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Friday, 1 January 2016

Christmas cruise on the Danube River - Jan 1st/2015....

Today was a cold and wintery day - most places were closed so I stayed on the ship the entire day.  I finished packing early in the day, then just relaxed in the lounge and did some reading.

The Amasonata itself, which was only about a year old, is well designed, pleasant and very comfortable.  It is a 164 passenger vessel with spacious rooms, a choice of dining venues, a heated pool with swim-up bar, in-room internet access, a fitness center and a spa. There was an excellent self-serve coffee machine in the lounge - the crew kept the coffee station continuously well stocked with coffee and clean cups - passengers used the machine frequently. 

Overall, I have to give this trip and AMA Waterways the highest rating.  It is always possible to criticize anything - there are a few minor things that AMA might have done better, but the only thing that is obvious to me is the slow pick-up in Wurzburg to return to the ship.  AMA offered more excursions than on other cruises, and there were more choices. 

The service by the ship’s personnel was excellent and better than what I experienced on other companies’ cruises.  The excursion to Salzburg (with an additional charge) was worthwhile.  The excursion (without an additional charge) to Munich via train was one of the high points of the trip; and a nice lunch was included.  I have a hard time imaging another cruise company accepting the charge for the excursion to Munich via train.

The food and wine was absolutely superlative and the best in quantity and quality that I have had on any river cruise.  I would even go as far as to say that the food was superior to what I received on Holland America ocean cruises.  Also, the complementary wines at lunch and dinner were far superior to what I received on other cruises.

For the final supper, I had the crab cake, which was very nice. Then chicken broth with tomato and rice, grilled fish with shrimp sauce and white wine.  For dessert, I had the banana split. There was piano music in the lounge.

The next morning, there was juice, sweet rolls, and coffee in the lounge.  About five of us left in a van for the airport at 8; the airport transfer was included.  Many people took off work today so there was no traffic to speak of - it was raining.  The security procedures at the Amsterdam airport are the most excessive that I have experienced.

 We departed to Atlanta at about 11 am - about a ten hour flight.  The flight to Jacksonville was delayed about 45 minutes as the plane was late arriving.  We arrived in Jacksonville at about 7 pm -  I arranged for a taxi pick-up at the airport.  There was an unusually bad traffic jam on Interstate 95 northbound - I have had 38 previous trips, and not on one of them was there ever a traffic jam.  We must have sat in traffic for more than an hour, fortunately the rate for the taxi is a fixed amount. 

Although I am not religious, a European cruise at Christmas is special.  The best Christmas market that I personally saw was Salzburg, Austria.  The Christmas markets at Vienna, Nuremburg, and Munich (and others) were also very good.

 Photos belong to Phil Bianco

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