Our trip on AmaStella’s 14 day River cruise of Europe was our first river cruise. We arrived early morning on day one and waited 45 minutes at the airport for our transfer to the ship. We were told that room check in was in the afternoon so we did not expect a reception…..but it took some time before we were acknowledged by a few men in Ama uniforms who approached us, took our luggage, and led us onto the ship. Since we had plans to meet a private tour guide in Amsterdam that afternoon, we picked up our key cards and left to enjoy the rest of the day in the city.
Our room was small but comfortable. Luggage storage under the bed and enough hangers (there was very little shelf space) kept our clothing organized. On a river cruise the humidity in the room is a bit higher and the air conditioning in the room didn’t dehumidify, thus hand- washed clothing stayed damp and the room had a slight dampness that I didn’t like. Erika, our housekeeper was fantastic. Always greeted us with a smile and was quick to put the room in order, keeping it clean for the entire trip. She was very fast at helping us resolve an air conditioning problem. The TV services were only available on an Apple computer screen: streaming television shows were inconsistent; various shows would stop for 20-30 minutes at a time making it frustrating to watch. In addition, show availability was limited to mostly reality TV reruns.
Excursion offerings were divided into regular pace, active pace, and biking. Every guide on each excursion we took was excellent. Kata, the cruise director, was available to help guide excursion choices. In some cities we participated in two excursions because of the time allowed; in others we had time to explore museums and sites on our own. We chose this cruise, in part, to see a variety of cities of Europe and we were not disappointed.
Food and dining were a huge disappointment because of the lack of service in the dining room, a lack of variety of vegetarian options for dinner, and generally tasteless entrees. Vegetarian options had to be suggested by us, fish dishes had no flavor, and one night’s meat entrée tasted “gamey”. Rarely did the dining room manager make his way to our table to ask about our experience. Often refills on beverages (tea and coffee) had to be requested along with replenishing the butter on the table. There were 149 passengers, one dinner seating at 7:00 or sometimes 7:30 pm (which was not to our liking) and yet attention to customer service fell short.
Finally, this river cruise had some unpleasant surprises. The sun deck, one of only two public places on the ship, was closed for 4 days because of low bridges along the river. Locks on the Rhine and Main plunge the ship into a damp darkness, one misses daylight as the ship slowly passes through each one. As many of the locks were traversed during daylight hours, one’s ability to sit and enjoy cruising on deck was impossible. The locks also prevented opening of the room’s door wall, sitting on the sundeck, or seeing anything out a window from the interior of the ship. The second public room, the lounge, was the location of a daily light lunch, afternoon entertainment (an electronic piano keyboard player), and drinks at 5:00 to “lubricate” readiness for dinner and after dinner entertainment. It was neither a comfortable nor quiet place to sit and reflect on the days sightseeing.
Several staff members were quick to point out that this is a “5 star” cruise line but we found the trip inferior, especially given the high price.
Small, a bit damp. Truly glad we didn't pay for a balcony since we were double and triple parked (within 1 foot of another cruise ship) and would not have been able to use it comfortably. Because of the proximity of other cruise ships when we docked, we often couldn't leave our drapes open without being viewed by passengers on the ship parked next to us.