In Celebration of Wine, Sailing with AMA Waterways

 

AMA Dante
AMA Dante, with a smooth boarding procedure and lovely staff and crew, provides a great river ship experience.



 

As soon as we boarded the lovely AMA Dante in Nuremberg, Germany, I knew it was going to be a great trip. The boarding procedure was smooth and effortless, and guests could immediately feel the warmth of the staff and crew. We were shown to our stateroom, which was good-sized for a river ship…and were pleasantly surprised how much space we had in closets and drawers.

Our cruise was aptly named “In Celebration of Wine,” and that it was. Four tastings on land were included—one in the cellar of a palace, one in a vineyard on the Rhine, and two in small, regional cellars along the Moselle. The guest speaker onboard was Barry Wiss of Trinchero Family Estates in Napa Valley, who familiarized all of us, through his daily lectures, with how to read wine labels, how to pair wines with foods, etc. He even let us share a flight of Trinchero wines for a tasting at dinner one night.

The next morning after boarding we were in Bamberg, a charming town on the Regnitz river. As Bamberg wasn’t destroyed during World War II, its buildings date back as far as the 13th century. The Old Town has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s not surprising. Following a walking tour of the Old Town, we were all invited to join the locals in having a taste of their specialty—smoked beer. We were told that it would taste a bit like bacon, and sure enough, it did.

The French Balcony
The French Balcony of a stateroom onboard AMA Dante.

We continued on to Würzburg the next day, and were able to visit Würzburg Palace, the former residence of the Würzburg Prince-Bishops, which is truly one of the finest Baroque structures in Europe. After our visit to the palace, we met with local guides for a walking tour of the city. In the evening, we returned to Würzburg Palace to taste wines in the underground Hofkeller, a maze of rooms for wine storage and tastings.

The next morning Karl Ittig, a Wertheim glass blower, came onboard the AMA Dante to show us what he can do with glass—a fascinating demonstration, to say the least. We did a local walking tour, which included a visit to a pretzel shop to learn how to make pretzels, after which we rushed to the glassmaker’s shop on the main square to see what we could purchase to bring home. That evening, back on the ship, we enjoyed the Captain’s dinner as well as the wine pairing heretofore mentioned.

No “days at sea” for us…the next day we found ourselves in Rüdesheim, my favorite little village along the Rhine. After a tour of the well-known Siegfried’s music museum, we visited the vineyards of Dr. Nägler to enjoy a late-morning wine tasting as we walked through the grape vines. Along the way, we learned about the local growing conditions and what to look for in ordering wines. Great fun!

In the evening, upon arrival in Koblenz, we met with local guides for walking tours around the town. Koblenz sits at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers, and is a place with a history that actually goes back 2,000 years.

Bamberg
Bamberg, a town on the Regnitz river in Germany, is home to many 13th-century buildings.

Having turned the corner into the Mosel, our next stop was Cochem, a part of the Rhineland-Palatinate state of Germany. A town with Roman and Celtic history, it is also home to Reichsburg Castle, which was built in the 11th century. We were able to tour the castle learning the fascinating history as we walked. Being there on 11/11/11, we had the pleasure of viewing a wedding in the castle at precisely 11:11 a.m. I can’t imagine a nicer place to begin one’s married life. Upon reboarding the ship we continued on to Zell, where we had an evening wine tasting in a medieval wine cellar. A wonderful buffet was laid out for us, including many local dishes which complemented the wines we were tasting.

Our last stop along the Moselle river was the wine village of Bernkastel, the home of the famous Bernkasteler Doctor wines. The old town was delightful; full of wonderful traces of its former Roman rulers. Later in the day, we all went to the Bergweiler Winery for a Riesling wine tasting. This family-run winery goes back to the 16th century, and has some of the nicest wines in the area.

Alas…the next day our cruise ended in Luxembourg. We were off to the airport, with fond memories of a great cruise.

It’s hard to beat AMA—excellent complimentary excursions, endless wine with dinner, very comfortable beds, and best of all, only 71 staterooms and four junior suites on the ship, so you’ll never feel like part of a crowd. The entertainment was top of the line, and the food great, with many choices. Everything was pure luxury at a decent price.

Our cruise was hosted by Gary Murphy, AMA Waterways’ vice president of national accounts. He has promised that the “wine” cruise itineraries for 2012 will be available quite soon…and if wine isn’t your thing, consider its cruises through October that include a visit to the Floriade World Horticultural Expo, which is an every 10-year event. Other than Europe, AMA also offers trips in Russia, the Mekong River in southwest Asia, and Africa.

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