My husband and I recently sailed with AmaWaterways on the AmaLyra from Paris up the Seine River and back to Paris, stopping along the way in Giverny, Honfleur, Caudebec, Rouen and Les Andelys. Between the two of us, we have been on several ocean cruises (Oceania, Royal Caribbean, NCL and Carnival) but this was our first river boat experience. I was a little unsure in initially booking a river cruise, but I ended up tremendously enjoying the experience and definitely will book with AmaWaterways again in the future.
From the moment we arrived at the dock in Paris, where we were greeted enthusiastically and our luggage whisked away to our cabin, to the day we departed, our expectations were met or exceeded. Our cabin was nicely appointed with a French balcony, king-sized bed with comfortable linens, comfy robes and slippers, and a bath with a shower, though not large, was fine for the two of us. The cabin had a flat-screen monitor and computer with WiFi included for surfing the net, or as I did most days when I was in the cabin, accessing a wide selection of classical music. They also had news, movies and documentaries to pick from too. Roxanne, our cabin stewardess kept our room in tip top shape. Additionally, the ship was impeccably clean from bow to stern. The crew members were very friendly, helpful and eager to meet every request. Because this is a riverboat with a passenger capacity of about 140, and with a crew of 45, there always were crew members everywhere we turned.
The food on the AmaLyra was delicious and well presented. The Executive Chef on our cruise, Bogdan Draghici, was serving as executive chef for the first time ever on our cruise having just recently been promoted. Many evenings he came around to our table near the end of dinner service with a special extra treat or just to make sure we enjoyed our dinner. AmaWaterways offers an extensive menu of choices, with a Chef’s Recommendation featured each evening. Most evenings the Chef’s Recommendation sounded so enticing that we ordered it precisely as it was presented. But it was easy to make other selections as well. Breakfast is a very ample buffet with many choices, including hot prepared foods, an omelette bar, cereals, breads and pastries, and other more European-style choices such as meats and cheeses to choose from. We also could order Eggs Benedict – which my husband indulged in most mornings -- poached eggs and a few other breakfast selections cooked to order. Lunch was a buffet with other selections available from the galley. Most days there was a theme and we especially enjoyed the Normandy themed luncheon with fresh mussels served in a savory and delicious mustard sauce with fresh baked French bread served on the side to soak up the sauce. Also, I need to mention that each day for lunch and dinner there was a featured soup. Soup is a great specialty for AmaWaterways. Bogdan our executive chef explained to us, when I complimented him on how delicious every soup was, that the line has many special soup recipes and a secret to their success is the amount of time they take in blending the ingredients. All I can say is that every soup was tres bon!
Complementing each lunch and dinner were complimentary beer and wine pairings – sparkling wine at breakfast too if you would like! There were many excellent selections of wine to choose from and the pours were very generous. Some of the vintages presented included a Blanc de Camarsac, which paired well with the numerous seafood selections offered; a nice Chateau Malager; a Chateau Belle Cure from Bordeaux, and a I’Ombe des Fontaines from the Rhone River region. We also tried a Bourgonge Aligote from Bordeaux and Beaujolais-Villages from the Beaujolais region. A 6-Eme Sens, Pays Blanc was featured at the Welcome Dinner the first evening along with a Les Collines Cote du Rhone. Again, the pours were generous and our glasses always kept filled by Anton, our favorite waiter.
AmaWaterways also offers a Chef’s Tasting dinner with numerous small platings to sample along with paired wines. We booked our tasting dinner for an evening that we were sailing during dinner time – as opposed to being docked in a port -- which turned out to be a scenic delight as well as a gastronomic treat. The Chef’s Tasting restaurant is located at the stern (back) of the ship so we had some nice views as well as the opportunity to see the ship enter one of the many lochs along the Seine and experience the change in levels of the river before sailing smoothly on.
Sailing on an intimate river cruise in many ways is like being with family. Our captain, Geoffrey Masson, was gracious and warm and well supported by his staff of Alioscia, the hotel manager; Kinga, the purser; Varu, the Maitre d’Hotel; and Anca, the first cabin stewardess. Captain Geoffrey was gracious and even invited my husband, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and an airline pilot to visit him on the bridge for a ‘behind the scenes’ look. And I can’t say enough about Nick, our cruise manager, who was warm, welcoming and on the spot whenever needed. He was so gracious and knowledgeable about every port and tour. Most evenings we all met in the spacious and comfortable lounge prior to dinner. Nick would share with us information we needed to know about the evening entertainment and the next day’s events before we went downstairs to the dining room. All the crew work especially hard, but Nick has to always be ‘on’ and I know that he was up early in the morning and still at it late in the evening.
Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Salina, the fitness instructor on board the AmaLyra. Several mornings we went on fitness walks with her, which were a great way to start the day and to burn some extra calories from all of the fine dining and wine we were indulging in each day. Selina is a tri-athlete who was hired by AmaWaterways to create a fitness program to encourage the line’s guests to be more active and healthy. She holds several classes a day and also is available to work with guests one-on-one. She is a great ambassador for AmaWaterways in this role!
Regarding tours, AmaWaterways includes port tours in the cost of your cruise. This is an outstanding value, as we have been on other ocean cruises, including one last year with Oceania, where the port tours were additional and ended up adding over $1,500 to the cost of the cruise for my husband and I. In most ports, there were several tour options to select from. We toured Claude Monet’s home in Giverny where we saw his beautiful gardens and the water lily ponds he built and painted so often; the U.S. beaches – Omaha and Utah – in Normandy and the American Cemetery; the quaint seaside town of Honfleur; Rouen, where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake; Les Andelys where we hiked to the top of Chateau Gaillard; and Conflans where we toured Josephine and Napoleon Bonaparte’s Chateau Malmaison. The tour guides were all so very friendly, spoke fluent English and provided great insights and details to each venue we toured.
One last surprise of the cruise was the enjoyable experience of meeting so many interesting and personable fellow passengers. Our first evening for dinner, the Maitre ‘d asked if we wanted to be seated at a romantic table for two or did we wish to meet some new people? We opted for the latter for that dinner and for dinner each subsequent evening. We met some wonderful people with whom we had great camaraderie, shared fun stories and laughs and made new friends, including our new friends Gilles and Diane from Quebec. This for me, was really and truly the highlight of the intimate riverboat cruising experience. All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our AmaWaterways cruise and look forward to sailing with them again in the future! #amawaterways
King-sized bed with comfortable linens. Flat screen monitor, computer and free WiFi. Bath is small but adequate for two adults. Toiletries all fit in the cabinet. Closet is ample and had plenty of hangers. Two umbrellas provided. A safe included for valuables. Bottled water delivered every day. Two robes and slippers provided.
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