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15. December 2021

River Cruise Review: Amadeus Queen

Written by Olivia Liveng

 

Contributing Writer for Travel Age West

 

By the third morning of our voyage, our Amadeus River Cruises receptionist had to suppress a chuckle. It was the fourth time in 72 hours that my husband, Jonathan, and I were checking out the ship's bicycles, keen on exploring the path just beyond the tiny ship's hull to meander along the Danube River. It probably didn't help that Jonathan is Danish, or that we are younger than the average demographic for river cruising, further perpetuating our stereotypes. 

Yet while we were undoubtedly fulfilling preconceived notions, our week on Amadeus Queen certainly dispelled ours. 

A first-time river cruiser, Jonathan imagined the experience would include buses herding masses of guests equipped with headsets and eating bland meals comparable to television dinners. Cruising had also gotten such a poor reputation post-pandemic, that we both wondered how 162 passengers in intimate quarters would maintain safety and hygienic measures.

And yet, from the moment we stepped onboard the newly minted Amadeus Queen, our reality far surpassed our expectations. 

Amadeus' American Market Presence

While the American market may be less familiar with the Amadeus brand, it still makes quite the splash — pun intended — in the river cruising scene. As of 2022, Amadeus will have 17 river cruise ships in their fleet, continuing a 40-year tradition of innovation and distinction, focusing on contemporary design, modern elegance and luxurious comfort.

Marcus Leskovar, executive vice president of Amadeus, explains that though U.S. travelers make up a large percentage of guests, they may not be aware they’re sailing Amadeus. 

"We have been embedded in the American market since the beginning, and about 45% of our passengers are sourced from North America," he said. "But our product is primarily featured through tour operators and brand-labeled. Since 2016, however, we've had a direct presence in North America to round out our offering, promote and support the brand in general, and to be easily and conveniently available to travel advisors, group organizers and individual travelers interested in a European river cruise.”

Amadeus is one of the oldest river cruising companies in Europe. More than 40 years ago, Austrian couple Martina and Wolfgang Luftner launched Luftner Cruises, which operates Amadeus’ fleet. And, in recent years, the company has been marketing to the U.S., the U.K. and other pivotal markets. 

Onboard Amadeus Queen

Amadeus Queen sails along the Danube, Rhine, and Main rivers, along with Belgian and Dutch waterways. The ship bears many similarities in layout and design to its predecessors, however, one guest-approved upgrade is Amadeus Queen's indoor pool, featuring a roof that can be opened when the weather is fitting. This social area is also utilized for cinema showings, informational talks and more extensive functions.

The ship boasts 69 standard rooms, many of which have panoramic drop-down windows and French balconies. The 12 suites are exceptionally spacious, and each has a walkout balcony and a cozy reading corner. We were fortunate to stay in a tasteful suite and enjoyed the functionality and spaciousness of the setup. And true to the Amadeus brand, all rooms have trademark walk-in closets, regardless of cabin category. Cabins with connecting doors are available upon request. 

The ship's main dining room, the Panorama restaurant, is a focal gathering point. Cruising fares include three gourmet meals per day, plus afternoon tea and various snacks. They also usually include wine, soft drinks or coffee with meals (though this varies based on the specific package). While the menus are diverse, courses utilize local ingredients, drawing inspiration from the surrounding region. Vegetarian or vegan options are readily available, and an onboard baker presents a variety of fresh goodies every day. 

Amadeus differs from competitors in that, instead of an open-table policy, seating for guests is fixed and often allocated the first day. I enjoyed this sailing component, as it allowed us to more intimately connect with my fellow table guests, with whom we stayed in contact post-sailing.

Most compelling for my husband and me was the attention to detail by the staff. We wouldn't expect to receive such personalized treatment on a ship as large as Queen. Still, I was asked every morning if I wanted my skimmed-milk iced cappuccino, and Jonathan was offered his go-to gin and tonic nightcap pre-bedtime. All communication on the boat is in English, and any customer issues were diligently resolved.  

Additionally,  passenger and crew safety is paramount on Queen, and we felt this even before stepping onboard. 

“The most noticeable requirements are that passengers have to be fully vaccinated and tested before coming onboard," Leskovar said. “There are also a lot of other procedures in place that might not seem very obvious, but they are also in place to keep passengers healthy and safe on board the vessel.”

While I initially felt uneasy being in such proximity to strangers again, once onboard, I thought of our ship as a vaccinated refuge from the real world. 

Amadeus does not currently offer any self-serve items such as buffets, and staff enforces masks to be worn when walking around on the vessel. 

Land Excursions with Amadeus 

Amadeus is often associated with providing an immersive experience. Our cruise snaked down the Danube River, beginning in Passau, Germany, and ending a week later in Bratislava, Slovakia. Excursions with Amadeus are offered on an a la carte basis (aside from some group booking packages when included in the fare). This “cruise your way” concept is ideal for intrepid travelers such as me and my husband, as we search for flexibility, freedom and the ability to explore at our own pace. However, it also allowed us to participate in ship-curated excursions occasionally and immerse ourselves in history through guided tours.

My favorite port was the quaint city of Regensburg, known as "Germany's medieval miracle," perched on the northernmost point of the Danube River. I loved how an ancient town could adapt to modernity seamlessly without compromising the charm of its narrow streets and marvelous medieval structures. The guided tour here gave us valuable insight into some of the prominent German cultural nuances of yesteryear. 

Melk was another unforgettable destination, located next to Austria’s Wachau Valley. Here I admired the marvelous Melk Abbey, one of the largest and most impressive Baroque monasteries in Europe, on an informative guided tour. 

Missing our two wheels back at our home in Copenhagen, we decided to bike from Melk to Durnstein, Austria, parallel to the Danube, weaving through family-owned vineyards and the occasional monastery of the inspiring Wachau valley.

In Durnstein, we participated in a walking tour through the town’s cobblestoned streets, where traditional architecture and 16th-century townhouses and taverns greeted us at every turn. After marveling at the blue facade of Durnstein's famed church cloister tower of Stiftskirche, we visited a local winery and indulged in an informative (and delicious) wine tasting. 

Marketing to a Younger Audience

If Amadeus continues to market toward a younger crowd as planned, Jonathan and I will not be the only passengers racing for the bicycles every morning. Leskovar says that in 2022 the brand would begin introducing their Exclusive Experiences by Amadeus excursions, geared toward a more active and agile traveler. These programs will highlight experience-driven discoveries, such as bread-making classes, bike rides through vineyards and visits to local farms.

"In addition, we offer our golf cruises available on the Rhone, Seine, Rhine and Danube rivers," he said. "We are also starting to see the response to our programs for millennials which we started a few years back, and are excited to see our first charter cruise for millennials in the fall of 2022."

What's Next for Amadeus

There's much around the river bend in Amadeus' near future, especially as itineraries will align with unique, timely experiences. 

"Next year will be a truly unique year as we feature some rare experiences not to be missed, such as the Oberammergau Passion Play pre-cruise extension in conjunction with our Danube and Rhine cruises, and a visit to the Floriade Garden Show during any of our Rhine itineraries," Leskovar said. "Both events only occur every 10 years, and we have prepared itineraries that will include either one or both of these experiences for our passengers." 

We are seeing the continuous growth in European river cruising and more, we are now also witnessing a change in demographic away from what was almost exclusively baby boomers to younger generations, more active and agile travelers, and also families.

Additionally, Amadeus is excited to announce their new wine and culinary cruises, beginning with 2022 itineraries. Initially, they will offer these unique group itineraries on the Rhone and Rhine rivers before expanding the program to the Danube in 2023. 

"We are seeing the continuous growth in European river cruising and more, we are now also witnessing a change in demographic away from what was almost exclusively baby boomers to younger generations, more active and agile travelers, and also families," Leskovar said. "This development is exciting, as it provides a proof of concept for our industry, and we are continuing to engage in new product development for ships, onboard and land experiences, and excursions to make sure we remain the prime choice for so many travel advisors and river cruise enthusiasts alike."

The company plans to expand its education program with live webinars and fam trips to introduce travel advisors to river cruising with Amadeus. 

“Our efforts to provide excellence to you and your client will stay a priority,” Leskovar said. “It will allow us to show you firsthand why we offer the best value in European rivers.”

Link to original article: https://travelagewest.com/Travel/River-Cruise/Amadeus-Queen-Review?utm_source=eNewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=eltrMuse&oly_enc_id=9896A2397867C0T



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