I just got off of an AmaWaterways European River Cruise with my wife after we were both invited to sail with them. AmaWaterways is known as an upscale river cruise line with 21 custom-designed ships. The line sails to more than 25 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. Natalie and I went on their Black Sea Voyage and here are my 10 reasons to go on a lower Danube cruise, specifically.
We chose the Black Sea Voyage since their AmaPrima ship, which was built in 2013, has 82 cabins that can hold a total of 162 passengers. We’d already sailed on the Upper Danube with other companies (below are all my European river cruise stories) and we wanted to visit new countries. It was quite the experience as we visited five countries in eight days and three of them we had never been to before.
FYI: My wife and now have been to 55 countries together as a couple!
There are a lot of river cruise lines to choose from, so do your research to find the ship and company that meets your needs. Here are my 17 reasons to go on a Lower Danube river cruise with AmaWaterways:
1. Multiple tours included
What’s great about AmaWaterways is that all of their tours are included in the price and they only have a few side tours that have a surcharge (I didn’t take any of them). What’s also nice is that on many days, they offer a variety of tours for different tastes and activity levels. For example, while we were in Belgrade, Serbia, they offered three tours: Tour A was a visit to Tito’s memorial. Tour B was brandy tasting and Avala Mountain. Tour C was a guided bike tour of Belgrade. Yes, I chose the last, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Note: Tips are not included for the guides and bus drivers so do remember to bring some small bills. $1-$3 is suggested for guides but I usually gave them 5 Euros.
2. Fantastic guides
Almost all of the guides I had were amazing, really interesting and passionate about their city/country. My favorite was a guide named Milos. He was Serbian and was all of the above and hilarious, too. What a combo. He also knew everything about American football and basketball so he was actually keeping me up to date on the NBA playoffs.
3. Star employees
Not everyone on board AmaWaterways impressed me (we did not have the warmest welcome and some of the wait staff weren’t the friendliest) but they had three standout employees that I’m sure other cruise lines would love to poach. First of all, our cabin attendant, Daniela was wonderful and friendly. Then the Maitre D’, Catalin Mihai Hutuleac, and finally the Cruise Manager, Maddy Caladaruse. All three had it all and are arguably the most important people you will encounter on your river cruise experience. Obviously, the captain and the chef are even more important but they don’t really interact with the guests.
4. History lessons
Every day, Maddy hosted a slideshow presentation in the lounge and I’m almost embarrassed to admit it but I learned more about Europe at one of her sessions than I did in all of college. Learning about Europe’s history and then immediately seeing it makes much more of an impact.
5. The cabins
All the cabins are modern, with stylish décor, comfortable beds, plush linens and have RFID keycards so all you have to do is wave it by the door’s handle for it to open up. If you book a stateroom on the two top floors (there are three floors total) your Stateroom will either have French balconies or twin balconies.
The luxurious marble-appointed bathrooms are a good size and have multi-jet showerheads. Not only did the shower have amazing water pressure but it had two main showerheads and six jets on the side of the wall. You could choose to have two, four or all six of them spray you and you could adjust the position of each. If you turn these on, every part (and I mean every part) of your body will get cleaned. Just be careful as the water temperature can get super hot.
7. Entertainment systems
I only turned the TV on a couple of times and it was to see their live bow and lounge webcams and to hear the cruise manager talk when I didn’t feel like going into the lounge. Unfortunately, you can’t see her presentation but at least you can hear it. However, if you do just like to lounge in the room and watch movies or TV, you will be happy to know that their on-demand entertainment system comes with free movies, including new release, English-language television programming, music and there’s free WiFi (but it’s slow).
The food on AmaWaterways is solid and they offer an incredible choice at breakfast. Lunch had a lot of choices too and they always had local cuisine so you can try traditional dishes from a variety of places. For example, in Hungary, they had authentic goulash, and in Bulgaria, they had Banitsa, made of dough and stuffed with a variety of things like cheese, spinach, rice and meat. They also had cherry yogurt every morning from Bulgaria which I learned is the best tasting yogurt EVER and I’m not even a yogurt fan. All menus (including a gluten-free menu) on board their European ships, incorporate regional wines and locally sourced produce, meats and cheeses when possible. They are also the only river cruise line ever inducted into La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.
9. Food allergies on menu
I have a lot of friends with food allergies so I know how it can affect their travels. Who wants to eat out if something can cause you a severe allergic reaction? Not me. However, if I did have food allergies, I would really appreciate AmaWaterways’ menu as each item has a letter next to it and the back of the menu has the key. See photo above.
10. Chef’s table
Since we are on the subject of food, I have to add the chef’s table at the bow of the ship as one of the great things about AmaPrima. It’s not because the food was exceptional (it wasn’t; it was just okay). But the service and the views were fantastic and are reason enough to dine here. The room is surrounded by glass windows so it’s nice and bright and makes watching the sunset unforgettable. Guests are only supposed to dine here once per cruise but if they don’t fill up you can go multiple times. Just keep in mind the menu stays the same for the entire week.
11. Wine, beer and soft drinks
Some ships charge for drinks while others offer it free. AmaWaterways’ policy is that wine, beer and soft drinks are served on an unlimited and complimentary basis with every lunch and dinner on their European ships. What I also love is that every day, they have a “detox water of the day,” which was a simple but delicious alternative to the bar.
12. Top deck and pool
AmaWaterways’ sundeck is the nicest one I’ve been on (I’ve only been on four ships). They have plush lounge chairs, umbrellas and the best part…a swimming pool. First time I’ve seen that. I didn’t go in but it was really warm like a Jacuzzi and had barstools so you can hang out and drink with friends.
Good to know: If the weather is nice, they’ll have an ice cream party on the top deck once per cruise.
13. Stay in shape
The sundeck also has a walking track, which a few motivated people took advantage of. And their fitness room was state-of-the-art. Sadly I never made it in there or saw anyone using it.
Note: They also have an onboard salon and spa services. Massage appointments were all filled up by the time we boarded the ship, probably because they were so reasonably priced (30 Euros for 30 minutes or 60 Euros for 60 minutes).
You can also stay in shape outdoors as AmaWaterways carries 25 bicycles aboard all of their European ships for guests to use on their own or on escorted bike tours and there’s no up-charge.
15. Fresh fruit in the room
AmaWaterways provides fresh fruit in your room each day, which is a nice touch. My only complaint is that they don’t remove the bananas unless you throw them away so they were getting pretty brown and smelly and I have a problem throwing food away. I figured the chef could make something with them.
16. Nightly entertainment
One of the highlights for most of the passengers was the ship’s nightly entertainment. When we were docked in the evening, local groups (usually kids) come on board and entertain the guests with song and dance. The performances were tailored to each destination.
AmaWaterways didn’t have those buses with seats like the Googlers have in Silicon Valley – it’s just a regular bus like every tour company that I know. However, what made this one different is that they never packed them, trying to stuff 50 passengers (or however many they hold) inside. Many times there were multiple buses going to the same place and were only three quarters full so passengers could spread out and enjoy the extra space (especially in the back).
There are many other little reasons to sail on AmaWaterways. Natalie tried to get me to add their hairdryers as a reason because she said they were really good and believe it or not, that’s one of her big challenges when traveling. Ah, the problems of those with a lot of hair! I really enjoyed my time on AmaWaterways and would love to sail with them again.
Good to know:
- Tips are not included (see CruiseCritic.com for specifics).
- All of their European fleet offer 24 hour specialty coffee and tea stations.
- There’s no room service.
- 90% of the workers were Hungarian. The remaining were from Romania and Bulgaria.
- My T-Mobile phone worked in all countries we visited. My plan includes unlimited data and text for 120 countries and the only one that wasn’t included on this itinerary was Serbia so be sure to put your phone on airplane mode while there or if you have another provider, then find out what the charges are before turning it on.
More about European river cruises:
- 10 reasons to go on a Lower Danube cruise
- 11 reasons to go on a European River Cruise
- 20 Reasons to go on a Viking European River Cruise
- 12 Reasons to Take a Scenic River Cruise In Europe
- Visiting Europe’s Christmas Markets on a Viking River Cruise
Want to cruise? If you’d like to speak to an agent, we’ve partnered with Cruise Planners—a top-rated travel agency—to help you plan your perfect trip. Contact Mike Gelman (1-800-724-5868) and tell him Johnny Jet sent you!
Natalie is right to be excited! When you don’t have to pack your own hairdryer because there is a decent one wherever you are going is always a relief, and more room in the suitcase for other things! Hope the one on my Viking cruise will be good…..