Cruising down the Rhine from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Basel, in Switzerland, on the luxurious AmaLucia is the easiest way to visit four countries in one week while only unpacking once.

The chilled champagne fizzes on my tongue, making the sorbet it surrounds explode with the flavour of berries. ‘Delicious,’ I murmur, licking the last mouthful of sorbet off the spoon, and sitting back in my chair. ‘That was the perfect way to end a meal.’

The waitress smiles. ‘That was just the palate cleanser,’ she explains. ‘There are two more courses to go, plus chocolates and coffee.’ I burst out laughing. We’ve already feasted on four courses at The Chef’s Table – but are barely more than half-way through our tasting menu.

‘I’m sure I can find room,’ I reassure her, remembering the beetroot carpaccio starter, lemongrass soup, and egg salad I’ve devoured. Every morsel was delicious – and every dish looked more like a piece of art than dinner.

Great British Life: The AmaLucia is a floating five-star hotel. (c) Toni ScholzThe AmaLucia is a floating five-star hotel. (c) Toni Scholz

It is our first night on a Captivating Rhine river cruise with AmaWaterways sailing from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Basel in Switzerland on board the luxurious AmaLucia, passing through France and Germany along the way.

I read up on what to expect: stunning views of the river gorge lined with ruins of medieval castles and fortresses. I planned trips to see Anne Frank’s diary at the Achterhuis – or secret annexe - where she hid from Nazi persecution for two years at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam during World War Two, as well as a mini cruise around the city’s canals, but I didn’t expect the ship to be a foodie haven. Tonight has whetted my appetite and, even though I am now full from devouring seven courses, I’m hungry to discover what other culinary delights we’ll experience during our voyage through Europe.

‘Let’s walk off some of these calories,’ my husband, Alexio, suggests. We flew into Amsterdam earlier that day and are docked here overnight, so we can explore the city after dark.

It is only a ten-minute stroll into the centre with its pretty bridges and canals. We’ve already been to the Anne Frank House, and hav a canal cruise booked for the following morning. So, after an hour of wandering the cobbled streets we head back to AmaLucia, our floating home away from home for the next week.

Great British Life: Our stateroom was a gorgeous haven on board (c) Karen Pasquali JonesOur stateroom was a gorgeous haven on board (c) Karen Pasquali Jones

Built to carry just 156 passengers and 51 crew, AmaLucia is the newest of the AmaWaterways fleet, and is akin to a five-star hotel. Our stateroom is gorgeous, with a balcony, marble bathroom and full-size Pure Herb toiletries. There’s complimentary high-speed WiFi, and a huge, flatscreen TV which comes with free movies – perfect for after lunch siestas.

Food, as we discovered earlier, is an important part of life on board, with tapas served throughout the day in the lounge, fine-dining in the main restaurant plus The Chef’s Table. There is a gym, walking track and fleet of bikes to work off the calories, plus yoga and dance classes on the sun deck led by a Wellness Host. But best of all is a bijou pool with swim up bar – the ideal location for sipping a cocktail while watching the stunning scenery. ‘A wine with the Rhine,’ becomes Alexio’s favourite phrase and it never wears thin.

Unlike ocean cruises, excursions are included on a river cruise – there is usually a choice of three per destination -, as are pre-dinner cocktails and wine with lunch and dinner.

The next day, after breakfast, we head out for our canal tour of the Venice of the North, glimpsing some of the city’s 1500 bridges, including the famed Skinny Bridge, then cast off on AmaLucia to head towards Cologne, Germany.

Great British Life: Cologne's cathedral dominates the cityscape. (c) GettyCologne's cathedral dominates the cityscape. (c) Getty

Home to the UNESCO-designated Gothic Cathedral, and famous Hohenzollern Bridge, we decide to indulge in some local brew on a Kolsch Beer tasting tour. We pass by the cathedral, which took 630 years to build, and used to look like the backdrop to a horror movie after the limestone turned black thanks to acid rain and pollution, the worst of which was steam trains in the past. Now the city spends 12 million euros a year cleaning and maintaining the exterior.

Dotted around the centre are local taverns serving cold glasses of Kolsch in tiny glasses so that the beer is always fresh. ‘Always look your companion in the eye and say Prost before drinking otherwise you will have years of bad luck,’ our guide explains, taking us inside one of the packed taverns.

Every time we finish a glass of beer, another arrives, and so I sip mine as it is surprisingly strong. While we drink our guide tells us about the Cologne Carnival held on 11 November each year where women run through the streets with scissors, cutting men’s ties before asking for a kiss. ‘It’s an old tradition,’ the guide says, ‘but it can scare the tourists.’

Back on board AmaLucia, we dress for cocktails – a deliciously tart lemon martini – and I feast on beans cassoulet while Alexio tucks into grilled Dorade fillet, with beluga lentils, pico de gallo and guacamole, followed by banana split, fresh seasonal fruits and European cheese and biscuits.

The next day we glide down the UNESCO-designated Rhine Gorge, admiring castles and passing by the legendary Lorelei Rock where it is said a beautiful woman lures sailors with her enchanting song, causing shipwrecks. Luckily, we make it past unscathed – and with no sign of the singer – to Rudesheim.

We pick a wine tasting tour at the Bassenheimer Hof where we meet Adolf Storzel, the vineyard owner, and taste some of his dry Reisling wines. He tells us that Rudesheim became famous for winemaking in the 18th century after the local archbishop asked the monks to create something special for celebrations.

This area is famous for its Ice wine, created when the grapes have been frozen to up to -35C for three days. ‘It’s perfect as a dessert wine,’ he says. But at 100 euros for a small bottle, it’s usually drunk on Christmas Eve or other special occasions. ‘You never pair it with dinner,’ Adolph says. ‘Eat with something sweet or drink it on its own.’ We leave empty handed as Alexio likes red white and I prefer sparkling, but with the flavour of peaches, I can see the appeal of German wines.

But it’s a constant battle of grapes versus hops in this country, and the next day on the way to Speyer – one of Germany’s oldest cities with its UNESCO-designated Cathedral – our guide tells us that beer isn’t considered alcohol but rather the elixir of life. ‘It’s not alcohol for us,’ she insists, ‘and so from 11am we go into beer gardens because it’s just like water with the taste of beer!’ Iced coffee is popular here too though with two scoops of vanilla ice cream in it to keep cool in the hot and humid summers.

The town looks like a film set from medieval times but there are parrots everywhere and they talk so loudly it sounds like we’re in the middle of a jungle.

Great British Life: The traditional half timbered houses of Petite France, Strasbourg. (c) GettyThe traditional half timbered houses of Petite France, Strasbourg. (c) Getty

It’s a stark contrast to our destination the next day: Strasbourg, the site of the European Union Parliament. My husband is excited as he loves politics and seemingly never misses a speech from the EU’s Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

We stroll through the town that has been French and German over the centuries and is now the capital of Europe. It is a jumble of modern and medieval with the pink Cathedrale de Notre Dame that was the highest in the world for 400 years, only surpassed by Cologne in the 1800s, and the quaint Petite-France packed with half-timbered houses and Baroque sandstone buildings on the Grande Ile, where the rivers Ils is split into a number of cascading canals.

We tour the souvenir shops surrounding the cathedral, filled with hand-made quilts and quaint knick-knacks that we just can’t resist – including a pretty cup with our daughter’s name on it and a Strasbourg University hoodie for our son.

We’re laden with bags when we get back on board AmaLucia in time to freshen up for cocktails and dinner. Every night we can choose which restaurant we want to dine in and where we’d like to sit. We enjoy sitting with other couples who start off as strangers and rapidly become friends.

Within a few days we know almost everyone on board, and create a team for the quiz night – we come a disappointing second! – and dance to the resident DJ who does a session every evening. Other local singers come aboard during the cruise – including a magnificent Beatles/Rolling Stones tribute act who has everyone on their feet and singing along as he performs.

We only have one more day and a visit to Breisach in Germany - where you can choose to hike in the Black Forest where the tales of the Grimm Brothers were created or bike around the wine region of Breisach. We head to the Alsatian town of Riquewihr for a last-minute taste of France before our final sailing to Basel in Switzerland.

We have a very early flight home – meaning a 3am start – but we make the most of our final night with our new cruise friends, eating, drinking and dancing. It’s a wonderful way to see four countries, including some of the very best towns and cities in Europe, in just one week without having to unpack more than once. Even better I weigh myself back home and am delighted to see I haven’t put on any weight, thanks to all those guided tours which seem to be the perfect way to keep in (ship) shape.

The Details:

A seven night AmaWaterways Captivating Rhine cruise from Amsterdam to Basel on AmaLucia starts from £2,497 per person based on 25 February 2024 departure in a category E stateroom on AmaLucia. The price includes full-board basis including drinks with lunch and dinner plus a selection of excursions as well as return flights from Gatwick or Heathrow and overseas transfers.