We arrived in Amsterdam 3 days pre-cruise and stayed in an AirBNB in Utretch. Between train and bus service we arrived at our destination in about an hour. We were able to spend a full day in Amsterdam and another day in Utretch. We arrived at the Monarch Countess 2 hours before official boarding time, but were told we could leave our luggage if we wanted to walk around outside for a bit, which we did.
Food in the dining room was one seating only with open seating. Breakfast and lunch were buffet style with each day having one special you could order from the kitchen. There was a cook making eggs or omelets to order for breakfast and we did take advantage of that. There was plenty to eat from the buffet, but I did order the Eggs Benedict special for breakfast one morning and was craving a cheeseburger towards the end of the cruise so ordered that for lunch. Dinner had two options for the entree but appetizer and soup were one choice. You did have a choice of desserts Wait staff came by at dinner with a red and a white wine which was included. You could also order a beer which was included. There was one night when the wine and beer were offered in the lounge for one extra hour. Other than dinner there was a charge for all drinks. Different drink specials were offered at the bar during the week.
Entertainment on the ship low key. The Activity Director was very friendly and easy going. He set up some music trivia games, and a contest for most popular dance songs. He also taught some basic dance steps. A duo came on board at one of the ports. She sang (very well) and he played piano. There was also another local performer which I did not see. There were a some games played during the day - putt putt golf, darts. In the evening the Activity DIrector would DJ, and played music the audience wanted. So there was a lot of line dancing and some classic rock thrown in for good measure. He also had a 30 minute stretch / exercise class each morning which my travel companion took advantage of. I preferred the extra sleep! The Tour Director gave a port talk each evening before dinner covering not only the logistics of the tours but also some things to see and do if we were out on our own. She gave a talk of the division of East and West Germany and its' reunification. During one stretch of travel down the river, she gave commentary along the way as to the villages and castles we were passing and talked about the Legend of Lorilei. She was also on the included tours and was always available. There is also a masseusse on board and I took advantage of that. Pricing was in line with what I pay at home and there was no sales pitch at the end!
Service was amazing! Front desk personnel were great and had answers for any question we had (and we had many) We did not purchase any transfers and they were able to get us a shared taxi to take us to the train station when we arrived in Basel. Our cabin steward took really good care of us and was always pleasant and smiling when we saw her in the morning or afternoon. The wait staff were really good. With everyone arriving for meals at approximately the same time, I'm sure it was difficult, but they managed to keep everyone happy. The two bartenders did double duty as wait staff. The Maitre'd was always on the floor making sure everyone had their wine, and would stop and ask if anyone needed anything and made sure it happened. One evening neither my friend or I liked the wines being served. As the Maitre'd came by to refill our glasses, we stated that we were not having wine that evening because neither choice was to our liking. He came back with a different bottle and had us try it. Since we liked that one, he made sure to come back around and refilled it later during the meal.
Never having been to this area, we opted to take the ships included city tours so that we could get an overview of the locations. These were either bus tours with a guide, or a walking tour with a guide. We did opt for the Marksberg Castle Tour as we each wanted to see a castle. Because of the timing of the ports we were not able to spend a lot of time in a couple of places as we had to be back on board by noon to sail to the next location and then a stop in the evening. Most tours left between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m.
We started in Amsterdam on Sunday and did the following ports: Tuesday: Cologne; Wednesday: Koblenz (1/2 day) then Rudesheim; Thursday: Manheim (1/2 day) then Speyer; Friday: Strasbourg; Saturday: Breisach; Sunday disembarked in Basel.
All in all we had a great experience. It was quite a bit different from the ocean cruises I have been on and the time structure took some getting used to. I would definitely do another river cruise.
We were escorted to our cabin upon arrival. It was quite roomy and we had more than enough storage area for the 2 of us. Our room was set up for twin beds which allowed plenty of room to get around. If you do have this set up, be aware that the bed is right up against the wall and the light switch is right by the bed. Twice during the night I accidently hit the which scared the heck out of us. The next day I saw I could move the bed a little closer to the night stand which gave enough room to not hit switch accidently. The bathroom had a hair dryer, shampoo, conditioner, soap, body wash and lotion set up on the counter and it was replaced as needed. We also had a refrigerator, safe and television in the room.