The charms of the cities and villages of the Danube are a joy to discover. Aboard the new AmaWaterways AmaLea, this pleasure is multiplied. This is the 10th ship of their Certo class, and as AmaWaterways has evolved, they’ve incorporated the latest technology, architectural flow, and attention to overall cruiser experience to provide a product that is second to none in river cruising.
AmaLea, An Introduction
AmaLea sails between Budapest, Hungary, and Vilshofen, Germany, on a 7-night cruise through four countries, and offers you multiple ways to immerse yourself in the local culture. The pace of the cruise is well thought-out, balancing leisure time on board with exploration of the cities and villages. Our cruise director Abel was on top of everything, advising us on which excursions suited us best. The selection provides adventures for all activity levels, from hiking and biking (bicycles and helmets are onboard and complimentary), to culinary activities and walking tours. All levels of fitness will feel accommodated. The only difficult part is choosing your fun! The knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guides are natives to the area, and speak excellent English. Guests are provided the newest technology in Quiet Vox, so they can clearly hear the tour guide while exploring the area. Embarking and disembarking is far simpler than ocean cruising, and soon the crew welcomes you back by name.
Customer service is a hallmark of AmaWaterways, and it comes from their business philosophy. AmaWaterways is family-owned and operated, and the owners believe all of the crew aboard their ships are a part of the Ama family. (“Ama” means “love.”) The crew take pride in their ability to make your experience so much more than a trip. They realize that you are making memories.
Home Away From Home
Aboard, one is impressed with the elegant and modern decor. The owners are directly involved in all design choices, which are both timeless and tasteful, with attention to comfort.
Due to the presence of bridges and locks on the river, there are inevitable size restrictions on the number of decks. AmaLea features three interior decks and one sundeck. This is actually an advantage when going from one area of the ship to another — there isn’t too far to travel! AmaWaterways designs ships with public rooms forward and the staterooms toward the stern, creating optimal passenger flow.
Aft on Deck Three (“Violin Deck”) is the Chef’s Table restaurant, fine dining by reservation with a set menu each evening. Chef creates a true gourmet tasting menu, with three appetizers, three main courses, and three desserts. The restaurant offers an intimate setting with an open kitchen, floor to ceiling windows, incredible views, and a culinary experience to die for. Seating accommodates at most 28 guests. AmaLea has improved upon the already excellent management of noise and vibration levels of the engines, so your fine-dining experience remains just that.
Public spaces like the beautifully decorated lobby area on Violin Deck were created with an oval design, allowing optimal flow during busier times. One of the defining features of the lobby is a glass elevator for those not wishing to be challenged with the stairs. Beyond, toward the bow of the ship, is the library to portside, and a guest shop and coffee area to starboard, offering a bit of respite at any time of the day. Continue forward and you come upon the bar and guest lounge. Here, all of the guests are very comfortably accommodated for fabulous local entertainment, pre-tour meetings and discussions, as well as the new “Sip and Sail” cocktail hour with complimentary wine, beer, spirits, and soft drinks. Food is available there for early risers or for a light lunch. David, a second-place finalist on the German version of American Idol, sings and plays piano, creating the perfect ambience. AmaLea offers a variety of live evening entertainment; one evening we were able to “disco the night away,” another featured the musical talents of a fantastic string trio, and after visiting Salzburg we reveled in live operatic music as well as tunes from The Sound of Music.
On the second deck (“Cello Deck”) is the main restaurant, with two adjacent wine bars for private group meals. Here, it must be mentioned that all of the AmaWaterways European ships are members of the esteemed La Chaîne Des Rôtisseurs, a prestigious international gastronomic society dedicated to fine cuisine. The food is one area where AmaLea excels; Guido, our hotel manager, contacted local merchants daily. The food — locally sourced, sustainable, and seasonal — is served buffet-style for breakfast and lunch, with additional choices by menu. Dinner is served with full menu. There are choices for those preferring vegetarian fare, and it is all true to the local culture. Service is on par with the rest of the crew. The waitstaff quickly learn your preferences, and wine and beer are complimentary with your meals. Aside from then and during the Sip and Sail cocktail hour, alcohol is available for purchase.
AmaLea boasts well-planned outdoor public spaces. One of the benefits of river cruising is enjoying the view, which is always there! The Sun Deck offers many ideal spots to relax and admire the wildlife, cities, and villages. There’s plenty of protection from the sun, as well as chaise longues, tables and chairs, and a good-sized pool with a swim-up bar. At the bow is a large and very comfortable lounge area with couches, tables and chairs, perfect for watching your destination at any time of the day.
Room With a View
The stateroom is probably the most important space on the ship: your own private haven where you greet the new day, unwind after a fabulous excursion, and rest peacefully at night. Most of the rooms have French and outside balconies. There are a few lower-category rooms with only a French balcony, or fixed windows for staterooms on Piano Deck. Rooms range in size from 155 to 350 square feet. Suites have pullout couches to accommodate families and the bed is exceptionally comfortable complete with Egyptian linens and down pillows. There’s good storage both under the bed and with two large closets with shelving and plenty of hangers. The desk and bedside tables have storage for all of your non-clothing essentials, a mini refrigerator comes stocked with free water, and there are both 110- and 220-volt outlets in the room. Technology takes the forefront with a wall-mounted digital screen where you can control many of the room functions, such as lighting and air conditioning. The large iMac on the desk does double duty as both television and computer. Free Wi-Fi is available 24/7 and there’s a considerable selection of free movies. The bathroom is modern and luxurious with GROHE fixtures, a rain and handheld shower (with excellent water pressure), and well-appointed finishes. A full-sized hairdryer was a welcome surprise, and upscale, hotel-grade toiletries were supplied daily. Turndown service was provided nightly.
AmaLea is an exceptional new river cruise ship, perhaps the best of the line to date. AmaWaterways has created a cruising experience that lifts your spirits, sparks your curiosity, restores your energy and leaves you more knowledgeable about the region and people you have visited during your voyage. More importantly, AmaWaterways treats you like an honored guest, making you feel like you have indeed become a part of their family.
By Michel and Lisa Verdure
Photo: Michel Verdure