This was our 7th river cruise, and 3rd with AMA.
We arrived on time in AMS and found the AMA desk. The excellent service we have consistently experienced on AMA started there and continued until we were in our taxi on the return to the airport.
- Staff and crew were excellent and our Captain, Rob, was very personable.
- Cruise manager Peter Whitehead was not only a great CM, but also quite a personality. He was witty and warm and it was delightful getting to know him over the course of the week.
- Staff members who made our experience extra special were Csaba in the main restaurant, Elvis in the main lounge, Octavian in Erlebnis and also manning the omelette station at breakfast, and Viktor at reception.
- Our BA twin balcony cabin was comfortable and the weather balmy enough to enjoy it throughout the cruise. We love AMA's power showers and lovely bath amenities.
- Erlebnis was wonderful! As past passengers we were invited to dine with the Captain one evening at Erlebnis and that was the best meal of the cruise - exceptional.
- Keukenhof Gardens was at its peak the day we visited. The sun was shining and the weather was warm. We spent about 90 minutes here and that was perfect. There was an option to stay longer but we had other plans for our afternoon in Amsterdam.
- The Limited Edition tours were very good. Our favorites were chocolate making in Ghent and a walking tour of the Jordaan district in Amsterdam.
- Scenery while cruising in this area is nothing special and did not compare to the other rivers we have traveled.
- Antwerp was our favorite port. We decided to head to Brussels on a DIY day as soon as we arrived and walked to the station and hopped the train for the one hour ride. We were very happy we did as we enjoyed Brussels. We were back by 2pm and spent the remainder of the day in Antwerp. The weather was cold and very windy on this day, spiked with rain showers. That made exploring the city less enjoyable than it would have been otherwise but it is a lovely city and easy to navigate.
- Ghent was pleasant and this was our second visit. We walked for hours in the areas of the city that were away from the main tourist area and then grabbed a taxi back to the boat late afternoon.
- Hoorn was a last minute itinerary change (from Volendam) and was charming and pretty. Much was closed on this Monday but we enjoyed the lovely scenery of this port.
- Amsterdam is not our favorite city but it is growing on us the more we visit. This was our 3rd visit. The boat docks in a very convenient location and we were able to walk everywhere we wanted to go. We now know that we prefer the area away from the tourist center and it is there we find the charming neighborhoods and quieter canals and streets that we prefer. Since the weather was pleasant, the outdoor cafes and bars were very busy and it was fun to wander the various areas of the city and explore. We do not care for the center of Amsterdam that attracts the hard partiers and bachelor parties but it is easy to get away from this area and discover the quiet and pretty residential neighborhoods.
We preferred our cruises on AmaDante and AmaCerto to AmaBella in terms of the ship itself. The layout and design of the ship was not as functional. Dining room was cramped and cut up; bar was very small in main lounge; there was no dance floor. Our bed was not very comfortable and lighting in the bathroom and cabin was dim, making it hard to put on makeup. Wifi was problematic throughout the cruise.
Entertainment was not a strong point of this cruise, as it was on our other two AMA cruises. Rolf, an excellent vocalist, was the best of the local entertainment brought aboard. Things were quite dead after the evening entertainment wrapped up, unlike past AMA cruises (this could have been the demographic which was not as young as our past cruises). The 60's party was a non event, where on AmaCerto, it was a cruise highlight and so much fun! The piano player, Peter, was very nice and we enjoyed him during the afternoons but had much more fun with the in house piano player on our other two AMA cruises. This aspect of the cruise was a disappointment as we do enjoy a bit of dancing and socializing after dinner.
Food was good on AmaBella, but not as interesting or exceptional as on our other two AMA cruises, with the exception of Erlebnis. Breads were wonderful and my husband totally enjoyed the ice cream selections at lunch each day. My two pasta dishes (saffron gnocchi with spinach and tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms) were the best of my meals in the main dining room. My husband had a lovely duck one afternoon at lunch and the salad bar choices were always fresh and varied. The cheese board, which I look forward to every day on AMA, had the same choices every day at lunch and dinner and did not reflect the local offerings.
We enjoyed the wines served with lunch and dinner, which varied by day.
There were no passed hors d'oeuvres at the Captain's welcome or Farewell cocktail receptions, as there were on our past cruises with AMA. They did offer tapas at the bar, which we tried once after coming back in from port. We never saw anyone else ordering these so not sure if this is an experiment that will last.
All in all, we enjoyed our cruise. We prefer other itineraries/destinations to Belgium and the Netherlands overall, especially in terms of visual beauty and interest while cruising.
We look forward to our Rhone cruise with AMA in the fall and will be booking a cruise on the Rhine for 2015 shortly.