In my recent review of my first river cruise experience, I mentioned that I had the pleasure of taking a cruise along the Seine River in France aboard AmaWaterways‘ AmaDante. Although the ship was built in 2008, it felt in pristine condition and possibly refurbished because it certainly had the look and feel of a new ship with its elegant yet modern amenities and furnishings.
I loved the space and privacy of our stateroom with French balcony. I often opened up the sliding glass door to enjoy the fresh air while sitting in one of the comfortable chairs inside the room. In addition to the queen size bed, there was a decent sized closet, a floor-to-ceiling cupboard with shelves, a small set of drawers, and two nightstands with small drawers, which gave us plenty of room to unpack all our belongings before stowing our large suitcases underneath the bed. The bathroom had a nice shower, soap, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and lotion, along with a vanity cabinet where we were able to unpack our own toiletries and supplies for daily use. There were plush robes and slippers in the rooms. On the small in-room desk next to the chargers for the personal audio headsets used for tours, we found two large bottles of Evian water that were replenished as needed. Water was also offered when exiting the ship everyday. We were delighted to discover little surprise amenity gifts in our room on the second night, in addition to the usual chocolates on the pillows at turn down service.
The ship was well appointed with comfortable spaces and services for guests. In addition to the spacious lounge and bar area with indoor and outdoor seating, there was also a single-chair hair salon with a massage table. Massage appointments were easy to reserve once you were on board and were reasonably priced (for less than I could book a massage back home). As I mentioned in my previous post, laundry service was available for a nominal fee with a quick turn-around time. There was a small library with a selection of books and games, though as those of you who read this blog know, I am never caught without a book to read wherever I go. The WiFi was complimentary and boasted decent speeds for a ship. Though we didn’t spend enough time in our room to take advantage of it, there was a wide selection of movies, TV, and music from which to choose. Every evening, there was some form of entertainment in the lounge, from live musical performances to historical presentations to trivia night.
The fitness program, complete with an on board Wellness Director, was all included. In addition to the cozy gym which was available to reserve, there were classes such as daily stretching every morning and sometimes after tours, resistance band classes, and core workouts. The Wellness Director seemed open to tailoring classes and workouts to suit the needs and interests of guests.
Large picture windows ran the length of both sides of the main dining room, as well as the more intimate chef’s table dining room. Perhaps my favorite area of the ship was the upper sun deck which had a cushioned couch seating area, an enormous hot tub (that no one seemed to use), a walking track, tables, and reclining lounge chairs with foot stools. When not actively cruising under low bridges, there were sun shades that could be raised.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, high tea, cocktail hour, and late night snacks were all included. Every excursion tour was also included, and there were several different tour options from which to choose each day. Bikes were available to take off the ship in each port for personal use or as part of the guided bike tours.
I was impressed with AmaWaterways’ service. The staff were all helpful and kind and seemed to share a friendly humor with each other and the guests. Several different cruise members used the term “family” when talking about their camaraderie, and in one case it was a literal rather than figurative reference, as two of the dining room staff were actually related. Our cruise director was experienced and familiar with the area, offering great recommendations on things to see and do outside of the planned tours. Many of the crew and staff were from other European countries, which I thought added something special to the overall experience. They were able to share interesting perspectives about France from a different point of view. I always appreciate learning about other cultures and hearing about where people are from, as it often inspires me to want to travel and experience new places.
We did experience one unexpected problem, which gave us the opportunity to see how AmaWaterways handled unforeseen challenges. The ship had engine troubles one day while on our way to Vernon, which resulted in limited power supply on board. Unlike open ocean cruises, the sedate Seine with land nearby on both sides of the ship made us feel like we were never in any danger or drifting off course. The Captain called a nearby barge which arrived shortly after the incident occurred. It pushed us to nearby pilings where we tied off while the problem was addressed. Without power, the chefs quickly changed the lunch menu to cold options and somehow still managed to serve an incredibly delicious dessert. On a ship full of French wine and cheese, an unexpected delay couldn’t be too bad. (I’ll write another post devoted to the amazing food provided on the cruise because it was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.) While the engines were fixed, we had extra time to relax in room, on the sun deck, or wherever on ship we chose. We docked at a different location than the one originally planned for that afternoon, but the cruise director managed to arrange for buses to pick us up there and still do our original planned excursions. The only exception was that the bike excursion was canceled that afternoon due to longer than expected distance from our original destination. However, everyone who had planned to take part in the bike tour were accommodated on the buses and able to see everything through the other tour options.
I felt like AmaWaterways handled the pandemic concerns of guests in a professional manner that made a return to cruising as safe as possible while still being an enjoyable experience. Everyone on board was vaccinated and boosted, and there was a tiny fraction of guests on board compared to a large ocean cruise. There were daily temperature checks each morning on the way into breakfast, and hand sanitizer was readily available throughout ship. Masks were mostly worn in indoor public areas except when eating or drinking, but there were ample outdoor spaces and private rooms to remove masks if you preferred. AmaWaterways arranged for covid tests on board the day before departure to help facilitate travel for those who needed tests to return home. AmaWaterways also helped arrange transportation to and from the ship if requested.
Overall, I was extremely satisfied with my AmaWaterways experience and would definitely consider cruising with them again in the future. They offer river cruises in Europe, Africa, and Asia, so there are many different itineraries from which to choose.