Having researched all the European river cruise companies we decided on Ama Waterways believing it would be more upmarket than the most popular company Viking. The cruise was 14 days with 18 stops in five countries along three rivers.The first impression was the clientèle appeared to be older than the ocean cruising fraternity, although most of the passengers suggested they had been on other cruises. The majority of passengers were Americans, Canadians and Aussies, only two couples from Europe. It is clear the advertising budget for Ama in Europe is tiny as compared to their rivals, hence the profile of mainly North American passengers.
The cabins as compared to Ocean cruising liners were very small, the boats have to be narrow to enable them to pass through numerous locks, there are over sixty on the journey from Budapest to Amsterdam. Similarly the balconies are Juliet balconies so no space there!
The food was generally very good, the menu changed everyday. There would be a choice of 2/3 starters, main course and dessert. If you didn't fancy any of those there were standby options of salads, grilled chicken or steak. We could not complain about the quality or the choice. The drinks are free with dinner, they advertise wines from the various countries you travel through. In reality it was mainly cheap Austrian and German wines. There was no Hungarian Tokaj or German Franken wines, one assumes too expensive. However it was plentiful and the excellent waiters ensured you had as much as you could drink. Because there was only 140 passengers it was always dinner for everyone at the same time, sometimes at strange times. But for European tastes always too early whether it be lunch or dinner, 12 noon for lunch and 7.00p.m. for dinner, much too early!
Most of the excursions are included in the price and thankfully there were different trips for the varying groups of people i.e. active, not so active and not active at all. The trips came to be known as ABC, (another bloody church), but you did have a choice, you do not have to go on them. The occasional one had to be paid for, again optional. The one worth while was in Vienna a concert in the Hofberg Palace, 70 euro each and well worth it.
One very good feature was the availability of bikes, for the active you could take the bike and cycle to the next port of call along pathways at the side of the river to re-join the boat. Although in the rain it could be arduous.
So to the downsides. The entertainment was generally second rate when compared to ocean cruising. The resident piano player was average at best. The dress code for dinner was very casual, no formal nights. Then there is the thorny issue of tipping. The Australian customers paid in the overall price, the majority were recommended by Ama to tip 12 euro per person per day for the crew and 3 euro per person per day for the Cruise Director. If you followed Ama's recommendation the cost was 420 euro per couple and the Cruise Director would benefit to the tune of just short of 6,000 euro all to herself!
Needless to say that was not very popular and some said particularly relating to the Cruise Director, scandalous. The crew (mainly from Romania) were excellent, the Cruise Director average, the tipping recommendations are very controversial.
Overall an interesting trip, very expensive when compared to other river cruise companies and ocean cruising. It is back to the large ships and the oceans for us.