Slideshow Image
Slideshow Image
Slideshow Image
Slideshow Image

Pams Path to Travel
"Making your dream vacation...
...a dream come to true!!"

Call: (650) 363-6156 | Email:

2023 AMA Waterways- AMA Prima

This review is written for the sole purpose of promoting travel.  If a trip like this is of any interest to you, I ask that you contact me for my assistance and expertise to book a similar trip for you.


We set out on a big adventure for 2023, an adventure that has been in the making for 2 years.   When I took over the Travel Group at our Regency Community and polled the neighbors on what they’d like to do as a group, a River Cruise with Wine focus that was an active vacation was tops on the list.   We set the wheels in motion and planned for 2023.  


There were 28 of us in total for the cruise but everyone’s adventure on this group trip is slightly different as some arrived into Amsterdam a few days early to do things on their own,  some arrived in time to add on the 2 nights pre-cruise stay with AMAWaterways, some did another cruise before the group cruise.  Makes for some interesting conversation when we all reunited on the 7 day cruise! 




We took the scenic route from Reno to Amsterdam.  Knowing how unpredictable travel can be these days, I was not taking any chances so we flew to SFO the night before our International flight.  We stayed at the Marriott SFO Waterfront and with our status had a 4pm check-out which meant we could work a bit that day from our hotel room.  I also got outside for an hour or so and took a nice walk along the Bayside Trail which felt good knowing that we’d be sitting on a plane for 10 hours.   When it was finally time to check-out we took the hotel shuttle to SFO and checked in for our Virgin Atlantic flight to London.


We used points to fly Upper Class again and it was nice to have the lounge to relax in for 4 hours,  Bill had some work to finish up and we were refreshed with food and drink while we enjoyed the lounge.  Our Virgin Atlantic experience was a good one, the flight was relatively smooth and we did get some sleep, though even with the best of conditions (Upper Class), it’s still hard for me to sleep on what they try to make a comfortable bed.  We were served two meals one before sleeping and one when we woke up about an hour before landing.  Our flight departed SFO around 11pm, so we landed in London about 5pm.  We had already planned on spending the night at the Heathrow Sofitel because trying to process through immigration, customs and then check-in for another flight, go through security could take upwards of 5 hours and we figured we’d just be better off spending the night.   


Our experience at the Sofitel was limited but the room was gorgeous and the bed was heavenly.  We were not hungry because Virgin Atlantic had taken such good care of us from check-in to landing, we felt like all we did was eat and drink for 24 hours - we sort of did.   So we opted for a bottle of wine in the room while we both hit the laptops for a little bit more work and went to bed early because we had an early flight the next day to Amsterdam. 


We woke up at 5am to get ready for our 8am British Airways flight to Amsterdam only to learn that our flight had been canceled.   I sprung out of bed and went into Travel Advisor Survival Mode trying to find alternate flights, which did not exist, so we pivoted and I booked us on an 815am Eurostar Train to Amsterdam that would get us in 115pm- with just enough time to settle into our hotel and have our 3pm walking tour.  


I had been monitoring the flights for everyone in my group, resting easy that everyone got on their way with relatively little to no delays or disruptions, so if something like this had to happen to anyone, I’m glad it was us! 


The Eurostar Train Experience was wonderful.  This was our 2nd time on the Eurostar (previously traveled Paris to London), but I believe this was our first experience in the Premier Class and have to say, now we are spoiled.  We were served breakfast, drinks, well tended to and our car was relatively empty so it was quite peaceful, we dozed a bit and watched the beautiful countryside pass us by.   When we arrived Amsterdam, our pre-arranged limo was waiting for us- he was able to pivot also and pick us up from the train station instead of the airport and though we did not need to spend that amount of money on that service, we were going to pay for it regardless as we were within penalty when British Airways canceled our flight.  


We arrived easily at our hotel, the Renaissance Amsterdam and were instantly disappointed.  The hotel was going through a major rebuild.  We later found out that they bought the building next door to expand the hotel and did a mediocre set up of the hotel in this other building while they tore down the original hotel to rebuild.   This was not advised when I booked the hotel months ago and I was never updated.   When checking in we were told we could have either two twins with AC or a Queen with a fan.  We tried to make it work but in the end we just knew we would not be happy, so we moved hotels and the Renaissance could not have been more accommodating.  They were happy to cancel our reservation without penalty and even arranged and paid for our taxi to the Amsterdam Marriott.  


The Amsterdam Marriott was amazing!!   Their welcome felt like it should, you could tell the employees love their jobs, service was outstanding and the room was bright, fresh and comfortable.   We are Platinum Elite with Marriott and have access to their MClub Lounge and this lounge was probably one of the better experiences that we’ve seen.  A great breakfast spread with hot items, lots of pastries, cheeses, meats, smoked salmon, salad and many beverages.   We used the “Happy Hour” one evening to grab a cocktail while getting ready for dinner and did not taste any snacks but could see that they had a nice selection of appetizers.  You really could make that dinner if you wanted to.    


We did have one “odd” thing happen at the Marriott.  After our 2nd night, we returned from a full day exploring and found that our room had not been made up, this was at 6pm.  We were getting ready for dinner and housekeeping then knocked on the door, we asked them to return in 5-10 minutes as we were just changing for dinner and going out again.  No problem.  However, when we returned from dinner we discovered that they had removed two full glasses of wine that we had set aside inside the fridge cabinet.  We had put them in there because we planned on finishing them and we were just too tired to drink them the previous night.  Anyway, when I explained this to the front desk they gave us a voucher for 2 free drinks and were shocked that this happened, as were we!   Stuff happens, it’s going to happen but how it’s handled is what matters most and we were well taken care of in this case!   Anyway,  I would highly recommend this hotel for a stay in Amsterdam.  Conveniently located to many “must see” things in Amsterdam but after logging 15-20K steps daily, at times an Uber is a nice change. 




We had a busy 2.5 days and I’m happy with what we have accomplished here in the Netherlands.   Our arrival day, we took a 3 hour walking tour with our private guide, Sophie.  She was delightful and had so much knowledge and she was also respectful that we had traveled, we were tired and running out of steam.   She was also helpful in finding us a restroom when needed (which are hard to find- you either need to find a nice establishment that will let you use their restroom or pay for a coffee or something to use the facilities)  She found a nice little Italian restaurant that was happy to let us use the restroom.   Once our walking tour was done we were ready for a nice dinner at our hotel’s Steakhouse- Midtown Grill, which is rated as one of Amsterdam’s top Steakhouses and it was delicious.  Food was excellent, service perfect and we didn’t need to go very far which made getting to bed that night easy! 


The next morning we got up early and had a timed entry into the Van Gogh Museum which was interesting to see so many of his works in person.  He has always been one of my favorite artists.  We then walked towards the Central Train station to meet up with our Canal Cruise that was part of our “timed entry museum & 1 hour Canal Cruise”,  we set out on the Lover’s Canal Cruise for an hour and got to see Amsterdam from the water perspective.  It was also nice to sit down for an hour!   As soon as the cruise was over, we walked over to the train station for a potty break (for .70 Euros each) before meeting up with our afternoon tour to Zaanse Shans which is a little village in Holland where you can see active windmills (paint mill),  see how they make clogs, see how cheese is made (and taste some) and learn a bit about the history that makes this part of the world special.   It was a little crowded but it’s August in Europe when travel to Europe is at an all time high!  I know others did the tour in the morning and felt it was not very crowded.   We got back to our hotel by 6pm, changed clothes and then we went to Trattoria Donna Sofia for dinner.  This was the nice restaurant that let us use the restrooms the day before, so we wanted to thank them in the best way that we knew how.   It was delicious.  


On our last full day in Amsterdam before our cruise, we did a day trip to Bruges, Belgium.   3.5 hours on the bus to get there and another 3 hours on the bus to get back, left us about 4 hours to experience this medieval town.  I wish we could have had more time there but while there we had a lovely lunch.  Bill had the best mussels that he’s ever had, my chicken was not as exciting, but we enjoyed lunch with two friends from our group.  Then we took a canal cruise to see more of Bruges from the water side and walked around and shopped on our way back to the bus.   I think I really would have loved to spend a night here to fully enjoy it, but I’m glad we got to go.  We got back to our hotel, had a light snack before going to bed for the night.



We slept in a bit because we were in no rush.  Boarding the River Cruises starts around 1pm, so after breakfast we packed up our suitcases and caught an Uber to the ship.  We basically dropped our bags and walked right onto the ship, we were given our keys and escorted to our room with our bags.  Super low key and easy.  We toured around the ship and started to see our friends and catch up with everyone and talk about their pre-cruise experiences.   We were not leaving Amsterdam this evening, so guests were welcome to hang out in the city if they wished. We chose to enjoy friends on board and get a good night's sleep.  The next morning we had an included canal cruise which was much nicer than the one we took as this was exclusive for AMAWaterways guests and we had about 20 of us on one boat and 20 people on a 2nd boat,  I think capacity was probably 80 on the boat. 

We were back on the ship and ready for lunch and then we sailed out of Amsterdam. 


The rest of the week included the ports of Cologne, Rudesheim, Mainz, Lahnstein, Cochem & Bernkastel.  We visited Cathedrals, we had walking tours around the towns, we took gondolas to the top of a mountain overlooking vineyards, we had several wine-tastings in ports of call, we toured castles, caught an annual wine Princess Parade, visited Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum.  Some in our group did full on hike’s in the ports of call guided by a tour guide and some also did bike tours led by the fitness instructor on board.  There was such a variety of activities and even the walking tours were divided into different levels of activity.  We had a day of cruising the Rhine Gorge to see the amazing castles everywhere you look.  We were treated to an authentic Rudesheim coffee while sitting outside viewing castles.  Our ship went through 12 locks, mostly along the Moselle River and it was fascinating to watch the ones that didn’t happen while we were asleep.  


In the evenings, we had entertainment.  A few musical acts were brought on board for a few hours before the ship sailed and then we had Lazlo who played his keys along with music.  Small dance floor, but it was good enough for our group. 


Our dining experience on AMA was amazing.  They were quick to serve breakfast which was appreciated as most mornings we had a time to be off the ship for a tour.  Lunch was more relaxed with a few courses served and dinner was fantastic.  We did experience the Chef’s Table one night and though I am not a foodie and I am very picky, it was a very nice experience. Others in our group said it was amazing (they are the foodies).  


I also booked a few appointments with the Hair Salon and the Massage Therapist.  Elena was the one woman show who did both hair services and massage services and she was fantastic for both.  I can’t tell you the last time that I had a massage where I was literally a wet noodle for hours after the massage.  I almost could not walk when I got off the massage table. 


We had a wonderful Cruise Manager (Peter) and Hotel Manager (Miguel) along with wonderful lounge staff with Elena (a different Elena) who ran the lounge like a well oiled machine.  She was always on top of things and never let a glass go empty.  AMA includes wine/beer with lunch and dinner and also hosts an hour Sip & Sail before dinner with additional included cocktails, but even if you purchased drinks outside of these times, they were very inexpensive and the pours were very generous.  I think we spent 300 Euros for the week for the 2 of us and we did buy drinks for others during the week too. 


Our cabin was comfortable, we had the double balcony stateroom which has both a French Balcony and a regular balcony where you can sit outside with 2 chairs and a table and we did use it.  We had enough storage for our clothes. The bathroom was on the tiny side but I’m not sure where they could have made it any larger.  I did sneak a peek at one of the suites and they were very spacious and our friends who had that cabin were very happy that they went with the suite.  


At the end of the cruise, we all parted ways.  Some of our group went straight home, some went onward with their own independent travels, some continued with AMAWaterways to Paris for 3 nights via TGV train and then 8 of us (myself included) took a 2 nights Reims/1 night Paris extension with AMA that was operated via motorcoach.  


There were 12 people total on this extension, so we had plenty of space.    On our way to Reims, we toured Luxembourg and had lunch on our own. We stopped by the Luxembourg Cemetery for American Soldiers, where General Patton is buried.  Once we arrived at Reims, we checked into our hotel (La Caserne Chanzy Hôtel & Spa) and then had a walking tour of Reims and a guided visit to the Reims Cathedral which was built to emulate the Cathedral de Notre Dame in Paris.   Afterwards, we sipped champagne with our tour guide and then went to dinner with our friends.


The next day our tour included a trip to Hautviller where we had a walking tour around the town, learned a bit more about Champagne and its origin and about the Champagne greats like Dom Perignon and even visited the church where he is buried.  After our walking tour, we continued to the town of Epernay where we drove down the Avenue de Champagne and were then left to walk around, have some lunch, shop, etc.  We opted for a visit to Perrier Jouet for lunch and it did not disappoint.  We did a brief visit to Moet & Chandon’s gift shop and then it was time to meet our bus and continue the tour with some Champagne tastings.  We stopped at LeMaire Maison and tasted 5-6 different Champagnes and then went back to Reims where we visited Mumm where we had a cave tour that was fascinating followed by a very nice glass of Champagne.  We had dinner at our hotel’s restaurant but we all thought that it was overpriced and under-delivered.  


Our last day with AMAWaterways took us to another American Cemetery, Belleau Wood and then the Chateau-Thierry American Monument for brief tours of both and a great history lesson.  We then had lunch in the town of Chateau Thierry and then headed to Paris.  The tour ended at the Pullman CDG airport hotel for 1 night.  We however, planned to stay in Paris for 2 nights, so we took an Uber to the Westin Vendome Paris for our last 2 nights.  We had one other couple in our group doing the same, though they had 6 nights in Paris.   


I splurged for the room with a view at the Westin and it did not disappoint.  100% worth it.  Paris has my heart and always has. Ever since I was a small child, I was fascinated by Paris. This was my 3rd visit to the beautiful city of lights, but also my shortest visit- so it was bittersweet.  We spent the evening at our hotel and enjoyed cocktails and dinner with our friends and then got up super early the next day to hit the ground running.  After breakfast, we met up with an old friend of mine, Lynn.  Lynn worked for a CEO at one of my first Corporate Accounts when I began in the Travel Business 33 years ago. She & I had become fast friends but over the years had lost touch.  We became back in touch via LinkedIn about 3 years ago, during the pandemic and started to email each other.   She has been living in Paris now for 6 years, so I knew we had to meet up.  It was great to see her.  We enjoyed a Cappuccino and then we walked around Paris with her for several hours visiting Pont Alexandre, Galerie Lafayette and then once we parted ways it was time for lunch.  Bill & I found a cafe near L’Opera and enjoyed a wonderful Croque Monsieur, cocktails and Creme Broulee.  We then set out walking to the Seine where we hopped on a River cruise to see the sights a bit more and eventually made it back to our hotel to have dinner with our friends again.  We walked about 10 minutes from our hotel to a wonderful Italian place called Gambino.  Everything was delicious.  After dinner, we called it a night in our room with a bottle of wine while we watched our Eiffel Tower view and got ready for our long trek back home. I clocked over 23,000 steps on this day in Paris, which was my highest step count for any given day on the entire trip.  




I had pre-booked both sedan service to the airport along with airport departure escort service.   It was helpful as our airline ticket was slight complicated with Air France from Paris to London and then Virgin Atlantic to SFO, they are partner airlines so it was all one ticket but with mixed classes of service (economy on Air France & Prem Economy on Virgin Atlantic) we probably went into the wrong line but having the escort, they handled things.  Security was a breeze and I didn’t see a ton of lines for those without escort service but I’d much rather breeze through and having the escort was almost like having TSA pre-check internationally.  Of course, we ended up with about 2.5 hours to kill at the airport but you just never know and you don’t want to miss your flight.


Both flights were good and we had another 2 hours in Heathrow so we bought lounge passes for the Club Aspire Lounge, was worth it for the quiet area, table, lounge type of furniture, food and drink. We paid the equivalent of about $35USD per person.  Our flight to SFO was uneventful, they kept feeding us on this flight too.  We landed a bit early which was good, breezed through Global Entry at SFO, waited for our luggage and then headed upstairs to United to check-in for our last flight to Reno.  SFO was a little hectic at 9pm on a Saturday night, but we still breezed through TSA lines and were shocked that our gate was the gate right as you exit security.  We landed in Reno early at 1145pm and headed home, unpacked, started laundry and went to bed at 2am filled with great memories of a wonderful trip! 


To see more photos,CLICK HERE: 2023 AMA PRIMA PHOTOS