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8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
This was our first ever cruise (river or sea). So for those who live in the cruise lifestyle, we may not be the best review for you. While we have never been very attracted to the cruise lifestyle, we have always been interested ... Read More
This was our first ever cruise (river or sea). So for those who live in the cruise lifestyle, we may not be the best review for you. While we have never been very attracted to the cruise lifestyle, we have always been interested in trying a river cruise in France. We are also wine enthusiasts and collectors with a special love for French red wines. So when we heard that AMAways was having a special wine cruise in the Bordeaux region, we thought that this would be a good opportunity to try a cruise and to get the lay of the Bordeaux region for a drive trip we are planning next year. Expectation: Our expectation was that we would be on a one-week cruise through the Bordeaux region, a cruise solely focused on French wines, having wine tastings everyday on board, going on wine tours everyday in a different port, enjoying specialized wine-focused dinners every night, and sharing the wine cruise experience with passengers/fellow wine enthusiasts from all over the world. The reality was that we did have a nice time, but we were on a one-week cruise through the Bordeaux wine region, on a boat full of Americans, was provided three 40-minute wine lectures and one wine pairing dinner over the week, and only a small percentage of the tours offered over the week were actually focused on wine (because you are in wine country, a tour of a small town or chateau does not constitute it as a wine tour). It may be the standard for the wine cruises, as we are not experienced in river cruises, but it did leave us wanting more. Overall, we had a great time. But given the expectations, we are not sure we would go again unless there were changes to how a wine cruise was conducted. Boat: The AmaDolce is a very nice boat. It is a good size river boat and has all the amenities. The lounge was very large and the dining facility was also very nice. Because most of the ship's movement was done late night, we really did not experience the top deck area. Our one disappointment with the boat is that it spent 90% of the time in ports and we did not spend more time underway, enjoying the sights of the river from the boat. That is what we had thought we would be doing on a cruise. Food: For us, one of the best experiences of this cruise was the food. Chef Dumitrascu and his kitchen cooked up three fantastic meals each day. If you did not want a full meal, they had light breakfasts and lunches in the lounge as well. Breakfasts were very well managed in the dining rom. They had buffet style with self-serving sections, to include the standard eggs, bacon, and such, a breakfast pastries section, a bagels and lox section, and various juices. There was an omelet chef every morning taking orders and there were menu items you could order through your food server if you want. The eggs benedict were my favorite breakfast item. Lunch was also very good. It was a menu lunch and also had some goodies out in buffet style available. They had a salad bar as well. It was very functional. The dinners were amazing. It was also a menu dinner and each night it had great selections that made it difficult to choose. The table service was very impressive. The tables in the dining room were set up as tables of 2, 4, and a few that were tables of 6 or bigger. The menu options each night always had a fish and a beef selection. While the theme of the cruise was wines of Bordeaux, the meals onboard were not. They were French, but they did not appear to be regional dishes of where we were visiting each day. That would have been nice. But I am not complaining about the quality of the food at all. This was by far the highlight of our cruise. We did not expect the quality of food and service at each meal on a cruise. The wine that was served with the meals was good. While the selection was good, they were somewhat limited and were not really representative of the regions we were visiting each day of this wine cruise. That would have made it more interesting. I would have also loved it if they could have had each dinner be wine-paired-themed. While we had just one wine-paired dinner on the fourth night of the cruise, which was very good, it would have been in theme of the cruise to have one every night, even if it was not a full-blown pairing dinner. I think it would have been fun and with the scope of the cruise. I do want to mention a special dining experience they provide in a dining room located in the back of the boat. It is called The Chef’s Table, and you need to make reservations. The dining room seats around 24 people. The fixed multi-course menu does not change during the cruise so everyone gets to sample the same meal. It is a six course meal and both the food and the service was excellent. It was a nice experience that I would recommend to everyone. Port Visits and tours: While we were not really interested in the castle and chateau tours offered on this cruise, there were very few options with respect to choosing specific wine tours at each port visit. Cadillac – We loved the little town of Cadillac but we had no time to visit, explore, or taste the wines. The morning tours took us swiftly through the town and then back to the boat. Then after lunch we were taken 30 minutes out of Cadillac by bus to see a castle in Mazeres, France and then to vineyard in Sauterns for a tour and a wine tasting of the sweet wine. We had the first of three wine lectures in the lounge that afternoon, which was a French wine introduction lecture. We were scheduled to spend the night in Cadillac so we had planned to go out that night and enjoy the local wines and scenery. However, the schedule had changed, due to tidal issues, and we relocated the boat back to Bordeaux that late afternoon. It was a shame as Cadillac was one of the most interesting towns we had visited on this cruise. Pauillac – The town was not really as historic looking as Cadillac, and we opted out of the morning walking tour of the town. We instead walked around on our own and visited shops and bought some wine. The afternoon tour started with a bus ride around the top winemaking vineyards and chateaus of the area. We then stopped at a Grand Cru Classe estate which we toured their cellars and had a Medoc wine tasting. I really liked this tour and was what I thought we would be doing every day. It was a great wine, and I bought a few bottles. Blaye – We spent four hours in Blaye before the boat moved on to Bourg. In the morning, we did a bike tour of Blaye. It was not really wine-related and mostly focused on the Citidel of the town. Before we headed back to the boat, I talked to one of the local bike tour guides into taking me to a local wine shop that specializes in their regional wines for a tasting. We ended up bringing most of the bike tour folks with us when they found out. I bought a few bottles there as well. We had lunch onboard as the boat made its way to Bourg. During the transit we had our second wine lecture, the Wines of Bordeaux. Bourg - We skipped the walking tour of Bourg and ventured out on our own. I found a wonderful wine cellar that had some great wines that I ended up buying. We ended up on top of the hill looking over the town, and attended a special wine festival that was organized especially for the passengers of the boat. It was very nice, had great entertainment, and wonderful wine from vintners who were hosting the event. I bought a few bottles of their wines as well. Libourne.- The town was nice. We skipped the morning walking tour and strolled the streets, exploring and doing some shopping. We took the afternoon tour bus into Saint-Emillion but did not go with the group on their walking tour. Instead we walked around and explored the beautiful town on our own. We did some wine shopping and enjoyed this very beautiful town. One of my favorite visits on the cruise. That evening we had our third and final wine lecture on champagne. We spent the night in Libourne and the next morning we skipped the tour and went into the town of Libourne to explore. After lunch, we were scheduled to go on the Fronsac Wine Tasting tour, one of the tours I was actually looking forward to. Unfortunately, they put us on the wrong bus and we ended up visiting another chateau. I am not sure if the mistake was the staff’s for giving us the wrong boarding card, or we were not paying attention. But it happens. Bordeaux – Our final day was in Bordeaux, where we did a bus and walking tour of the city. Afterword’s, they took us to the wine museum, Cite du Vin. It was very nice and there is a lot to see at that place. We left and had lunch in town before we headed back to the boat. Staff: The staff and the cruise director were all great. The Captain was a bit young, standoff-ish, and not very sociable when engaged in conversation. Because we spent a majority of time in ports, and the distance between ports were not far, he seemed to have plenty of time to be sociable with the passengers if he wanted to. The hotel manager (Raluca) and her staff were fantastic. They really do a great job and I felt as if I was in a five-start hotel with the treatment. Octavian, the maître d’, and his staff was totally attentive to everyone and made each meal a wonderful experience. We looked forward to our meals every day. I had already mentioned the chef, Bogdan, and his staff. They were artists in the meals, presentations, and taste. Our cruise manager, Camille, was great. She was very informative and very busy daily herding the cats between their tours. She did a great job. Also a special recognition to Roberto, Octavian's right hand man. he is a man of many talents, many languages, and always puts a smile on our face when we engage with him. Passengers: If you were expecting to cruise on this boat in France with fellow cruise guests from other nations, be prepared. With the exception of about three couples, the rest were all Americans, over half who were not even on the cruise for the wine and a small group were members of American wine clubs. What we did not know at the time of our purchase of the cruise, and was later explained to us onboard, AMAways focuses these type of cruises on Americans who love the cruise lifestyle and on American wine clubs. The wine clubs, we were told, come aboard these European cruises and provide daily wine lectures on American wines (yes American wines) by American winemakers who are pitching their wine clubs to the passengers. However, we were very lucky in our cruise, as the American wine club organizer who brought his group onboard our cruise had actually hired a wine educator from Paris to ride the ship and provide a series of lectures on French wines only. In addition, the cruise line made some arrangements with some of the winemakers to offer tours during the cruise. Had these not been the case, we do not think we would have stayed on the cruise. In addition, while this cruise was a special wine cruise offered by the cruise line, a large number of the passengers we talked to onboard were not interested in wines (some did not drink wine) and were only on the cruise because they like cruises. Some of the quotes from these passengers included: - "I don't drink wine" - "I don't drink and my husbands just drinks beer" - "I like California wines better" - "Didn't know this was a wine cruise. We wanted to catch the last cruise of the season" - "We signed up through our agent and did not know this was a wine cruise" - "Too many wine tours on this cruise, I just want to go shopping" - "I only drink Rose" Overall, doing a river cruise in Bordeaux was a very nice introduction for us in the world of cruises. While it left us wanting in many of the areas of expectations we had on the cruise, we can understand why many enjoy this lifestyle. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
Our group of two couples sandwiched a 7-night river cruise in and out of Bordeaux between a stay in Normandy and Dordogne. The AMA cruise on the AmaDolce fit our timetable because we wanted to end up in Paris for our 30th wedding ... Read More
Our group of two couples sandwiched a 7-night river cruise in and out of Bordeaux between a stay in Normandy and Dordogne. The AMA cruise on the AmaDolce fit our timetable because we wanted to end up in Paris for our 30th wedding anniversary before flying home. The wine themed cruise got off to a slow start because the first stop at Cadillac was canceled due to unexplained water level issues, so we had an extra half-day in Bordeaux with no planned events. That's where a major benefit of this cruise came into play -- bicycles. I borrowed one of the 15 sturdy bikes and made my loop around the city's new and old bridges on the bike path, veering into the medieval area and finding a local market and several antique shops. My other biking high on the trip was an organized excursion ride from Blaye to Bourg while the ship cruised. It helped that the weather was so inviting, but it's easy to feel exhilarated when biking through vineyards, seeing the imposing chateaux on the hillsides, and feeling the cool breeze whistle by on the downhill stretches. The cruise focused on excursions and that was the strong suit of the voyage. Given the wine theme, many excursions involved winery visits that were informative and well executed. The coaches were clean and well maintained and the guides were uniformly educational and personable, willing to offer up suggestions to meet personal interests. On some days, though, it seemed the excursions didn't completely fill the time allotted, which was then filled with criss-crossing the countryside and repetitive explanations. The overall itinerary didn't cover much territory, so there were limited times that the boat was actually moving to allow patrons the opportunity to watch the beautiful scenery go by. River cruises involve a number of compromises because of the limited space. The lounge is the only indoor common area to gather, outside meals, so it's difficult at times to find a get away from it all unless the weather allows upper deck sitting. Local entertainment brought on board twice was good, particularly a violin/guitar trio. The on-board entertainer used a keyboard that produced a sound somewhere between a harpsichord and piano, backed up with recorded tracks. Music is very much a personal taste, and our group would have preferred a regular pianist with a good voice and large repertoire. Meals were good and sometimes individually very good, although the selections were limited and missed opportunities to tie into the wine theme. A very informative visit to a Sauternes winery in the afternoon would have been even more meaningful if dinner had matched a Sauternes wine in some creative way with a menu option that night. No Sauternes wines the whole week. The cool weather made the daily cream soups a welcome item, but the basic recipe stayed the same each day with a new vegetable substituted. Meat options were offered each day along with a different fish in a beurre blanc sauce (again more variety would have been appreciated), but where were the shellfish? A single seafood buffet the first day and literally one scallop offered as part of the Chef Table alternative dining site's tasting menu. Venders sold oysters, shrimp and scallops in the markets we visited during the day. A baker worked all night to produce a wonderful variety, including my favorite, a small sesame seed roll. Desserts were good but not innovative, although the ship elevated ice cream to an art form with its on-ship made offerings. Overall, we enjoyed the food in the main dining area, especially given the challenges of feeding a large number of people in a short amount of time and producing that food in a limited space. The alternate Chef's Table venue of four tables with a view out the back of the ship provided a good alternative for more innovative cuisine in an intimate space. Each patron had the opportunity of visiting one time for the set menu that remained constant for the week. The crew highlighted birthdays and anniversaries at dinner by dimming the lights with the crew forming a conga line and dancing through the dining area before resting a cake with sparklers on the table in front of the honorees. One night we had three of these in a row that interrupted meal service. Again, a matter of taste, but we preferred the more personal recognition of our anniversary by our cabin hostess who placed on our bed swans made out of folded towels whose necks formed a heart with rose petals scattered about. Service was all over the board. Our cruise director was just the right combination of enthusiasm, knowledge, encourager and task master. The largely eastern-European service crew members varied significantly in their capabilities, knowledge, and service mentality. Our cabin attendant made sure our room was spotlessly clean with an always cheerful attitude, despite her long hours. It didn't take long to find a waiter who fit the right match of personableness and competence. Two of the waitresses, though, had an annoying schtick of responding with an emphatic "NO" to an initial request for a menu selection. After the initial shock, you were supposed to realize this was part of a comic routine in which the waitress would go back and forth before finally relenting with a smile and saying "of course". It was annoying the first time and really annoying the fourth or fifth time throughout the week. Because this routine involved more than one server, it made us wonder whether this was part of the training that just missed its mark in trying to connect with patrons through humor. There was a distinct division of labor between those serving food and those serving wine. The wine stewards either lacked the knowledge or language capability to explain and describe the very nice selection of wines offered each day. A major flaw on a wine-themed cruise. One night the menu offered a rare vegetarian item that included figs and roquefort cheese. My wife asked what wine the steward would recommend. He thought for a minute before proudly announcing, "Red is for meat, and white is for fish." Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
The cruise was fantastic for the first 5 days, then the low water hit. Although, AMA says they are not affected by this, that is not the truth. We had to dock and be bussed to Regensburg and Nuremburg. The bus rides were 3 to 5 hours long. ... Read More
The cruise was fantastic for the first 5 days, then the low water hit. Although, AMA says they are not affected by this, that is not the truth. We had to dock and be bussed to Regensburg and Nuremburg. The bus rides were 3 to 5 hours long. Very disappointing but not AMA's fault. Although, Viking, who is very upfront about their itinerary changes, did a boat swap during this period, which would have been preferable to being bussed. The transfer to Prague was also changed. Instead of visiting a quaint small town as planned we drove for 7 hours wasting 2 hours in a forgettable Pilzen with nothing to see. Even the tour guide couldn't think of anything to say. There was a brewery (not enough time to visit) and a church. Finding a place to eat lunch was a challenge. The cruise, itself was great. The ship was beautiful and the crew terrific! I would take another trip with AMA, I just wish they were more forthcoming with itinerary changes. We lost two days of cruising, which is the reason we took this trip---not the destinations. Bussing may be necessary but a big disappointment to the guests. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2015
This was our very first river cruise and we chose AMAwaterways based upon reviews and sailing dates and embarkation point. Aside from the weather - clouds or showers the entire trip - the cruise met our expectations and more. The cruise ... Read More
This was our very first river cruise and we chose AMAwaterways based upon reviews and sailing dates and embarkation point. Aside from the weather - clouds or showers the entire trip - the cruise met our expectations and more. The cruise manager was very accommodating and helpful. The staff very friendly and good at their tasks. The tours offered gave us a good feel for the people and towns we stopped at. The evening entertainment offered was very good and added to the enjoyment of the cruise. As said previously, the weather was lousy but we weren't going to let that spoil our first river cruise. If we choose to do another, we would certainly opt for AMA. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2015
My husband and I are veteran ocean cruisers, but this was our first time on a river. There were many differences, most of them wonderful--in fact, we enjoyed our Amadolce experience so much, we were reluctant to turn in our keys! The ... Read More
My husband and I are veteran ocean cruisers, but this was our first time on a river. There were many differences, most of them wonderful--in fact, we enjoyed our Amadolce experience so much, we were reluctant to turn in our keys! The reception upon arrival was overwhelmingly friendly with a personal escort to our room. No time consuming stops to check in and pull out our credit cards for the drink packages and heavy sell spa services. Our luggage arrived in minutes instead of hours, and we were immediately free to explore the boat, which to our amusement, took about 15 minutes. After all of the 140 or so passengers came aboard, there was an entertaining safety talk and general orientation from the captain and cruise manager and soon we were sailing down the Danube with the beautiful lights of Budapest reflected in our wake. We enjoyed our first dinner aboard that evening as well as all of the food offerings on the cruise but I do have one and only criticism that prevented me from giving the experience a full five stars. I have a blood sugar issue and I did mention it in advance during the online check in well before the sail date. I requested sugar free desserts, all available in variety and abundance on ocean ship lines. I was disappointed in that regard on this cruise, mostly contenting myself with one flavor of SF ice cream and a few small mousse treats. Adding some SF cookies to the afternoon tea or some SF puddings or pastries would be an easy thing to do, and not terribly expensive, especially since people in my situation also limit or refrain from wine and other alcohol. The ports visited on this cruise were a good mix of large cities and smaller towns. After living in Europe for two years, my husband and I have developed an appreciation for the latter with their slower pace and quirky monuments. The excursions were all wonderful and handled well with an amazing ease of selection. We especially liked choosing between the active, regular and slow paced groups. The limited option tours were perfect and worth the cost, especially the Mozart/Strauss concert and Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, and the day trip to Salzburg. The guides all knew their stuff and were enthusiastic about their particular city. They did a great job of describing the history and culture in each area and their stories entertained us and inspired our imaginations. Unlike our ocean cruise experiences where 2000 or more people wandered the ship in anonymity, the much smaller group on the Amadolce gave us the chance to see the same friendly faces each day and and get to know them a little. The same was true for the ship's crew, all of whom had a kind word or smile to offer. The very much loved Cruise Manager became ill halfway through the trip and was temporarily replaced by another very enthusiastic, professional woman who, with the support of the crew, did a seamless job of serving the passengers. My husband and I tended to wander back to our cabin after dinner on most evenings, so we didn't participate in a lot of the lounge entertainment. It was plentiful though with a skilled musician on board and acts from local areas invited in. We enjoyed an all too brief performance by Lindsay Hamilton, a former London West End actress and singer who amazed us with her talent. As a physical structure, the boat was exquisitely cared for and maintained. This became even more evident to us as we were among the few remaining passengers on board while awaiting our transfer to the airport at the end of the trip. We saw every surface of the cabins cleaned, including the air duct screens, the upholstery on every piece of public area furniture was brushed and vacuumed and the windows were all shined and polished. Fresh flower arrangements arrived and were decoratively placed and new potted herbs were unpacked and taken to the kitchen. A tempting tray of sandwiches for the new passengers appeared on the long buffet table, and it was all we could do to resist the urge to rush to the front desk and beg to have our cabin back and continue on down the river. This cruise is worth a repeat. Read Less
AmaDolce Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.5
Dining 4.5 4.5
Entertainment 3.5 4.0
Public Rooms 4.0 4.6
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 2.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.3
Enrichment 3.0 4.0
Service 5.0 4.7
Value For Money 4.0 4.3

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