This was our first River Boat Cruise (though not our first ocean cruise) .. however it certainly will NOT be our last! We found it just delightful! In our opinion and for our taste .. FAR superior and FAR more interesting than ocean cruising! We found the smaller AMA Amalegro ship of 75 cabins and open dining seating to be much more conducive to a very friendly outgoing atmosphere onboard.
Now to details .. good but uneven service and staff.. Some with great attitude, always ready with helpful suggestions, answers and smiles .. others .. with an actual response to a courteous request .. "I only have two hands.". This said .. we especially were impressed with the professionalism and fun attitude of the restaurant's Maitre de, Mr. Gabor Lukacs .. he made up for a lot!
The same could not be said of the Second Captain, Ludovic Schrepf, .. I do believe I never once saw him smile on the entire trip! I was shocked to see a smile on his "gallery of staff" photo .. my goodness .. he DOES know how to smile. Quite a sour .. or shall I say dour personality for a ship of this type. To progress in the travel industry I think he needs to be sent to "Charm School"!
The food itself needs improvement .. not in quantity but in quality. From chatting with the other guests (and the fact that we are seasoned travelers ourselves) it is obvious the ship is dealing with some fairly well developed palates. For such a small ship there is no excuse not to be putting out a cuisine to astonish .. this experience was pedestrian to be honest. Sounds good on the menu but so so on delivery most often. Quite frequently overcooked vegetables and meats, soups that taste primarily of stock .. could hardly tell one from the other, horrific cookies presented in the Lounge in the afternoon that were an insult to the taste buds! Just no excuse not to have excellent pastries available in this area of the world! I was shocked at the lack of creativity, imagination, flair in terms of the taste .. all presentation and no taste! The waffles I had the last day for breakfast would be a perfect example. I swear you could have taken a photo of the plate for a food magazine! Darling heart shaped waffles surrounding a mound of whipped cream with a beautifully carved strawberry in the center .. all dusted with powdered sugar .. truly a wonder to behold! Yuck! Dry .. tasteless .. like eating cardboard. I had two bites and left the rest .. what a disappointment .. again .. all presentation and NO FLAVOR! I will be frank with you .. we spoke with several couples who said they would NOT consider another AMA Waterways River Cruise based on the food experience of this cruise. Since you are essentially a "captive audience" onboard and food is an important component of any cruise .. PLUS since a River Cruise is not exactly cheap compared to an ocean cruise .. they are going elsewhere. One couple said they have been very happy with Avalon River Cruises .. we are going to check into them next. I don't know if the food problem is with the lack of imagination with the current Executive Chef or poor decision making in upper management but it really is too bad. Just because they are running a business with a "full ship" .. word gets around if you take advantage of people and don't deliver as expected.
Clean cabin, adequate storage space, good bedside reading lamp, #322 had a lovely view of passing sights, one very comfy easy chair (would be nice to have the space for 2!) however the space is SO tight that to even uncover your duvet at night is a struggle .. not a half inch of spare space, small but adequate bathroom with an electrical outlet which was nice, very nice shower with 3 heads. Only downsides were the free internet NEVER worked in our room and only occasionally in the Lounge .. but most of all .. the beds were TERRIBLY hard! Merely a thin mattress on wood slats! Upon the ship's next remodel they MUST do something about the mattress situation. Anyone with a shoulder/hip/back would be in trouble! Housekeeping was very helpful in accommodating me by adding 2 duvets to my mattress .. that helped immeasurably for my back but onboard the supply of duvets would be grossly limited so ask EARLY if you have such a limitation!
We felt the land Day Trips in total were excellent. We especially liked the method of individual earphones connected to the Tour Guide Leader .. didn't miss a word of any guided tour. I'm sure most of you know .. but prepare for all kinds of weather! The last week of August on this cruise .. many didn't prepare with the weather rainy and in the low 50's to barely 60's. Layer .. Layer .. Layer .. bring at least one turtle neck sweater and jacket. Also be VERY careful stepping down at all times .. we had several twisted/bruised people after wet slippery steps were misjudged! AND quite a few colds .. bring cold medicine and wash hands frequently! Sure enough my 2nd night dinner companion (delightful fellow!) gave me a bad cold bug that I am still fighting!
EXCELLENT onboard entertainment and organized activities upon arrival at some ports! We really enjoyed many of them .. very well done! Especially the local talent in port towns!
The Tour Director, Lilo Lehmann, could not have been better. While quietly VERY efficient and professional .. she was just so friendly, helpful and outgoing .. making everyone feel welcome and a part of the happy little group. Just perfect for the job .. I'm sure they don't pay her enough! Overall we were delighted with our first experience and it will not be our last! We have fallen in love with the concept and may even rearrange future travel plans to accommodate more River Cruises .. just probably not with the AMA because of the quality of the food .. unless we read on TripAdvisors.com that they have improved it GREATLY!
If it is at all possible for you .. fly into Prague EARLY! It is a GORGEOUS city! We flew in 9 days early and it could have been longer .. we just LOVED it! We stayed at the Hotel Paris and it was a delight .. book directly for a good rate with a WONDERFUL buffet breakfast (room #307 is VERY quiet and a small but nice balcony)! http://www.hotel-paris.cz/