Itineraries on AmaViola are jam-packed, and you'll visit at least one port a day. Occasionally, you'll have two or even three group excursions, and while they're optional, many passengers want to take advantage of the time they have in new destinations. Carving out some quiet time to relax often means sacrificing activities onboard or in port.
Your guide throughout the cruise is AmaViola's cruise manager, who meets passengers as they arrive, makes daily announcements, holds lectures, organizes groups in port, solves any problems that might arise and even joins groups who have added a land extension to their cruise. Announcements and talks supplement the daily cruise planner, which is left in your cabin each night, laying out the next day's activities.
Passengers can expect to have at least one included shore excursion per port. AmaViola often sails to two different ports per day, so that means passengers might have two excursions. Additional excursions, such as wine tastings or concerts, might be offered, and these could include additional fees, which for the most part range from 50 to 75 euros.
At the start of the cruise, the cruise manager talks about every excursion and explains how the excursions will go as well as makes recommendations for "don't miss" activities. Passengers then make decisions and fill out a form, turning it in to the cruise manager, who records the picks and returns the list later that evening or the next morning so passengers remember what they signed up for. Each evening before dinner, the cruise manager talks about the next day's activities, firming up times and providing further details.
Each morning, passengers visit the reception desk to pick up their "safety cards," which serve a dual purpose: Cards have an emergency phone number (the cruise manager's), and taking them alerts the crew to which passengers are off the ship. Passengers also grab color-coded cards, mostly randomly assigned, to put them into their tour groups. Groups generally don't exceed 20 passengers or so. QuietVox receivers are required for most tours; tour guides speak into a microphone, and passengers can hear them via the receivers, even from a distance.
Excursions will take you to the heart of cities, and most of the exploring there is done by bus and foot. AmaViola shines because it often offers excursions of three different levels: gentle walking, regular and active. Gentle walking excursions truly are for people who can't or don't want to walk much; they'll walk to a bus, then spend most of the time exploring by vehicle. Walking with this group is done at a slower pace, and plenty of time is given for rest breaks. Conversely, the active group is for people who feel comfortable putting on the miles, sometimes six or more on an excursion. Routes take passengers through side alleys, up steep hills and staircases, and over cobbles or dirt paths. The pace is slightly faster than other groups might experience. Some excursions designated as active are less so, but others might send you on a hike up a hill to see castle ruins over tricky terrain, for example. Double-check with the cruise director if you have questions about how strenuous an activity actually is. Groups for active options tend to be smaller; in some cases, it might be just four to six passengers.
AmaViola also has a number of bikes onboard that are used for biking excursions in port. Passengers also can use them to explore on their own if they haven't been deployed for a tour. Bike excursions are done at a comfortable pace, and they generally stick to bike paths, though some riding through traffic in cities is necessary. Helmets are required, and all passengers must sign waivers to ride.
Excursion choices are great and varied, though naturally heavy on the many beautiful town squares and castles along Europe's rivers. The only miss on our Danube cruise was an excursion to a wine tasting in Vienna, where an accordion player serenaded us with loud American music and silly dancing. Several passengers noted they would rather have had a real tasting, with explanations of the wines while listening to genuine Austrian music.
Guides for excursions speak English well and know the regions and their histories intimately. On active excursions, guides are fit and willing to slow or speed their pace depending on the group needs.
Outside of excursions, little is offered during the day. Afternoon teas, with finger sandwiches and desserts, are served in the Main Lounge and are lightly attended. In the evening, cocktail hours, such as a welcome party and the captain's dinner event, take place. After dinner, a pianist plays, and passengers dance and sip wines. Local entertainers come aboard in select ports to perform after dinner; expect Austrian singers, for example, as well as some crowd interaction. Entertainment is fairly low-key, and while the quality is good, it appealed more to the older passengers onboard. A busy daytime schedule -- with early wake-up calls -- means most activities end by 11:30 p.m., and many passengers head to bed straight after dinner.
Most of the lectures onboard AmaViola come from the cruise manager, who speaks on various topics such as the music or history of the region. He or she also might speak when the boat is doing scenic cruising from one port to the next through particularly beautiful or historic regions, providing context and pointing out sights. Occasional activities, such as strudel making, are offered onboard as well, where participation is hands-on (and sticky!).
It's fairly easy to find a spot for chilling or quiet socializing onboard AmaViola, as the boat has several comfy seating areas throughout.
Main Lounge and Bar (Violin Deck): This is where pretty much every activity onboard AmaViola takes place. It's also where you'll find the biggest bar onboard. The brightly colored lounge is decorated in bright reds and teals, and loud -- but pleasant -- floral patterns. Seating around tables on couches and chairs is available for parties of four as well as larger groups. It's busiest right before dinner, when the cruise manager is providing details on the next day's activities. Cocktails, wine and beer are available, and passengers can try the cocktail of the day. The rear of the space is called the Observation Lounge, but it's truly just an extension of the Main Lounge and Bar, with views that face large windows at the front of the ship.
Al Fresco Terrace (Violin Deck): When the weather is nice passengers can hang out at the outdoor Al Fresco Terrace, located at the front of the ship, just off the Observation Lounge. Passengers can sit in wicker chairs with padded cushions, sipping drinks and watching the world go by.
Pool Bar (Sun Deck): A small, no-frills service bar is located on the Sun Deck, nestled against the pool, which features four underwater stools so passengers can belly up to the bar without drying off. The bar is loosely staffed, so if you get really thirsty, you might have to head to the Main Lounge and Bar.
The Sun Deck is AmaViola's top deck, and passengers congregate there in the afternoon if they're not in port. Shaded and open-sun options are available for people who wish to lounge in the dark brown wicker chairs. Passengers can play chess on the giant board.
Unusual on riverboats, AmaViola has a sizable heated pool, which has benches and stools (perfect because it's too small for actual swimming but quite comfortable for relaxing and quiet conversation).
The reception desk on AmaViola is located on the Violin Deck. This is where passengers can check in, settle their bills, pick up their ship safety cards (required every time they leave the ship) or make reservations for The Chef's Table. The cruise manager and hotel manager also have desks nearby to answer questions and provide excursion information, for example.
AmaViola has a gift shop located around the corner from the reception desk. Passengers can buy things like jewelry, ornaments, logo souvenirs and necessities, such as deodorant or aspirin. The ship doesn't have a true library, but passengers can borrow books or board games from a shelf located just off the Main Lounge.
The ship doesn't have self-service laundry facilities, but laundry is available onboard for a per-item fee. Ironing also is available.
AmaViola has one treatment room, located on the Piano Deck, that is used for a variety of massages, from 30 to 60 minutes. Massage offerings include foot and leg, head-to-toe deep tissue, and aromatherapy options. Massages start at 60 euros and are booked through the boat's reception desk. There's also a hair salon, which offers treatments like wash, set and blow dry or wash, cut, set and blow dry. Prices start at 16 euros for a men's dry cut and go up to 50 euros.
The ship's fitness center is located on the Piano Deck, adjacent to the massage room and hair salon. It includes two bikes and two treadmills along with one multifunctional fitness machine.
The top deck features a walking track, open from 8 a.m. until late evening. It is located directly above cabins on the third deck, which means heavy steps can be heard from below.
Additionally, AmaViola offers bicycles, which are used on some excursions but also are loaned out for on-your-own exploration of various ports.
Families are a relative rarity on AmaViola, but the ship is equipped to handle them. It offers 12 connecting cabins, and 12 have foldout sofas, allowing for third berths.
AmaViola stands out in the family category in part because of its partnership with Adventures By Disney. A handful of sailings each year are designated Adventures By Disney cruises. These journeys are designed specifically for families with children as young as 6 (though 8 is the minimum recommended age), and Disney's Adventure Guides serve as hosts to activities and programming on and off the ship.
While AmaViola has no kids club, various areas onboard, such as the Main Lounge, host events for the kids, designated as Junior Adventurer activities. Kids won't get bored with options like movie nights (with twists like a Sound of Music sing-along), pretzel-making, games and karaoke.
Excursions, too, are designed with family in mind. Kids will learn about history and explore Europe, while parents join in the fun and still have time for some adult events, such as wine tastings. Activities might include strudel-making, biking along the river, a private marionette show or dressing in historical costumes while exploring historic sites like the Schonbrunn Palace.
Children are encouraged to eat off the adult menus, but kid-friendly options are available at all meals. Women who are more than five months pregnant cannot sail on AmaViola.