PHOTO: AmaWaterways' AmaKristina in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (photos by Jason Leppert)
Adventures by Disney
sailing with AmaWaterways
At a Glance
By the Numbers
• Lifestyle: Premium
• Launched: 2017
• Passengers: 158 (double occupancy)
• Crew: 50
Take a Bow (What to Like)
Pain in the Aft (What to Dislike)
• Outstanding Adventure Guides
• Great Family-Friendly Staterooms
• Overall Beautiful Riverboat Layout and Decor
• Hit-or-Miss Cuisine Selection and Quality
• Poor Trash Cans and Outlets in Cabins
• Disney Films Need a Bigger Projection Screen
Who Should Book
• Family travelers seeking story-driven adventures ashore and comfort for thirds onboard.
Who Should Skip
• Adult river cruisers seeking a getaway without children along (save for adult-exclusive sailings).
As experienced in partnership with Adventures by Disney, AmaWaterways' AmaKristina is a beautiful riverboat. Its exterior royal blues and polished chrome finishes strikingly accent the curves that continue inside with timeless art deco oval shapes, starting at the reception desk (pictured below), and inviting colors and textiles. Meanwhile, the symmetrical layout, creates a smooth passenger flow across the split levels, even though the three main decks do not extend forward to maximize the vessel's full length.
Still, this does allow for a fantastic pool to sit nestled within the sun deck above. Only some clunky equipment placements restrict access to the far edge of the outside observation area like at the very tip of the lower bow as well. Nonetheless, the overall design of the AmaKristina is top notch, including its large automatically retractable shade structure and cozy outdoor and indoor furniture for enjoying the passing scenery in added comfort.
Most riverboats only sleep two to a cabin, so in order to better accommodate families for AmaWaterways itself as well as Adventures by Disney, the AmaKristina wonderfully features many staterooms that can take thirds and others still that are connecting. In fact, the two adjoining category BA cabins my parents and I enjoyed each had a sofa sleeper that together could become a suite for up to six. These already wider cabins include good storage, comfortable beds and a lovely French balcony and a full veranda.
Only too many of the electrical outlets are European style with just one US variant behind the TV, which is cleverly an Apple iMac for great free internet access (Wi-Fi is also included) and on-demand programming. Also, the pair of USB charging ports are nice, but one at either side of the bed would be preferred. Otherwise, the only other oddity are the cabin trash cans, the bedroom one, which is too big to easily fit beside the desk chair, and the bathroom one, which has an annoying pedal-operated lid that won't fully open, slamming into the toilet above.
Besides the trash can, the bathrooms are quite nice in the category thanks to a mostly square-footprint shower that is easier to turn around in. It is still small but far more manageable. Also neat is a window that looks out from the bathroom into the bedroom with an electronically-switchable opacity control for privacy screening. Plus, at night, there is a great motion sensor that automatically triggers on an unobtrusive blue LED light when using the toilet.
Riverboats are never going to be able to have as many onboard activities as a larger ocean ship, but the AmaKristina has more than others, especially the welcome heated pool on the sun deck (pictured below). It may only be three-feet deep, but this outdoor facility is a joy to take a dip in. Also great for the active are a fleet of onboard bikes to use on land and a gym to use while sailing. There's even a massage room, salon and retail shop.
Additionally, Adventures by Disney takes full advantage of The Chef's Table restaurant at the back of the ship and the library to the side of the lounge (pictured below) for daytime activities for the kids including the arts and crafts likes of origami and cookie decorating. Otherwise, the bulk of activities really are reserved for adventures ashore where the greatest fun and exploration awaits.
On the very first night of our cruise, we dined at The Chef's Table, a lovely little specialty restaurant at the back of the ship that only requires reservations first be made. It set the bar very high with tasting courses like Malaysian Laksa Soup with Halibut and Cheddar Chili Sorbet (pictured below). Yet at other times, in the main restaurant, I was honestly left wanting more, more in the way of selection and sometimes more in the way of flavor as well. Great is that house wines, beer and soft drinks are complimentary at lunch and dinner to wash it all down with.
Appetizers and desserts were often highlights as was Adventures by Disney's "Be Our Guest" theme dinner overall. However, the Essence of Duck soup was served far too warm and was rather bland, and the Beef Ragout entree (pictured below), although presented dramatically in a bread bowl, was a tad unremarkable in its flavor profile. AmaKristina-branded plates and food plating are always impressive though, and plenty of starters exhibit great tastes that can better inform mains in the future.
Like activities, entertainment is generally rather sparse on riverboats, but a resident pianist and local performers add some flair. Of course, the canned sounds of an electric keyboard can only go so far. Adventures by Disney brings some of its own additions onboard in the form of films to watch, but the small projection screen in the lounge is no substitute for a dedicated cinema. Still, it's cool to see "Beauty and the Beast" while actually sailing through the region that inspired the animators.
Or if guests prefer, there is always on-demand programming that can be viewed in the staterooms and suites, including "Pete's Dragon" while we were onboard. With as much talent that exists among the Adventure Guides, some with performance backgrounds in the theme parks, I think it would be cool if even a casual recital of some sort was scheduled additionally onboard as well. Maybe next time.
Regardless, the Adventure Guides already wear so many hats and are exceptional at bringing that extra magic to the AmaKristina, but not to be overlooked are AmaWaterways' own crew members, who are also fantastic. They all brought something special to the sailing such as our room steward Yanto who would surprise us each evening by posing our teddy bear traveling companions in playful situations and our fun waitress Roxy. Cruise manager Pete set the tone for excellence across the board, however, with his effortless brand of great organization and good humor.