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Debuting in 2016, AmaViola is part of the AmaWaterways' European river fleet, which emphasizes immersive destination-focused cruising. AmaViola is relatively unusual in the river market because it features a handful of connecting cabins as well as cabins that can accommodate three passengers, which makes it a natural for family sailings. Because of a partnership with Adventures By Disney, a few select AmaViola sailings each year are created just for families, with programming on and off the ship meant to appeal to the young and not-so-young.

That's not to say AmaViola is strictly a family ship. In fact, on most sailings, you won't see any kids. But you will get a cruise that appeals to a wide demographic, thanks to its myriad shore excursion options, which are designed to allow passengers to be as active as they wish. We loved that several activities ashore get the heart pumping, with hiking and biking options in cities along the Danube River. Yet those looking for a more relaxed experience are accommodated as well, so there's truly something for everyone.

The boat is elegantly decorated without being fussy. It feels comfortable and is easy to navigate; with only four decks and 158 passengers, you'll know it from bow to stern in no time. Except for the top deck, which is called the Sun Deck, AmaViola's levels are named after musical instruments: Deck 1 is the Piano Deck, Deck 2 the Cello Deck and Deck 3 the Violin Deck. AmaViola has a lift, but it does not go to the Sun Deck or the Piano Deck, so passengers who can't use stairs should not book cabins on the lowest deck or plan to use the Sun Deck.

The common areas on AmaViola have plenty of space and seating, so you won't feel crowded. Cabins are bright and comfortable, though they could benefit from a few more drawers for storage as well as hooks or clotheslines for hanging items.

Dining onboard is a highlight, with menus that offer variety even for those with the strictest dietary requirements. And every passenger can book one dinner at the ship's specialty restaurant, The Chef's Table, which offers a tasting menu with wine pairings that feels like a splurge. Service at all restaurants is attentive, and staff members remember passenger preferences from one meal to the next, which makes for a hassle-free experience.

During the day, passengers dress in casual clothing, wearing mostly items that are appropriate for heavy walking tours. People choose layers and comfortable clothing for excursions. Swimwear and cover-ups are appropriate only for poolside.

For dinner, country club casual is standard. That means men wear dress pants and button-down or collared shirts, while women wear dressy pants, capris or skirts with blouses or dresses. At the captain's dinner, offered once a cruise, men might wear jackets and even ties, while women often wear more formal dresses or slacks and blouses. It's not quite black tie, but it's a step up from country club casual.

Itineraries on AmaViola are jam-packed, and you'll visit at least one port a day. Occasionally, you'll have two or even three group excursions, and while they're optional, many passengers want to take advantage of the time they have in new destinations. Carving out some quiet time to relax often means sacrificing activities onboard or in port.

Your guide throughout the cruise is AmaViola's cruise manager, who meets passengers as they arrive, makes daily announcements, holds lectures, organizes groups in port, solves any problems that might arise and even joins groups who have added a land extension to their cruise. Announcements and talks supplement the daily cruise planner, which is left in your cabin each night, laying out the next day's activities.

Shore Excursions

Passengers can expect to have at least one included shore excursion per port. AmaViola often sails to two different ports per day, so that means passengers might have two excursions. Additional excursions, such as wine tastings or concerts, might be offered, and these could include additional fees.

At the start of the cruise, the cruise manager talks about every excursion and explains how the excursions will go as well as makes recommendations for "don't miss" activities. Passengers then make decisions and fill out a form, turning it in to the cruise manager, who records the picks and returns the list later that evening or the next morning so passengers remember what they signed up for. Each evening before dinner, the cruise manager talks about the next day's activities, firming up times and providing further details.

Each morning, passengers visit the reception desk to pick up their "safety cards," which serve a dual purpose: Cards have an emergency phone number (the cruise manager's), and taking them alerts the crew to which passengers are off the ship. Passengers also grab color-coded cards, mostly randomly assigned, to put them into their tour groups. Groups generally don't exceed 20 passengers or so. QuietVox receivers are required for most tours; tour guides speak into a microphone, and passengers can hear them via the receivers, even from a distance.

Excursions will take you to the heart of cities, and most of the exploring there is done by bus and foot. AmaViola shines because it often offers excursions of three different levels: gentle walking, regular and active. Gentle walking excursions truly are for people who can't or don't want to walk much; they'll walk to a bus, then spend most of the time exploring by vehicle. Walking with this group is done at a slower pace, and plenty of time is given for rest breaks. Conversely, the active group is for people who feel comfortable putting on the miles, sometimes six or more on an excursion. Routes take passengers through side alleys, up steep hills and staircases, and over cobbles or dirt paths. The pace is slightly faster than other groups might experience. Some excursions designated as active are less so, but others might send you on a hike up a hill to see castle ruins over tricky terrain, for example. Double-check with the cruise director if you have questions about how strenuous an activity actually is. Groups for active options tend to be smaller; in some cases, it might be just four to six passengers.

AmaViola also has a number of bikes onboard that are used for biking excursions in port. Passengers also can use them to explore on their own if they haven't been deployed for a tour. Bike excursions are done at a comfortable pace, and they generally stick to bike paths, though some riding through traffic in cities is necessary. Helmets are required, and all passengers must sign waivers to ride.

Excursion choices are great and varied, though naturally heavy on the many beautiful town squares and castles along Europe's rivers.

Guides for excursions speak English well and know the regions and their histories intimately. On active excursions, guides are fit and willing to slow or speed their pace depending on the group needs.

Daytime and Evening Entertainment

Outside of excursions, little is offered during the day. Afternoon teas, with finger sandwiches and desserts, are served in the Main Lounge and are lightly attended. In the evening, cocktail hours, such as a welcome party and the captain's dinner event, take place. After dinner, a pianist plays, and passengers dance and sip wines. Local entertainers come aboard in select ports to perform after dinner; expect Austrian singers, for example, as well as some crowd interaction. Entertainment is fairly low-key, and while the quality is good, it appealed more to the older passengers onboard. A busy daytime schedule -- with early wake-up calls -- means most activities end by 11:30 p.m., and many passengers head to bed straight after dinner.


Most of the lectures onboard AmaViola come from the cruise manager, who speaks on various topics such as the music or history of the region. He or she also might speak when the boat is doing scenic cruising from one port to the next through particularly beautiful or historic regions, providing context and pointing out sights. Occasional activities, such as strudel making, are offered onboard as well, where participation is hands-on (and sticky!).

AmaViola Bars and Lounges

It's fairly easy to find a spot for chilling or quiet socializing onboard AmaViola, as the boat has several comfy seating areas throughout.

Main Lounge and Bar (Violin Deck): This is where pretty much every activity onboard AmaViola takes place. It's also where you'll find the biggest bar onboard. The brightly coloured lounge is decorated in bright reds and teals, and loud -- but pleasant -- floral patterns. Seating around tables on couches and chairs is available for parties of four as well as larger groups. It's busiest right before dinner, when the cruise manager is providing details on the next day's activities. Cocktails, wine and beer are available, and passengers can try the cocktail of the day. The rear of the space is called the Observation Lounge, but it's truly just an extension of the Main Lounge and Bar, with views that face large windows at the front of the ship.

Al Fresco Terrace (Violin Deck): When the weather is nice passengers can hang out at the outdoor Al Fresco Terrace, located at the front of the ship, just off the Observation Lounge. Passengers can sit in wicker chairs with padded cushions, sipping drinks and watching the world go by.

Pool Bar (Sun Deck): A small, no-frills service bar is located on the Sun Deck, nestled against the pool, which features four underwater stools so passengers can belly up to the bar without drying off. The bar is loosely staffed, so if you get really thirsty, you might have to head to the Main Lounge and Bar.

AmaViola Outside Recreation

The Sun Deck is AmaViola's top deck, and passengers congregate there in the afternoon if they're not in port. Shaded and open-sun options are available for people who wish to lounge in the dark brown wicker chairs. Passengers can play chess on the giant board.

Unusual on riverboats, AmaViola has a sizable heated pool, which has benches and stools (perfect because it's too small for actual swimming but quite comfortable for relaxing and quiet conversation).

AmaViola Services

The reception desk on AmaViola is located on the Violin Deck. This is where passengers can check in, settle their bills, pick up their ship safety cards (required every time they leave the ship) or make reservations for The Chef's Table. The cruise manager and hotel manager also have desks nearby to answer questions and provide excursion information, for example.

AmaViola has a gift shop located around the corner from the reception desk. Passengers can buy things like jewellery, ornaments, logo souvenirs and necessities, such as deodorant or aspirin. The ship doesn't have a true library, but passengers can borrow books or board games from a shelf located just off the Main Lounge.

The ship doesn't have self-service laundry facilities, but laundry is available onboard for a per-item fee. Ironing also is available.

AmaViola has one treatment room, located on the Piano Deck, that is used for a variety of massages, from 30 to 60 minutes. Massage offerings include foot and leg, head-to-toe deep tissue, and aromatherapy options. Massages are booked through the boat's reception desk. There's also a hair salon, which offers treatments like wash, set and blow dry or wash, cut, set and blow dry.

The ship's fitness centre is located on the Piano Deck, adjacent to the massage room and hair salon. It includes two bikes and two treadmills along with one multifunctional fitness machine.

The top deck features a walking track, open from 8 a.m. until late evening. It is located directly above cabins on the third deck, which means heavy steps can be heard from below.

Additionally, AmaViola offers bicycles, which are used on some excursions but also are loaned out for on-your-own exploration of various ports.

Dining onboard AmaViola is fantastic, from breakfast through late-night snacks and everything in between. Variety is excellent considering the size of the ship, and on-the-fly requests are happily accommodated. All meals take place in the ship's Main Restaurant, Main Lounge and Bar or The Chef's Table. Soft drinks, beer and wine are complimentary at lunch and dinner, and they are generously poured. Wines often reflect the region to which the ship is visiting.

Worth noting because it's exceptional: Dietary restrictions are easily accommodated. Menu and buffet items are clearly labelled, indicating things like vegetarian, gluten-free and healthy items, for example. Even allergens are identified with letter codes, used on every menu and label onboard. It might be the best labelling system we've seen on a cruise -- river or ocean. Passengers who have specific restrictions should note it when booking and follow up with the maître d' again when they board AmaViola to make sure the chef knows. On our sailing, passengers with severe allergies were happy with how easy the process was. One passenger, who could not eat salt, was provided a special menu at breakfast each morning so she could choose her meals for the rest of the day. The chef prepared her meal separate from everyone else's so she could enjoy the dining experience without the sodium.

Main Restaurant (Cello Deck): Virtually all of the meals on AmaViola take place in the Main Restaurant, which has set dining times for lunch and dinner but open seating, with tables for four to eight passengers. Breakfast includes an extensive buffet with items such as fruit, bacon, sausage, muesli, yogurt, lox and cheese, as well as a whole table devoted to bread and pastries. A chef stands ready to take omelette and fried egg orders. (You can get egg white or traditional omelettes made with real eggs, rather than powdered or liquid versions.) If you can't find what you want on the buffet, you can order from a menu that offers the same things every day: oatmeal, eggs Benedict, poached eggs and a steak and egg meal. Waiters serve tea and coffee, as well as a vitamin shot of the day -- essentially, a shot glass filled with a smoothie or vitamin-rich cucumber, for example.

Lunch also features a menu and buffet combination, with a small do-it-yourself salad bar. Items on the buffet change slightly every day, but you'll always find a couple of prepared salads as well as cheese and cold cuts. From the menu, you can order a soup or sometimes a main course (on other days, the main course might be found on the buffet, prepared fresh by a chef). You usually can choose from from a more American option as well as a dish traditionally served in the port you're visiting that day. For example, in Vienna, you might be offered Wiener schnitzel; in Budapest, you could order goulash. Several items are offered everyday, including sandwiches and salads. We also loved options like made-to-order pho (with a tofu vegetarian option) and curry with shrimp and freshly baked naan. Desserts, too, include local favourites, like a Linzer cake in Linz or a Sacher tort in Vienna. Ridiculously creamy and smooth ice cream is served every day, and the variety and toppings change often.

For dinner, there is no buffet option. Instead, passengers order a four-course meal from the menu, which changes every night. As with lunch, items at dinner include both American meals as well as regional specialties. Appetizers in Budapest might include goose liver pate, while your soup might be Hungarian dumpling and sausage. Freshly baked bread is served in nifty canvas bags, which keep rolls warm using hot stones. Portions are perfectly small, so you can enjoy each course without feeling stuffed at the end.

The Chef's Table (Violin Deck): The Chef's Table is located at the very back of the ship on the Violin Deck. The space seats 24 diners and features floor-to-ceiling windows and an open kitchen, so passengers can watch as the chef prepares the meal. One table accommodates eight passengers, while four seat four each. The tasting menu matches wines with set courses. The maître d' explains each course and pairing before diners get started. Because courses are set, passengers with specific tastes or dietary requirements should notify the restaurant ahead of time; on our cruise, a passenger who didn't like seafood told the maître d', and his dishes were appropriately adjusted. The experience, which runs about three hours, is very good, and dishes are made fresh. They include a variety of options, such as beef short ribs or trout, fresh watermelon salad and turnip soup. All courses are explained as they are delivered, and service is excellent. Each passenger on AmaViola is allowed one meal at The Chef's Table per seven-day cruise; passengers on two-week sailings will dine there twice, and they'll have two different menus. Make reservations when you first board so you get your preferred times and days. Note that it's a long meal, so you might miss the evening's entertainment or activities such as the Captain's Dinner.

Main Lounge and Bar Coffee Station (Piano Deck): The Main Lounge and Bar serves an early and late breakfast -- beginning about an hour before breakfast opens in the Main Restaurant and ending about an hour after breakfast there ends. You won't get eggs and sausage, but you'll find a variety of fruit, muesli and pastries and bread. At lunchtime, you can find a pared-down version of what is being served in the Main Restaurant -- sandwiches and salad, for example. You can find cookies there 24 hours a day -- with gluten-free options -- and late-night snacks are served occasionally, with items like soup or sausages.

This is also the location of the coffee and tea station. Make your own coffee, latte, cappuccino, espresso, hot chocolate or tea, with fixings like sugar, milk, cream and honey. We love the to-go cups, tucked so neatly in a corner that you might miss them. Grab a coffee and a pastry or cookie before hitting the road on an early morning.

Room Service: Room service is only available to suite passengers or those who are ill.

Decorated with stark whites, bright pinks and reds, cabins on AmaViola are rather spacious by river standards. The colour scheme is cheerful and modern and pairs beautifully with the dark grey wood. Tray ceilings feature soffit lighting, a neat design element that is both pretty and functional: It provides bright but soft light.

Each cabin, regardless of category, comes with two twin beds that can be combined into one king bed, two nightstands, a desk, wardrobe, two chairs and a small table. Additionally, you will find a safe, telephone, mini-fridge (stocked with water and replenished daily), hair dryer, bathrobes, slippers, umbrellas and QuietVox audio receivers (along with charging stations), which you'll use while on your excursions. We love the Apple monitor that serves as the TV as well as a computer screen (with included keyboard) so you can surf the web on a big screen. AmaViola has a solid line-up of television channels, which includes CNN, BBC, HBO, Discovery and TLC as well as a number of stations for Portuguese and German speakers. On-demand movies and television shows are available for free as well.

Outlets are mostly European style, though a U.S. outlet is located bedside, along with two USB ports. We wish there were outlets on both sides of the bed for night-time charging but were happy with the number of outlets.

Bathrooms feature toilets, sinks, small vanities and showers with rainfall showerheads as well as more traditional showerheads -- you choose the pressure and style. They also have nightlights, which won't disturb you while you sleep but will help you for middle-of-the-night trips. Windows look out to the room -- and river -- and can be made opaque with the flip of a switch. Bath amenities include shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and body lotion as well as bars of soap.

The cabin design is comfortable, but there is a lack of storage space. Drawers are at a premium: We overstuffed every drawer we could find. While wardrobes are large, they include cubbies that are taken up by amenities, such as the safe and bathrobes.

AmaViola doesn't have any accessible cabins. It has 12 connecting cabins that span several cabin categories, and 12 cabins can accommodate three people, thanks to a pull-out couch that serves as a twin bed.

Riverview: All of the cabins on the Piano Deck feature high twin windows that don't open. That's because most of the cabin actually sits below water level. AmaViola designates these cabins Category E (eight cabins) and Category D (four), the only difference being their location on the deck. Cabins are 160 square feet and feature angled bathrooms that maximize space. Sinks are round, and additional storage comes from a medicine cabinet hanging over the sink.

Balcony: The 18 cabins in Category C are 170 square feet and feature French balconies, which have sliding-glass pocket doors that open all the way across (they tuck into a wall when fully opened). It's a cool design element that provides unimpeded open-air views to the river and gorgeous European landscape along with plenty of fresh air. These cabins also feature angled bathrooms. All Category C cabins are located on the Violin and Cello decks.

Category BB (15 cabins) and BA (12) staterooms include French balconies as well as true outdoor balconies. When the weather is nice, the outdoor balconies are wonderful for sitting when sailing the river. Each balcony includes two rattan chairs and a small table. Bathrooms are not angled and therefore are more spacious than bathrooms in lower categories. Below-sink shelves replace the medicine cabinet for storage. Category BB and BA cabins are 210 square feet, with the only difference being location on the ship.

AmaViola also has 10 Category AB cabins and eight Category AA cabins. Both are 235 square feet and are virtually identical to the cabins in Category BB and BA, but you'll feel a little more space between the bed and desk as well as in the bathroom. Category AB cabins are located on the Cello Deck; Category AA cabins are located on the Violin Deck.

Suite: AmaViola's four suites, all 350 square feet, feature French and regular balconies. Cabins feature more space, with larger seating areas. Bathrooms also feature separate bathtubs and showers as well as dual sinks and larger vanities. All suites are located on the Violin Deck. Perks for suite passengers include laundry service, a butler and 24-hour room service.

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