I just got back from the AmaDolce, 7 night Danube cruise from Budapest to Nurmberg. After 33 ocean cruises, it was time to experience the wonders of River Cruising in Europe. As a travel agent, people look to me for my expertise, and I needed to experience this, so I could sell it to my clients.
We flew in a day early (something we always recommend to our flying customers) and enjoyed the hillside Buda part of the city. The next day, we checked into the beautiful AmaDolce ship to begin our voyage. Even though we flew in early, our luggage was still lost for several days, but it is so nice to get into the city a day early so you can get a chance to catch your breath before beginning your journey. It also allows a little wiggle room in case you have flight delays, etc.
Instead of including all the details about the trip and the port stops, etc, I have decided to critique the ship and river cruising in general, and to explain the differences that made this trip stand out so much above the rest.
First of all, instead of thousands of passengers, this ship holds just over 120 passengers. The crew knew us by name, recognized us when they saw us, smiled and greeted us each time they could catch our eye contact, and treated us like a guest in their home. They were always pleasant, friendly, smiling and had the gift of service
The things that stood out most are:
The steaming hot towels waiting for us as we boarded the ship after an excursion
The complimentary (and good quality) wine included with dinner
The complimentary shore excursions, with terrific, local guides who love their cities.
The complimentary head sets to use on the excursions, so you could hear the guide without having to be right next to him/her. This allowed us to stay close, yet take a few steps away to make pictures, etc.
The extra complimentary drinks they threw in as surprises, like Gluwein (hot wine served during the cold months) when you came back from a shore excursion, the blue cocktail (champagne & blue curaso) when we passed the European Continental Divide, the welcome champagne toast with the captain, the farewell champagne toast with all the staff, more Gluwein after each excursion,
The complimentary bottled water in the cabin (which was replenished each day).
The coffee station which provided 24 hour complimentary coffees, espresso, lattes and more, with a simple push of the button
The relatively low cost of drinks purchased at the bar during non-dinner hours.
The plush bathrobes and slippers in each cabin.
The FREE internet, which was sometimes slow when we were in the locks, but definitely fast most other times (they included an "internet forecast" in the daily planner, so you could plan when to get online for fastest service).
The fact that our flight home was not till 4:30pm and they let us stay on board the ship and enjoy the lounge area, including light lunch buffet until our cab came to pick us up at the ship about 1:30.
The delicious food. Portions were smaller than in America, but they were large enough. We could not finish the plate each night.
Breakfast and lunch had a buffet for quick service, and we could order additional items from the menu from our smiling server.
Dinner had 3 fantastic daily special choices, a chef's suggested menu, and a few standard items that were available anytime.
Not once in the whole week did we have to ask for a glass to be refilled before someone offered to refill it for us
Our luggage was lost in transit and the Cruise Manager personally tracked our luggage each day and kept us informed as to his efforts and findings. He kept looking until he found all the bags and gave us an estimate of when each one would arrive at the ship.
I spoke to several passengers about their current and previous experience with AmaWaterways and how it compared to other river cruises, and each one I spoke to said that this was the best cruise line for River Cruises. I spoke to several travel agents on board, and most of them agreed that AmaWaterways was the top of the line. Several agents commented that they would only book clients onto AmaWaterways because of their terrific product.
I believe Cruising in general is THE BEST way to see the world. You unpack only once and you get to see several different ports of call. I can only imagine if we traveled from city to city any other way, and had to pack and unpack our bags each time we pulled into a new city and a new hotel. What a waste of time that would be, and the stress of keeping up with it all.
My week on AmaWaterways on the beautiful AmaDolce was incredible. I will definitely recommend this to my clients and also will take this line again and again, as I explore more rivers.