Cruise Select

Cruise Select's Amy and Julie recently enjoyed two nights onboard Amadeus Queen from Amsterdam. Read Amy's blog about their experiences

Back in October 2013, while I was still a student, I was my mum Rachel’s plus-one on an exclusive river cruise for travel agents from Cologne to Amsterdam. It was my first experience of river cruising, and an immense privilege, and I had the opportunity to talk to the cruise line’s owner, Wolfgang Lüftner, who told me briefly about their forty-year history as a family-owned river cruise company based in Austria, who for many years could only operate behind the Iron Curtain (gaining invaluable expertise and local knowledge of the Danube and its delta), and in the early days cabins were much smaller, with bunk beds.

That river cruise line was Lüftner Cruises, known in the UK as Amadeus River Cruises, and I recently had the opportunity to experience another of their ships, the Amadeus Queen, which was launched just last year. Suffice to say that there are no longer bunk beds and small cabins any more on Amadeus River Cruises! Just as with my first cruise on Amadeus Silver, I was impressed with the contemporary European style onboard, and the bright airiness created by an abundance of panoramic views in public areas. There are just three passenger decks onboard, and both the Panorama Bar and Panorama Restaurant – positioned on the forward of the ship on the third and second decks respectively – boast expansive floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows throughout, offering truly wonderful views of the scenery. Even the gym boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, so you don’t miss a thing during your workout! Similarly, staterooms on decks two and three offer up wonderful river views from the floor-to-ceiling windows, which drop down electronically to let in fresh air and transform the whole room into a balcony, and suites have a small walk-on balcony in addition to panoramic windows. With 360° scenery one of river cruising’s biggest selling points, Amadeus River Cruises truly make the most of this!

Both ships are the same size (135 x 11.4m or 443 x 37.5ft), but the Amadeus Queen carries fewer passengers (162 compared to 180). Although cabins and suites are the same sizes (very generously sized from 172 square feet and 188 square feet to 284 square feet), with fewer staterooms to create more space, Amadeus Queen benefits from the new onboard feature of an indoor pool (complete with retractable roof for fine weather), which forms part of the stylish Amadeus Club at the stern on deck three (Mozart deck). The Amadeus Club is an enchanting oasis just perfect for relaxing with a book on one of the comfortable chairs, enjoying a refreshing drink (or a coffee and cookie), or a dip in the pool. Again, it’s blessed with panoramic views. At night, it can be transformed into an onboard cinema, or a place to hold informative talks. However, it’s not the only charming nook in which to relax, with the River Terrace at the bow of the ship, in front of the Panorama Bar, offering another quiet place of reflection, or congenial chatter, al fresco but protected from the elements with specially designed glazing.

My colleague Julie and I enjoyed two nights onboard on a special itinerary exclusively for travel agents to sample river cruising with Amadeus River Cruises. Starting in Amsterdam, a major hub for river cruising, we also had a day in Antwerp, before arriving in Rotterdam, where we disembarked. Unlike a lot of river cruises, excursions are not included in the cruise fare with Amadeus. However, their ‘unbundled pricing’ allows for flexibility and the ability to tailor your river cruise to your interests and needs, with excursions packages available. We had the opportunity to sample city tours of both Amsterdam and Antwerp with local guides and the ‘QuietVox’ earpieces; the Antwerp tour included the Grote Square and the Cathedral, before allowing some free time, while the Amsterdam tour was mostly by coach with some free time to explore the Flower Market. Our guide in Antwerp was particularly humorous, and full of lots of local tidbits and knowledge, giving an insight into the Flemish character, and the story (and recipe) behind French Fries. Also available was the option to visit the Delta Works, with a coach journey of about an hour either way, and whilst I opted to head back into Antwerp for the Diamond Museum and more free time (both in the city and exploring the ship further), using the shuttle bus provided by Amadeus, by all accounts the Delta Works were an interesting excursion.

Our cabin was an A1 category on the Mozart Deck, close to the Amadeus Club. There are three main categories of accommodation onboard: suites with a walk-out exterior balcony, cabins with drop-down panoramic window (a feature Amadeus have been boasting onboard since 2013, with the introduction of Amadeus Silver, giving rise to their claim to be the first to pioneer this popular river cruise technology), and cabins with a panoramic window that cannot be opened (this final category is on the Haydn deck, or deck 1, ). As with the rest of the ship, accommodation is stylishly contemporary in décor, and thanks to the walk-in wardrobe, we were blessed with unusually generous storage space. However, I believe that the cabins were most likely designed by a man (possibly bald, too), as there was nowhere to sit and do your make-up or hair by a mirror; where there was seating and a table, ideally placed by the window for natural light and complete with mains socket, there was no mirror!

Life onboard is very relaxed and congenial, without a binding dress code (simply elegant/smart casual). The crew were friendly and professional, particularly the Cruise Director, Lorelai. It’s little wonder that Amadeus pride themselves on their Austrian hospitality, and you certainly feel welcome from the moment you step onboard. We were greeted back onboard after excursions with a refreshing drink and cool towel, particularly after our Antwerp city tour, when we were offered a glass of Leffe beer upon returning! Drinks (beers, wines, and soft drinks) are included with lunch and dinner (sparkling wine can also be enjoyed with breakfast), but are very reasonably priced; an Aperol Spritz or a Kir Royale (both Prosecco-based cocktails) were both around €5; you’d pay more in a pub or bar in Bedford. When we arrived in Amsterdam and embarked, it was perfectly timed for a light lunch in the Panorama Lounge, which is offered daily, as well as a light ‘early bird’ breakfast. The main Panorama Restaurant offers breakfast (buffet, with some offerings available to be ordered from the waiter), an a la carte lunch (as well as some buffet choices for salads), and a four- or five-course dinner with full waiter service. The cuisine is contemporary European, beautifully presented, and very tasty. Main courses for dinner feature a meat, fish, vegetarian, and a healthy option, too.

River cruising is well known for having lower-key entertainment than the full-scale cabaret and West End-style offerings available on ocean cruising (personally, I prefer the more relaxed entertainment on the rivers), but Amadeus River Cruises offered some very unique and memorable entertainment. In Amsterdam, they invited a Shanty choir onboard, which unified the audience in toe-tapping, clapping, and (occasionally) singing along. On our second night, everyone took part in a music quiz which was unlike any I’ve done before, as you have to dance to gain extra points for your team. It was great to see people engage, and dance on the floor, culminating in a massive conga line snaking its way around the Panorama Lounge.

If you’re looking for a contemporary river cruise that’s comfortable, convivial, and flexible, that can be tailored to suit your interests and needs, with a friendly and welcoming crew, delicious food, then Amadeus River Cruises may well be the perfect fit for you, delivering excellent value for money.

If you would like to find out more about Amadeus River Cruises, or book a cruise, contact our dedicated cruise specialists today

01234 326 758