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  • Writer's pictureMui R

Episode 08: AMAWaterways Review

AMA Waterways has a reputation for being one of the top river cruise lines. After our July 24-August 4, 2011 cruise, we can confirm how right that is!

Our ship for the Rhine River was the 148-passenger AmaDagio. AMA and AmaDagio rates 5-stars with an elegant feel, from the wrought-iron balustrade on the stairway to a beautiful dining room lined with large windows for good views from almost all tables, to subtle colors that give a warm boutique feel. Almost all of the very comfortable cabins have French Balconies - no place to step outside, but you can open your sliding door for fresh air or to watch swans nibble at the algae on the bottom of the ship when you’re docked. There are lots of swans on the Rhine!

Cabins are very well-appointed, with a roomy bathroom with a six-option shower that takes some experimenting to find the option you like best and which makes you want to renovate your shower at home. Ahhh! Bathrobes arrived fresh from the laundry the next morning after we got onboard. The beds were comfortable, you have a choice of pillows, and a choice of either a duvet or a sheet and blanket. Each cabin has an individually controlled thermostat, and of course, you get the chocolate on the pillow each evening. The TV in the cabin is actually also your internet browser and movie/entertainment center, with an option of having a view of the river from the Bridge. This sounds good but in reality, the wi-fi/internet connection often disappeared. The wi-fi connection was very quirky – about the only thing on the ship that did not work extremely well. This was frustrating for those of us who needed to stay in touch with our offices, but a minor concern if we were just chatting with family or friends.

The crew is very helpful. On river cruises, there is usually no terminal in which to check-in. Instead, you walk your luggage out to your ship, which is docked either right by the bank or at a short dock. In Amsterdam, it was raining when we got to the ship but there were crewmembers waiting to take our bags so that we could hurry onboard – our first indication of how well we would be treated on this trip. AMA has a very polished product with passenger comfort in mind. Everything flowed smoothly, from tours right down to having someone from the ship escort a passenger to a dentist after she lost a crown.

The AmaDagio even has an elevator, a real plus for guests who have trouble with stairs, though it does not go up to the top deck due to height restrictions and low bridges; not many ships have this amenity. River boats are small: one main corridor down the middle of the ship with cabins on each side, a nice large lounge with big windows for good views as you float along, lobby, dining room, and sometimes another small lounge, along with the small but all-important gift shop. The AmaDagio not only has the additional small lounge but a workout area, massage and hair salon, and a whirlpool for relaxing on the top deck. The dining room is beautiful, with buffets at breakfast and lunch along with the option of ordering from the menu.

The food was generally excellent, especially the “cream of…” soups. If you want something light for lunch you can either go to the buffet or to the Lounge for soup or sandwiches. If you don’t want to go to the dining room, the Lounge has fruit and pastries in the early mornings, hot broth or soup and cookies late morning, a light soup and sandwich lunch, and afternoon tea with tea, cookies, cakes, etc. And then at 10:30 each night they put out a late snack. No worries about going hungry!

In fact, at dinner, after the entrees were served waiters came around with platters of food for those who wanted second helpings, and we usually took advantage of this to get more green veggies. On large cruise ships, one thing we consistently find lacking in is vegetables other than salads or potatoes. On the AmaDagio, we got wonderfully cooked fresh vegetables each evening. The Chef is very strict about using only fresh foods, and halfway through our 7-night cruise we watched new supplies being brought onboard.

The entertainment onboard was low-key. Most evenings we had some good local musicians come onboard, though there was one memorable “60’s Night” with music by the ship’s pianist and dancing with crewmembers.

One thing that we especially liked on our river cruise was that the Captain and staff are so approachable. You can go onto the Bridge to chat with the Captain, or have a conversation with the Chef. The Cruise Manager, similar to a Cruise Director on ocean ships, is very visible and always on call. We were extremely impressed by our Cruise Manager, Pili Gil, who was available from early morning to late night time, always with a smile and ready to answer questions or handle concerns. She did everything from arranging special buses for our group to going on the tours in order to evaluate the guides. Not only that, but the Cruise Managers stay with those passengers who elect to add a land package, then rotate to a different ship. About 90 passengers on our cruise had added the four-night package with two nights in Lucerne and two nights in Zurich. Pili was there with us the entire time, making us feel so pampered.

Having the Cruise Manager stay with you on the land part was only part of the extra attention from AMA Waterways. We had a group of about fifty people with us, and AMA Waterways even sent guides on our buses to the airport to make sure that everyone got to the right airline and check-in counter. Obviously this would not happen for individual transfers, but we found that AMA Waterways is an excellent choice for groups because of their attention to detail and their concern that guests be happy with the services.

I give AMA Waterways a lot of credit for the thought that has gone into making people feel as if they never need to worry about anything on their trip, from a choice of pillows to a choice of tours depending on a passenger’s physical abilities. River cruises usually mean several walking tours because you’re stopping in small towns with lots of history to see. AMA has different levels: active, regular, and gentle walkers, plus sometimes “late riser” tours that are shorter for those who don’t want to leave at 9am. They also offer bike tours on afternoons when the ship sails to the next town, which is never really very far away. This gave us a very relaxed, unpressured feeling. Just pick up your little colored card so you know which guide to follow depending on the “active level”, and if you change your mind at the last minute that’s fine. Since all tours are included in the cruise price, you do not have to worry about changes. In addition, AMA provided “voice boxes” for all guests – listening devices so that you could hear your guide easily even if the group was fairly large. And with the tours broken up into several levels of walking difficulty, groups per guide were usually small.

Gratuities are not included in the cruise cost but can be either charged to your credit card or paid in cash at the end of the cruise. Recommended gratuities are high compared to large ships: about 12 Euro a day to be split among the crew plus 3 Euro a day to the Cruise Manager. Considering the level of service we got, this was not too bad, though it is on the high end even for river cruise lines. But we are glad that they break out the gratuity for the Cruise Manager separately; Pili deserved every bit of hers, and more.

The little towns were delightful, especially Rudesheim, Colmar, and Strasbourg. Our morning tour in Strasbourg, floating down the canal to both interesting commentary and classical music, was magical. An Albach (brandy) coffee and apple strudel in Rudesheim at the Rudesheimer Schloss is was the perfect way to end a walk through this picturesque town. The scenery on and around the Rhine River is beautiful, and Pili’s commentary as we sailed helped us learn a bit of history as well.

We truly enjoyed our time on the AmaDagio, and have no reservations about recommending this line to anyone who wants personal attention. We heard nothing but raves from our large group, and several suggested a longer cruise with AMA next time. We felt pampered and relaxed, and look forward to our next river cruise with them, maybe on one of their new ships like the AmaCerto, with actual balconies and even a heated swimming pool with a swim-up bar on the top deck!

John & Rosemary Roberts, Original Owners with Brooks Aehron, Music At Sea on the Rhine River in July 2011 on AMAWaterways AMADagio.

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