Today I’d like to share my experiences of a sophisticated and elegant cruise down the Legendary Danube on AmaWaterways’ stunning new AmaSonata.
AmaWaterways – Legendary Danube – Nuremberg to Budapest
AmaWaterways offer a number of different itineraries along the Danube, this one runs from Nuremberg
on the Main-Danube canal down the Danube to Budapest, passing through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and into Hungary. We experience the magnificent engineering of the Main-Danube canal crossing the Continental Divide and joining the mighty Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. Historic Regensburg, one of the most unspoilt medieval towns in Germany, is the first port of call and makes up for the day of locks we go through to get here!
As the ship docks in Passau we have the opportunity to choose a city tour of the wonderful 2000 year old town before cruising along to Linz, or a full day excursion to Mozart’s birthplace, Salzburg famous as the setting for the Sound of Music.
In Melk I choose the guided bicycle ride along the river in the shadow of the great Benedictine Abbey which inspired Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose. Our guide studied at the abbey as a child as it is the only ‘Gymnasium’ in the local area. Unlike its namesake in English the Austrian Gymnasium is the equivalent of the English Grammar School, rather than a sporting centre! It was fascinating to hear her stories and experiences and gain a real understanding of life in the area.
From Melk we cruise the beautiful Wachau Valley, with its vineyards and Castles lining the river banks, as we make our way to Vienna. After dinner there is an opportunity for an evening concert of Mozart and Strauss music in the Austrian Capital. Having visited Vienna before I took the opportunity of a culinary tour – Sacha Torte and Sparkling wine – who could resist? This was a small group tour of 8 people and as expected involved the eating of cake and drinking of wine!
What was less expected was the fact that we also got a full tour of the city, hopping on and off our mini bus, to walk around each area. For me the small group worked really well as it became more of a discussion with Eric our guide, rather than a lecture. All the guides were really knowledgeable – but sometimes it’s good to engage on a more personal rather than historical note.
After a lovely lunch on board ship I opted for another bicycle tour to work off some of the Cake. The tour took us to Klosterneuburg Abbey and historic Monastery just north of Vienna- and inevitably more cake.
The next morning brought one of the true highlights of this itinerary, sailing the Danube into Budapest. Truly growing out of the River the twin towns of Buda and Pest flanking us on either side with their grand architecture and imposing monuments. The sundeck was crowded for the first time on the cruise, with everyone trying to get to the front for a good view and photo opportunity. Moving downstairs to the lounge’s outside terrace area I found I was alone to enjoy the scenery almost entirely uninterrupted!
We take a tour of the city to get oriented and I spend the afternoon climbing the Buda hillside for some absolutely stunning views of the city and surrounding area. After our final dinner on board the ship sails a special Illumination cruise through Budapest, allowing us to see this wonderful city lit for our pleasure.
About the AmaSonata
The AmaSonata is the latest of AmaWaterways’ new Concerto Class ships. At 135m (442ft) in length, these new ships provide more space throughout with larger staterooms and suites and more expansive public areas. Designed by AmaWaterways’ President, Rudi Schreiner to his exacting standards, the ships are hand built from the hull up to the very highest standards.
One first notices the quality of the ship on the quayside. Most of the ships moored up are well, just moored up, the AmaSonata seems to shine. I’ve noticed this before with other top level operators like Uniworld and like Scenic, they seem to stand out from the crowd. The paint is smoother, brighter and … well I’ll say it again – shinier. This is partly to do with the fact that the crew are out cleaning it at every point of call and partly due to the standard of manufacture, both of which reflect the overall ethos of the company.
Service standards on board are excellent, with an informal efficiency, making it a very pleasant environment to relax and enjoy your free time.
Staterooms and Suites
Staterooms are all a good size with French balconies, or AmaWaterways’ Twin Balconies featuring both a sit out and French balcony on the middle and upper decks. I had a Category BB Stateroom (No 203) on the middle deck. At 210 sq.ft. with the twin balcony set up it was really lovely indeed. A mattress topper made the separable twin beds into a comfortable double (at 5′ wide this is a US Queen, UK King size and is typical of river cruise ships). The large bathroom was well equipped with a shower, with rain shower head, WC and basin and a window to the cabin that turns opaque with the flick of a switch. Alex didn’t understand why you needed a window in the bathroom – I thought it was one of my favourite touches – daylight when you want it privacy when you need it.
A fridge in the room is well stocked with 500ml bottles of water which are great to take with you when you’re on deck or exploring off the ship. There was plenty of hanging and storage space too as well as a safe and umbrellas – just in case.
The sundeck is one of the loveliest I’ve seen on a river ship. As well as a plenty of sun loungers, chairs and tables the ship also features a beautiful sofa area in front of the bridge and pool with swim-up bar behind.
The lounge is elegantly decorated in with upholstery in different material to provide variety to the view. A piano provides accompaniment to the passing river banks in the evening and one might even venture out onto the dance floor. Lots of glass brings the outside in, and a lovely outside terrace area at the front of the ship is a beautiful place to sit to watch the world drift by.
The smart dining room provides plenty of seating for all guests in both booths and open tables. The large windows provide lots of light and lovely views of the passing scenery. There is also an opportunity for a more private dining experience in one of the ‘Wine Rooms’ tucked away near the restaurant entrance.
Fellow passengers we drawn from all over the world, predominantly English speaking and almost al pretty well travelled. Interesting and entertaining conversation was never hard to find.
Dining on board is regarded as some of the best on the rivers with menus prepared by Gold Medal winning Executive Chef, Primus Perchtold. AmaWaterways are also members of the invitational La Chaine des Rotisseurs an achievement of world-class culinary acumen. Whilst the galley’s are relatively small they do produce some really good food and extend to touches like freshly baked bread and pastries.
Breakfast is a mixture of Buffet items and service, lunch is either a more formal sit down served meal or lighter bites in the Lounge or even on deck. Dinner is a much grander affair with a selection of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes.
Meals were certainly very good, with some being truly excellent, and all accompanied by very free flowing wine with Lunch and Dinner. All meals may be taken in the main dining room, which provides seating for all guests in a mixture of booths and open tables, light lunches are also available in the lounge and rear lounge and can be taken on deck too – weather permitting.
In addition to all of this is a seemingly endless supply of freshly made cakes, pastries, afternoon tapas and late night snacks to ensure you don’t get hungry between meals.
Chef’s Table Restaurant
Once each trip passengers can take the opportunity to dine in the Chef’s Table Restaurant at the rear of the ship. This is a really lovely set menu with complementary wine parings and is highly recommended by me!
This was a really enjoyable cruise and cements AmaWaterways at the top of my list of river cruise operators. The ships are elegant and service is relaxed and efficient. I really liked the tours, particularly those in small groups which made them feel more like a discovery than a lecture.
You can see the details of this cruise and all other cruises offered by AmaWaterways from the following links