European Christmas Markets On Board AmaMagna
Travel writer Becky Wiggins shares her experience of the European Christmas Markets on board the unique, double width river ship, AmaMagna, from AmaWaterways!
Lights glitter and twinkle, there are wreaths on every door, and a tiny clockwork funfair complete with miniature ice skaters and a whirling carousel decorates the lobby. Christmas garlands adorn every staircase and window ledge, and a lavishly decorated Christmas tree sparkles in every corner. This is the extraordinary - and rather beautiful - AmaMagna in all her Christmas finery. We caught up with this innovative new river ship in Spitz last week to spend a few days sailing the Danube from Vienna to Budapest, and to find out what makes her so revolutionary.
Well, the first thing that can’t possibly escape your notice is that she’s incredibly large. The brainchild of Co-Owner and President Rudi Schreiner, who had apparently been dreaming of creating her for many years, AmaMagna is double the width of traditional river ships, but without double the passengers (just 196 compared to the usual 160) so there’s plenty of room on board and the ship always feels spacious. Her unusual size also means that you won’t parallel dock with other cruise ships. AmaMagna’s spacious interior also makes room for five bars, four different dining venues, a wonderful split-level lounge area creating cosy little nooks perfect for a pre-dinner cocktail, and a host of wellness offerings including a multifunctional Zen Wellness Studio, with gym equipment and loads of room for fitness classes and group sessions. There’s even a heated pool up on the expansive sun deck, and a collection of 50 bikes available for the use of guests – either independently or on accompanied tours – the perfect way to explore.
What you won’t find is any pared back, Scandi-style décor. AmaMagna is unashamedly lavish, and our Cello deck (deck 2) balcony suite is luxuriously appointed and decorated in a rich palette of ochre, gold and purple. There’s a huge, comfortable bed with leather headboard, cleverly canopied with dark slatted wood to give a cosy, cocooned feeling, and an enormous 42” television for starters. Our elegant bathroom, boasting a black marble double sink and incredible multi-jet rainfall shower and more gorgeously scented toiletries than you could ever need. There’s also an iPad with touch settings to control everything from the lighting mood to the cabin temperature, and – should you need it – a 27” iMac. Just for comparison, we viewed one of the handful of standard category staterooms on the Piano Deck (deck 1), and found them to be impressively roomy and just as luxurious, though with windows rather than a balcony, single sinks and showers and a little less cabin space.
Glamorous & Comfortable
The boutique hotel vibe continues in the public spaces – the Violin Deck (deck 3) is dominated by a glamorous and comfortable lounge, with huge bar and dance floor, then drops a few steps either side of the chic bar area to matching little library/nook areas, complete with cosy seating and flickering fires. There’s also a cinema room with PlayStation (children are welcomed on board, and there are cabins with interconnecting doors - perfect for families). I loved the attention to detail – with the starboard nook decorated in cool, rich blues, and the port side in warm ochres, but both accented by chairs in the same sophisticated pattern. At the bow you’ll find light, bright Al Fresco – a delightful, sun-filled terrace surrounded by glass doors that can be folded back in good weather. Guests can stop in here for a continental breakfast, afternoon tea, light Mediterranean-style dinner, or even a night-time snack.
Spoilt For Choice
The dining standard on board is exceptionally high, with the main restaurant complemented by Jimmy’s Wine Bar & Restaurant, named for AmaWaterways’ late co-owner Jimmy Murphy, and serving generous, family-style sharing platters in a cosy venue with an informal atmosphere (it’s also the place to go for late night wine and tapas). Finally, there’s the exquisite seven course tasting menu with paired wines served in The Chef’s Table, an elegant venue where each course is introduced by AmaMagna’s wonderful chefs. In fact, the entire crew of the ship are one of her greatest assets: friendly, sweet and attentive, with a nothing-is-too-much-trouble attitude that sees many AmaWaterways passengers returning year after year. Indeed, one couple on board were on their 53rd cruise.
Our route took us to Vienna, where comfortable buses transported us into the city centre for an accompanied tour (shuttle buses continued to run to and from the ship all evening, so there was plenty of opportunity for independent exploring). I’ve been to Vienna before, but this interesting and comprehensive tour covered many places I’d never been, ending in a beautiful Christmas market, where we sipped Glühwein and wandered the stalls packed with hand-made crafts, gifts and delicious treats. We also spent a day in wonderful Budapest, exploring the princess castles of Fisherman’s Bastion on the Buda side, before ending with more twinkling Christmas market stalls across the Chain Bridge in bustling Pest. One word of warning – if you’re interested in seeing the city Christmas lights, make sure you check the switch-on times – we were a little too early in the season. It’s still a beautiful city, but we were disappointed not to see the glorious lights all illuminated. That, however, was our one disappointment from this Christmassy mini cruise. AmaMagna is clever, contemporary and exquisite and her warm-hearted crew shine as brightly as her decorations. Get on board if you can.
If you're interested in booking a Christmas Markets river cruise, or you'd like to discuss them in more detail with our team, please get in touch! You can visit us at The Travel Village on Highfield Road, South Shore, Blackpool or you can call us on 0800 810 8229