Experiences of AmaLyra -Enchanting Rhine Cruise 15th to 22nd October 2013
Geoff Anderson – 15-10-2013 – AmaWaterways – AmaLyra
Here are our experiences of AMA Waterways on a recent trip down the Rhine.
We used the AMA transfer in Amsterdam and arranged our own flights and were met at the Airport as soon as we exited the arrivals hall by a friendly AMA representative and transferred rapidly with only two other guests onto a waiting coach.
On arrival at the River smiling and friendly staff with greeted us. As our arrival was around 5pm, we were shown directly to our cabin with cases carried for us by a crewmember.
As all of the cabins except the three suites are 170 sq.ft. our lower deck accommodation was only missing the floor to ceiling patio doors and a Juliet balcony. This really didn’t present any problems whatsoever, though it would be worth suggesting clients upgrade for the superior views.
The cabins all have every amenity required including in room Wi-Fi that worked reasonably well. For more serious workers we would suggest a corner of the lovely lounge on the main deck. Cabin size is adequate and for the duration of most cruises has space for everything and is tastefully fitted out throughout. The bed is comfortable and has good storage space underneath for luggage. From a purely personal point of view the pillows could have been better. The shower in particular was a bit special and very spacious with a proper acrylic door. A full range of quality toiletries is provided and the usual expected fluffy white towels changed daily if required.
You will need a European adapter, as whilst they have some spares on board, the supply is limited.
The Ship and on-board facilities.
AMALyra is immaculately kept throughout and looks good at first sight. Internally there is a very large lounge on Cello Deck to the front of the ship. There are comfortable sofas and chairs in a mix of light greens, golds and complimentary stripes. A small bar takes care of any extra drink requirements and there are two high-end drinks machines serving a range of coffees together with specialty teas and hot chocolate. Iced Tea and Iced water is also available on the bar top and these are all accessible 24/7. A range of home made biscuits are available which vary daily, together with light snacks such as soup and rolls and a range of cakes morning, lunchtime and afternoons so no-one need ever go hungry.
The lounge is a lovely place to be whether it be to watch the ever changing river-scape, to chat with new friends or to simply curl up and relax with a good book of your own, or indeed from the small on board library. We appreciated the fact that whilst the bar is available, there is never a pushy member of staff moving through the room to increase revenue. That said, all you have to do is ask at the bar and any beverages will be brought swiftly and efficiently to you as required.
The ship also has a small and intimate rear lounge that has a range of board games and also houses the guest printer that you can send documents to direct from your cabin or laptop/ipad device. There is a small treatment room/hairdressers and a small fitness room.
Up on the top deck is a large area, covered and shaded in the centre and with ample chairs, tables and sun-beds together with a hot-tub. A great place on our trip to chat with new friends and in the case of our trip to get a 360 degree view as we passed through the Rhine Gorge, arguably the most scenic section of the Rhine. A nice touch was the provision of brandy laced hot coffee as we sailed along this sector.
The ship is certainly a quality product in its fittings and fixtures and has a lovely feel throughout. The staff all seemed to work as a team rather than individual departments as appears the case on some other cruises which was very nice to experience.
The Restaurant and Food
We can honestly say that the quality of the food from start to finish was amongst the best we have eaten anywhere and that includes some very high end establishments throughout the world. There is a good choice including vegetarian options and the wines at dinner certainly were free flowing. Our wine waiter managed the trick of re-filling our glasses without us noticing, so some great quality and quantity was enjoyed each evening. Matching wines with the location each day was also appreciated.
Breakfast and lunch were both buffet style with a wide selection to suit all tastes including freshly made selections of breads and pastries each day from the on-board bakers. Lunch was either buffet self serve or waiter served with further choices. Drinks are included at lunchtime though not so many guests took advantage of this.
The Included Excursions
All of the excursions were of excellent quality with very professional local guides provided. Any transportation by coach was also of the highest standard.
The “QuietVox”, a personal audio system was a great benefit and in the vast majority of cases worked extremely well. It gives the great advantage of being able to be at the back of the group away from the guide, when you need be to taking photographs for example, yet still hear every word of commentary. On only one occasion (In Cologne) did the system fail us though I suspect it may have been more operator error on the part of our guide rather than the system itself! It may be worth mentioning that a number of the excursions did involve quite a bit of walking over longish periods of time and even with the Gentle Group could be a problems for less able guests.
Also, it must be noted that River Cruise Ships do sometimes need to dock alongside other ships that got there first and on two occasions we were the second or third ship away from the river bank. This situation was handled extremely efficiently by the crew and worked very well in practice, but in some instances there may be a number of narrow steps to ascend and descend en-route to and from the Port of call.
Another lovely AMA touch was being greeted back to the ship after every excursion by the Captain, Hotel Manager and staff and the provision of hot towels and a welcome beverage.
Overall Experience of our trip
From our perspective, AMA Waterways really is a very high end product delivering an excellent experience throughout. We found it hard to fault and although personally at first we thought the first full day on the river was a little staid, everything changed quickly afterwards.
We met a really lovely mix of other guests on board including a group of delightful Americans who quickly included us both into their group, together with an older couple with whom we really hit it off from first meeting at the airport. The clientele we would say are predominantly professional people who appreciate good things and who have good conversational skill through life experiences. Out of interest, we had 134 guests on board of which 82 were from the U.S.A., 22 from the U.K. 14 Argentinian, 13 Canadian, and the rest made up of Spanish, Mexican, Israeli, and Italian and they were all a great pleasure to spend time with. Interestingly we weren’t the youngest on board as expected there being young couple from the States who really seemed to love their first experience of River Cruising just as much as the rest of us.
AMA will tell you to treat the ship as your home and that certainly was the case throughout our trip including on departure day where we had a late flight. Once we had packed, our cases were stored for us and we were advised we could spend as long as we wished on the ship until our taxi arrived for the airport. Although we had chosen not to take advantage of the AMA transfer at the end of our trip, due to the cost, the staff still booked a local taxi for us that arrived with typical Swiss efficiency five minutes early.
Our enduring memory of this trip will be of the lovely people we met and spent time with, the food and wine and the ambience created on board with the excursions further down the list of priorities excellent though they were.
Many thanks to AMA Waterways, Henk, our larger than life (literally) Captain, all of the crew, the wonderful catering team who really know how to deliver, our Maître D, Marita and in particular to our charming Hotel Manager, Ratko who was the most attentive and professional person you could wish to meet. We were fortunate to have the most delightful Cruise Manager, Darinka from Croatia who really was a lovely person and who worked tirelessly to make everything work like clockwork throughout the trip.
Would we do it all again? Absolutely.