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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.

A nice wine cruise but few wine enthusiasts onboard

AmaDolce Cruise Review by DaltWisney

8 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: November 2017
  • Destination: Europe River
  • Cabin Type: Stateroom with French Balcony
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.
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Cabin Review

Stateroom with French Balcony
Cabin A 315
Room:
We were in Room 315. This was an upgrade room and it had full French balcony Windows. The room was a bit cramped but it was very nice and very functional. This being our first cruise we did not know what to expect. But it was a nice room. The bathroom was very nice and the shower had three shower massage heads. It was larger than we had expected for a stateroom. The bed was comfortable and there was enough closet space for all the clothes. One issue was that all the drawers and closet doors had hinges that slammed. You could all the other staterooms because of this and I am sure they could hear us. If they had those automatic closing hinges for their drawers and closets it would make it so much quieter for the passengers at night.
If we were to do this same cruise again, we would pick a room on the port side vice starboard side. Because 90% of the cruise was actually tied up in a port, and the ship ties up on the starboard side, our views ended up to be mostly of piers, which blocked the scenery. We did have an occasion where we had a view of the town, but depending on the tide and location, this was not the norm.
Violing Deck Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins