The Ultimate Luxurious River Cruise For Wine Lovers

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Austria
Austria

Some cruises offer cookie cutter experiences, autonomy and anonymity, but if you’re someone who appreciates something more—something gourmet, something luxurious—then we have a trip for you.

There will always be skeptics. “Can I really handle seeing the same people day in and day out for a solid week?” is a valid question, as is “Can a riverboat cruise really be luxurious?” The answer to both is unequivocally “YES.”  But there are a few points that we should make right off the bat: we have genuinely never seen a group of 150+ travelers—most of whom began the cruise as strangers—become quite so close by the trip’s end as they did on our recent journey with AmaWaterways. If that isn’t enough validation, then hear this: not only did the SoCal-based cruise company ink a two-year sponsorship deal with travel guru Samantha Brown‘s “Places to Love” show, but co-owners Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst’s business venture also earned four Travvy Awards recently, including best European cruise. Well, then.


THE SHIP

AmaSerena exterior
AmaSerena exterior

For a leisurely journey down the Danube, you’ll sail aboard the AmaSerena, a vessel inspired by classic ocean yachts that launched in 2015. After arriving in Vilshofen, a village in the Passau district of Germany, you’ll step on board the boat and be greeted by a glass of champagne—which is just as bubbly as the ever-smiling staff—and be shown to your room. Each stateroom is spacious and elegantly appointed, ranging in size from 160-290 sq. ft, though for the truly upscale traveler, we recommend booking one of the suites, which are sized at 300 square feet. Most accommodations have twin balconies, both a French and outside balcony, so you can enjoy the ever-changing scenery.


THE ROOMS

AmaSerena suite
AmaSerena suite

Entertainment-On-Demand, featuring free high-speed Internet access, unlimited Wi-Fi, movies, music and English language TV stations; climate-controlled air conditioning; and an in-room safe. In the marble bathroom, enjoy multi-jet shower heads, soothing bath and body products, robes and hair dryers are available in all staterooms. The suites, as expected, have additional amenities, including a larger sitting area with sofa and two chairs, and an expansive bathroom complete with a bathtub and separate shower.


 

THE FOOD

Chef's Table
Chef’s Table

As a member of La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the exclusive international culinary society, you’ll be treated to exquisite, locally-inspired cuisine—always paired with unlimited wine (the Danube trip’s host, Peter Marks of Constellation Brands (Marks is one of only 24 Masters of Wine residing in the U.S. and was the first American to win the Madame Bollinger Foundation Award for having the highest tasting score on the rigorous MW exam), offered a variety of wines from the region as well as a few California varietals for a taste of home), as well as beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner. The meals are exquisite, and the chefs truly take any and all dietary restrictions into consideration (perfect for the SoCal traveler who wants to hold the fat on absolutely everything without giving up the taste). You’ll also relish a variety of dining venues, including The Chef’s Table speciality restaurant—a gastronomic treat for the senses that features an exquisite tasting menu prepared right before your eyes (as a side note, every guest is able to book one of these Chef’s Table experiences gratis, and sometimes even two or three if you’re lucky enough).


 

THE EXTRAS

On board entertainment
On board entertainment

The AmaSerena offers a host of added comforts and conveniences, including a massage and hair salon, gift shop and speciality coffee station. But it’s at night when things get lively. After returning from your daily “make-your-own-adventure” excursion and dining on exquisite fare, head into the Main Lounge for nightly entertainment that includes everything from violinists to 2 a.m. dance parties. And there’s more: fitness enthusiasts who need their daily dose of exercise (in addition to all the walking and biking you can potentially do during your off-boat excursions) will be happy to not only find a walking track and heated swimming pool on the Sun Deck, but also a fitness room with stability bikes, treadmills and strength training equipment.


 

THE WINE OF THE DANUBE

MeetYourWineExpert_Image_3b

Onboard the AmaSerena, oenophiles will experience wine tasting in three different countries along the Danube, the second largest river in Europe. On shore, guests will also be able to fully experience the tastes of the region. Savor the flavors of the Wachau Valley with delightfully nuanced Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners, the Wiener Gemischter Satz in Vienna; and distinctly unique Hungarian wines in Budapest.


 

THE EXCURSIONS (AND WHERE TO DRINK WHILE YOU’RE EXPLORING)

Vienna
Vienna

Photo Credit: Agatha Kadar/Shutterstock.com

  • Start your journey in Vilshofen, where you’ll join a Bavarian Beer Fest hosted by AmaWaterways as well as the town’s locals for native brews, giant pretzels, and live entertainment.
  • You’ll move on to Passau, where you can hike to Passau Castle Hill and enjoy locally brewed ales at Das Oberhaus overlooking the colorful German city.
  • Move on to Linz, Austria. Following the Linz Culter Mile Bike Tour excursion, stop into Leo Hillinger Wineshop & Bar to grab a glass of wine and take a bottle with you to enjoy later on the sundeck.
  • In Salzburg, stroll through Salzburg’s old town (and check out Mozart’s home) and visit Sternbrau to grab a beer in the Brewmaster’s Room or a glass of wine in the SternLounge.
  • In Cesky Krumlov, which is a post-Communist town straight out of Game of Thrones, get cozy with a cocktail at Apotheka Cafe Bar.
  • In Durnstein, try locally made apricot schnapps on the Danube Terrace at the Relais & Châteaux Hotel Schloss Dürnstein following the Durnstein Walking Tour.
  • In the wine-saturated town of Krems, enjoy local Wachau Valley wines at the centuries old Schloss Gobelsburg castle during Wine Cellars and Wine Taste excursion.
  • In Vienna, the options are endless. That said, we recommend visiting one of Vienna’s famous coffee houses such as Café Landtmann to sip on a glass of Grüner Veltliner or a Franz Landtmann Kaffee (double espresso with brandy, coffee liqueur, whipped cream and cinnamon) while you eat apple strudels and schnitzel. If it’s winter, join the Christmas Markets excursion and grab a boot of gluhwein (and don’t forget to take the boot home with you).
  • In Budapest, the options, again, are endless. Since you only have one day here, we recommend experiencing Budapest’s famous bath house culture with a trip to the art nouveau designed Gellert Baths, where you can sip on sparkling Rieslings while getting pampered. For those looking for a true cultural experience, step into one of the many ruin bars around the city, like Szimpla Kert, for a palinka shot. Either way, your journey will end with the Captain’s Farewell cocktail and champagne toast, followed by schnapps overlooking the Hungarian Parliament Building.
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