First we visited the comfortable 164 passenger AmaCerto, where we were welcomed with gorgeous hors d'oeuvres and Champagne which really set the scene for the service and culinary delights you receive on AmaWaterways. Elegantly designed with tastefully decorated staterooms and two dining venues, it's not hard to see why AmaWaterways are winners of multiple 'Top Spots' in the Berlitz guide.
The twin balcony staterooms really stood out for me; some may call it greedy but I think it's practical to have both the French Juliet-style balcony, to open for ventilation or to watch the scenery in poor weather, and a standard balcony to sit out on when the weather's good. It also took a lot of willpower to resist taking a dip in their heated pool on board; the weather wasn't fantastic, but the wind-breaker surrounding the pool made it very comfortable.
Uniworld River Cruises
Uniworld are really in a class of their own. Their boutique style was apparent the moment I stepped aboard River Empress. Her unique contemporary décor and quirky features made it easy to see that Uniworld are part of the Red Carnation Hotel group. Each suite is individually designed with custom-made beds covered in 100% Egyptian cotton sheets and duvets, decked out in pastel colours, calming shades and eye-pleasing patterns; even the corridors are plush with lavish padded walls. Alongside retro touches such as bowls of flying saucer sweets and pillow-like marshmallows, they're also on point and up-to-date with fitness equipment, Nordic walking sticks and portable audio guides for every guest.
Tauck River Cruising
Tauck's MS Inspire had such a grand entrance, a real wow-factor atrium as I set foot on board. This focal point provides a view of the entire length of the vessel, and each deck is served by staircases perfectly situated for easy manoeuvrability. A traditional style of dark woods and warming browns features throughout the ship, and you really notice how spacious it is; it's no surprise that Tauck has the highest space to guest ratio on Europe's waterways. This look and feel extends to their discerning staterooms, and the Loft Suite particularly impressed me. These have a raised platform which acts as a patio/conservatory with large floor to ceiling windows, which lower for spectacular and sheltered views. If you imagine, as I did, that the cabins below water level are dark and dingy, well, we couldn't be more wrong. There's so much natural light, and the view of the outside is above the water line, giving a great feeling of space. This vessel has really made great use of the space on board and, in my opinion, the Loft Suites really give the balconies a run for their money.
These three cruise lines have really brought luxury to the waterways of Europe and Asia, and although similarities run between them they're each distinctly set apart. River cruising is a great way to reach the heart of extraordinary towns and cities, allowing you to truly experience the destination in depth and in style.