At least one shore excursion per port is included in the cruise price. Outings range from city walking tours led by local guides, to farther afield sojourns. On the Danube cruise, for instance, longer excursions included half- and full-day tours to Salzburg, Austria, and another to the medieval Czech city of Cesky Krumlov.
Some tours are divided into three activity levels -- gentle, regular and active. Ship-provided audio receivers are used on some tours.
AmaWaterways has added more strenuous pursuits to its excursion menu, including hiking and cycling tours. On our Danube cruise, options included hikes to hilltop castles in Passau, Germany, and Durnstein, Austria.
Several optional tours are available at an added cost. On our sailing, they included a Strauss and Mozart concert and a visit to Schonbrunn Palace, both in Vienna. Several excursions, such as the "Apricots and Sweets" tour in Austria's Wachau Valley, accommodate a limited number of guests.
Local maps issued by the cruise line aren't adequate to guide you on in-depth exploring on your own. If you're touring solo or like to do your own thing, plan a stop at the tourist office, or bring a guidebook.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Staple onboard entertainment consists of a keyboard player who entertains in the AmaSonata Lounge at lunch, at teatime and after dinner. In some ports, outside entertainers come aboard. On our cruise, they included an Austrian duo performing Sound of Music song and dance numbers, and Hungarian folk dancers in Budapest. There's a dance floor, which saw some action on some nights.
Aside from a few port orientation talks given by the cruise director and a talk on life in Hungary under Communism, there weren't a lot of lectures. On our embarkation day in Vilshofen, Germany, local dancers and musicians entertained at an Oktoberfest-style event outside the ship. In the quaint Austrian town of Weissenkirchen, an after-dinner wine tasting at a historic wine pub gave guests the chance to meet the proprietor of a winery that's been in the family since 1754.
A spacious main lounge, sweeping upper deck and a few smaller nooks tucked throughout the ship provide a variety of spots for conversation or quiet time.
AmaSonata Lounge (Violin Deck): This bright and airy room serves as the main onboard entertainment venue. It's decked out in bold floral patterns, and at its center is a large ship's-bow-shaped buffet, where morning pastries, a light lunch, tea goodies and late-night snacks are served. Groupings of sofas, chairs and tables divide the space and provide plenty of room for conversation or reading. At one end is the 10-seat Strauss Bar. The bar menu is in euros. Classic cocktails, such as a gin fizz and Brandy Alexander cost 6.80. A glass of house wine is 5.50. Soft drinks cost 2 euros. There's a varied tea selection and a coffee machine that dispenses espresso drinks at no charge.
A pianist entertains after dinner, at lunch and during tea. The small dance floor doubles as a performance space for outside entertainers.
Observation Lounge (Violin Deck, forward): The forward area of the main lounge sports floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows, hence its name. But it's really part of the main lounge.
Al Fresco Terrace (Violin Deck, forward): This compact outdoor area is furnished with patio dining tables for those who want to grab a light lunch or snack from the lounge and enjoy the view as the ship plies the river.
The Chef's Table (Violin Deck, aft): Though this is a dinner-only eatery, it's open during the day for passengers who want to play cards, socialize or just enjoy the view. There's a small bar; pick up the phone for service.
Pool Bar (Sun Deck): The ship's top-deck pool has a four-seat swim-up bar, though on our cruise, we never saw it open.
The Sun Deck is an open, inviting area that spans the length of AmaSonata's top deck. There's a small heated pool with seats on either side that allows you to comfortably submerge. At one end is a swim-up bar. Multiple tables for four invite guests to play cards, or just relax and soak up the sun. There also are lounge areas -- covered and uncovered. An oversized chess set beckons players. Tucked on the Lower Sun Deck in front of the navigation bridge is a massive wicker-like sofa and more chairs, along with additional tables for four. At the rear of the Sun Deck is a smoking area, the only onboard spot where smoking is allowed.
A running oval measures about 170 meters around, meaning you'd need 10 laps or so to log a mile. Because cabins are located directly below, guests are requested to refrain from jogging from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.
The front desk is in the elegant atrium lobby facing a round, glass elevator. The cruise director and hotel manager have opposing desks on a mezzanine just above the front desk. There's no business center, but passengers can use the printer to get airline boarding passes.
A small wood-paneled library tucked off the Strauss Bar is furnished with comfy sofas that face twin gas fireplaces. Daily news digests from the U.S., Canada and Great Britain can be picked up here, plus games such as Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble.
The ship's gift shop, also off the main lounge, tends more toward souvenir items (decorative beer steins, Christmas ornaments) than necessities you might have left at home.
Wi-Fi is free, and on our sailing, was reliable.
The spa consists of a single treatment room. Services are limited to basic 30- and 60-minute massages, including back, shoulder and neck; foot and leg; and full body and aromatherapy massages. Prices range from 30 to 75 euros. We found them serviceable but not outstanding.
The spa's therapist also does duty as the beautician in the ship's single-chair salon.
The fitness center isn't large, but it's light and inviting. It has two stationary bikes with touch screen entertainment that face a floor-to-ceiling window. A credenza holds an oversized bouquet of silk flowers, bottled water, lemon slices and a basket of fresh towels. Two treadmills are cleverly sunk slightly below floor level, allowing more head room for tall joggers. A compact machine enables a multi-muscle-group workout. Just run a fingertip over the dial set into the mirror in front of you to adjust the weight. Hand weights, floor mats and an exercise ball are also available.
Bicycles can be checked out for free in port.
This isn't a ship for young children. There are no connecting cabins and it lacks programs for little ones. The line discourages bringing children under age 8. Plus, guests under 18 must share a cabin with an adult, and no additional beds are provided.