A choice of complimentary shore excursions is offered in each port, including an active one for passengers who want something more rigorous than the typical walking or motor coach tour. We found that these tours were genuinely challenging, with bike rides in the 14- to 21-mile range and castle hikes that really were uphill. If you don't like biking, don't worry; even the regular shore excursions divided groups into active, regular and gentle walking options.
A few specialty tours are held during the cruise that are geared toward special interests; these are capacity controlled. On our sailing, we chose the taste of Bratislava, where we were introduced to Slovakia's famed beer.
In some ports, the line offers experiences that cost an extra fee, such as a tour of Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens in Vienna. We attended the extra-fee classical music concert in Vienna, and found the program of Mozart and Strauss worth the 70 euro (most people on the ship went).
Passengers sign up for tours in advance, and the options are explained at a port talk given most nights. QuietVox headsets are used. In some of the larger cities, such as Vienna or Budapest, shuttle buses are available if people want to explore on their own.
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.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Exploring destinations is the main entertainment on a river cruise, so AmaLea is pretty quiet during the port days (and on a river cruise, every day is a port day). The ship has a small library off the Lounge with a faux fireplace, some board games and a few books. Crossword puzzles, postcards 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.
Just before dinner, the line has a complimentary "Sip and Sail" happy hour, so these were generally well-attended. The Lounge is less busy after dinner, but there's usually a few stalwarts enjoying drinks and listening to the resident musician or guest entertainers. Music trivia was held on one of the first nights, and we found it a great ice-breaker with the guests, as was Disco Night.
Most of the enrichment on AmaLea comes from excursions. On our sailing, there was an apple strudel demonstration, but that's about it. Wine cruises bring their own experts onboard for specialty classes and tastings.
With the addition of the Sip and Sail happy hour, soft drinks, beer and wine are now available at lunch, before dinner and during dinner. You'll have to pay at other times. In general, the river cruise crowd is a subdued one, although there are always a handful of people who like to stay up late. Wine cruises attract a younger and more sociable crowd.
Lounge & Bar (Violin Deck): The ship's main lounge serves as the social hub, and it's where you'll gather for port talks, light meals, teatime and nighttime entertainment. It's the largest public space onboard, with large picture windows and an alfresco covered area with seating at the front of the ship. Peanuts and pretzels are always available, as are cookies (both regular and gluten-free). The centrally located full-service bar features wine, beer and cocktails, as well as soft drinks for a fee. There's also a daily "detox" water that you can self-serve at the bar.
Sun Deck Pool Bar: AmaLea's pool has barstools at one end, and while we saw liquor bottles set up, we never saw anyone there pouring drinks, even when passengers were in the pool.
AmaLea's Sun Deck is a very attractive place to hang out during nice weather. It's home to a giant chess set, a walking/jogging track (8 laps to a mile), a heated pool with swim-up barstools and the bridge (tours are usually available at least once during a cruise). There's plenty of seating, with several different types of chairs and loungers. In the front of the Sun Deck, you'll find long sofas with comfy cushions, which are great for a midday snooze. The middle section of the Sun Deck has umbrellas and canopies shading tables and reclining lounges. Finally, the aft area is the only place onboard where smoking is permitted. The jogging track is not available between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. so passengers underneath aren't disturbed.
The lobby area is midship on Violin Deck, and you'll see it as soon as you enter the vessel. Here you'll find the main reception desk, where you 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. We found the staff at reception to be friendly and knowledgeable.
Up a flight of stairs you'll find the desks for the hotel and cruise managers. You'll talk to the cruise manager when you sign up for bike tours or if you have any questions about different shore excursions.
A small onboard shop is located between reception and the Lounge. You can buy AmaWaterways-branded clothing, as well as jewelry and local souvenirs like Christmas ornaments and dolls. (Hours vary; check your Daily Cruiser newsletter.)
A glass elevator is available for passenger use. It runs in between the passenger decks and the restaurant, but doesn't service the Sun Deck.
AmaWaterways has more of a commitment to fitness than most river cruise lines. Besides the active excursions, the line intends to put wellness coaches on all of its ships, including AmaLea, in 2019.
On the Piano Deck, there's 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 thought it was one of the best that we've had in Europe. The room can be noisy, however, as it's not far from the Restaurant; if you're the type who likes to snooze during your rubdown, book outside dining hours.
AmaLea has a tiny gym on the Piano Deck. It has TechnoGym equipment in the form of a treadmill that's recessed into the floor and two recumbent exercise bikes, as well as resistance pulleys. The room is also stocked with water, towels, yoga mats and exercise balls.
In 2019, an array of fitness classes will be added to AmaLea, run by the wellness coach. They will include stretching, yoga and core sessions, as well as circuit training. Guided runs may also take place.
Most river cruise ships do not have children onboard, and AmaLea does not have any dedicated children's facilities. A handful of sailings are geared to families as part of AmaWaterways' partnership with Adventures by Disney. The program incorporates Disney experiences into the itineraries that the ship sails. Older children who are interested in history and new cultures might enjoy AmaLea, but in general, it's an adult environment.