At least one shore excursion is offered in each port of call, and all are free of charge (with the exception of some tours found on pre- and post-cruise land add-ons). Most are standard walking tours (some requiring motor coach transportation) where guides give an overview of the place passengers are visiting. Generally these are offered in gentle, regular and active groups so cruisers can tailor the experience to their physical abilities. Passengers sign up for tours in advance by filling out the appropriate forms and handing them in to the cruise manager. Cruisers then obtain colored cards at the front desk before disembarking. Those cards correspond with the tour for which each passenger has registered. Tour guides hold colored paddles resembling lollipops, which passengers can use to find their appropriate groups. When tuning QuietVox audio commentary listening devices, passengers need only to hold them up to their guide's lollipop, and the frequency will be set automatically.
In some ports, additional complimentary, capacity-controlled tours are offered. They generally include a walking tour with additional components, such as a visit to Amsterdam's Keukenhof flower gardens or a Rudesheimer coffee tasting in Rudesheim.
More than two dozen bicycles are stored onboard AmaKristina for passenger use in port. In some destinations, organized bike rides and hikes are offered for more active travelers.
Umbrellas, walking sticks and folding cane seats are located at the door near the gangplank for passenger use while ashore.
All passengers are asked to scan their room keys before leaving the ship and to scan them again when coming back onboard.
Note: Shuttles are offered in some ports for passengers wanting to explore on their own without taking an excursion. Otherwise, anyone wanting to poke around independently can sign up for a tour to make use of the transportation and then advise his or her guide that he or she will be leaving the group. (If you do this, be sure to take the ship's docking location and contact information with you, and note the meeting point and time if you plan to utilize the ship-provided transportation back to your vessel.)
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Since most of the daytime hours are spent in port, there aren't many activities planned during the day, if any. A small offshoot of the Lounge on the port side of Violin Deck offers a seating area with faux fireplaces, a handful of board games and a library. (By "library," we mean a single bookshelf.) Crossword puzzles and a selection of newspapers from several countries are available in the lobby, on a table just to the port side of the reception desk. In-cabin movies are also available on demand.
On days when the ship does scenic cruising through the Rhine Gorge, the cruise manager offers commentary in the Lounge and on the Sun Deck, as well as on in-cabin TVs.
Evenings are generally spent freshening up for dinner, but nighttime entertainment in the Lounge on our sailing consisted of a resident musician playing tunes on a piano and performances by several singers -- a solo artist, a singer and accordion player duo and two costumed crooners who hosted a bizarre ABBA dance party. We think onboard entertainment is one of AmaKristina's weakest links, but we were so tired after our days in port that even the best entertainment in the world wouldn't have kept us from retiring to bed shortly after dinner anyway.
Apart from the aforementioned scenic cruising commentary, the only other enrichment available onboard comes in the form of port talks offered by the cruise manager to prepare passengers for the destinations they're about to visit.
Soft drinks, beer and wine are available for free at lunch and dinner and during special happy hours and other scheduled events. (See your Daily Cruiser planner for details.) These drinks incur a charge when ordered from any of the ship's onboard bars at other times of the day.
Lounge & Bar: The ship's main lounge serves as the hub for special gatherings, port talks, scenic cruising, teatime and nighttime entertainment. It's the largest public space onboard, boasting large picture windows on three sides. The setup -- with clusters of tables, chairs and couches surrounding a central bar, food service area and piano -- feels homey and welcoming, as though you're relaxing in a friend's living room. Neutral colors and jewel-toned solids somehow blend harmoniously with bright, chaotic stripes and floral prints. (We have no idea how it works, but it definitely does.) The centrally located full-service bar features wine, beer and cocktails, as well as soft drinks for a fee. On one afternoon, we also spotted complimentary gemstone water (water infused with rose quartz, which is thought to help with poor circulation).
Sun Deck Pool Bar: A second bar is located on the pool deck, but given the chilly weather on our sailing, we never saw it in use.
Chef's Table: Bar service is available during the day by phone for anyone wishing to utilize The Chef's Table space.
The Sun Deck, AmaKristina's uppermost deck, is home to a giant chess set, a walking/jogging track (8 laps to a mile), a heated pool (which we never saw used, although it looked inviting) and, of course, the bridge. There's plenty of seating; passengers can grab coffee in the Lounge, carry it up one deck and enjoy it alfresco at one of several tables or grab a reclining sun lounger, either shaded by a canopy or umbrella or in the sun. The aft area of the Sun Deck is the only place onboard where smoking is permitted. The line also requests that, out of respect for other passengers, the jogging track not be used between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
The lobby area, midship on Violin Deck, is where passengers will find the main reception desk. That's the place to ask general questions, set up onboard accounts, obtain shore excursion color cards, set wake-up calls, book spa and salon appointments and swipe out before an excursion or back in after returning from one. Cruisers can also ask to borrow a variety of items from reception, including curling irons, voltage converters, blood pressure monitors, earplugs, reading glasses and shower chairs. A large safe is available, as well, for valuables too large to fit in passengers' cabin safes. The staff at reception is extremely friendly and accommodating, as are the hotel and cruise managers, whose desks are located midship on Violin Deck (up one flight of stairs from the reception desk). The cruise manager is who you'll want to see for all things shore excursion- and future cruise-related.
To the port side of reception is where you'll find daily newspapers and crossword puzzles, as well as information about UNESCO sites on your itinerary and the locks you'll be passing through as you sail the Rhine.
A small onboard shop, found starboard on Violin Deck between reception and the Lounge, sells a small selection of toiletries and AmaWaterways-branded clothing, as well as jewelry and local souvenirs like Christmas ornaments and dolls. (Hours vary; check your Daily Cruiser.)
A small but gorgeous glass elevator is available for passenger use, but due to top-deck height constraints, it doesn't service the Sun Deck.
AmaKristina does not have an onboard doctor or medical facility, but several crew members are trained in CPR and first aid. The ship is also never far from land, so emergency stops are possible if the need arises.
Found midship on Piano Deck are a single massage room for massage treatments and a small salon, which offers hair washing, cutting and styling (starting at 44 euros for all three). Massages are extremely affordable when compared with those offered on ocean cruises. We booked a 60-minute head-to-toe massage for 60 euros, and it was one of the best we ever had. Our specialist, who's also a physical therapist, was even able to give us pointers on improving general circulation and reducing swelling from a recent injury. Our travel companion also greatly enjoyed her 30-minute head and neck massage, which set her back just 30 euros.
There are no organized fitness classes onboard, but passengers can utilize the tiny gym midship on Piano Deck. It's spartan, offering TechnoGym equipment in the form of a treadmill that's recessed into the floor and two recumbent exercise bikes. The room is also stocked with water, towels, yoga mats and exercise balls. One wall features floor-to-ceiling mirrors so you can stare at yourself as you use the provided resistance pulleys.
AmaKristina does not have any dedicated children's facilities, but a handful of sailings are geared to families as part of AmaWaterways' partnership with Adventures by Disney. The program aims to incorporate Disney experiences into the itineraries the ship sails. Even so, AmaKristina is best for curious older children who are interested in history, exploring new cultures and meeting new people without the need for constant high-tech entertainment.