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  #1  
Old July 29th, 2014, 09:29 PM
Jeep61 Jeep61 is offline
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Default Our Pros and Cons of Our Danube River Cruise May 27 through June 3, 2014

Two set of friends will be going on their first river cruises next month and next June. They both asked for our honest reactions to our recent first river cruise. All of us chose AmaWaterways; they both are on the Paris/Normandy cruise and we went on the Danube from Prague to Budapest. So as long as I have written my comments for them I thought I would post them here. It basically boils down to thinking about the pros and cons of the entire experience. The following are our opinions and other may have differing ones. So be it! We were on the AmaPrima from May 27 through June 3, 2014. The details of our river cruise are posted on this thread: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2069899


Pros:
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?
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  #2  
Old July 29th, 2014, 09:46 PM
TasKaz TasKaz is offline
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jeep61. We will be cruising with APT (which uses the AMA boats) next September. We also also will be in Aquarium class. Always nice to hear of others' experiences.
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Old July 30th, 2014, 09:16 AM
Floridiana Floridiana is offline
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Thank you for your review. I can relate to the information overload after so many trips in a short time.

Where exactly did your cruise start? Prague is not on the Danube.
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Old July 30th, 2014, 01:09 PM
Jeep61 Jeep61 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Floridiana View Post
Thank you for your review. I can relate to the information overload after so many trips in a short time.

Where exactly did your cruise start? Prague is not on the Danube.
True - as stated in my comments, we took the cruise lines transfer from Prague to Vilshofen which is on the Danube. It is common to refer that that itinerary from Prague to Budapest since Vilshofen is not well known.
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Old July 30th, 2014, 04:23 PM
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We are looking at the same cruise on AMA and are thinking of doing Prague on our own. We want to visit Nuremberg and it seems we could do that and still board the boat. We are also considering flying into Paris and spending a few days there before taking the train to Prague. Did you meet anyone who took the train into Prague? Did you pass Nuremberg but not stop? Also, where did the boat dock in Vienna? Was it close to town? Thanks.
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Old July 30th, 2014, 06:11 PM
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We were on AMA last August ( Nuremberg to Budapest) in Vienna we we docked some distance to St Stephens (Stevens?) square. We took the metro which was an easy walk from the boat. The Train is clean, fast, easy & inexpensive. We had some folks who took cabs and heard it was in the neighborhood of $50 one way. the train IMHO is the way to go.
We took the train from Budapest back to Prague. It took about 8 hours but the journey itself was fine. Train station in Prague is modern, easy to navigate, just be aware of your belongings and the folks who will approach you about "cab" rides. Use only reputable cab companies, but don't stress over this it's really just common sense.

Last edited by moesmrs; July 30th, 2014 at 06:14 PM.
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Old July 30th, 2014, 07:16 PM
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Thanks for the info ..
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  #8  
Old July 30th, 2014, 08:40 PM
Jeep61 Jeep61 is offline
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Default Answers to some questions

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Originally Posted by sunshine nana View Post
Did you meet anyone who took the train into Prague? Did you pass Nuremberg but not stop? Also, where did the boat dock in Vienna? Was it close to town? Thanks.
We were not aware of anyone who arrived in Prague by train. We were there for four days so it was before those on the AmaWaterways extension arrived.

Nuremberg is upstream from Vilshofen where we embarked the AmaPrima so we did not pass it. Some of the Danube cruises actually start or end in Nuremberg but not the itinerary named "Romantic Danube"

Boat docked in Vienna close enough to the metro stop to walk. I can tell from the date/time stamp on my photos that it was a 15 minute walk between the metro and the dock. We got a 24 hour pass for the Vienna metro which was great - I think we rode the metro about six or seven times during our one day visit. I good map was essential!
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Old July 30th, 2014, 08:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeep61 View Post
We were not aware of anyone who arrived in Prague by train. We were there for four days so it was before those on the AmaWaterways extension arrived.

Nuremberg is upstream from Vilshofen where we embarked the AmaPrima so we did not pass it. Some of the Danube cruises actually start or end in Nuremberg but not the itinerary named "Romantic Danube"

Boat docked in Vienna close enough to the metro stop to walk. I can tell from the date/time stamp on my photos that it was a 15 minute walk between the metro and the dock. We got a 24 hour pass for the Vienna metro which was great - I think we rode the metro about six or seven times during our one day visit. I good map was essential!
Thanks for your review. Do you feel the walk from the metro to the dock in Vienna is safe to walk in the dark and is it difficult to figure out the route?

Last edited by purduemom1; July 30th, 2014 at 08:56 PM. Reason: S
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Old July 30th, 2014, 10:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunshine nana View Post
We are looking at the same cruise on AMA and are thinking of doing Prague on our own. We want to visit Nuremberg and it seems we could do that and still board the boat. We are also considering flying into Paris and spending a few days there before taking the train to Prague. Did you meet anyone who took the train into Prague? Did you pass Nuremberg but not stop? Also, where did the boat dock in Vienna? Was it close to town? Thanks.
We have cruised Budapest to Nuremberg twice... The first time we went on to Prague with the tour (AMA) - the second time (with Scenic) we stayed in Nuremberg and hired a private guide. Very glad we did that as the time in Nuremberg the first time around was quite rushed.

If you want to stay a night (or 2) in Nuremberg, I can recommend a hotel in the old town.

Fran
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Old July 30th, 2014, 10:38 PM
Jeep61 Jeep61 is offline
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Originally Posted by purduemom1 View Post
Do you feel the walk from the metro to the dock in Vienna is safe to walk in the dark and is it difficult to figure out the route?
We did the walk from the metro to the boat before sunset. I don't think I would want to do it in the dark for the first time. You need to use a pedestrian walkway on an overpass and in the dark I think it might be tough to see where to go. I don't remember what the overpass was crossing but I do think there are some canal like waterways besides the river in that area. I would recommend walking in the daytime when you can see where you are going. We also were very attentive when the bus left the boat in the morning to see the route to the metro. I would double check with your cruise manager and review the route on a good map. It was very doable before dark. As far as safety I don't think that is a problem - once again during the day!

I hope that helps.
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Old July 30th, 2014, 11:05 PM
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Thank you for your well-balanced review.
We came to a similar conclusion regarding the ports (we have visited a number of small, medieval, towns in other countries), they all seem to start blending together after awhile. We found the included tours not be our preferred style of travel. I would love a trip that spent more time in the gems of Vienna and Budapest. Upon initial review of the itinerary it would appear you spend two days each in Vienna and Budapest, but you actually just overnight. You mentioned your enthusiasm for Bratislava, but we didn't see much difference in that port from the other quaint little towns.
On the other hand, I would enthusiastically take another river cruise. I would skip the "intro" tours, and strike off on my own. I would take more responsibility for research and planning. You didn't mention participating in any Limited Edition tours, we really enjoyed those. We do enjoy strictly land trips too but there were highlights of our river cruise that just couldn't be replicated on a land trip. The incredible views of the castles and abbeys sitting high up on craggy cliffs, the vineyards, the locks - amazing engineering marvels, cruising the Wachau Valley, sailing into Budapest and getting a first glimpse of Parliament as you round the bend in the river, the light of Budapest from the river at night, watching the world go by right from your bed (if you have an upper cabin).
We are looking for a more exotic destination - Mayanmat perhaps.
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Old July 31st, 2014, 10:00 AM
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Nice review. We recently completed a Budapest to Amsterdam trip on Avalon.

As an example of different strokes for different folks, in our estimation, we enjoyed the small towns more than the big cities. Our feeling is that, other than a few unique sites in each city, a city is a city! We liked the smaller towns as they felt more walkable, more interesting - each with its own history and story. And we loved Bratislava's old town area - again, more of a small-town feel than a city.

Someone asked about the walk to/from the U at the docks. Assuming you are docked by the Reichsbrucke bridge, you walk along the river to the bridge and go up the stairs to the walkway/bikeway portion of the bridge. Once on the path, be mindful that it's divided into biking and pedestrian. You DON'T cross the river (though it sorta feels like you should) - you go the opposite way, over a road and a park. Once off the bridge, you walk a block or so on the street and the Ubahn1 Vorgartenstrasse station is on the left side (I believe - but you can't miss the big U sign!) The distance once you get to the bridge is about 400 meters, so tack on whatever it takes to get from your ship to the bridge. This area, across the bridge, also has a few shops if you need to pick up any supplies - toiletries, water, soda, etc. If taking the U, you'd probably want to get off at Stephansplatz (5th stop) which is the center square where St. Stephen's is. All of this is safe but always be aware!
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Last edited by rudeman; July 31st, 2014 at 10:01 AM.
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Old July 31st, 2014, 01:25 PM
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purduemom1 purduemom1 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeep61 View Post
We did the walk from the metro to the boat before sunset. I don't think I would want to do it in the dark for the first time. You need to use a pedestrian walkway on an overpass and in the dark I think it might be tough to see where to go. I don't remember what the overpass was crossing but I do think there are some canal like waterways besides the river in that area. I would recommend walking in the daytime when you can see where you are going. We also were very attentive when the bus left the boat in the morning to see the route to the metro. I would double check with your cruise manager and review the route on a good map. It was very doable before dark. As far as safety I don't think that is a problem - once again during the day!

I hope that helps.
Thank you for the info. We will be there in Nov. so will have to plan accordingly since it will be dark fairly early in the evening.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rudeman View Post
Nice review. We recently completed a Budapest to Amsterdam trip on Avalon.

As an example of different strokes for different folks, in our estimation, we enjoyed the small towns more than the big cities. Our feeling is that, other than a few unique sites in each city, a city is a city! We liked the smaller towns as they felt more walkable, more interesting - each with its own history and story. And we loved Bratislava's old town area - again, more of a small-town feel than a city.

Someone asked about the walk to/from the U at the docks. Assuming you are docked by the Reichsbrucke bridge, you walk along the river to the bridge and go up the stairs to the walkway/bikeway portion of the bridge. Once on the path, be mindful that it's divided into biking and pedestrian. You DON'T cross the river (though it sorta feels like you should) - you go the opposite way, over a road and a park. Once off the bridge, you walk a block or so on the street and the Ubahn1 Vorgartenstrasse station is on the left side (I believe - but you can't miss the big U sign!) The distance once you get to the bridge is about 400 meters, so tack on whatever it takes to get from your ship to the bridge. This area, across the bridge, also has a few shops if you need to pick up any supplies - toiletries, water, soda, etc. If taking the U, you'd probably want to get off at Stephansplatz (5th stop) which is the center square where St. Stephen's is. All of this is safe but always be aware!
Thank you for the detailed directions. It gives me a better idea of what to expect. We will most likely be going from the city back to the boat so I assume it will just mean reversing the steps. Since it will be Nov., I had thought we'd get a taxi but at the $50 fare mentioned in a previous post, the U is looking like a good deal.
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Old July 31st, 2014, 05:45 PM
Jeep61 Jeep61 is offline
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Rudeman and Purduemom,
Great description of the walk from the boat to the metro. Going in the opposite direction is a bit more obscure. From what I remember, when you are walking towards the bridge from the metro, the pedestrian walkway is on the "port" side facing the bridge. We ended up on a running path that actually went through the park so we turned around and found the access to the bridge. Best thing would be to ask the cruise manager to draw a map of where you walk from the metro stop. I don't want to make it more complicated than necessary, but just be aware - especially if it is dark.

Sippican,
None of the descriptions of the Limited Edition tours struck a chord with us - -only the one in Vienna seemed a bit interesting and we were set to do Schonbrunn on our own and then explore sections of the city for our genealogy project.

Also, the more I think about it the more I realize that the weather played a big part on our reactions - - rainy little towns or sunny historic zones of cities - no contest. The sunshine made a big difference. Bratislava was a surprise - beautiful buildings, complex history and clever statues that we were not expecting certainly enhanced our opinion.
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Old July 31st, 2014, 07:34 PM
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Cobbie48 Cobbie48 is offline
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Originally Posted by franski View Post
We have cruised Budapest to Nuremberg twice... The first time we went on to Prague with the tour (AMA) - the second time (with Scenic) we stayed in Nuremberg and hired a private guide. Very glad we did that as the time in Nuremberg the first time around was quite rushed.

If you want to stay a night (or 2) in Nuremberg, I can recommend a hotel in the old town.

Fran
Fran, who did you use for your private guide in Nuremburg? We are going for the second time next July and want a private guide. Thanks! Karen
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Old July 31st, 2014, 09:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeep61 View Post
Sippican,
None of the descriptions of the Limited Edition tours struck a chord with us - -only the one in Vienna seemed a bit interesting and we were set to do Schonbrunn on our own and then explore sections of the city for our genealogy project.

Also, the more I think about it the more I realize that the weather played a big part on our reactions - - rainy little towns or sunny historic zones of cities - no contest. The sunshine made a big difference. Bratislava was a surprise - beautiful buildings, complex history and clever statues that we were not expecting certainly enhanced our opinion.
We had lousy, cold, rainy, dank days for the beginning of our cruise too. In our case, I think we are just "done" with small walled towns. They are charming and fun to explore but we've had our fill. (St Paul deVence, Eze, Dubrovnik, Tallinn, San Gimignano, ,etc. prior to the Danube) We are ready to seek out something a little different. Glad you enjoyed Bratislava; that was one of our hottest days, which is perhaps why we did not enjoy it as much. We certainly did enjoy those great statues!
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Norwegian Sun - Baltics, Copenhagen, St Petersburg
Royal Caribbean Brilliance - Mediterranean, Spain Italy
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Old July 31st, 2014, 10:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rudeman View Post
As an example of different strokes for different folks, in our estimation, we enjoyed the small towns more than the big cities. Our feeling is that, other than a few unique sites in each city, a city is a city!
Yes, you are quite right about individual tastes.
Not sure of the tours or activities in which you chose to participate. We found tons more than a "few unique sites" in Prague, Vienna and Budapest. Each was nothing like any other city we've visited in any of our travels. In fact, after four days in Budapest we still didn't see everything we wanted to, and Prague is high on our repeat visit list. In Vienna, we never ventured outside of the Ringtrasse area, so much to see.
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Carnival Imagination - Western Carib.
Carnival Valor - Southern Carib.
Norwegian Sun - Baltics, Copenhagen, St Petersburg
Royal Caribbean Brilliance - Mediterranean, Spain Italy
Celebrity Millenium - Alaska
Royal Caribbean - Voyager of the Seas, Western Carib.
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Old July 31st, 2014, 11:16 PM
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Must agree Sippican! Both Budapest and Prague are wonderful cities. The architecture and the history are so interesting. I'm a country girl by birth but I love both of them! But I also love small cities in the south of France, the villages of Normandy, and almost every hill town in Italy.
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Old August 1st, 2014, 08:52 PM
Jeep61 Jeep61 is offline
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Default Still thinking...

Differing opinions are what make life interesting. But, I have been thinking about the opinions we formed after our river cruise and I think I have a new rationale. In retrospect, the walking tours of the “little medieval towns” were superficial compared to the history we learned during our extended stays and private guides in Prague and Budapest. We also did fairly extensive research for Vienna since we planned to be out and about on our own genealogy adventure. Bratislava was the exception – we knew little about it before docking but our guide painted a picture of an interesting city and what we saw substantiated that. But, based on the commentary we heard from the local guides in the little towns, you would think there was nothing that happened there during the 20th century! Almost no mention of anything after the Hapsburgs/Austro-Hungarian Empires – come on… WWI, the spread of fascism, WWII, communist control for decades and then freedom from tyranny! That might be why we found the cities of much greater interest – at least they talked about and reflected on their recent histories.
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