We just returned from AMA Europe’s Heartland Cruise. We sailed on the new Amalyra and did the reverse itinerary from Prague to Paris. I sailed with my DH and another couple. We had all been on ocean cruises, but this was our first river cruise.
A few general remarks about AMA and the Amalyra. First class all the way. The ship was beautiful, the staff was wonderful, the tour guides in every city were knowledgeable, and we enjoyed our trip very much!
Food – despite several reviews I had read on these boards which criticized the food on AMA, we found the food to be fantastic, actually considerably better than on our ocean cruises. Admittedly I am not hard to please, but one of our traveling companions is a gourmet cook and a “foodie” and thought the food was outstanding. We especially loved the daily soups. Everything was fresh, cooked to order and hot when it was supposed to be hot, cold when it was supposed to be cold. The presentation was really well-done and the chef was very inventive. Breakfasts were not particularly creative, but had something to please everyone. Both breakfast and lunch were also served in the lounge, in a more limited way, for those who slept in or who didn’t want to eat in the dining room.
Dress was casual, except for the Captain’s Dinner on the last night. I was actually surprised that a lot of people dressed up quite a bit. However, there were still several men (including my DH) who did not wear a tie or sports coat, just nice pants and a button-down shirt.
We were in cabin 205 on the Cello Deck and had a French balcony. I have to admit, however, that we barely used it. When we were sailing through the Rhine Gorge or on the Moselle River, we were always on the top deck enjoying the panoramic views. The cabin was small, but well organized. We were able to put all our clothes away and slide the suitcases under the bed. The bed was very comfortable and the cabin was kept spotless.
We flew into Prague on our own and were there for just a day and a half (2 nights). If we had it to do all over again, we would have flown in a few days earlier. Prague is beautiful. There were a lot of things we did not have time to see and we would like to go back. AMA put us up in the Hotel President, which was a very nice hotel, right on the river and close to everything. It included free breakfast.
In Paris, we stayed at the Crowne Plaza Republique, which was ok. It wasn’t situated in the best spot for sightseeing, but the rooms were ok and the free breakfasts were very good. When I saw how much the normal rates were for the hotels there, I was satisfied with the accommodations.
A couple of thoughts about the pros and cons of doing this itinerary from Prague to Paris instead of the other way round: Coming into Paris, which is so bustling and hectic, would have been difficult as jetlagged as we were at the beginning of our trip. Prague was much more laid back and this made it easier to adjust. However, we would have liked more time in Prague as well. Another drawback was sailing through the Rhine River Gorge very late in the afternoon, which meant that we missed some of it when darkness fell. The Gorge is absolutely stunning, with castles at almost every bend in the river, so we wished we could have sailed through it earlier in the day.
As mentioned earlier, all our guides were very knowledgeable and informative and the audio head sets really added to the experience. I did not see other tour groups with these head sets. We went on almost all the included tours, but note that this left us with little free time in most towns. But this was our choice and we could have gone off on our own if we had wished. We did take the bikes for a ride along the river one day when we had extra time. It was very enjoyable.
One caution about internet availability. Internet access is available in all cabins for free. However, because the ship went through many, many locks and under low bridges, the satellite dish had to be lowered and internet was not available at these times. When it was available, it was very slow. So do not rely on this mode of communication to keep in touch with family members, etc.
Thoughts on river cruises in general – as has been said before, do not go on a river cruise expecting fancy entertainment or casinos. The ships are small and intimate and there is not a lot to do onboard. However, if you like personal service, the opportunity to really get to know the other passengers, and visiting wonderful towns and villages and enjoying spectacular scenery, you will like this trip. We enjoyed it very much and would love to travel AMA again!