I will summarize and then expand more for families who want more details. We have visited Europe with our children a few times, but have been predominantly in the west. We wanted to experience Eastern Europe and this cruise had several ... Read More
I will summarize and then expand more for families who want more details. We have visited Europe with our children a few times, but have been predominantly in the west. We wanted to experience Eastern Europe and this cruise had several stops in major cities along the Danube that we wanted to begin to explore. We traveled with our children, ages 11 and 12. This was our second cruise with AmaWaterways (first was in Vietnam/Cambodia 1.5 years ago). Our first experience was excellent and so we decided to try this itinerary. Short and sweet, it was fantastic and met our expectations. The crew and the service is exceptional, the food was great and they provide a sufficient number of excursion options. We would not hesitate to do another Ama cruise with our children - they were treated wonderfully, there were bikes that fit even our smaller child, the adventures allowed plenty of active time. However, do know that the vast majority of the travelers are older so if your children are looking for companions that will be less likely (unless you do the Disney version of this cruise on this same ship with basically the same itinerary, which we did not). Also for families, we stayed in two of the connecting rooms (another reason we specifically chose this itinerary) and it was PERFECT for our family of four.
Generel info: our children are pretty adventurous eaters, and they loved sampling the local cuisines. However if your children are not, there is the "always available" menu that includes chicken, steak, potato wedges and French fries. My son often got a side of potato wedges as "dessert" instead of the dessert on the menu and they were always happy to accommodate any request.
Try to stay up for the evening entertainment - it is really great quality and local. Our children enjoy live music/theatre/dance/etc, but even if yours do not these shows are about an hour and are generally quite entertaining so that kids get a nice exposure to amazing music and culture in smaller doses.
We do not pack particularly light, especially as it is spring and the weather varied from the 30's to the 60's F. Ama takes care of getting your luggage on board and to your room as soon as you get dropped off at the ship. There is not a lot of storage room in the cabin, but it was absolutely adequate.
The adjoining rooms were fantastic for our family. There is a sliding door between the rooms that allowed the kids to watch a movie here and there without us hearing it and of course gave the adults a bit of alone time while still having the safety of the kids immediately next door. We did not feel crowded at all, and the only issue was where to store the larger suitcases (no under bed storage), but we managed.
Embarkation was smooth in Vilshofen. It was Good Friday, so they did not have the traditional Oktoberfest celebration that evening but made up for that on two other occasions on the trip. Each time there was a celebration like Oktoberfest that included alcohol, they always had non-alcoholic beverages for the children. The traditional music and dance was quite fun.
Passau - we did the castle hike. The views were wonderful. If you do even city park hiking with your children they will be able to handle this hike. Although we think Ama does a good job describing the difficulty of the excursions ahead of time, they don't do a super job of regulating who goes on the hikes. For example, there was an older gentleman with a walker who went on this hike with us. That can really slow down a group like us who typically choose the most active excursion. Early in the week we had this problem with less mobile guests signing up for the active excursions, but that tapered off during the week so that by the end of the trip it ended up mostly being our family of four and maybe one or two other people, so it worked out in the end. (In fact in Budapest our family of four had the tour guide all to ourselves! A personal tour of Budapest - more later)
Linz/Salzburg - We were there Easter Sunday. Linz was a bit cold but we still did the morning bike ride. It was so quiet and peaceful yet active - a nice way to see this city. It was really an easy bike ride with few to know hilly sections at all. Mostly riding through the squares. The guide stopped several times to show us different sites. There were multiple size bikes and helmets and the crew assisted each passenger in fitting the bikes. On our cruise of about 140 passengers approximately 15-20 went on that first ride. There is a guide in the front and one in the back to ensure the group stays together and that the traffic is managed. Our children are good cyclists (not competitive by any means) and they had no difficulty keeping up, in fact they mostly led the pack. Traffic was minimal and we felt very safe, especially with the guides assistance at street crossings.
We took the Salzburg half day walking tour. I personally would, in retrospect, just take the bus there and walk around this very manageable small city myself with the family. Some of that was due to a few minor issues: 1. the weather was cold and drizzly, so would rather pop in and out of coffee shops when we wanted, 2. there were two smokers in our group and they would not hesitate to light up through the tour, even in the middle of the pack of about 25 people and 3. the city was manageable if you read a little ahead of time or have a walking tour itinerary. It was crowded the day we visited, but again, it is early in the season so we felt lucky.
Weissenkirchen/Durnstein - Morning was sailing and our kids enjoyed some down time in the cabin watching a movie. When we arrived, we did the castle hike. There were only 5 of us on this tour so it was very personal and we could see quite a bit and keep a good pace. Again, this is really not difficult for the kids as long as your children are moderately active. Again the views were magnificent and we felt that we got a bit of exercise in. At the end of the tour the guide stops to buy you an apricot liquor to sample and she will have an alternative for the kids (apricot juice). Our kids really liked this hike. The weather was beautiful this day, so that helped of course.
Vienna - it was billed as a walking tour and we chose the active option. In reality you ride around on a bus for much of the tour so that you can see the major sites of the city and then you walk around the main square and church area. Then you have a bit of free time before we went back to the ship for our afternoon bike ride. We had hoped to walk more of the sites, but in retrospect we decided that this was a good introduction to the city and that we will come back to visit on our own some day. It is a big and beautiful city and probably deserves more than a day. In the afternoon we did the bike ride - there were a few more hills here and there, but very manageable. The day was perfect for a ride and we loved this route. It was essentially traffic free around a city island/park. Again, 2 great guides that led and brought up the rear of the group. A few stops mixed in with nice ride stretches to point out sites. We felt, again in retrospect, that this was a wonderful way to be active. There was no real way for us to see all that we wanted in Vienna, so it was a good introduction to the city followed by a nice active excursion.
PLEASE try to go to the evening concert. It was approximately 2 hours long with an intermission. It really is a nice mix of classical music that most people will recognize (our kids had heard most of the selections before even though they didn't know the names of the pieces) and there was quite a bit of toe-tapping. For several pieces they had ballet performers or opera singers. Again, even if your children do not think opera will be their "thing", these are just 2-3 short performances and the performers are wonderfully engaging. The male performer, in particular, was a wonderful actor and my 11 year old son was so engaged and laughed (appropriately) at his performance. One piece of advice - for us the concert hall was quite warm - wear layers that you can adjust.
Brataslava - we did this town on our own. After the Salzburg experience we did just a little research and figured out how to walk this very manageable small city ourselves. We were so pleased. We hiked up to the castle, visited a few churches, walked the historic streets, sat in sidewalk cafes to have a glass of wine/ice cream cone, and just enjoyed being at our own pace this day. The pleasant weather always helps, but this was a really enjoyable family day for us.
Budapest - by this point in the trip most of the older passengers, and most of the middle-aged as well, took the bus tour. In fact our family of four were the only ones to sign up for the "strenuous" tour - also called the castle hike I believe. It was PERFECT! We walked the city with our guide from 9:30-1:30 and felt we saw so much. It was not all that strenuous. We missed the City Market that the bus tour saw, but we will spend 2 extra days in Budapest at the end of the cruise so feel that we will have time to see many more things. The tour guide told great stories and we really enjoyed this tour. After our introduction to the city we enjoyed the local dance and music that was brought on to the ship. Again, these are relatively short for the kids but a great introduction to the culture and quite entertaining. Highly recommend.
We will disembark today, and they have a very organized system. All rooms need to be vacated by 9am, so after a leisurely breakfast we set our luggage in the hall and waited in the lounge until our cab picked us up at 11am for a noon hotel check-in in Budapest. There are pastries and coffee/tea/water/hot chocolate to enjoy in the lounge while we waited and the lobby bathroom is easily available and clean.
Overall, most of these river cruises are geared toward the older traveler, but they still accommodate our family almost perfectly. Again, the only minor problems we had were the pacing of some of the tours (billed as "active" but sometimes people who we would not consider "active" attending), that some of the other passengers are obnoxious - smokers on the tours, extremely loud guests who talked the entire way through the cruise manager's talks, the couple who allowed their son to play loud shooting video games in the dining room - but these people are found on every cruise or tour everywhere and it was fairly easy to avoid them most of the time. We are definitely going to plan on another Ama cruise with the family in the next two years and will continue to choose itineraries that are a little less accessible to us - maybe Africa next! Read Less