By Cristina Buaas
Last November I was fortunate to embark on my first ever river cruise throughout the waters of the Danube with AmaWaterways. My big takeaway from this vacation was learning how easy and enjoyable it is to explore multiple destinations on a river cruise. The pace was very relaxing, especially considering how many cities and towns we experienced. Each port of call offered numerous tour options, from laid back walking tours to active bicycle tours, and almost all of them were included in the cost of our cruise! There were a few premium tour options that incurred a supplemental charge however one of them, the tour to Schonbrunn Palace outside of Vienna, was complimentary as a Virtuoso Voyages benefit for CSB Travel clients! What I really appreciated is that AmaWaterways added local guides as needed based on the turnout for each tour. We never had more than 20 people in our group and AmaWaterways accommodated three different levels of walking for each tour: active, regular and gentle walkers (AKA slower walkers ☺).
Our journey began with a seamless transfer from the Munich airport to the port of Vilshofen where we boarded the beautiful AmaSerena. This ship was built in 2015 and holds only 164 passengers. Onboard amenities include a heated swimming pool with a “swim-up” bar, fitness center, spa treatment room, complimentary Wi-Fi, in-room internet, entertainment on-demand, and a fleet of bicycles for passengers to use either on their own or for guided bike tours. Our room, 303, was one of four suites onboard. These luxurious suites measure 300 square feet, versus the staterooms which range from 160 to 290 square feet. Unlike the other staterooms, suites feature a separate tub and shower, double sinks, more closet space, and a larger sitting area. Suites also come with complimentary laundry and pressing throughout the cruise, 2 splits of champagne, a laptop for guest use, and a coffee maker. All suites and most staterooms feature AMA’s exclusive twin balconies, with both an outside balcony as well as a French balcony.
The highlight of the Romantic Danube itinerary for me was the full day and evening in Vienna. It is one of my favorite cities in Europe and I will never tire of visiting it. My husband and I enjoyed lunch and the requisite Sacher Torte with Peter Zwickl from the fabulous Hotel Sacher Wien Vienna and we visited the Albertina Museum.
We also explored the Melk Abbey in Weissenkirchen, feasted on the delicious Captain’s Dinner with wine parings featuring Hook & Ladder (they were our onboard wine experts), and strolled through the charming town of Salzburg including several stops at the Christmas markets.
We ended our journey with the Illuminations Cruise along the riverfront in Budapest on the final night. Even though it was not my first visit to Budapest, the view from the Danube was truly magical. This is a must for everyone visiting Budapest!
The next morning as we had our final breakfast and prepared to disembark, it was sad to say goodbye to the amazing staff on-board. With such an intimate setting, you really get to know the crew. Throughout the entire cruise, they were uniformly nice and provided excellent service, from the wait staff to the cruise director and the jovial captain!
TRAVEL NOTES: Things to consider for your AmaWaterways river cruise vacation!
- AMA provides walking sticks, cane/seat combos, bottled water, 2 full-sized umbrellas and listening devices and earphones for hearing the guides during tours.
- Each evening local entertainers preform in the lounge after dinner. The talented artists provide a wide variety of performances. On this particular cruise, there was an Australian man who played guitar and sang Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Elvis, etc. in Passau. While in Linz we enjoyed the Sound of Austria from Salzburg, singing opera from the Sound of Music!
- Lunch and dinner menus were themed to the destination so German, Austrian and Hungarian specialties along with more standard fare like steak or fish, which was always offered as an alternative. Breakfast was a plentiful buffet along with several made to order items like waffles and omelets.
- Wine and beer are included at lunch and dinner, and mixed drinks at the bar for the hour prior to dinner. At other times drinks are extra. On our wine cruise, the wine hosts from Hook & Ladder had two wine tastings (one just before dinner and another just before lunch) as well as the pairing for the final night Captain’s Gala dinner.
- The Chef’s Table was a nice change of pace from the main dining room. Every guest has the ability to reserve this once during the cruise, but must wait until they are on-board.
- Passengers must be out of their stateroom by 9:00 AM on departure day, however the ship will store guests bags up until 8:00 PM on the last day if you have a late departure.
I hope my experience has inspired you to embark on your own AmaWaterways river cruise. Contact your CSB Travel advisor today and begin planning your next adventure!