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Cruise Ship Information
This 164-passenger vessel incorporates the most advanced design offering spacious staterooms featuring our exclusive twin balconies, multiple dining venues, heated pool, Internet/WiFi access and more.
Gliding slowly through the Amsterdam-Rhine canal -- we were, of course, obeying the canal's stodgy speed limit -- passengers idled on AmaCello's sun deck, one man sketching the passing half-timber homes and church spires, others discussing the cargo ships/mobile river homes that transport raw materials down Europe's industrial superhighways. A short time later, we pulled into our first lock. The dungeon door closed behind us, and as the water level began to rise, we felt ourselves becoming ever more buoyant.
AmaCello, which debuted in spring 2008, is one of river cruising's most modern vessels, on par with the newest offerings from competitors like Tauck and Uniworld. There's the elevator, the fire-orange abstract art piece that greets you in the lobby, the in-cabin multi-function Web/TV system, one of the best cabin shower setups on the rivers (more on that below), the wireless audio systems used during guided tours, Wi-Fi in the lounges and a hydraulic bridge that can be lowered with the push of a button to squeeze under low-slung bridges. Clearly, as river cruising has gained popularity, the niche has moved beyond its more traditional roots: reading on the sun deck; long, multi-course dinners with just-met passengers; evening social nights in the lounge with the piano man playing tasteful background ditties. Of course those draws are still the crux of the experience, but AmaCello presents a hybrid -- a marriage between river cruise tradition and innovation.
If Captain Vlad is manning the wheelhouse, he'll let you in for a primer about life on the river. Or, you can follow his every move from the navigation channel on your in-cabin flat-screen monitor.
A cruise on AmaCello is nearly all-inclusive. Beyond the cruise-ship standards -- food, accommodations, entertainment -- there's wine and beer with dinner, unlimited Internet use and guided tours in each port. There are also about 20 bikes available for tooling around onshore if you begin to wince at the thought of another two-hour panoramic city tour. (The free excursions are mostly of that variety.)
But, while the inclusions were certainly appreciated and the scenery serene -- the Rhine Gorge is Brothers Grim source material, castles and ruins literally blanketing the landscape -- there were a few quirks that detracted from the harmony. We were left slightly crimson after the bar manager rudely dismissed our polite claim that our wine was well past its prime. (Was that a piece of cork?) "It's just very heavy and very dry," he said, irritated. And, though the food was ambitious -- a mishmash of colors and ingredients intended to approximate fine dining rather than serving as the real thing -- the indulgent buttery soups and rich, salty entrees had us craving lighter options. The problem is, on a ship of this size, there are no other options onboard.
Despite our gripes, it's clear that AmaCello provides an excellent, comfortable way to sample the Continental interior. And, unlike on a coach tour vacation -- the closest approximation to a European river cruise -- on AmaCello, you check in once, and it's a stress-free seven days of castles and strudels, medieval market squares and World War II history.
Shore excursions with walking tours in each port are included in the fare and come in both walking tour and motor coach tour varieties -- or a combination of the two -- focusing on panoramic sites. Frankly, as is the case across the world, the quality of the tour is almost entirely dependent on the guide.
Atmosphere on board
AmaCello has two lounges. The main lounge has the ship's lone bar, 24-hour coffee and pastries, plenty of chairs and couches, and floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides. There's also a small dance floor. This indoor social hub can accommodate everyone onboard, and the room is used for just about everything, including port talks, evening entertainment, more causal meals, catching up on reading and peaceful nod-offs between lunch and tea.
In the cozy aft lounge, you can watch the disappearing landscape through floor-to-ceiling windows or enjoy a puzzle or game (selection: Rummikub, Yahtze, Jenga, Scrabble, Cluedo [the U.K. game from which the U.S.' Clue was derived], the U.K. version of Trivial Pursuit, chess, checkers, etc.). Dry-mouthed passengers can order bar beverages over the phone. The "Easy Dining" option also takes place there.
Free Wi-Fi is available in the main and aft lounges, a great touch that's somewhat unusual for the river cruise industry.
When the weather's pleasant, the blue AstroTurf sun deck bustles with activity. The sun deck setup is very basic: plastic-frame sun beds with blue fabric slings, a small "running track" (16 laps equal a mile), a jumbo turf chess board and a collapsible wheelhouse. There are also a few canopies that can be set up to provide shade, which they weren't during our cruise. By the wheelhouse, there are a few nice wooden tables. Nearly everyone comes out to recline on a lounger, walk the track or sit at a wooden table to watch it all -- castle to church spire, cargo ship to power plant -- pass him by.
At the ship's main entrance, you'll find the reception desk, a small gift shop with maps, books, gift items and colorful enamel jewelry from Frey Wille. There's also a small library with a smattering of magazines, fiction by Stephen King and Dean Koontz and a few travel and history titles.
Family with Kids/Teens
AmaCello is not a family ship, and there are no children's facilities. However some families do tend to cruise during the holiday season when the ship is decked out in the festive livery of the season (lights, Christmas decor, tree with ornaments and the like).
Past Passenger Programs
Blue Members: Qualify on your 2nd Cruise! Benefits include:
An exclusive $100 per person savings on the cruise price
A private AmaWaterways guest reception on board
Silver MembersSilver Members: Qualify on your 3rd Cruise! Benefits include:
An exclusive $100 per person savings on the cruise price
A private AmaWaterways guest reception on board
Dinner with a senior crew member
A delightful welcome amenity
Complimentary coach transfer to and from the airport
A 50% discount on a one-category stateroom upgrade (excluding suites)
Gold MembersGold Members: Qualify on your 4th Cruise & Onward! Benefits include:
An exclusive $100 per person savings on the cruise price
A private AmaWaterways guest reception on board
Dinner with a senior crew member
A delightful welcome amenity
Complimentary coach transfer to and from the airport
A complimentary one-category stateroom upgrade (excluding suites)
Fitness And Spa
There's a very small room with a treadmill, bike, rowing machine and some light free weights (25-pound weights, tops). The fitness closet also contains a somewhat impractical Pilates ball and mat. (There's just not really much room for that, unless you were to pile the machines into a corner.) Within the room, there's also a small sauna and a shower.
Adjacent to the fitness room is a single treatment room, offering massages, haircuts, eyebrow and eyelash dying and the like. A sixty-minute massage will cost you 60 euro; a 30-minute back and shoulders rub is 30 euro. Ladies' haircuts are 25 euro; it's 22 euro for the gentlemen to get a wash, cut and blowdry.
The sun deck has a gray AstroTurf jogging/walking track. A lap equals 100 meters, so it's 16 laps to the mile. Very few passengers used the track, but with something to see in every direction, it was quite a pleasant sensation going 'round and 'round on the top deck.
AmaCello carries roughly 20 decent leisure bikes that can be taken out while in port -- or if you're so inclined, you can actually ride to the next port and meet the ship. Talk to the cruise director regarding this second option; he'll direct you to the proper folks that can help plan a route. (He won't try to convince you not to do anything.) I can't stress enough the importance of planning a route and knowing your limits. Bikes are free to use. The front desk prefers advance notice if you decide to take one out.
Food & Dining.
Dinner is the ship's primary social event and usually begins at 7 p.m., but times can vary a touch due to port schedules. The line's printed material asks that passengers arrive within 15 minutes of the restaurant's opening. (In a second service oddity.
Diners can follow the passing medieval towns and modern industry through windows on both sides of AmaCello's main restaurant, which accommodates all 148 passengers during single-seating meals. Somewhat uncommon on river ships, a number of two-tops (about 10) are available alongside tables for four, six and eight. While tables are first-come, first-served -- no reservations are allowed -- but there is not any trouble getting a table for two.
Meals are multi-hour affairs, featuring four courses: appetizer (three choices), soup (two), entrees (three) and dessert (three). Overall food was uneven -- there was a richness to everything that came from too much salting, too much buttering or extra ingredients that didn't belong. The filet wrapped in bacon was buttery soft and was a standout, but only after I scraped off the confusing slice of goose liver pate plopped on top. The gazpacho was tangy and refreshing, but its accompanying jumbo shrimp was tough and chewy. A roasted trout ordered one night was so boney it was inedible. I couldn't think of any good reason why you need five sauces with your tiny crabcake (balsamic, pesto, tomato, cream, lemon vinaigrette). Appetizers were more consistent, with the vegetarian spring rolls and beef Carpaccio worthy of seconds. If you like buttery soups, you'll love those served on AmaCello. No vegetable was spared from creaming -- in a week, we had cream of corn, asparagus, potato, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprout (topped with whipped cream, no less), spinach, carrot and pumpkin.
There's almost always a vegetarian option in each category -- such as an entree of baked potatoes with vegetable stuffing or a cheese omelet for dinner or a vegetable cream soup and mixed green salads for appetizers. There were a few of what were considered "healthy" selections -- grilled and baked dishes mostly involving seafood (grilled tiger prawns one night, baked trout another).
In addition to the changing nightly choices, there's also a "standing order" menu, which features shoarma (lamb, lettuce, tzatziki and chili flakes in a pita), roast chicken, salmon, steak, French fries and Caesar salad. Both "standing only" dishes I tried were more than adequate. The chicken, salmon and shoarma are also considered healthy options, though a nutritionist might think otherwise of the lamb, which was oily and smothered with tzatziki (yoghurt dip).
There is also a cheese table, focusing mostly on soft cheeses, available throughout dinner.
Criticism aside, if the Three Mushroom Ragout in Philo Basquet with Basil-Potato Dumplings and Shredded Parmesan fails to please the palette, you can always order another entree, a welcomed policy borrowed from big-ship dining rooms.
In a nice touch, "free-flowing" wine (choice of a regionally selected red and white) and beer are included with dinner. On one night, our options were the River Vintage Fass Nr. 1, a red from Germany's Pfalz region, and a nice, young white wine with a dry finish from Heinrich Vollmer, one of the most well-known, traditional German wineries. Oddly, on some nights, refills were few and far between, while on others our glasses were refilled after what seemed like every sip. If the gratis wine choices are not to your liking, you can always order from the wine list, which focuses on German, French and Italian wines. A la carte choices are priced from 17 to 30 euro per bottle. Another option: Bring your own bottle -- especially if you're cruising through the vineyard-covered Mosel valley, known for its Rieslings. There is never a corkage fee, unlike in the dining rooms on big, mainstream cruise ships.
For those seeking a more casual evening meal, there's an "Easy Dinner" option available on some nights of the cruise in the small aft lounge. (Scheduling prevents this option from being available every night.) Choices are limited, however. One night, it was turkey and mushroom in a cream sauce and deep-fried bread pieces, shaped like torpedoes. Realistically, very few passengers choose to miss the main event in the restaurant. On an up-note, those choosing the easy dinner option won't have to forgo the free drinks with dinner. There's a table with beer and wine for the taking.
Lunch is served mostly buffet-style; you order your soup and your entree off the menu and then select the rest of your meal from a buffet of salads, fruit, honey, hot and cold appetizers, desserts and cheeses. Entrees include Malaysian noodle stir-fry with papaya, deep-fried perch with peas and carrots, and sauteed chicken in white-wine cream sauce. Soups typically include a cream of something-or-other and another option like sweet and sour or three-bean. In the buffet portion, there are salads of the garden, sausage, cucumber and coleslaw variety; cold cuts; fruit; and hot and cold appetizers like nachos, marinated mussels and toasted steak sandwiches on baguettes. There are also some special lunchtime touches. During one midday meal, a chef was doling out tasty slices of the soft parts of a roasted pig.
The standing order lunch items are hamburgers, cheeseburgers and fries. The international cheese table -- a comforting presence never absent from the restaurant -- is there for lunch, as well. Passengers are expected to arrive within 30 minutes of the restaurant's opening. Again, there are several options for vegetarians, including a quiche Lorraine one day and an Asian stir-fry with mango another.
There's a more casual buffet-lunch served in the main lounge, all the way forward. This versatile space -- with a bar, dance floor, plenty of comfortable couches and big windows on three sides -- is used for everything from the morning port talks, daytime reading and chatting to scenic cruising, afternoon tea and evening entertainment. For lunch, the lounge hosts a scaled-down version (about half) of what's on offer in the restaurant, served in the main lounge. There, you'll find a selection of salads, sandwiches (minute steak on baguettes or ham, turkey and Swiss on Texas toast), a hot entree and soup (cream of leek, potato or broccoli), as well as cakes and pastries. So why eat there? With its panoramic, floor-to-ceiling windows -- which afford far better views than those in the restaurant -- it's a great indoor spot for scenic cruising/munching.
Breakfast comes in three options. Starting at 6 a.m., early risers can get coffee and pastries in the main lounge. Late-risers can do the same from 9 to 10 a.m. (There are, in fact, always cookies, cakes and the like available in the lounge.) Sandwiched between, breakfast is served in the restaurant from 7 to 9 a.m. The European-style smorgasbord features cold cuts, cheeses, fruits (canned and fresh), a large bread and pastry table, a smoked salmon setup with obligatory accouterments (cream cheese, capers, onions, etc.), as well as hot offerings like scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon (U.S. strip variety), hash browns, beans and fried tomatoes. There are also made-to-order selections that include omelets, oatmeal, waffles and eggs cooked any way. The eggs Benedict with just the right touch of Tabasco was perfect energy food -- I tried it on day three and ordered it each morning thereafter.
In addition to the three squares, there's a daily soup offering at around 11 a.m., a tea with sweets and savories at 4 p.m. and a late-night snack, which usually consists of finger sandwiches (basil, tomato and cheese on buttered bread or salmon mouse with cucumber on buttered crackers).
The culinary highlight for me was the Fruhschoppen, an itinerary-specific meal served before lunch as we cruised Germany's Main River. The pre-lunch repast of beer, brats and coleslaw was the tastiest I had onboard. Naturally, all that sausage and beer ruined my appetite for lunch, which immediately followed. The cruise director explained Fruhschoppen thus: There are beer fests everywhere in Germany, and although a massive amount of beer is consumed, there's inevitably a lot left over when the festivals end -- so it's a great excuse to drink beer before noon.
Coffee, tea and pastries are always available in the lounge. There's an excellent machine that'll make you a specialty coffee drink (espresso, cafe creme) with the push of a button.
Entertainment is provided nightly. The format varies and includes everything from a joke-filled PowerPoint presentation from the witty cruise director on how Gutenberg basically brought down the Holy Roman Empire and an entertaining evening port stroll (also led by the cruise director) to performances from talented regional music groups (La Strada, two violins and a guitar, was a standout) and the very well-received crew talent show. We watched room stewards and waitstaff blow off steam by way of sock puppets performing Carmen. There's also typically some sort of trivia game -- in our case, the "nasty questionnaire," a set of 20 logic questions. AMA generally avoids folkloric performances, due to the potential kitsch factor.
AmaCello has 71 identical standard staterooms and four junior suites.
The 71 standard cabins are 170 square feet, a healthy size for a river boat, where cabins are typically in the 150-square-foot range. Fifty-nine of those feature French balconies, sliding-glass doors with railings that let you poke your upper half out into the open air. (If you're cruising early in the season, and there are no bugs, it's nice to leave the door open overnight.) The 13 standard cabins on the lower Piano Deck feature picture windows right at the water line, an interesting visual sensation in its own right.
All staterooms come with bathrobes, slippers, hair dryers, safes, ice buckets (no mini-fridges), desks and six bottles of water, replenished daily. Cabins have plenty of storage space, including some large under-the-bed roll-out bins, two closets (one of which is shelved, another for hanging clothes) and several small drawers.
The numerous outlets in each cabin are European two-prongers. Electricity is 220 volts onboard, so U.S. passengers will need to bring adapters. (A limited supply is available at reception.)
Cabins also feature an "infotainment" setup, each comprised of a flat-screen monitor and wired keyboard. The systems provide Internet access (unlimited, included with fare), a selection of TV channels (CNN, BBC, Animal Planet, MTV Europe, etc.), a music library, a nice selection of films (2 euro apiece), live images from a bow camera and of the captain's navigation screen (don't worry -- you can't screw anything up) and restaurant menus. The system can be a bit sensitive, especially if you're overzealous. (Just push one button, then wait, the cruise director explained.) But, overall, it worked quite well. It was a nice touch to be able to send e-mails or research onshore restaurants without worrying about racking up a huge Web bill.
AmaCello's in-cabin showers are worthy of their own paragraph. Close the glass door, and you'll notice six buttons -- push one for a waterfall, another for a rain shower. There's also a handheld shower head and little spray nozzle that comes up from below. The thermostat goes well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, perfect for turning your glass enclosed shower into a steam closet.
The ship's four junior suites are 255 square feet. They're basically 50 percent larger than the standard cabins with added space for a table and chairs. In addition to the standard inclusions enumerated above, suites have full baths with separate tubs, stocked mini-bars, daily news handouts (The "U.S. News," a compilation of the previous day's national stories) and sparkling wine delivered on arrival. All four suites have French balconies.
There are no cabins configured for passengers with disabilities, though AmaCello's sister ship Amadante does have one (room 302, to be exact) and One final note: Soundproofing is a bit of an issue.


Contrary to the common big-ship auto-gratuity protocol ("$10 per person, per day will be added to your onboard bill..."), tips on AmaWaterways are merely suggested -- 12 euro per person, per day, for the crew and 3 euro per person, per day, for the cruise director. Gratuities can be paid by credit card or in cash envelopes.

Fellow Passengers

AmaWaterways' passengers tend to be 55 or older, experienced, well-educated travelers who've sailed on both big-ship lines like Celebrity or Holland America and smaller-ship luxury lines like Windstar and Seabourn. The largest contingent comes from North America, but other English-speaking countries like England and Australia were well-represented. Quite a few have cruised the big ships and are looking for a change.

Our recommendation

Dress onboard is casual and practical. For dinner, it's collared shirts for men and blouses and pantsuits for women. There was also a smattering of jackets from the slightly more formal-minded. Folks do dress up a bit for the "Captain's Farewell Dinner," when you'll see dresses, jackets, suits and a bow tie or two. No shorts, swimsuits or open-toed shoes are allowed in the dining room.
Every ship is nonsmoking (except on the sundeck) and features a beauty salon and massage therapist. Unlimited local wines, as well as beer and sodas, are included with each open-seating lunch and dinner, which consists of indulgent regional cuisine with special selections from local European ports.

AMA ships feature international staffs. The majority of workers onboard are Hungarian, Romanian and Slovakian, and all staff members speak English. Each cruise also features a knowledgeable cruise director who does everything: leads shore excursions, arranges for airport transportation and offers running commentary during scenic cruising.

Daily sightseeing programs are included with each cruise, and tours include wireless audio devices so cruisers don't miss a word on history or culture. All ships offer roughly 20 bicycles that passengers can use to explore ports.

Entertainment is focused on local customs and culture -- performances by European dancers or an orchestral group keep passengers occupied in the evenings. There are also some more down-to-earth offerings such as an always entertaining crew talent show and wacky trivia night.