This was our first river cruise, and my first cruise. The pre-cruise information packet and the information provided by the travel agent AmaWaterways referred us to was excellent. We had some specific concerns and she addressed them clearly. We got a better deal through CruiseCompete.com, however, and took that.
Arrival in Prague: we hadn't booked a transfer but we were on the same plane as others who did, so we got a ride in the van provided and they billed us for it, which was convenient. The pre-tour in Prague was well-organized, although the hotel (Old Town Hilton) was used by many cruise and tour groups and the elevator was jammed.
Transfer to Nuremberg and embarkation: Well-handled, good commentary provided during the long ride. Stop at the Czech border with last chance to spend Czech money. Tour of Nuremberg and then embarkation. We had a cocktail welcome and snacks in the lounge while the crew boarded the luggage. It was all well done, and the crew was introduced. Our cruise director clearly explained our itinerary each day.
My husband has some oddball food allergies. We called the cruise line in advance and then discussed them with the Maitre D. He ensured that we got a menu at each lunch and dinner marked as to what selections were "safe." In some cases, they crossed out a sauce and were prepared with an alternate for my husband. This worked perfectly, he was able to make selections with confidence.
I love gourmet food and fine dining. I give the dining experience an excellent rating. While the dishes were "foodie" enough for me, they weren't over-the-top "adventurous." You had 3 selections for each course for lunch and dinner, plus standard options (such as a hamburger, steak, grilled chicken breast). My husband (non-adventurous eater) only resorted to the standard option once. Our only negative is that the menu didn't include local comfort food specialties of the area we traveled (Germany). We would have liked to see schnitzel and wurst as standard options. The only clunker of an entree I had was the sauerbrauten.
Drinks: I loved the 24-hour coffee/tea station, where cookies were also always available. I never had to wonder where my next cup of coffee would come from. Wine, beer, soft drinks, coffee, tea was included at all meals and usually reflected the local wine of the area we were sailing through. Our glasses were filled expeditiously. You are allowed to bring your own wine and spirits onboard and we bought our favorites in the villages along the way to enjoy in our cabin.
The waiters really hustled and did an excellent job. We were always served promptly.
The dining room had a good selection of 2-person and 4-person tables as well as a couple of larger tables. This was excellent as we usually preferred to dine alone. There is no assigned seating, which also gave us some variety in where we sat.
Cabin: We had a top floor standard cabin with French balcony. The amount of closet space and storage was very good. Although the bathroom was small, the shower had lots of room to maneuver and fancy spray nozzles. The hairdryer worked well. We used the storage space above and below the sink. Excellent towels, bathrobes, slippers.
The air conditioning was super -- we had very hot weather and the cabin could be kept pleasantly cool -- even cold!
We loved the laundry service, which we thought was reasonably priced. Our items were back in 24 hours or less. That was our only additional expense for the cruise.
The beds were firmer than we are used to but not too firm. Good easy chairs for watching the river go by from the floor-to-ceiling full-length wall of windows. We enjoyed opening the sliding window to enjoy the breeze while sailing (once the weather cooled!). We didn't need to go to the lounge or sun deck but could enjoy the views comfortably in our cabin.
We loved having the infotainment system tuned to the bow camera. On that setting, you could also listen to any lecture in the lounge or the Cruise Director's daily updates and instructions. The internet connection through the infotainment system worked well (except when going through locks or deep in a river gorge), with a keyboard provided, and you could print to the printer in the aft lounge. I also used the free Wi Fi and it worked great except at the downtimes in locks, etc. In general I had access most of the time I wanted it, at good speed.
The cabin was amazingly quiet, we never heard our neighbors below or on each side. Far quieter than any hotel I've ever stayed in!
We only got a little use of the Sun Deck because our first 3 days were on the Main-Danube canal with too many low bridges and locks to allow access. But it was great that both the main lounge and the sun deck appeared to have enough seating for all passengers. Some passengers used the small hot tub once we had access. They had a sun shelter that they put up at times. I used the walk/jog track.
For the shore excursions, I grew to love the Whisper System audio sets provided. You could follow along with your local tour guide's directions and commentary without having to huddle around him/her. I have hearing aids and it still functioned well. I loved the Active Walker options each day -- the same walking tour as the Regular group but at a little faster pace (still VERY LEISURELY WALKING - nothing aerobic). That left us more free time in the town or city to shop, eat or explore on our own. There was also a gentle walkers group that usually had a shorter route. We often had a short bus ride into town to start the walk and a ride back to the ship, but sometimes we started from the ship itself. There were clear instructions if you wanted to break off from the group and explore on your own, meeting them at the bus or ship at the appointed time. We had excellent maps provided at each dock. The walking tours were definitely easy-paced and the distance was minor, usually only a mile, maybe 2 miles total for the longest ones. They had seat canes available for those who needed to sit while listening to the guide.
We appreciated the little extras included in the tours, such as beer or wine tasting.
We only went to one of the evening entertainment offerings, we preferred to head to the cabin (just like at home!) We liked the amount of downtime provided each day, enough to relax and enjoy the scenery but not too much leading to boredom.
We bought a couple of items at the ship gift shop. They have a nice selection of things. At the end of the cruise, our only additional expenses were the airport transfer, laundry, and the two items we bought at the gift shop.
They arranged for our taxi to the airport at the end, setting the price so we had no surprises.
The tipping was handled well, with suggested amounts (stated in advance in the packet you got pre-cruise, so no surprises). You could pay by card or cash, with envelopes provided.
Overall, this cruise was perfect. We would probably choose to have lunch more often onshore to enjoy the local cuisine -- not that the food on board wasn't super (it is), but just because we love the local food.