Christmas Markets on the Danube - AmaStella 12/6-13, 2017

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#1
San Diego, CA
396 Posts
Joined May 2011
Excitement abounds as we leave for our Christmas Markets cruise on AmaStella... Dec 6 - 13, 2017. Feel free to ask questions and I will try to find an answer.

We flew San Diego to San Francisco, then to Munich and on to Budapest. All went very smoothly. We were in Business class and that definitely makes things more comfortable. We buy our airfare very early and have had good luck getting lower fares that way. Booked direct with Lufthansa... Service on LH was excellent! I have never seen so many FAs on one plane. As was expected, I did not sleep on the overnight flight... but that’s just me. The plane was nice and quiet and dark, but I can’t ever make sleep happen... and not taking medication, so that’s that. I have survived a night without sleep many times and will do so again!

For those who have a stop in Munich... we arrived at Terminal 2 and also left from that terminal, although at the other end. It was a bit of a walk but nothing more than any other large airport. We were worried about passport control lines after reading some reports... and we had just over an hour connection. One of the benefits of being first off the plane is that you are closer to the front of the passport line! Was very quick... no other security screening for us as we stayed in the same terminal. No problem making the flight.

We stayed at the Hilton Budapest in the castle district. Beautiful hotel, fairly small rooms as seems common in Europe. Very walkable area. We had prearranged transport via email with Alajos Pulai... budapestairportaxi.com.

DAY ONE
Dropped luggage off at the AmaStella around noon and then took the free Ama shuttle to the area by the Sofitel (which may be where people stayed if they purchased from Ama?)... then a bit of walking around... to the Central Market and around one of the Christmas markets. Back to the ship via the free shuttle at 3pm.

From noon until 3 there was some kind of food in the lounge in case you were hungry... then they brought trays of desserts for “tea”. A wonderful coffee/latte/hot chocolate machine was constantly available and made excellent beverages! Seems like the bartender was always available in case you wanted a drink as well.

One word about cabins... they are a bit smaller than regular ocean liner cabins. I feel like there is very little storage in the bathrooms and by the vanity. I am in a french balcony cabin by myself and have no idea how two people would handle this... lol

At 6pm there was a gathering in the lounge for all passengers. Nice to see a very wide age range in passengers. I’d say that at least a third of passenger are under 50. Several staff members were introduced and spoke, including the Captain, who did the safety briefing. A delightful gentleman, you can tell that he cares about his passengers and their safety. This lasted an hour and then we went to dinner.

Earlier in the day, I had an issue with my stateroom tv remote and had someone come fix it. This guy asked if we would like to go to the Chef’s Table dinner that night and we decided to try it. All passengers are invited to this complimentary dinner in a beautiful, small dining room. This is a “tasting” menu where they bring you several courses of a pre-defined menu... beautifully plated, and interesting combinations. Wine flowed freely and they insisted on refilling the glasses of my companions, even when they asked them not to. Haha... As with just about every ship we’ve ever been on, they are very worried if you don’t eat everything... they think there is something wrong and do everything in their power to make it right. A little rant about this follows...

Dinner is at 7pm. I have stomach issues if I eat too much close to bedtime, so I prefer to eat a small dinner before 6pm or so. Since this meal was to finish quite a bit later, I ate just a small amount of each course... which was all excellent! Of course, upon clearing the plates, one of the servers always made some kind of comment about how little I was eating. Near the end, I made a firm but polite request that I didn’t care for dessert. I moved the cutlery to the top of the placemat and the server moved it back to the sides... we did dance this several times. Then he brought the plate of dessert, I put my hands on the placemat and said, “no thank you”, but that was not enough for him. He set the plate down anyway, made a comment about me trying it, and walked away. While I am an older woman and can get over it, I found this embarrassing and unnecessary. I sat with the full plate of desserts in front of me while my companions ate theirs. In my opinion, when a guest makes it clear that they do not want something - like more wine or food - this should be respected.

After dinner we changed into warmer clothes and went up to the sun deck for the Illuminations Cruise. The lights are absolutely stunning and it was worth being a little cold for half an hour!

Since we were still catching up on sleep from our journey, we retired to our cabins around 10:30, which is still late for me...lol. There was more food in the lounge if you didn’t get enough at dinner!




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#2
New York
9,532 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
Great start to your report! I will enjoy following along.
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#3
417 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
Twincheryl - thanks for posting - will be following along as well!
Were you happy with the prearranged transport in Budapest? I have to book transport from the ship to Budapest airport after our sailing in a few weeks and was looking for a service.

thanks again -
#4
San Diego, CA
396 Posts
Joined May 2011
Originally posted by robertmartha
Twincheryl - thanks for posting - will be following along as well!

Were you happy with the prearranged transport in Budapest? I have to book transport from the ship to Budapest airport after our sailing in a few weeks and was looking for a service.



thanks again -


Yes, the gentleman who came was an associate of the guy that arranges things. In one of his emails he said that if he is unable to come because of another commitment, he would send someone that he trusts and that he knows will provide good service. We were picked up in a larger yellow taxi and had nice conversation to the hotel. He does prefer cash in euros and will quote you a price based on the size of vehicle you need. Would use him again!


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#5
Coastal NC
3,507 Posts
Joined Sep 2006
Twincheryl, you can order half portions for dinner. My husband and I often do that. The portions are just a little larger than half, just enough for us.
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#6
San Diego, CA
396 Posts
Joined May 2011
DAY TWO

Today was an included excursion to Budapest, since the ship stayed overnight in this port. We walked around extensively yesterday so decided to stay onboard as the ship sailed to Esztergom and will meet the excursion bus there. A crystal clear day... wonderful sailing down the Danube and watching the scenery.

We went to the dining room around 8:30am and it was almost empty because the tour left at 8:45am. There was a nice selection of bread and pastries and some other buffet warmers with eggs, sausage, pancakes, etc. Also an omelette station, although that seemed very slow. You could also order off the menu... a small selection of items including waffle, eggs benedict, and a couple other things.

The lounge has early risers breakfast selection of pastries from 6-7am and late risers from 9-10am. Pastries, a toaster and breads, butter, jelly, etc. There is food of some sort in the lounge for most of the day.

Surprised by a lovely gift in the cabin when we returned from breakfast. Won’t spoil it for those who haven’t sailed yet.

We so enjoyed watching the scenery as we sailed. Picked up the excursion people at a quick stop in Esztergom and continued sailing towards Vienna. I wish we could have stopped there for an hour or so. It looked like a quaint little town. If you spent a day or two in Budapest and saw the sights, I highly suggest staying aboard the almost empty ship to see scenery that you will not see in town!

Light lunch in the lounge (with piano player) and regular lunch in the dining room at 1:30pm. Much of the same offerings but added Pho station in MDR and larger salad bar. As with every meal - beer, wine, and sodas are complimentary.

At 3:30 there was a presentation by Uwe, the Cruise Manager. He went over the excursions for the rest of the cruise and selections for various days were discussed. Papers were left in the cabins yesterday so that we can turn in the choices and they can order transportation. “Tea” was presented in the lounge around 4pm... desserts and some savory items were set out.

Internet has been good most of the time. Enough to check email and Facebook but not good for streaming. Could not get this post to upload until after several tries.

At 6pm there was a Christmas tree decorating time, but we did not attend.

Dinner time was 7pm today. As always, many choices and way too much food for me. Portions are on the small side, thankfully, and as on ocean cruises you certainly don’t have to have something from every course. Fortunately, our server tonite did not question my lite meal choices! It is a lovely dining room and the food was excellent, although much fancier than what we usually eat.

We finished dinner about 8:30pm and came back to the cabins to just chill out. Tonite around 9:15pm we began going through the first of the locks that we will traverse during our journey. Very cool to watch as the water rises many, many feet.

We are finding the lounge rather cool and are happy to wear a fleece or sweater there. By contrast, the dining room has been very warm the two times we’ve been there. Good idea to dress in layers.

Just like all the other “new” cruises we have taken, it seems like it takes a few days to get used to the schedule, decide where you like to sit in the lounge and dining room, etc. We’ll be in the swing of things by the end of the day tomorrow, I’m sure... it looks to be our busiest day.





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#8
San Diego, CA
396 Posts
Joined May 2011
Originally posted by robertmartha
Twincheryl - thanks for posting. Sounds like you are enjoying! How are the temps outside?



Bob


robertmartha (Bob)... It’s pretty chilly outside... low to mid 30’s most of the day. Today was the first day we had rain. We were hoping it would get cold enough to snow so that we Californians could enjoy that! Looks like that might happen before our cruise is over...

We read everything we could about layers, SmartWool socks, jackets, boots... and it was excellent advice. The only parts that were cold were our noses... and we could pull up a scarf if needed.


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#9
San Diego, CA
396 Posts
Joined May 2011
Day 3

Woke up to an interesting sight... a wall about 2 inches from the window. We had gone through a lock last night, but our side of the ship wasn’t that close to the wall. Amazing how they get that close... and also how high the lock was to the top.

We’re in Vienna today. First tour left at 9am this morning. We visited two different Christmas markets. Optional tours went to Salzburg or the Schönbrunn Palace. We were back on the ship around 1pm. Had a little lunch and then headed back out to the afternoon tour to two more Christmas markets. They are very different in atmosphere and products being sold. It was rainy this afternoon so a bit less enjoyable than the morning. An optional bike tour left when we did... I bet that was really cold and wet!

A tip from our travels today... every public restroom we went to required 50 euros to enter. Of course, if you ate or drank at a restaurant they allowed you to use the restroom free of charge. Even the restrooms in the train stations required payment.

Also for those accustomed to ocean cruising... we have a key card to get into the cabin that is also used to sign in and out for excursions. They really have an easy system... and the QuietVox ear bud system makes it very easy to hear the guide when you are walking around.

Because of evening excursions in Vienna, dinner started at 5:45pm. We were excited for an earlier dinner! There was a small salad bar and a couple of warmers with veggies and potatoes, but the chef’s specialty was Schnitzel. You could order pork or chicken. There was also a fish dish on the menu... no doubt you could also order one of the items that is available every day. Dessert was buffet style as well.

We heard that there will be more substantial food in the lounge after 10pm for those returning from evening excursions... but we will likely be in bed. The included excursion tonite at 7pm was a return to one of the Christmas markets we went to this morning, and another one. Since it’s still raining, we’re going to stay onboard. Optional excursion (extra cost) included a trip to the symphony.

Melk is tomorrow’s port... we sail in that direction at 11:30pm tonite.



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#11
Seattle, WA/Delray Beach, FL
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Thank you so much for your live review. We board AMAStella as you're departing.

I also have fun stomach issues and eat lightly most evenings because of it, and have experienced the same scenario you described. Now I'll just be more prepared to deliver my polite, "No, thank you".

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#12
San Diego, CA
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Joined May 2011
Originally posted by 6rugrats
€50 to use the bathroom? Do you mean €.50?


Haha. Yes!


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#13
San Diego, CA
396 Posts
Joined May 2011
Originally posted by TravlGrl
Thank you so much for your live review. We board AMAStella as you're departing.

I also have fun stomach issues and eat lightly most evenings because of it, and have experienced the same scenario you described. Now I'll just be more prepared to deliver my polite, "No, thank you".

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I finally had to have a private conversation with the server because the same thing happened in the lounge the following day. He kept bringing me desserts even though I kept saying “no thanks”. This has not happened in the main dining room. When you say no more wine or whatever they respect that!


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#14
California
5 Posts
Joined Sep 2017
Thank you so much for these detailed posts. Just wondering if you heard about the Budapest tour the day you stayed on the boat. We will have a few days in Budapest before boarding and just wondering if they were on a bus all day or got off to do sites? We like the idea of staying on the boat to watch the sites go by...
also did you bring euros with you - if so - how much ? Do they exchange $ on the boat?
Thanks again for all the updates


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#15
San Diego, CA
396 Posts
Joined May 2011
Originally posted by Cruisin Wannabe
Thank you so much for these detailed posts. Just wondering if you heard about the Budapest tour the day you stayed on the boat. We will have a few days in Budapest before boarding and just wondering if they were on a bus all day or got off to do sites? We like the idea of staying on the boat to watch the sites go by...
also did you bring euros with you - if so - how much ? Do they exchange $ on the boat?
Thanks again for all the updates


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We spoke to some people that did the Budapest morning tour. They didn’t feel like it was too much time on the bus. Went up to the castle district, which is about 30 minutes with traffic and then they had plenty of time to walk around. Then they went to the Christmas Market and had a good amount of time there.

In my opinion so far, there is more than enough time at each location. Last night at Schoonbrun Palace we had almost too much time. We did enjoy some amazing strudel and cream cake at the cafe right in the square and still stood around under cover for about 20 minutes before the bus came back to get us.


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#17
San Diego, CA
396 Posts
Joined May 2011
Originally posted by Cruisin Wannabe
Do they change euros on the boat?


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Are you meaning can you buy euros from them with US dollars?


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#18
San Diego, CA
396 Posts
Joined May 2011
Day 4

Arrived to the dock in Melk around 8am. What a magical looking place! The tour of Melk Abbey left at 8:45am and was just a short bus ride away. It was quite windy this morning and we did a bit of standing out in the courtyard of the Abbey before our tour guide arrived to meet us. Inside it was a mix of warm spaces and areas that were quite chilly. No need to take off coats and scarves inside. We are not big history buffs so much of the tour was a little boring to us... haha... but the tour ended inside the church sanctuary and that made it all worthwhile. Absolutely amazing architecture and just beautiful.

My wishes came true as we left the Abbey tour and walked back to the port area through a delightful little shopping area... maybe 15-20 minute walk. IT STARTED SNOWING! For those of us from So. Calif. it was magical and worth being a little bit cold. You could have taken the bus back if you chose to.

All aboard time was around 1:00pm and we sailed toward Passau. Gorgeous scenery along the way.

One of my concerns about sailing on a small ship was that we would constantly be involved in small talk with others onboard because of the close proximity. This was definitely not an issue. The lounge is set up in small seating areas with a few chairs and various size couches in little groups, as well as several tables with chairs around them. While we became familiar with the faces of people on the ship, it was very common to see the same people sitting together or by themselves reading, playing cards/games, talking, etc. We were very happy in a corner of the lounge reading, crocheting, or just watching the scenery go by. It appeared that you could easily sit near some people you wanted to talk to and strike up a conversation if you wanted to.

We are loving the “light lunch” in the lounge, although we don’t see anything light about it. Salad bar, chicken ceasar wraps, pasta with cream sauce, tomato soup, and breads today. Also a pumpkin pie tart and some warm kugel type dessert and the ever changing assortment of cookies. SO GOOD!

While we were eating we got to see what it is like to go thru a lock from higher in the ship. From cabin level it is just a block wall outside your window, but higher in the ship it’s really interesting to see the water and ship rise.

I bet this Wachau Valley is even more beautiful when the trees are green and full. Passing by with snow flurries was still a sight to see!

At 6:45pm, the Cruise Manager, Uwe, spoke about tomorrow’s excursions. Apparently about 60% of passengers will take the optional full day trip to Salzburg. The rest of us can take the bus tour or walk into Passau. After the little talk, the Captain was introduced and toasted... then we went to dinner.

This being the Captain’s Dinner, many people were a bit more dressed up. The chef’s recommendation tonite was steak and prawns... very good and, as always, too much food for me!

Tonite we put a shoe in the hallway and see if St. Nicholas leaves us a treat.


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RCI Rhapsody (W. Caribb) 1/20
AmaWaterways - Rhine/Moselle 8/19
RCI Adventure (New England/Canada) 6/19
HAL Nieux Amsterdam (Mexico) 4/19
Celebrity Equinox (W. Caribb) 1/19
Celebrity Eclipse (British Isles) 8/18
HAL Eurodam (Pacific Coast) 5/18 - - - RCI Freedom (W. Caribb) 2/18
AmaWaterways - Christmas Markets/Danube 12/17
Celebrity Millenium (Alaska) 9/17 - - - RCI Explorer (Br Columbia 4nt) 5/17
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RCI Serenade (Scandanavia/Russia) 6/15 - - RCI Radiance (Alaska) 7/14
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#19
California
5 Posts
Joined Sep 2017
Yes - can you exchange dollars for euros on the ship. Trying to figure out how many euros to bring from home as I know we have to pay the driver who is picking us up in Budapest in euros but trying to figure out the rest. Assuming the Xmas market vendors prefer cash...


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#20
California
541 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
twincheryl, I am so enjoying following your posts. Our first river cruise was on the Danube, Passau to Budapest, in June 2010, and we were hooked. We have booked a 2018 Christmas to New Years cruise, also Passau to Budapest, and hope we get snow, too! We're in the Los Angeles area where it's 83 degrees today, with 6 forest fires burning in San Diego to Ventura

CC readers - can anyone comment on how slick the cobblestones might get in winter - does the rain often turn to ice?
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Celebrity Summit Aug. - Sept. 2005 Alaska
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