By Frank Farber
Soecial to AllThingsCruise
Last September my wife and I were vacationing in the cruise hotbed of Orlando when I opened an e-mail apprising me that I had won a cruise. Having received more than my share of Nigerian letters, I was a bit skeptical. However, after exchanging e-mails with Cynthia Boal Janssens (editor of AllThingsCruise), that skepticism changed to WOW. I ordered the dvd from AMA Waterways, began to plan add-ons to the trip and finally spoke with Karen at AMA who could not have been more helpful. I began to see a friendly, caring, personal touch. (If I,not a paying customer was treated this well, how about the “real” guests?)
My wife and I flew from Fort Lauderdale, spent two days in NYC with her brother, and then flew Newark-Montreal-Brussels. There we took the Thalys train to Amsterdam where we crashed in a hotel overnight before boarding the AMADolce yesterday, May 2.
Upon arrival at the dock we were greeted by staff in the most friendly way and as we checked in our luggage was whisked to our stateroom. Reception was personal and efficient. Our cabin is nicely appointed and is as comfortable as staterooms on the large cruise ships that we are used to.
We went to afternoon tea/snacks (a delicious pea soup was available) in the large forward lounge. We took a brief tour of the Sun Deck — a strong wind put the chill factor in the 40’s — before returning to our cabin to dress for the Welcome Aboard Cocktail and Captain’s Dinner.
Champagne, drinks, and hors d’oeuvres freely flowed as the captain introduced his staff and went over safety regulations in a witty and funny speech that was quite different from the usual. Our Cruise Director, Karen, filled us in on our itinerary and plans for the morrow. I have to say that rarely have I seen a crew as friendly and nice as we have experienced so far (we are on our 26th cruise). Smiles abound and they are not forced but genuine.
We sat with Val and Piers from Wales and then went to dinner with them. They recognized a dining steward from a Danube cruise and she served us. Food was presented well and tasted better. A cream of asparagus soup with strawberry was unique as well as getting a caesar salad with an actual anchovy in it. My wife’s sirloin steak was far better than she has had on large cruise ships and she loved the large platter of vegetables, which included turnips.. The chocolate mousse with a sugary glazed crust to hold it was soooo tasty. Service by Deanna friendly, efficient — excellent.
Wines, red or white, beer, and soda are complimentary with dinner. The wine flowed as Victor (introduced as director of bar operations but, as he told us “I’m the bartender”) repeatedly returned to fill empty or half empty glasses. The French merlot and the Austrian cabernet sauvignon were excellent and complemented the meals well.
We had a wonderful evening with Val and Piers and eagerly anticipate our first full day tomorrow.
Frank Farber of Pembroke Pines, Fla., “won” this AMAWaterways cruise in a contest conducted by AllThingsCruise last fall for its Facebook fans. Become our friend on Facebook at www.facebook.com/allthingscruise.