By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert
We will have been on 11 river cruises in Europe by the time you read this and we love to cruise on AMAWaterways (AMA means love and there is a lot to love with this river cruise line, in our opinion). There are many reasons why we like this company so much, but one key reason is there are improvements each year which just enhance the experience. Among the best changes are an emphasis on being more active (AMA was selected as Cruise Critics 2015 Editors” Pick as the Best River Cruise Line for Active Cruisers); enhanced tour options (most are included in the cruise fare); and shipboard upgrades. So here are some of these great changes:
- Explore on Two Wheels. AMAWaterways carries a fleet of bicycles on board (they are free of charge), so you can see Europe’s enchanting scenery on riverside pathways while getting some exercise. They dock close to many city centers and small towns, where you can ride along the locals. Options are to ride on your own, which has always been available since we started cruising in 2009, or join one of our exclusive guided tours, like a trek along the beautiful Danube River in Austria’s Wachau Valley. This guided tour concept is new and we have had clients who love these tours. We have had clients take a ride along the scenic shores of the Inn River in Passau and along the banks of the Mosel around Cochem. Both reported, it was fun and a great experience. We also rode into Wurzburg on our own and really enjoyed our short ride—the bikes are very good and it was fun.
- Go for a Hike. The beauty of Europe doesn’t just lie in its architecture and landmarks – there are also great views to see and unique experiences when you venture out into nature. AMA has designed special hikes that will take you a bit off the beaten path in some very beautiful destinations. Examples include making your way up to Dürnstein Fortress (great views of the Wachau Velley), or walking the Philosopher’s Path in Heidelberg (an optional tour around the famous castle area). We have talked with other cruisers who have hiked to the castle ruins in Dürnstein or up to the fortress in Bratislava and they really enjoyed these hikes.
- Limited Edition Tours. These tours are specially designed to give small groups an opportunity to be even more immersed in the places they are visiting. Best of all, these tours are included in the cruise fare—there is no extra charge! Popular options include a Belgian waffle and chocolate tasting in Antwerp, a beer and sausage tour in Nuremberg, or a chance to see Vienna’s hidden treasures, like the romantic Schönlaterngasse. We have done the waffle tasting and the sausage and beer tour—both were awesome! Anne also helped make a traditional soup in Bratislava—it was a fun experience. We have had clients participate in the Vienna tour and they really liked it (one great benefit for us—we discovered a great schnitzel restaurant which we managed to eat at as a result of their tour—it was the largest schnitzel I’ve ever seen, and just melted in our mouths—a really neat experience!). Limited Edition Tours are also a great option for a cruiser who is sailing on the same route a second or third time—it provides a new experience that enhances your trip.
- The Chef’s Table. In Europe, each AMA ship has the chef’s table specialty restaurant. This small dining venue (usually no more than 28 guests) features a kitchen where your meal is prepared right in front of you. This unique menu is paired with carefully selected fine wines. It is truly a great experience. AMA spends more than most other river cruise lines on the food and wines and it shows, especially in this unique dining venue. We always go during our cruises and always arrange for the groups we led to dine together—it’s always a superb experience!
- Ship Design Improvements. The newer designed long ships (135 meters) have 4 great new features. First, the twin balconies have been added to some cabins—one is a French balcony with a sliding glass door and the other is an outside balcony to sit and watch the river glide by. The second feature is an enhanced pool topside, that includes a swim up bar. It is a nice upgrade from the hot tub on earlier riverboats. The third is two separated larger tables that can seat 8 in the front of the main dining room. These also serve as a wine storage area, so it’s like dining in a wine cellar. The forth is the new lounge library area— a reading room complete with an electronic fireplace.
These are just a few of the reasons we like AMA so much—they are constantly improving their product. We hope this will inspire you to give us a call (Hank 713-397-0188) or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can help you visit Europe on a river cruise and help you:
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