Food glorious food – dining on the Danube

Jeannine and Damian

AmaWaterways’ double-width AmaMagna provides plenty of tempting food options coupled with the opportunity to burn off calories, writes Jeannine Williamson

As the waiters move around the dining room the only sounds are appreciative “oohs” and “ahhs” as dishes are set down on tables beautifully laid with an array of cutlery and sparkling glasses. The surroundings and vibe are akin to an elegant restaurant – the only difference is that we’re floating down the Danube in the Chef’s Table restaurant on AmaMagna.

Food on river cruises now rivals the best on dry land, especially with AmaWaterways which is the only line to be a member of the prestigious La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, an invitation only international culinary organisation dedicated to fine cuisine.

I’m on AmaMagna, which is the flagship in the AmaWaterways’ fleet as it’s twice the width of all the other vessels, but carries only 196 passengers which isn’t much more than regular-size vessels. As well as large cabins – and our suite was akin to a hotel room – the extra space means there are more restaurants; making it a perfect choice for food and wine lovers. It’s also a great option for any silver travellers that enjoy ocean cruises and are looking to try a river cruises for over 50s for the first time. AmaMagna’s expansive size means it never feels crowded and there are plenty of onboard amenities, including a cinema and plenty of places to lounge.

All of AmaWaterways’ ships have the Chef’s Table speciality restaurant, where all passengers can dine at no extra cost. On AmaMagna it’s a dedicated room, only open for dinner, which gives it an extra special vibe.

Our multi-course tasting menu starts with an amuse bouche of potato soufflé, pretty pink and white Chioggia beetroot and goat’s cheese mousse and ends six courses later with a dessert of dark chocolate soufflé, a chocolate macaron, mango sorbet and fresh berries that’s aptly named “from heaven”. Menus change according to the season and my request for a vegetarian option is easily – and deliciously -catered for. It’s a standout meal.

AmaMagna is unique in providing four very different dining experiences. As well as the main restaurant and Chef’s Table, there’s the informal Al Fresco restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and a Mediterranean-themed dinner. This venue also has daily afternoon tea, and I like the fact you have to order it which cuts down on food waste. I’m also reliably informed there’s a late-night snack, but I was either tucked up in bed or replete from dinner to find out. Also unique to AmaMagna is Jimmy’s Restaurant named after AmaWaterways’ late co-founder, Jimmy Murphy. With its large communal tables, this is a really nice venue for any silver travel groups.

Whichever you choose to eat, the service is excellent throughout and the lovely crew members play a huge part in the happy onboard atmosphere. That said, the free daily Sip & Sail cocktail hour might play a part, too!

Due to AmaMagna’s width, the ship sails on the stretch of the Danube between Vilshofen in Germany and Giurgui in Romania where it can fit into locks. The route takes in plenty of highlights, including the Austrian, Hungarian and Slovakian capitals of Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava and I visit them all on my New Year sailing.

Food and drink lovers can also find plenty of temptations ashore. In Vienna having coffee has been elevated to an art form the atmospheric traditional cafes, with gleaming wood interiors and waiters in long white aprons, are described as the city’s “public sitting rooms”. A visit to a coffee house, to try Vienna’s wickedly rich chocolate cake, is one of AmaWaterways’ included excursions.

With complimentary shuttles into the city centre and back, it’s also easy to explore on your own and discover some lesser-known attractions – particularly if you’re a horse lover and a gin enthusiast. Most people associate the Spanish Riding School with grand gala dressage performances to music held a few times a month and with costly tickets. However, you can see the beautiful Lipizzaner horses for a fraction of the price during the daily morning exercise session and afternoon stable tours.

Since I last visited the riding school, it has branched out and started distilling its own tipple, Maestoso Gin, on the premises. I buy some to take home and plan to keep the attractive bottle as a souvenir.

Of course, all this wonderful food and drink can lead to the issue of also going home with excess baggage – around the waistline. AmaMagna also has that covered as it has raft of impressive keep fit facilities and is the only river vessel to boast a full-size pickleball court.

The game, a cross between tennis, badminton and table tennis, is ideally suited to silver travellers; the court is small so you don’t have to run around too much unless you want to, it’s sociable (so ideal for single travellers over 50) and, best of all, it’s easy to pick up and great fun. I haven’t wielded a tennis racquet since school, but after an hour’s tuition with friendly onboard wellness host Damian I have got the hang of the basics and can’t wait to give it another go.

Damian also hosts up to five classes a day, yoga and Pilates to high energy spin classes and circuit training, and accompanies active shore excursions such as cycling tours. This is one ship where you really can have your cake and eat it – and offset the indulgence.

Find out more

AmaWaterwaters’ AmaMagna sails on the Danube with itineraries ranging from five to 14-nights. AmaWaterways also offers dedicated wine-themed cruises on the Danube, Rhine, Rhone, Saone, Garonne, Dordogne and Douro on ships across the fleet, including AmaMagna, which are hosted by wine experts and include exclusive visits to vineyards and onboard events.

To book a cruise with AmaWaterways and get further information from our Silver Travel Advisors, call 0800 412 5678.

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Jeannine Williamson

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