1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. AmaWaterways
  4. AmaVida Review
  5. AmaVida Cruise Reviews
Sail Date: May 2019
Wonderful staff. Our cruise manager Luis was just the best. A warm, wonderful young man who worked very hard to take care of all of his guests. And we really enjoyed our tour guide Rivas. This was our 11th cruise and I thought that the ... Read More
Wonderful staff. Our cruise manager Luis was just the best. A warm, wonderful young man who worked very hard to take care of all of his guests. And we really enjoyed our tour guide Rivas. This was our 11th cruise and I thought that the food was the best that we have had on a cruise ship. However we didn’t like food on a shore excursion to a Quinta in Regua. Cruising the Duoro is exceptionally beautiful and relaxing. I would highly recommend this itinerary,. We enjoyed all of the shore excursions and the extensions in Madrid and Lisbon. The demographic on our cruise was mostly 65+. There was wine, wine and more wine. Many of the shore excursions included a port wine tasting including morning excursions. Wine was freely poured at both lunch and dinner and gratis cocktails were served in the bar during the hour before dinner. I have never seen so many people of a certain age drink so much but it was very good wine. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
We sailed with them in Africa and it was a great trip, so we booked this Lisbon to Madrid trip. AMA Waterways put on a new ship which sailed four days after we did. The BIG problem was that they took most of the experienced staff and ... Read More
We sailed with them in Africa and it was a great trip, so we booked this Lisbon to Madrid trip. AMA Waterways put on a new ship which sailed four days after we did. The BIG problem was that they took most of the experienced staff and transferred them to the new ship, leaving us with trainees. The chef was terrible and the wait staff was hit and miss. One night it took me an hour to get a drink from the cocktail waitress. Also, the breakfast buffet had hot food that was cold, and it took five days to get that fixed. It got so bad that AMA sent someone from Corporate to solve the many problems. However, you cannot train a crew while taking care of 106 passengers. As for day excursions, most were good, but some were really bad. Someone needs to review all their day excursion trips. I will never sail with them again. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
I just returned from AmaWaterways “Enticing Douro” cruise with 3-nights in Lisbon pre-cruise (7-17 July 2018) I rarely write reviews on my cruse experiences, which have included numerous river and ocean voyages with many operators, ... Read More
I just returned from AmaWaterways “Enticing Douro” cruise with 3-nights in Lisbon pre-cruise (7-17 July 2018) I rarely write reviews on my cruse experiences, which have included numerous river and ocean voyages with many operators, but this experience was so exceptional it deserves mention. Our Cruise Manager, Mr. Luis R., of AmaWaterways deserves much of the credit for making this experience as great as it turned out to be. Luis was organized, congenial, thoughtful and made everyone (96 guests) on the trip feel he was their personal assistant and lifelong friend. If you had food restriction, Luis made sure you received your preferences whether on board or one of our numerous meals included excursions. If you needed mobility assistance, as several of us did, Luis would arrange for alternate transportation. If you were shopping for that special gift Luis could help you find it. If you were looking for that special restaurant Luis knew what to recommend. In short, AmaWaterways should be proud they have a representative like Luis. The on-board staff were equally attentive to their quests needs. Special thanks go to Nuno and Jose in the bar. Each night after our day out we had a “Sip & Sail” where the bar was open for the guests’ pleasure. During lunch and dinner beer, wine and sodas were readily available at no cost, and the wine choices of the day were superb. Water was always available in the rooms and on the busses. As a picky eater I found the menus to be well planned. The day started with and early risers’ continental breakfast in the lounge followed by a FULL breakfast buffet in the restaurant, the breads were a meal in themselves. Each day there was a lite lunch in the lounge and a more formal lunch in the restaurant. For dinner the menus included a chef’s recommendation. If that did not appeal to you there were also fish, meat and vegetarian options, and if those still did not work for you there were always salmon, steak or chicken available. All these were served by smiling Antonio who was friendly, attentive and accurate and one of the many excellent servers on board. The courses were all presented artistically. The cruise itself could not have been better, except for a brief shower in Porto on day one the weather was more than one could have hoped for the rest of the trip. Sunny and clear every day with the temperature getting warmer as we approached the Spanish boarder (e.g., 72F in Porto and 86F in Salamanca). The itinerary was excellent! The Hotel Intercontinental Lisbon was an excellent place to call home. Good location and a great breakfast included each day. Lisbon was beautiful starting on day 2 with a city tour that included St. Jeronimos’ Monastery (with a Pastel de Belem sampling), the Belem Tower and the Discoveries’ Monument and a Sintra City Tour on day three. The high-speed train transfer to Porto (actually Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from Porto) was fast and clean. For our first night on board we were treated to and “illuminated river cruise” of Porto to see the city lit up at night, an extraordinary sight. Each subsequent excursion generally included an historical site visit followed by a wine/port tasting which typically included local tapas. Some trips included full dinners such as those to the Monastery Alpendurada, Hotel Alameda Palace in Salamanca, and Quinta de Avessada; all the food was to die for. The excursions provided options for active walkers/hikers or for those wanting a slower pace. Each person had a QuietVox synced to their guide. The bus drivers need to be complemented on their navigating skills on the hills to and from our ship and through the narrow streets. On board entertainment was provided nightly by an excellent pianist. We also had presentations on the Douro region and its’ wines as well as wine tasting briefings, a wonderful Fado group and a Tuna band. We also had a Flamenco show in Salamanca and an onboard cooking demonstration for Pastel de Belem’s. In conclusion, this was a phenomenal trip that everyone should have the pleasure of experiencing. WEAR comfortable walking shoes, the cobble stoned streets with un-even curb and steps are torturous! If you can avoid making any flight transfers thru Madrid I would suggest strongly that you do so. Going through security there is the worst travel experience you may ever have. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
We have wanted to visit Portugal's famous Douro for many years. We couldn't have chosen a better way to explore this gorgeous wine producing region than our wine river cruise aboard the AmaVida. This ship offers everything: ... Read More
We have wanted to visit Portugal's famous Douro for many years. We couldn't have chosen a better way to explore this gorgeous wine producing region than our wine river cruise aboard the AmaVida. This ship offers everything: fine dining, outstanding daily excursions, spacious accommodations and a superb staff that anticipates the guests' every need. Each day was an exciting new adventure and by the time we departed the ship, we felt we had really come to understand and love the Douro and surrounding areas. While we chose to participate in each excursion, some friends in our group decided to stay on board and enjoy relaxing poolside. Their experience was just as special as ours. Whether you choose to immerse yourselves in Portugal's fascinating culture by joining the AmaVida's outstanding guides as they conduct their daily tours or simply explore the charming towns that are the overnight port stops, you can't go wrong. After this introduction to river cruising, we can't wait to explore other AmaWaterways wine river cruises. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
We chose this wine river cruise as it worked with our dates for a wedding we were attending in Lisbon. We caught up with the pre-Douro River trip as they left Lisbon and took the train to Porto with them- using the company's ... Read More
We chose this wine river cruise as it worked with our dates for a wedding we were attending in Lisbon. We caught up with the pre-Douro River trip as they left Lisbon and took the train to Porto with them- using the company's transfer. Sonya- our cruise director for the week was very organized and connection was flawless. Cruise was well-organized, very active pace and lots to see and do. Activity level for participants was decided on your own- hikers, regular walkers, gentle walkers or people that just wanted to stay on the boat and see the gorgeous views. Individual guides went out with the buses and were very knowledgeable and great command of English. Professional and efficient- but friendly as well. Itinerary was a mixture of history, fun and interesting places. Top notch visits to wineries and spectacular scenery. Food on board was delicious- wine plentiful. Sevice was excellent on board- dinner at times was a bit slow in getting everyone served but staff was efficient and worked hard! Christian, Alex and Natalie were wonderful. Marius at the bar was fun and remembered your drink of preference. Cabin stewards kept your room spotless and plentiful towels and toiletries. L'Occitane toiletries were wonderful! Gym was tiny- one room.....and no window as well as teeny pool upstairs, but seats were plentiful. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2017
This trip centered on a 7 day AmaWaterways Port Wine & Flamenco Douro River cruise from Vega Terron to Porto, Portugal on the AmaVida ship. When we first started to look at river cruising on the Douro, it seemed like Viking was ... Read More
This trip centered on a 7 day AmaWaterways Port Wine & Flamenco Douro River cruise from Vega Terron to Porto, Portugal on the AmaVida ship. When we first started to look at river cruising on the Douro, it seemed like Viking was the only player where we were likely to have mostly English speaking fellow passengers. After the only Viking cruise we took in 2014 did not live up to their slick advertising hype (see review by 'atkinsonguy' on this board) we vowed never again to spend any money with Viking. A web search led us to AmaWaterways. We added both the 3 day Madrid, Spain and the 3 day Lisbon, Portugal extension to the river cruise through AMA and then added one additional day in each city using Starwood and IHG points. Although the capacity for this tour was 106, there were only 75 passenges aboard. 36 of the 75 were clients of backroads.com an adventure travel company. They had their own hiking and biking tours each day, took many of their meals off the ship, and were not with us in either Madrid or Lisbon. The result was we got to know the 39 "regular" passengers quite well over the two weeks. We were all from the USA or Canada; mostly retired couples over 55, no one under 40. The hotels for the land portion in Madrid (Westin Palace) and in Lisbon (Intercontinental) were first class in every respect. In summary, AMA did an excellent job providing a comfortable environment on the ship, keeping us well fed, showing us interesting things and beautiful scenery along the way, and giving us a good value for our fares. If we do another European river cruise in the future, it will certainly be on AmaWaterways! Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
This was our 3rd river cruise with AmaWaterways (prior: Danube and Seine.) We have done a bit of traveling in Europe, a mix of ocean cruises, scheduled tours, and some “do it yourself” and driving. We’re an active couple, still ... Read More
This was our 3rd river cruise with AmaWaterways (prior: Danube and Seine.) We have done a bit of traveling in Europe, a mix of ocean cruises, scheduled tours, and some “do it yourself” and driving. We’re an active couple, still working to support our travel habit. We chose this itinerary because we had never seen Portugal and wanted to see more of Spain. We do enjoy wine, and visiting the wineries was of interest, but not the primary reason. Air travel: Booked our flights about 4 months in advance, with Air France. Los Angeles to Lisbon, with a short layover in Paris. Smooth, no problems. Transportation from Lisbon Airport to hotel: We went right out the doors at the airport and got in the queue for a taxi. I think it was under 15 euros to the hotel. Pre-cruise extension Lisbon and post-cruise Madrid with AmaWaterways: We opted to do the pre and post cruise extensions with AmaWaterways. We had never done this before, we typically DIY before and after a cruise. The extensions are expensive, but I am pleased with what we experienced and quality of the hotels and excursions. Lisbon: We arranged with the hotel that AmaWaterways used in Lisbon, The InterContinental, for an additional night because we wanted to arrive a day before to have a full day (Friday) on our own. The hotel was very lovely, rooms were large and comfortable, and the restaurant was good. However, it is located away from the city center. So we chose to utilize a taxi. Taxis are very cheap and reliable, typically under 7euros for just about anywhere we wanted to go. We’ve learned that it is good to arrive at least a day ahead to get acclimated and minimize the effects of jet lag. We like to begin our trip feeling rested. (Friday: we had to ourselves, we met up with a friend who happened to be in Lisbon, did a walking food tour and a Tuk-Tuk city tour. We ate dinner at Mercado Time Out… highly recommend.) Welcome Cocktail with the Cruise Manager and fellow passengers There was a scheduled meeting on Saturday evening at 6pm at the hotel for us to meet our Cruise Manager, Christian Abker, and fellow passengers who were also doing the pre-cruise excursions. Everyone was friendly and a group of us decided to walk together to a restaurant suggested by Christian. Dinner in Portugal and Spain is typically served around 9 or 10pm. So, when our group of about 15 entered the restaurant at around 7:30pm, we were considered very early. Breakfast included at hotel: The buffet had the typical European breakfast offerings, scrambled eggs, cold cuts, cheeses, yogurt, fruit, pastries, cereal, etc. Special orders for breakfast was also available. The food was average, espresso was very good. Pre-cruise excursions: Lisbon City Tour (Sunday): I won’t go into detail about the tours, only to say they were well organized, and travel by coach was very comfortable, we enjoyed them. The rest of the day and evening were on our own. We shared a cab and went to dinner with some of our fellow passengers. Sintra (Monday): Great excursion, we visited Pena Palace, great views. The other excursion in the afternoon was a wine tasting. We decided to skip that and went (on our own) to Quinta da Regaleira an estate classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. We were glad we skipped the wine tasting to see the amazing Quinta da Regaleira. I was actually surprised it wasn’t part of the AmaWaterways tour because it is so beautiful, with lovely gardens, waterfalls and a forest-like atmosphere. Note: That is one of the great things about the excursions with AmaWaterways… as long as you tell your guide that you want to do something else, and meet back up at the designated time, it works out well. Train to Porto to embark the AmaVida (Tuesday): We had to put our luggage outside our hotel room door by 9am, for them to collect and put on a truck. (The luggage truck would drive to Porto while we were on the train.) Cruise Manager, Christian, was great about explaining all the details for our transportation, having us identify our luggage before it was put on the truck, etc. Christian and a tour guide escorted our group and rode with us on a bus to the Santa Apolonia train station, where we had an assigned train-car for our ride to Porto. Very smoothe and another chance to get to chat with fellow passengers. When we arrived in Porto, a bus was waiting at the train station to take us to the dock to board the AmaVida. We checked in, smooth and quick, and went directly to our stateroom. Our luggage was already inside our stateroom. The ship: The AmaVida is a little smaller, with a capacity for 106 passengers. Our cruise was not full, with only 71 passengers on board! Side bar: I don’t know why the ship wasn’t full, because just 2 weeks prior to the cruise, our adult daughter said she would like to go. When I called to inquire about availability, I was told there were only 2 rooms left, and they would not offer the solo discount. Another passenger we met on the cruise told us a similar story. It seems to me that it would be better to offer a discount to a solo traveler than have empty rooms. Our stateroom was on the Porto Deck, room 315. It was small but we found plenty of space for our belongings. We had a tiny balcony, but really did not use it while in port. In fact, we were tied up to another ship several times, so we were unable to use it. This is my only complaint about the ship: When we were tied up to other ships while in port, our stateroom would have a very strong odor from the diesel exhaust and sewer gas. We noticed it as soon as we entered the room. I went to the desk that evening and told them, but they said it would get better. It didn’t. The next day, we were still tied up, and again, the room really smelled bad. Again, I went to the front desk. This time I asked the attendant to come with me and see for himself. He admitted that the smell was strong, and all he could do is apologize. I wondered why they didn’t offer us another room, as we knew the ship wasn’t full. I asked our fellow passengers if their staterooms had the odor, and some did, others did not. We spent 2 nights on the boat in Porto, tied up to 2 other boats. Once we left Porto, and set sail, we didn’t notice the odor anymore. Onboard entertainment: One night we enjoyed listening to a “tuna.” A tuna is a group of university students in traditional university dress who play traditional instruments and sing serenades. They were funny and entertaining. Another evening, there was a flamenco show. It was good, but it didn’t compare to the show we saw in Madrid. Crew and service: The crew were friendly and work very hard. The captain, Bernardino Pereira, was visible throughout the cruise. It seemed to us that the waitstaff in the dining room was short-handed compared to other cruises we have done with Ama. AmaWaterways Tour guides: Our tour guide for Portugal, Laura, was outstanding. She was very knowledgeable and interesting. She was a former teacher, and it was easy to listen to her while on the bus and at the different sites. Truly one of the best guides we have ever had. Food and wine: I know food is subjective… we were quite happy with the food offered at all meals. We found variety and choices on the menu to be very good. The wine was good and flowed generously at meals. One evening at dinner, I didn’t care for the red wine being served, and when I told the server, he replied that was the only red they were serving. Later, in the lounge bar, I mentioned that to the bartender. He frowned and said the server should have found a different wine for me! I thought so, too! Side bar: Everyone has an opinion on food. In a conversation with other passengers, I said I thought the food was very good. One lady adamantly announced that it was the worst food she has ever had on a cruise. I was a bit surprised. Throughout the cruise, I did notice that she complained about everything. The itinerary / ports: I won’t describe each port and excursion because the descriptions can be found on the website. We enjoyed every port and excursion that we went on. The wineries with lunches were super good! The scenic cruising on the Douro river is simply beautiful and so relaxing. Some quick highlights: Sunset in Porto is stunning! The beautiful tiles in the train station in Porto, not to be missed. Entre-os-Rios/ Regua, Portugal - leisurely sailing the Douro River, then a visit to Mateus Palace, built in the 18th century. The gardens are stunning. Lamego. Incredibly beautiful! It's one of the major points of pilgrimage, with 600 steps up to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies. Guimaraes, Portugal- One of the most historic towns in Portugal, and a UNESCO world heritage site. We went to Quinta da Aveleda with it's beautiful gardens and where they're known for green wine. Pinhao, Portugal - a tiny and beautiful port, with spectacular views of the steep terraced Douro valley vineyards. We went to Quinta da Avessada for a fantastic Portuguese lunch in the vineyard and later, to Sandeman estate, known for it's Port wines. We disembarked in Vega Terron and those of us who were going to do the post extension, took a bus to Salamanca before going to Madrid. Wow! Salamanca, Spain, is beautiful! A UNESCO site, it is one of the most important university cities in Spain. The University of Salamanca, was founded in 1218, and is the oldest university in Spain. From Salamanca, we took a bus to our hotel in Madrid: The Westin Palace in Madrid was beautiful! Location was perfect for walking to many of the sites, situated across from the Prado. Great restaurants in walking distance. After being in our tiny stateroom for a week, our room at the Westin felt like a mansion. Breakfast buffet in a gorgeous setting included. Very good variety, with the option of having omelettes and other items cooked to order. Post cruise extension in Madrid AmaWaterways Tour guides in Spain: We were not impressed with the guides we had in Spain. We did a Madrid city tour and had free time later. We went with fellow passengers to a wonderful place for dinner. AmaWaterways arranged an optional excursion in Madrid. Dinner and a Flamenco show. It was outstanding. The food was excellent, Michelin chef. The flamenco was incredible. They allowed us to take photos and videos only for the first dance, which was very kind of them. The excursion to Toledo was one of my favorites. What a beautiful place! We arranged with the hotel, The Westin Palace, for an additional night because we wanted to stay a day longer to have a day (Friday) on our own. We went to the Prado, the Royal Palace, Buen Retiro Park, Plaza Mayor, Cristal Palace and the bullfighting ring. Our fellow passengers: We had the best time with the people we met on this cruise. I strongly believe that meeting people on the pre-cruise extension bonded us together. There were about 10 of us that really hit it off and we palled around together on excursions, celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, met on deck to watch the scenery, etc. We’ve exchanged emails and friended each other on social media, and perhaps someday our paths will cross again on another cruise. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
Our cruise on the AMAVIDA, was all that we had hoped for and more. Sometimes all your travel plans fall into line and with this 7 day river cruise on the Douro it happened. First of all, traveling in April on a river in Europe can be ... Read More
Our cruise on the AMAVIDA, was all that we had hoped for and more. Sometimes all your travel plans fall into line and with this 7 day river cruise on the Douro it happened. First of all, traveling in April on a river in Europe can be very risky with some rivers flooded and long bus ride substitutions for cruising. We had 7 days of bright, warm sunshine as we cruised the Douro as far as navigation would allow. The ship could accommodate 106 people and we had 87 on board. With such a small group it was easy to get to know people and make new friends. The cruise director, Rachel, was outstanding. Great at multi tasking and attending to details. We had 2 lunches and 1 dinner off ship at 2 wineries and one hotel, and in each venue she made sure eveyone's dietary needs were met. This was our 4th river cruise and the first with AMA which made the point of highlighting the scenery on this trip. By the way, it was spectactular! With the exception of an all day trip to Salmanca, Spain and one day with 2 excursions, all the other days had afternoon excursions. We had the same 4 guides and bus drivers for the whole trip which was very nice. They were all very professional and I heard many good things said about the ones I did not directly have contact with. This allowed for leisurely breakfasts, sitting on the sundeck viewing the scenery and having a relaxing morning overall. After lunch we then went out to various sites, usually involving a bus trip of 30 minutes to an hour. Back on the ship by 5:30 and dinner at 7:00PM. There was some evening entertainment of local music or dancing, but not every night. Our stateroom met all our needs and even had a balcony. However, it was really too small for 2 people to sit out side together. The staff was very friendly and worked very hard to please. The food in the dining room was very good, with lots of selections and the chief seemed to appear each night to chat with passengers. However, service was uneven some nights with an incorrect order and no coffee being delievered to our table. Wines were good and plentiful. The lounge area was comfortable, but the piped in music was too repetitive with the same tapes being played over and over again. There were several days in which the WIFI did not work very well. AMA is a river cruise company that we would definitely choose to cruise with again. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
We chose this cruise because of the location. We wanted to go to Portugal and we used AmaWaterways in the past. It was also a Wine Cruise. This was a wonderful cruise. The weather was superb and the excursions were very enjoyable. The ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the location. We wanted to go to Portugal and we used AmaWaterways in the past. It was also a Wine Cruise. This was a wonderful cruise. The weather was superb and the excursions were very enjoyable. The Cruise Manager (Mariana) was one of the best and we hope to sail with her again. She handled a slight crisis (accident on the rails) and did not affect our trip at all. For those who are used to a larger ship, be aware this ship is limited in size due to the river and locks. However, they make use of the space wisely. There was very little free time so be prepared to be on the go. The staff is very friendly and adds to pleasure of sailing with Ama. The excursions in Lisbon and Madrid were very enjoyable. There were some glitches with the billing but it was the first cruise of the season and a lot of the staff was new. The embarkation went well. One criticism was the change of buses in Salamanca - we had to change buses and the place we were to have a comfort break did not seem prepared for us. We had to leave hand carried items without knowing for sure how it would be secured. Also, the new buses we had to ride on to Madrid were not comfortable, no leg room. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
This river cruise is different from most of the others in Europe in that it focuses on the Port wine trade and the vineyards that supply it. The cruise goes through locks at 5 hydroelectric dams completed only in 1985. Highlights: * ... Read More
This river cruise is different from most of the others in Europe in that it focuses on the Port wine trade and the vineyards that supply it. The cruise goes through locks at 5 hydroelectric dams completed only in 1985. Highlights: * Cruising the upper Douro with the views of the steep sided vineyards * Visits to the vineyards * Day trip to Salamanca * Oporto city * Superb Cruise Director and wonderful staff and guides who, without exception, were friendly and helpful. Lows: * Food was distinctly average and worse than comparable sea cruises * The wine was poor - nearly all cheap Douro wines - the selection was a poor advertisement for Portuguese wines and were not of a standard expected at the prices paid for an Ama Waterways cruise. The Port provided at the and of the meal was also unacceptable given that, because of the itinerary, many people on the cruise would be Port lovers. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
We had gone back and forth on this itinerary for years before finally deciding to try it and chose a wine theme cruise on AMA for our first trip to Portugal. We knew many of the differences going in: Smaller ship, fewer passengers, lots ... Read More
We had gone back and forth on this itinerary for years before finally deciding to try it and chose a wine theme cruise on AMA for our first trip to Portugal. We knew many of the differences going in: Smaller ship, fewer passengers, lots of bus rides due to terrain, no night sailing. Upon embarkation we immediately noticed how much smaller the boat was; however, this was something we quickly grew used to. Our cabin, which had an outside balcony, was well appointed in typical AMA style. There was a ton of storage, beds were comfy, and it was definitely the quietest cabin we have ever had on a river boat, which we very much appreciated! Our CM was Marianna, whom we had met on a cruise a few years ago when she was aboard spending the new year with her husband, who is also an AMA CM. Marianna did a fantastic job and was warm, delightful and highly engaged with the passengers. She is definitely of the best we have ever had on AMA or any line. The entire crew was welcoming and warm and they knew our names by the second day. To a person, we enjoyed interacting with each and every one. The staff was much smaller than what we were used to, based on the smaller scale of the ship, but the service in the restaurant and bar was outstanding! The scenery on the Douro was magnificent and definitely the most beautiful of any we have experienced on the river. The river was very narrow in many areas and we understood right away why this river was not navigable at night. The winery hosting our trip was Wilson Creek and we totally enjoyed meeting the owners and their wine club members. Days when we were sailing there was always a tasting in the lounge and Mick Wilson made them fun and interactive. We have done 4 wine cruises with AMA so far and this was another winner. This is a cruise for wine lovers and those that enjoy lots of sailing time more than museums and exploring the local area. Most nights we were not docked anywhere close to a town where we could get out and about. We did miss that as we enjoy maximizing our time in port as much as possible. The fitness center was compact but did the job. I was there every morning and never saw another person. There was also a massage room and therapist available. Internet worked much of the time and the in cabin infotainment system had the usual selection. Many of the excursions did involve longer bus rides. The longest was to Salamanca, and we very much enjoyed that day and exploring this city. The other excursions often included a winery lunch and tasting and there was also a dinner off the boat one evening, which also involved a one hour ride in each direction. Porto was lively with people and we enjoyed walking the back streets and exploring this pretty port town. Food was good to very good aboard AmaVida. Breakfast and lunch had lots of choices, and dinner always offered several entree choices as well as their always available menu. Fish was always fresh and delicious, with the meat dishes being a bit less successful. We did miss the Chef's Table which we have enjoyed on all of our other AMA cruises. Wines poured were very good with a nice variety. Entertainment included flamenco, fado and the in house piano player had a huge personality and was the best we have ever had on a river cruise. Disco night was a hoot as was a version of Name that Tune that Marianna and Ricardo hosted one evening. The passengers had a great time! All in all, we were impressed with the AmaVida, the stunning scenery we enjoyed around every turn of the river and the excellent staff and crew aboard. We are glad we decided to experience the Douro and very pleased with the experience AMA provided. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
The hotels in Madrid and Lisbon were excellent, as were all the short trips and the Ama staff. HOWEVER, the experience on the ship was among the worst we have experienced in many years of travel. The air conditioning in the public spaces ... Read More
The hotels in Madrid and Lisbon were excellent, as were all the short trips and the Ama staff. HOWEVER, the experience on the ship was among the worst we have experienced in many years of travel. The air conditioning in the public spaces (lounge, dining room, etc.) was absolutely inadequate: temperatures were always above 85 degrees, and were above 90 by the end of meals. In addition, the "free Wi-Fi" was cancelled on an individual basis almost every day because of "overuse." The Wi-Fi could only be reset at the home office, requiring shipboard personnel to send a message and then wait helplessly, frequently for hours, for the folks at headquarters to get around to it. This is a wonderful trip and the Ama staff couldn't have been more helpful, including arranging last-minute transport to the airport when our airline decided to make things "interesting" for us. Portugal is a wonderful country to visit, and the winery tours and meals were a real highlight. But the ship????? Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
We've done many river cruises and enjoyed them all. But this cruise on the Douro River between Spain and Portugal with AMA was by far the best! Having traveled on Viking and Uniworld before, we'd choose AMA again. The food ... Read More
We've done many river cruises and enjoyed them all. But this cruise on the Douro River between Spain and Portugal with AMA was by far the best! Having traveled on Viking and Uniworld before, we'd choose AMA again. The food was exceptional, the service excellent. There was no "nickel and diming" over water, cocktails or wine. The layout of the cabins was superior to other ships. The deck was spacious - most on board spent much of their travel time up there. The ports and side trips were all interesting, educational and had lots of options to choose from. They included wineries; fishing villages; beach areas; picnics; Fatima; Castelo Rodrigo; and many more. Portugal was beautiful! The three day pre-cruise in Lisbon was well-planned. We stayed at the Intercontinental which was convenient to all the areas we wanted to see. Our cruise manager Mariana was professional and very helpful. I'd highly recommend this cruise! Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
We had previously taken AMA's 14-day cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam and had a wonderful time. Great food, brand new boat, service friendly and efficient. Then we took the Duoro cruise. Whole different deal. For starters, ... Read More
We had previously taken AMA's 14-day cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam and had a wonderful time. Great food, brand new boat, service friendly and efficient. Then we took the Duoro cruise. Whole different deal. For starters, it's NOT AMA's boat! Per Portugal law the boat is owned (I guess) by a friend of the president. AMA also has limited say in who they hire. So essentially it's a licensing deal and the only thing "AMA-ish" about this cruise is the logo. Examples: the young head of the hotel was named Nuno which in Portugese must translate as "he does not work." Very stand-offish, not friendly and didn't life a finger to help his staff as far as we could see. The Captain couldn't speak hardly any English and he was invisible most of the trip. No bridge tours were offered as was the case with our previous cruise. The staff was not trained very well. The waiters could speak English but the housekeepers not so much. The housekeepers were inferior to our last cruise. Food was okay, but not exceptional and was a bit boring after just a week. The Douro is a scenic river and we enjoyed cruising. The weather was horrible but that one's NOT on AMA! Bright spot! Mariana the tour guide was AWESOME! About 5'2" of unbridled energy and enthusiasm. She deserves all the kudos because without her this thing would have been a disaster. My only hope is that she can get a better gig on a "regular" AMA boat. Not up to your standards AMA. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
Beware the River Douro! Two issues on our cruise, which was our 4th AmaWaterways. Let me say that we like AMA. But---First, the river: flooded and we were stuck in one ghost town of a port for 3 nights, bussing to various sights. ... Read More
Beware the River Douro! Two issues on our cruise, which was our 4th AmaWaterways. Let me say that we like AMA. But---First, the river: flooded and we were stuck in one ghost town of a port for 3 nights, bussing to various sights. Second, the river: it is not like the Rhine or Rhone, etc. the port stops, with the exception of Porto (which we never got to dock in) are just docks without much around to explore. To see the sights, a bus ride is necessary. And if you are stuck (see #1). It means a longer bus ride with all of the associated discomforts. The Cruise Director did her best to keep us busy, and in the end AMA came through for me. But, go on other rivers before you think Douro and certainly stay away in the Spring when the rains seem to come daily. Food was good, wine poured generously, crew extremely accommodating. We had one of the two suites and the cabin was excellent. The pre-cruise hotel, the Westin, was magnificent and the pre-cruise tours were fabulous. The post cruise hotel, the Intercontinental was very good and again, the post cruise tours were very good. Suggest booking both. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2014
I just returned last night from the Douro River Cruise on AmaVida. And I have a lot to say! First, the area is beautiful. We went to dinners at local wineries and they were, for the most part wonderful. The tours are the usual church, ... Read More
I just returned last night from the Douro River Cruise on AmaVida. And I have a lot to say! First, the area is beautiful. We went to dinners at local wineries and they were, for the most part wonderful. The tours are the usual church, museum lot. There is very little free time if you want to shop or explore on your own unless you skip a scheduled tour. The Ama Vida was sorely understaffed. So much so that at the first port they brought in more help. They had very little help at the bar throughout the cruise. The rooms were really small...........and I have been on other river cruises. The shower ran hot and cold all during your shower. The food was the same every day at lunch and breakfast. The dinners did not have much of a selection and were mediocre at best. the dining room was very small and it was so loud you couldn't hear the people at your own table. It was very difficult to get waited on in the bar. There was a bug problem in the dining room. It was so bad I took pictures of the light fixtures containing dead bugs! We asked questions of several of those in charge about various things and got different answers each time. Ama Vida is very expensive and not worth the price. One of the staff told us the best line for the Duoro River is Viking. The only saving grace is that we travelled with a great group of friends and made the best of the situation.   Read Less
21 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
Ama Waterways AmaVida – Port Wine & Flamenco – July 5-18, 2014 The Cruise This would be our third riverboat cruise in Europe, contrasting with 31 ocean cruises. We had enjoyed the itinerary on the Elbe from Prague to Berlin 4 ... Read More
Ama Waterways AmaVida – Port Wine & Flamenco – July 5-18, 2014 The Cruise This would be our third riverboat cruise in Europe, contrasting with 31 ocean cruises. We had enjoyed the itinerary on the Elbe from Prague to Berlin 4 years ago, although we did not enjoy the boat. Viking’s Clara Schumann was small and outdated, largely because the Elbe River requires shallow draft boats. Our trip from Basel to Vienna on Avalon’s Affinity in 2013 was on a much nicer boat, although the actual trip had problems due to a lockmasters’ strike affecting the Main-Danube canal transit. Still, we liked the riverboat ambience, and had greatly enjoyed Portugal during a week’s visit there in 2007; so this trip appealed to us. Review Format The overall experience involved two very distinct phases. First there was the “water borne cruise” portion on AmaVida. Then there were the two separate land phases, three days in Madrid before sailing and three days in Lisbon after leaving the boat. Since the land portion is an option, and this is a cruise review site; we will describe the river experience first. We will make every effort to be comprehensive and clear concerning the boat itself, the crew, the dining service and food, the shore excursions, and our overall evaluation of the trip and the value provided. The Boat AmaVida first sailed in 2013, so it is quite new. It is small as riverboats go, holding only 106 passengers. Most boats hold about 130-150 passengers for European cruises, with the Viking “Longships” carrying 190 people or more. But all riverboat dimensions are controlled by their sailing milieu. If you are on a river with decent depth and no locks, you can have a larger boat. But, as we found out on this trip, the Duoro River has five locks, and some are rather short; so not only the width, but the length of any boat cruising down the Duoro is limited, and this of course results in fewer passengers and crew. The Uniworld and Viking ships sailing the same route were virtually identical, and like AmaVida, built in Portugal. That being said, AmaVida is an attractive vessel, constructed in the normal river boat design pattern. That is, there are three decks aft and two forward, plus an open sun deck. The forward portion has the dining room on Deck 2 and the lounge, with bar and forward open deck on Deck 1. The aft portion has passenger cabins on three decks. The overall appearance seems like 21st Century Art Deco – lots of shiny black marble, glass and high gloss stainless steel in the atrium areas on Decks 1 and 2, as well as the bar and small shop. The dining rooms and lounge are more restrained, with nice furniture and lots of wood. It should be noted that there is a spa, with an attendant, a small exercise room and, on the sky deck a small, shallow but heated, pool. The sun deck also has a roofed section, which can be partially lowered for bridges, and which covers about 30% of the deck, allowing a goodly number of lounges chairs and sofas for sitting and enjoying the passing countryside in comfortable shade. The library is very small with only a few books. There is a coffee bar in the Deck 2 atrium area, which received a lot of business, despite there being no nearby seating. Coffee drinkers carried their cups up one flight to the lounge. We also were provided free internet and Wi-Fi service. The cabin came equipped with a keyboard, and we could access the net on our large television screen. Since we were essentially on land, access was almost always readily available. The main difficulty could be traced to the keyboards, which were not that user friendly for one accustomed to normal sized boards with standard options. I was often “kicked off” in the middle of attempting to obtain information or actually interact with some sites such as those of my bank and credit card. But it was free, and I did get on line most of the time. Cabins The cabins are the best we have seen on a river boat. This is due to smart space arrangement as well as generally fine wall and floor surface materials and lighting. Two-thirds of the cabins were like ours, so I am describing a “standard” stateroom. The “river” side has a small outside balcony with two chairs and a small table. It takes up about half the length of the cabin. I did enjoy sitting outside at times as long as the boat was moving so no insects would enter. The rest of the “river” side is a desk surface, with a window above the desk. There is a desk chair. Next to this is the bed, with two bedside tables, two lamps and two reading lights above each side of the bed. Next to the bed there is an open shelving area above and two closed shelves below. Next to that, leading directly into the stateroom is the bathroom. This was unique among standard ships’ bathrooms by having a separate toilet room with its own frosted glass door. The shower also had a glass door, and a fair amount of room. There was a vessel sink. The only flaw was the failure to utilize some space below on either side of the sink for drawers or shelves, since there clearly was room for such additional features. Next to the bathroom door was a closet for hanging clothes, the safe and several other drawers. Opposite the bed were two side chairs and a small table, with a large TV screen hung from the wall above. The doorway out to the corridor had further shelving above and six drawers below. All in all, with attractive wallpaper, wood trim and more than abundant space for clothing, it was a very nice cabin indeed! The Crew The most determinative factor in our enjoyment of the entire experience was the crew. Starting with Christina Garção, Cruise Director, who was with us from the first day in Madrid to the last day in Lisbon; through the rest of the staff; the dining room crew, the sailing crew, the entertainer, the managerial staff; all [but one] were extremely pleasant, friendly, cheerful and very hard working. (The one exception was the front desk manager who conveyed the impression that any request put to him was an unwelcome interruption of his most important work.) The dining room manager, Carlos Silva was amazing, keeping track of the waiters, bringing dishes out to guests himself, answering questions, making sure the buffet was maintained; and all with a cheerful and helpful attitude. One could tell that he led his troops by example, not just by giving orders. The hotel manager, Paulo Carvalho, was constantly available, making sure that things were running smoothly. The captain, Emanuel Olivera, who was quite young, also was often seen and was very approachable. The wait staff was also amazingly upbeat, especially considering that they all had many stations to cover, literally running to do it; but doing it with a smile and a friendly greeting. We did not have much interaction with our cabin attendant, unlike on cruise ships. They also, like the wait staff, seemed over-worked; often not completing cabin make-up until the afternoon. This would appear to be traceable to the locks, and their limitation on ship size. It would have been more relaxed and efficient if there had been one or two more waiters and one or two more cabin attendants, but that would have meant elimination of at least one revenue producing passenger cabin. This was a trade-off which Ama declined to make in favor of passenger convenience, opting for money instead. But back to Christina. In many ways the success of a river boat cruise, far more than an ocean cruise, depends on the cruise director. That person must keep all the passengers informed of the events, the stops, the timing, any and all options, what can be expected ashore, local conditions, the weather, - you name it. They are the ones who are in direct personal contact all the time; with everyone, passengers, the managerial staff, the buses, drivers and tour guides. This care starts with the greeting of passengers on arrival at the Madrid hotel, and does not end until the last passenger departs for the Lisbon airport. Christina was a marvel at this. She made my wife and I, and we are sure, everyone else, feel that we were the only passengers aboard and that we had her undivided attention and her concern so that we would enjoy the cruise. And she did this with a wry sense of humor and cynicism where appropriate, especially when discussing political and social systems. (To be fair, she is a Lisbon native, and had no criticism concerning Spanish politics or governance.) Her complete dedication to her job and her passengers was a major factor in our ability to enjoy this cruise. AMA Waterways has a jewel here. The Dining Experience If this facet of the cruise was a little less satisfactory than other aspects, it was largely due to the physical limitations of the boat also. My wife was amazed at the tiny area provided for meal preparation when she joined the galley tour. Despite this, every dinner had several starters, two soups, four entrees and several desserts available. Most of the preparation was quite good, and the pastry selections especially so. I found lunches a bit more problematical, since I do not like a “full” lunch, and my ability to do light snack browsing as I do on cruise ships was less successful. My wife, on the other hand, was able to order a vegetarian choice for lunch, and she found them all to be quite good. Breakfasts were typical, but, as in our other river trips, we found the fruit and juice selections less than enthralling. Perhaps we were influenced in this opinion due to the contrast between the boat’s breakfasts and the magnificent buffet laid out by the Madrid hotel. There was, however, the nice option, which I do not recall as being available on our other river experiences, of being able to order hot breakfast dishes from the kitchen. Again, as noted, the service was caring and cheerful, if a bit harried at times. Wine was poured generously. The dining room has an “al fresco” area forward, with sides open to the river, but with no forward view. Several people seemed to like this, but we did not try it. On one evening there was a “Portuguese Regional Buffet” served on the sun deck with live music. So this meant that we actually had only four full sit down dinners in the dining room on board out of seven nights. Off Boat Dining There were two occasions in which our dinners were off the boat. One was at a winery, and the other at a “monastery”. On the first full day on the Duoro, our second tour was in the early evening, and took us to a local winery. After an amusing tour, and an outdoors wine tasting session, we were seated inside for dinner. It was labelled as “rustic”, specializing in regional dishes, and while generally satisfactory, was not up to dining room standards. The second off boat experience was a few days later, when we visited what had been a Benedictine monastery. Following the tour we were again seated together and provided with dinner, served by our boat wait staff. Most of us agreed that the meat was fairly tough, and there was not much of anything else to recommend it. We would advise AMA that while the winery dinner had enough “local color” and taste to be retained, passengers would be better off with a standard monastery tour in the afternoon, and a return to the ship for a normal dinner. Overall, if first class dining ships like Marina, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity would be rated at 95 to 98 on a scale of 100; and the Celebrity line at 90-92, AmaVida would belong with the Princess, HAL and Avalon group at 83-87. That’s not at all bad, but not five star. The Tours and Excursions Tours and excursions are more closely integrated with the total cruise package on river boat cruises than they are on cruise ships. The river boat cruise lines assume everybody is going to take every available tour, and all facets of the trip are focused on these land activities. This is perhaps a partly psychological reaction to the fact that we are always close to the land, and directly in touch with that environment. To highlight this, AmaVida had its own “tour guides” who shared the cruise with us as members of the boat’s crew and who went out with us in support of the formal “Tour Guides” who were specific to each port, and who had the primary guide duties. This led to a sense of unity, well-being and continuity; we were being looked after all the time. The first “cruise” tour was the day after we boarded, and was to Castlelo Rodrigo, high on a hill with spectacular views, and narrow, steep medieval streets. It was pleasant and typical of rural Portugal. As in all such walking tours, a “gentle walkers” option with its own guide, was offered. That evening we went to the wine tasting and dinner mentioned earlier. The next day provided options following the same start, a walk down 686 steps from a church to the town of Lamego. Then one could visit the local market or the Episcopal Palace. We opted for the market, which was truly for the local people, and not tourists, despite the fact that some signs were in English. We were not impressed by the merchandise, which in most cases consisted of cheap knockoffs. The normal nearby stores however seemed to have good leather products like shoes, at reasonable prices. There was another wine tasting that afternoon, which we skipped. I do not drink, and Edith is satisfied wh one or two glasses a day at the most. The next day we visited the Mateus Palace and Gardens, which were really attractive. There was no afternoon tour. On the following day we were in Resende, a very attractive town. This was followed in the evening with the monastery tour and the dinner we mentioned earlier. On Sunday noon we arrived in Porto, the port city at the mouth of the Duoro. Prior to our docking we descended the lock at Crestuma Dam, which lowered us 46 feet, the deepest in Europe, and far deeper than any of the Panama Canal Locks. This was a unique experience. Our pier in Porto was actually in Vila Nova de Gaia, a town across the river from Porto proper. There were two tour options that afternoon. One was yet another wine tasting after a city tour. The other was a “Limited Edition” meaning it had to be reserved in advance, since the number allowed was limited. We chose this tour titled “Cooking Delight, Taste of Matoshinos”. The six of us on this adventure took a bus through Porto to the Atlantic coast town of Matosinhos, a suburb of Porto containing the ocean going vessel port. There we drove past a beach crowded with Sunday visitors from town. We ended up at a small restaurant where we were treated to a demonstration of how to prepare an ocean fish, from removing the scales and fins to completely gutting it. We politely declined an invitation to do a fish ourselves. We then were shown how to cook traditional codfish, and treated to an assortment of local dishes which were quite delicious. The Portuguese know how to prepare seafood. Our local guide was extremely knowledgeable, an experienced traveler in her own right and very fluent in English. This was a really fine tour. That night was the Captains Gala Dinner with the suggested dress code of “your best attire”. Well, I had brought my all-purpose Travelsmith blue blazer all this way, so I wore it, but there were only a few jackets evident. The ladies of course, did a better job of dressing up. Dinner was followed by an Opera show consisting of a male and female singer and piano accompanist. It was a shame that it was not better attended, because the performers were very accomplished, and most entertaining. The next day we had a tour of Guimarães, another attractive town with a history going back to the 10th century, and beautiful buildings covering a lengthy history in a comparatively small area; easily navigable on foot. After dinner that night we packed up. Those of us proceeding on to the hotel in Lisbon had special tags. We put our luggage out at 7:00 A.M., boarded our buses and were on our way by 9:00 A.M.; ending a delightful cruise. Entertainment Formal entertainment is not a great part of river tours, since, except for the pianist, it must be brought on from ashore. But, in addition to the opera show, we were provided with a “Traditional Folklore and Fado” show on the second night, consisting of a singing and playing group of eight. They did a very decent job, and then got most of the passengers into an impromptu dance routine around the lounge. The pianist, Rui Costa played every afternoon in the lounge. He was quite good, and when I made request for a song written in 1939, Jerome Kern’s “All The Things You Are”, he located it on the internet and printed it out so he could play it for me the next day. He should have had larger audiences, and he was most pleasant and friendly. The passengers themselves could be counted among the entertainment features provided, with their enthusiastic dancing following both the folklore-fado show and the sun deck buffet dinner. We were a cheerful lot! Passengers With 102 only fellow passengers we found out more about each other. There were a couple of special groupings however, which are not found on most cruises. Among them the members of St. Michael’s Parish in Bakersfield, California – 28 of them, with their pastor, who celebrated Mass on the sun deck on Sunday morning. This lovely event was also attended by the 12 Columbians from Cartagena, led by the parents celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, three sons with their wives, a daughter and three grand-children from ages about 10 to 16. They were a most friendly, out-going group. They did not join us until we embarked, and took a separate route to Lisbon. But we ran into them on our visit to Sintra the next day and had a grand reunion. There were two couples from Maui, who likewise were on their own in Lisbon, but who we also ran into again among the thousands on the pedestrian shopping street in that city on our first full day there. As usual, there were some Canadians, British and Aussies. By and large we were a happy group, perhaps fueled by the ever constant pourings of free wine! General Observations We are not giving up our sea cruises – we have three scheduled for 2015 – but we see a very positive and delightful side to river cruising. It is most relaxing to sit in the shade on the sun deck or other outside areas and watch the countryside go by. The Duoro has a great deal of charm. The hills rise up steeply on both sides. They are covered with terraced areas of vineyards and olive tree groves, interspersed with farm houses, small clusters of homes, the occasional village, and create a generally serene aspect. Most passengers seemed to partake of this scene frequently. You get to know crew members much more easily. Some of us did a pilot house visit, and the Captain spent time with us explaining all his controls, communication devices and his own ambition to become a tug boat captain in his home town of Porto, so he could go home every night. You also mingle with your fellow passengers much more easily, since you are in frequent touch, much more so than on a cruise ship. All of the crew were Portuguese, which is something new compared to the wide range of nationalities on cruise ships. So the whole milieu, the overall ambience of a river cruise differs greatly from sea voyages. If one is willing to accept the limited entertainment, the more restricted dining options, far fewer “shipboard” activities, and a relaxed approach to travel and tours, then river boats are an enjoyable change. If you think not – back to the sea! The Madrid Experience We made our own travel arrangements, and arrived in Madrid about 7:00 P.M. from Phoenix via Heathrow. The taxi was a flat 30 Euros, and give the distance, was certainly reasonable. Our hotel arrival was not smooth since the cabby let us off a few blocks from the hotel. This was because there was a major event taking place in the plaza area around our destination. We had to drag our luggage about three blocks and through a large crowd, which, the hotel desk clerk told us, was a “Gay Pride” celebration. Once inside the Westin Palace, it was a different world. The hotel was built in 1910, and is a true “Grand Hotel” in the old European tradition, well updated in matters that are important, left as the original where appropriate. Our room on the second floor overlooked a side street, which was probably better than overlooking the square where the Gay Pride celebration was continuing. The room was good sized with beautiful crown molding and very attractive wallpaper. The closet was large enough, but drawer space a tad short. The bathroom was a gem, with a tub shower, a separate toilet room, double sinks and marble everywhere. There was a grand full length mirror just outside it. The room had a beautiful desk, and the bed was very comfortable. There was complimentary bottled water. The dining room is a wonder all its own. It sits beneath a large domed ceiling set with stained glass panels, and has a massive crystal chandelier. It dates back to the original construction. The rest of the hotel is truly high class with wide corridors, excellent carpeting, dark wood and real hall lamps everywhere. One minor problem concerned the elevators. They are small and slow, but could not have been updated without major engineering changes, so we walked down to the lobby. The service was very friendly and efficient, with language never being a problem. The hotel is about as centrally located as you can find in Madrid. We ate on our arrival night at a restaurant called “47” about a block away, which we had scouted on tripadvisor.com. It was small, and filled with locals, although they had an English menu. I had an excellent fish dish, while Edith found a good vegetarian salad. The buffet breakfast was, as noted, a wonder, and a delightful experience in the beautiful dining room. If you were paying rack rate for it, it was quite expensive, but it was included in our cruise fare. You could not ask for a better buffet. It matched the best cruise ship buffet, and that is saying a lot. The next day we met Christina and started our adventure. She told us that a number of people, including the 12 Columbians would not join us until we sailed, so I would guess about 80 of us boarded 2 buses for a city tour. We were certainly not crowded. It was a Sunday morning so traffic was light and we saw a lot. Our guide Jose spoke very good English, and was very knowledgeable and entertaining. We disembarked for a walking tour which went through the Plaza Mayor and ended in the Plaza del Sol, about a ten minute walk from the hotel. We stopped at a small local restaurant on the way for a light lunch, and then went to the renowned Prado Museum, two blocks from our hotel, with tickets we had bought at home on line. For seniors the cost was 7 Euros. In three hours we saw it all, and it was very impressive. For dinner we went to another of our researched restaurants, Vinos de Bellota. It was on the other side of the Retiro Park, which is quite close to our hotel. But we took a taxi, and while the traffic patterns in Madrid forced our driver to take a long way around the park, the fare was still reasonable. Again the restaurant lived up to its high rating. I ordered pork and was asked how I wanted it. This is not done in the US since our pork is always cooked through. But pigs in Europe are not fed garbage as they are here, and there is no danger of trichinosis. So I ordered it medium/well done and when it arrived it was slightly pink. But it also was very juicy and sweet, not at all dry, and very delicious. Edith’s vegetarian dish was also well received. We walked home, arriving after 11:00 P.M.; but the streets still had people, and we felt perfectly safe. We had been warned about pickpockets, but had never been in an unduly crowded scene where we felt there was a danger. Ama offered a “Madrid by Night” tapas and wine tasting walking tour for 79 Euros apiece, which had no interest for us. The next morning our tour took us to Toledo, about 45 minutes away from the hotel. This city has two distinct parts, one of which is a suburban area outside to old town and containing most of the inhabitants. The old Toledo sits on a hill, surrounded on three sides by the Tagus River. The fourth side is protected by a typical medieval wall. So it still retains its traditional character of a medieval walled city. Our buses were too large to enter, so we walked across a gated bridge and through this fascinating old city, with its “Jewish” quarter and its “Moorish” neighborhood. Jose was again our guide and did an excellent job. The stores are filled with examples of the famed “Toledo Steel” swords and knives, as well as other examples of fine Spanish workmanship. Spain has a fine selection of fascinating cities, and Toledo has to be high on the list. That afternoon we walked through the Madrid Botanical Garden, just past the Prado, and part of the Retiro Park. We then went to the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, home to Piccaso’s Guernica and many other works of his as well as Miro and Dali. It is a somewhat different museum. It is housed in an older building with a central courtyard, and is reached by a very modern, outside, glass walled bank of elevators. Admission was free after five o’clock on Mondays, but the line for free entry was manageable. After the museum visit we attempted to locate the third restaurant on our list. This proved a problem, since Madrid streets are not always straight, and when we finally found it, it was closed. We knew it was closed Sunday, but apparently Monday closings are not uncommon. We then went down the block and found a typical outdoor bistro filled with Madrilenos having a fine time. This may not have been a gourmet experience, but it was great fun sitting outside, people watching and enjoying the exuberance of a family group adjoining our table. There is apparently no problem with bringing small children to eat with the family from 8:30 to 10:30 P.M., the normal dining hours in this part of the world. The food was simple, but very good, and the whole day a delight from beginning to end. We like Spain and greatly enjoyed Madrid. We were almost sorry to leave to begin our river cruise the next day. Our luggage was picked up from our room while we were having another great breakfast, and delivered to the buses so we could check that they were actually loaded. This proved fortuitous, since one of our small bags had been left in the room and Christina had to send a porter back to get it. Lisbon To Lisbon from Porto is 195 miles and about three hours on the mostly very smooth national highway system. We stopped about two-thirds of the way there to visit the shrine at Fatima. This is of interest mostly to Catholics, and is very impressive in its size and relatively substantial crowds for a hot weekday in the summer. Our hotel was the Tiara Park Atlantic (formerly the Meridian Atlantic). It is quite modern and bills itself as a “business” hotel. The design is striking. I can only describe it as having a “stair step on its side” appearance, which allowed most of the rooms to have a short “corner window” in addition to the main window. This allows a great view of the city down past a large city park to the waterfront and the visible Tagus River. The room itself was quite decent, with all one would expect in a first class modern business hotel, but without the charm of the Westin Palace in Madrid. It also lacked sufficient drawer space, causing us to stack clothing on top of the huge armoire which housed the TV and a large mini-bar. This latter service provider invited you to buy a 30 gram (that is 1.6 ounce!) can of Pringles for 8.5€ - $11.42 without the exchange fee! I can imagine a salesman trying to justify that on his hotel bill to the company auditor. The lobby and other public areas were sleek and modern, and the breakfast buffet very nice, up to about 90% of the level of the Westin Palace. It also was a little more crowded. The service staff was completely worthy of a five star hotel, cheerfully assisting whenever needed. The first night we ate at Sabor & Arte, a restaurant near the hotel which was not only recommended by tripadvisor.com, but, it turned out, Christina also. We had agreed to go with another couple, and on the way, ran into a third couple bound for the same place, so we had six for a very good, quite substantial dinner. I got to enjoy sardines again prepared the Mediterranean way; large and delicious. The tours offered in Lisbon were simply great. The first day we visited the 16th century Jerónimos Monastery, accurately described in our itinerary guide as “spectacular”. It is not hugely overwhelming, but beautifully proportioned as to both exterior and the interior rooms and the courtyard; and strikingly “decorated” with wall carvings and fixtures. We then went to Belem, out the Tagus towards the Atlantic, and the riverside Monument commemorating the amazing early 15th century Portuguese navigators. It was, like all the days we experienced on this cruise, beautiful and sunny. Afterwards, following Christina’s directions, we went to the main shopping area, which was down the hill from our hotel and close to the old port. This part of Lisbon is called the Baixa, and is a main attraction for locals and tourists alike, featuring the crowded pedestrian shopping street where we ran into the two cruise couples from Maui. They said they were staying at a pension in Lisbon for five days. That night we went to the Madragoa Café. This is a tiny restaurant, east of the Baixa proper, and almost down to the waterfront. It helped that we handed the hotel doorman a piece of paper with the name and address, and he instructed the taxi driver accordingly. This was the type of service provided by the hotel, very cheerful and helpful. The restaurant is on a short, very narrow street, not just one way, but effectively one lane also. There were about five tables inside, but we ate outside on a raised wooden deck which held four small tables. We were a little early for dinner, about 8:15, so we had no trouble being seated. The waiter (he was the only one) spoke very good English, and was committed to explaining anything we wanted to know, I had a very substantial sea food stew, and Edith a large vegetarian salad. We had a delightful meal, and at the conclusion the cook, another Christina, came out to share her cooking methods, also in very good English. The only problem came when I paid the bill with a 100 € bill. We had to wait while they collected enough cash from other customers to make change. We were pleased to recommend this restaurant to our fellow travelers. This was the type of European restaurant we have come to love. I should note that all our full dinner meals in both Spain and Portugal, with dessert for me and wine for Edith, ran just about 42-45 €s, ($56.00-$61.00). Of course my water was more expensive than her wine! The next day involved another marvelous tour to the town of Sintra. This is about 45 miles from Lisbon, and essentially occupies a large hill with views commanding the countryside to the north, east and south, and actually the Atlantic, somewhat hazy but there, to the west. Because of this it was selected by several different generations of Portuguese royalty to build spectacular summer retreats – well actually – summer castles. There were tour options, but we followed our guide’s recommendation to visit the topmost castle, the Peña Palace. It was built in the 19th century by a German prince who married the Queen of Portugal. It is a wildly eclectic mixture of faux medieval, Moorish and French Empire architecture and truly royal interior furnishings. It is reached by special buses from the town of Sintra winding up a very narrow, one lane mountain road, through a pine forest. This is probably fortunate since it spreads out the crowds, and this is one of the two most visited Portuguese tourist venues, along with Fatima. The rooms were fascinating, and part of that was due, I think, to the fact that they were lived in not so long ago. There were photos of the family on desks, for instance. The last royal occupant left in 1912. So all of the wonderful furniture, furnishings, wall and ceiling treatments, lamps, chandeliers, parquet floors, etc. were still in excellent, actually useable condition. It was here that we ran into the Columbian family, who had proceeded to Lisbon independently, and we greeted each other with much enthusiasm of course, since they did everything with enthusiasm! We went back into town and strolled around the many tourist shops, buying a few small tiles for mementos and gifts. One should not visit Portugal without acquiring some of their tiles. That night we ate at a restaurant down the hill a short way from our hotel, at Christina’s recommendation (our Christina – not the Madragoa Cafè cook). It also was a good local dining experience, and was accompanied by entertainment in the form of one woman and three men sitting at a back table and singing to the accompaniment of a guitar and castanets. It was all very casual, and again very reasonably priced. The next day we arose at 5:30 to catch our plane. The airport was 15 minutes away, and the taxi cost 8 € with tip. Conclusion Was this a worthwhile cruise experience? We certainly believe so. The combination of the relaxed river cruising, the lovely small towns, some excellent excursions, the dining experiences, all added up to a memorable 14 days. The value for money is always an open question. The hotel days were expensive, but we also received 4 excellent touring days, which would not be part of the normal hotel rack rate. So, if you likes river cruising as one of many ways to spend your travel time, this certainly gets our strong recommendation. Bon Voyage! Phil and Edith Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
This was our first river cruise and we were a little apprehensive. Have been on 3 Cunard cruises (all great quality with perfect food and service but completely impersonal with sanitised land based tours). We were recommended to cruise ... Read More
This was our first river cruise and we were a little apprehensive. Have been on 3 Cunard cruises (all great quality with perfect food and service but completely impersonal with sanitised land based tours). We were recommended to cruise with AMA Waterways by Ponders Travel (personal agents near Cambridge). They selected a river cruise focused around wine tasting in northern Portugal. My wife and I were stunned by the friendly, professional and personal attitude shown by ALL of the crew. So many lovely touches including the same coach driver; same guide all week. Some of the drives could have been scary (side of small mountains on single track roads with no barriers) but the driver was very sensitive and drove at speeds that made us all feel safe. The food was perfect with choice for all diets. Champagne for breakfast!! We got to know so many new folk from other countries. One of the AMA owners was on this cruise (Kristin Karst). She is completely committed to ensuring all travellers have a fantastic experience and supported her team really well. They have a great way of selecting passionate crew and delivering perfect service for the entire cruise. How the crew keep motivated with out a break for many weeks I don't know but I guess combining the desire to ensure guest have a great memorable time with the chance of meeting new folk every week or so keeps their interest going. Just one request for AMA - avoid seminars which are more brain washing than informative (US wine) - we are all old enough to make our own minds up if today will be a great day and don't need a motivational speaker to help. But thankfully we managed to avoid most of the loudness from just one person. We are about to book another cruise with AMA for Xmas this year. For those who haven't found Portugal yet (as we hadn't) I highly recommend a visit. It is beautiful; hot; clean and the locals are so friendly.   Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2014
This week essentially started in Vega Terron, and ended in Porto. While I've river cruised with Viking a few times, this April 15, 2014 week was my first AMA trip. The captain, crew and cruise manager were tops in making things ... Read More
This week essentially started in Vega Terron, and ended in Porto. While I've river cruised with Viking a few times, this April 15, 2014 week was my first AMA trip. The captain, crew and cruise manager were tops in making things happen, and dealing with situations that just happen with mother nature affecting the height of the river etc. The first day, we couldn't start actually in Vega Terron, because a torrent of spring weather water would not let any ships go upstream on our scheduled day in the locks. We were bussed several hours to a different port downstream. Stuff happens. Not a big deal, when the passage opened a day or so later, we got to see all that was scheduled. We didn't expect that, as that was extra fuel for the ship to use to backtrack. Nice. Tour pacing and content, meals, on board entertainment and accommodations were at good as Viking, and, all in all, a tad better. Either company is excellent on river cruising. Meals were ample and delicious included wines, and Port was often served. Additionally we visited Port wineries on land. The Douro River is beautiful, with hills on either side. Entertainment was noteworthy-I've never seen as many travelers suddenly learning how to use the video on their cameras to capture performers! From college students in a musical group, to a musical family on board, we got a great feel for local traditions. The exercise room is small on river cruises-I don't take a river cruise to exercise on board, thank you. This is not for small children-take a Disney cruise for that. We bought transportation packages from our arrival and departure cities of Madric and Lisbon, and were glad we did-worth not having to schedule. Porto is a city worth an extra day or so, as is Lisbon or Madrid while in the general vicinity. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2014
We boarded the ship but did not sail til 36 hours passed...they told us that "authorities in Lisbon " would not let us go....meanwhile.....we were stuck in Porto....we where in the process of abandoning ship ...making plans to go ... Read More
We boarded the ship but did not sail til 36 hours passed...they told us that "authorities in Lisbon " would not let us go....meanwhile.....we were stuck in Porto....we where in the process of abandoning ship ...making plans to go home.....when miraculously....they allowed us to start the cruise. No info that made sense was transmitted........The food was cafeteria quality for lunch and dinner. The breakfast was nicely done and hearty. The crew was brand new and after 4 days...they worked well together. The chef finally cooked from his Portuguese soul....dinners were better the last few days. Never saw the cabin steward....the cruise director was trying hard for a tip.....unctuous at best. The wine flowed freely at lunch and dinner....... and was very good. Mixed drinks were a rip off.....sodas and iced teas were ridiculously expensive. The cabins were well appointed and predictably small if you were used to the nice big cruise ships. The scenery was lovely.....in a few weeks it would have been magnificent. We missed a few ports due to the late start.....we did not care....the captain was awesome going under bridges that defied the possibility of making it......and high-tailing it back in time for some passengers to make their flights out of Porto the last day. Some passengers did not make it to Porto and were bussed at 3am to the Porto airport from a stop just short of Porto. We would not do this again......take a Regent or Oceania cruise...it leaves on time and tells you what's going on.....AMA was a different story every day! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2013
We boarded the AmaVida in Vega de Terron, which isn't really a port, in Spain, across the river Douro from Portugal. It is really a drop off point for buses. We had started the day in Madrid, and arrived here, via Salamanca. The ... Read More
We boarded the AmaVida in Vega de Terron, which isn't really a port, in Spain, across the river Douro from Portugal. It is really a drop off point for buses. We had started the day in Madrid, and arrived here, via Salamanca. The ship, like the other AmaWaterways ships, is beautiful. Given the size of river ships, the cabins are quite spacious - we were on the top level of cabins. The room has a small balcony, which a couple can access, one at a time, by sliding the doors back, but both can sit there and watch Portugal go by, as we did, quite regularly. We were a group of 6, 3 couples. Meals were fantastic, and the dining room is very noisy, although on the first night, extremely noisy as people seemed to be very excited about embarking on the cruise of the Douro River. One of the bonuses of the ship is that there is a coffee machine where one can make proper coffee at any time of the day. The top deck is marvellous, and lunch was served there twice on this 7 day cruise. The scenery is quite different to that experienced on the Amsterdam to Budapest cruise as this part of Portugal is relatively undiscovered. The ports were predominantly very simple, but the excursions provided by AmaWaterways were excellent, including such beautiful destinations as the Mateus Palace. We loved this cruise, and everything about it although most of the passing scenery is rural and lots of vineyards. No castles here. Porto the final destination, is a lovely and historic city. We had two nights there and were then transported by bus to Lisbon the final destination. We would recommend this cruise as a relaxing, interesting holiday. Read Less
AmaVida Ratings
Category Editor Member

Find an AmaVida Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise