When we cruised the Danube on the AmaDolce it was one of the best trips we've ever taken. We knew we wanted to experience another river cruise and after much research we chose the Rhine. These two cruises are very different however, ... Read More
When we cruised the Danube on the AmaDolce it was one of the best trips we've ever taken. We knew we wanted to experience another river cruise and after much research we chose the Rhine. These two cruises are very different however, and what we loved about the Danube was not always present on the Rhine (plenty of time to enjoy the port cities for example). Despite the differences, we thoroughly enjoyed our time on the AmaSonata. It's a beautiful ship in perfect condition, staffed by dedicated and friendly professionals who really know how to make their passengers feel welcome.
We spent several days in Amsterdam on our own before the cruise and hired our own taxi to the ship. If you don't use an Ama airport transfer to the ship, you can find the embarkation location printed one the cruise voucher.
We arrived ahead of the 3 pm check in time, but embarkation was smoother than our previous experience. We waited in the lovely lounge where they had water, tea and cookies. Check-in includes having your photograph taken (later on, a credit card is requested prior to check-out). A crew member is assigned to each guest to carry the luggage and provide a cabin orientation. In our case, this crew member was one of the dining room wait staff. Later on the first day there is a Captain's welcome reception with drinks, introductions of key crew and a safety briefing.
The ship is beautiful and it's kept spotless, inside and out. The lounge is where the tended bar is (hard liquor, beer and wine for purchase except for during meal times when beer and wine are complimentary), a piano, a buffet for the light meals and snacks, a very small gift shop (the prices were better or the same as shops in the cities), and a self-serve coffee/espresso/capuccino bar that is available 24 hours a day. The lounge seating is well thought out to accommodate everything from individuals to couples to larger groups, and large windows surround the area so everyone has a nice view. There is a small partitioned section with books and two couches. There is an elevator that accesses all levels, but does not go up to the sun deck.
At the front of the ship is a covered area with tables and chairs and a wind screen. During rainy periods, this space becomes the smoking area. There is an automatic door leading to the front that allows the smoke to enter, so if you have a sensitivity to smoke consider sitting further back in the lounge during periods of rain. On top of the ship is the sun deck, a wonderful place to be if the weather cooperates. It has a good selection of varied seating, a track and stationary bike, a pool and an oversized chess set. The smoking area is at the very back of the sun deck. The wheel house is fully visible and our captain invited passengers to knock on the door to request a tour (any time except during lock passages). One thing Ama might consider doing is adding a binocular station on each side. There are so many castles on this ship it would be a nice addition for people who don't want to pack the added weight. There are thin flannel blankets provided on deck, but on our cruise most people used the wool blankets from the cabins.
The fitness center is on the 3rd level, at the far end past the cabins. It is large and well equipped (actually rivals many hotels). There are also massage and hair style facilities. The Chef's Table restaurant is at the back with limited seating that requires reservations (a special set menu for the entire week that is different from the dining room). Also on this level are the desks for the manager of the hotel and the cruise director. The second level has two restrooms and a built-in watercooler at the entrance to the cabins. The main restaurant is on the lower level, which also contains cabins (accessed from a different stairway). There are two semi-private dining areas with tables for 8-10 at the front, six booths for 4 and tables from 4-8 inside. If traveling alone or as a couple, expect to join in at larger tables or be joined by someone. Seating is open and passengers begin to line up prior to meal times in order to sit in desired locations.
The restaurant service is outstanding, both with wait and wine staff. They are skilled and do everything they can to accommodate requests. They are very pleasant and patient (some are really fun and interesting) and they are generous with the wine, extras, etc. I noticed that most people tended to pick a side and sit there every meal, often choosing the same tables and same dining companions. The food is very good, well prepared and beautifully presented and there is a lot of it - multiple courses including desserts. The food choices are generous and during breakfast and lunch the buffet in the center offers a huge array of self-serve options. These are in addition to the lighter fare that is made available throughout the day in the lounge. The wine choices were not as good on this cruise, and seemed to be less often the regional choice.
There is entertainment daily, with the piano player in the afternoons and evenings except when they bring in performers. There were two especially good acts on our cruise, La Strada (two violins and a guitar - really outstanding) and a French singer and an accordionist.
We were told that the main draw for this cruise for many passengers is the sailing through the Rhine Gorge, which has more than two dozen castles. It is beautiful and interesting and a very enjoyable part of the cruise. The shore excursions would benefit from longer times off the ship with the ability to wander, have a leisurely coffee or shoot pictures. Often, where we were docked over night and could have gone out, there was no place to go. There was a real sense of being rushed on the excursions. The city tour of Cologne was a disappointment, with an hour of walking and an hour in the cathedral, which was too long for a single structure. There were several excursion options in Rudisheim along with more free time, which made it a much better experience. The Heidelberg excursions include a long and strenuous hike that is great, but be aware that it leaves very little time to explore the city after, which is walkable and pretty (and for shoppers, quite a few stores in the market area). Strasbourg is another city that would benefit from longer time to explore. Riquewihr was wonderful and I would have loved to have an option to stay there for 4-5 hours, but again there was a sense of being rushed due to the 45 minute bus ride back to the docking location.
The Rhine seems to have near constant cruising, with too little time to enjoy spots along the way. I heard several people complain about the sound of the engine on overnight cruises, though it didn't bother me. This may be a function of cabin location so if motion or noise is a problem be sure to ask your travel agent for cabin recommendations.
This is a beautiful river and a very nice cruise. But if I were to recommend a cruise to someone I would recommend the Danube. Read Less