As a veteran ocean cruiser, I am quite familiar with the ins and outs of some of the biggest ships on the seas. But while I’m not quite a river cruise “virgin” – I had previously taken an overnight on Viking River Cruises a few years ago – my recent overnight on AMAWaterways’ new ship, AmaPrima, opened my eyes to some of the quirks that come with river cruising.
At the risk of seeming naive, here are some of my observations:
1. Lots more could be done with the top deck.
I don’t understand why more amenities aren’t placed on the top deck of riverboats. AmaPrima boasts a very hip swim-up bar right behind the bridge. But why stop there? Apart from the aforementioned pool and a large chess set, the deck simply contains just rows and rows and rows of deck chairs. I asked co-owner Rudi Schreiner why, and he said European weather was just too unpredictable. (I don’t know about that. Now UK weather, that’s unpredictable…) My suggestions include a permanent BBQ area, an outside, partially covered restaurant, another bar, a bigger pool, mini-golf… The list is endless.
2. The rooms are lovely. Really lovely.
The sleeping quarters on AmaPrima don’t have the feel of cabins, so I’m going to call them rooms. Sure, I had a suite, which you’d expect to feel luxurious, well-designed and spacious, but the non-suite rooms were equally as lovely. It’s the attention to detail that really struck me: Beautiful finish, gorgeous linens, a stunning bathroom with a deep tub and a stand-alone shower. Inside, I felt I was staying at a Four Seasons or a Ritz-Carlton than on a riverboat.
3. It’s very smooth sailing.
OK, I know this should be a given, but we headed off the river and into open seas for the stretch between Amsterdam and Volendam – and I didn’t feel any motion, despite waves crashing against the lower windows. Plus, I didn’t even notice when we first pulled away from the pier, or when we went through the locks.
4. I like being moored against other boats.
I woke up in the morning, got out of bed, pulled open the curtains to admire the view and… yes, you guessed it – I was looking into someone else’s window. Fortunately (for them) their curtains were closed. My colleague was not so lucky – he was woken up with the smell of smoke and a loud mobile phone conversation from someone opposite him.
So why do I like it? I think it’s quirky and it makes me chuckle to think how it might work when three mega-ships pull up in St Lucia, for example. I also enjoyed walking through two other boats to get to shore.
5. So much is included!
Water, wi-fi, shore excursions – and wine at meals! It’s a generous deal, and stands in marked contrast to most mainstream cruise lines. One of the things I love is not having to get out your room card everytime you do anything, nor having to worry about how many inclusive minutes you’ve spent on your wi-fi account or whether you remembered to log out or not. It just makes your whole experience so much more civilized.
So am I now a river cruise convert? You bet I am!