AMA Waterways, Rivers & Castles on the AmaLegro
This was a first river cruise for the 4 of us and AMA Waterways was selected because of previous reputation and the recommendation of our travel agent. We had looked at other product but decided on AMA based on itinerary, timing and reputation. We were not disappointed.
We started our adventure by heading to Prague 2 days ahead of the AMA Waterways pre cruise start so that we had 4 days in Prague. Even that was not enough to cover everything. Booked air separate from AMA with Lufthansa and used a local airport transfer that we booked ahead online. (would definitely use Lufthansa again). We chose to connect in Dusseldorf rather than Frankfurt and that was a very wise decision. Absolutely no issues other than the fact the gate for Prague was in the bowels of the airport and we had to take a bus to the plane parked out on the tarmac.
Prague: Our stay at the Intercontinental Praha was delightful, in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, across the road from the synagogues and cemetery. Lovely river side room, well appointed with good bathroom, tub and shower. Tea/coffee making facility as well as the provision of an adapter for charging N. American appliances. On our own for breakfast the first two days and found a great little spot a few blocks down to the left of the hotel next to the Spanish Synagogue called Lambourgini's...very good and reasonably priced. The second two days were at the hotel with the typical buffet breakfast, good and substantial (expensive if purchased separately). The hotel staff were friendly and efficient. We walked everywhere the first two days and then took an all day bus tour to Cesky Krumlov, of course the only day it rained all day. This trip was booked through the same company that did the airport transfer and while the tour itself was good, the pickup at the hotel was on time, the organization of the buses at their central location, was less than efficient or organized.
Check out the rooftop deck at the hotel, great wine bar and a fabulous view of the city. We had dinner on this terrace one night and while expensive, it has a great atmosphere. Had lunch at Kolkovna one day (it is across the street from Lambourgini's) , highly recommend the food, had one lunch at Bohemia Bagel, good food not so good atmosphere. Beware the restaurants around the Old Town Square who charge you a cover charge if you order a main course. Ask first if there is a cover charge and whether gratuities are included. Plenty of places to rip you off. Several good restaurants around the hotel. We found the Czech currency very difficult to use.
AMA Waterways: Our local representative at the hotel was wonderful and efficient. Our Cruise Manager for the cruise was Elke and she was absolutely fantastic, a wonderful representative for AMA Waterways who went out of her way to make sure everyone was happy. Very organized, efficient and most of all she cared about her passengers. Not everything went smooth with the transfer from Prague to Nuremberg, one of the buses failed to show up so a group ended up leaving 3 hours later than planned. The local tours were very good, the optional to Terezin was well worth taking although depressing and sobering. The bus ride from Prague to Nuremberg was about 5 hours with a short restroom break at a McDonalds. As a previous poster had mentioned, use the restrooms in the gas station rather than McDonalds as there is not a big lineup. The bus drivers must by law take a 30 min. break every 3 hours so beware on long excursions, there has to be a rest stop. Everyone was anxious to get onboard the ship and the tour of Nuremberg seemed to go on forever in a great deal of detail. Made for a very long day.
The Ship AmaLegro: Embarkation was very smooth and efficient. Everyone went to the Lounge after getting off the buses, drinks and snacks were available. They start with the upper deck and work their way down to the lower deck. Took no more than 15 minutes to get everyone in their room. The luggage was off loaded from the buses within 10 minutes and was at your door shortly after. We were on the middle deck, midship, very convenient to everything and serviced by an elevator if needed. Rooms were small but efficient, plenty of storage for two women who overpacked. The bathroom shower was far better than the showers on either of the two large cruise lines we have sailed with. The suitcases went under the bed for storage(unless you have the new hard sided luggage that is a tad too thick to go under) or in the cupboard (providing you didn't bring long dresses). Very casual atmosphere, no need for a jacket or tie although many men did dress for the Captain's Farewell Dinner on the last evening. Several people wore jeans at dinner especially if they had been on a long excursion during the day. Most ladies wore dark pants and a nice top or capris and a nice top. No one cares what you wear, just enjoy yourselves. The cabin staff came by to introduce themselves, they were efficient, kept the room clean and stocked early every day (usually cleaned while we were at breakfast).
Bring a powerbar if you have lots of things to charge as the outlet on the desk is used to charge your Audiovox sets each night. There is an outlet by the night table as well. There was an alarm clock in the room.
Food/Dining: We found the food to be excellent and plentiful. Breakfast was buffet style with eggs, bacon, sausage, cereals, yogurts, fruit, smoked salmon, cold meats, cheese, omelette station, plenty of breads and pastries and you could also order from the menu things like oatmeal, special eggs etc. Early risers had pastries in the lounge and coffee/tea was 24 hrs. Lunch was buffet for the soups and salads, cheese and breads and you could order from the menu for the main course. Same food served in the lounge, buffet style. Dinner was from the menu with free flowing wine, beer, soft drinks. We thought the cream soups to be excellent. Our only complaint was that the dining room and the Lounge were kept very cold so be prepared for a warm sweater or jacket.
Entertainment was limited but what they had was excellent. Really enjoyed the glass blowing and the two groups they brought on board. The last night La Strada was entertaining and they were excellent. The days are very long with all the touring and walking and many retired before the entertainment started.
Staff: very friendly and efficient, worked very well as a team and everyone pitched in to get the job done. Even the Captain was moving luggage. I believe it is the total effort of all the staff that makes or breaks a cruise and everything, but everything, is overseen by the Cruise Manager to make sure everyone is happy. Our Cruise Manager, Elke, did an outstanding job and she was given several challenges to deal with, having to dock in 'no man's land' and getting the buses to that location when another ship was in our docking space and refused to give us access, finding another bus for the people left stranded in Prague because one of the buses failed to show. She really cared about her passengers and is a tremendous asset to AMA Waterways. She is moving soon to the Paris to Arles cruise.
Tours/Ports of Call: Loved all the small towns and villages. Terraced vineyards were amazing all along the rivers. Outstanding scenery. Coming in the direction from Prague, we entered the Rhine Gorge very late in the afternoon so only got a taste of the Castles before the sun went down and the Lorelei Rock was quite a disappointment. Tour guides were excellent for the most part, some better than others and the ones in Paris were particularly good, especially Isabel. Several in Germany were very, very detailed in their explanations which could become quite tedious and boring if one was not all that interested in the history. Lots of locks to go through and plenty of low bridges so the Sun Deck was not open for most of the week. Sometimes going through the locks you would feel a 'bump in the night' but nothing worrysome. The last couple of days the sundeck was open and fortunately the sun was shining. Two of our party took the Heidelberg excursion, two did the walking tour of Mainz and Rudesheim, both fascinating. Loved the castle ruins in Heidelberg but the free time shopping was disappointing. Too many cafes and souvenir shops but quaint alleys to explore. Every town had something different to see.
Disembarkation again went smoothly. Luggage outside your room by 7:30 colour coded by bus. Sufficient time for a leisurely breakfast. On the road by 9. After a tour of Luxembourg, including some free time, we arrived at the train station to take the high speed train to Paris. Seats are preassigned a couple of days before and our Cruise Manager came through the cars passing out the tickets after we boarded. Luggage is the major issue since there is no luggage car, it is merely loaded into the seating areas in the overheads, on the floor, wherever there is space. As a result, getting it off the train in Paris took some time.
Paris: What can you say about Paris? The hotel, Le Meridien Etoile, was in the western end of the city but very close to the Metro. Lots of good restaurants within walking distance. The room was somewhat dated, some peeling wallpaper and the bathtubs are so deep that it is hazardous getting in and out of. Service was good and the included breakfast was very good as well. Thought the hotel was overpriced for what was provided. No coffee/tea making facilities. We took all 3 of the optional tours with AMA and were not disappointed with any of them. The Cabaret was fun and the food was fine and the show was very good. Montmartre and the Illuminations was great. The view from the Eiffel Tower was fantastic . Lots of walking in Paris. Particularly liked the Latin Quarter, very quaint and plenty of reasonably priced restaurants. We had lunch, 3 courses, for 10 euro and everything was very good. Will definitely be going back to Paris.
Transfer to Airport: We purchased the transfer to the airport, luggage out by 6:15, breakfast at 6:30. You had to identify your luggage outside the bus and then it was loaded on board by 7. Trip was about 25 minutes to the airport with dropoff at the Air Canada counter. Unfortunately the counter did not open for another 30 minutes so the line just got longer. The boarding pass machines were not working properly and people were getting annoyed. The Air Canada flight was wonderful, plenty of leg room and attentive service with wine or beer provided at lunch.
Overall, we were very happy with AMA Waterways, the itinerary and the ship the AmaLegro and would recommend this Rivers & Castles cruise although I think it would be better to do it from Paris to Prague.