One of the best parts of an Adventures by Disney cruise is the carefully planned shore excursions that attempt to maximize your time in each port city. Adventure Guides themselves (some of whom hail from the European port cities you'll visit) or other tour guides deliver historical and cultural information in a format that is fun and easy for kids and adults to digest, including both adventurous options and more relaxed choices.
Before your Adventures by Disney cruise, you'll receive a packet with information outlining various shore excursion selections. Generally, you'll have your choice of two to four complimentary picks each day, from half- to full-day tours, and occasionally an evening option, such as a classical music concert at Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna. There are no upcharges for any of the excursion options as there are on some river cruises.
The tours generally have both family-focused and adult options, and you can always explore cities on your own, if you wish. For example, in Passau, Germany, passengers might choose between Tree Path Kopfing, an outdoor adventure playground in the trees, or a beer tour and tasting at Aldersbacher Brewery. Another stop in Salzburg, Austria, provides the option of careening through an underground salt mine or visiting the Mondsee Abbey from "The Sound of Music." Passengers are not discouraged from choosing the "adult" choices even if they have kids along -- usually the Adventure Guides can help entertain the kids, such as by whisking them off for an outdoor maze while adults tour a palace.
Adventure Guides will help you with your selections, and you can usually change your mind up to the day of your tour, if you wish. There are times when inclement weather may preclude some activities, and occasionally, popular tours will have a waiting list for people hoping to join at the last minute. We never found this to be a problem on our trip. Rain canceled our Tree Path Kopfing trip, but our backup option to tour the brewery while the kids played games with new friends and ate ice cream was great.
Active passengers might enjoy some of the bicycling tours offered along the Danube River -- there was even a four-hour ride from Melk to Krems, Austria -- and the steep hike in Durnstein up to the ruins of a famous castle.
Some of the tours have you walk right off the ship for a city tour, while others will involve shuttling groups to farther destinations by luxury coach. The buses on our trip always had a tiny onboard restroom, which we appreciated on longer trips with little ones. On most tours, you'll use Quietvox headsets, which are always kept charging in your cabin. Umbrellas and walking sticks are available for passenger use on the tours, as well.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Though shore excursions are the main focus of an Adventures by Disney cruise on AmaLea, there are still things to do back on the ship between tours. For example, many kids loved challenging their parents or each other to a game of giant chess up on the Sun Deck. There are also a few board games and books located in a nook in the Lounge. In the late afternoon, passengers might be treated to an ice cream party in the Lounge or a refreshing Kaiserspritzer (wine spritzer) served in the Lounge and Sun Deck, depending on the itinerary.
Most days, there is an early evening tea time with sandwiches and cakes, along with live music from an onboard musician in the Lounge, followed by the Sip & Sail cocktail hour, with a complimentary featured drink before dinner.
One day, the Adventure Guides challenged families to an onboard scavenger hunt, the Danube River Race Rally, where passengers had to explore the ship to find clues and do various challenges (such as learning how to say "I love to eat chocolate ice cream with broccoli" in Czech).
AmaLea hosts various local talents throughout the cruise for evening entertainment, including a pair of opera singers one night who provided a fun-spirited glimpse into common opera themes, a Hungarian Folklore Show with music and dance or karaoke. These were generally well attended. The Lounge provided a comfortable space where passengers curled up together on the couch and enjoyed these shows.
The in-room TVs also include a selection of complimentary movies for winding down in the afternoon or evening.
You won't find any additional lectures or demonstrations outside of the ones included with shore excursions. That said, the evening entertainment, featuring performers hailing from the port cities, gives passengers an insightful glimpse into the cultural traditions of the regions you'll be visiting.
You'll enjoy complimentary soft drinks, plus beer and wine during lunch and dinner, Champagne with your breakfast mimosa, plus the Sip & Sail happy hour, featuring complimentary cocktails before dinner. If you wish to order a drink outside of these times, you'll have to pay.
If you're a coffee drinker, help yourself to the self-service espresso machine located inside the Lounge at all hours, where the press of a button delivers a latte, mocha or quick shot of caffeine.
Lounge & Strauss Bar (Violin Deck): The Lounge, open 24 hours, functions as the ship's central "living room." Filled with comfortable couches and chairs situated near large windows overlooking the water, passengers gravitate here for light breakfasts and lunches, afternoon teatime and cocktails and evening entertainment.
On some nights, Adventure Guides host special Junior Adventurer Movie Nights" or kids here, with kid-friendly buffet foods, so that parents can enjoy a quiet dinner alone.
You'll always be able to find a snack here throughout the day and night (the paprika crackers became a cult favorite), as well as serve-yourself water and iced tea and even a "detox" gemstone water. The Strauss Bar serves up a full selection of beer, wine, cocktails and soft drinks.
Sun Deck Pool Bar: There is a Pool Bar on the Sun Deck that allegedly functions as a bar, with barstools right inside the pool, but it was never open on our cruise.
Whenever the sun is shining, you'll find plenty of fellow passengers lounging, visiting and taking photos on AmaLea's Sun Deck, where lounge chairs are lined up under shaded awnings midship, as well as plush chairs and couches at the ship's forward. Here, you'll find a walking and jogging track (eight laps equal 1 mile) and a heated, shallow pool that truly feels relaxing on a chilly, moonlit night. At the ship's aft is a designated smoking section. You'll also find a giant chess game here -- surprisingly popular among the kids during an Adventures by Disney cruise.
The lobby on the Violin Deck hosts the reception area where you'll collect your shore excursion color card before heading out for the day, make dinner reservations at Chef's Table, settle your onboard account and make any other appointments, such as for the spa and salon. Nearby, there are crossword puzzles, newspapers and complimentary postcards -- the reception staff will even mail these for you free of charge.
The next level up is where you'll find the cruise director's and hotel manager's desks. These staff members work closely with the team of Adventure Guides, and you'll find them on hand to answer any questions you have about tours or handle issues that arise while onboard the AmaLea. Overall, we were surprised by how hands-on the crew was on our cruise, whether it was seeing the ship's captain assisting our 4-year-old down the stairs by hand or watching the hotel director treat kids to a second scoop of ice cream from the buffet.
Between the reception desk and the Lounge is a small gift shop, open during daytime hours, featuring locally made items such as wooden toys, scarves, jewelry and ornaments, along with basic toiletries.
There is a glass elevator that can take passengers between the main decks and the restaurant on the Violin, Cello and Piano decks. It does not go up to the Sun Deck.
Laundry and ironing services are available onboard -- you'll find bags and a price list inside the closet of your stateroom. Put out any items that need laundering on your bed in the morning or before dinner and they will be returned within 24 hours.
Note that there is no doctor available onboard. If passengers require medical assistance, the ship staff can help connect them with a medical facility at one of the ports.
The focus is mostly on family as opposed to individual fitness on an Adventures by Disney cruise on AmaLea (so don't expect the wellness and fitness classes that are provided on an AmaWaterways cruise on the ship). If you're seeking a good workout, look to the cycling shore excursions, which are provided for various fitness levels, from leisurely one-hour rides for beginning cyclists to more rigorous four-hour rides. In addition to these planned excursions, there are a limited number of bicycles and helmets for passengers to use whenever the ship is in port. Make your complimentary reservation at the reception desk.
You'll find the one-room massage and salon on the Piano Deck, one deck below the main Cello Deck, where hair services and massages can be booked (from 60 minutes for 60 euros (about $70)). Consider booking outside of dining hours -- Passengers report that due to the proximity to the ship's restaurant, the room can be noisy during massages during dining hours.
On the Piano Deck across from the spa and salon, you'll find a small gym open 24 hours with Technogym equipment: a treadmill, two exercise bikes, exercise balls, yoga mats and resistance equipment. There are two small porthole-size windows here lighting the room, and it's stocked with bottled water and towels. Children under 14 must have an adult with them while in the fitness room.
Though on other AmaLea voyages, you would be hard-pressed to find any children, Adventures by Disney cruises were designed with children and families in mind. So, nearly all of the onboard activities and shore excursions are suitable for kids, from the glasses of orange juice at the "bon voyage" toast to pajama parties in the Lounge with the Adventure Guides. Note that there are no actual child care facilities or babysitting services on the ship, and children must be at least 4 years old to take an Adventures by Disney cruise.