views were still pretty neat despite the rain and mist.

 

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The spire rises another 50 meters above the viewing platform. Love this perspective!

 

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Nearby the cathedral, they found a preserved Roman mosaic while excavating for something else. It's visible through glass windows, and hard to photograph with all of the glare today. The detail and preservation are stunning!

 

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After that it was time to get back to the ship for our noon departure. Unfortunately, that left no time to try any Kolsch beer which was disappointing but we still did enjoy Cologne. It looks like a nice town and would be a fun place to visit in nicer weather! One last shot of the trees with their leaves almost out, and the lilacs in full bloom before we board:

 

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This afternoon we departed just after 12 noon, and spent the rest of the afternoon resting, packing, and getting ready for tomorrow's disembarkation. As tomorrow is Sunday, and we have to work Monday, we have to fly out on disembarkation day. We had picked a 3PM flight from AMS so we'd have at least the morning in Amsterdam.

 

However, we had found out yesterday that Uniworld had put us on an 11AM transfer, which we thought would get us to the airport much too early, and would really cut into our sightseeing time! We asked our CD if it was possible to get a later airport transfer, so she said that she would check for us. If we couldn't do that, we figured we'd just take public transport to Schipol.

 

On our way to dinner, Hildegard found us and told us that we would have a 12:30 transfer to the airport. Somewhat mysteriously, she also said that it may be a private transfer, or we may have some company on the ride, because she "just might" have a 3:30 flight home tomorrow as well... It's good to have friends in high places!

 

Nice evening with the Captain's farewell dinner – like the welcome dinner, this was a fixed menu with a choice of entrees. We had another couple join us for dinner tonight and had a good time. It's a little odd here in that you just seat yourself in the dining room for all meals, and we're not keen on joining others who may prefer to be left alone. We had ended up eating by ourselves most nights which we hadn't minded, but we were happy to share too.

 

Out to the lounge for some last-night dancing then off to bed – we'd like to get an early start tomorrow to make the most of our short time in Amsterdam!

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Sunday 4/6 – Amsterdam

 

One of the nice things about this small ship is that you don't have to put your luggage out until 8:30 AM on the day of disembarkation – how civilized! We had a light breakfast and said goodbye to some of the crew and our fellow passengers, then we were ready to start walking the city by 8:00.

 

We were docked in a great location by the Centraal Station, so it was easy to find the Old Side of the city and it was amazingly deserted – we only ran into a few people and the shops in the Red Light District were all closed too. We were still struck by the impression that the streets were kind of dirty, and the smell of cannabis was everywhere! But the canals were very picturesque in the early morning mist with the trees just starting to put our their leaves, and the buildings with their interesting architecture made nice reflections in the still water. Even the garbage truck adds a splash of color!

 

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We walked a fair distance, and got to see the Old Church. This was a bit of an architectural hodgepodge, with different parts displaying very different styles. And it was odd because there were storefronts built into the church itself. Some of them were selling things that most religions would frown upon...

 

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A few other views - typical canal houses, and the Waag. This is an old gatehouse, but it's build on unstable ground so it's settling unevenly and starting to crack. They are doing a major stabilization project so it's not as picturesque as it could be:

 

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Some houseboats along one of the smaller side canals:

 

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By 10 it was starting to sprinkle and with the breeze and drizzle, it was a little chilly; luckily we'd layered up and we weren't too cold. We wandered through a number of landmarks on the New Side and then along some of the more famous canals, before giving up and coming back to the ship around 11:30. You can really see the rain pounding down in this shot:

 

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Back to the ship for one last meal before they kick us off and take us to the airport...

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Sunday 4/6 - Amsterdam and disembarkation

 

So, back to the ship for some early lunch, a little wine, and off to collect our bags for the trip to the airport. After lunch, we realized that we hadn't taken any pictures of the ship, so we grabbed a few. Here's the upstairs dining venue. They have a casual lunch buffet here on changeover day, as well as occasional alternative dining during the week:

 

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The outdoor observation deck:

 

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And the main bar, where we have port talks, recaps, briefings, and hang out in the evening. The dance floor is pretty big; if you can see the 4 columns in the middle of the room, that's approximately the size:

 

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The main staircase in the ship's atrium, with a beautiful chandelier. I think this originally is from the Tavern on the Green restaurant in New York.

 

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We had a nice private bus ride to Schipol with Hildegard, and since she lives right outside of Munich we had a chance to reminisce about our favorite places there. We're going to be back in Munich in just a few weeks to pick up Chris' Audi at the factory, so we got Hildegard's contact info and we'll try to meet her, either for dinner or to hire her as a guide for a day or two.

 

Check-in at Schipol was quick and passport control took only a minute. The KLM lounge was a bit far but relaxing, and we timed it just right so that when we got to the gate and cleared security, we only sat inside the gate area for 2-3 minutes before boarding. All in all, quite civilized for a large European airport! We'll have to see how Detroit compares...

 

***

 

So for our first European river cruise, we'd say that we enjoyed it tremendously. The ship was great, and we didn't find the décor to be over the top like some others have commented. The food and wine were very good. The tours were pretty good in general, though maybe could have been a bit faster paced in some areas. The ship's crew were great, and the CD, HD, Captain were all highly visible, very personable, and helpful any time you had a question. We would certainly cruise again with Uniworld.

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Friend and I are doing the AMS to Basel trip on the Antoinette on May 18 and are so looking forward to it - have "Uniworlded" before and enjoyed every trip (Duoro, 2 in France, Budapest to Prague and Bucharest to Vienna).

Your photos were fantastic and the answers you gave to others' questions were very helpful. Will have to review again.

Any wine you drank that just blew you away? I am looking forward to my fill of Gewurtz in the land of its origin.

Hoping that my Panasonic Lumix will do its job as well as your camera did.

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Hello cruisingmyway,

 

so you like Gewürztraminer! It has a distinctive taste, very different from others, with good ones you can really tast spice, just like the name implies. And together with a nice Flammkuchen...Yummy!

 

Have a great cruise.

 

notamermaid

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Hello JP and Chris,

 

great travelogue and photos. Good to hear you enjoyed it so much. The locks at Cologne bridge are supposed to weigh several tonnes together, but pose no danger to the structure according to the authorities.

 

I passed the ship (happened to be near because of an appointment). What a splendid vessel. That chandelier is just amazing...

 

notamermaid

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Friend and I are doing the AMS to Basel trip on the Antoinette on May 18 and are so looking forward to it - have "Uniworlded" before and enjoyed every trip (Duoro, 2 in France, Budapest to Prague and Bucharest to Vienna).

Your photos were fantastic and the answers you gave to others' questions were very helpful. Will have to review again.

Any wine you drank that just blew you away? I am looking forward to my fill of Gewurtz in the land of its origin.

Hoping that my Panasonic Lumix will do its job as well as your camera did.

 

Enjoy! The included wines were nice. I don't remember anything spectacular, and they served more Reisling and Pinot Blanc than Gewurztraminer. We are familiar with most of those wines since our Finger Lakes region has a similar climate, and grows most of those varietals. I think Gewurztraminer can be an acquired taste, and not everyone is as fond of it as we and you are.

 

We enjoyed the local reds, since they are even less common, and harder to find back here. Blaufränkisch, Lemberger, Dornfelder... We can occasionally find them in the Finger Lakes but you have to look hard, and choose carefully.

 

They also had some nice Weißbier. It was hard to choose, as we like it all!

 

Hello JP and Chris,

 

great travelogue and photos. Good to hear you enjoyed it so much. The locks at Cologne bridge are supposed to weigh several tonnes together, but pose no danger to the structure according to the authorities.

 

I passed the ship (happened to be near because of an appointment). What a splendid vessel. That chandelier is just amazing...

 

notamermaid

 

Wish you had stopped by! We had such a great time in your part of the world. We are hoping to drive through some of the Schwarzwald later this month, after we pick up the Audi. We could visit for months without getting tired of this area - it's awesome!

 

I'm glad that we now understand the reason for the locks. We saw some on the Alte Mainbrucke in Wurzburg last year, and couldn't figure out why...

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