So, why did I choose AmaWaterways? First, I’m not an avid cruiser and usually prefer to drive ourselves and stay at cute inns to explore a country. However, I wanted to try a river cruise and visit Prague and Budapest so this seemed ... Read More
So, why did I choose AmaWaterways? First, I’m not an avid cruiser and usually prefer to drive ourselves and stay at cute inns to explore a country. However, I wanted to try a river cruise and visit Prague and Budapest so this seemed like a good solution although we’d already visited the Austrian ports on an independent trip. Plus, we had friends who also wanted to try one. I liked that AmaWaterways had about 150 vs. 200 passengers on Viking, that it had bikes onboard to use and hosted Backroads mini groups (figured passengers would be more active), that it got great marks for cuisine and shore excursions, and that the AmaLea was a brand new ship in 2018. Also had heard from several friends who had cruised favorably with them.
The reason I picked going south to north was that we got to view Budapest’s bridges and buildings beautifully illuminated at night as we cruised along the waterfront, which wouldn’t happen on a north bound itinerary.
We boarded the ship about 2p, before most of the guests arrived and was able to grab a quick , self service lunch. Our room included a small balcony with 2 chairs and table, and a french balcony, and was attractive and efficiently laid out, although the bathroom was a tighter fit compared to ocean cruises, it had a decent sized shower. It included a “window” that you could push a button to see into the bedroom and outside or frost it for privacy. I recommend you have collapsable suitcases which we did (Lipault brand) so they could be slid under the bed. Otherwise you’ll be tripping over them in the room.
We quickly walked out on the balcony and enjoyed the long river view UNTIL another ship rudely pulled up next to us and the room went dark. Welcome to the ugly truth of “rafting”…or as I called it, being shafted. We were unlucky in that this basically happened every day. I caution you to figure out which side of the ship you’ll be docked on and try to get a room on the other side. This can change day to day and even if you’re on the outside river side, you still can have another ship pull up next to you. It became a joke because our friends were on the opposite side and mostly had clear views.
The top deck of the ship had a lovely pool (which we never used although it was HOT for most days) and attractive seating areas.
We walked around Vilshoven a bit but everything was closed since it was Sunday. There was an Oktoberfest celebration offered onshore for us with beer, pretzels, accordion music and children dancing. Very enjoyable. From 5:30-6:30 we were subjected to a way too long, stupid safety talk by the captain. Someone needs to edit that guy. Dinner was at a set time, 7pm, but seating was open so we could dine privately or with others. A special cocktail was always offered and wines were served with dinner, which was generally very good.
After a morning spent walking around the now open Vilshoven, we cruise down to Passau, where we went through the Locks for some natural room darkening….like being in a cave. Our selected shore excursion is to climb to Ober Vesterhaus for a view of the confluence of 3 rivers, the Danube, Inn and Els. We have a wonderful tour guide filled with entertaining tidbits who doesn’t stop talking the whole time we climb 38 floors and 12,000 steps (according to my Fitbit) up to the 1499 Castle atop the hill opposite the town. First we cross a suspension bridge and then start climbing. The Prince Bishop used to live here and control the whole region. It’s very hot and sunny…I didn’t pack the right clothes (shorts!) as I expected more fall like temperatures. Afterwards, we had free time to explore the town and we visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral with the world’s largest organ. Would’ve loved to hear it.
Tonight was our friend’s birthday and we had made a reservation to eat in their Chef’s Table specialty restaurant for an excellent Tasting menu. Claudio (a double for James Franco) and the Maitre d’ joked around with us all night…very funny. They brought out an amazing chocolate cake for him and upgraded our wine. Wonderful celebration.
We enjoyed a brief view of Danube scenery until we docked at Linz. Then, the dreaded Rafting. We have a walking city tour of Linz, grab an early lunch, then board a bus for an all afternoon excursion to the Salzkammergut region…the Alpine Lake District. Decades ago we had driven and stayed over in this gorgeous region, but now we must be satisfied with a quick jaunt. The bus was very comfortable and our guide is very good. We drive along the sides of several lakes and have time in Mondsee to go inside the Sound of Music church where Maria got married and Wolfgangsee to walk around the tourist shops and have a drink on a terrace overlooking this stunning mountain lake. It’s so hot, I wish we could go for a swim and stay longer.
Weissenkirchen, Wachau Valley, Austria
Today we cruised through the prettiest stretch of the Danube, but the weather didn’t cooperate for photos turning cloudy, windy & cool. In the afternoon, we had a walking tour of the charming town of Durnstein, where we had stayed previously, and shopping only yielded a jar of their famed Apricot (Marille) jam. A tour of the Melk Abbey followed with an excellent guide.
Although we have stayed in Vienna in the past, I had an ambitious touring schedule for us that included some quality shopping. We began with the ship’s city tour, which bussed us around the Ringstrasse for an overview of all the baroque buildings. Then, when they dropped us at the Albertina Museum for a walking tour, we left the group to tour the museum which had an interesting art collection and a wonderful photography exhibit. From here, we walked to the Hofburg Castle complex and toured the Sisi Museum and Imperial Apartments. So far so good, but now the restaurant I had wanted to lunch at was back near the Albertina and didn’t want to double back. Instead we walked into the shopping district and got an outside table at a famous cafe. This was a bad experience as we waited over an hour for our food and then when questioned, was told it would take another half hour for the schnitzel. Think they forgot to submit the order. So, just ended up with a salad and piece of cake which wasted about two hours of precious time. Didn’t help that I was starting to feel miserable from the onslaught of a cold. Didn’t see any good shops and didn’t feel like walking around more so just headed back to the ship.
Another sunny day as we cruised into this cute little town. Chose another city walking tour with a very funny guide. Not much to see in the town or good shops, but we stopped for an aperol spritz and cake. Tonight is the Captain’s Dinner and we hope he doesn’t talk.
We started with a city tour on a bus but the day was cool and rainy. We got to tour the City Market and Mathias Church and climb it’s Belvedere, but the views were dismal due to the weather. Ducked into a popular cafe nearby, Ruzworm, and tried their famous cream cake. I didn’t care for it but DH did. The cappuccino was lukewarm, as usual so far. Back to the ship for lunch, and then we just walked and walked. Watched a wedding party as they left the church…always enjoy that. Pre-dinner entertainment were two Hungarian dancing couples and an excellent violinist. After dinner, was the Illumination Cruise along the waterfront which was spectacular, although chilly from the top deck.
An easy disembarkation, compared to ocean cruises. Read Less