AmaWaterways River Cruise Tips

AmaWaterways River Cruise Tips

You’re about to discover eight things that I think you really need to know if you’re thinking of, or planning, going on a river cruise in Europe with AmaWaterways

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#1 Who are AmaWaterways?

  • AmaWaterways is a family-owned company that was established in 2002 and is still run by the families. It was set up by Rudi Schreiner, Kristin Karst and Jimmy Murphy.
  • AmaWaterways is very much a luxury river cruise line operating in the more premium area, and their ships, service and the quality of what they offer is very highly rated. For example, the Berlitz River Cruising Guide ranked over 300 river cruise ships and their top ten were all AmaWaterways ships.
  • They operate in the Mekong and also on the Chobe River in Africa but around 20 of their ships are actually either in service or are about to come into service in Europe, and they cruise very extensively in Europe. They operate on the Danube, which is where about 80% of all river cruises take place, on the Rhine, the Douro in Portugal, the Main, Moselle, Seine, Rhone, Bordeaux and the Dutch waterways. And they’re keep adding more ships and more options.

#2 What do AmaWaterways do better, different or unique to other lines?

I like to focus on what River cruise lines do that’s different, unique or they do better than other river cruise line companies to help you decide if they are right for you. I think there’s probably six things that really struck me that AmaWaterways do that are unique, different or they do just much better.

  1. First of all, because they are a more luxury cruise line, they offer more space per passenger. They have slightly less passengers on board their ships which means that cabins can be a little bit bigger and also, very importantly, they have a higher crew to passenger ratio – roughly about one crew member for every three passengers.
  2. The second thing they do, which they do talk a lot about, is their twin balcony cabins. One of the challenges is when you go on a river cruise you like having a balcony because there’s such beautiful scenery. But, of course, that reduces the size of cabins which are already relatively small. So, what they introduced are these twin balconies. You have a French balcony which means that you have more the space in the room, but you can open it and get the fresh air and the views, and then an actual balcony. About 80% of the cabins onboard AmaWaterways are these types of cabins, and I really like that solution to having both the space and also having access to the outside very easily.
  3. The third thing they do, which is pretty impressive, is their wellness program. They are the only, or certainly they were the first, to have a dedicated wellness person on board. They run programs from early morning stretches or yoga, then they might have Samba or line dancing classes, they might give some lectures and they might have more classes in the evening like circuit training or other gym classes. They also have in pretty much every port an active hiking tour and they have bicycle tours in all of the ports where it’s possible to have one. Also, because they carry bikes on board you can also then just take the bikes and go off and explore by yourself. They have a walking track on the sundeck, so if you are cruising you can still keep active. They have a fitness room on board and also, they have healthy and more lighter dining options within the menu.
  4. Another thing which I think they do very well is they have a speciality dining restaurant, which is called the Chef’s Table. It’s a special menu where the chefs are actually right in the restaurant cooking and they explain what the dishes are and also there’s wine paired for each of the courses. It’s included within the fare, and all you have to do is book because it’s a relatively small cosy venue.
  5. Another thing they do, which really appeals to me as a traveller, is technology. They have an App, which you can download before cruising, and it has things like the daily program on, it tracks the voyage, so you can see where you are with various port guides. The one thing which is fantastic, and I haven’t seen on any other River cruise ship, is their whole interactive system in the cabin. This is an Apple iMac based system and on here you can do things like watch television, you can stream videos and music and it has internet access, so you don’t have to bring a laptop with you. You’ll do things on here like the survey at the end of the cruise on that system. Embracing technology was really great to see.
  6. The other thing they do is they are very innovative when it comes to pushing what’s possible on the river. I spoke about some of the software things they do like wellness but they also, for example, have the AmaMagna. This is a ship which is double the width of other river cruise ships which means they can have much more facilities, much more space, much more choice and this is very unusual on board river cruises because there are relatively constrained. It does mean that they’re only able to use this ship on the Danube.

So, those are things that I think that they do that’s unique, different or better.

#3 All-inclusive fares

Pretty much all of the European river cruise lines talk about being all-inclusive, but every single cruise line has different definitions of what all-inclusive means. Let’s take a look at what the AmaWaterways fare includes and excludes.


  • First of all, obviously your accommodation is included.
  • All of your dining is included, so you have breakfast lunch and dinner which is all in the main dining room. There are a number of alternatives. Already mentioned the Chef’s Table, but if you want an early or late riser breakfast, they do have some options up in the lounge. There’s also a light lunch served in the lounge and Tapas available during the day, and then in the afternoon around about 4 o’clock there’s normally an afternoon tea service and even late nights snacks.
  • Some drinks are included at lunch and dinner where you have a range of wines, beers and soft drinks. Every evening they’ll have a Sip and Sail cocktail hour, where all the cocktails, wines and spirits are all included. They have a 24-hour tea, coffee and hot chocolate station.
  • Internet access is included.
  • The entire wellness program is included.
  • Excursions are I included with at least one in every port.

Not included:

  • Drinks outside of those times that have already mentioned are not included.
  • Gratuities are not included.
  • Additional services like the laundry is also extra.

#5 Who is AmaWaterways most suited for?

  • In my view river cruising is still very much more of a baby-boomers type of activity, just because the nature of the places that river cruises call on, the sights visited and the other passengers. In my view AmaWaterways is perfect for that baby boomer audience, so an adult audience in 50s 60s 70 s and above. That’s really the heart of river cruising and I think AmaWaterways is really perfectly suited for.
  • Now saying that, when it comes to multi-generational travel and families AmaWaterways is encouraging, or making it easier, to bring families onboard. For example, on some of the newer ships they are doing things like having more inter-connecting cabins and in some of the bigger cabins they have a sofa bed so third person or kids can sleep within there.
  • Very important it’s also English speaking and all of the services, all of the excursions and everything on board is in English.
  • One of things that’s very important for river cruising, and I think this is also true of AmaWaterways, is it’s not really ideal for people with really limited mobility and particularly people in wheelchairs. Part of the reason for that is the ship’s often dock next to each other and you have to go through or over various ships to get to the land side. In some cases, there can be very steep ramps to get on based on where you’ve docked. Once you get off, you’ll often find there’s cobbled streets and lots of steps so if you have limited mobility and if you use a wheelchair, going river cruising can be very challenging.
  • AmaWaterways do try and make it easier for people with limited mobility, so for example they have elevators, and, on some ships, they do have some cabins which will cope much better with limited mobility, but approach with caution and certainly speak to AmaWaterways or your agent if you do have limited mobility and check that you will
    have the right facilities, the right ship and the right itinerary if you’re considering it.

#5 Excursion options?

  • In every port that you call on there’s going to be at least one excursion included within the fare, and within these you’re going to have a couple of options.
  • There will normally be a fairly traditional tour that goes and see the key sights, and that will normally split into gentle walker and regular walker options.
  • There normally will be some kind of active option, so either a hiking or a brisk walking option and then a biking option. On some sailings they will also have a late riser option, so excursions which will go a little bit later.
  • Every one of the tours is run by local tour guides. In some ports they will also offer special interest
    tours which do tend to have an extra charge.

#6 On board dress code and ambience?

First let’s talk about the dress code. It’s pretty relaxed and you’ll find that most people during the day will
wear jeans or slacks, or if it’s nice and warm then wear shorts. In the evenings again, it’s relatively casual. They suggest a “country casual” / smart casual approach for dinner. In fact, there’s quite a mix on most evenings for dinner and some people might just wear jeans, polo shirt or slacks. On the more formal nights, like the Captain’s Farewell Party, people will tend to dress a little bit smarter.

The whole experience is a pretty relaxed experience overall, so not lots of formality. It is open seated dining, so you can sit with whoever you want to. A high level of service because of that high passenger to crew ratio. So, if you like a relaxed informal approach but with some nice touches in terms of premium luxury, it’s a really good balance I think of those two things.

#7 What sort of facilities do the ships have?

  • You’ll have a Sun Deck which will normally have lots of seating, they do have a swimming pool on board which is a pretty decent size.
  • The next level down, which is normally known as the Violin deck, is really the heart of the ship. There is the lounge which where people meet in the evenings for drinks like the Sip and Sail, you’ll have all your
    briefings in here, if there’s evening entertainment you’ll have it here. There is a gift shop and the 24-hour coffee and tea making facilities. You have the reception and at back of the ship you also have the Chef’s Table and, depending on the ship, this is also where you might have the fitness centre, the massage area and the hairdressers. On some of the ships that’s been moved down to the lower level.
  • On the Cello deck is where you have the main dining room.

What’s very important with AmaWaterways is that all of the ships have different decor, so they all have a different look and feel. So, even though the structures are fairly similar, layouts are fairly similar, you’ll find that the decor on all the ships is different.

#8 What are the accommodation options?

There is a range of accommodation onboard. You do have some suites onboard but, as I already mentioned, 80% of the cabins are the twin balcony. These are the cabins which always sell out fastest on board. There is another option which is on the Cello deck which are cabins which are more below the water level and just have a window higher up.

However, if you’re going on an AmaWaterways cruise in Europe I recommend if you possibly can get one of those balcony cabins, because you have scenery all of the time around you and it’s just a beautiful way of just enjoying the sights around you.

Final thoughts

AmaWaterways operates at the luxury end, the more premium end, of river cruising and they have a product which I really liked. I really like the ships. I like the style. I like the feel of the ships. I really love the twin balcony cabins. The food was excellent. The service was great, and I really was very impressed with the
product. So, if you’re looking at going cruising or you’re trying to decide which River cruise line you want to go around Europe, take a look at AmaWaterways.

I hope you found that helpful and I’d love it if you watch my Tips For Travellers videos because they’re designed to help you make much more of your precious travel time and money on both land and at sea – and of course on rivers!

Note: I travelled as a guest of AmaWaterways on a seven-night Danube river cruise on the AmaSonata. To see more content about my trip visit and visit the official AmaWaterways website and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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