LIFE BELOW DECK:
Aboard the 'Amsterdam'
Home for a week is a cabin (one sleeping four, the others for two). As on any vessel, space is at a premium, but anyone accustomed to sleeper compartments on trains -- or youth hostels -- will not feel constrained aboard the Amsterdam. Four toilets and four hot showers are shared by 36 passengers (one after the other, not all at once).
Breakfast, at 8am on the dot, and dinner (6.30pm) are convivial affairs, with no set places and a cheerful mingling of nationality.
The food is excellent in quantity and quality. In most establishments the management tries to prevent holidaymakers making off with the makings of lunch purloined from the breakfast buffet. But aboard the Amsterdam, the opposite applies: sandwich bags, fruit and chocolate are provided to help you prepare a picnic.
The on-board language is English, and each evening at dinner the guides give an informal briefing to the following day's activities.
The restaurant also serves as the main communal area, with all kinds of games provided. Organised entertainment takes the form of a Eurovision song contest that follows the customary voting patterns, with the Spanish colluding with the Italians, the Germans with plucky the Belgians, and the Irish and British coming last.
Mains electricity, for recharging mobile phones, laptops and cameras, is available in cabins except between 10pm and 7.15am (the generator is switched off overnight). Mobile phones mostly work above deck. There is no television but you won't even miss it.