This started out just wonderfully with being met at the airport in Budapest, taken to the Hotel Sofitel, where we were greeted by the lovely and charming Pili, our cruise director. She has a way of getting along with everyone, and I know she had some challenges on this trip. We had a lovely suite because there was not another room available when we arrived. The hotel is in a great location on the river at the beautiful Chain Bridge. Breakfast at the hotel was a buffet with everything one could want, except--the coffee left a lot to be desired.
When the afternoon to board the Amalyra came, we were taken across the river to the boat and welcomed aboard and shown our rooms. We were quite happy with the size, especially the bathroom, for such a small ship. After we boarded we had the usual lifeboat drill, and Pili gave a talk on procedures on the boat and introduced the captain, hotel manager, and restaurant manager. As we left Budapest that night, the captain took the boat down the river a bit and turned around to head north. What breathtaking sights and photo-ops we all had.
We had all breakfasts and lunches on the boat in the lounge area, because we learned the first night that the dining room was a helter-skelter rushed and loud affair--more later on this.
All of the stops were most interesting, and we had terrific guides. They set up walking groups for active, medium and slow. The active suited us, and was not rushed--we just didn't take as long at each place so we could have time to revisit those we were really interested in. The active groups started out small, but as more people learned that they were hearing more than they needed, they joined the active group. By the end of the trip, the active group was really too large. We ould have used another day in Vienna. We took the optional side trip to Salzburg, and were so glad we did. On the way we visited the little town of Monsdee--quite charming with an ultra baroque cathedral.
We had one day of just cruising the river. This was fun and relaxing, with everyone upstairs and listening to Pili give the history of the places we went by. Whenever we met another river cruise boat everyone waved in a happy shared experience mood.
When we got to Nuremburg, we had our interesting tour, and it was the only town we visited that we didn't think was impressively clean. The next morning we boarded buses for the long (about 5 hours) trip to Prague--but it was a beautiful trip, with a stop in the resort spa of Karlovy Vary. We had lunch and beer there--our first experience with how much the Czechs love beer--good stuff.
The Olde Town Hilton was our hotel. It was in a very good location with lots of nearby restaurants, and was within walking distance to the castle, the Charles Bridge, and all the good things to see in Prague.
Now as to the Dreaded Dinners: First, the boat was at full capacity. Secondly everyone eats at the same time. This means a busy dining room. It is small with a low ceiling and tables are close together. There was a group of about thirty traveling together who were extremely and I mean extremely noisy. Wine is complimentary at dinner so as the meal progressed, their noise level progressed--upward. We learned quickly to sit at the back away from where they congregated for dinner. this put us by the kitchen doors which were constantly banging open and shut with the manager RUNNING--not walking--in and out of there. It just plain was not relaxing at all. The food was ok at best, and sometimes it took a long time even for the menu to arrive. I think a more spread out dining situation--timewise--would help this situation. Why can't they set dining seating from 6:30 until 8? I asked someone this question, and was told that the crew would have to work too much.
We did meet some travelers from another AMA boat in PRAGUE. They told us that their dining was wonderful...so I just don't know what to think. Was it the manager not being able to handle things, or was it the noise and demands of the passengers?