From the time we arrived at the dock in Budapest it was clear that the crew of AmaCerto has a pride in providing service.
The bags were unloaded from the bus and a crew member even insisted on helping me with my carry-on bag, even though I was happy to wheel it on board myself.
There were no formalities at the desk other than get key cards and in the meantime, the bags were on their way to our stateroom, where we saw innovations that make Ama Waterway’s new ship a stand out.
It’s pronounced Ama-cherto and it’s a combination of Ama –the Latin for love and Certo, as in concerto, says Rudi Schreiner, president of Ama Waterways who is sailing with us on this week-long “In Celebration of Wine” cruise on the Danube. We’ll have plenty of wine along with copious amounts of beer available for the next week.
But first, my early impressions: This ship has a lot of unique features. Considering that river cruise ships are all have to basically be the same size to fit to the locks on the rivers of Europe, they’ve fit in a lot of extras into this new ship.
Split Personality Staterooms
The trend in recent years has been for new river ships to emulate their ocean-going cousins and include private outdoor balconies with sliding doors in staterooms. Previously, ships tended to have sliding doors with a railing that guests could stand at and view the passing scene. Ama has combined the concepts with both a furnished outdoor verandah and an indoor sitting area with glass doors that slide open. That made a lot of sense on our sailing on the Danube in November where the sun can shine and temperatures can make it attractive to be outside during the day but on other days it can be too cool or wet to be outside.
Most river cruise ships don’t even have a pool on deck and those that do tend to have just a plunge pool, but AmaCerto’s is a teardrop shaped affair that actually has some length to it. And at the deep end, there are seats and a small bar that serves treats like the ship’s sparkling wine, and draft beer.
Ama is the only river cruise ship in Europe to be part of the Chaine des Rotisseurs, the famed gourmet chef association.The chefs promise to demonstrate why the line is also a favorite of gourmet diners. There will be special themed dinners most nights, accompanied by copious amounts of European wines and beers at no extra cost.
Each evening the lounge on the stern of the ship is transformed into a gourmet alternative restaurant and while there isn’t any direct translation of its German name to English, it roughly means an adventurous life’s experience. It’s a small area only seating two dozen diners, so guests are asked to limit their experience here to once a cruise. But it’s destined to be a night to remember, with a four- course menu prepared by a restaurant team working behind what the maitre’d jokes is “bulletproof glass.” Each course is paired with a complimentary premium wine.
And did I mention service? The all-European staff is hotel trained to be attentive to every detail. Most of the chefs trained in Austria or Hungary and most of the rest of the staff work in the off season in hotels across Europe. Our affable cruise director is Dragan, lives in Stuttgart but has spent most of his life learning and exploring central and eastern Europe. We’re honored to also have Rudi Schreiner, the president of Ama Waterways on board as well,
This is a special event as well because like most Ama cruises, we’ve got an adventurous theme throughout the cruise, “In Celebration of Wine” with members of the family-run Honig Vineyard & Winery in California’s Napa Valley on board with a storeroom full of their wines including rare vintages that we’ll get to enjoy in tastings as well as gala dinners.