Embarkation day is always exciting, but even more so when embarking a brand new vessel, and a new Tauck vessel, no less. We arrived dockside at ms Grace very early, about 10am, but Maggie Chada, the Cruise Director, was there to greet us. We could tell she was still dealing with disembarkation of guests from the previous cruise, so we accepted her offer to relax in the Panorama Lounge.
Tauck ms Grace docked in Amsterdam
We decided to spend some time in the morning exploring this new vessel, and taking photos for the blog. We were able to gain access to some staterooms being prepared for arriving guests. We also visited the new Arthur's restaurant located all the way aft on Deck 3. Arthur's now features a full bar and an open kitchen. And, the entire dining concept here has been changed to an all-day a' la carte dining venue. From 11am until 11pm, Arthur's offers a full menu of salads, burgers, sandwiches, soups, desserts, etc. For dinner, a few more items are added to the menu such as sirloin steak and salmon. This is a different use for Arthur's since our last Tauck cruise and a very interesting and unique concept.
The new bar at Arthur's
At around noon, one of the receptionists found us in the Panorama and said that we could now go to our stateroom. Our Category 3 Loft cabin is the same configuration we had on ms Inspire in 2014, and we were impressed with it then. Our stateroom (101) is located forward on Deck 1, close to the lobby and Compass Rose restaurant. The fitness center is right next to our stateroom.
Category 3, "Loft" cabin
The loft cabins are unique in that they have a huge window, spanning two decks, yet are located on Deck 1. Typically, cabins located on Deck 1 of a riverboat only have a small, narrow window at the top of the outside cabin wall, since most of the cabin is actually below the water line. The loft, however, has a large window in an elevated "loft" area complete with a table and two chairs where you can sit and enjoy the scenery as you sail down (or up) the river. The window can be opened for a clear view or for fresh air. We will talk more about the unique features of the loft cabin in our final review.
Instead of unpacking, we decide to take a walk into town to do some shopping and sightseeing. Amsterdam is a great town for walking, and even better for bicycling as everyone here, it seems, is on two wheels. We grab a Tauck umbrella from the container near the exit and walk off the boat toward town. We make it almost to the bow of the boat before turning back. It is cold and very windy, and raining! No thanks, this is not what we signed up for. We have had beautiful weather for the past week in Europe and now it turns cold? What's up with that? We decide to go back to our stateroom and unpack.
At 5pm, we attend a welcome aboard briefing conducted by Maggie, our Tauck Cruise Director. We are introduced to our three Tour Directors for the cruise and to the rest of the ship's senior staff.
Maggie Chada greets guests
After the introductions and a brief safety talk, it is time for dinner. While everyone else appears to disperse to the Compass Rose for dinner, Rickee and I decide to walk back to Arthur's to try out the new dinner menu. I order a Caesar salad and a sirloin steak and Rickee orders a Cobb salad and a bowl of Dutch green pea soup. My Caesar salad was good, and can also be ordered as a main course with chicken, beef or salmon added to the salad. I was surprised at how tender and flavorful the sirloin was, given that sirloin can be a very tough cut of meat. The open kitchen allows guests to watch their meal being prepared, which is pretty cool. Ricardo took good care of us and we had the entire place to ourselves until the captain and second captain arrived. By the way, for dessert, I highly recommend the Valrhona chocolate brownie served with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream!
The open kitchen at Arthur's
The dinner at the "new" Arthur's is much less formal than it used to be and no reservations are required. Now, it is a casual, open all day a' la carte restaurant. I am anxious to try the hamburger, something I have been wanting on a river cruise for years! After dinner, we walk back to our stateroom and get to bed early. Our excursion in Amsterdam starts early in the morning and we want to be rested. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate.