We spent a whole week aboard Amawaterways’ AmaSerena in December for a Christmas Markets River Cruise through the Danube River in Europe. Even for its cheapest stateroom, most people might say that it was expensive. But after factoring in meals, beverages, transfers and tours; somehow it doesn’t seem all that bad. The total cost of the cruise was $4,460. Definitely not within a backpacker’s budget for a week-long vacation. But we do like to enjoy our vacation once in a while, relax and let somebody else handle the stress.
Everything was new for us. Europe was a new destination and we are first-time river cruisers. But I am telling you right now that we would definitely do it again!
If you’ve read my last post on river cruising, Cruise Da-Newbies, you know how much I wanted to see the Christmas Markets of Europe. That is one of the main reason I wanted to do a river cruise. But imagine waking up to a new city every day and being able to visit a Christmas market every day. Sometimes, you get to visit multiple markets in one day (four in Vienna!). I’m sure not everyone is as excited with Christmas as I am. But calling at a different port daily while sleeping comfortably on your bed is a level-up from your ordinary vacation. Yes, I’ve been on ocean cruises. On a seven-night cruise, you may visit three to four ports and the rest are sea days. Not that that’s bad.
Being in the same room for one week also removes the necessity to pack and unpack every night. After dinner, we go to our room, take a shower and lay in bed. No anxiety over having to pack for the next day.
One thing that can be a PRO or a CON for some is the topic of food. There is no 24-hour room service on a river cruise. So, no temptation to eat too much as we have always done on an ocean cruise. LOL. They have an early-risers breakfast at the lounge, buffet breakfast at the main dining room, light lunch at the lounge, sit-down lunch and dinner and also a Captain’s Dinner at a smaller dining room that guests can attend at least once during the week. Wine and soft drinks ARE INCLUDED with the meals. I guess some budget lines don’t include them. There is always some kind of snack at the bar 24/7 if you feel hungry in the middle of the night. The only downside for me is that when you decide to eat at the dining room, you may be seated with other passengers at your table. There are no assigned tables. Conversations may get a little awkward if you are not used to sitting with strangers.
I really loved the buffet breakfast because of the variety. They cook omelet as you order and have a table with different types of bread and spreads. But what really make s me look forward to breakfast every day is the smoked salmon which I had daily.
The light lunch is a good option, too. Sometimes, you just don’t feel like having a three-course lunch meal that lasts an hour. They serve part of the menu at the lounge for the lunchtime hours.
Captain’s Dinner is a little more intimate and guests’ attire tends to be more dressier. While I was more casual at the dining room, I wore a dress the Captain’s Dinner. I can compare it to dining at Palo at Disney Cruise Line’s ships. The Captain was there at the end of dinner to talk to everyone and take pictures.
Since we booked the cheapest stateroom with Amawaterways, I was able to compare it with an ocean-faring vessel as we have sailed on an inside stateroom plenty of times. The Cat E stateroom was small but well-appointed. It was like every space or corner was assigned to be of something. I appreciate the idea of being able to fit the luggage inside the closet. I cannot imagine having the luggage out during the week. We may not be able to walk around the room. There is also an in-room safe for the valuables. In-room entertainment was also available. The television in the room also functions as a computer monitor so you can browse the internet. Wi-fi was functional through most parts of the river. But do not expect it to be as fast as your home internet. The QuietVox that they use on tours will also be in the charging station in your room. It is a device with an earpiece that lets you hear you tour guide as you walk on your tour. There was always complimentary water being replenished in the room and daily cruisers for the next day. They also give out bottled water before going out on tours.
Most tours are included in the price and they will divide you into groups. There is a “gentle-walkers” group for those who would like to explore a city at a slower pace. There are multiple tours offered while you’re in the city. Being it December, I didn’t think there was enough people who signed up for the Biking tours. And as far as I remember, there was only one Limited Edition Tour (LET) offered for an additional fee. While I was planning this trip, I thought that the Salzburg tour was an additional fee. It was explained to us by the cruise manager that because we were on a Christmas Markets cruise, it was included in the price. Also, it is completely up to you if you even want to do a tour. You may opt to stay on the ship or you may go around town by yourself. They will do their best to assist you.
Every time we come back from a tour, they always welcome us with warm, wet towels, a hot drink and a snack. It feels so home-y coming back to the ship after a tour out in the cold.
And FYI, they also had a small gym on the ship. Although I think it was hardly ever used.
It was also interesting to see a river cruise ship go through locks. And we did so many times during this journey. The ship was mere inches away from the wall of the locks or the other ship. It was a fascinating experience. One of my dream is to see the Panama Canal. If anything, this trip just made me excited.
But best of all, it feels dreamy to just be relaxing at the lounge watching the changing scenery with a hot drink on your hand.