After reading all of the glowing reviews of the AMA Waterways European river cruises, we made reservations for the Legendary Danube cruise from Prague to Budapest on the AMALyra. We did a considerable amount of research about river cruises, both on Cruise Critic and elsewhere, and we understood that this was not the same as an ocean cruise. We reserved a modestly priced cabin with a French balcony on the upper (Violin) deck. With a three day pre-cruise extension in Prague, the cost, not including airfare, was close to $9000. We had great expectations and were so disappointed.
In Prague, we stayed at the Intercontinental, an older hotel that has been nicely updated. Our room was large and attractive. The included breakfast there was excellent. Wi-fi was only available in the lobby, which is usual for the Intercontinental Hotel Group.We had a city tour on the first day, and it was fair, at best. The tour guide was difficult to understand due to her heavy accent. We were rushed from site to site, a pattern that persisted through the trip. The following day we took the optional tour of the concentration camp at Terezen. The bus ride was tiring, but the tour was excellent, probably the best one we had.
On out third day, we left by bus for our embarkation from Nuremberg. The bus ride was long and tiring, but I cannot blame AMA for the geography. On the way we stopped for lunch and a brief tour of Karlovy Vary. The guide on our bus had such a pronounced accent that we understood very little of what he said. He was clearly the worst one we encountered. Our embarkation was smooth. We were seated in the main lounge while we waited to be escorted to our cabins. The lounge was worn looking. The furniture looked faded and had seen lots of use. Our cabin, although small, as others have noted, was acceptable and adequate for our purposes. The housekeepers were friendly and did an excellent job of keeping it clean. We were promised bath robes; after numerous phone calls, they finally arrived 36 hours later. There were not enough electrical receptacles in the cabin, and the ones there were under the bedside tables, making access to them challenging. The shower, which many people have praised, seemed cramped to me, and I am not a large person.
At the reception dinner, our disappointments escalated. Everyone was instructed to arrive simultaneously, so there was a delay finding seating. We met the waiter, who, like most of the dining room staff was somewhere between surly and unhelpful. Requests were either denied or ignored. Smiles were nowhere to be seen. We finally found a pleasant, helpful waiter serving a corner table, so we managed to sit at his table throughout the remainder of the cruise. The staff in the lounge were similarly inadequate. Sitting in the lounge, we were never offered the opportunity to purchase a beverage. To get a drink, one had to walk to the bar and put in an order. We were never offered any beverage service on the sun deck. The bartender could be nasty. One day we returned from a bus tour in the late afternoon. The afternoon tea was scheduled to open at 4 PM. Since we had missed lunch, we were anxious to have something to eat. The buffet was partially set up, and sandwiches were accessible. As I tried to take one, the bar tender brusquely informed me that food could not be touched until 4 o'clock.
We were disappointed by much of the food. Breakfasts were adequate, although slow moving lines were common at the buffet and the omelet station. They did have lox and bagels, which I enjoyed. Lunches were poor. There was a salad bar with the usual slow moving lines. When I arrived at the food, several items had been consumed and were never refilled. At lunch, the wait staff took orders for soups and entrees. Soups were excellent, the best of the food we had on the boat. Entrees were mediocre, at both lunch and dinner. Each meal included an offered fish dish. For seven days, it appeared that we were served the same fish with a different description, trout, bass, etc., all identical, possibly with a different sauce. Beef was similar. We were daily offered a different beef entrée. Each had a different name, but it seemed to always be the same dry tough cut of meat. Chicken dishes were similarly disappointing. The salad bar and the ice cream station were often closed before we had finished our meals. The wine serves in the dining room was good, but it was difficult to find the wine steward for a second, or even a first glass. Although we traveled through several countries famous for their beers, only one brand of beer was available during the cruise.
We had daily bus tours on this "all inclusive" cruise. They seemed to consist of interminable bus rides with tour guides who varied in quality fair to good. We rapidly tired of rushing to get on a bus, riding to a site, having a brief tour, and then rushing back to the bus. The promised slow walker and fast walker tours never materialized, so with everyone walking at differing rates, the group was stretched out and the faster walkers had to wait for the slower ones to arrive.
Even the fellow passengers on our tour were a issue. Many were from a large group, and as another reviewer has noted, were brusque and unfriendly.
The worst problem was our cruise director. She always had an excuse as to why any request could not be accommodated. She was constantly making announcements over the PA system, often in the early morning and late evening, announcing things that had already been clearly outlined in our daily hand-outs. Our impression was that she was trying to impress us with how hard she was working and how important she was for our cruise. Gratuities seemed to be an issue. We cringed every time we heard her voice. Unfortunately, any questions to the ladies at the reception desk were simply referred to the cruise director.
Disembarkation presented another issue. We were offered a cab to our hotel in Budapest, where we spent another five days. What we received was a car service, which was very pleasant. We only later found that the fare was triple that of a taxi!
We are experienced travelers, but our disappointment (I keep using that word) with this cruise really turned us off toward river cruising. There were so many issues that I have not mentioned, but between brusque crew, poor food, poorly planned tours, and a terrible cruise director, AMA Waterways has lost our respect. If we do another river cruise, it will be with another cruise line.