Food and preparation were of upmost concern to us when looking for a cruise. Given that food is our vocation and avocation, preparation, quality and presentation are essential. We believe that the ingredients were of high quality. However, the cooking preparation and menu were quite confusing. Chef is obviously aware of modern cooking techniques, with his use of sous vide, etc. This is a fine preparation method, as we use it at home. However, the food cannot be served right out of the bag. Things like steak, lamb, etc. need to be finished in a pan or on a grill to bring out the flavors of the food and finish the cooking process. The menu seemed to be of an Austrian-European cuisine, not quite consistent with modern tastes. It was pretty flat and often over salted. The soups were not edible-watery with lots of salt. On one evening, a white river fish was served. During the first bite, my mouth was full of pin bones.
We were quite unhappy with the land excursions. They didn’t seem to be well thought out in many cases and ended up being “forced marches”. Clearly the closing of the shops during the holidays were not considered in the planning. The lack of shopping took away from the experience and left lots of free time with little to do. Most of the guides hurried through the tours, leaving no time for lingering or picture taking. Many of the passengers were elderly or senior, which made difficult walking over uneven surfaces and cobblestone streets. While the line plans a slow group, there is still no time for picture taking. The beer tasting and especially the coffee tasting made no sense. Why would you take a long bus tour only to sit in a restaurant and drink a cup of coffee? There was no tour involved. The guide on the coffee tour, luckily, took us to an unplanned site-which just happened to be a Unesco World Heritage site. Why would this not be planned? No time for pictures, again.
The wait staff, in our opinion, really needs additional training. Some of them appeared almost surly at times and didn’t really treat us like guests-they were more like waiters in a bistro on the street in Paris. I think, in large part, the crew was exhausted and really ready to get off the ship and go home; pretty much that’s all they could talk about, which I don’t blame them. However, as guests, this should not be of our concern or issue.
I read a piece recently which explains some of this-on European river cruises, there is lots of competition. Small ships like the AMASonata do not have fully equipped kitchens because of the size of the ship, hence sous vide. Also, most of the crew is from the Baltic area where they can get staff for less money. The customer service and hospitality industry here apparently does not have the same standards as the US, Europe, etc.
Smoking by the crew was awful, since we were on the violin deck and the smoke in the restaurant filled up the floor!
We loved the ship, the quality of the cabin and the services of the captain, crew and housekeeping.
We did like the stateroom, loved the balcony which would have been more fabulous in the summer. Housekeeping was stellar. Bed comfortable and the bath was well stocked. The violin deck was the top of the cabins.