Standard river cruise entertainment fare is a pianist in the lounge. In addition to a resident musician, Brava pushes the boundaries with a stage, complete with a backstage area, situated in the lounge to provide a more sophisticated setting for entertainment. This is provided by musicians, singers, dancers and other artists who come onboard for the evening at different points during the itinerary. There is also a small dance floor.
The rest of the entertainment is fairly low key, with a nightly port talk and excursion overview from the cruise director, and presentations about the destinations. Board games and cards are available and there is a small onboard library that includes English-language guide books and fiction.
Also different from the norm, Brava's itineraries do not feature daily included excursions. One "taster" excursion is included in the price of every cruise, and U.K. passengers may find some additional excursions have been packaged by their tour operator and are included in the cruise.
* May require additional fees
The line's rationale is that passengers, many of whom might have visited Rhine destinations in the past, do not always want an organized city tour and either want to explore independently or opt for something a bit different. As a result, A-Rosa has put together a comprehensive selection of excursions divided into four categories: discovery, adventure, gourmet and biking tours. They cover everything from castle visits and trips to wineries to boat excursions and challenging bike rides. Prices start from around €19 and they can all be booked during the cruise at the guest relations desk.
Moving away from the large, all-purpose lounge and bar -- which is the heart of many river vessels -- A-Rosa features a number of smaller, more intimate areas that are akin to a small hotel and provide more choice.
They are all situated on Deck 3 and lead off from the 24-hour reception desk, starting with the lounge and bar and moving on to the cafe area, which is served by the other side of the horseshoe-shaped bar. There is then the buffet and main restaurant, leading to the wine bar with its indoor and outdoor seating. Decor throughout is colorful and modern (and in places very orange!), including yellow-and-orange striped walls and clusters of orange lights in the airy central atrium, which is linked to other decks by a sweeping circular staircase. Carpets feature a scattered rose petal design.
Further stairs lead to the Sun Deck, where there are plenty of loungers, chairs and tables. Brava does not have a lift.
The onboard shop, in the main lobby on Deck 2, sells a selection of gifts, jewelery, everyday essentials and A-Rosa-branded products and logowear.
This area is a standout feature as on many vessels, the euphemistically named "spa" or "gym" are little more than a spare passenger cabin with a massage table or a few cramped pieces of gym equipment. Claiming to have the only professional river cruise spa in Europe, Brava's spa and fitness facility is located forward on Deck 3. Staffed by a massage therapist and fitness instructor, the spa's reception desk and shop lead to two treatment rooms, one overlooking the river.
The spa menu features St Barth and Babor-branded products, and a special A-Rosa rose-scented massage oil has been created in conjunction with Babor. St Barth treatments range from €39 for a body scrub to €124 for a 90-minute facial and body massage. The Babor menu starts at €34 for a 25-minute cosmetic treatment and there is also an exclusive 90-minute A-Rosa massage using warm rose quartz semi-precious stones followed by a rose oil massage for €129. The spa has an indoor relaxation area, overlooking the front of the ship, leading to an outdoor relaxation area and whirlpool. There is also a sauna.
The gym, with panoramic windows so passengers can work out while looking at the passing scenery, is equipped with a Life Fitness treadmill, elliptical trainer and bike, and there are also exercise mats, weights, Swiss balls and step equipment.
Activities onboard include fitness classes and yoga, and passengers can use the 15 onboard bikes -- which are available on a first-come, first-served basis-- to cycle into ports of call or along the river bank. The Sun Deck includes a giant chess board, synthetic putting green and deck games such as shuffleboard.
Most river cruise vessels, with their culture-heavy itineraries, are not geared to young children and teenagers. However, A-Rosa bucks the trend with a family-friendly policy that extends to free travel for children under 15. Brava has some interconnecting cabins that would be suitable for families with older youngsters. That said, there are no specific onboard entertainment programs or facilities for children, so parents need to consider if their offspring will be bored by the fairly staid routine of life onboard, punctuated by visiting ports of call along the way as part of organized or independent shore excursions (the cruise director can suggest places and attractions that are family friendly and more exciting for younger visitors). It should also be noted that baby-listening devices do not work on river vessels.