Cruising the Danube on Ama Dolce

AmaDolce going thru locks on the Danube river cruise
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My first river cruise was on the Danube, as in “beautiful blue,” sailing from Nuremberg to Budapest in the middle of July. I was on the Ama Waterways ship, AmaDolce, with a group. River cruising is a great way to travel. A floating hotel, moving slowly along the river, passing towns, castles, fields and vineyards along the way. A chance to see and explore local life as you mostly dock right in the town or village. 
 
This is an easy way to travel. There is no chance of motion sickness for those who suffer from it, as you are on a river that's as smooth as silk. River cruises are mostly all inclusive – including meals onboard with wine and beers and excursions ashore.. There are some options to buy up, such as private excursions, but there are many options for different levels of activity during the time on shore. Since most of the time the ships are docked right in town, it is also easy to go off on your own. Many river cruise ships offer complimentary bikes.
 
On this trip we flew to Munich for a few days to visit a friend and to re-visit this beautiful city. Stayed one night at The Charles, a fabulous contemporary hotel, chic and understated. Then moved to Bayerisher Hof, a centrally located traditional German hotel. Both are 5-star and excellent, thought each has its own style. We then took the train to Nuremberg – love those European trains -  and went from very hot weather in Munich to arriving in a downpour. 
 
We boarded the AmaDolce at a dock about 15 minutes outside the city. Our cabin was on the “swan deck,” a euphemistic term for the lowest deck. Our window was up high, from which we could see the swans swim by! The cabin was small but efficient, enough storage if you travel light. Small closet. (I would strongly recommend you go up to at least the middle deck and  better yet, the top deck. Both of those decks on AmaDolce have floor to ceiling windows, and a sliding glass door.) Some have French balconies where you can step out, while some of the river cruise ships have "real" balconies with rpom for chairs and a table.
 
The ship had nice space to it – the lounge was comfortable, with a bar on one end, windows all around. Coffee, tea, cookies and snacks were always available. I spent a lot of time there in the lounge as we sailed – wifi was good and it was quiet. During the evening there was a pianist which made for nice atmosphere. The dining room was one deck down from the lounge. The ship is very social so it is common for passengers to dine with each other. There are some tables for two, but all the tables are close to each other, so everyone talks to each other. The ship has a special “Chef’s Table” dining option, which passengers are allowed to enjoy once during the cruise. This is a small dining room for just 24 guests maximum.  There was a small massage room and a small fitness room as well.
 
On the top deck were sitting areas with deck chairs, tables, a giant chess game, and a whirlpool. As we sailed along, it was great to be on the top deck when the weather was nice.
 
Some of the inclded shore excursions offered by Ama Waterways were excellent. In Nuremberg, we chose to visit the courthouse, where the Nuremberg trials took place. We stopped on the way to see an unfinished arena Hitler was constructing, but never finished. It was chilling to hear the stories and be in these places.
 
In Regensburg we had a private walking tour just for our group's guests, to the castle of Thurn und Taxis. Hearing the stories of the Thurn and Taxis dynasty was fascinating and spurred on one of the youngest in our group (age 13) to begin reading about Sissi, Empress of Austria and her sister Helene.
 
We had a fabulous guide in Passau – so entertaining! He made the history of this German town come alive. He turned out to have been an actor and is currently a politician. The walk through the old city was beautiful, ending with our walking group eavesdropping on a Mozart concert in the cathedral, then a coffee and strudel stop in a charming café. Of course, I returned to the ship with a few souvenirs, including a Bavarian Jacket. Who could resist?
 
We saw the Abbey in Melk, had a lesson onboard on making Apfel Strudel, sailed past vineyards and lovely scenery. One “not so lovely” scene happened when we entered a lock and pulled up next to another ship. The lounge and front desk of our ship was level with some cabins on the next ship – we had a view right into a cabin where a couple was sleeping with windows wide open – in their underwear! We all were laughing and took a few pictures, at which time the woman raised her head and looked at us, but was too sleepy to get up and close the curtain! (A lesson on these ships to close your curtains if you want any privacy! The ships dock next to each other often, passengers walk from one ship through the next one to get ashore.)
 
Of course, Vienna was a highlight. We spent two days here with plenty of time to explore. We visited the sights, ate schnitzel and Sacher torte, enjoyed the ambience of this beautiful city. I visited several hotels as well, The Bristol, The Imperial and The Sacher. What a great city – historical, charming, vibrant, with a young, energetic vibe.
 
Our last stop was Budapest. I wanted more time here, so in addition to the ship tours and exploring on our own with some of our new friends, we added a night so we could explore more of this iconic city. There are so many hidden places in addition to the well known sights – I could have stayed longer! Budapest has a complicated history – a good guide is well worth having. One of the sad places we visited was the shoe memorial – bronze castings of the shoes of Jews and other “undesirables” who were lined up along the Danube and shot, so their bodies would fall in the river. We also visited the Jewish Quarter, which is now the “hip and cool” part of the city, full of cafes and boutiques.
 
We flew to Frankfurt to spend a day with a dear friend. We stayed at Villa Kennedy, a Rocco Forte hotel – loved it. Great photos all over the hotel of the Kennedys, as well as Jimi Hendrix, Freddy Mercury, Marilyn Monroe, etc. along with other artistic photos. We walked from the hotel to the river for wurst and beer, then later, found a typical German restaurant for our last schnitzel dinner. 
 
Experiencing a part of Europe by river ship gives one time to explore at a slow and easy pace, making new friends along the way. Bookending the trip with visits to beautiful cities makes the trip complete!