This 158-passenger AmaWaterways river ship debuted in 2016 and was designed in conjunction with Disney with a whole new type of river cruising clientele in mind — families. Adventures by Disney, the company's tour operator, charters the ship for several Danube sailings in the summer and December holiday periods, welcoming more kids onboard than your typical river ship. While there are no princess meet-and-greets or crazy characters onboard during the Disney-sponsored sailings, families will find the cabins are larger than average, holding as many four people.
If the prospect of a kid-centric cruise doesn't excite you, it's a more classic AmaWaterways experience on sailings without the Disney partnership, and the adult-friendly amenities include a spa, delicious local fare, and a larger-than-average pool with a swim-up bar.
What We Love
There's a Spa: Not all river ships have space for a spa, but on the lower deck of AmaViola you'll find a decent little gym, beauty salon, and massage room (a 30-minute massage runs about $34).
Double Balconies: If your river cruise wish list includes an airy balcony where you can watch the scenery go by, you're in luck. Most cabins have a French balcony plus a real balcony big enough for two chairs, totaling around 210-235 square feet.
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Cuisine: Whether at buffets or sit-down dinners, the food is a cut above the river cruise norm. In addition to local fare such as weiner schnitzel and complimentary wine from the region, there are even Asian menu options, too. And there's another culinary option you won't find on most river ships: a Chef's Table. This over-the-top, intimate specialty restaurant has a tasting menu using seasonal ingredients, all beautifully plated. Reservations are first come, first served.
Family Cabins: AmaViola was built with families in mind. Some cabins sleep three (there's a chair that converts to a bed) and there are also connecting cabins that, when combined, can sleep four or five people. What really wows are the four one-bedroom suites that sleep four, have bathrooms with a separate tub and shower, and come with butler service.
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Who It's Best For
Families with Kids: While you won't see Mickey or Elsa on any of these cruises, on the Adventure by Disney sailings the youth staff organizes fun, kid-centric events both on board and during shore excursions. Note that the minimum age is six, but the recommended age is eight and up.
Cruisers of a Certain Age: On sailings not operated by Disney, AmaViola's passengers are typically affluent couples and solo travelers, age 55 and up (sometimes way up).
Those Looking to Move: You can take in the Danube views while circling the walking track on the top deck. While in port, skip the guided tours and borrow one of the ship's mountain bikes for DIY exploration.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
There's Little Nightlife: As on most river cruises, the crowd settles down early. On Disney sailings, the lounge is basically the kids club until bedtime and on regular cruises most people turn in by 11 pm.
Fran Golden is a Cleveland-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for USA Today.