For our first river cruise we chose Ama Waterways, Paris-Normandy 7-night. My wife and I have taken a bunch of ocean cruises (most recently 25 nights back-to-back, Mexican Riviera and Hawaii on Princess) and the attractive river cruise TV ... Read More
For our first river cruise we chose Ama Waterways, Paris-Normandy 7-night. My wife and I have taken a bunch of ocean cruises (most recently 25 nights back-to-back, Mexican Riviera and Hawaii on Princess) and the attractive river cruise TV advertising finally got to us. The Legro ship, dining and crew is well described by others, so I'll mostly focus on other aspects.
We considered a lot of destination options and finally decided on the Paris-Normandy cruise for a couple reasons. We wanted to do a 7-night for our first river cruise. We're both history buffs and have wanted to visit the Normandy D-Day beaches and American Cemetery, and a previous trip to Paris in the 80's was just way too short. We added four full Paris touring days and a travel day on the front-end of othe cruise. We opted to skip the Ama package and do it outselves.
We flew to Paris non-stop from Detriot, moved quickly through French Customs, retrieved luggage, hit the bathroom and grabbed a cab from the line in less than 30 minutes. E60 cabfare plus a E5 tip, and 45 minutes later we were dropped off at our hotel. The cab driver was not familiar with our hotel, but we had been advised to print and bring Mapquest directions. Good idea. We stayed at the Holiday Inn St. Germain on the reccomendation of a friend and were not disappointed. It was clean, nicely located and we took advantage of a good breakfast package that saved us a lot of time in the mornings. The rooms are small, and our street-facing room had some traffic noise, but it didn't cause a problem.
We did all the standard Paris tourist stuff capped off with a dinner show at the Moulin Rouge. We used the Paris subway system (safe, clean and easy to navigate) and cabs when we got too tired to walk to a station. Cab fares seemed to all run about E17. with tip, no matter where we came from or where our destination was. Paris cab drivers are courteous but not chatty. Prices in Paris are like New York or San Francisco. We ate dinners in cafe's and found great food and service. Most places had menu's with English subtitles and offered them up front. A couple made us ask for them. Tips for meals are built into most but not all meal prices.
The AmaLegro was docked a reasonably short E17 cab ride from the Holiday Inn. Again, a printed map and directions came in handy. We got there about noon and were greeted by friendly Legro crew people who grabbed our luggage and directed us to the ship lounge where they had a soup and sandwich lunch, beverages and some desserts laid out. We read for a while but were very shortly joined by friendly fellow guests. The average passenger age was north of 50 years old. Most were couples around our age (mid-60's and retired) and older with a few in their late 40's or 50's. No children. There were a number of single women traveling alone or in pairs (or more) and one single guy (70'ish) by himself. Apparently Ama doesn't charge a single-passenger supplement fee on some rooms.
Our cabin was small and very clean. My wife thought the bed was too firm. I loved it. We brought five electric adapter plugs along and used four of them. I found a handy 6-outlet power strip in a drawer with French 2-prong 240V electric sockets, that we made good use of with our adapters. We brought an "Edison" power strip for our chargers and plugged it into an adapter, so we had six US outlets for our dual voltage chargers and hair dryer. There are no spare electric outlets on the desk. We unplugged a radio charger from the wall, plugged in the provided power strip and plugged the radio charger back into that. There are also spare electric outlets behind the night-stand tables on either side of the bed where you could use an adapter, but they're slightly difficult to get to and the tables are small. There's a power outlet in the bathroom inside of a handy medicine cabinet.
The food is good, but not as great as many reviews say it is. I thought the lunch menu was better than the dinner menu most days. We did the Chef's Table dinner one night, and again, it was good but not great. Entree portions are small by cruise ship standards, but they will provide "seconds" if you ask. They don't offer. I'm not a wine or beer drinker. Other drinks are inexpensive by other cruise ship standards. Four to six Euro's for a really good pour. The bar staff is great, friendly and attentive. the dining room staff is friendly but business-like. There is almost always some food and beverages available in the Lounge area. Mostly sandwiches, soup and desserts.
The ship lounge is a nice spot. They have a "house" musician who starts playing an hour before dinner begins most days. He's actually pretty good and well worth a listen. His song selections are all over the place but are generally meant to be enjoyed for the more mature cruiser. Other entertainment was sparse, but the two nights they did offer different entertainers, they were excellent. Keep in mind, this is not a large showroom, so two or three performers is all there's room for. The lounge has a good-sized dance floor that got some use.
The ship tours were all super, with excellent local guides. All spoke great English. Ama provides radio devices in each cabin to take on the tours. These work very well and keeps your tour guide's voice right in your ear even in noisy backgrounds. The D-Day beaches and Cemetery were the highlight for me. Monet's house and Napoleon & Josephine's house were also great. Ama doesn't do cheezy, rip-off shopping stops, but in most places you get some free time to wander around and visit shopping places. I heard a few complaints that there wasn't enough shopping opportunities, but there was more than enough for me. We followed the tipping guidelines from Ama for both shore excursions and for the ship crew/staff. They were all great and I thought the recommendations were fair.
A communications glitch left us without a ride to the airport following the cruise. The Cruise Director kindly arranged for an Ama-affiliated car service (he called it a limo) that met us at the dock, loaded our stuff and took us to the Airport in a nearly-new BMW 5-Series sedan for E70 (plus a E5 tip). We were surprised to be met at the airport by an Ama representative with a luggage cart, who accompanied us and got us line cuts, luggage tags and access through the airport system right up to passport control. He probably saved us a minimum of a half hour and a lot of headaches. It was include in the price of the ride (I did tip him). It was a great VIP style service we didn't expect. At the airport, we got the full TSA-like shakedown (shoes, belt, laptop, etc) at the gate but it was quick and courteous.
The Paris Airport has a nice, clean, shopping arcade with all the high-end stores and of course duty-free shops heavy on perfume, high-end booze and Havana cigars. Prices were pretty good compared ot others I've been in. One final annoyance at the airport. The waiting areas are great, but you don't walk immediately from the waiting area on to the aircraft. We had to haul our carry-on stuff down two flights of concrete stairs, walk outdoors and catch a very, very, crowded bus (few seats, mostly standing) and take a short, jerky ride to our aircraft, then walk outdoors again and climb old-fashioned portable airline stairs to the plane. It felt like a 60's time warp.
We would definitely do an Ama river cruise again. Read Less