If you want to know why AmaWaterways has won more than a dozen gold Travvy awards over the past few years—including the overall category four consecutive times—you only have to go on one of their cruises to have your answer.
My husband and I went on the “Colors of Provence” cruise on the Rhone River. Immediately after boarding the AmaCello, we were met by helpful, friendly and accommodating crew members who made us feel welcome, even though we arrived at check-in four hours early! It remained that way for all seven days onboard.
The AmaCello is 360 feet long and 38 feet wide, with 69 staterooms and four suites accommodating 144 passengers at capacity. It has 45 crew members, or said another way, one crew members for every three passengers. That is a great service ratio and every experience reflects that.
River cruising with AmaWaterways is an intimate experience in that, by the end of the seven days, we knew the captain, the first mate, the cruise manager, the hotel and banquet manager, as well as the executive chef. Each one of them was visibly on hand most of the time to make sure everyone was happy and getting everything they needed. For me, a great trip is defined by two things besides the service—the food and the activities or excursions.
Food and Beverage: The food aboard the ship was wonderful. The dining room has open seating with a buffet for both breakfast and lunch; a menu with waiter service is available as well, should the buffet be not enough or to your liking.
Dinner is a gourmet meal each night with a recommended chef’s specialty, but standard dishes are always an option if you want something else. The specialty meals offered nightly feature the kind of meal available at the local ports we were visiting, as was the wine that is included with both your lunch and dinner (beer is as well). Of course, guests are free to order a specialty wine from the wine list, but the included wines were a different label each night, so guests could always find a wine they liked.
Dining highlights included a seafood extravaganza lunch where the executive chef was even shucking oysters while you waited. The guests could not have been more delighted.
With a reservation, but included with your fare, is a dinner at the Chef’s Table specialty restaurant. A special menu set for the week includes a gourmet six-course meal in a separate dining room that seats about 24 people. As with the main dining room, any allergies or special needs are managed with ease.
Every afternoon, before dinner, guests are treated to an afternoon cocktail of the day in the lounge while they wait for dinner. It was a great opportunity for guests to mingle and discuss the great excursions they experienced during the day. Coffee, tea, iced drinks and snacks are available all day in the lounge.
Excursions: The stand-out feature of traveling with AmaWaterways is the exceptional activities they offer. With such a small guest count, they could just offer one or two activities per day, but most days they offered a bike trip for the very active, a walking tour, and/or an experience such as a wine tasting or even a truffle hunt (on the Rhone trip we took).
As our cruise manager told us, AmaWaterways is always trying new things to enhance their guests’ experiences. With that in mind, one night, for those of us that wanted to go on a special walking trip, we were treated to an after-dinner light show at the Pope’s Palace in Avignon. It was a beautiful and special experience.
Smartly, for all of the walking trips, they offer three versions—for active walkers that like to travel faster, regular walkers, and gentle walkers for the older or more limited in the group. This made so much difference as I have been in excursions on prior cruises where the group has been held up with slow walkers. With the wireless headsets to listen to the guides as we walked, it was a great experience no matter what group you were with.
Our guides were wonderful and knowledgeable, and more than once mentioned they liked to work with AmaWaterways and their higher expectations for their guides.
Our wine and chocolate tasting was specially prepared for AmaWaterways guests and was very informative besides delicious. On every tour, we spotted our cruise manager, making sure all was going smoothly, and the guides were doing their best. It is nice to feel looked after when traveling abroad.
In addition to the food, beverage and excursions being important, of course, the facilities and the other guests are as important as well. AmaWaterways keeps their ships in great shape, clean and filled with great amenities. The guests vary in age; on this trip we had young to old, groups and couples, and even a few single travelers. Everyone is friendly and courteous, making for a great experience for the whole.
Our trip did have groups on board, the largest having about 30 people. Groups are accommodated as best as possible for seating or activities and in whichever way they can make the group’s experience the best. It seems that when a group leader is assigned as spokesman for the group it makes everything easier to run smoothly for the cruise manager. Which makes it pleasant for all of the guests onboard.
So, after such a wonderful experience, I can only ask, when do we leave for the next river cruise?
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