Review of AmaWaterways River Cruise
We are travelling to Switzerland to embark on a 7 night river cruise of the Rhine, on board AmaWaterways with a pre-cruise stay in Lucerne, Switzerland before making our way to Basel. Read our pre-cruise thoughts and follow along as we sail the Rhine!
Flying to Switzerland
Deciding how to get to your river cruise embarkation port prior to your cruise can often be a challenge – especially if it is a country or region which you are unfamiliar with. After a bit of research we decided not to fly into Basel but to take a flight from Toronto to Zurich and then a train into Lucerne for 2 days. We had heard that Lucerne was one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and offered amazing vistas and things to do.
This was our first time flying with Swiss Air and had the opportunity to cash in some frequent flyer points and travel in business class to Zurich. Aside from the many high end offerings within that class of fare, the biggest surprise (and number one perk for us) was the opportunity to use the Swiss Air Arrivals lounge in Zurich where you can have access to your own private shower complete with spa-like shampoos, soaps and other amenities (including free ironing of your clothes while you shower). A full breakfast awaited us after getting cleaned up and we really had the chance to relax prior to catching our train to Lucerne.
Travelling to Lucerne
We did our research prior to arriving to Zurich and had pre-purchased Rail Europe tickets that would take us from the airport train station right to Lucerne… or so we thought. Our limited (ok zero) ability to speak German made it a bit difficult and we realized that the airport train station is not the main Zurich train station. But some friendly security officer told us how to take a train to the main station and transfer to Lucerne. That didn’t take us too long and we got to Lucerne within 45 minutes.
Arriving into Lucerne
Wow. We have been to many beautiful places in the world but seeing the old city nestled around Lake Lucern was a sight to see. It is no wonder this is often called the jewel of Switzerland and why it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. It is the largest town in central Switzerland and the majority of the people here speak German. Located on Lake Lucern, it has outflows to the River Reuss surrounded by mounts Pilatus and Rigi in the Swiss Alps.
There is a lot of history here in Lucerne owing to the fact that this areas was first settled in the 6th century! We were eager to explore, despite our jet lag, and after stashing our luggage at our hotel (the very comfortable Radission Blu Hotel) we walked along the lake and took in the beautiful spring weather (it was 22-24 degrees while we were visiting).
The Chapel Bridge
Probably one of the town’s most recognizable landmarks it is a covered wooden pedestrian bridge that crosses the Reuss River connecting the old town on the right bank with the new town on the left. You can see remnants of this ancient city everywhere – this bridge was constructed in 1333 intended to protect the city from attacks coming south fro the lake. In the 17th century painting were added to the bridge illustrating the scenes from Swiss history. Unfortunately a fire destroyed many of them and only 47 remain.
On our second day in Lucerne we explored more of the Old Town which you can easily do on foot. There are beautiful pedestrian cobblestone streets with multiple town squares, shopping, restaurants and bars. In the Old Town you can see historic half-timber houses, monuments, landmarks and the Old Town walls can be seen high above the city.
Lucerne’s ancient city walls and towers are remarkable testaments to the few remaining artifacts of the Medieval times in Switzerland. The walls were constructed in the 14th Century to protect the city and stretch to 870 meters. At regular intervals along the wall are 9 watch towers and visitors can climb 4 of them. This is a stunning display of history and not to be missed!
Hotel Chateau Gutsch
After a morning of hiking we looked up and saw a beautiful chateau on the hilltop and decided to make the climb.
This beloved Lucerne landmark is one of the most talked about and visited boutique hotels in Switzerland.
With spectacular panoramic views over the historic city of Lucerne, the Vierwaldstätter lake and the mountains, the Gütsch is known far and wide as one of the most beautiful locations for any hotel anywhere.
Dying Lion Monument
Our last stop for the day was at one of Lucerne’s most beloved monuments – it’s actually the oldest preserved figurative monument in the country. Carved in the relief out of the side of a rock face it was created to commemorate the regiment of the Swiss Guard which was massacred in 1792 at the Tuileries Palace in Paris during the French Revolution. 600 Swiss troops were killed in the battle and an additional 200 died in jail. Mark Twain described the Lion of Lucerne as the saddest and most moving pieces of rock in the world.
Tips for Lucerne
- Our number one tip? Don’t miss it! Often passed by as tourists visit Zurich and Basel, this is one of the most beautiful cities we have ever had the pleasure of seeing – especially as an option for a pre river-cruise option.
- Take the train – it’s relatively cheap and the train station is in the centre of the city. Depending on your hotel location you can either walk or take a taxi
- Spend at least 2 days here to really enjoy the relaxing atmosphere, walk the streets of the Old Town and don’t forget to walk along the city walls to see some ancient history
- Remember that the currency here is in Swiss Francs and the cost of anything is quite high – most establishments will accept credit cards as well as Euros (when we visited it was generally 1:1 Euro to Swiss Franc
- There is a huge variety of hotels in Lucerne – make sure to look at proximity to the train station if that is important because some of the hotels are up in the hills and would be a hike to get to unless you took a cab.
- We definitely recommend the Radisson Hotel Blu – rates can vary but we scored a room for around $165 CAD per night. This did not include breakfast but that is an option – be forewarned though, breakfast is pricey at $32 CHF per person. We opted to walk 5 minutes to Luz a beautiful cafe on the waterfront where you could get a breakfast of coffee, orange juice, muesli and croissant for $14.50 CHF – a good bargain in this city!
Stay tuned for our next post: Embarkation day in Basel!