Day 1: Embarking in Amsterdam
I left home at 5am to catch a flight from Bristol to Amsterdam. After a short wait for other guests, we joined the transfer bus to the Crystal Bach which was moored a short walk from the main railway station in Amsterdam.
After check in I was shown to my suite which was quite luxurious and very spacious. There is an ipad in every suite which can be used to check all facilities on the vessel – plus daily events, and a printed programme is left in each cabin in the evening showing the following day’s schedule.
My butler came to meet me to explain to me how to use all the facilities in the suite. After a buffet lunch in the ship’s main restaurant – The Waterside – and a snoop around the vessel to take some photos – as staff were busy checking in guests - I took a walk into Amsterdam - a vibrant city which welcomes over 21 million visitors a year. Top tip - watch out for cyclists! Once back on board I reserved all my chosen excursions for the cruise (all complimentary) with the reception staff.
After a Safety Drill in the ship’s lounge at 6.30 – by which time all guests had boarded – dinner was served – I managed to locate two other British passengers so we dined together – the menu offered a good variety of dishes to suit all tastes.
In addition to the main restaurant, the Bistro is a smaller Tapas style restaurant – but it is necessary to make a booking for evening meals – although a light lunch can be enjoyed here and snacks during the day.
Day 2: Exploring the gardens and windmills of Amsterdam
The following day, after breakfast, I joined the excursion to Keukenhof Gardens to see the wonderful floral displays – the gardens are open for 8 weeks only each year from late March and attract thousands of visitors from all over the world.
There was just enough time to eat lunch before taking an afternoon tour – this was called Living Dutch Traditions and we visited working windmills and some no longer functioning, plus a clog making factory – and the inevitable cheese shops.
In the evening, there was a pre-dinner drink to meet the captain and officers followed by a short concert in the Palm Court Lounge by a local string quartet.
Day 3: Rotterdam
The next day we were moored in Rotterdam and I took the afternoon City Tour – Rotterdam is not a pretty city and attracts far fewer visitors than Amsterdam – but they are making huge efforts to improve facilities.
After dinner we were entertained by the ship’s resident entertainers.
Day 4: Antwerp
The next morning we arrived in Antwerp and there was a walking tour from the vessel into the town. Crystal arranged for the group to take Waffles and Coffee in a café during the visit. Antwerp is a pretty town and by midday it was busy and the chocolate shops were doing a roaring trade. As it was so cold some of the group elected to purchase freshly cooked chips to warm us up before lunch.
That evening we attended a String Orchestra and Opera Performance in town which was really fantastic.
Day 5: Canals of Ghent
We arrived in Ghent this morning – and the chosen trip for most passengers was the Best of Bruges – A Guided walk and Canal Boat Ride.
Bruges is a beautiful town – very quirky – and the canal boat ride was lovely – but quite treacherous for anyone who forgot to stay seated – luckily we all did!
Then it was back to the ship and a lazy afternoon. After dinner, it was back to the Suite to pack, ready for an early departure the following morning for my return flight to Bristol.