My husband and I celebrated our 40th anniversary with AmaWaterways' Romantic Danube cruise. This was our first cruise of any kind. Therefore, although we have nothing to compare it to, we can't imagine a river cruise line that ... Read More
My husband and I celebrated our 40th anniversary with AmaWaterways' Romantic Danube cruise. This was our first cruise of any kind. Therefore, although we have nothing to compare it to, we can't imagine a river cruise line that could be superior. Many of our fellow passengers who were seasoned river cruisers agreed.
Our ship, the AmaPrima, was named "Best River Cruise Ship 2013". It has 3 decks of rooms and carries about 160 pasengers. There is a spacious and comfortable lounge area (and like the entire ship, impeccably clean -- we'd see crew on deck early in the morning, cleaning and polishing every square inch, every day), with plenty of seats, tables, an attractive bar area, and and 24-hour self-serve coffee and tea area with a wide selection of teas, milks, sugars, dark hot chocolate (not too sweet), and an espresso machine that produced everything from a cup of coffee to a cappuccino with milk foam. This area, by the way, was also always in order and perfectly clean, as if we were the first of the day to use it.
On the lowest deck, there is a large dining room with an assortment of table sizes and booths for 4 or 6. There is open seating, so you can seat wherever and with whomever you wish, for any meal, and there is always plenty of room. There was one seating per meal, and they recommended that you arrive within 20 minutes of the beginning of a meal to have plenty of time to relax and enjoy it. There is an attractive buffet with a wide selection of choices at breakfast and lunch, as well as a menu from which you can order. At breakfast, there is a chef present who will make an omelette or eggs any style you wish. The dinner menu always has 2-3 choices for the appetizer, salad, entree, and dessert, plus other main courses (such as a main dish salad or quiche) that you can order. The quality of the food, as well as its presentation, exceeded our expectations. Every night, we had a choice of fine wines (included) and the servers were most generous with it!
At the back of the ship between the middle and top deck is a smaller restaurant, The Chef's Table, that seats about 24. You have an opportunity to dine there on one night of the cruise (you make a reservation when you embark), perhaps to celebrate a special occasion. This meal has multiple courses served by attentive staff in tuxedos -- and you can observe the chef preparing the meal in a glass-walled kitchen adjacent to the dining room. We were pampered by all of the AmaPrima staff, in the nicest way possible, for the entire week -- but the staff to guest ratio in The Chef's Table was even greater.
We were in cabin 208, an AA (the roomiest) cabin (other than the suites), on the middle deck of three that had cabins. We had plenty of room, thanks to all of the clever storage features and both an inside and outside seating area. Our luggage was out of sight under the bed. The bed and pillows were extremely comfortable. It came made up with a duvet, but the housekeeper will change that to sheets and a blanket if you prefer. I think a slightly smaller cabin would be fine too, and that cabins on the top and middle decks are equally good. I'd also like to add that the decor was classy but simple and tasteful; I nixed a couple of cruise lines while I was perusing different ones online because of the fussy, overly feminine decor.
I think what sets AmaWaterways apart, other than their ships, is their staff. Our captain was German, our outstanding cruise manager Frederico was Croatian, and the rest of the staff largely hailed from Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. Without exception they were very friendly, thoughtful, cheerful, polite, and accommodating. I've heard that it's tough to get a job with AmaWaterways, and they certainly have a first-rate staff. Frederico (the cruise manager), was extremely knowledgeable, organized, present, and had a pleasant voice -- very important, especially when you're listening to him speaking into a microphone in the lounge or over the PA system as he gives a commentary while we're cruising. Our housekeeper, Andreea, was a prize; she would whisk in while we were at breakfast to clean our room, and again while we were at dinner to spruce it up again. Three times, we found our towels arranged origami-style into different animals: two swans for our anniversary, a dog, and the biggest surprise -- a monkey swinging from our ceiling! A fun surprise when we would return to our room. We tended to sit in the same area of the dining room, so we often had Christina as our server; if you happen to have her, you'll find she's not only efficient, hardworking, and attentive but exceptionally thoughtful and friendly.
At different ports, there were choices of activities (including biking) both during the day and sometimes in the evening. Our four highlights were visiting Cesky Krumlov (with our outstanding guide Veronika), touring Melk Abbey, biking from Melk to Durnstein (though note: while rated by AMA as a "5" in difficulty, if you are fit, it's more like a "2") along the Danube and through the vineyards, and the evening concert at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. The orchestra and singers were not only first rate, but engaged with the audience and displayed a delightful sense of humor. AMA clearly tries to offer a wide variety of activities to suit everyone, from a "gentle walkers" group to biking, and from introductory city tours to behind-the-scenes hidden walks and wine and sacher-torte tasting. The only activities that had a surcharge were the evening concert in Vienna and the tour of Schonbrunn Palace near Vienna.
Every evening, there was a gentleman playing the keyboard and singing in the lounge; some evenings, there was special entertainment brought on the ship: two opera singers, two violinists & a guitarist, and Hungarian dancers. All were excellent!
In summary, if you're looking for a river cruise, we can recommend AmaWaterways highly. If you want to cruise the Danube, I think any of their Danube cruises would be equally good -- but I'm glad we cruised east ending in Budapest, because on our last night, the captain sailed the Budapest harbor so we could enjoy the illuminated bridges and buildings. Read Less