River cruising is poised to top travel charts in 2023—and for many good reasons. But the record-breaking flock of first timers booking with AmaWaterways aren’t new to cruising at all. They’re longtime oceanados seeking a more intimate way to sail around the world.
Digging deep into this exciting trend, we talked to former ocean cruiser Belinda Guild, a retired teacher who reserved her first AmaWaterways river cruise in 2018 and has since completed luxury tours of the Danube, Rhine, and Nile rivers. Belinda and her husband will soon embark on Ama’s Colors of Provence, tracing the steps of world-famous artists, vintners, and chocolatiers from Paris through the south of France to Barcelona.
AAA: Describe your early cruising experiences.
Belinda Guild: Our first ocean cruise was our honeymoon, and we were in a lower cabin with a porthole. I’d never imagined being on a ship, so to me it was magic. But eventually the crowds were too much for my husband, so I did a few more with my girlfriends and then for several years didn’t travel much at all.
Protocol Sun Deck Guest Couple
AAA: How did you convince your husband to explore river cruising as a return to travel?
BG: Our AAA Travel Advisor is a great friend. She suggested Ama’s Melodies of the Danube because the smaller ships have much fewer people, and so there are no long buffet lines or complicated processes. Plus, the tours are all guided by locals, so it sounded like a much more relaxing option.
AAA: And what were your first impressions of AmaWaterways?
BG: We fell in love with AmaWaterways from the minute we got off the plane and saw them waiting. They didn’t leave any stone unturned making us feel relaxed, and once we stepped on the ship the luxury was apparent. The crew greeted us by name, gave us champagne and flowers, and escorted us to the lounge for a reception. We felt like movie stars.
Bicycle ride in Moselle Vineyards
AAA: Describe the social and cultural experiences you’ve had with AmaWaterways.
BG: The nice thing about Ama is they offer plenty to do, but zero pressure. There are morning and afternoon tours and optional activities to make your trip exactly what you want it to be. You can even extend your stay with optional pre- or post-cruise extensions.
We’ve met a lot of different people. On the Danube pre-trip, we met some people and hit it off immediately. We have traveled with them several times since, basically our little support system. The tours are so well-organized, there’s so much to see and do whether you’re in a group or traveling alone.
Wine Tasting Room
AAA:Tell us about the food.
BG: All of AmaWaterways’ tours have a focus on history and culture, and the food they serve on board is part of that. The wine flows, everything is beautifully presented—it’s basically a work of art. It’s all local cuisine as well, so you get to experience the culture through food as you’re visiting these places and seeing them from your balcony.
AAA:What is your top recommendation from each AmaWaterways river cruise you’ve taken?
BG: On the Danube route, I most enjoyed seeing Vienna and Salzburg where Sound of Music was filmed. In Egypt, of course, the pyramids are breathtaking, but so is just floating down the Nile. I mean, who gets to do that every day?
All photos are courtesy of AmaPrima