Rhine River Cruise on Crystal Bach (March 31 – April 7, 2019)

Getting ready …

In 10 days my husband and myself will be sailing the Rhine on Crystal Bach…getting super excited!!

Unfortunately, we received an email on March 6, just 3 weeks before our sailing, that the departure time from Basel was moved ahead from 8 pm to 5 pm. All aboard time would be at 4:30 pm.

That totally freaked me out as our flight arrival time at Basel is 2:30 pm on the departure day. So I sent an email to Crystal regarding the sudden change and they replied that if we missed the boat then we’ll have to pay for hotels but they would try their best to assist. That’s a “typical” reply from the cruise company. So my warning is NOT to arrive on the same day as embarkation! They even gave us the emergency number of the “Ravel” though we are sailing on the “Bach”. Crystal’s pre- and post-cruise customer service and communication is definitely below par, as seen from a few of the past incidents. Get a good travel agent to make sure that everything goes fine before the actual sail date. Look at the route map below that shows our sailing from the official Crystal site that says “Danube River” instead of “Rhine River”. Numerous little mistakes like that are all over the Crystal website.

Hopefully we won’t have to use the contingency plan.Image

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Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 1 – March 31, 2019 – London, England to Basel, Switzerland

We used our free voucher to stay at Marriott Courtyard at London Gatwick before flying to Basel. Being a Marriott Platinum elite member, we got free upgrade to a spacious junior suite with food credits to have buffet breakfast at the hotel. We had to move the clock forward that weekend so we lost 1 hour sleep.

Junior suite on the 3rd floor directly above hotel entrance

Although it was an easy 15-minute walk to the South Terminal where we could take the shuttle train to the North Terminal, we chose to pay £3 each for the Airport Transfer bus to take us all the way to the North Terminal where our flight departed. The bus ran every 20 minutes directly from the hotel & we just paid on the bus.

15-minute bus ride to the North Terminal, then walked 5 minutes from bus stop to the terminal

Super easy check-in with Easy Jet. Their online check-in opened 30 days before departure date so make sure you check-in as soon as you can as they tend to overbook. We paid for 1st row seat with speedy boarding & 1 piece of check-in baggage for £78 per person. At the gate, they announced that whoever could leave 1 day later would get €500 compensation with a 1-night hotel stay. Too bad we were in a rush to get to the cruise port so we couldn’t get the deal!!

The flight was on time & we got to Basel at 2:40 pm.

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 1 – March 31, 2019 – Embarkation in Basel, Switzerland

Docking Location: St. Johann Pier 1

After 1.5 hours, our flight from London arrived in Basel, Switzerland. Since Crystal moved the departure time from 8 pm to 5 pm, there was no time for us to visit the Basel Old Town which was directly opposite the dock.

We were the 1st ones to get to the passport control and got our luggage 30 minutes after arrival. Very impressed with the super fast service at Basel Airport!

As soon as we stepped into the airport arrival hall after collecting our luggage, we were greeted by a Crystal rep who ushered us to the luxurious Crystal Coach. The 15-minute drive to the dock led us past the Old Town to our boat.

When we arrived at the dock, we could only see the Crystal tent. Where was the boat?

Crystal Bach at Basel dock

We had to walk down the ramp to get to the boat. Having a Deck 2 suite on the Starboard (right) side of the ship, our view from the room was facing the dock. We booked too late last November so all rooms including the Petite suites on Deck 3 were sold out, so we had to take a less desirable room location on Deck 2.

Suite #205 was quite spacious with a King bed, bathroom with double sinks and a walk-in closet. I loved the panoramic window that could be lowered to form a balcony. It’s an extremely clever design. The lowering of the window took 39 seconds and as soon as the glass was touched, the window would stop moving as a safety feature.

Beautiful panoramic window with a view of the Basel dock
Lovely room with bathroom behind the King bed and a walk-in closet next to the desk

Bathroom with a big shower and Etro products
walk-in closet with a safety deposit box and lots of storage
The little entry way with bathroom on one side and the door of the walk-in closet on the other

After a quick cup noodle snacks, we attended the muster drill in the Palm Court with the new Crystal safety vest.

The best muster drill on board, comfortably sitting in the Palm Court

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 2 – April 1, 2019 – Strasbourg, France (9am-10pm)

Docking Location: Strasbourg Pier 11, Rue de la Minotarie

We passed through many many locks on the first day, some through the night, but it didn’t bother our sleep, though we could feel the difference in movement and faintly hear the engine.

As soon as I woke up and opened the curtain, a very disappointing sight appeared…we docked with our side against the dock and our view was completely blocked by the concrete. Next time we have to book a deck 3 room to minimize such views!!

Just one deck higher would offer a much more pleasant view

Crystal Bach docked at Strasbourg, France, with industrial cargo docks surrounding us

Other than the not very desirable docking location, Strasbourg was probably my favourite day of the entire cruise, with so much to see in one day.

At 9:30 am, we departed for the 4.5 hour complimentary tour: Panoramic Tour of Strasbourg & Canal Boat Cruise. Make sure you sit on the left Of the bus as there was so much more to see on that side going from the dock to the city centre. We passed through the bridge linking the trams between France & Germany, Russian Orthodox Church, Council of Europe, Jewish Synagogue and many more sights. Along the way, we saw many storks in their nests on pruned sycamore trees.

Storks in their nests on almost every tree we passed by

The coach dropped us off at Republic Square(Place de la Republic) and we had to walk for about 15 minutes to the Cathedral.

Big open Republic Square

Crystal provided shuttles from dock to city centre at 10 am, 12 noon, 2:30 pm & 4:30 pm.

Strasbourg Cathedral, our meeting place

This was where we went on the 1-hour canal boat cruise at 10:30 am.

canal boat cruise
Vauban Bridge – Where the canal boat turned around

There were so many beautiful sights (e.g., locks, canals, swing bridge, Petite France, etc.) we passed by that we decided to go back to town so we could explore more.

During the 1-hour free time, we got on the Petite Train from the Cathedral Square, then went back to ship for lunch using the Crystal Shuttle that departs at 1 pm from Republic Square. The Petite Train was 7 Euros each and the whole journey was 40 minutes. The narration was great and it gave us some directions of where we should go in the afternoon.

Petite trains that run every half hour
Passed by the Vauban Dam where our canal boat turned around
14th century stone towers at Ponts Couverts

Followed the Crystal rep to walk to the shuttle waiting at Republic Square. Lunch on board.

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 2 (con’t) – April 1, 2019 – Strasbourg, France (9am-10pm)

After a quick lunch on the ship, my husband and I took the 2:30 pm shuttle and went back to Strasbourg city centre for more exploration. Since my civil engineer husband loves taking photographs, he would not want to miss the Medieval architecture in this quaint little place.

After getting off the shuttle, we took a tram (line B or F) from the Republic Square to Petite France. It cost € 1,80 per person and we used our credit card to pay at the ticket machine at the tram stop.

Tram stop at Republic Square

It was a quick 3-stop ride and we got off to walk to the Swing Bridge.We waited for about 20 minutes for the swing bridge to make an opening for the canal boat to pass

Then we walked further in Petite France to watch the canal boat passing through a narrow lock.

water level rising while canal boat was in the lock
Fast track of how the canal boat passed through the lock

After all the video-taping, we strolled leisurely in Petite France, admiring the beautiful medieval buildings.

St Pierre-le-Vieux Church, Petite France in Strasbourg 
The Tanner’s House on the left with other half-timbered medieval houses
Rue du Bain aux Plantes, Petite France in Strasbourg

Walking along the lovely street of Rue du Bain aux Plantes to the Cathedral Square, we were eager to try some French coffee at Christian Patisserie before attending a private organ recital in the Strasbourg Cathedral.

Stained glass with the beautiful organ on the right

After the closing of the cathedral at 6 pm, we attended a 15-minute organ recital, followed by a private tour of the cathedral.

The Strasbourg astronomical clock in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame
Touch the dog’s nose to make a wish come true
We walked past this model of the Strasbourg City, with the cathedral in the middle. and the canal around it.

After dinner at Bistro, we attended “The Modern Strings”, a well-presented show by a virtuoso violinist, Anna-Maria Barth. It was pleasing to the general crowd with pretty good violin skills.

A very pleasant first full day of our river cruise, with beautiful nice warm weather that a jacket was not even necessary in the afternoon.

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 3 – April 2, 2019 – Karlsruhe (Heidelberg), Germany (7 am-10 am)

Docking Location: Steiger Hafenbecken 2

This day turned out to be my least favourite day of the whole cruise, not because of Heidelberg but because of the non-productive time in Mannheim. In order to visit Heidelberg, Crystal docked at Karlsruhe, another industrial port.

Crystal Bach docked at Karlsruhe

While we were doing our ship tours, the boat left Karlsruhe for Mannheim. Unfortunately due to river traffic, Crystal Bach could not dock at Mannheim at 2 pm as scheduled. We ended up circling around Mannheim, doing a mini city tour and visited the main attraction of the city, the water tower.

After a 1-hour drive, we arrived at the beautiful ruins of Heidelberg Castle. Our guide, Mike, was humourous and informative.

the romantic Elizabeth Gate, built by Friedrich V in a single night in 1615 as a surprise for his wife Elizabeth Stuart.
View of the Old Town from the castle
The ruins of Heidelberg Castle with Gothic & Renaissance designs.
Friedrich Building is the only building that was resotred in the whole entire castle.
The wine cellar has the world’s largest wine barrel with a capacity of 219,000 litres (57,853.6795 U.S. gallons).

After the 1.5 hour guided tour in the castle, we were dropped off in the Old Town where we had 1 hour’s free time. The Heidelberg Castle nestled on the hill 80 meters (260 feet) above the city of Heidelberg offered a breath-taking view.

Heidelberg’s Old Bridge on River Neckar
Church of the Holy Spirit is the tallest and most famous church in Heidelberg. 
This Gothic church stands in the middle of Marktplatz.

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 3 (con’t) – April 2, 2019 – Mannheim, Germany (2-6 pm)

Docking Location: Mannheim Mauer

As the ship was late arriving at Mannheim, we did a mini city tour in Mannheim, stopping at the main attraction of the city, the Water Tower.

A huge open space leading to the Water Tower
lots of beautiful flowers in Mannheim

After a quick lunch on the boat, we joined Dagi for a city walking tour, passing by the Mannheim Baroque Palace, which claimed to have 1 more window than Versailles.

Mannheim Baroque Palace

The palace was under renovation so we could not go in for a visit. Another unfortunate event was that out of 9 people, 5 did not bring their listening devices and 3 could not hear well even with the device, so the guide decided not to wear the microphone as mine was the only one that worked. We had to stay close to her to listen to her. Dagi did not control the time very well so we ended up being 10 minutes late to get back to our coach. Since we drove past the palace and the water tower earlier on, the walking tour was like taking a long walk to get our gingerbread cookies and the gelato.

Coffee house and bakery since 1838
The famous original Mannheim gingerbread
Ice cream at Eis Fontanella

Although there was a long line up for the ice cream, we got ours very fast because Crystal pre-ordered everything. The sampling portion was big and delicious with nut sprinkles & strawberry syrup. We also got their spoon as a souvenir.

Something sweet to compensate the not-so-interesting city walking tour

After walking for 8.1 km with close to 12,000 steps, we did not join the “Majority Rules Game Show” after dinner. We retired early that night…praying that there would not be pouring rain in Rudesheim.

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 4 – April 3, 2019 – Rüdesheim am Rhine, Germany (12 am-3 pm)

Docking Location: Pier No. 4

It was the 1st rainy day of our cruise and we were glad that we didn’t go on the cable car. Instead, we joined the ship tour to take the miniature train ride directly from the pier to the Mechanical Music Museum.

Crystal Bach docked at Rüdesheim on a rainy day
The Miniature Train was waiting for us right at the pier next to the ramp.
Passing by many vineyards before getting to the Mechanical Music Museum in town
Mechanical Music Museum

The Miniature Train dropped us off outside the Mechanical Music Museum. Unexpectedly, it became my favourite excursion of the whole cruise. What we saw was extremely interesting. I was totally impressed with such a huge collection of automated musical instruments. I got so fascinated that I bought some mini music boxes for my grandson. The museum guide did an awesome job during the 45-minute tour, explaining how various instruments worked with fantastic demonstrations of the sounds. What a great way to spend a rainy day in Rüdesheim !

My favourite sounds in the Mechanical Music Museum

When we left the museum, it started to rain so we went to Eis Cafe Engel on a side street to enjoy the special Rüdesheim coffee made with brandy. It cost us 18 Euros for 1 special coffee, 1 regular coffee and 1 slice of apple strudel.

special Rüdesheim coffee made with brandy

After the snacks, we walked around the quaint little town, bought some souvenirs and followed the river bank to walk back to our river boat.

walking in the rain
an easy 15-minutes stroll back to the boat

Time for lunch before sailing the Rhine River Gorge to Koblenz.

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 4 – April 3, 2019 – sailing along the Rhine Gorge (3-7 pm) to Koblenz

Docking Location in Koblenz: Peter Altmeier Ufer

This blog is the hardest to write, as I have to spend lots of time trying to figure out the names and locations of numerous castles, churches, ruins and towns we passed by. Nonetheless, I have to give photo credits to my avid photographer husband, Brian, who captured tons of beautiful landscape along the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, despite the lousy and rainy weather. Being so wet and cold, it was really unfortunate that we could not go on the top deck to enjoy the best scenery of the whole cruise on both sides of the Rhine. Crystal’s Destination Manager, Viktoria, was giving commentary all along but we were too lazy to go and join her outside. Sitting on the bed in our robes to watch the scenery pass by was the best, with the TV showing the camera on the other (Port) side of the boat, though the camera showed some delays on many occasions. Huge applause to the one who designed the room to make the bed facing the river with the panoramic window.

Leaving Rudesheim to start the Rhine Gorge sailing

Cable cars to the Germania Monument in the background
Passing by the town of Lorchhausen, with the tiny chapel of Clemenskapelle on the hilltop 
and the big St. Boniface in town

Another view of this lovely town of Lorchhausen and the vineyards on the hill

Cruising along, there was a castle right in the middle of the Rhine on an island, the Pfalzgrafenstein Castle. Pfalzgrafenstein Castle is a toll castle on the Pfalz Island in the Rhine river near Kaub, Germany. Our boat sailed right beside this picturesque and unique setting.

Above & below: different views of Kaub

Gutenfels Castle, also known as Caub Castle, is a castle 110m above the town of Kaub in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.

Gutenfels Castle

Then we saw the beautiful Schönburg Castle in Oberwesel. It was first built in the 11th century, got enlarged in the 13th century and restored in the late 19th century by a German-American banker, T. J. Oakley Rhinelander from New York.

Church of Our Lady with Schönburg Castle on the hilltop in Oberwesel .

Passing by the famous Loreley Rock

I was looking very hard to find the Loreley Statue but couldn’t see it anywhere, even with the help of the binoculars. The Loreley Rock is a 132 m high, steep slate rock on the right bank of the River Rhine in the Rhine Gorge. This historically treacherous river bend has been associated with a legend that Loreley committed suicide here and her spirit distracted sailors with a sound or siren that led to shipwrecks. The Rhine at this point is up to 82 feet deep but only 371 feet wide. The we reached St. Goarshausen and saw the Katz Castle.

Katz Castle in St. Goarshausen, built in late 14th century

Then we reached Koblenz and saw the off-white yellowish Stolzenfels Castle. It is a former medieval fortress castle turned into a palace, which was ruined in the 13th century.  It was rebuilt in the 19th century in the Gothic Revival style by the Prussian Crownprince, Frederick William.

cruising to Koblenz, passing by the Stolzenfels Castle

The boat arrived at Koblenz at around 7 pm. After a quick buffet dinner, we boarded the Crystal coaches to attend the Crystal Signature Event: Sonic Bliss in the Gateway to the Gorge at the Electoral Palace in Koblenz performed by the string quartet, La Finesse.

A very entertaining night

Our coach took a wrong exit and went over to the other side of the river and had to take a long way back to the performing venue. The string quartet chose a good program and it was pleasing to most people. It’s the lighting that hurt our eyes and I didn’t understand why lights were put behind the performers, instead of in front or on top of them.

La Finesse with one violinist, Anna-Maria, who performed on the Bach 2 nights ago

Being the first group of the river cruising season attending a concert in the Electoral Palace, we had to wait for about 15 minutes before someone unlocked the gate so we could drive back to the boat. Hopefully Crystal could iron out this wrinkle in future sailings.

This was the performing venue, Electoral Palace, as seen in day time. We were not able to take a night shot there.

The Electoral Palace

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 5 – April 4, 2019 – Koblenz to Cologne (2-8 pm)

Docking Location in Koblenz: Peter Altmeier Ufer Docking Location in Cologne: Pier 5

Crystal Bach docked at Koblenz, with Starboard side facing the river. We had to go up to the top Vista deck to get off the boat. Being a rainy day, the ramp was a bit slippery.

boat docked at Koblenz

This morning, we paid 49 Euros each to join the ship tour to the Medieval Eltz Castle. We left at 8:45 am and arrived at the castle 1 hour later. Then we had to take a castle shuttle from the parking lot to the castle itself. Walking from the parking lot to the castle was a 30-minute walk downhill.

Eltz Castle is a medieval castle nestled on the hills above the Moselle River between Koblenz and Trier in Germany. It is still owned by the Eltz family who lived there since the 12th century, 33 generations ago. As we were on the 1st shuttle, we had a bit more time taking pictures.

The fairytale Eltz Castle

Look at the people holding the Crystal umbrellas before starting the tour. Although it was raining, the tour was mostly inside, so they collected our umbrellas at the castle entrance and we didn’t have to hold on to any umbrella while we toured.

We started the 1.5 hour guided tour with Christian. Here are some of the rooms inside the castle.

This is the kitchen.
Look at the rifles on the right!
These cannons were super cute!
The courtyard
We didn’t spend much time in the museum.
The side view of Eltz Castle
Flowers started to bloom in spring

It was good that the rain stopped when we finished the tour, so we could take better pictures before we left. Yesterday and today were the 1.5 days that rained during the entire 7-night cruise. It’s not bad considering it’s spring.

On the way back, we saw the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress on the hill. That was a complimentary ship excursion offered by Crystal but we did not take it.

After a lot of walking, we were tired so after lunch we took a long 3.5 hour nap, waking up just in time for the Crystal Society Party in Palm Court at 6:30 pm. It’s a pity that we missed all the Crystal Enrichment talks. We heard from fellow cruisers that they were all very good.

After the party, there were 9 of us having dinner together at the Waterside. The service was super slow as the kitchen had to wait for all 9 dishes to be brought out at the same time. Some of the items were not even hot enough like the mushroom soup. We had to send them back to be reheated. My pork loin was so dry and practically inedible. The executive chef came out to apologize and said that he would take it off the menu completely. We spent 2.5 hours to eat dinner and we had to take our coffee to the Palm Court to attend the Spotlight Showtime presented by the soprano, Ioana Mitu and pianist Sophia. Ioana had a beautiful voice and the program was quite enjoyable.

After the show, it was only 10:30 pm, so we headed out to take some awesome night shots of Cologne and walked around the cathedral area for a little bit. We felt safe even after midnight in the area. We crossed the bridge and walked to the opposite side of the river to take the pictures. Look at all these locks on the bridge!!

Locks on the Deutzer Brucke Bridge

During the 30 minutes we spent there, there were police patrolling the area in his car . Below is a great long exposure taken by my husband showing our boat on the river with the Cathedral in the back and the Deutzer Brucke Bridge on the side.

Spectacular night view in Cologne
Cologne Cathedral

Back to the ship, we took more pictures of the Cologne Cathedral from the Vista Deck.

Our room also offered more or less the same gorgeous view, just 2 decks lower.

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 6 – April 5, 2019 – Cologne to Bonn (8:30 am – 1:30 pm)

Docking Location in Cologne: Pier 5  

Crystal Bach docked at Cologne

After breakfast, we boarded the coach to Bonn. As a musician, I was really looking forward to visiting Beethoven the famous composer’s birth place. It was unfortunate that his house was under renovation so we were not able to go inside. Many people did not take part in this excursion because there was not really much to see without Beethoven’s House.

After an hour’s drive, we arrived at Bonn. Sebastian was our guide and he was very good, very fluent in English. Originally we were going to look at the recital hall with some exhibitions and explanation, but the hall was only going to open at 11 am, so we had to do the Beethoven’s Walk in the area first.

Beethoven’s birth place

Then we went to a local church where Beethoven’s baptismal font was housed. It was moved there from the old St. Remigius Church.

Beethoven’s baptismal font

Next we walked to the Market Square.

Market Square in Bonn
delicious white asparagus
City Hall of Bonn in the Market Square

Then we walked to Bonn University.

No Beethoven Walk is complete without seeing the statue of Beethoven. Here is one in front of the Post Office:

Beautiful flowers were grown around the statue.

We walked to the Bonn City Wall before going back to Beethoven’s House.

City Wall in Bonn

This was the recital hall inside Beethoven’s House.

After buying some souvenirs from the official Beethoven’s store, we walked around the area before having some snacks at the restaurant nearby.

Another unfortunate incident was that the pianist who was supposed to do a mini recital at the restaurant had train problems so she could not get to us on time. We were just having complimentary German sausages, apple strudel, coffee or local beer as snacks.

delicious snacks

We left Bonn at 12:45 pm and got back to the ship for lunch at 1:30 pm. It was a pity that we did not have time to walk around the area as we had to set sail for Amsterdam at 3 pm. I went to Ana, the Crystal Society Hostess to book our next cruise. This time cruising the Netherlands and Belgian waterways in late March, so I can have more time at Keukenhof to see tulips and other blossoms.

We were tired after a lot of walking, especially a super late night in Cologne, so we did not even go to Palm Court for the Irish Pub Night with Joe & Liv. How we missed the Irish Guinness & the folk tunes!!

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 7 – April 6, 2019 – Amsterdam (overnight)

Docking Location: De Ruyterkade Oost No. 3

Though we have almost come to the end of our cruise, this is the most colourful page of the whole blog. I feel so cheerful and happy just by looking through all these wonderful and colourful pictures.

In Amsterdam, we had to triple park, so Crystal Bach was the one in the middle, with Belljour closest to the dock and AmaSerena arriving after breakfast on the outside.

Very busy Amsterdam river dock

At 9:30 am, we started our tour to Keukenhof Gardens which was a 1-hour drive from Amsterdam. We were all super excited to do the highlights of our cruise. Keukenhof was only open for 8 weeks throughout the entire year, from March 21 to May 19 in 2019.

We had only 2 hours to spend in the garden, so we had to fast track everything in order to visit all the different pavilions. My husband took a map and plotted a route so we could cover most of the gardens. We were only able to visit Oranje Nassau, Willem-Alexander, The Mill, Beatrice and Juliana/Tulpomania. We didn’t even have time to line up to order tulip bulbs. Oh well…next time!

As soon as we walked in from the main entrance, we were greeted by a sea of tulips.

Beautiful floral displays inside the Oranje Nassau

Then we walked to Willem-Alexander where we spent the longest time.

We didn’t have time to walk to the front of the windmill. Just the back will do for this time.

Garden staff dressed up in flower costumes of all kinds.

Wow! Wow! Wow! Exceedingly beautiful Cherry Blossoms!

Inside the Beatrix pavilion:

Not just tulips, there were also beds of hyacinths.

…and daffodils…

Flowers galore

There were also some exquisite flowers:

Farewell, Keukenhof!

On the way back, we passed by many tulip fields.

Praise the Lord for a gorgeous morning in Keukenhof Gardens!

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 7 (con’t) – April 6, 2019 – Amsterdam (overnight)

Docking Location: De Ruyterkade Oost No. 3

After lunch on the boat, we walked to Amsterdam Central Station which was only 10 minutes on foot. We did our flight check-in online which was quite easy. I was very happy with the 1-month O2 UK SIM card that I bought in Canada for CA$29 + tax = CA$32.77. The store I bought it was on the 2nd floor of the same plaza as T&T on Kennedy & HWY 7. It’s a Pay-As-You-Go card with £10 preloaded and I got 500 minutes, 5000 texts, plus 2 GB data to use in 30 days max. For my 10-day trip, I used it for almost everything and I still had data left. It received better than the boat’s satellite so I had it on all the time. It covered UK, France, Germany & the Netherlands that we went, but we bought a $10 data card to cover Switzerland as an add-on.

Fast & reliable International SIM card

At the Central Station, we bought a 24-hour public transport pass from the iAmsterdam store for €7.50 each. A single-use ticket is available on the tram or bus at a cost of €3.20, so one return trip will cost €6.40. We could also get the card from a ticket machine in the Central Station.

We took Tram 2 or 11 or 12 from the Central Station to Leidseplein and the journey took about 15 minutes. On the crowded tram, I got pickpocketed and my wallet was found hanging outside my backpack like this:

Even with a Pacsafe bag, the pickpocket could undo the zipper of the backpack and undo the zipper of my coin wallet in less than 10 seconds & took the contents inside my wallet. Luckily, I just used up all the coins so there was just a folded passport photocopy that the pickpocket took but there was no money nor credit cards inside. Lucky Me!! My husband was standing right behind me and after he looked at the bus stop names on the bus screen, he saw my backpack open with my wallet that was supposed to tie to the inside by a long connector, now outside the bag. I was lucky that my real wallet was tucked at the very bottom of the backpack, with lots of things on top of it so it was saved. What a blessing!

The reason why we had to take a tram to Leidseplein was that we had to check out the starting point of our evening canal boat location, operated by Blue Boat Co. I paid CA$32 for 2 people online but on site it was advertised a lot more. if we joined the ship tour to do the evening canal cruise, it cost US$89 per person. I was so glad I did some homework before our trip and we know how to get around Amsterdam since we were there many times. We saved A LOT!

As we had to pack, we took Tram 2 back to Central Station and walked back to our boat. It’s definitely the least favourite time of the whole cruise: packing (BIG SIGH!!!) We finished packing in about 30 minutes as we only brought 1 big suitcase & 2 carry-ons. Beside, we only had to leave our bags outside our room 45 minutes before our assigned departure time of 8:30 am on disembarkation morning. No rush like the ocean cruises that we had to pack the big bags the night before disembarkation.

Our waitress, Gessica, and waiter, Stelios, were excellent and incredibly efficient in their service, knowing that we had to get out to town for our canal cruise. We finished our dinner in 45 minutes without rushing and got out to Leidseplein at around 8:15 pm. It was not even completely dark so we took some beautiful pictures of the canal.

The jetty of Blue Boat

As our tour was booked for 9:30 pm, we asked if we could be switched to the 9 pm cruise and the sales rep was kind enough to help us change. We still had around 45 minutes to spend so we went shopping nearby.

We did daytime canal cruises many times so we were very thrilled to do an evening one. It felt really different this time. This was the canal boat we were on.

Little motor boat in the shape of a clog
Passing by many well-lit bridges
House boats in front of many buildings with slanted facades
The Red Light District

We even sailed by our boat, the white Crystal Bach, with the black AmaSerena doubled-parked on the outside.

We could purchase drinks and snacks on the boat for only a few euros and the commentary in English was clear and easy to follow, wearing the headphones. After 1.5 hours, we took the tram back to Central Station and walked back to our boat, just in time to spend the last hour of the day at the Palm Court. At 11 pm, there were only 2 tables of guests there so we had a very nice chat with the bartenders and the servers before retiring to bed.

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 8 – April 7, 2019 – Amsterdam (disembarkation)

Enjoying our breakfast onboard the Crystal Bach, we said goodbye to our cruise buddies and the dining room waiters and waitresses. After breakfast at 8:30 am, we checked to make sure that all our luggage was in the coach’s luggage compartment, then just 4 of us (another couple were on transit to Denver via Toronto) took off to the airport. For just the 4 of us, Crystal sent a rep with us, other than the driver. Then Crystal had another rep at the airport, waiting for us to lead us to the Air Canada counter. Since we had priority check-in, we went through security in 20 minutes and arrived at Aspire Lounge at 9:50 am. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 11:55 am, so we should have over an hour to spend in the lounge before boarding at 11 am. The lounge was very pretty.

Unfortunately, due to full capacity reached, we were denied entry though we had Lounge passes. Instead, we were offered a voucher of 12.50 Euros each to eat anywhere inside the airport, or wait for people to leave. We figured that since we only had about an hour, we’d rather eat somewhere else, so we chose to take the vouchers.

Having eaten western food for 10 days, we decided to have Ramen at Kebaya.

It was delicious and we had to pay just a few more cents to have a drink with the ramen.

On board the aircraft, we had very spacious first row seats of Premium Economy and I could stretch my legs straight, very comfortable with the inflated foot stools. The flight was on time and we got to Toronto at 2:40 pm as scheduled.

Feeling relaxed and revitalized after a wonderful cruise! Time to start planning for our Alaska cruise in July.