Typically, after your first ocean cruise, you have an idea if you prefer megaships with plenty of on board activities like rock climbing walls and Broadway caliber entertainment. Or maybe you prefer the intimate cruise ships with a naturalist pointing out unique flora and fauna during shore excursions and perhaps a winemaker cruising with guests who delves deep into terrior discussions during sea days? You’ve probably toured parts of Europe before, but now you want a chance to dig deeper into the history of a particular region without the headache involved of planning your vacation and mapping out the itinerary. Welcome to European river cruising. AmaWaterways luxury river cruise line brings Europe to your
front door French balcony, combining the comfort of a five star hotel, with the excitement of active and informative shore excursions. Best of all, you only have to pack and unpack once. Indeed, your most difficult question of the day might be what type of wine you’d like with your main course. If this sounds like you, then perhaps you are ready for a European river cruise?
This was my first time cruising with Amawaterways on the romantic Danube River and I was pleasantly impressed. The food was very good, the staff was excellent and a Unesco World Heritage Sites river cruise is an ideal fit for the curious traveler. Read on, as I introduce you to what to expect on Amawaterways luxury river cruise ships.
“I knew we wanted to cruise with a group of six,” said Joan Koss of Thousand Oaks, California. “We’d all traveled together before, but none of us had experienced a river cruise. It was important for me that we had a new ship and the AmaStella was wonderful. We booked our room a year in advance in order to get one of the four suites. We also loved the active shore excursions. We took advantage of the bikes on board. The ship itself met all of our expectations and the staff was excellent.”
Amawaterways staterooms & suites
There are 81 staterooms on the AmaStella, including four lovely (and spacious) 350 square foot suites.The AmaStella has a capacity of 158 guests, with 121 passengers on our sailing. AmaStella was a new ship when I sailed with Amawaterways on the romantic Danube river cruise itinerary. When I asked passengers what was important in selecting a specific river cruise ship or stateroom, the most often mentioned requirement was that the ship be fairly new. The other requirement was a stateroom with a balcony – AmaStella offers twin balconies in most staterooms. Having said that, value-conscious passengers opted for Piano Deck (100 level) staterooms with only a window and, obviously, no balcony. The logic with 100 deck staterooms is that you are only going to be in your stateroom for sleeping, so why pay balcony-level pricing?
My husband and I stayed on Cello Deck in cabin 204 with a balcony. This was an ideal location for us, with the main restaurant on this floor as well as the elevator. Violin Deck, level 3, includes the alfresco terrace, observation lounge, main lounge and bar, gift shop and reception. The Chef’s Table Restaurant is located at the back of Violin Deck, on level 3. Staterooms on all levels are separated by a lobby and stairwell, so there is a nice, clean separation of staterooms and public gathering areas.
Stateroom features include in-room thermostat, Egyptian linen bedding, duvet and down pillows. I was pleasantly surprised by the generous size of the bathroom and the multi-jet showerhead. Outside the bathroom is a full length mirror, wardrobe closet with safe, mini-fridge, a hair dryer and umbrellas in the closet. (One less thing that I needed to pack in my carry on.)
I liked the flat-screen tv that doubled as a computer, in addition to tv, on demand movies and a music library. Complimentary internet and wifi are included in the cost of the river cruise. Complimentary bottled water is replenished daily and I looked forward to my nightly sweet on the pillow. Quiet box headsets for daily shore excursions, with charging stations, are available in-room on the desk. Did I mention that complimentary postcards are available for sharing memories with friends and loved ones? Amawaterways even takes care of the stamp and mailing. Yes, it’s the little things like this that remind me of why attention to detail is so important in creating bucket list-worthy vacations.
Violin Deck, on level 3, is very comparable to level 2, with the sun deck, heated swimming pool, walking track and navigation bridge above level 3, instead of staterooms. It should be pointed out that Violin Deck, level 3, is where the cruise manager and hotel manager hold office hours. Who doesn’t love concierge service?
On our sailing with AmaStella, Viktoria Tuboly from Budapest served as our gracious hotel manager, while John Riley from the UK served as our incredibly organized and hospitable cruise manager. I have to say that the entire crew, from Captain Wijnand Korvemaker to Executive Chef Thorge Rathjen, and every server and behind-the-scenes staff was a pleasure to interact with at all times. It was a joy to sail aboard the AmaStella and I heard nothing but rave reviews from fellow passengers.
Amawaterways gourmet dining
I’ve had the opportunity to sail with multiple river cruise lines and I can tell you from first-hand experience that you will not go hungry on this floating hotel. The regionally inspired cuisine is locally sourced with the chef picking up ingredients at farmers’ markets and with vendors every seven days.
The Chef’s Table specialty restaurant is unique to Amawaterways with no additional charge to guests – a refreshing change from the up-selling that many cruise ships do. Dress up for the Captain’s welcome cocktail and dinner or dress casual, there is no dress code.
Unlimited wine, beer and soft drinks are served with lunch and dinner and unlimited sparkling wine and fresh juice, as well as a smoothie of the day, is offered during breakfast. Guests have the option of a daily changing menu with “Chef Recommendations” as well as a wide range of choices from the buffet. Breads and pastries were baked fresh daily and the chocolates, yes, those, too, were made in house! This is the place to celebrate a special occasion or birthday.
I always wonder if anyone uses the fitness rooms on board cruise ships, because there are so many exercise options available on the shore excursions. On our sailing, there were plenty of athletic passengers taking advantage of the fitness center on deck 1, as well as the on board mountain bikes available to guests when we were docked.
“Nice fitness center, mainly for an aerobic workout,” according to Daniel Kane of Westlake Village, California. “Two nice treadmills and two bicycles make for a good workout. One piece of equipment for weight workout using pulleys. It’s not meant for someone serious about weights, but you can keep toned while on the cruise.”
Need to know:
Airport transfers are included when you purchase airfare from AmaWaterways. Having never been to the Czech Republic, we took advantage of the pre-cruise land package with a Prague hotel stay included in the price. There are so many things to see and do in Prague. Do visit if you have the time. There’s also an option of a post-cruise land package on every river cruise, including destinations in Africa and Asia.
Unlike ocean cruises, where the cost of WiFi access is very expensive, AmaWaterways offers guests complimentary internet access throughout the river cruise. Of course, sometimes internet is spotty when transitioning in and out of locks, but, overall, I found the WiFi access reliable and accessible. I was even able to upload videos to YouTube on board. There’s also Apple TV’s in staterooms for watching movies and, of course, viewing the safety video. Again, unlike ocean cruising, you’ll be able to see the shoreline 100% of your time on board, a plus for anyone weary of water. The river cruise ships have excellent safety records. The only real challenge is if a captain or crew member were to have issues lowering the retractable wheelhouse when passing under a low bridge. To date, this has never been an issue for AmaWaterways.
One of my favorite things about cruising with AmaWaterways was the bikes on board the river cruise ships. The mountain bikes on board are especially appealing for the active adventure baby boomer or those traveling with younger family members. Personally, I would not hesitate to bring along our children for a multi-generational trip. For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and Instagram @Nancydbrown and follow @Amawaterways on Twitter and Instagram.
If You Go:
More information, including prices, may be found on AmaWaterways website, www.amawaterways.com
Article written by, YouTube video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. Disclosure: thanks to the folks at AmaWaterways for making this trip possible. This was my first time cruising with AmaWaterways and I would absolutely recommend this company! All opinions are my own.