Danube Cruise with AmaWaterways

Meriel Lowe reports back from the Danube

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Danube Cruise with AmaWaterways

How lovely in this day and age to receive a thick document pouch containing very attractive luggage tags, personalised itinerary/tour/information booklet, and accompanying guide book from AmaWaterways. This sets the scene for the quality experience and product lying ahead.

AmaWaterways AmaSerena

AmaWaterways AmaSerena

The river ship, AmaSerena, is spotless, both inside and out. She has a welcoming main lounge with comfortable sofas and chairs you simply sink in to, where the Captain’s Cocktail parties, welcome talks and briefings, afternoon tea and evening entertainment take place. A selection of snacks is offered here throughout the day and it is also the location of the ship’s bar. Just off it is a small but cosy ‘library’, and forward is an outdoor seating area overlooking the ship’s bow.

AmaSerena Reception

AmaSerena Reception

Also on this deck is the reception, the heart of the ship with stairs to the other decks and a lift which connects the dining room on Piano Deck (but not the Piano Deck cabins), Cello and Violin decks but not the sun deck. Aft on Violin Deck is a fitness room, the hair salon and massage room and The Chef’s Table restaurant, available during the day for sitting in, watching the beautiful views and (if necessary) perfect for ‘working’ on a laptop, whilst then transforming into an elegant dining venue by night. On the top (sun) deck is a heated pool with swim-up bar, a walking track, large chess board, comfortable seating (with blankets should you be chilly) and parasols and gazebos.

AmaSerena Twin Balcony Stateroom

AmaSerena Twin Balcony Stateroom

Accommodation ranges from D/E grade on Piano Deck (160 sq. ft) with fixed windows at eye level, up to the suites on Violin Deck, which at 300 sq. ft have both a French and an outside balcony and a large bathroom with bath tub and double vanity unit. In between the cabins follow the same theme with a double balcony or only a French balcony, with their size and the bathroom size correspondingly decreasing as so does the price. The shower area is spacious with raindrop showers and hand-held showers, toiletries of a very good quality, fluffy white towels, bathrobes and slippers. To maximise the holiday experience I would strongly recommend having a cabin with a balcony; these are very light and airy and permit you to enjoy the views from the seclusion of your own sanctuary.

The cuisine is excellent, with dishes reflecting the cruising area of the day. Whilst breakfast and lunch are buffets, waiter service and a menu is also provided. Dinner is a la carte, with a good selection including vegetarian options. Dining is Open Seating with table sizes of 4-6 and two special ‘wine rooms’ seating 8-10 guests in a more private setting. Whilst some guests are keen to socialise and meet others, some preferred to savour each other’s company and were able to dine alone on a table for 4. During the cruise there is one Chaine des Rotisseurs Dinner, and in addition each guest has the opportunity to dine one evening in The Chef’s Table, where a degustation menu is offered with most attentive service.

Good quality wines, soft drinks and water accompany all meals. At the Sip & Sail cocktail hour before dinner, drinks are also complimentary. Coffees, teas, hot chocolates and water are always available to help yourself to in the corner of the Main Lounge, along with snacks and afternoon teatime.

Wachau Valley

Wachau Valley

On this Vilshofen (Germany) to Budapest voyage, all ports are fascinating. As usual on river cruises, docking is normally in the middle of town (or remote village as is also the case) with no waiting in line to get off or on again. Local maps are provided as is bottled water as you proceed ashore. Tours are included and there is a good choice including speciality tours (e.g. food tasting or making). There may also be optional tours available at an extra cost (e.g. an evening concert in a theatre).

Wachau cycling tour on AmaWaterways

Wachau cycling tour on AmaWaterways

I joined a mixture of tour styles – regular touring (e.g. full day to Salzburg or Budapest City Tour), hiking (ok, I did envisage something more active here), cycling (fantastic cycling 33 km along the banks of the Danube between vineyards and apricot orchards in the beautiful Wachau Valley) and an evening winetasting. Slow-walking options are also offered. Group sizes are kept small (my experience was 10-15 guests per guide), all guides were excellent, and the Quietvox system is used so everybody can hear the guide even if you stop to take photos etc. Tours are reserved online before the cruise, however can be added to or changed whilst on board.

Most evenings, entertainment from ashore is provided - a classic operetta trio, a classical trio, Hungarian musicians and dancers, a mini Oktoberfest. A permanent cocktail pianist tinkles the ivories during teatime, cocktail hours and after dinner. On my sailing there was quite a lively crowd and the lounge transformed to a disco some evenings too.

Dress code is smart casual, with ‘the best clothes you’ve brought’ being suggested for the Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner. On my voyage the vast majority of guests were from the USA, and all guests were English speaking. I was travelling with my teenage daughter. There was one other family on board.

Nothing was too much effort for the crew who were quite exceptional. The Cruise Manager (Martina) was excellent: passionate about her role, experienced, professional, efficient, charming, amusing, very friendly but never intrusive. I don’t think there was a guest who didn’t hug her when they finally left.

Budapest

Why choose a river cruise over an ocean cruise? Small numbers of people, uncrowded vessels, personalised service, no seasickness, relaxed sailing along riverways, the excitement and intrigue of passing through locks, of cruising under low bridges when the ship’s wheelhouse and mast lower themselves and the deck parasols and gazebos have to be taken down, and getting close to the history and culture of the area you are cruising in.

Inspired? Contact Meriel Lowe here

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