The lounge on AmaWaterways’ new AmaMagna comprises a large spacious area with incredibly comfortable seating areas. Each side of the lounge connects to a library, doubling a space that, on any other river ship, always feels more confined. I find this a peaceful place to sit and reflect for a moment with a cup of coffee during my exploring. And as I would come to find out on my seven days cruising the Danube, if you spend enough time on AmaMagna, you’ll wonder how this ship exists in the first place.
Sailing from the Rhine to the Danube
It all starts with river-ship logistics.
When the Main-Danube Canal was completed in 1992, a door opened for all river vessels to sail from the Rhine to the Danube, creating a phenomenal opportunity for the river cruise industry. A cruise can now embark from Amsterdam, sail the Rhine, then, by connecting through the Main Canal to the Danube, finish its cruise in Budapest. This also benefits shipbuilding, as most of the vessels are being built on the Rhine and relocated on the Danube via the Main-Danube Canal. But to navigate through this canal, the ship had be less than 38 feet wide. This is why most river cruise ships are built under the same relatively small specifications: to allow them to connect from the Rhine to the Danube and have the flexibility to switch schedules and voyages from one river to another.
By sailing only on the Danube, where locks and regulations are different, one could have a larger vessel. However, that’s easier said than done. All structural work on AmaMagna, including the hull, was done in Serbia (as they excel at this). For the assembly and all the interior work, nobody beats the Netherlands. Most of the shipyards involved in river cruise building are located on the Rhine. So how do you go from the Danube to the Rhine if the barge carrying the hull of the ship cannot go through the Canal?
Only one way: going all the way to the end of the Danube, crossing the Black Sea, going through the Bosporus strait to reach the Mediterranean Sea, sailing all the way to Gibraltar, then taking the Atlantic Ocean to enter the Rhine from the North Sea. It’s a hell of a trip, and at an astronomical cost. It has rarely been done, as once the ship has been completed, she needs to return to the Black Sea and re-enter the Danube to navigate on the most prestigious river of all.
It is understood that once in operation on the Danube, an oversized river cruise ship will spend the rest of its life there. So, is it really worth the headache to have such a large ship sailing on the Danube?
The answer is yes, absolutely.
Double The Ship
AmaMagna is not just a little larger, but nearly twice the width of any other cruise ship on the Danube. And while traditional river ships are very comfortable, well-equipped, and provide ample space in both public spaces and accommodations, we live in a world of choice where people have different tastes and expectations. AmaMagna was conceived and designed for those travelers who want more; for that very large audience of potential guests that have sailed on ocean cruise ships and feel that river ships are too small or too tight for them.
By doubling the width of the vessel, cruisers now have access to larger staterooms and suites comparable to those found on ocean vessels. There are more public rooms, they are much larger, and the overall feeling of space is everywhere.
I have been on numerous river cruises — 16 to be precise — and never had such an experience. Regardless of the category of stateroom you choose, it will be much bigger than anything else you have seen on a river. I awoke in the lowest category on the Piano Deck — and what a treat it was! It is a very comfortable 205 square feet with large windows providing lots of daylight. I was simply amazed by the space and quality of this stateroom. Additionally, technology has improved over the years and the engine room is now totally sound- and vibration-proof.
A great shower is the best thing to put one in a good mood for the day, and this was one of the best I have seen in a long time. Everything is just right, from the size of the bathroom and shower to the quality of the showerheads, either falling from the ceiling “rain shower” style or from the adjustable hand shower on the wall.
Dining on board AmaMagna
For breakfast, I stroll up to the Main Restaurant, which also has oversized dimensions. Located in the center, it features two large seating areas on port side and starboard; it’s like having two restaurants in one location. Partitions increase this feeling of coziness.
Right outside of the Main Restaurant is the reception area, which is much larger and more spacious than on any other river cruise. From this central area, you have access to anywhere in the ship. Go up to the Violin Deck to have a drink in the lounges, or go even higher to enjoy the Sun Deck. Go down to shop at the boutique or to check out three other restaurants: Jimmy’s Wine Bar, The Chef’s Table, and Al Fresco Restaurant.
Having four different restaurants on a river ship is a first and certainly an unusual feature.
I just loved The Chef’s Table menu and the way the table is set up. Appearances are important, and this resembles a super high-end restaurant with attention to every detail, from the silverware and crystal glasses to the impeccable linens. Al Fresco is in the front of the ship, with panoramic-view windows that can open or close depending on the weather and buffet offerings that are irresistible.
AmaMagna Features: Sun Deck and Zen Wellness
Sun Deck is enormous, being the largest open deck of any river ship. I am greeted with blue skies and a warm breeze as I walk aft to discover the large swimming pool. There are plenty of lounge chairs for relaxing by the pool. An unusual touch on deck is the herb garden; I can smell the fresh herbs that will be used in our meals, and it is lovely to look at.
In the aft of the ship is another surprise with the Zen Wellness Studio. The fitness center is a real gym, with enough space and equipment to be named as such. I walk outside to find the spin class. Being able to spin while taking in the fresh air and beauty of the river may actually entice me to participate! After a workout, one can go to the wellness bar for a refreshing juice, or take advantage of one of the two massage rooms at your disposal for some complete relaxation.
The Zen Wellness Studio overlooks the Marina, a platform that lowers to allow access to a Sundowner boat for more private river exploring. This has never been done before on a river ship!
AmaMagna sets a new dimension in river cruising. It is not just about size and design; AmaMagna excels on every level. AmaWaterways has raised the bar to new heights with the latest technology and the best materials, from top to bottom. If the goal was to create the best river ship on the Danube, I am absolutely convinced that they succeeded.
By Michel Verdure
Photo: Michel Verdure