My First River Cruise Experience

The AmaMagna river cruise ship docked in Budapest
The AmaMagna river cruise ship docked in Budapest

I recently attended the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) River Cruise Expo 2023. This was the second year for this expo. Over 700 Travel Advisors from all over the United States descended on the city of Budapest, Hungary for this 4-day conference. This was my first time ever in Budapest, and I describe my time there in the post “Visiting Budapest“. Upon completion of the conference, I then went on my first river cruise on the AmaMagna, with AmaWaterways. This post is a review of that cruise.

The Ship

The AmaMagna is the largest ship in the AmaWaterways fleet of 28 ships, 22 of which operate in Europe. She was placed in service in 2019. The ship operates solely on the Danube. It measures 443 feet in length, and 72 feet wide. It has a crew of 70, and a passenger capacity of 196, in 98 staterooms. All staterooms have either a two-twin bed or king size bed configuration, a large screen tv with on-demand entertainment, an apple computer with internet access, and a desk and desk chair. Both the television and computer have access to information on daily activities, ship operations and other information. The ship includes 4 restaurants, a self-serve laundry room, an exercise room, a spa, a very large lounge and bar, a library and a cinema room.

The ship has 5 different classes of Staterooms. The smallest staterooms are in Category D and E. These are on the lower level. They have fixed windows, and are 205 square feet in size. There are 11 of these staterooms on the ship.

The next level are categories AA and AB. These rooms are 252 square feet in size, including the walkout balcony. This is the room I stayed in on board. There are 34 of these staterooms on board. 

The next size is in categories SA and SB. This is the size stateroom shown in the image here. These staterooms are 355 square feet, and includes a sitting area with a loveseat. There are 46 staterooms in this category, and 8 of these can be configured to be adjoining rooms. 

The next level is category GS (Grand Suite). There are six of these staterooms, measuring 474 square feet. In these staterooms, the bed faces out to the balcony, and the stateroom also includes a bathtub.

The last category is OS (Owner’s Suite). There is only one of these on the ship and it measures 710 square feet.  It includes a spacious sitting area, an extra large balcony, an extra large closet and extra seating and tables. 

On the sun deck, there is a pickleball court, a walking track, a swimming pool and hot tub, and a large chess piece area. Guests can take part in yoga and other physical activity classes. There is also an exercise room with weight machines and stationary bikes. 

To give you some reference as to how this ship compares, the AmaWaterways ship AmaVerde is also 443 feet in length, but only 38 feet in width, so approximately half the size of the AmaMagna. This ship has a capacity of 160 passengers (80 staterooms) and a crew of 51. The ship has 2 restaurants and has 6 classes of Staterooms.  The staterooms range in size from 170 square feet with a fixed window, to the suites (5 on the ship) at 350 square feet. 

For further comparison, a Viking ship is the same overall dimension as the AmaVerde. It has a passenger capacity of 190 passengers in 95 staterooms.  These range in size from 170 square feet in the base level staterooms, to 270 square feet in the Veranda Suites.

Here is a link to the AmaMagna Deck Plans.

The Itinerary

Our itinerary was a 7-night cruise from Budapest, Hungary, to Vilshofen, Germany. I will describe the different locations below. Unfortunately, I could not give a first-hand account of the last three stops (Linz, Passau, and Vilshofen). I had to leave the cruise early because of a strike at the Munich Airport, which caused my flight to be canceled. My choices were either to leave early or spend an extra 2-3 days in Munich and return to Greensboro via Denver, Colorado. I made the choice to return early. 

I should also note that AmaWaterways also offers pre- and post-cruise tours. for some cruises, these tours are either included in the price or available at a discount. 


Budapest view from Castle Hill

Two days.

Because of the River Expo, I was already on board. Otherwise, the first day is for getting on board and checked in. On the second day, two tours are offered, based on your desired level of physical activity. Or, you can strike out on your own, because the ship is well placed to the center of town. Just remember to be back on time for departure.


Hrad Castle Bratislava


Normally, the ship does not arrive in Bratislava until early afternoon. However, because of a schedule change to get through the locks, we arrived in the morning. There are three options for tours here, including the most strenuous to walk to the Hrad Castle, shown here. Others include a walking tour of the city, or a “Tastes of Bratislava” tour to try some of the beers from the local breweries. 

I selected the walking tour of the city, not because the hike to the castle was too strenuous (it was not). But I have always felt that to really get an understanding of a city, it is best to walk through it, not look down on it.


Schönbrunn Palace Vienna Austria

Full day.

The stop in Vienna is from very early in the morning, until very late at night, but I could have easily spent several more days here, because there is so much to see and do. In the morning, you can either take a city walking tour or a bike tour. Those who went on the bike tour came back saying it was an excellent way to the see the city. I opted for the walking tour, which was a great way to see the city center, including the local gardens, the Hofburg Palace, the parliament building and the cathedral.

In the afternoon, we went to Schönbrunn Palace, pictured here. We had a local guide take us through the palace and then we had a few minutes to spend in the garden. 

That evening, I attended a Strauss and Mozart concert in town. The orchestra featured two violins, a viola, cello, bass, a flute, oboe and percussion. There were two operatic singers and dance performers. The musicians were excellent and this is something I highly recommend. This concert does come at an additional cost of 99 Euros per person.

Krems and Dürnstein

Half day.

Early the next morning, the ship stopped in Krems, Austria. This is the Wachau Valley which produces some very good white wines and Apricot Liqueur. While we were there, the Apricot trees were just beginning to bloom. The castle ruins in Durnstein are from the castle where the English King Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned and held for ransom.

There are four different options for activities here. The first is a walking tour of Dürnstein, which I took. The second was a tasting of Apricot sweets. Next was a hike to the castle ruins. And last was a bike tour. This tour got very good reviews from the participants.

Spitz and Melk

Half day.

In the afternoon, the ship moved on to the town of Spitz. Normally, the ship traveled at night, so this was one of the few occasions to cruise the river in daylight. While we were cruising, we had a gelato party on the sun deck. 

Upon arrival in Spitz, you have three options for afternoon activities. You can take the tour of the Benedictine Abbey in Melk. I took this tour. You take a hike through the Spitz vineyards up to the ancient city walls. The last is a bike tour through the Spitz to the village of Emmersdorf.

That evening, you can enjoy a wine tasting at the Wachau Valley Winery in the former wine press house of the St. Gottweig Abbey. 

Linz, Austria

Full day.

Had I been able to stay with the cruise, my choices were a walking tour or a bike tour of Linz, a full day excursion to Salzburg, or an afternoon excursion to the Czech city of Cesky-Krumlov. I had signed up for the excursion to Salzburg, but you can also do both the walking tour of Linz and the afternoon excursion to Cesky-Krumlov. Just a reminder that, if you go to Cesky-Krumlov, you must carry your passport.

Passau and Vilshofen Germany

Half day in Passau before moving to Vilshofen.

Passau is at the confluence of three rivers – the Danube, Liz, and Inn Rivers. There are three tour options in Passau, including  walking tour, a castle hike, and a bike tour. People that I have talked to that have been to Passau say that a  must see here is the Cathedral. It has one of the world’s largest pipe organs with almost 18,000 pipes. 

 Later in the day, the ship moves to its final destination at Vilshofen, where guests are treated to a traditional Oktoberfest celebration.

Final Thoughts

Before taking this trip, I was on the fence when it came to river cruises. I came away from this experience with the following thoughts:

First, because of my experience at the River Expo, I was fortunate to see several different ships. I am confident that all of the ships I saw can meet everyone’s needs and tastes. It is a matter of finding the best fit for you. 

Second, this is an excellent way to see several different locations in a very convenient and comfortable manner. These companies work hard to provide different experiences at different activity levels. And I made some new friends on this trip. 

Third, you will probably want to make a second trip to certain places that you visit. I know I want to go back to Vienna. One day there is just not enough. Still, I wouldn’t trade my visits to Dürnstein, Budapest and Melk. 

So I have to say, I recommend this style of travel. There are several different options for travel on the Danube, as well as options to travel on the Rhine between Amsterdam and Basel. Or you can consider the French Wine Regions or the Duoro River in Portugal. If Asia is more your preference, there are options here as well.  

Learn More About AmaWaterways



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