From Christmas markets to world-renowned museums, the AmaWaterways Romantic Danube itinerary included some of the most charming spots in Germany, Austria and Hungary and was just what the doctor ordered for a whimsical winter getaway – and I was definitely in the mood for some enchanting explorations!
Waking up in a different city on the Danube every day was definitely the way to do Europe. While AmaWaterways offers awe-inspiring trips aboard their luxury boats across Africa, Asia, Europe and some of the world’s most historically significant cities and sites, this is the perfect time of the year to take time for yourself and travel in amazing Ama style. They are also adding more of their popular wine centric cruises to Europe’s premiere wine regions in the new year.
Though they have a fleet of over 20 ships, boarding the AmaMagna, one of the newest boats in the AmaWaterways arsenal, was definitely a showstopper before we ever set sail. This unique river cruise is twice the width of all other European river cruises, making it the crown jewel of this family-owned company. Upon entering the boat, I was most taken aback by how much it looked like a boutique hotel. With trees in the lobby flanking both sides of the staircase, glossy travertine floors, lounges that resemble a hip South Beach hotel, five bars, libraries and a screening room, this was not your grandparent’s river cruise!
While river cruises are known for appealing to an older demographic, the industry has been trying to dispel that notion for some time, and the AmaMagna might be just the vessel – literally – to make that happen. With less than 200 guests and plenty of high-end amenities and entertainment options, this cruise felt more like a private chartered yacht.
Each of the four on-board restaurants had its own vibe, so you could dine in differing ambiances during the duration of the trip. Most unexpected was Jimmy’s, a dimly lit restaurant where guests could sit together around long wooden tables and get to know each other over family-style dishes. You could feel the modernity of the AmaMagna in this mouthwatering spot which was named for AmaWaterways’ late co-owner Jimmy Murphy.
After being greeted with a glass of bubbling champagne, you can enjoy a six-course meal of some very tasty treasures at The Chef’s Tasting Table, the AmaMagna’s most intimate dining experience. Their award-winning chef and his team served up a foam-pumpkin soup, fresh river fish, filet, and other memorable and palatable plates.
For a casual yet satisfying spot – with a great view, retractable windows and outdoor seating – Al Fresco serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. With a grand breakfast buffet of lox and bagel, freshly baked pastries, cheese platters, salads, meats and a made-to-order omelet section, the main dining room definitely made me a morning person! With menu options always available in case the buffet just wasn’t enough, and all the fresh juices, smoothies, coffee and anything else you desired delivered by friendly faces, I found myself in the main dining room more than any other part of this stylish ship. Let’s just say that passing by ancient castles, rolling hills, fortresses and vineyards on this romantic river cruise made for some breathtaking views with every bite.
Think eating on a boat can become monotonous and a missed opportunity to try authentic, local cuisine? Think again! From a true Bavarian lunch, complete with plenty of bratwurst and other German delicacies, to wiener schnitzel in Vienna and Hungarian Goulash when docked in Hungary (which I still have a hankering for!) they made it easy to become immersed in each port’s cultural cuisine.
With eating becoming my most consistent pastime on the trip – they even had late night snacks every night – it’s a good thing the AmaMagna had a Zen Wellness Studio with a fitness center, massage services and bikes on the deck overlooking the river. They also had a wellness host who gave daily classes. Their spa services, including manicures and pedicures, in addition to a full-service hair salon, were a great way to tune into the serenity of our stunning surroundings. The long roof deck was the perfect place for watching picturesque spots along the river, and even featured a heated pool and whirlpool.
Being twice the width of all other river cruises means that most of the 98 rooms are suites and range from 355 to 710 square feet. The wooden accents, modern appliances and amenities, including flat screen TVs, Apple desktop, touch-screen technology and spacious bathroom, reminded me of a floating haute hotel, and stood in stark contrast to the historic towns we went by – which you could watch from the oversized balconies.
From manager Raul’s friendly greetings to my “secret” tour of Captain Jan’s control room, the AmaMagna became my very homey home away from home. Another core aspect of AmaWaterways is their element of surprise. Whether it’s finding a scarf on your bed as a welcome gift, getting a mug to fill up with hot beverages at the Christmas market in Vienna, receiving Mozart chocolate balls after a day of exploring Salzburg, being treated to a wine tasting at a 800-year-old winery with live music or even being able to send as many postcards as you want from the ship (they replenish supplies on-board daily) it’s the little things that make for one big special trip – the crew even sent me a postcard upon my return home!
Their inclusive shore excursions are also part of the AmaWaterways way. The river cruise has its own line of luxury buses which are great for arriving to each destination in style. With outing options in each town, and a knowledgeable guide also included, you are able to get a taste of the small towns that dot the Danube, as well as big European cities, including Vienna and Budapest. The tours included UNESCO World Heritage sites, world-class museums, the famous Melk Abbey and medieval towns, such as Durnstein, home of the world’s best apricots and one of my favorite spots where time stood still. They even arranged for an optional classical concert in Vienna one night and of course I had to see where they filmed scenes from “The Sound of Music” around Salzburg and the surrounding Austrian Alps. The fog settling on the Wachau Valley also made for some spectacular sailing.
While cruising along, Ama had plenty of activities planned, such as an Austrian strudel making demonstration and live music in the lounge every night. Your New Year’s resolution should be to book an AmaMagna getaway!