Where to start? My family and I booked a cruise with amawaterways entitled "romantic Danube" a offering of ports from Prague to Budapest in about 10 days(though 7 day cruise). Sailing in November through middle and eastern Europe is really taking a chance on weather so be advised. You could have rain and fog the whole time with temps never climbing out of the 40s. We had a stroke of good luck, weather wise. Temps stayed in the 50s and low 60s during the day and most of those days were sunny. Good for travel bad for an already low river. More on that later.
The ship: The amasonata. Almost nothing to complain about, its brand new. It's very clean, well appointed and has a lot of ammenties that large cruise ships have;pool, gym, hair salon, massage, running deck, lounge, bar. Rooms tend to be on the smaller side, but honestly with a 160 person capacity, they do wonders with space. Apple monitors in every cabin but honestly those were awful. The internet was shoddy at best. I know you don't go on a cruise to surf the net but if you offer such a cool high tech thing in your room, it should work better. Stairs to bottom level of the boat are extremely steep. I'm a young guy and I was afraid to walk down at night.
Staff: All the staff were friendly and always corurteous. Everyone knows English well. Most are from middle/Eastern Europe. Everyone says hi all the time, which can get a little over done on such a small ship but I think that's my introvert speaking.
Food/Drink: Everything is excellent. They fed you really well but not like a large cruise ship does. Larger ships stuff you with empty sugar and burgers and that's not to say they didn't have junk food but it wasn't in your face. If you had all three meals on the ship, you would never go hungry again. Basic wine and beer is complimentary with meals. They do change up the wine but the beer, which is standard imo, stays the same,which can get boring. Cocktails in the bar are additional. If you didn't have formal breakfast or lunch in the main dining room there would always be a "light fare" in the lounge that would suffice. Two main places to eat, the dining room and the "captain's table" which like most cruises is the "fine dining" option aboard and you need reservations. But like I said, food was quality with moderate portions, especially if you ate everything.
Onboard entertainment: Lets be honest. These cruises are marketed towards an older crowd. You're not going to get silly antics of Broadway rip offs and hack comedy routines here. That's totally good though. I felt onboard entertainment was on the lighter side of things. They have a pianist that does karaoke and some lounge type music and a couple nights of the tour we had some great musicians play for about an hour. They should try and introduce more port talent at each stop. Though I was happy the entertainment was a little more adult. I'm 32 and rather watch a great guitarist and violinist play folk music rather than some cruise bimbo sing show tunes.
Ports of call/tours: Major bias here. I do not like tours. I despise walking around with the little earbuds listening to a tour guide ramble on about centuries of info that you will never retain. It's tiring even for a young person. Also, churches.Gosh I know Europe has a lot of churches but seriously... One or two during an entire trip is enough. They are all the same and all have too much money that should go to help the poor.
With that said! Amawaterways does a better job than most companies at coming up with variations and different tour offerings like, hikes, bicycles, food prep,concerts.Some are additional so be aware. Personal opinion, they should forgo small towns , mainly in Germany and Austria as they are tourist traps and all the same small town squares, and focused on the larger gems like Prague and Budapest. Also, we were in the same town as a historic bmw factory. Why not offer a tour there? They do conduct them. Get on that Ama!
One thing to conclude on the port tours. I do appreciate the different walking paces they offer. My father has some trouble walking long distances and it was nice to know there was an option but I stress he took the regular walking tours and was fine. Walking sticks, umbrellas, walkers are always available to people.
My biggest issues:
A river can cause many issues that are out of your control. We never made it to Budapest via ship because the water level was too low. They bussed us in but it totally ruined the experience of such a beautiful city and gave us no free time there. This is a constant issue with all cruises. All they want to do is hold your hand and not let you experience things by yourself. No different with Ama. Also, we were notified that we had to back track from our port to a previous port because of more river related issues and were told last minute. This compounded issues related to our flight because of the ongoing Lufthansa strike as we now had to be bussed three hours into Budapest again to get out flight.
Now I say this with much reservation. We booked our flights through amawaterways as well as getting their insurance so this is my experience. Our flights back to the states were cancelled due to the strike. Amawaterways did rectify the situation in a appropriate time and put us on a comparable flight schedule back to the states. I am unclear whether more hassel would have come about if we had not booked through them. So get trip insurance people!
The end of our trip was just not good. All I can say is that you take a chance if water levels are low. It's out of their control but what is in control is when they tell us this information. You pay a steep price for these vacations and I'm still not convinced they do everything in their power to keep communication constant.