AmaWaterways was our second choice when we discovered Viking had booked up this particular Danube Cruise. Our experience up to this point has been 2 ocean cruises on Viking and both experiences were 5 star. We were not sure we would even ... Read More
AmaWaterways was our second choice when we discovered Viking had booked up this particular Danube Cruise. Our experience up to this point has been 2 ocean cruises on Viking and both experiences were 5 star. We were not sure we would even like a river cruise much less go with a cruise line we had never heard of before. Our adventure on AmaStella was above and beyond our expectations!
River cruising is definitely a different experience than ocean. Our ocean cruise carried approx. 800 and I believe our river cruise had somewhere around 135. That in itself changes every aspect. I cannot say that i even prefer one to the other...now I know they are each simply unique.
Also unique to this particular cruise is the atmosphere on ship. The entire ship is decorated for Christmas - so lovely, sparkling and festive. One night we even helped decorate some of the trees that only had the lights trimmed. The crew provided us with entertainment one evening by "caroling". Absolutely hysterical !!!! And of course the emphasis of the excursions was on the Christmas markets in each port.
Excursions: Cannot say enough about quality of tour guides, tour buses used, itinerary, etc. Again, this cruise had a special theme so no doubt excursions in the same towns and cities another time of the year are going to differ. AmaWaterways provides an incredible choice of INCLUDED excursions - high quality ones in fact. Sometimes there was one offered for those who just wanted to visit the Christmas Market and perhaps drive through the town seeing points of interest, while offered at the same port was an excursion that included walking and exploring interiors of points of interest and adding the market at the end. In Passau, there were several of included choices, one of which a 2 hour ride into Salzburg and the opportunity to spend approximately 5 hours exploring Salzburg either independently or with a guide and then the return to the ship through the gorgeous snow covered mountains to Linz where the ship had sailed while we were in Salzburg. That excursion was a no-charge. Amazing. A wonderful aspect of Ama excursions is that for almost every one, they provided an option for 2-3 levels of "walkers"...gentle, normal, active. Each level was given their own guide. Again, we found this to be ever so accommodating.
Cabin: We had a room with a balcony and french balcony and it was fairly roomy. Even though we rarely used the balcony due to weather, it did provide us with more space in the actual room. Be aware that there is not a lot of useable space underneath the bed for storing actual suitcases that are very deep. Fabulous that they provide a TV that is also a computer with a keyboard. You can pull up your boarding passes for your flight home and it will print directly to the Cruise Director's printer. Same thing for tickets to concerts or whatever extra you might have booked separate from what Ama was offering. Bathroom is decent size and very bright and "new". Beds were comfortable enough. We were well taken care of by the sweet young man in charge of our room - he anticipated our every need.
Dining: I rarely eat breakfast but when I was ready mid morning, I could grab a cappuccino from the machine (love!!) and a pastry from the restaurant buffet. We were rarely on the ship during lunch. Dinner was always very good but the best meal we had onboard was definitely at the Chef's Table. And just a tip: one meal at Chef's Table is included, however if you check, there most likely will be another night that they are not booked and you can enjoy a second meal there. Worth checking on!
This is the only area that i prefer the ocean over the river cruise. Some nights, we were looking forward to spending at a table with others (no tables for 2) getting to know them and having a very social dinner but most nights we were tired from the day's excursions and would have preferred being able to go to dinner when we wanted, self serve a few items from a buffet, sit just the two of us and spend much less than 2 hours on dinner. That's just a personal preference and it was obvious that most other cruisers wholeheartedly embraced the "dinner experience". We are not wine drinkers so that may be some of the lure and enjoyment for some at dinner and would cause them to want to linger. Just not for us.
The Ama Cruise Director for our ship was John Riley and we cannot even come up with words worthy enough to describe this man. How he does it...we just cannot fathom. His attention to detail and organization is just short of being physically and mentally impossible. He lacks in absolutely nothing (unless it's sleep)!! We are certain that our delightful experience on AmaStella can be attributed to his talents and his ability to inspire those who are working with him. He spoils you.
Our plane out of Budapest did not depart until 2:00 in the afternoon yet we needed to be out of our cabin by 9:00. We were so warmly encouraged and welcomed to stay in the lounge of the ship by John until we needed to get to the airport. Despite the crew trying to get ready for the next batch of cruisers who were set to arrive at any time, again we were urged to stay onboard and partake of the food being set out for the new group and remain comfortable until it was time to leave. Oh and one most lovely thing...those who were needing taxi service to the airport that day...John personally arranged for a taxi driver to appear at the dock for every single cruiser that needed it and for every single time they needed to depart. We all waited in the lounge and he would announce when each of our taxis had arrived, we would walk off and there were our bags being loaded by the driver. We were the next to the last couple to leave the ship and the entire time we were made to feel more than welcome.
So from start to finish this was a lovely, very special experience for us. Will we do it again with AmaWaterways? Absolutely!! Read Less