My friend and I were asked to be joint "faculty hosts" for one of the universities sponsoring this very elegant and educational tour of Europe, via the Danube and Rhine rivers. This was a great opportunity, and we enjoyed "hosting" and cruising with the people of our university, as well as many of the other travelers. We arrived in Budapest two days before the cruise began, and thoroughly enjoyed touring this beautiful, friendly city. Most of the passengers arrived on Friday, and were brought straight from the airport to the ship. The instant the first bus load arrived, the dining room doors swung open, and lunch was served.
We had arrived a couple hours earlier than the others, to confer with the travel directors on board. Even though we arrived early, there were ship staff members waiting on the dock, taking charge of our luggage, and seeing to our every question or request. They were entirely professional, warm, welcoming, and efficient. The ship was still in the process of being cleaned, so we waited in the lobby, and were treated most graciously. At the end of the cruise, the leave-taking was quite smooth and efficient, as well, with staff helping with luggage, and announcing the various taxis and rides as they arrived.
Our stateroom was beautiful and designed with every comfort, and every inch put to excellent use. The bathroom was small, of course, but I am a Large Person, and I was completely comfortable with it. There were upper and lower shelves, with plenty of space for all our "stuff." There is space for one suitcase under each bed (standard for cruises), but I had brought a third, bringing gifts for family, and consumables for us. We stowed it between the beds, and gave it away to an appreciative nephew when we got to Vienna three days later!! Very Important Point: Each stateroom had its own thermostat, and could be adjusted to suit the occupants. This is a most proFOUND boon for middle-aged women!!!! :~)
The ship was beautifully decorated, and very clean. Very comfortable. The bar was pretty much always open, so far as I could tell. Morning, well into the night, certainly. The dining room was elegant, the service was smooth as glass, and the food was phenomenal. Not only was it beautiful, and professionally served, it was nutritionally balanced. And the portions were well-defined. This was, by and large, an older group of travelers (primarily 60s, 70s 80s, and folks our ages predictably eat less than younger crowds, perhaps. There was always plenty, and there was always somewhere on board to get coffee and a small snack if you wanted it. At mealtimes, there were always choices, including a vegetarian choice, and usually two meat-inclusive entrees. The dessert choices always included a small fruit plate with a bit of cheese. Very Continental, and very delicious. Others have noted the breakfast buffet, the choice of lunch in the dining room or in the lounge, and the single seating for dinner. These were all presented graciously and with ease. There was a separate person serving drinks, and the beer and wine flowed freely at mealtimes. Constantly. Without charge. :~) I do not drink alcohol, and I am all-too-familiar with the state of inebriation of those around me. (There's a reason it is sometimes called "getting stupid".., but I digress....Nobody got stupid on this cruise!) After the second or third day, it occurred to me that, even though the bar staff was constantly refilling all the glasses before anyone even noticed how much they had consumed, no one EVER even appeared to be drunk. A bit of sleuthing revealed that they were serving European wines, often from the areas through which we were passing, and the alcohol content is generally lower than wines here in the States. Everyone enjoyed the wines and beers greatly, and no one complained about them not being potent enough! They were most complimentary, as a matter of fact. And no one had a hangover, either! A remarkable feat!!
What this cruise does NOT have, is the flagrant abuse and waste of food, piling it on buffets and serving great gobs of it at all hours. (I can't STAND that!!) There were cookie snacks at the little tea area, and snacks in the bar area, but we were so well-fed, that I didn't ever see anyone eating extra. Not saying that someone DIDN'T, but they didn't do it in front of me. The Kitchen staff prepared special treats for birthdays, anniversaries, and, on this trip, a national holiday. On the Fourth of July, we were treated to an enormous and delicious cake in honor of American Independence. I have enjoyed three previous cruises: Disney, out of Cape Canaveral, Viking, on the Yangtze in China, and Holland America on the Inside Passage in Alaska. The Amadeus cruise handled the food service more to my liking than any of the others. Portions, nutrition, presentation, variety - - all, the very best.
Each afternoon, just before dinner, the travelers gathered in the lounge to hear about the activities and plans for the following day. Members of the staff reviewed the goings-on of the day and the morrow, and any questions were answered. Upon occasion, this was the point of locating people who had not, apparently, returned to the ship. You had to turn in your room key as you left, for the purposes of letting the staff know when you returned, and not losing the beautiful, tasseled key. If your key was still at the front desk, a call went out, and scouts were dispatched, to try to locate the missing persons before the ship sailed. Most days there was no call, but a couple of times, people were missing. Since the next boat in is pretty much waiting for the dock space, there is considerable pressure to leave on time!!
When the travelers were gathering in the lounge for the "port talks," the ship's musicians would perform to entertain the waiting crowd. I am a professional musician myself (Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Piano), and I enjoyed visiting with the pianist and vocalist there. Any time there was "dead air" where travelers gathered, they would not hesitate to provide background music, although they kept an analytical eye as to how well their efforts were being received - - too loud? Too soft? Too Rock? Too old? They enjoyed performing, and were very well trained and capable. They used their best judgment as to music that would be appreciated by the audience, and, I believe, did a very good job of that. Also, in the lounge, after dinner, there would be a few games to enjoy as a group. I actually only went for those one night, but was sorry I had not gone more often. It was HILARIOUS!! As I mentioned earlier, we were, for the most part, OLD, so we went to bed fairly early. In my opinion, the staff - - tour directors, musicians, all, did a fine job of judging what would be well-received by the group.
How to describe the "service." ....... Embarkation, disembarkation, luggage, food, all just excellent. Laundry? There was no do-it-yourself, and there were no irons in the rooms. My clothing came out of the suitcase in bad need of ironing. There was a note that said to put things that needed pressing into "this" plastic bag, and leave it on your bed; that the staff would try to have it back to you within 24 hours. I saw this about the time we were to go to the dining room, so I just grabbed all my dresses, skirts, tops, ALL, and crammed them into the plastic bag. Then we went to dinner. Then we came back from dinner. ALL MY CLOTHES were hanging, beautifully pressed, on the door of the closet!!! It was MAGIC!!! The first night, I rinsed out my undies in the bathroom and hung them in the shower to dry. It was fine, but just aggravating to have to do. After the good result with the pressing, I decided to try the laundry. BINGO!!! Dirties OUT! Cleanies IN! In such a brief period of time. I couldn't believe it!!!! I DO love to have things done for me!!! (I wasn't RAISED lazy; I've had to learn it on my own!!!)
Which brings us to the subject of the hair salon. The young woman who staffed the small gift shop in the lobby, was also the hair dresser. I decided I just didn't want to mess with doing my own hair, so I inquired and made an appointment with her. The little room containing the "salon" was at one far end of the boat, near the "library." I dragged off down there at the appointed time, and what a surprise!!! The washing basin was exactly like the washing basins in typical US shops, EXCEPT THAT you could sit straight up and just rest your neck and head on the rim of the basin. No scrunching down in a chair while water (and shampoo!!) run everywhere!! And she (the hair dresser) could stand up straight, as well. No ruining her back, either. Her English was excellent (I think she was Hungarian, but I may be wrong about that), she was charming, and her work was superb. I had a total of three appointments on the trip, and consider it the best money I spent!!!
Shore excursions were a major plus with this company. They were all included in the price of the trip (as was airfare), so people did not get fleeced by "bargains" at the port. Almost always, there were three choices for excursions. Sometimes only two, but mostly three. Most choices of excursions were made before the trip started, but the tour directors did everything in their power to change your enrollment if you had decided you wanted to do something different. These excursions were tremendous bargains, when you did the math. About the only thing I heard that someone did not get to do, was the tour of the galley kitchen, and perhaps a tour of the bridge. Those were much in demand, and very limited in number of participants.
One point worth contemplating. Most of these excursions require a great deal of walking. I am not able to walk very vigorously or far. It would have been a tremendous boon if the ship had had a golf cart or something similar, to get from the boat to the city streets. In many towns there are taxis, or the pedi-cabs, or just walking and resting on benches, as best one can. But even those are difficult if you wear yourself out, getting up off the dock to the historical areas. DO NOT BE DISTRACTED!!! I LOVED this cruise, even if I had to miss a few things. I saw LOTS and LOTS of things. And I thoroughly enjoyed staying on the boat, resting, reading, or just contemplating the shore, where people were camping or picnicking. The "French balcony" was a great pleasure, especially lowering the big window and listening to the beautiful song birds, and watching the water birds - - ducks, geese, swans - - enjoying the water. That was a real vacation!! Such a pleasure!!! Never too much of that!!!
A word about "enrichment activities." There were four major universities that had "hosts" on board for their contingent. (Several other universities were represented, but had only one or two couples in the group. No hosts from them!!) Each Faculty Host was responsible for giving two "academic" type talks. On this ship, each of the four presenters was well-prepared, thoroughly knowledgeable, and very effective. Virtually the entire tourist group attended each of the talks. I was impressed.
One more item under the subject of "service." Like a lot of other 70-year-olds, I have a few medical prescriptions that keep me going. Skipping unnecessary detail, I arrived on the boat missing one prescription that helps keep my chronic atrial fibrillation under control. When I realized this loss, I had four days' supply remaining. No time to panic, but also, no time to waste! A futile several hours attempting to locate someone in the medical practice in North Carolina, was a big waste of time. I went to our (Russian) tour director, Sergei. I am told that the meaning of this Russian name is, "shepherd," or "protector." Well, he certainly was!!! He assured me this was no problem, they have a connection with an English-speaking medical clinic that is open on Saturday mornings. He would have a taxi waiting for me the next morning, to go to that clinic. AHA!!! I said - - This needs to be a taxi large enough to accommodate ME (Large Person) comfortably!!! (Cabs in NYC have gotten so small it's ridiculous, but I have gotten familiar with Uber!!!) No problem, according to Sergei!!! It will be a good size! AHA!!! I said - - it needs to have AIR CONDITIONING!!! GOOD air conditioning!! Ambient heat makes me nauseous!! (The weather in Budapest was blistering hot at that point...) NOT TO WORRY, says Sergei!! It will be fine!!!! I was still having little "dreads" the next morning, but when the taxi arrived, it was a Mercedes Benz SUV!!!! The lengthy drive over into Buda (the port is in Pest), gave us another good look at this beautiful city, and a visit with a charming and knowledgeable driver. The clinic staff was totally reassuring. The physician and nurse did a thorough "new patient" intake on me. Totally professional, and totally darling, all at the same time. I left with a prescription in my hand, and a smile on my face. This clinic was in a "shopping center." Rather than the strip malls or boundless covered malls we know, this "shopping center" was in one building, straight up. Different stores on different levels. My companion was able to acquire several items we needed to get for our room, and I was able to have the prescription filled at the small pharmacy on another level. WIN-WIN-WIN!! Our driver had waited for us, and was right outside the door when we emerged. We heard of a couple other medical situations on the cruise, and that the staff handled them ably and immediately.
There was only one young person on the trip, a young man who turned 16 during the cruise. He was everyone's favorite, loved to play shuffleboard and got most people to play with him. There were no small children, nor were there any accommodations for them, such as play areas, or special activities. I'm pretty sure Amadeus does not advertise for children.
Would I go again? Yes, Yes, and Yes. I was delighted with each of the towns and cities we visited, with Amsterdam crowning the experience as the final port. However, what I am more interested in, rather than to repeat this cruise, would be to find another Amadeus cruise and enjoy different places. Read Less