If you want to learn more about the ports you're visiting on an AmaBella cruise, it generally won't happen onboard the ship. There's little programming -- such as lectures or food demonstrations -- beyond a handful of folk-style performances. The library, which is rather small, doesn't stock a great collection of guides or other informational tomes.
Where you will pick up excellent insights is on tour; Ama's shore excursions, most of which are included in cruise fares, stray beyond the usual staple of guided city tours. Particularly intriguing on our Danube River trip was a culinary tour of Vienna, a communist-era look at Bratislava and a trip to Austria's lake district. Via the ship's fleet of bicycles, there were numerous opportunities to tour ports like Durnstein and Linz on two wheels. Walking tours were offered at a variety of paces. Wireless transmitters, so passengers can hear guides without being right on top of them, are provided. Because of the good variety of offerings, tours rarely were too crowded.
Onboard, a pianist plays a variety of music before and after dinner, and quite a few passengers on our sailing had enough energy later to dance. On some nights, local entertainment plays in the lounge.
The cruise director's nightly talks, mostly focusing on the events of the following day, are humorous and enjoyable, as well as informative.
AmaBella Public Rooms
As on most riverboats, the hub of onboard life on AmaBella is the sprawling lounge. There's a semicircular bar, a small library nook with a faux fireplace, a handful of tables at perfect height for writing letters or checking email, and a vast array of deep and comfortable couches and armchairs. There's also a closet-sized gift shop.
The beautiful lobby area, which spans two decks, is home to the cruise director's desk (he arranges onboard and in-port activities), a reception desk and an elevator that travels between the restaurant and the lounge decks. Because of marine regulations, elevators can't travel below the water line or to the sun deck. (That means cabins on the lowest deck, Piano Deck, are only accessible via the stairs.)
On riverboats, the topmost level -- the sun deck -- is, essentially, an extension of its lounge area, and AmaBella's Sun Deck is one of the most beautiful and comfortable in the industry. There are plenty of tables and chairs for playing games, writing letters and eating, and there's a gorgeous sitting area with deep wicker-like sofas just forward of the bridge. The Sun Deck also has canopied areas for shade, with plenty of mesh-covered loungers.
AmaBella Spa & Fitness
AmaBella's gym, with a handful of machines (treadmill, Technogym weight machine and two stationary bikes), is thoughtfully equipped, complete with television screens for entertainment. Water is provided. The ship also offers salon services, such as massages and hairstyling.
There's also a walking track on the Sun Deck.
One of AmaBella's highlights is its fleet of two dozen bicycles. These are free to use in port; towpaths run alongside the Danube offering generally flat terrain.
One of the ship's most interesting features is its small pool; it's not big enough for "real" swimming, but it's a lovely place to cool off on hot days. It's also heated for use on chillier ones.