AmaWaterways We were totally impressed by every aspect of our cruise. Even before we departed, the cruise document package was very classy and the luggage tags will be our permanent tags from now on. The AMA ships have a very practical design [shallow draft for low water conditions, ingeniously retractable pilot house for high water], and they are very nice from the passenger point of view too. The décor is modern and luxurious without being fussy, the split-level decks allow the dining room and lounge to have spacious high ceilings while still getting in three decks of cabins, and there are public spaces fore and aft as well as the entire Sun deck.
Cabin Our cabin seemed smaller than its measurements at first, but we were able to store all our stuff and get the suitcases under the bed so it worked just fine. The shower was a little tight, probably because it is shaped as a triangle. The French balcony was very nice: the window-wall gave nice views [the drapes shut out almost all the light so sleeping wasn’t a problem], and we were glad to be able to open the sliding door and look out several times. Next time we will hope to sail on one of the newer AMA ships and upgrade to a 235 sf twin-balcony, but even the 170 sf French balcony cabin was quite acceptable.
Food We had been warned that ''"no river cruise matches the food on ocean cruises” ''" BUNK! The food on AmaCello was the best we have had on any cruise to date (excepting the extra-cost specialty restaurants Normandie and Qsine on Celebrity Summit).
Most of the food was excellent: the first dinner we had a zucchini pancake amuse bouche, appetizers [enjoyed, but detail forgotten], Asian-style salad, pumpkin soup, steak with horseradish-crust entree, and hazelnut chocolate cake and ice cream parfait desserts. [These were the items we chose; there were many other choices on the menu.] There was also a cheese table in the dining room at all meals, but we were too stuffed to consider it at dinner.
Two different soups (cream and broth) were offered every day and all were amazingly good. The pastry was always excellent, as were the breads. [We later learned that there is a separate person in charge of each of these three areas ''" no wonder they are so good!] Salads, entrees and desserts were always good [except the steak the first night and one fish that was a little dry], and were varied and localized.
Wine and beer were freely available throughout lunch and dinner. The wines were different every day and were a good selection of European table wines representative of the regions we were sailing through. The beer was draft Bitburger. Normally I do not drink lagers or pilsners, but this was not your father’s Budweiser: it was tasty and refreshing, and I was happy to drink it all week long. The bar also had a range of wines, liquors and liqueurs [and beers, for all I know] available for purchase.
Schedule food was available pretty much throughout the day: early risers’ breakfast, regular breakfast [the best Eggs Benedict ever!], late breakfast, lunch, cookies and snacks in the bar, tea time, dinner, and late night snack.
Lunch and Dinner were one fixed seating only but this turned out not to be a problem since the packed schedule of activities made these the right times to dine anyway. Our gang never had a problem finding an open table for six, although we did have to move around the dining room a bit ''" but that let us experience good service from different waiters!
Service The service throughout the cruise was excellent across the board. Our Cruise Director Reka Piros worked like a dog but delivered like a god [dyslexics of the world untie!]. The dining room staff were all friendly and efficient, especially our wine pourer Vesi who kept our conversation well-lubricated! The cabin staff were efficient and invisible [except for the cute towel animals that greeted us most afternoons]. And the gifts at the end [no details: spoiler!] were a nice touch.
Having the Cruise Director stay with the group throughout the land extension was a great idea. We were familiar with Reka, so there was no transition ''" and she continued to provide great service as she coordinated everything in Luzern and Zurich.
The only weak spots in AMA service were at the Amsterdam airport and our communications with the home office. We were told to look for the AMA ‘desk’ at the airport, but there is no such desk. HQ also assured us that the first activity on Day One would be dinner at 7:30 ''" but it turned out there was a mandatory Muster Drill at 6:00 and dinner was at 7:00. These two glitches need to be worked out, because coming at the beginning of the cruise they could get everything off on the wrong foot.
Shore excursions Each day had one or two shore excursions, sometimes with choices of location. Every tour on the cruise portion was included in the cruise fare. We were always split into four groups [always a slow walkers group, sometimes an active group], and the Quietvox made it easy to hear the tour guide. Most days also had a bicycle option, but none of our gang tried them. The tours were well planned and covered most of the high points that I had flagged from my pre-cruise research. Some of the local guides were better than others, but only one that we had was less than good and most were very good.
The Daily Cruiser newsletter and daily presentations by the Cruise Director kept us well informed about on-board activities and shore excursions. AMA provided a map for each town, and Reka usually provided a handout with points of interest and tips. We always felt well prepared when stepping off the ship.
Two excursions on the land extension were optional at extra cost: Mount Pilatus and the Rhine Falls. We ended up doing Mount Pilatus on our own at a considerable savings, but it involved taking responsibility for planning the trip and finding the bus at the end so most passengers were probably happy to pay the premium for the extra service. The Rhine Falls/Stein am Rhein tour couldn’t have been done on your own and was definitely worthwhile.
Entertainment We weren’t expecting much, but the three nights that we had local entertainers were really enjoyable. The first was the La Strada string trio who played light classics lovely. Next was Jela, a duo who played rock tunes the girls in our gang danced their tootsies off! And the third was the duo of Armand, accordionist, and Muriel, chanteuse a very French evening featuring Piaf and Aznavour, very nice!
Infotainment The ship apparently had an infotainment system, but the only way we could get a free outlet to charge our devices was to unplug it and it stayed that way throughout the cruise. [We had brought a complete selection of adapters for European 2-prong, German 3-prong, and Swiss 3-prong. It turned out that the basic 2-prong would have worked everywhere, and even if you didn’t have anything both the ship and the hotels would lend you adapters.]
Nickel-and-diming None! Nobody tried to sell us anything on the whole cruise! What a nice change.
Future Cruise Benefit We enjoyed our first AmaWaterways cruise so much that we purchased the Future Cruise Benefit [5% off and a reduced deposit], even though we have a bunch of cruises booked up for the next two years. [Hawaii may have to wait so that we can do Provence. Let’s get that 2015 schedule out ASAP!]
Conclusion ''" After one cruise we are AMA fans [in case you hadn’t noticed…]