Holiday Sailing on AMA Waterways

dining Dining is a big feature on river cruises and AMAWaterways does it better than most. The Amacello features a large, elegant dining area that never fails to please, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner with all meals focused on the region the ship is traveling through. Breakfast starts off with champagne or mimosas with an assortment of breads and pastries and a huge buffet that includes eggs to order and regional specialties such as Viennese sausages, blintzes and waffles.

There’s nothing like returning to the ship after a chilly morning tour to be greeted first in the main reception area with hot wine or tea and—after peeling off several layers of clothing (no, not all of it)—heading down to the dining room for hot homemade soup and appetizers, a generous regional entree—the wiener schnitzel in the Bavarian region was a major favorite—and delectable desserts, topped off by complimentary cappuccino—all served up by the gracious wait staff.

Dinner is the piece de resistance—an event that wouldn’t be overlooked short of the ship sinking. AMAWaterways absolutely excels in dining services and the service is impeccable, but the food is to die for, truly gourmet quality. Complimentary regional wines, beer and soda flow freely—with the wines carefully selected to set off the menu selections of the day. During the entire sailing, not one complaint was heard and odds are when the rating questionnaires are handed out at the end of the cruise, dining has to be at the top of the list.

tours The tours are the star power aspect of this Mein-Danube sailing, and efficiently planned to give passengers in-depth information on the local attractions, but also plenty of time for private exploration and adventuring—well, okay, mostly shopping or pub crawling. In Budapest, after receiving their communication devices and ear pieces that tie the tour groups to their guides—a great invention that allows you to wander off a bit for personal perusing—passengers climb aboard a bus for a 4-hour tour that includes about two hours on a bus where guides point out the highlights and another 90 minutes or so on walking tours. Highlights on the bus aspect include the city park, National Opera House, St. Stevens Cathedral and the Parliament. On the walking tour, passengers visit Hero’s Square, Buda Castle Hill—great views of this dual city here—and the Fisherman’s Bastion. At the end of the tour, one can elect to stay on their own for more exploration or maybe a meal at a local cafe.

Bratislava in Slovakia is an absolutely delightful city too many people have missed. On the scheduled 2-hour walking tour here, passengers see St. Martin’s Cathedral, Michael’s Gate and visit the Main Square. Tell clients to take time after the tour to head off on their own. At this time of year, many of the Christmas market vendors, mostly food stalls, were still up, tempting visitors and locals alike with the delicious smells of hot sausages and wine. There’s a variety of galleries, unique little stores and friendly pubs to visit as well. Note that in Hungary and Slovakia, the dollar is a lot more friendly when changing to the local currency than the euro and there are bargains to be had here. But tell clients not to go overboard on the exchange because they’ll lose whatever they saved when they convert back to the euro.

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Vienna’s the next stop and no matter what time of year, this is a magical city. The 4-hour tour here includes a drive by of the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Natural History, Heroes’ Square, Hofburg Palace, Parliament and the famous Hotel Sacher, Albertino Square and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The tour is a great introduction to the city but again, urge clients not to stop there because this is a city that’s worth losing lunch over and cab fare back to the ship is very reasonable. Getting around town is also easy aboard electric trolley cars and subway system. There’s a wealth of things to do and see here after the tour, including some of Europe’s most beautiful museums and one must-see is the Belvedere—a one-time palace with a fascinating collection of Gustav Klimt’s works, among other art works. At night there’s an optional Mozart & Strauss concert for classical music fans. Additional stops in Austria include Melk with its beautiful Melk Abbey, followed by a bus ride through the Austrian countryside to Linz—the third largest city in Austria—one of the most charming baroque cities in Europe, boasting the largest baroque square in Europe. This is a city of interesting little warrens and hideaways that twist and turn in the Old Town and an absolutely charming place to spend a few hours.