PHOTO: AmaKristina (left) goes head-to-head with Disney Wonder (right) for a friendly Disney comparison. (photo by Jason Leppert)
Prior to heading out with Adventures by Disney on the Rhine, I had sailed many times with Disney Cruise Line on the ocean but never with the company on the river. As it turns out, they are very different animals, but there is also a lot more crossover than I had initially expected.
Right from the get go, the biggest difference between the two is that Disney Cruise Line (DCL) is a wholly owned subsidiary, and Adventures by Disney (AbD) partners with AmaWaterways for its river cruise product.
This is rather typical for AbD as the bulk of its shoreside tours are also reliant on outside vendors, whether that be independent hotels, bus operators or more. DCL itself is dependent to a degree on outside tour operators for its port adventures as well, but all of its hardware is in-house. Meanwhile, AmaWaterways essentially provides all such amenities (family-friendly with thirds in cabins) and river transportation for AbD.
READ MORE: Adventures by Disney Is Off to a Great River Cruising Start
Of course, there is a stark contrast between the vessel types.
The 2,713-guest Disney Wonder (pictured above, right), for instance, is going to offer lots more to do onboard than the 158-or-so-guest AmaKristina (pictured above, left) just by virtue of size alone. There are dozens of venues on the Wonder and only a handful aboard the AmaKristina, but the emphases are far different. Onboard entertainment is much more of a focus on the former whereas shoreside exploration is key on the latter.
That means you will not find the famous Disney characters on AmaWaterways’ riverboats like you will on the DCL fleet. There are also no dedicated kids clubs nor adults-only areas. All public sections are common with one main lounge, restaurant (no rotational dining here) and a few ancillary venues for spreading around activities as needed. Children might take over The Chef’s Table during the day to decorate cookies, the lounge at night for their own buffet or the library in the afternoon for origami making. Meanwhile, wine tasting is available to adults, and tea time is something the whole family can enjoy.
One thing that is for certain on AbD is that the experience is much more intimate and personable, but where the two are remarkably similar are in their personalities. Cast Members on DCL and Adventure Guides on AbD make up the heart and soul of the experience on each, and they are what make Disney, well, Disney. On AbD, it’s almost like having half a dozen cruise directors with you throughout the week, becoming part of your extended family as you share experiences together. Disney’s signature attention to detail is ever present in its friendly people.
READ MORE: TravelPulse On Board: Disney Cruise Line's Disney Wonder Review
Another common thread is Disney’s focus on storytelling. Most of the narrative quality of DCL travels are onboard where the Walt Disney Imagineers have crafted characteristic immersion, and AbD specifically selects port adventures that lend themselves well to story. Tours are not simply city overviews but rather cultural expressions that manage to be whimsical and fun and relevant to Disney’s international portfolio of family-friendly experiences.
Such may include a Matterhorn Bobsleds-like toboggan run, Skyway-like gondola ride or a Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room-like visit to Siegfried's Mechanical Music Cabinet.
Something new I learned this week is that Adventures by Disney experiences can even be joined with Disney Cruise Line ones thanks to special AbD pre-cruise extensions as well as VIP AbD shore excursions packages available during the cruise itself in the Mediterranean and Baltic. Signature Adventure Guides can then add more magic to a DCL cruise with hand-picked shore excursions and more personalized dedication of service.
That truly sounds like the best of both worlds and something I’d gladly sign up for in a heartbeat.