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Tag Archives: AMAWaterways

Travel Advisor Trip Review– 7 Nights Aboard the AmaBella with AmaWaterways

Santa Barbara Travel Bureau Advisor, Nancy Herrmann, recently visited the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and Hungary through a 7-Night voyage aboard the AmaBella. Beginning with three days in Prague, ending with three days in Budapest, with 7 days of stops along the Danube River on a river cruise by AmaWaterways. Below, Nancy shares her highlights of the trip, favorite cities, and tips to get the most out of cruise trips.

Three Days in Prague, the “City of Spires”

Prague

The AmaWaterways cruise started on the Danube River in Germany, but we chose to fly into Prague, Czech Republic to spend a few days in “The City of 100 Spires.” Any time you travel for a cruise, I highly recommend choosing a few destinations to explore at the beginning and/or end. If you are making the trip, make it a journey!

The historic center of Prague, a UNESCO World Heritage site, dates back well over 1000 years. In the 14th century it was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire and since has seen many upswings and falls of power throughout history. The most recent notable rise was in 1989 with the end of forty-one years of communist rule, yet the beauty and charm of the Old Town remains.

Nancy room

Accommodation: We stayed at the Pachtuv Palace for our three nights in Prague. Although our room showed definite signs of wear and tear, this hotel offers impeccable service, very large rooms and is walking distance to the Charles Bridge and Old Town Square.

 

Regensburg, Germany

From Prague, we boarded a bus for the transfer to our awaiting longship. After about two hours on the road, we stopped in Regensburg, Germany for a quick tour of the city and a lunch break. Beautiful, quiet town with an incredible waterway.

regensberg collage

 

The Cruise with AmaWaterways

Did You Know?  The word ‘Ama’ stems from the Latin “Amare,” meaning “to love.” In other words, AmaWaterways means “to love waterways” (not A.M.A. which could be confused..). That is what this river cruise line is all about: ensuring their customers love to travel on water as much as they do.

Cruise Theme: This particular cruise was a Wine Themed sailing with Aver Vineyards from Gilroy, CA on board and it required attendance at a special one hour Seminar on the River.

Service: The level of hospitality and attention to detail was remarkable. The crew was professional, attentive and charming, with a perpetual sense of good humor! Each day began with a genuine smile and cheery “good morning” from the housekeeper. Each stateroom was neat and clean, all day, every day. The bartenders and wait staff did everything they could to make us feel comfortable and well fed. We even struck up a rapport with a waiter on the first day who, much to his dismay I’m sure, ended up with us at his dinner table the entire cruise! Our table guests changed, but clearly, Aleksander enjoyed us as much as we did him.

Accommodations: For the next seven nights, we were housed in a Twin Balcony Stateroom that features both a French Balcony and a separate outside balcony, allowing incredible views right from our room throughout the journey. Talk about being on the water!

On Board Travel Tips: All inclusive pricing really helps you relax on vacation, and quite a few of your usual necessities are provided. All staterooms are equipped with a hairdryer, bathrobes, slippers and a safe. Your bathroom offers a magnifying mirror and spa-quality toiletries including soaps, body wash, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion that are replenished as needed. On European ships, a computer is provided in each stateroom that has high-speed Internet access and complimentary WiFi is available throughout the ship, albeit somewhat slow most of the time due to the fact that everyone uses it at the same time.

Meal Time: Meals are served in the main dining room three times a day, and as in usual cruising fashion, there are snacks available in the lounge throughout the day and late into the evenings. All drinks, including premium wines, beer and spirits are included with your meals. Coffees and hot chocolate from a dispenser, teas and water are available all day. Additional drinks can be bought in the lounge at very affordable prices; about $6 for a glass of wine and from $4-$15 for premium drinks.

Map of the 7-Night Cruise along the Danube River

Map of the 7-Night Cruise along the Danube River

First Highlight: Passau, Germany A typically quaint city on the Danube with some dubious history that includes tales about Hitler and Napoleon. The city floods often, most recently in 2013, where the water was so high, the town had to shut down!

Second Highlight: Salzburg, Austria Music fans ourselves, we chose to visit Salzburg, home of Mozart, ‘The Sound of Music’ and visited our first Christmas Market. The city has changed a bit since my last visit almost 30 years ago, but it is still charming.  If you aren’t as enthralled with Mozart as we were, we recommend the day trip to the picturesque Cesky Kymlov in the Czech Republic.

abby

Third Stop: Melk, Hungary Melk was one of our favorite stops, with its historic Abbey and fairytale town and began our favorite day.

wachau valley

Sailing the Wachau Valley: After a morning in Melk, the afternoon was spent sailing through the beautiful Wachau Valley, with incredible views past rolling hills, beautiful baroque churches, vineyards and ancient castles. Ruins of the 12th Century Durnstein Castle, atop the highest hill, was a great photo-op before floating into the striking town of Durnstein. History has it that King Richard the Lion-Hearted was imprisoned in the castle by Leopold V, the Duke of Austria, in 1192. That same evening, we did a special wine tasting at Castle Gobelsburg, then we set sail overnight to Vienna.

castle bodelsburg

The Journey Continued in Budapest

The last day and night of the cruise was spent in Budapest. This beautiful city was indeed at the top of our list! Thankfully, we planned to spend an extra few nights here after the cruise, so we didn’t have to extend the trip– We loved it so much we would have!

Highlights of Budapest

  1. Cruising the river at night
  2. Hungarian goulash soup making at the Sofitel (we have the aprons and hats to prove it!)
  3. Strolling through the Christmas markets
  4. Best dinner of our entire vacation (during our own 2 night extension)!
  5. Lights, sights, bridges and so much more!

budapest

All in all, this was a fantastic trip! In my opinion, AmaWaterways is great for travelers who want to take it easy, have some good food and sit back and relax, with the average age for a European river cruise at 55+. Although there are some things for the younger set to do while off the ship, because these longships have limited public space, there is not much to do while on board. If that is not a concern, it’s a great way to discover some great places in Europe!

If you have any questions about the trip, please call Nancy Herrmann at 805.966.3116 or email her at nherrmann@sbtravel.com or see her trip details on her Facebook page

Stollen Memories

Are holidays for you – as they are for us – all about the food?  As the years go by, it seems the strongest memories of holidays past revolve around what we ate and drank, as well as the people we spent them with.

Last week, we posted a Santa Barbara Travel trip report from our advisor, Cathy Kroll.  She wrote all about her gluwein-filled riverboat cruise, as she visited the Christmas markets along the Danube River.  Cathy sailed with AMAWaterways, and this week we bring you a blog post written by the owner of that company.  It was originally published on AMAWaterways‘ website, but we’ve asked to reprint it here: her description of a favorite childhood treat is so vivid, we can almost taste it!

Stollen Memories

by Kristin Karst, Executive Vice President and co-owner of AMA Waterways, originally posted on 12/27/13

The holidays may be over, but as friends and guests return from their Christmas Market cruises, their suitcases stuffed with handmade ornaments and delicious seasonal treats, I am reminded of my childhood in Germany. Thought I would share some of these memories with you!

My hometown of Dresden is famous for its stollen, a moist cake made with dried fruit, nuts and spices and topped with powdered sugar.  The Dresden Stollen is an old, old tradition that dates back to 1474. The cake can be quite dense and heavy – nearly 4 ½ pounds! – and it still is my favorite dessert during the Christmas season. But it has to be the “official” cake, which is only available at select bakeries in Germany. My mom always sends one of these stollen cakes every year to my home in California, so that our family can enjoy this special treat when we are at home during the holidays.

pic_travelogue_stollen_2

Dresden holds a Stollenfest every year, which in itself has a fascinating history. During the reign of Augustus II the Strong (1670-1733), he ordered the Bakers’ Guild of Dresden to create a gigantic stollen for everyone in the city to enjoy. They had to build a special oven and design a huge knife to accommodate this massive cake, which was large enough to feed 24,000 people! Today, Dresden bakers continue this tradition by baking a stollen that weighs an astonishing 6000 pounds! It’s paraded by horse and carriage to the Christmas  Market, where it is ceremoniously cut into pieces and handed out to the crowd.

Where else but Europe would you experience such wonderful things? This is one of the many reasons why our Christmas Markets cruises are so popular. Many of our guests have taken these cruises multiple times, eager to experience the magic of Christmas in Europe again and again. We love that our cruises have become an annual tradition for our guests!

Hope you had a wonderful holiday!

 

dresden2

Christmas Markets along the Danube

“It’s a really special time to experience Europe,” said travel advisor Cathy Kroll after taking AMA Waterways Christmas Time Cruise, “and visiting the ‘Christkindl’ markets along the ancient cities of the Danube is a unique way to experience the Christmas season.”

xmas

“The hand blown ornaments, the little ‘smokers’ or hand incense burners; the men and women cooking sausages and sauerkraut over enormous pans; market-goers in their hats and mittens standing around barrels drinking their gluwein – these are all images from my Christmas market cruise that I’ll never forget.”

vienna

Who should go on these cruises?  “You know,” says Cathy, ‘although anyone would enjoy these, I think they’d be particularly fun for groups: your book club, your church group, all your girlfriends, or a family reunion.. it’s just so much fun to experience this with a lot of people!’

xmas2

And what about the weather? “There’s no way I would let the winter weather stop me.  Just be prepared for the cold… like your mom always tells you, ‘dress in layers!’.  My own tip?  Wear shoes that are waterproof.  Besides, you can always drink gluwein to keep warm!  And you know, when you get chilly at the markets, it’s so wonderful to come back to the ship that is all decorated to the nines for the holidays, and be welcomed with mulled wine and hot cider.”

AMAWaterways Christmas market departures are specially decorated for the holidays

AMAWaterways Christmas market departures are specially decorated for the holidays

“I travel because I’m so interested to see how others live, and the history of countries that are so much older than our own.  I love seeing life through others’ eyes.  I also love taking what I’ve experienced and, frankly, the travel mistakes that I’ve made myself, and helping my clients have their own, perfect vacation.”

If you have any questions about the AMA Waterways Christmas-Time Cruise, or you’d like some help crafting your own perfect vacation, contact Cathy at ckroll@sbtravel.com.