Amadeus Silver II Cruise: Final blog – To me, what this ship has is what it doesn’t have

The Amadeus Silver II was launched in March, 2015.
The Amadeus Silver II was launched in March, 2015.

ABOARD THE AMADEUS SILVER II – Walking off the ship to take a tour on my own in Cologne, I was asked by a couple standing on shore what there is to do on the Silver II. Visiting from Munich, the couple said they had seen the ship cruising on the Rhine and were curious about what is offered onboard.

Since I was carrying the ship’s daily program in my pocket, I pulled it out and let the couple – Arne and Marguerite – look at it. Of course, I told them about my wonderful stateroom and the delicious cuisine.

They said they could see from looking at the docked ship that the Silver II is beautiful. I agree. Sitting there on the Rhine River, the Silver II glistened and gleamed.

On this sunny Sunday, our daily program had a walking tour of the city in the morning.  Some days we have a shore excursion in the morning and another one in the afternoon. Some involve a big comfortable bus, others are walking from the ship.

Since my cruise was booked with Amras Cruises, all my tours, gratuities and WiFi are included in the original fee. I also receive complimentary bottled water in my cabin and on shore excursions. Some passengers on my cruise didn’t book with Amras so they pay for those things separately. For example, the tour I took to the National Park Siebengebirge cost 65 euros or $71 in U.S. dollars. Today’s tour to Mainz cost 16 euros or $17.47 in U.S. dollars. I prefer to have it all inclusive as Amras does it.

Nico Hagen sits at the very visible cruise director’s desk.
Nico Hagen sits at the very visible cruise director’s desk.

The Silver II uses those wonderful Quiet Vox devices that allow us to hear our tour guide no matter how much street noise is going on and how far away (within reason) from the guide we are walking. On the Silver II, the devices are kept at the front desk so they are always fully charged when we need them. Just stop at the desk, turn in our room key, get a boarding pass, a Quiet Vox, a colored cardboard to identify our cruise group and head off. The lightweight Quiet Vox loops around our necks and is easy to use.

Evening entertainment on ship

Tonight, we will have cocktails followed by a port talk with cruise director Lorelay Bosca, then dinner. Afterwards, we can enjoy music in the Panorama Bar with the Amadeus Duo – singer Silvyia and pianist Salvi.

That is a normal day on the Silver II and it is ideal for me. The main star of the cruise, in my opinion, is the river and the stops along the way. That is where the emphasis is placed on our cruise.

Sometimes in the evening we will have a quiz with prizes in the Panorama Bar. One quiz was to identify places around the world from photos and hints. Another quiz was to name music and dances with tips by the Amadeus Duo. I think all of us, or at least I hope all of us, got one of those musical questions right. Do you know the answer – “What famous singer served with the Army in Germany?”

Cruise director Lorelay Bosca conducts the nightly port talk.
Cruise director Lorelay Bosca conducts the nightly port talk.

As a tip, Slavi played and sang “Blue Suede Shoes.” For another nudge, I can tell you my favorite singer was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, a place I have visited many times. That evening, my team won the quiz and was rewarded with two bottles of sparkling wine and a bunch of chocolate candy.

Another evening we had a raffle. I didn’t attend that one. Don’t gamble. A small dance floor in the Panorama Bar also is popular in the evening.

Anyway, if you are coming on the Silver II with plans to go to a flashy casino, sit in a cushy big theater for a Broadway-style revue, or play in a water world, this isn’t the place. I have nothing against those amusements. In fact, I have never met a cruise ship I didn’t like. But the Silver II offers something else.

A fellow passenger complained on my first Amadeus Silver II cruise that the ship didn’t bring local performers on at various stops, the way some other river ships do. I enjoy those guest entertainers, too, but I don’t miss them on the Silver II. To me, what the ship has is what it doesn’t have.

What it has is what it doesn’t have

I’m enjoying the chance to watch the river flow, to stroll through small towns I might not otherwise get to visit, to have knowledgeable tour guides give me insights into the places they live and to have “down” time to think, read, write and converse with other passengers. The Silver II cruise is quite relaxing and encourages all of those joys.

Pianist Slavi entertains during the evening cocktail hour.
Pianist Slavi entertains during the evening cocktail hour.

Slavi is a talented musician. My favorite song that he plays almost every day during cocktail hour is “Moon River.” Singer Silvyia tackles all kinds of songs, including the legendary Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” I will give any singer credit for trying that one. My dining companion John of Australia taped Silvyia singing “Crazy” and said I can share it with readers of this blog. The other video I created from photos taken during my cruise.

As I said in another blog, travelers should do their homework before booking a cruise. Know what it offers and what it doesn’t. If it’s not for you, look at another cruise line.

The Silver II crew is an important part of the great time we are having on the ship.  Our cruise director Lorelay seems to be everywhere, always making sure that things run smoothly. Lorelay also is training a cruise director intern on my two cruises, 19-year-old Nico Hagen. Nico has a wonderful smile and is very organized. I’m sure he is a big help to Lorelay but I’ve trained newsroom interns in the past and it does take time.

Lorelay’s desk is highly visible. It is located right at the entrance to the Panorama Bar. No out-of-the-way private office, no walls to separate her from passengers, just a desk and chair and computer right there.  Whenever I have a question, I always know where to find our cruise director.

My servers – Zultan on the first cruise and Veronika on the second – are top notch. At first, I think they may have been taken aback when my dining companions and I asked that our bread basket be left on the table until we had finished our meal. The process is to remove the bread and butter – neither of which were enough for our table of six – after the soup is served, Veronika told us, because “Germans don’t eat bread after soup.”

Ship captain Petricã Bãlasa offers a toast during the captain’s welcoming.
Ship captain Petricã Bãlasa offers a toast during the captain’s welcoming.

Well, we quickly told her that some Americans, British, Australians, New Zealanders, French and other nationalities do like bread with their entrée and even for dessert with cheese. After that, Veronika made sure that our bread basket and butter dish were never empty for our whole dinner.

As Lorelay said on our very first evening aboard ship, speak up whenever we need something or want something changed. Otherwise, how will Lorelay and other crewmembers know what will make our cruise more enjoyable. In our case, the “situation” (as Lorelay calls any “potential problem”) of the bread and butter was quickly remedied.

Visiting Germany with Germans

Most of the passengers on both of my Silver II cruises – remember I took two back-to-back cruises because it is too much trouble to fly from Indianapolis for a five-day European cruise – are German. Public announcements are made in both German and English. The evening quizzes are done in both German and English. Tours are offered with both English-speaking and German-speaking tour guides. Restaurant seating is assigned. If you travel alone, as I often do, you will be assigned to sit with other passengers.

In my case, on my first cruise, I was placed at a table with a man from the United Kingdom, a tour arranger who speaks English. On my second cruise, I was seated at a table with a mother from Australia, her grown son and his friend, a woman from Paris and a woman from New Zealand because we all speak English.

On my first five-day cruise, I was the only American passenger. On my second six-day cruise, there were eight more American passengers. Did I ever feel lonely or left out? Definitely not. I wanted to cruise the Rhine River and experience the German and French culture. Being with fellow passengers from France and Germany, as well as from other countries, was a big plus. Now, I can even speak a few words of German and understand many more.

One evening I sat at cocktail hour with a German man and wife. They didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak German but we did manage to communicate with broken phrases, words and smiles. It was quite enjoyable.

As I told Lorelay, if I wanted to have exactly what I have at home, I would have stayed home. Traveling, in my opinion, is supposed to be both pleasurable and enlightening. I certainly had fun and learned quite a bit on my Amadeus Silver II cruises

So when Arne and Marguerite asked me the big question, it was an easy answer: Would I take an Amras Cruise again on the Silver II, would I recommend it to others?

For sure. My two back-to-back Amras cruises have given me 11 days of wonderful memories. For future cruisers, I suggest doing travel research first, finding a ship and itinerary that best suit you, then sitting back and relaxing. The biggest thing I don’t like about my Silver II adventure is that it will soon be over.

Photos and ship slideshow video by Jackie Sheckler Finch

Singer video by John

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