AmaMagna is the vision of Rudi Schreiner, founder and co-owner of AmaWaterways. Credit: Alan Edwards

Exploring the Danube on Europe's biggest river ship

Author: Alan Edwards

Published on:

AmaMagna promises the ultimate Danube river cruise, but does it deliver?

Does size matter? Is bigger better? When it comes to ocean cruise ships the jury is well and truly hung.

While some travellers clamour to share a voyage with up to 7,000 other shipmates on a bells-and-whistles mega-liner, others (me included) would rather poke their own eyes out with a cocktail swizzle stick.

But river cruise ships are different, right? All of similar size, limited number of passengers, limited facilities.

Then along came AmaMagna, the largest river cruise ship in Europe. At 11m wide (that’s the length of a cricket pitch) it is twice the width of any other. And at 135m from bow to stern, it is as long as Blackpool Tower is high.

So, bigger, tick. And better, tick. While the pride of AmaWaterways’ 26-strong fleet is 100 per cent larger than other ships, it has just 20 per cent more guests, giving a wonderful feeling of space everywhere, from the cabins and restaurants to the top deck and public areas.

The vast sun deck even boasts a new court for pickleball (very like padel tennis) as well as a sizeable pool and whirlpool, bar, running track, yoga and exercise area, giant chess, and even a large herb garden, as well as countless chairs, tables, loungers and parasols. You could see passengers on other ships eyeing it with envy.

Alan enjoys life on deck. Credit: Alan Edwards

The cabins
Here is where much of that extra space has gone, with most staterooms measuring 355 sq ft and the six grand suites and the owner’s suite up to twice that size.

Magna has a total of 98 cabins, 87 of them with full balconies, for a maximum of 196 passengers. And they really are magnificent, stylish rooms, with masses of storage space, supersize bed, and massive interactive TV on the wall.

In the lounge area there is even an Apple iMac where guests who are not able to switch off can access the free onboard wifi and continue to work.

And there is no squeezing into a coffin-sized bathroom here. Magna’s are huge, with dual sinks, massive shower cubicle, and separate loo.

The suite life... accommodation onboard Magna is generously sized. Credit: Alan Edwards

The itinerary
AmaMagna is restricted to the wide, majestic Danube, which rises in the Black Forest in Germany and runs 1,770 miles to the Black Sea. And no, it’s never blue, however clear the sky.

We flew into Munich and joined the ship in Vilshofen, a two-hour drive away. Our seven-night voyage covered 550 miles and took us through four countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

The major highlights were Salzburg, Vienna, Bratislava, and the jewel in the crown, Budapest – as well as picturesque villages like Passau, Grein, Melk and Durnstein.

Find your ideal cruise

Search for the best cruises with AmaMagna

Our excursions
At every stop we had a wide choice of excursions, all included in the price. They usually included walking tour, strenuous hike, and bike tour. The Magna has 40 bikes on board that can be used independently when not on an organised trip.

In Salzburg, we took the funicular up to the castle for spectacular views and strudel, as well as the obligatory beer. In Vienna we did the morning cycling tour but kept the bikes and stayed in the city to visit the famous Spanish Riding School and the cathedral and ride the iconic Prater Park Ferris wheel. Obviously there was time for beer, this time with Fleischknodel (doughy meat-filled boiled dumpling) and sauerkraut at a street stall.

In Bratislava, we toured Europe’s newest capital with a guide who would cheerfully have shot all the pre-democracy communist leaders. Meanwhile, her colleague with another group reminisced wistfully about how great life used to be. Politics, eh?

Enjoy fabulous views of Vienna from the city's iconic Ferris Wheel. Credit: Alan Edwards

Food and drink
All meals are included and, unusually, there is a choice of four restaurants. The main dining room has one sitting, but we discovered it’s perfectly acceptable to arrive up to 90 minutes late.

Guests can book one of three speciality restaurants once during a week-long trip. We loved the tasting menu at the Al Fresco, an intimate glass space at the front of the ship, where we also enjoyed breakfast most days. The Chef’s Table offered another tasting menu, while Jimmy’s 'family-style' dining meant sharing a big table and diving into food in the middle. We gave that one a miss!

Wine, beer and soft drinks are free with meals (yes, you can even have fizz for breakfast) and all drinks at the bar are free for one hour before dinner every night. Outside those times, bar prices are relatively cheap, with a pint of beer about £4.20 and cocktails at £6.

Our shipmates
We were on board with 177 other guests, most of them American or Canadian. I’d guess the average age was well below 60, which is on the young side for river cruises. Half of those also did either a two-day pre-cruise extension in Prague, or a two-day one in Budapest at the end –or both. Usually there are far more Brits on board.

Most of our fellow travellers, seemed well-heeled. We had a couple of airline pilots, government movers and shakers from Washington, and enough business folk to start a country club.

Splashing about in Magna's swimming pool. Credit: Alan Edwards

The climax
Our final destination was Budapest, which has seemingly shrugged off its stag and hen mantle to become a magnificent tourist favourite, with stunning architecture, great scenery, and masses to do.

We extended our trip independently with two nights at the stunning Four Seasons Gresham’s Palace (, an iconic landmark on the Pest bank of the Danube given a multi-million-dollar refurbishment at the turn of the century.

Our room had a Juliet balcony which opened out to views of the river and the famous Chain Bridge across to the majestic Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Baston high on the other side. Watching the sun set behind those landmarks each night was really something special.

Service was impeccable. We got back one evening to find our phone cables tidied up in Four Seasons ribbon, and spectacles laid on a Four Seasons glasses cloth!

We ate a fantastic dinner at the hotel brasserie. The prawn starter and grand marnier parfait for pudding were both to die for.

Pay a visit to Buda Castle, now home to the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest History Museum and National Library. Credit: Alan Edwards

The verdict
Warning: This review is written through sun-tinted glasses. Despite our trip ending in October, we had sunshine and high temperatures all the way, and everything somehow seems better in good weather.

But the cruise was pretty much faultless. The ship, the cabins, the service, the staff, the trips…you’d be hard pressed to find a better experience. We’d go again in a heartbeat.

Get on board
A seven-night Magna on the Danube cruise onboard AmaWaterways’ flagship AmaMagna departs February 11, 2024. Fares, which includes flights from Heathrow or Gatwick and oversea transfers, start from £2,973 per person.

Most recent articles