Storybook Castles and Villages—I Sailed the Rhine on AmaWaterways' Newest Ship

Overall, the ship has an atmosphere of laid-back luxury

Exploring the Rhine

Courtesy of AmaWaterways

After pandemic-induced delays, family-owned river cruise line AmaWaterways had a big year in 2021, debuting three new ships to its international fleet, including the AmaSiena, sister to the AmaLea and AmaKristina, which was christened on Europe’s Rhine River in August 2021. I had the chance to sail the new vessel on its first sailing. Here's what I thought.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Excursions are included
  • Free Wi-Fi onboard
  • Free bicycle rentals

Cons

  • Alcohol isn't included outside meals
  • No room service
  • Limited activities and entertainment
AmaSiena

Courtesy of AmaWaterways

Facts and Features

  • Size: 443 feet long by 38 feet wide
  • Maximum Guest Capacity: 156
  • Number of Crew: 51
  • Decks: 4 available to guests

This Ship Is Best For... Couples

As a California-headquartered cruise line, AmaWaterways typically attracts a North American clientele, which holds for the AmaSiena’s passengers. And as with most European river cruises, the demographic skews towards older couples with a moderate activity level (many guests take advantage of the complimentary bicycles available at every port, for instance). That’s not to say that friend groups or multi-gen families wouldn’t enjoy sailing—several cabins do have connecting doors. But there aren’t many activities for children, so younger kids might find the experience a little dry. Overall, the ship has an atmosphere of laid-back luxury.

Itineraries and Ports of Call

The AmaSiena’s home river is the Rhine in Europe. She frequently sails seven-night itineraries between Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Basel, Switzerland, sailing through Germany’s scenic Rhine Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site lined with castles. Ports of call include Cologne, Germany, and Strasbourg, France, and smaller picturesque towns throughout the Alsace region of France and the Black Forest region of Germany. On some days, guests have a choice of excursions to different towns in different countries, so it’s best to do a little research before making your selection—you often will only have time for one, as they’re usually a bus ride away. The ship also sails seven-night itineraries through Holland and Belgium.

Inclusions

What’s Included

  • Meals (with house beer and wine)
  • Daily “Sip and Sail” cocktail hour
  • Wi-Fi
  • Excursions
  • Bicycle rentals

What’s Not

  • Alcohol (outside of meals and cocktail hour)
  • Gratuity
  • Laundry
  • Spa/beauty treatments

The Ship's Layout

There are four publicly accessible decks on the AmaSiena. Deck One, the Piano Deck, has a few staterooms, plus the massage room, salon, and a fitness center. The next deck is the Cello Deck, home to staterooms and the main restaurant, followed by the Violin deck, with more staterooms, reception, the lounge, a gift shop, and the Chef’s Table restaurant. Most of the public areas are forward of or just behind the central atrium, which houses the elevators, though the Chef’s Table, which is all the way aft. Up top is the open-air Sun Deck, where there’s a running track, a small pool, loungers, and a smoking area. Note that the Sun Deck is only accessible via stairs, not the elevators.

AmaSiena stateroom

Courtesy of AmaWaterways

Stateroom Types

AmaSiena has 78 staterooms across nine room types, each of which can have the bed configured as a queen or two twins. They’re all exterior cabins decorated in the ship’s signature red-and-gray color palette, equipped with hairdryers, safes, telephones, TVs, complimentary Wi-Fi, a desk and chair, and a (somewhat cramped) en-suite bathroom with a shower. Here’s what else you can expect from each room, from least expensive to most.

Categories D/E

These Piano Deck cabins with fixed windows are the smallest onboard at just 160 square feet. If you don’t plan on spending much time in your room, these categories will do just fine, but be forewarned—part of the fun of the Rhine itineraries is sitting outside watching the castles and locks go by. There’s always the lounge or the Sun Deck, though.

Categories CA/CB

These small staterooms on the Cello and Violin decks have French balconies—that is, the floor-to-ceiling window-door slides open entirely. CA cabins (170 square feet) have a small seating area, but CB cabins (155 square feet) don’t. 

Categories BA/BB

These 210-square-foot cabins offer guests AmaSiena’s signature double balconies; one true balcony with two chairs and a small table and a French balcony right beside it.

Categories AA/AB

These cabins are practically identical to the previous category, although they provide slightly more space at 235 square feet.

Suites

The four 350-square-foot suites have separate living and sleeping spaces, the former of which has a pull-out sofa that can accommodate two extra guests. The bathroom is far more spacious than in other cabins with a double vanity and a tub.

AmaSiena chef's table

Courtesy of AmaWaterways

Where to Eat and Drink

All meals are included on AmaSiena. There’s just one main restaurant open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It serves an ever-changing menu inspired mainly by local cuisine—think semmelknödel, or bread dumplings, while sailing through Germany might be paired with a local beer or wine. (Beer and wine are included with lunch and dinner, and sparkling wine with breakfast—otherwise, alcohol is à la carte. But during meals, the waitstaff is quick to refill your glass!) Both lunch and dinner are multi-course affairs—there are multiple options per course—though portions are reasonably small to account for all the dishes. Because of COVID-19, tables were assigned, though it’s open seating in standard times.

There’s also the Chef’s Table, a 32-seat specialty restaurant with a panoramic view from the ship's stern that serves a five-course tasting menu. One dinner here per sailing is included for all guests, but you need a reservation.

Light bites are served throughout the day in the lounge; there are pastries for early or late risers who miss breakfast, tapas for lunch, afternoon tea, a Sip & Sail cocktail hour (alcoholic beverages are complimentary), and a late-night snack served at 10:30 p.m. You can also access a complimentary coffee station here 24/7.

AmaSiena public spaces

Courtesy of AmaWaterways

On-Ship Activities and Entertainment

As most of your daylight hours—and sometimes evening hours—will be spent off the ship, AmaSiena offers limited onboard activities. There are fitness classes (during COVID times, these were provided outdoors, weather permitting, rather than in the fitness center), massages and beauty treatments in the one-room spa and salon, a small pool, and an outdoor giant chess set. Otherwise, you’ll have plenty of time for peaceful contemplation in the lounge. So, yes, you should bring a book. There’s usually a musical performance after dinner in the lounge in the evenings.

Off-Ship Activities and Excursions

All excursions are included for guests on the AmaSiena, and while there’s a range for all types of travelers, Amawaterways as a company offers more active excursions than its competitors. At every stop, there’s almost always a general walking tour (guests can choose their activity level: active, regular, or gentle), as well as specialty options like beer or wine tastings, hikes and bike tours, or unique visits to museums. Typically, there’s just one excursion per day, but in some ports, there are nighttime ones; on our sailing, we had the option to leave the ship after dinner in Rüdesheim, Germany, to sample the local coffee or visit a music museum.

Many of these excursions only occupy a portion of your time in port, so there’s usually time to explore on your own after a tour, too. You can also venture off without officially joining an excursion—bicycles are available to borrow any time the ship is docked, and you can always use your own feet or a taxi to get around. There is, however, an exception when it comes to DIYing your own itinerary. In some destinations, guests can choose between different towns that are usually a 30- to 45-minute bus ride away from the dock. In that case, it’s best to pick an excursion to hitch a ride. Once at your destination, you can speak with your guide about going off solo—just make sure you don’t miss the ride back to the ship.

The Bottom Line

AmaSiena joins AmaWaterways’ legacy of upscale yet relaxed river cruises that cater to more active couples or mature multi-gen groups. The ship primarily sails the Rhine River through Western Europe, whisking guests to fairytale-esque towns and historic cities. As with most river cruises, onboard activities are limited, as the focus is on excursions. In the case of AmaWaterways, and the AmaSiena in particular, bike tours are a highlight. However, there’s always plenty of flexibility while in port for adventures, from wine tastings to museum visits.

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