The cruise was flawlessly executed. Docks were near the center of town/city. Schedule was usually on time. We were fortunate that we had no issues with high or low river levels. The crew was exceptional – from the captain who was very accessible to those who served us in the dining room or tended our cabin. For the first time we tipped the individuals who took care of us personally as well as contributed to the gratuity pool. Smiling faces and offers to help were much appreciated.
The quality of the food was way better than the meals we were served on any previous ocean cruise. (seven cruises on HAL and Princess) The plates were attractive but more important the food tasted great and there was more than enough variety to satisfy most tastes. It was really good food! Fortunately the serving size was modest so we never over-indulged.
Our cruise manager (Reka Piros) was great. Her instructions and recommendations were clearly stated and were spot on. We were a mature group and nothing was ever silly or embarrassing as will have encountered with a cruise director who gets carried away with being an “entertainer.” All the local guides were articulate and easy to understand.
The boat (I adhere to the definition that ships sail the oceans and anything else is a boat.) was in perfect condition, attractively decorated, and well laid out. Our Aquarium class cabin was more than adequate. It was small but no so much that it interfered with our comfort. Furthermore, we were in it for sleep, showering, and maybe 30 minute cat naps. We needed nothing larger and certainly felt no need to spend more dollars just to have a window/door that opened. Many might not agree with that but for us it was perfect. Therefore, we have no complaints concerning the boat, the crew, and the execution of the cruise. BTW, the personal sound systems worked flawlessly and were invaluable.
A few less than ideal issues in our estimation…
Each of the port calls was fine- - not great, but fine. The ones that were better than others in our opinion were the large cities. The small towns/cities were too similar – large church, pedestrian streets, shopping, town square, castle above the town, and a river or two running by. The towns were clean, attractive, the pride of each of the local guides, but none compared to the history and wonders of Prague, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. We have never considered ourselves “city people” but the four larger cities were so much more interesting in all aspects. We have done the hill towns of Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Greek Islands, but we felt they were more interesting than the stops on this river cruise. Granted the abbey, the magnificent churches, and restored medieval buildings were photogenic and nice, but they did not measure up in our humble opinion.
The prior comments about the smaller towns/cities on our cruise are probably influenced by the fact that we encountered rain, drizzle, overcast skies in most of them. The sun was shining in the larger cities. Since we are avid photographers, we felt some disappointment when dealing with umbrellas, low light, etc. I think that even taking that out of the equation, the towns were not exceptional. Each of the local guides expressed great enthusiasm and provided interesting commentary. Another factor that influenced our thoughts was the limited time in each place and the lack of depth of our experiences. We walked about for about an hour with a guide and then had less than an hour to explore on our own; that was not enough time to absorb each locale, even a small town. Other itineraries might be different but we got the idea that ours was not unusual in that regard.
Now for the items that we would consider “cons”…
We avoided one of them by staying four nights in Prague and four nights in Budapest on our own. We did pay $90 each for the transfer from Prague to the AmaPrima. The transfer and hotel costs for those eight nights was equal to what the cruise line charged for three nights in Prague. The only thing we missed was the orientation tour of Prague. That seems like a rip off to us! Our hotel in Prague is the #1 hotel on TripAdvisor and they provided complementary transport from the airport upon our arrival. Both hotels were in great locations, had comfortable beds, included breakfasts, and had helpful staff members.
The only other negative was the bus tours of Vienna and Budapest – can’t get much out of “on your right” and “on your left” as the bus moves through a city. I think a walking tour through a specific section of the city would be much better. At least the drive-by in Budapest stopped at a couple of places, but we thought the bus ride on the Ringstrasse was a waste of time.
So as you can see, overall the river cruise was great. We saw interesting places, traveled on a beautiful boat with a wonderful crew, and ate well. What more could we want? So the question from friends is: “Would you go on another river cruise?” I think the answer is “probably not.” I would go back to many places (Italy, Africa, Israel) we have visited but I am not sure traveling on a beautiful river would be one of them. Our reactions might be caused by a case of travel overload - - five major trips (Tanzania, Greece, Israel/Jordan, India/Nepal, and the Danube) in less than two years so maybe we would have felt the same way no matter what trip was #5 on that list. One aspect of the experience that did reinforce our opinions is the benefit of being on a smaller vessel. Our experiences on small ships have always been great; large ships have numerous drawbacks - - although we were happy to be on big ships in the Mediterranean, or crossing the North Atlantic and the Drake Passage! The calmness of the small ship onboard experience is high on our list of preferences; AmaPrima reinforced that preference. Not everyone develops the same reactions to the same experience. These are just our thoughts and opinions. Questions?