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AmaReina, a nearly identical sister ship to AmaPrima, AmaCerto, AmaBella and AmaVerde, spends its entire season sailing for Australia-based APT. Short for Australian Pacific Touring, the Melbourne company, founded in 1927, owns part of AmaWaterways.

Part of the line's Concerto class of ships, AmaReina has one new twist to it that the others don't: a casual all-day eatery for those looking for a change from formal dining room meals (or ultra-light casual buffets in the lounge).

Unique to AmaReina and its Concerto-class siblings, the majority of staterooms feature double-balcony configurations. One side is a French verandah, with floor-to-ceiling doors that open wide, and the other is an actual balcony, with comfortable chairs. Notable, too: These spacious staterooms aren't limited to a lucky few. On the top two cabin decks, they're plentiful.

Other delightful features on AmaReina make it a welcoming ship. On the sun deck, a splash pool (with swim-up bar) and deep, comfy wicker-like sofas are popular gathering spots. The small gym is well stocked with state-of-the-art equipment.

It's important to note, though, that the ship's gorgeous décor and creature comforts are a backdrop to the experience you'll have on land. APT features a nice range of possibilities in each port (most of which are complimentary), targeting a variety of travel styles. Highlights are the themed experiences geared toward interests like art, and food and wine, as well as recreational cycling expeditions.

AmaReina has also seen the addition of several special tour options. These include a private performance by members of Vienna's Mozart Boys Choir at the gorgeous City Palace, the official winter residence of Liechtenstein's royal family, and a personally guided tour of Burg Namedy, a gorgeous, restored castle. There's also a fun day trip from Linz to Salzburg aboard the Majestic Imperator, a gorgeous restored steam train.

APT offers terrific value-for-money extras on its cruises, including free and unlimited Wi-Fi (with an unusually fast connection for a cruise ship) and complimentary liquor and other beverages. Gratuities are included in all cruise fares.

The crew on AmaReina rounded out our superb cruise experience. Warm, efficient and personable, the staff set the tone on the first night onboard, when a couple, arriving well after mealtime, asked the bartender if there were snacks available. Instead, she went down to the kitchen and assembled a full meal for the weary travellers. Now that's service.

Day and night, the prevailing dress code is country club casual, except for the once-a-cruise Captain's Dinner, when male passengers wear jackets and women glam up in cocktail garb.

If you want to learn more about the ports you're visiting on an AmaReina cruise, it generally won't happen onboard the ship. There's little programming -- such as lectures or food demonstrations -- beyond a handful of folk-style performances. The library, which is rather small, doesn't stock a great collection of guides or other informational tomes, either.

Where you will pick up excellent insights is on tour; APT's shore excursions, most of which are included in cruise fares, stray beyond the usual staple of guided city tours. Particularly intriguing on our trip was a culinary tour of Vienna, a communist-era look at Bratislava and a trip to Austria's lake district. Using the ship's fleet of bicycles, there were numerous opportunities to tour ports like Dürnstein and Linz on two wheels. Walking tours were offered at a variety of paces. Wireless transmitters, so passengers can hear guides without being right on top of them, are provided. Worth noting: Because of the good variety of offerings, tours rarely were too crowded.

Onboard, a pianist plays a variety of music before and after dinner, and quite a few passengers on our sailing had enough energy later to dance. On some nights, local entertainment plays in the lounge.

The cruise director's nightly talks, mostly focusing on the events of the following day, are humorous and enjoyable, as well as informative.

AmaReina's gym, with a handful of machines (treadmill, Technogym weight machine and two stationary bikes), is thoughtfully equipped, complete with television screens for entertainment. Water is provided. The ship also offers services like massages and hairstyling in a cabin that has been turned into a salon.

There's also a walking track on the Sun Deck.

One of AmaReina's highlights is its fleet of two dozen bicycles. These are free to use in port; towpaths run alongside the rivers, offering generally flat terrain.

One of the ship's most notable features is its small, heated pool; it's not big enough for "real" swimming, but it's a lovely place to relax.

Like most riverboats, the hub of onboard life on AmaReina is the sprawling lounge. There's a semi-circular bar, a handful of tables at perfect height for writing letters or checking email, and a vast array of deep and comfortable couches and armchairs. There's also a closet-sized gift shop.

The beautiful lobby area, which spans two decks, is home to the cruise director's desk (he arranges onboard and in-port activities), a reception desk and a lift that travels between the restaurant and the lounge decks. Because of marine regulations, lifts can't travel below the water line or to the sun deck. (That means cabins on the lowest deck, Piano Deck, are only accessible via the stairs.)

On riverboats, the top-most level -- the sun deck -- is, essentially, an extension of its lounge area, and AmaReina's Sun Deck is one of the most beautiful and comfortable in the industry. There are plenty of tables and chairs for playing games, writing postcards and eating, and there's a gorgeous sitting area with deep wicker-like sofas just forward of the bridge. The Sun Deck also has canopied areas for shade, with plenty of mesh-covered loungers.

APT, along with partner AmaWaterways, is the only major river cruise line to be part of the Chaîne Des Rôtisseurs, a culinary society, so we expected the food to be better than average. Indeed, it was superb. All meals are open seating within specified meal times. Breakfast generally is served from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., lunch from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Most tables are sized for groups of four or more (just a few two-tops), and the handful of available booths is always quickly occupied.

Menus typically reflect the region in which the ship is traveling. In our case, while on the Danube portion of our two-week Rhine-Main-Danube voyage, we tried Hungarian goulash, Bavarian sausages and Viennese schnitzel, along with staples like steak, salmon, chicken and salad.

Breakfast consists of buffet service with a station for freshly prepared omelettes and other egg dishes; it's substantial. There's plenty of healthy fare, such as yogurt and fresh fruit, as well as European-style breakfast options like cold cuts and cheese. Each morning, a menu also features a handful of daily specials. Think Eggs Benedict and cinnamon pancakes.

Lunch -- which includes free-flowing wine, beer and soda -- consists of menu options and a buffet. Salads are plentiful, and usually there are several choices of soups, regional entrées and desserts. Burgers, fries and other American staples are also available.

Dinner is the most formal meal in the main dining room, offering several choices of starters, salads and soups, entrées and desserts, and, of course, plenty of wine. Special needs, from vegetarian to low salt, are pleasantly accommodated (though it helps to give the kitchen advance notice). Always-available choices include steak, chicken and fish.

Other dining options: Erlebnis is a Chef's Table-style eatery with an almost-open kitchen that allows you to watch the chefs work. The set menu (with two choices for the entrée) starts with an amuse bouche, then features four courses. The menu is repeated most nights. With just 24 seats (mostly tables for four with a few larger ones), reservations are recommended; in fact, book your seats the first day because demand is typically quite high for the experience. A wine steward is on hand to explain the choices for the evening. The ambience is as lovely as the dining (and sipping). Erlebnis is located all the way aft and features walls of windows around three sides. There is no additional fee to dine at Erlebnis.

For light fare, the lounge features pastries in the morning and salad, soup and sandwiches at lunch. There's also afternoon tea. Otherwise, cookies are set out for snacks. This is the least appealing option for dining, as the food choices are less than inspired, and the lounge, which has cocktail-height tables, isn't all that comfortable for eating.

AmaReina is the first ship in the fleet to debut an all-new concept eatery. The River Bistro, located just off the ship's atrium, is a small, four-table restaurant that's open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. when the dining room isn't. The menu is small, consisting of the soup of the day, sandwiches and wraps, Caesar salad, and Austrian sacher cake for dessert. There's no additional charge to dine there.

The ship occasionally features special themed meals. On the Danube River portion, it's a Bavarian-style lunch, complete with pretzels, German beer and waiters dressed in traditional costume. There's also an ice cream social up on the sun deck on one afternoon when the ship is cruising.

Coffee, tea and water are available around the clock. There's no room service, although special requests (particularly if you're under the weather) will be accommodated.

Many riverboats offer cabins with modified "French" balconies (floor-to-ceiling windows that open from side to side but don't allow passengers to step out), and a few others offer real verandahs you can sit on, but AmaReina goes further. Ranging from 210 to 235 square feet, cabins in A and B categories offer living areas with French balconies and, off the bedrooms, two-seater verandahs. Roughly half of all cabins onboard have the dual scenario. In these cabins, the living areas feature easy chairs and desk/vanity combinations.

The marble shower-only bathrooms are unusually spacious for a riverboat and have windows that look out into the cabins. (Fortunately there's also a privacy switch that transforms them into opaque, frosted glass.) A window at the end of each balcony shines extra light into the living area.

One tip: Cabins on Deck 2 are more centrally located. Those on Deck 3 might have slightly better views in port when the ship butts up against other vessels or docks.

AmaReina has two suites onboard. Measuring 350 square feet apiece, each of these is essentially one large room with a spacious seating area, a larger-than-usual balcony (about two to three feet deeper than the others) with room for ottomans, and the only onboard bathrooms with tubs.

A handful of more traditional-style cabins, at 170 square feet each, have French verandahs. And on the lowest level, the Piano Deck, 160-square-foot cabins have high windows. These have small desks, adequate closet space and easy chairs.

All cabins include comfortable beds that convert from twins to queen-size. There's a mini-bar stocked with complimentary bottled water, and generous amounts of closet space and under-the-bed storage, especially in higher-end staterooms. The bathrooms have both rain showerheads and regular showerheads. (Hot water is plentiful, though the water pressure is a bit on the weak side.)

Each cabin features a flat-screen television with somewhat skimpy programming, including a handful of movie picks and news channels beamed in via satellite. There's also in-cabin Internet access; most passengers we met brought their own devices. Each cabin is outfitted with European- and American-style plugs. (Australian adaptors are available to borrow at the front desk.) Amenities include robes, slippers and individual-sized bath products from L'Occitane (soap, lotion, shampoo and conditioner).

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