Timothy Martin
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  The Joy of the River Cruise  
 

I had a new travel experience in December that I wanted to share with you. I went on my first River Cruise on AMA Waterways!

OK, I had been thinking about it for a long time but my wife, Kim put me over the edge. She watched a promotional DVD that AMA Waterways produced and that sealed the deal for her. From there it was all about finding one itinerary from a list of intriguing options. That was tougher than it sounds. The wine focused trips looked tempting. I always wanted to see the cities of Eastern Europe and the Danube. Even Portugal was enticing.

Ultimately, we decided we wanted to do that trip as a Honeymoon/Anniversary celebration. Since we were married in December, sailing down the Rhine and stopping at the Christmas Markets was the obvious choice.

I am not going to do a play by play of the trip. If you are interested, you can call me and we can talk about the itinerary in depth. I wanted to focus on my impressions of the trip and what I learned about AMA Waterways and the river cruise experience.

I can’t say I was surprised by the service level. I was expecting to be pampered and well feed. That was most definitely true. What was unexpected was the friendliness and the caring nature of the entire crew. The cabin was very comfortable to spend a week in. Remember, this was also a week in winter weather, on the water. I can tell you that I never felt chilled one moment aboard the AmaPrima. Of course, the steady supply of Glühwein (mulled wine) might have had something to do with that!

One aspect of the trip that I really enjoyed was the daily excursions. This was part of the cruise fare and added immensely to the experience. We would break into small groups for our tours and were given headsets so that we didn’t have to crowd around the guides. I was highly impressed with the knowledge of our guides at each stop. They happily provided their local knowledge and were able to explain cultural subtleties and historical context of sites that we were seeing. I felt very comfortable with the mix of structured tours and individual time throughout the trip.

The Christmas Markets were a wonderful addition to the trip. The AmaPrima was beautifully decorated when we boarded which helped put us in the Christmas spirit. The markets had a diverse mix of Christmas gifts, local crafts, delicious street cuisine and of course, Glühwein! We visited these markets in several cities during the trip and found something fun and unique to each market. OK, you can tell that many of these markets are managed by the same organization, so the huts are similar, as was the signage but all the vendors added their own unique touch.

Our Cruise Manager, Martina Valachova, was a wonderful resource and leader on this trip. She did a great job of guiding all her passengers thru the trip and excursions without being in anyway overbearing. Having that consistent presence on ship and on land was big bonus. The excursions that were included in the trip took me to places that I never would have thought of myself.

I did come away with some overriding impressions of the trip. River cruising is like having a boutique hotel that you settle into and then the ships takes you off for different adventures every day. You remain active and end up with a suitcase full of great experiences and memories. The group is small enough that you can be familiar with all onboard and have time to make deeper friendships with some. There are many options available to tour Europe. I definitely think that river cruises are one that you should seriously consider!