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  #1  
Old December 4th, 2012, 10:09 AM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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Default My Review - our trip to Europe, including a week on the beautiful on AmaCerto

We recently completed a 14 night trip to Europe, structured around a 7 night sailing on AmaCerto from Budapest to Nuremberg. This was our 6th river cruise and our favorite so far. As much as we enjoyed our cruise on AmaDante last year, AmaCerto managed to top even that experience. More on that shortly.
We arrived in Frankfurt on a Sunday and decided to overnight in Mainz, due to a schedule change by Lufthansa that created a 6 hour layover. We stayed at the Hilton Mainz and very much enjoyed the town and the hotel.

Early the next day we flew from Frankfurt to Budapest and checked into our home for 3 days, Marriott Millennium Court Apartments. We were very pleased with our choice as the hotel was perfectly located and the apartments spacious and well appointed, as well as an excellent value.

We explored the city the first day and had a casual and tasty dinner that evening at Vapiano, a favorite of ours in Europe for fresh and reasonable fare when we are not in the mood for a sit down dinner.

Early the next morning we met our guide, Andrea MkKay, and spent a very enjoyable morning exploring the city. Andrea is very good and I recommend her for those looking for a private guide.

Our tour helped us get the lay of the land and we had her drop us at the central market, where we had a forgettable lunch and spent about an hour, picking up a few things to take back to the apartment. We also stopped in at two of the famous public baths of Budapest as we were very curious and wanted to make a decision as to whether we would return.

That afternoon we spent at the Christmas markets, which we found to be of very good quality compared to many locations in Europe we have visited. Dinner was at Cafe Bouchon, which was outstanding and reasonable.

The next day we started off with a visit to the Terror Museum, which we all found both moving and educational. For any with an interest in how Hungary and its people were affected by the war (we found this insightful as to the overall personalities and temperament of today's residents) I recommend visiting this museum.

We made our way back to our hotel and had a snack at the markets. Then, four of us walked to Magnolia Day Spa and enjoyed several hours at this lovely spa. It is a great value as well as a luxurious experience and the cost is so much less than at home. Later that afternoon, we did laundry at the hotel (such a convenience) and then walked the riverfront, enjoying the views as the lights came on around the city. I think that Budapest is at its best in the evenings, when the buildings along the river are truly spectacular.

Dinner that evening was at Bottega la Famiglia and was very good. This place was hard to find but worth the effort.

We opted out of the Marriott breakfast and enjoyed the lovely, small cafe across the street for a light breakfast each day.

The last morning we walked over the Charles Bridge and took the funicular up to the castle to explore the area. We had visited briefly during our tour but wanted to spend more time there and were pleased that we did. We stopped at a place that was supposedly famous for strudel but the consensus among those who indulged was that it was quite average and not worth the calories. We also visited the Hilton while in the area which is a lovely hotel, but too isolated for our tastes. We were very happy that we had chosen to stay instead at the apartments.

We headed back and packed our bags and walked to the boat for embarkation. It was about a 10 minute walk and some of our group opted instead for a taxi as they had more luggage.

We boarded the AmaCerto and were immediately dazzled - she is gorgeous! The design is eclectic and mostly contemporary, with rich fabrics and a surprising mix of colors and textures in the public areas that worked perfectly together. The small library with its gas logs was cozy but could benefit from glass partitions separating it from the main lounge, as it was not always as quiet and cozy as it appeared, depending on what was happening in the main lounge.

Our group had 6 cabins in various categories, ranging from the cheapest Aquarium Class to the truly lovely AA twin balcony. That room was spacious, well laid out and the bathroom was the nicest I have seen on a river boat. There was lots of natural light, enhanced by the use of light colors and rich fabrics.

Our friends in Category E were thrilled with their room, which was quite spacious and very comfortable.

We explored the ship, unpacked and then got ready for the welcome aboard talk and cocktail party. We quickly got to know the excellent lounge staff, including Tamas and Ivo.

Dinner that evening set the standard for more to come. The food on AmaCerto was very good to excellent. Dinner was an event and we received consistently excellent service. Special mention to Bogdan (aka Beau) and Ivo, who were our waiters each evening as we sought out their stations.

Our only dinner disappointment was the evening in Vienna. I had called AMA prior to the cruise to find out if dinner was going to be earlier due to the optional excursion in the evening. I was assured that those of us not going to the concert would be able to have dinner at the usual time so we did not reserve to have dinner in Vienna. The reality was that dinner was at 5:30, which is far too early in my opinion. This has happened to us on two lines now that stopped in Vienna and I personally feel that there should be an option for those of us opting out of the optional concert and preferring not to have dinner at such an early hour. Had I been given accurate information, we would have planned dinner out at a restaurant but with a larger group, it was not practical to make last minute plans.

The specialty restaurant was a truly 5 star experience. Food and service were top notch and it was a highlight of the cruise for all of us.

Breakfast and lunch were very good as well. The omelet station was new enhancement that many in our group enjoyed (thank you, Adrian, the "Omelet Whisperer") and most lunches offered a specialty hot food station as well. We really enjoyed the curry and pasta stations.

Included wines were mostly good and always plentiful. Drink prices were fair and selection good. It would be nice to see an expanded selection of wines by the bottle, which is how we prefer to order.

Csaba, our Cruise Manager, was young, personable, and very good. He had a great personality, endless patience and was always accessible.

The entire staff of AmaCerto was wonderful. Veli, our room attendant, was excellent. The dining staffs hailed from many areas but were uniformly warm and professional. Angela and Alex at reception were always available to help. The head chef, Gino, was very visible and friendly and his staff put out exceptional meals on a consistent basis. The Captain and his crew were also very visible and professional and ran a tight ship. The crew was the best we have experienced on the river so far and that says a lot, as we were so impressed by the crew on our last AMA cruise.

Entertainment was very good. Matthias, the house pianist, had a good selection of music and also acted as DJ. Many nights there were people on the dance floor until well past midnight. The 60s party was a blast and the cruise staff that participated ensured that all had a great time. We enjoyed local acts included La Strada (different members from last year), the Aphrodites, and a female vocalist on the last night was excellent. Port talks were information and not bland as we have experienced on some other river boats. In room infotainment system offered free internet and a good selection of movies.
Laundry service was reasonable and very good.

The demographic on our cruise was quite young, with about half of the guests under 50 and a good percentage under 40. No kids or teens. For us, this was really a perfect mix as things were lively and fun, something we have not always experienced on other lines.

We did several of the included excursions, opting for the “Active Walker” pace, which was just right for us. Bike tours had good participation and the bikes also got taken out by a good number of guests to use on their own.

We most enjoyed Nuremberg and Regensburg this trip, and felt that time was too short in both. We enjoyed the tour least in Vienna, where we opted for the “Hidden Secrets” tour and had a guide that could not operate the equipment properly, making her difficult to follow. We joined Csaba that evening for a visit to the opening of the main Christmas market, which was a mob scene but fun anyway.

At Durnstein, several in our group walked all the way to the top of the castle and enjoyed spectacular views. I found the port to be too touristy for my tastes with not enough to do.

Other stops included Melk, where we explored the quaint town center as we had previously visited the abbey, and Linz, where we did a DIY day in Salzburg, which was sunny and pretty. In the evening, we walked through Passau on our way back to the boat. This is a lovely town and we would have preferred more time there than stopping in Durnstein, which caters primarily to tourists.
At the end of our cruise, we headed to Prague on our own, using a private transfer with Prague Airport Transfers. That was the only disastrous part of the entire trip, as they sent a vehicle very much under sized for our group, even though I specifically advised them of the exact number of people and bags. We were forced to sit with luggage around and on top of us, which was not only unsafe but also far less than comfortable. This was compounded by the first snow storm of the season and a highway accident that resulted in a three hour delay where we sat still on the highway in the snow. Next time I will go with my instincts and stick with DB public bus, as we would have had much more room as well as a bathroom, a necessity when you are driving for almost 8 hours.

In Prague we stayed at the lovely Barcelo Old Town Praha, a small hotel ideally located. Rooms and staff were both very good and we would definitely stay here again, much preferring it to the Hilton Prague where we stayed previously.

In Prague, we had an excellent day with Andrea Řezníčková [Andrejka2002@seznam.cz] and the afternoon with Jana. I highly recommend this for Prague, as there is so much beneath the surface to understand.

We had two great dinners in Prague; one at Ambiente Pasta Fresca and the other at Cszenka, a sister restaurant. Our meal at Vino il Vino was disappointing and quite average.

All in all, this was one of best trips ever and the wonderful staff and crew of AmaCerto had a lot to do with this. This cruise will be a tough act to follow.
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  #2  
Old December 4th, 2012, 12:26 PM
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I have never really considered a river cruise until your review. Thank you for all the details. Sounds as if it was a wonderful trip.

Last edited by 6rugrats; December 4th, 2012 at 12:34 PM.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 12:52 PM
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Fantastic review, caviargal! We will be on the AmaCerto next August going from Prague (Vilshofen) to Budapest and are looking forward to it. We are doing extra days in Prague and Budapest as well. I will have to look at some of your restaurant recommendations.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 01:38 PM
ingo_e ingo_e is offline
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caviargal, i am actually interested in your Nuremberg report, as I had one of the WW2 tours of the AmaCerto that day. Or did you go on a medieval tour
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Old December 4th, 2012, 01:41 PM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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Originally Posted by ingo_e View Post
caviargal, i am actually interested in your Nuremberg report, as I had one of the WW2 tours of the AmaCerto that day. Or did you go on a medieval tour
We had been to Nuremberg several times previously, so opted for the Culinary Tour. It was fine but we left early as we found the guide a bit boring.

The city was the quietest we have seen, and all decked out for Christmas. We walked for several hours, just enjoying the ambiance. It was the best of our visits to this city.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 01:48 PM
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Thank you so much for your review. I have been waiting for it. We are doing the same trip next Oct with 6 in our group also. I have copied your review to help us with hotels and restaurants.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 02:48 PM
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Thank you, Thank you!! Your review was fabulous. A couple of questions... did anyone complain of noise or vibrations in cat. E? Two of our cabins are in E.
Also, the restaurants you went to...did they accept Credit cards? We went to Cafe Kor in Budapest and went to pay and no credit cards/no euros accepted. So the women stayed behind and the men found an atm. Not a problem but a little embarrassing!
Was Bottega la Famiglia also in Budapest?
Okay, I booked the Prague pickup from the airport to take us to the downtown hotel...Intercontinental because we are doing the pre cruise part in Prague. think we will have any problems? There are four of us and they have us down for a minivan. I called even and stated....definitely want the minivan..
We will keep our fingers crossed. I have set up the other two couples that way also. Ugh.
Curious about booking the speciality restaurant onboard? Also, where was the captain dinner held? In MDR or speciality restaurant?
Where did you find Andrea Řezníčková [Andrejka2002@seznam.cz]Not sure if anyone will want to do this, since we will be in Prague 3 1/2 days. But if you think it is worth it, let me know. I would like to do an additional tour the disembarkation day in Budapest, do you have any suggestions there?
Thanks again for all of your information and your review. Can't wait. Depart this Sunday 12/9 for a very long flight.
Merry Christmas to you!
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'04 Radiance of the Seas, Caribbean
'05 Serenade of The Sea, Hawaii
'06 Vision of The Seas, Mexican Rivera
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'07 Adventure of the Seas, Southern Caribbean
'08 Celebrity Millennium, Northbound to Alaska
'08 Viking River Cruise of Christmas Markets
'09 Carnival Dream Innaugural
'09 AMA River Cruise Prague to Budapest
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'10 Celebrity Millennium Southbound Alaska
'11 Liberty of The Seas, Caribbean
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Last edited by catkoe1; December 4th, 2012 at 02:49 PM.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 02:49 PM
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Hope there are people that are just getting home from the Christmas Markets on the AmaCerto will chime in with their thoughts on the cruise!
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'04 Radiance of the Seas, Caribbean
'05 Serenade of The Sea, Hawaii
'06 Vision of The Seas, Mexican Rivera
'06 Millennium, Mediterrean Venice to Barcelona AWESOME CRUISE!!
'07 Monarch of the Seas, Baja Family Cruise with 14 people
'07 Adventure of the Seas, Southern Caribbean
'08 Celebrity Millennium, Northbound to Alaska
'08 Viking River Cruise of Christmas Markets
'09 Carnival Dream Innaugural
'09 AMA River Cruise Prague to Budapest
'10 Carnival Splendor Mexico
'10 Celebrity Millennium Southbound Alaska
'11 Liberty of The Seas, Caribbean
'12 Celebrity Solstice, Mediterrean Barcelona RT
/12 AMA Christmas Markets River Cruise
'13 Viking Rhine River Cruise
'13 Yangtze River Cruise during 24 day China, Tibet, HongKong Tour
'14 Carnival Mexico Cruise
'14 Holland America ms Westerdam Alaska
'14 Pacific Princess, Tahiti and Marquesas
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Old December 4th, 2012, 03:01 PM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catkoe1 View Post
Thank you, Thank you!! Your review was fabulous. A couple of questions... did anyone complain of noise or vibrations in cat. E? Two of our cabins are in E.
Also, the restaurants you went to...did they accept Credit cards? We went to Cafe Kor in Budapest and went to pay and no credit cards/no euros accepted. So the women stayed behind and the men found an atm. Not a problem but a little embarrassing!
Was Bottega la Famiglia also in Budapest?
Okay, I booked the Prague pickup from the airport to take us to the downtown hotel...Intercontinental because we are doing the pre cruise part in Prague. think we will have any problems? There are four of us and they have us down for a minivan. I called even and stated....definitely want the minivan..
We will keep our fingers crossed. I have set up the other two couples that way also. Ugh.
Curious about booking the speciality restaurant onboard? Also, where was the captain dinner held? In MDR or speciality restaurant?
Where did you find Andrea Řezníčková [Andrejka2002@seznam.cz]Not sure if anyone will want to do this, since we will be in Prague 3 1/2 days. But if you think it is worth it, let me know. I would like to do an additional tour the disembarkation day in Budapest, do you have any suggestions there?
Thanks again for all of your information and your review. Can't wait. Depart this Sunday 12/9 for a very long flight.
Merry Christmas to you!
- We had two cabins in Cat E and both said their cabins were very quiet.

- We booked the specialty restaurant upon boarding. There is one seating per evening.

- We used Prague Airport Transfer from hotel to Airport and that was a very positive experience. No issues at all.

- I found Andrea last year from a referral from another guide, Jana. We spent a delightful with her last year and booked again as soon as we know we were returning. The entire group raved about her. She is reasonable and very much worth it!

- Bottega la Famiglia is in Budapest and very hard to find as they have no sign and do not advertise. No menus either, just choices from what the owner/chef is cooking that day. Reservation needed.

- We paid cash for all meals, everywhere. Vino il Vino took cards but I would not recommend it. The Ambiente chain does as well, but since we were a group, we found it easier to split the bill and pay in cash. Cafe Bouchon in Budapest also takes credit cards.

- Captains dinner was in MDR as specialty restaurant is very small.

Have a wonderful trip! We hope to book AmaCerto in 2014 as soon as itineraries are posted.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 04:20 PM
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From your comments, you indicated you used cash for all your meals. What currency did you use? Did you purchase the money at home or when you got to Europe?

Laundry service on board the boat. Was the pricing reasonable? If you wanted to do self service laundry, was that even available?

John
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Old December 4th, 2012, 04:26 PM
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From your comments, you indicated you used cash for all your meals. What currency did you use? Did you purchase the money at home or when you got to Europe?

Laundry service on board the boat. Was the pricing reasonable? If you wanted to do self service laundry, was that even available?

John
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Old December 4th, 2012, 04:32 PM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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Originally Posted by John99 View Post
From your comments, you indicated you used cash for all your meals. What currency did you use? Did you purchase the money at home or when you got to Europe?

Laundry service on board the boat. Was the pricing reasonable? If you wanted to do self service laundry, was that even available?

John
We used the local currency in each country, via ATM, which is our preference when traveling in Europe.

Pricing for laundry was reasonable.

No self service available.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 07:44 PM
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Caviargal, great report! Thanks for taking the time to post such a wonderful review. We had planned to book with AMA and am very sorry it did not work out that way. Heres hoping that Avalon can keep to the kind of standards that AMA seems to achieve!
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Old December 4th, 2012, 08:24 PM
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Thanks for the review!
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Old December 4th, 2012, 08:50 PM
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Thanks for your report, and looking forward to being on board next fall.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 09:40 PM
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Great review - thanks for taking the time to post.

We have been to Durnstein in the past, and although we did enjoy the walking tour (our guide was very knowledgeable about the area, so had lots of tidbits to share...) DH and I both feel once was enough.

So - we are now booked back on the Danube - and one of the stops is Durnstein!! I have thought about walking up to the castle (weather permitting) - but wonder how strenuous it is, and the time needed to make the trip.

Did anyone comment on the journey itself?

Fran

Last edited by franski; December 4th, 2012 at 09:42 PM.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 10:39 PM
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Great review! Can you tell me a little about Vapiano. You said "not a sit down dinner" - is it take out food?
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Old December 4th, 2012, 11:11 PM
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Originally Posted by franski View Post
Great review - thanks for taking the time to post.

We have been to Durnstein in the past, and although we did enjoy the walking tour (our guide was very knowledgeable about the area, so had lots of tidbits to share...) DH and I both feel once was enough.

So - we are now booked back on the Danube - and one of the stops is Durnstein!! I have thought about walking up to the castle (weather permitting) - but wonder how strenuous it is, and the time needed to make the trip.

Did anyone comment on the journey itself?

Fran
I have to put my hand up here Fran as I did the Castle climb. I'm only 65 but I found the climb quite a challenge. The path up is steep and the distance between some of the steps is a bit higher than usual. I thought I was fit (for my age) but I was glad when we reached the top. I have the photo's though. The climb up took us about 40 minutes and as you can imagine it was a lot easier coming down. In a way I'm very glad I did the climb because if I ever get back to Durstein I'll just concentrate on drinking sozzled apricots.

Rod
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Old December 5th, 2012, 02:20 AM
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I have to put my hand up here Fran as I did the Castle climb. I'm only 65 but I found the climb quite a challenge. The path up is steep and the distance between some of the steps is a bit higher than usual. I thought I was fit (for my age) but I was glad when we reached the top. I have the photo's though. The climb up took us about 40 minutes and as you can imagine it was a lot easier coming down. In a way I'm very glad I did the climb because if I ever get back to Durstein I'll just concentrate on drinking sozzled apricots.

Rod
Hi Rod.

I am only 56 - but have some issues with my knees. I can walk distances - but do find climbing a challenge at times. In fact, we moved into a bungalow last year to try to reduce the wear and tear on my knees (we were in a back split...)

Sounds like this may be a bit more than my poor legs can handle.

Thanks for taking the time to respond.

Fran
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Old December 5th, 2012, 05:40 AM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by franski View Post
Great review - thanks for taking the time to post.

We have been to Durnstein in the past, and although we did enjoy the walking tour (our guide was very knowledgeable about the area, so had lots of tidbits to share...) DH and I both feel once was enough.

So - we are now booked back on the Danube - and one of the stops is Durnstein!! I have thought about walking up to the castle (weather permitting) - but wonder how strenuous it is, and the time needed to make the trip.

Did anyone comment on the journey itself?

Fran
I made it halfway up. There is a trail that is well marked but quite a vertical hike. I felt the ground was too unstable for me to be comfortable continuing to the top. I am quite fit but not good with heights. DH made it all the way, is in great shape, and said it was very challenging but the views were worth it. I would say to allow a good hour at least to make the hike.
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