Mary Beth’s Danube River Cruise on the AmaCerto
Cruise Line: AmaWaterways
Title: Danube River Cruise
I went on an AmaWaterways river cruise in November that started in Prague and ended in Budapest, and we had a wonderful time. Upon our arrival in Prague we used Travel Bound for transfers and hotel. The driver was there with a sign as soon as we exited the baggage claim. The Hilton Old Town was in a good location for touring and had a nice restaurant onsite with breakfast included. Prague was a very confusing city with small side streets and courtyards going in all directions. We did a walking tour that I had arranged with Viator on World War II and communist history. Since this was the 17th of November, they were celebrating the fall of communism which had taken place 24 years earlier. There was a wreath laying ceremony at Wenceslas Square and other commencements throughout the city.
On the tour we visited the former headquarter buildings of the Gestapo, KGB and SS and buildings once occupied by the Nazis. We found the Astronomical Clock which is located in the center of the Old Town Square very interesting. It is one of the most elaborate clocks ever built and you can watch the twelve apostles appear every hour. We had hoped to see the Prague Castle but it was so foggy that day – you could barely see in front of you!
We left Prague early in the morning by motorcoach for Vilshofen where we would board the AmaCerto. After a three hour bus ride we stopped in the Bavarian city of Ebensburg for a walking tour. We saw the Cathedral of St. Peter’s, the Old Stone Bridge and Oskar Schindler’s House. Upon the advice of our guide, we lunched at the Sausage Kitchen which is in a 900 year old building and still serves 6,000 sausages to guests daily. After lunch we continued on to Vilshofen to board the ship. After a very smooth check-in we attended an Oktoberfest with live music, beer and dancing.
In Linz, a mere 30,000 miles from the Czech border, we opted for a tour of Salzburg, home to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Baroque architecture lends a poetic charm to narrow streets that lead into spacious squares. There are many Gothic churches and monasteries with ornately sculpted fountains. Next we went to Melk where we found a massive baroque Benedictine monastery. The abbey church was particularly noteworthy with its frescos and an impressive library with countless medieval manuscripts. Both monks and students can be seen using the monastery.
Then on our way to Durnstein we sailed by the Wachau Valley, which is the most beautiful stretch on the Danube River. Here we saw the ruins of the castle fortress high above the town where Richard the Lion heart of England was held prisoner. Then it was on to Krems, which is known for its wines and vineyards. After dinner in the evening we went to Winzer Krems which is the city’s largest winery where 180 different grape varieties are grown.
In Vienna, “The Capital of Music” we saw St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Opera House and the famous Sacher Hotel. After a visit to the Christmas Markets that had just opened and lunch in town we continued to Schonbrunn Palace, the summer palace of the Habsburg’s who ruled much of Europe for over 600 years. The most influential ruler to have lived here was the famous Maria Theresia. That evening we were treated to a Mozart and Strauss concert at the Arsenal (The Museum of Military History).
Our final day of cruising took us to Budapest with Buda on the left bank and Pest on the right bank connected by the Chain Bridge. Here we saw Heroes Square (a tribute to Hungary’s national identity) which is the most visited sight in Budapest. It is the home of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and it is across the street The Museum of Fine Arts.
As far as the ship itself goes, we found the AmaCerto to be gorgeous. The design is eclectic and mostly contemporary. The small library with its gas logs was cozy. The dining room was intimate but with large windows to admire the landscape as we sailed by. The food was very good with excellent service. The dinners often featured regional specialties and unlimited wines and beers. In each port an included tour was offered. Normally it was a walking tour, a coach tour and sometimes a combination of both. Local English speaking guides were knowledgeable; all were fountains of information and most had delightful senses of humor. After our experience with AmaWaterways I look forward to more river cruises!
Tip for someone taking a similar cruise:
- We had a twin balcony that was spacious and well laid out, but for this cruise the extra cost of the balcony may be an unwarranted expense as in the late fall and winter as it is too cold to sit out there. However, they are about 20% bigger so perhaps the extra space is worth it for some!