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What's River Cruising All About?

08 May 2015

Couple Onboard AmaReina

Updated February 2017

Iglu's Managing Director, Simone Clark, a seasoned ocean cruiser, experienced her first river cruise. Here's what she has to say about her experience with APT...

We now have over 7000 river cruises on our Iglu Cruise website – offering an even wider choice of destinations and cruise holidays worldwide. As with anything that we offer, I was keen to experience and gain an understanding of what river cruising is all about. I was fortunate enough to spend two nights onboard AmaReina with APT, travelling from Budapest to Vienna and wanted to share my thoughts.  I’ve previously been on quite a few ocean cruise holidays ranging from small six star ships to some of the biggest ships in the world.

The Cabin

I had a lovely cabin with a French balcony and a small balcony too.  Very comfortable and compact with lots of storage and an Imac TV, that could be used as a computer too so you could take advantage of the free wifi!

The Ship

The AmaReina is a 5 star river cruise ship and carries under 200 guests with a crew of approximately 50 people.  Facilities onboard were fairly typical for a river ship .  The lower deck was home to the restaurant, a small fitness room, massage room and a speciality dining restaurant offering a delicious tasting menu.  The upper deck featured a large lounge with bar, where you could eat light snacks throughout the day and that offered some musical entertainment in the evenings, and also featured a small shop and the reception area.  Upstairs was a large, very luxurious sun terrace with sofas, deck chairs, covered areas and a bar.  This ship was extra special as it even had a small plunge pool, with swim up bar!  The crew were fantastic with very personal service.

The Cruise

I was on at the very start of a 14 night cruise, which ended up in Amsterdam.  Ports were a mixture of larger cities (where we docked overnight) and smaller scenic ports.  APT include all excursions in the price, which  were a mix of city tours or something further afield.  For the city tour, virtually the whole ship attended whereas there was a choice of 3-4 more specialist excursions the following day in smaller groups.

My itinerary for the 2 days were as follows:

Day 1:  Arrive in Budapest and embark on the ship with a light lunch (soup, sandwiches and cakes) in the lounge. Free time in Budapest, where we visited the market.  Pre dinner welcome at 6, then dinner at 7.30. We enjoyed a delicious tasting menu in the speciality dining venue.  At 9pm there was an evening cruise through the Danube.  We enjoyed this from the sun deck with a nice glass of wine!  Then to the lounge for a drink and to listen to the pianist.

Day 2:  Breakfast and then off the ship for a city tour of Budapest, that included a tour of the opera house and was a mixture of coach and walking. Then back onboard for a much needed lunch and washed down with local wine.  The afternoon was spent sailing down the Danube and relaxing in the sunshine.  Many enjoyed the views from their cabin or balcony and took the opportunity to have a nap or watch the latest movies (free  in the cabin) or find out more about the different excursion choices on offer for the next few days.  That evening there was a lovely welcome cocktail party from the Captain and the whole crew followed by dinner.

Day 3:  A lazy morning sailing including through our first 2 locks of the trip.  We arrived in Vienna after lunch and then everyone went on a city tour.  The evening was going to be spent having an early dinner and then an (optional) private trip to the opera house for a recital.  I sadly had to fly home to missed this.

Day 4:  The morning was planned to be a choice of optional excursions in Vienna and the surrounding areas (choices included Bratislava or a chocolate tour). Then sailing on to the next port.

The Atmosphere

There was a very relaxed atmosphere onboard the ship - people got changed for dinner, but it was very casual.  As there were less than 200 people on the ship, everyone dined at the same time and tended to all sit together on tables of 2-6 people.

The people onboard were from all over the world, well travelled and enjoyed exploring the destinations as well as enjoying relaxing between ports and enjoying the view from the ship as we sailed down the Danube.  As the ships are small, it’s quite social and friendly and certainly not formal.

What’s Included?

With APT, all excursions, tips, wifi speciality dining and most drinks were included – there was a regional wine each day with dinner too.

The Verdict

The ships are much smaller than ocean cruise ships, this one had approx. 190 passengers onboard.  They have the feeling of a small, boutique, floating hotel with a restaurant, lounge bar and sun terrace.  The pace was a good mix of exploration and tours followed by relaxing cruising down the river and the views were sensational in the cities and beautiful in between.  There isn’t a huge amount to do onboard as the emphasis is on relaxation and enjoying the view as you dine and enjoy music/drinks and learn about your destination.  The age group onboard tended to be 55 plus and a mix of singles, couples and groups of friends (these ships don’t really cater for families).   If you’ve cruised on a smaller cruise ship on the fjords and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and want to explore further afield, then this is a perfect choice for you as it does have a similar feel onboard.   Many of the people onboard my cruise and had combined the cruise with a tour and a med cruise onboard cruise lines such as Seabourn, Cunard and Azamara cruises.  In my short time onboard I enjoyed fine wine and food, explored 2 cities and a gentle cruise along the river and came back feeling very relaxed.

See also:

A day in Budapest

River cruise deals

River Cruises Return

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