Unlike the majority of cruise lines, Amadeus does not include any excursions in the fare. This helps to keep the price of the cruises affordable, and will be appreciated by passengers who prefer to explore independently, pick and choose their land tours or simply relax and spend more time onboard. Three packages, ranging from a handful of tours to all the excursions available, can be booked in advance with a discount of 15 percent. They can also be booked individually once onboard.
There is a good choice of tours (nine on our weeklong itinerary), starting from €15 for a city walking tour. They are a mix of walking and coach tours, and on our Rhine sailing included visits to a Dutch cheese factory, a wine tasting and the amazing Siegfried's Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum in the pretty wine-making town Rudesheim. All English-speaking guests have dedicated guides, and ours were all very well-informed and happy to answer questions. All passengers receive personal earpieces and are given receivers when they leave the ship on excursions, and these enable them to hear the guide clearly without having to gather around in a huddle.
* May require additional fees
Amadeus has a very good system in place for keeping track of passengers. Some ships use keycards and it's easy to wander ashore without "clocking" in and out at reception. Cabin doors on Amadeus Silver III are opened by high-tech electronic tags, but these are attached to heavy keychains with tassels that you can't help but notice. Each time passengers leave the ship the keys are swapped for a personalized disembarkation card with the ship's telephone number. It was interesting to note that Amadeus operates a security system in busy towns, with a crew member stationed outside the gangplank asking to see the disembarkation cards of passengers who have gone out to explore independently (not those on organized group tours) before they can board. This is a reassuring policy that other lines should consider adopting.
Unusually, complimentary bottled water is not provided for excursions. It can be purchased from a table by reception for €2.30 for 25cl.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Like most river cruises, enjoying the scenery and going on shore excursions is the main focus. However, Amadeus offers some fun alternatives to the usual onboard entertainment. On our cruise visiting entertainers included a band of jolly nautical singers and musicians from Amsterdam who sang rousing sea shanties (something we'd never seen on a river ship before). Instead of the usual resident one-man band, there was a talented duo who were able to provide a wider repertoire, including music and songs for dancing and individual performances on the piano and violin.
Most notable of all was the themed pirate night, again something we had never experienced on a river cruise. Announced in the daily program on the day, some passengers threw themselves into the spirit of the occasion and cobbled together impromptu pirates' outfits with an assortment of scarves, bandanas and any suitable accessories they had to hand. Crew members dressed up, and when passengers went to dinner they entered the darkened dining room to be greeted by swashbuckling wait staff. Tables had been made to look as if they had been plundered, with cutlery piled higgledy-piggledy under napkins, glasses turned on their sides and the menu printed on "charred" paper. It was great fun.
Other entertainment during the week included an onboard treasure hunt, quiz and musical game.
There are no onboard lectures or workshops. However, the cruise director hosts a daily port talk and provides a running commentary when sailing through places of interest, such as the UNESCO-listed Upper Middle Rhine Valley.
Panorama Lounge (Deck 3): The main lounge situated forward on the Mozart Deck is home to the ship's bar, which is at its entrance. The horseshoe-shaped bar has cream bar stools on both sides, and it will remain open until the last passengers goes to bed. The bar menu is reasonably priced, with no automatic gratuities on the prices. Wines by the glass start at €3.70, with beer from €3. Cocktails are between €5.90 and €6.50, and nonalcoholic "mocktails" are €3.80. Each day the bar features a cocktail and mocktail of the day, which is flagged up in the daily program, and priced at €4 and €3 respectively.
The lounge, with its restful blue and cream decor, is large enough to accommodate all passengers, and the social heart of the ship. By day passengers sit and watch the scenery through the large panoramic windows, and in the evening it is the gathering place for pre- and post-dinner drinks, alternative dining and nightly entertainment.
River Terrace (Deck 3): Situated directly in front of the Panorama lounge is this sheltered glass-screened al fresco area with eight tables surrounded by comfy rattan chairs and couches with cushions. It's accessed through a set of double doors connected by a short corridor. This is a thoughtful design element that prevents passengers in the main lounge from being caught in a draught.
Amadeus Club Lounge (Deck 3): The ship's small secondary lounge is aft on the Mozart Deck. Decorated in tranquil light blue and silver gray tones, it's got floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides and is a lovely quiet spot to sit and watch the world float by. A variety of hot beverages is always available from the tea and coffee machine and there are jigsaws, board games and a small library of books to use and borrow during the cruise, and passengers can leave any of their own unwanted books for future guests. There is also a large flat-screen TV, although this was never switched on during our cruise and meant the lounge was a very peaceful spot. There is a small circular bar in the center of the lounge and the room is used for private cocktail parties, which can be organized on request for groups, and past-passenger get-togethers.
The open sun deck, with its attractive mock wood decking material, is set out with loungers, chairs and tables and there are sun shades and wind breaks. There is a giant chess set and shuffleboard area.
The main doors on the Strauss Deck lead into the bright lobby and reception area that has a long couch opposite the desk and two small tables with armchairs. Each day condensed newspapers -- in English and German -- are put on the reception desk, along with maps and information on the day's port of call. An innovative feature is the floor-to-ceiling virtual screen that shows an aquarium, classical concert or a fascinating speeded-up film showing the construction of Amadeus Silver III at the de Hoop shipyard in the Netherlands.
Also in the reception area is a small shop selling souvenirs, Amadeus-branded gifts and logowear and day-to-day essentials such as toiletry items. Postcards and stamps are sold in the shop, which can be handed in to reception staff who will post them at the next port of call. The shop is staffed by the onboard hairdresser, so opening times vary depending on her daily appointments and are posted on the front of the shop each day. Jewelry is also displayed in cabinets at the entrance to the Panorama Lounge.
Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship although, unlike the majority of lines, it is not complimentary for non-U.K. passengers. Packages are available for €8 a day or €35 per week. Possibly because not all passengers were using the internet due to the fee, the Wi-Fi signal was strong and consistent during our cruise. There are no public computers for passengers to use, so if you want to stay connected you will need to bring your own laptop, tablet or device.
Cleaning and pressing services are available for a fee. Prices for pressing range from €2 for a shirt or blouse to €8 for a ladies' suit, and washing is priced from €2 for small items such as underwear to €5.80 for skirts, pants, blouses and shirts. Items are returned within 24 hours and there is a 50-percent surcharge for an express 10-hour service.
The ship has an elevator serving all three passenger decks, but it does not go up to the sun deck, which has to be accessed by stairs.
Smoking is only allowed on the sun deck.
In terms of pampering, Amadeus Silver III boasts both an onboard masseuse and hairdresser. The massage room is located on lower Haydn Deck and offers a small menu of services -- Swedish, aromatherapy or reflexology massages -- which are priced at €30 for 25 minutes and €60 for 50 minutes, with no automatic gratuity added. The hair salon is located near the aft of the ship on the upper Mozart Deck, offering haircuts and styling for men and women. Prices range from €10 for a men's dry cut to €30 for a women's shampoo, cut, blow dry or set. Passengers book appointments at the main reception desk.
Passengers will find a very small gym on the lower Haydn Deck, which is open 24/7. It has one treadmill, one recumbent bike, one regular exercise bike and a rowing machine. There are also free weights and -- for anyone brave enough to step on after all the dawn to nighttime indulgences -- a set of scales. There are towels in the fitness room.
Each morning, usually at 7 a.m., the masseuse leads a free half-hour stretching class suitable for all abilities. Weather permitting it is held on the sun deck, and for those who wake up in time it is a wonderful way to start the day and watch the sunrise over the river. On inclement days it is held inside.
The vessel carries seven bicycles, available on a complimentary first-come, first-served basis, which guests can use to explore independently. Helmets are provided.
Children 12 years and older are permitted onboard. Those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by, and share a cabin with, a parent, legal guardian or responsible adult over the age of 21. Amadeus also reserves the right to limit the number of under-18s onboard. There are no children's facilities or special activities offered for youngsters and, in general, river cruising will only appeal to older children with an interest in history and culture. There are two pairs of cabins on the lower Haydn Deck that can be interconnected to provide a cabin for a family of up to four.