ONBOARD THE AMALUCIA -- The numbers were not in his favor when singer Matt Williams stepped into the lounge for his first live performance in 617 days.

After all, there were only 28 passengers onboard the AmaLucia as the ship departed Amsterdam, as opposed to a maximum capacity of 160. 

T0906AMALUCIARUDISCHREINER_C [credit: Brittany Chrusciel]
AmaWaterways president Rudi Schreiner addresses passengers on the final night of the sailing. Photo Credit: Brittany Chrusciel

But something extraordinary happened in the lounge that night. A small group quickly grew until most of the guests onboard were seated together on the couches. Applause and cheers filled the space, as did the chorus to "Que Sera, Sera." The signs used to guide our daily tours were spontaneously distributed by our cruise manager, and the audience became a rainbow of twirling "AmaLucia" lollipops. 

The enthusiasm was so pronounced that our guest performer put his hand to his heart, clearly touched by our determination to sing and celebrate, a resolve that didn't wane throughout the German singer's hourlong show.

EU restrictions prevented passengers from dancing, but our fully vaccinated posse held hands and swayed in our seats as Williams performed an encore of John Lennon's "Imagine." It wasn't as defiant as "Footloose," but the gesture signified that the ongoing pandemic would not prevent us from enjoying this moment of connection. 

"I've been doing this 10 years, with 14 to 15 cruises a year, and this was something special," our cruise manager, Rachel Couto-Gomes, said during a toast on the final evening. Couto-Gomes, who had Covid-19 not once but twice, took every opportunity to emphasize what it meant to her and the rest of the crew to be reunited with one another, but also with guests. "We are not a full ship, but we are full of heart."

AmaLucia dispatches

All guests and crew onboard AmaWaterways vessels must be vaccinated and wear masks in public areas of the ship. The U.S. currently requires a PCR test within 48 hours of returning on a flight home, which is arranged by the cruise line for an additional fee. Other changes include the removal of self-serve food and coffee and lots of paperwork on hand in port depending on when and where you are doing what.

"You are the brave ones who made it to Europe, because a lot of people are backing out and moving trips to next year. So I really want to thank all of you for being here," Rudi Schreiner, president and co-owner of AmaWaterways, told us on the first night.

Schreiner had originally planned to attend the christening of the ship, which was delayed until next year, but decided to join the sailing on the Rhine and Moselle rivers anyway to experience the cruise line's newest vessel in action. 

T0906AMARACHELCOUTOGOMES_C [credit: Brittany Chrusciel]
AmaLucia cruise manager Rachel Couto-Gomes bids farewell to passengers. Photo Credit: Brittany Chrusciel

For the eight days onboard, we were treated to unparalleled service and incredible cuisine. Many commented that this new river ship felt like our own private yacht. But for those onboard the AmaLucia, it wasn't really about access to world-class entertainment or experiencing absolute perfection; it was about truly savoring the ability to travel again in a climate that is still uncertain. 

"We are all pioneering a new reality of traveling," Couto-Gomes reminded us at the end of our cruise.

With the possibility of new restrictions on U.S. citizens entering the EU looming large that evening, the afterglow of a good trip was all the more potent, knowing that the ability to return could change at any moment.

"If I have to close out 2021 like this, with this cruise, it was my absolute pleasure," she said.

Corrected: This report and its headline were updated on Sept. 3 to correct an editing error stating that this was the AmaLucia's inaugural cruise.

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