AmaCello Cruise Review by NantwichSwan
- Sail Date: July 2018
- Destination: Europe River
- Cabin Type: Stateroom with French Balcony
This year we searched for a new Ama European cruise that provided the right balance and type of activities and came up with the Rhone - Colours of Provence aboard the AmaCello. Coming from the UK, we flew to Lyon from Heathrow and back to Heathrow from Marseille booked through Ama. The flights were not fun - proper cattle truck flights - and that seems a huge shame as they top and tail what was a luxury cruise. If I was doing it again, I would investigate the train services which were used by other guests on the cruise and reportedly were excellent.
Our transfer to the ship from the airport was handled well, though the traffic was bad so we only arrived at 1810 to find we were invited to the Captains Table for Dinner starting in 20 minutes - no time to unpack or shower so we were the scruffy pair at the table. Oh well - at least the Captain - Philippe Stypa was a really good host who managed not to notice. He was the most pleasant and affable captain we have sailed with. He remembered us throughout the week, gave tours of the wheelhouse to those of us who wanted to know how the ship operated and greeted each on-shore excursion as it returned. An excellent captain.
AmaCello is an old ship by Ama standards. Compared to AmaSonata, the cabins are smaller, have French Balconies rather than twin balconies and the en-suites are smaller. Those are not necessarily minus points. I prefer the French balcony as I get more uninterrupted window space and my wife preferred the en-suite - mostly because it did not have the unnecessary window into the cabin the illumination from which woke her when I used the bathroom at night on the AmaSonata. Although small, the cabin was perfectly adequate for the two of us. So score one to AmaCello.
The restaurant and lounge were different but similar to those on the Sonata - generally very adequate though the air-conditioning struggled in the very high temperatures experienced during the cruise when the rooms were full - at mealtimes or during briefings for instance. The food in the restaurant was a pleasure to eat. There was a good variety, it was well presented, tasty and much more appropriate to the region than on our Rhine cruise. The quantity was generous - we were encouraged to have second helpings of desserts for instance and our glasses kept getting refilled as long as we continued to allow it.
The excursions were good, the coaches comfortable though the journeys sometimes seemed long in relationship to the time at the destination. The guides generally spoke good English, many were really excellent. They all knew their subject though occasionally it sounded as if they were bored to be giving the commentary to yet another group. I enjoyed the Steam Train in Tournon, the Pont du Gard visit and the Truffle Farm visit. We had been doubtful about the latter but a truly excellent guide made it totally hysterical fun. You would be lucky if you had the same guide visiting the same Truffle Farm.
I am slightly less enthusiastic about the onboard entertainment. The resident musician played Spanish style guitar mostly. Maybe if I had concentrated on listening it would have been excellent but as a background noise it could be jarring. The evening entertainers were all impressively skilled but I was too tired by the day's activities to really appreciate them; my loss I suspect.
So that brings me to Service and the "but....". Every member of the crew greeted us whenever they saw us. Initially I thought that was excellent but it did begin to sound a little bit overdone by the last day. Our cabin was kept beautifully clean and organised by our room steward. I thought the housekeeping on the previous cruises was excellent but this was just that little bit better, more thoughtful. The receptionists were brilliant, very professional. The cooks must have suffered greatly producing excellent food in a small kitchen area that I guess was like an oven what with the cooking and the sun's heat. The restaurant and bar staff worked very hard - they were always rushing on some errand or another.
But.... - two of the waiters seemed totally untrained. I doubt that either of them had worked at anything before much less coped with the huge pressures of serving a complex menu to customers who all descend on the restaurant within minutes of it opening. They did not have a clue - forgot to serve courses that had been ordered, mixed up the orders, gave people courses they had not ordered. Some guests gave up and left the restaurant without finishing their meal. Other waiters tried to help but had plenty to do themselves. I am NOT picking on those two novices; they should not have been put in such a situation. Many of the guests will not even have noticed these problems especially if they sat at the other end of the restaurant and were served by hard working and competent waiters. Some guests who were effected took it all lightly but it should not have happened on a cruise that claims to be a luxury cruise specialising in a superb eating experience.
On our first cruise, the waiters were impressive. I do not remember them putting a foot wrong. The second cruise was slightly less impressive and this one was poor; not in terms of the effort put in by the staff but in terms of the failure of Ama senior management to employ trained staff or to train them before letting them loose on guests. Therefore, I deduct one star due to a failure by Ama senior management. The AmaCello's reputation suffers but that is really collateral damage, it seems that Ama Waterways have put business growth above quality of service.
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