On The River Again With AmaWaterways

On The River Again With AmaWaterways

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert


As I write this, I am on the AMASerena on the Rhine River. We are sailing on the Captivating Rhine Route from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Basel, Switzerland.

AmaSerena Pool top Deck in Cologne

AmaSerena Pool top Deck in Cologne

Once again AmaWaterways continues to impress—the standards are very high, the food and wine are awesome, the ports and sights are great and the crew always makes you feel special.

It is cruise # 17 on AmaWaterways for us, so we have learned about this company from top to bottom and watched it grow and get better on each sailing since our first cruise in 2009. It just feels like home to us—inviting and we feel like special guests.

I write all the time about Europe river cruising and its value. We have 8 guests sailing with us, 2 couples for the first time and 2 couples that are new to the AmaWaterways family. They all agree—it is a great value!

Since many often want to know the differences between cruising during the seasons, I thought I’d tell you about the differences between cruising on the Christmas Markets in December and the summer cruise we are on now, on the identical route.

So, let’s compare the two—Ready?—Let’s go!

The Differences in the Ports

The most striking difference is the crowds in the public squares.

During the Christmas Market season, the squares are full of small booths and festive people shopping, talking and enjoying food and drinking heated, spiced wine. They are bundled up, happy and it is an amazing atmosphere of lights, color and fun. It is often quite crowded.

In the summer, many squares seem almost empty compared to the crowded Christmas Markets, but the small restaurants often have outdoor tables loaded with people enjoying a drink or meal and people watching. The establishments extend out into the squares and have replaced some of the empty space.

Since sunset is after 9:30 PM (2130 hours) in the summer in June, it seems the days last forever and the weather is mild. On this trip in particular, the weather has been spectacular—temps in the 60’s-70’s in the day and only a small rain shower for about an hour or so.

The wonderful thing about visiting Europe is seeing the people in their outdoor living rooms—the public places of Europe where the gather to visit, eat and enjoy life.

Both seasons are great, but just have a different feel and vibe.

The Wellness Program

In the summer, the already excellent Wellness Program has more activities due to the better, milder weather and program upgrades.

We got an early look at the program in the winter with the onboard wellness host, Selena on the AmaKristina. It was very good—as I have earned a master’s Degree in Physical Fitness, I think I have the credentials to properly evaluate the program.

Let me be clear—it is robust, fun and I was taken back about how many different activities were offered—it by far is the best fitness program on the Europe rivers by any company!

Jane, Len and Marcelo getting ready for a bike tour.

Jane, Len and Marcelo getting ready for a bike tour.

They offer stretching, Yoga, resistance bands, core exercises, bike tours and jogging tours. All are professionally led—Marcello, from Portugal, was our onboard wellness host and he did an outstanding job!

Selena, now the overall director of the program, has created a wonderful addition to Europe river cruising—well done!

The Tours

The tours do not change much except during the Christmas Markets, there is more time to visit the markets and each cruise manager helps folks learn about where to go to get their special gift or decoration.

The tours are well planned and fun. As we have been on this route 4 times, we know about each offering and have either been to the place on the offered tour or have seen it on our own.

This is one way we add value to your cruise—we use our first hand experience to advise you of which tour at what pace would be best for you. On this summer trip alone, we have a very active couple who completed most of the active and wellness activities, to include the bike tours, others who enjoy the normal paced tours and one couple who like the gentle walkers tours. They have used our advice to enhance their onboard experience.

The range of tour activities and the pace of a tour just enhances the guest experience—again AmaWaterways is right on the mark!

Life Onboard

AmaSerena Lounge

AmaSerena Lounge

It is amazing to me how consistent AmaWaterways is in delivering a great experience at a reasonable price. The meals and service is always good. Somehow the crew, who always work long hour away from their families, are pleasant, caring and really want you to have a great time. In 17 cruises, we think it gets better each time.

Anne with Jess at German food party while sailing—see the hard working crew in the background?

Anne with Jess at German food party while sailing—see the hard working crew in the background?

I wrote about high performing organizations in a past blog, and AmaWaterways is certainly high performing. Each person in the 47 person crew does their job professionally with a smile and tries to make you feel special.

My Ama Cruise App

A new feature on AmaWaterways is a mobile App that helps improve your travel experiences.

The App allows to know your full cruise itinerary, post pictures to an album, and has the Daily Cruiser, your detailed hour by hour schedule of each day.

If you post photos, you can send them to family and friends in an attractive email postcard. Friends can also follow your cruise progress on a live tracking map.

Rhine River Gorge Castle 2019–I can add this photo to my cruise App

Rhine River Gorge Castle 2019–I can add this photo to my cruise App

Very good descriptions of each port of call on your itinerary is also available to you when using the App.

The App also keeps track of your past and future cruise memories all in one place.

While sending the notices to others requires a WiFi or internet connection, it still can be used offline to record pictures and read about the sights or your daily programs. When internet service becomes available, it will update when you open the App.

It first came out in early December of 2018 and is better now in June of 2019.

Great, innovative idea!

My Final Thoughts

What a great company!—no wonder I still rate them the number one company for Europe river cruises. They have earned this spot and still keep it!

We are travel experts, ocean and river cruise experts, and Europe destination experts. We have first-hand knowledge of almost anywhere you want to visit in Europe. We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you. We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.

When you are spending your hard-earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip. You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience. And, you want someone who can help you with the decision making process. We think we have all these qualities.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you! We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel. Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com. We want to help you: Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations! Your journey begins here!

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 48 years. He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years. He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees. His other Certifications:

• AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist

• Viking River Cruise Specialist

• Scenic River Cruise Specialist

• Emerald Waterways Specialist

• Avalon Waterways Specialist

• Brit Agent