Amadeus differs from the majority of cruise lines as it does not include any excursions in the fare (with the exception of certain group packages that include some shore tours). This helps to keep the price of 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, which range from a handful of tours to all the excursions available during the cruise, can be booked in advance for a discount of 15 percent. They can also be booked once onboard.
There is a varied choice of tours, which start from around 15 euros for a city walking tour. They are a mix of walking and coach tours, and on our Rhine sailing these included a standout boat safari tour in the Danube Delta. English-speaking guests have dedicated guides, and ours were all extremely knowledgeable. All passengers have personal earpieces and receivers in their cabins, which enable them to hear the guide clearly without having to huddle around.
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. Electronic tags attached to heavy keychains with tassels open cabin doors on Amadeus Brilliant. Every time passengers leave the ship the keys are swapped for a personalized disembarkation card with the ship's telephone number.
Complimentary bottled water is not provided for excursions (with the exception of some group tours). It can be purchased in the shop for 2.30 euros for 25cl.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Like most river cruises, enjoying the scenery and going on shore excursions is the main focus. However, instead of the usual onboard one-man band, there was the talented "Brilliant Duo," Milena and Ivan, who provided a wide repertoire that included music and songs for dancing -- on the small floor in front of the bar -- and individual performances on the grand piano. There was also piano music during afternoon tea.
Most notable of all was the colorful themed pirate night; something we have never experienced on any other river cruise line. Announced in the daily program on the day of the event, some passengers threw themselves into the spirit of the occasion and made up pirates' outfits with an assortment of scarves, bandanas and any suitable accessories they had to hand. Crew members dressed up, and when passengers went into the restaurant they were loudly greeted by swashbuckling wait staff. Tables had been made to look as if they had been plundered, with chairs turned over on the floor, cutlery piled in a heap under napkins, glasses turned on their sides and the menu printed on "charred" paper. It was huge fun and there was no pressure for passengers to join in if they didn't want to.
Other entertainment during the cruise included an onboard treasure hunt, quizzes and a musical dance game.
The cruise director provides an insightful daily port talk in the Panorama Lounge, along with a commentary when sailing through places of special interest.
Panorama Lounge (Deck 3): The main lounge situated forward on the Mozart Deck is home to the ship's bar, which is located by the entrance. The horseshoe-shaped bar is surrounded by 12 barstools and remains open until the last passengers go to bed. The bar menu is reasonably priced, with no automatic gratuities. Wines by the glass start at 3.90 euros, with beer from 3 euros. Cocktails are between 3.50 euros, for drinks such as mimosa, to 7 euros for Long Island iced tea. There are also nonalcoholic "mocktails" that start at 3.90 euros.
The lounge, with its restful red and cream decor, is large enough to accommodate all passengers, and is 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 and nightly entertainment.
River Terrace (Deck 3): Situated directly in front of the Panorama Lounge, this is an alfresco area with cushioned rattan chairs and couches. It is a lovely spot to watch the passing scenery on sunny days. It is accessed through a set of double doors from the main lounge. This is a thoughtful design element that prevents passengers sitting near the door from being caught in a draught.
Amadeus Club (Deck 3): Amadeus Brilliant's small second lounge is located aft on the Mozart Deck. Decorated in peaceful red and taupe tones and with nautical ornaments such as yachts and ships in bottles, it has floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides and is a beautiful, quiet place 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 jigsaw puzzles, board games and a small library of books in English and other languages to borrow during the cruise. Passengers can also leave any of their own unwanted books for future guests. There is a flat-screen TV on one wall, although this was never switched on during our cruise and meant the lounge was very peaceful. There is a small oval bar, with stools, at one side of the room, along with eight round tables and chairs and a lower rectangular table used for puzzles. The Amadeus Club is used for private cocktail parties, which can be organized on request for groups, and past-passenger get-togethers.
A door leads to a small outside deck wrapped around the back of the ship, which does not have any chairs. From here, stairs lead up to the Sun Deck.
The large Sun Deck runs the length of the ship and has mock wood decking material, which provides a nice traditional look. Throughout the deck there are plenty of tables and reclining chairs, along with sunshades and windbreaks. There is a shuffleboard area and giant chess set, and although there is no designated walking area many passengers stretch their legs and take in the fresh air by doing circuits of the deck.
There is a small glass-bottomed water feature with a primary purpose of throwing natural light onto the atrium below. Surrounded by wooden decking, some passengers have been known to tip their toes into it -- or more -- on hot days.
The main doors on the Strauss Deck lead into an airy lobby and reception area that has three couches and two tables. Every day, summarized newspapers -- in English, German and French -- are put on the reception desk, along with maps and information on the day's port of call, the weather forecast and the times of sunrise and sunset. Passengers can also help themselves to a bowl of free candies.
Opposite the reception desk is a small shop selling souvenirs, day-to-day essentials such as toiletry items, Amadeus-branded gifts and logowear. The onboard hairdresser staffs the shop, 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 and is included in some packages but not others, depending on the type of booking. If it is not included, internet packages cost 8 euros per day or 35 euros per week. During our cruise, the signal was very good, but due to the nature of river cruises this can never be guaranteed. There is one public computer in the Amadeus Club, which is available for passengers to use.
Cleaning and pressing services are available for an additional fee. Prices for pressing range from 3.80 euros for a shirt or blouse to 8.50 euros for a ladies' suit. Washing is priced from 2.20 euros for small items such as underwear to 5.90 euros 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.
Amadeus goes above and beyond the facilities you will find on most river lines as there is both an onboard massage therapist and hairdresser. The massage room is located on the lower Haydn Deck and offers a small menu of services -- Swedish, aromatherapy or reflexology massages -- which are priced at 45 euros for 25 minutes and 70 euros for 50 minutes, with no automatic gratuity added. The hair salon is next to the massage room. Accommodating one passenger at a time, it offers haircuts and styling for men and women. Prices range from 12 euros for a men's dry cut to 39 euros for a women's shampoo, cut, blow out or set. Appointments are booked at the reception desk.
There is a small gym next to the stairs leading to the lower Haydn Deck. Open 24/7, the gym has two upright exercise bikes, one recumbent bike and a rowing machine. There are also free weights, exercise mats and a Swiss ball. Towels are provided and the mirrored room also has a TV.
Each morning, usually at 7:30 a.m., the massage therapist leads a free half-hour stretching class suitable for all abilities. Weather permitting it is held on the Sun Deck, and for early risers it is a wonderful way to start the day. On inclement days it is held in the gym.
The vessel carries five bicycles, available on a complimentary first-come, first-served basis, which guests can use to explore independently. Helmets and locks are also provided.
In general, river cruising is not suitable for very young children and will only interest older kids and teenagers who are keen on culture and history. Children aged 12 years and older are permitted onboard Amadeus Brilliant (with the exception of full ship charters when smaller children are allowed, and some have been as young as 2). 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 children.