The Amazing Amalyra
We just returned from a most memorable trip on the Danube with additional days in Budapest and Prague and all I can say is WOW! I don't want to discuss the ports which you can read about anywhere but focus on the features that made Ama special to us.
We picked Ama because their itinerary tied in best with our nephew's wedding in Prague. The entire process of booking, flights and transfers couldn't have gone more smoothly. We have done at least 18 ocean cruises and never had the type of treatment we received with Ama.
We were met at the airport and transferred to the Sofitel at the Chain Bridge in Budapest where we met our cruise director, Lilo Lehmann. The second time she saw us, she knew our names and always greeted us with a smile. The hotel was well located and very comfortable. The breakfast was quite elaborate with every imaginable thing you could want except for a good cup of coffee. Sixty of us took part in the entire trip and Lilo was there every step of the way. She made sure that our luggage was put away and with every more it traveled with us.
On embarkation day we met the other 40 passengers for our week long cruise. There were a total of 106 passengers out of a capacity of 144. We were greeted by the Captain with a glass of sparkling wine and escorted to our cabins where our luggage was awaiting. On first impression, the cabin seemed small but it was very well appointed. There were plenty of electric outlets which is unusual for a ship. The current was 220v but most of our gear was dual current so all we needed were adapters. The desk would lend them if necessary. Despite the size, we had no difficulty putting everything away and the suitcases easily fit under the high beds. What impressed me was the bathroom and what was a good sized shower with it's triangular layout. And the shower-head was fabulous. The only criticism I had was that the mattresses were a bit hard for me. We then set out to explore the ship.
We went to the Sun Deck where lounge chairs and tables with chairs were plentiful. A small hot tube was located behind the wheelhouse. There was minimal shade available. This area was popular when traveling through locks, 26 between Budapest and Prague mostly at night, and was the scene of a few parties. One deck down was the location of the main lounge which was the center of activity with a bar and plentiful seating. This is where the shows would take place. A piano player entertained most nights. We had a very nice show by Aphrodite, a group of 4 girls who were very talented. Another show was with La Strada, a string group, also very talented. A cabaret singer also performed one night. These shows were short but filled out the evening. The Reception Desk was outside the lounge and was the site of the excursion organizing and other business matters. Half a deck up was Lili's little desk which she staffed frequently. Next door was the shop which was rather well equipped for such a small vessel. The rear of this deck contained the small Aft Lounge and tiny fitness center. Deck 2 contained the most important area of all, the dining room. All meals were at relatively fixes times and seating was as you desired. Maybe with the sailing not being full, we never had any difficulties finding a table of any size. Overall, the ship was very nicely decorated. What impressed me was the cleanliness of the ship. I saw our stewardess on her hands and knees scrubbing our bathroom floor on more than one occasion. It was nice knowing that we would return to a clean and tidy cabin.
Excursions were broken into 3 groups with active, regular and easy. Active was never a strain. Our local guides were great and very informative. Some could have been stand-up comedians especially in the former Soviet block where there were often jabs made of their former occupiers. We would be walking around and, all of a sudden, Lilo would pop up to make sure everything was going well.
As to the issue with the quality of the food, we enjoyed every meal. Breakfast was the usual with hot and cold items in usual buffet style as well as hot items from the kitchen ordered from the menu. Lunch was ordered from the menu with a salad bar as well. The burgers were awful as everyone has stated. Dinner included a meat, fish or vegetarian choice as well as always available steak, chicken or salmon. My wife had the chicken and salmon which were surprisingly very good. I had fish which was fresh and good. Presentation was always very well done. What I thoroughly enjoyed was the cheese tray with all 3 meals. I chose cheese or fruit cocktail for dessert most nights although our dining mates enjoyed the desserts. Wines were free-flowing and generally very good. They would fill our glasses at the end of dinner so we could enjoy them in the lounge.
At the end of the cruise, Lilo made sure EVERYONE had their luggage going to the right destination and that people were transferred where they were supposed to be going. Taxis were ordered, buses were loaded and off to Prague we went. The bus trip was long and we welcomed the stop at Karolvy Vary. We had a little tour and then went for lunch. We left the tour a little early before the crowds attacked the restaurants. Then off to our final destination. The chosen Old Town Hilton was well located but a disappointment. The rooms were dirty and very dated. Carpets in the room were stained and we had lots of cobwebs. Conrad would roll over in his grave if he saw it. But it is a logistical problem finding hotels for these large groups and there were plenty of groups staying with us. I don't fault Ama but do pass the blame Hilton.
All in all, I am very impressed with Ama and especially with our good friend Lilo. When we returned home, it was nice to find a personal postcard from Lilo in our mailbox. I would not hesitate to sail Ama again.