I'm an experienced ocean cruiser, but this was my first smaller river cruise, and I was unsure of what to expect. Well, it was great! We took the March 30th Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland cruise on the AmaCerto. We arranged our ... Read More
I'm an experienced ocean cruiser, but this was my first smaller river cruise, and I was unsure of what to expect. Well, it was great! We took the March 30th Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland cruise on the AmaCerto. We arranged our flights to Amsterdam and home from Zurich through AMA, but we did not do their extensions, so transfers were not included. That was fine with us. The timing of the AMA extensions didn't work with our schedules, so while we did stay in Amsterdam 3 nights before the cruise, then in Lucerne 2 nights after, this did not coordinate with their offered extensions. (The post-cruise extension offered was for 4 nights, and my work schedule did not allow for that.)
After spending 3 nights on our own in Amsterdam (and falling completely in love with that city) we got ourselves to the boat. That was a little confusing, we were just dragging our suitcases through the train station to the harbor behind. Signage wasn't great, but we just started walking to where we could see several river boats at one end. The AmaCerto was docked at the far right end, behind a couple river boats. It meant we were a little sweaty and bedraggled by the time we each rolled our heavy suitcases that far, but once to the boat they took over. We were met outside by a couple of nice crew members who instantly took our bags from us and let us walk up the gangway unencumbered. Check-in was super fast and easy. Nothing like the slow security line you go through for ocean cruises. Within 60 seconds of entering the ship we had our room keys and were being escorted to our room.
We were in a fixed window, Category D room on the Piano Deck. We were in room 103, with fixed, water level, windows. I went with my normal ocean cruise theory that we would not spend a lot of time in the room, and opted for the lowest level. The room was better than I'd expected. There was a very roomy closet, with plenty of room to hang any and all clothing you want. There were pull out drawers under the beds too, for non-hanging items. Though, because of the underbed drawers, there was only room to stash one suitcase under the beds. The other we stuck in a corner behind a chair. The room was tight, but comfortable. We expected this, we booked it knowing it was the lowest square footage of the rooms on the ship. We are on the youngish side of river cruisers (in our early 40s) so we weren't bothered by squeezing around each other, or even crawling across the bed, when we needed to quickly get around the room. But, I know some less mobile cruisers (such as my parents) would not be happy with such tight quarters. There is only about 12-18 inches from the foot of the bed to the wall, so no room to walk past each other.
Both sides of the bed had bedside tables, each with 2 drawers. Plus, the large windows (and they are large, not just little port holes) had a deep ledge that ran the length of the room. So, we were not lacking for any storage space, or room to set papers, purses, bags, etc.
The bathroom was very nice. The shower stall was a little bigger than I'd expected, and the overall look of the bathroom was very nice. There was almost zero counter space, just a little around the sink. But behind the mirror was a very large cabinet, and another was below the sink. So, while we couldn't leave much out on the counter, it was all within quick reach in a cabinet. In fact, some friends we made that had a larger room 2 decks up came down to see our room. They actually liked our bathroom a little better. Even though they had a long thin counter, they did not have the medicine cabinet or under sink storage. They felt we actually had more bathroom storage than they did.
The ship's WiFi didn't always work in our room. I just assumed the router was probably on a higher deck, and we were just far from the signal. Each room has an Apple computer in the room that can be used for the internet, or switched to TV to watch in-house ship channels or a limited selection of TV stations. Plus some recent movies were available to watch (Jurassic World, for example.)
The ship's crew was wonderful, all of them. It was obvious the cruise director (Frederico) really enjoys his job. He was always nice, friendly, and excited about our next destination. He held a meeting the first full day of the cruise to explain all the stops and excursions. Then, each night before dinner, he would hold a short meeting going over the next day's plans. This kept confusion down, as people could ask questions before the busy activities of the day. And the rest of the crew were wonderful too. We tended to sit in same general area of the dining room, so we saw the same waitstaff all week. We very much enjoyed talking to them, and they took great care of us.
And speaking of the dining room, the food was all terrific! I went in to this thinking there would be less food than on an ocean cruise. And while yes, unlike ocean cruises there was not 24 hour pizza available, or a midnight chocolate buffet, when there was food, there was a lot of it, and it was all good. Breakfast was a buffet with several healthy options (yogurt, granola, fruit, etc) plus some decidedly unhealthy options like sausage, bacon, pancakes, etc. There was an omelet station, and every morning there were some items you could order from the kitchen such as waffles or eggs benedict.
Lunch was also a buffet, with several options that went along with where we currently were. And, like breakfast, there were always some special choices you could order from the kitchen. Then dinner was always a beautiful meal. It was difficult choosing what to order each night, as the options were all so good. Most nights dinner was a 4 course meal (salad, soup, entree, dessert) but a couple nights it was a 5 course, with the addition of an amuse bouche. While they advertised wine and beer with lunch and dinner (which was true) I want to note there was always champagne on the buffet at breakfast. So, anybody wanting to start their day with a mimosa easily could. Then yes, lunch and dinner the wine and beer was freely flowing. The bartender that worked the area we tended to sit quickly learned the type of wine I liked, and the beer my husband liked, and made sure we didn't run out.
We made reservations for one night in the Chef's Table dining room. There is no extra charge for this (like on some ocean cruises) but seating is limited. I HIGHLY recommend to anybody taking an AMA cruise to do this one night. It is an absolutely fantastic meal that should not be missed!
Every port we stopped in, at least one type of excursion was offered. Sometimes as many as 5 options. For example, our first stop in Koln (Cologne) Germany had a city tour. But there were 2 times offered: 9am, or 10am for "late risers." The 10am ended the same time as the 9am, it just skipped some stuff. So, 2 options for Koln. Then at our stop at Speyer, there were several options: 1)Regular Speyer city tour 2)Gentle Walker Speyer tour 3)Heidelberg city tour 4)Heidelberg Gentle Walker tour or 5)Heidelberg hike. That was a LOT of options! We could only pick one! I know it sounds confusing, but this is why Frederico had a meeting every night. This way people knew if they needed to be a "gentle walker" due to lots of hills or steps in an old town for example. Some stops had the option of taking a guided 15-17 mile bike ride around the area. We did not do this, since it they were only recommended for people who ride bikes regularly. My husband does, but I haven't been on my bike for almost 4 years. I didn't feel up to the 15+ mile rides!
We always did the "Active Walker" tours (as opposed to the Gentle Walkers) and we found all the tour guides to be very informative and friendly. The only problem was this was the first cruise using new "QuietVox" listening devices. The guides were obviously using them for the first time, and some cruisers were having trouble with them too. But, by the 3rd or 4th port, most everybody was used to them and had few problems. Personally, I liked them.
There were 3 different musical acts brought on board for evening entertainment throughout the week. The first was a classical trio, that was very good. The second was a singer that we did not get to see (we were docked in Koblenz Germany that night, and my husband and I chose to go off the ship that night and wander the town so we did not see him,) and the third was a French singer with an accordion player as her accompaniment. She was great, and her accordion player very entertaining. We really didn't expect to like the evening entertainment, and we were pleasantly surprised.
As for the AmaCerto, it was a lovely ship. The main dining room was on the level below reception, and above was a large lounge. The lounge was where the evening entertainment took place, pastries were set out for late risers, and where most people ended up when just wanting to relax and watch the scenery. There was always coffee, tea, and cookies in the lounge. There was enough seating for everybody to fit in there at the same time. And the couches and chairs were surprisingly comfortable. A good place to just sit with a cup of tea or coffee and read and watch the scenery go by. I used the fitness room one time, basically just playing around on the rowing machine and treadmill. They room had 2 stationary bikes also, which I did not use. And 3 different weights of free weights (probably 1 pound, 3 pounds, and 5 pounds.) Lemon water and towels were available for those wanting them.
At the end of the cruise, even though we did not have an airport transfer booked with AMA, they still called us our taxi to the train station. In fact, on the 2nd day of the cruise, they distributed forms to all rooms asking how everybody was getting off the ship. This way, nobody was left scrambling the morning of disembarkation. There was an option to check AMA transfer, private transportation already arranged, or a taxi is needed. We checked that box, and on the morning of disembarkation we were on a list with our room number and what time our taxi would be there.
All in all, I would say this was a great river cruise. I'm already hoping to take another river cruise in the next few years. Most likely the Danube or the Douro. We're wishing AMA had some cruises in South America, or even into Alaska (getting further in the fjords than the big ships can go) but maybe those will come someday. Read Less