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Down the Danube: What would a 20-something make of a river cruise?

Stereotypes suggest river cruises are for older passengers. Are they true? Kathy Armstrong set sail on the AmaMagna to find out...

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Sail away: Cruising on the Danube

Sail away: Cruising on the Danube

The Sky Bar  on AmaMagna's Sunset Deck

The Sky Bar on AmaMagna's Sunset Deck

One of AmaMagna’s restaurants

One of AmaMagna’s restaurants

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Sail away: Cruising on the Danube

Have you ever dreamed about setting sail on a luxurious ship, where all of your needs are catered for? Do spacious rooms, a choice of restaurants, bars and on-board entertainment sound good to you?

For me, the idea of waking up in a new place each day, with the possibilities of cities to explore, cultures to learn about and local delicacies to sample sounded like a trip of a lifetime.

Despite ticking all of these boxes, however, a river cruise was never something I'd never seriously looked into. I'm 29, and while I heard rave reviews from some, I still couldn't shake the idea that cruises are the holiday of choice for either young families who want to enjoy a resort-on-water, or older people making the most of their retirement.

That's why I found myself feeling curious, and a little apprehensive, stepping on board the AmaMagna this winter. For a few nights, I was joining a seven-night river cruise travelling along the Danube, from Vilshofen in Germany to Budapest in Hungary - and plenty of preconceived ideas were coming on board with me.

Those negative thoughts started to wane as I saw guests of all ages greeted by the ship's staff. You might hear the words 'river cruise' and think of slow and peaceful activities for older people, but I also saw activities for everyone.

Those hoping to totally switch off and relax can enjoy a spa treatment in one of the two massage rooms, for example, or book themselves in for an appointment with a hairdresser or beautician. Those who don't want to let their fitness routine slide can work up a sweat with group classes in the Zen Wellness Studio. There's an outdoor pool and whirlpool on the top deck and, for those craving a chance to get lost in a world of their own, there are also two fireside libraries and an on-board cinema.

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One of AmaMagna’s restaurants

One of AmaMagna’s restaurants

River-cruise ships tend to be smaller and narrower than their ocean-going counterparts - something that allows them navigate waterways and get right into the heart of cities, but which can also feel a little confined. The new AmaMagna, however, is nearly twice as wide as traditional river ships, with 53 luxury suites and 34 Staterooms accommodating up to 196 guests at full capacity.

Then there are the excursions. The Danube is lined with medieval villages, hillside vineyards and stunning scenery. On my first night, we docked in Spitz and enjoyed a private tour of the historic Klosterhof Restaurant, where we got to sample a variety of local wines.

The following morning we arrived in Vienna, where guests learned about the city's rich history and culture via bus, cycling and walking tours. There was also an option to enjoy a Mozart & Strauss Concert, or visit the Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens. After that, it was onwards to Esztergom, giving us the opportunity to see the picturesque Hungarian countryside as we travelled an hour by bus to Budapest, and enjoyed a hill hike to the castle.

Guided tours cater to individuals' mobility and fitness levels, but spectacular as these places are, I did feel that some holidaymakers may find themselves feeling restricted by the times allotted to being at land. For example, less than 24 hours in Vienna might seem more like you're ticking things off a to-do list rather than getting a chance to fully explore what's on offer.

Back on board, foodies will be satisfied by the choice of restaurants, including family-friendly Jimmy's Restaurant & Wine Bar (named after one of AmaWaterways' co-founders, the late Jimmy Murphy), the speciality Chef's Table or the vegetarian-forward Al Fresco dining experience, which has stunning views.

There are also five different bars on board and evening entertainment like traditional performances from local musicians and dancers.

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During my short stay on the AmaMagna, I met other guests who had enjoyed dozens of river cruises on the AmaWaterways fleet, saying they were hooked on the experience and it's not hard to see why.

Whatever age you may be, these days many of us are busier than ever, juggling various responsibilities and burnout is becoming increasingly common in a society that rarely seems to slow down. For a few days here, I was in the hands of a consistently friendly and conscientious crew, with guests fully able to switch off without having to worry about organising transfers or tours.

Of course, it's not cheap. The AmaMagna is a luxurious way to travel, but it may simply be too expensive for many younger travellers for whom options like no-frills airlines, interrailing and affordable accommodation may be more-pocket friendly and realistic alternatives.

That said, I disembarked having seen multiple cities in a short space of time, indulged in sumptuous food, and embraced the local entertainment options. I also had a chance to reboot by simply lying low in one of the ship's many cosy nooks and crannies with a good book.

I left feeling refreshed and eager to look at other AmaWaterways trips. Before this, I'd never seriously looked into a river cruise. Now I'm seriously looking into another.

Did you know?

Holidaymakers are increasingly conscious of sustainability. All 22 AmaWaterways ships are fitted with energy-saving LED lights and insulated windows, as well as membrane technology to filter and recycle wastewater.

Get there

Sunway is the agent for AmaWaterways in Ireland. The AmaMagna on the Danube cruise, from Budapest to Vilshofen, departs next August 16 from €2,545pp including direct flights from Dublin, checked luggage, return transfers and seven nights with river views on board.

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The Sky Bar  on AmaMagna's Sunset Deck

The Sky Bar on AmaMagna's Sunset Deck

The price also includes full-board, wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner, daily cocktail hour and daily tours. Port charges of €160pp are extra, and gratuities are discretionary.

Kathy was a guest of Sunway. Contact 01-2366800 or sunway.ie

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