This is our second cruise on an Amadeus by Lueftner Cruise ship. This time we did the full Amsterdam to Budapest trip on the Rhine, Main, Main-Danube Canal and finally on the Danube. As background, my wife and I have done about 15 ocean cruises and are in our 60's. We went with a group of about 50. Most of the other passengers were affiliated with some group.
The ship was beautiful with a more modern, clean look. Our cabin was on the second (middle) deck and was well appointed. It was not large but was quite functional with all the storage we needed and a cleverly designed, modern bathroom. The suitcases fit under the comfortable bed. The full length window had a motor that dropped the top halfway down. This made an ideal place to stand and watch the river go by. I much preferred it to the usual sliding glass doors in the absence of a balcony. Given that you only see one side of the river and that the public areas are so nice, I wouldn't upgrade to a true balcony.
The staff was made of the hardest working, friendliest people we have experienced on a cruise with the exception of one bartender who could have learned from his colleagues. The hotel director was a most pleasant American who went above and beyond in making sure we were well taken care of. Most of the other staff were Romanian with some waiters from the Philipines. All had good English skills. By the end of the cruise, it all felt like one big family. The wife of one of our waiters, Bradford, gave birth back in the Philipines while we were on the cruise. He was so well liked by our group that we collected a significant contribution for them.
The food was, for the most part, very good to excellent. Breakfast was a large buffet with all of the usual items and with eggs and omlets cooked to order. I especially appreciated the smoked salmon and marinated herring. Lunch was either sit-down in the dining room or more informal buffet in the lounge. Dinner was five to six courses with usually a choice of two salads, appetizer, soup, dessert and a meat, fish and vegetarian entree. Regional items were frequent (how can you go to Hungary and not have goulash?). There was always chicken and something else for plain eaters, but why go to Europe if you are not going to try European cuisine? Individual portions were not large, but in sum the meals were quite satisfying. The included regional wines were both good and free flowing.
Most of the excursions were included; we went on three optional ones. The use of the audiovox system is a real plus. You don't have to crowd around the guide. American excursions should adopt it. All of the guides were local; most were really good and even outstanding. One needed work on her tour skills, but the tour was still fun. For the most part, there was enough time to explore on our own and have a glass of local beer or wine. Thankfully we had no forced stops at gift shops as happens on so many cruise tours.
This was port intensive with stops in cities including Cologne, Vienna, and Budapest, but our favorite stops were in the smaller towns like Bamberg, Rudesheim, Wertheim and Rothenberg. We will admit, though, that we became a little Baroque church and castle fatigued.
But the best part was cruising on the river, watching the vineyards, castles and hamlets unfold around the bend. I was surprised at how pastoral the scenery was. I was expecting more industrial development along the rivers, but there wasn't much. June proved to be a good time to go. Temperatures were in the 60's with occassional 70's. Some rain but not enough to stop anything. And plenty of water in the rivers thus avoiding the problems that all of the cruise lines experienced later in the season.
Our favorite ocean cruise has been on Celebrity to the Norwegian fjords. This trip would rank right up there with that. We would chose this line again for our next river cruise for its food, service, ship and value.