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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."

Very good river cruise that could be excellent.

AmaDolce Cruise Review by sstrick56

9 people found this helpful
Trip Details
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."
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