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OUR INSIDER PICKS FOR EXOTIC RIVER SHIPS

OUR INSIDER PICKS FOR EXOTIC RIVER SHIPS

While a European river cruise may be the most popular of all river cruises, the elegance and comfort found with companies such as AmaWaterways can take be found in the less traveled corners of the world as well. In today’s blog, we take a look at one of our favorite ships for Vietnam river cruises on the Mekong, and a top pic for an African river cruise on the Chobe on a waterborne safari.

VIETNAM & CAMBODIA

There are a few different ways to explore Vietnam and Cambodia on a Mekong river cruise, but AmaWaterways has one of our favorite ships. The 124-passenger AmaDara made her debut in 2015 and is in a class unto herself with distinct French Colonial décor and accented by Mekong artifacts made by native craftsmen.

Elegantly appointed staterooms are 251 square feet and suites range from 366 to 502 square feet. Staterooms and suites feature twin balconies, both a French and outside balcony, so you can enjoy the ever-changing scenery however you wish. Additional stateroom amenities include a cozy sitting area, climate-controlled air conditioning, in-room safe and mini bar. Spacious bathrooms have a shower, bathrobe, slippers and hair dryer. Suites have additional enhanced amenities with a large sitting area and bathrooms with both a shower and separate tub.

AmaDara offers a host of added comforts and conveniences, including a spa, fitness room, gift shop, hair salon and Sun Deck pool. The stunning Saigon Lounge provides a wonderful place to meet fellow guests, and enjoy local entertainment. Savor authentic regional delicacies and Western cuisine in the main restaurant or dine at The Chef’s Table specialty restaurant; and throughout your cruise, be treated to unlimited complimentary wine with lunch and dinner, as well as house brand spirits, local beer and soft drinks.

AFRICA

AmaWaterways’ intimate 28-passenger Zambezi Queen made her debut in 2009 in one of the world’s most captivating places, Africa’s legendary Chobe River. Unlike a typical Chobe river cruise that travels from one port to the next, the Zambezi Queen was designed for an entirely different purpose—to facilitate optimal game viewing along the Chobe.

As this floating hotel drifts along the river, animals perceive no threat and come to the water to drink and bathe, affording you with an amazingly up-close view and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Additionally, to ensure no harm to the environment, the eco-friendly Zambezi Queen uses a water jet propulsion system, fuel-efficient and low-emission generators, and a solar heating system.

The Zambezi Queen provides guests with all the modern-day conveniences to ensure a perfect journey. The top deck features an enclosed air-conditioned dining room, lounge and bar, as well as an open-air Sun Deck complete with a plunge pool. Bountiful breakfasts and lunches prepare you for your invigorating daily adventures, and during the evening, enjoy multi-course dinners. Throughout the day, be treated to complimentary South African wines, beer, local spirits, soft drinks and bottled water. On one of the nights, enjoy an African-themed dinner with traditional dishes and entertainment.

The 14 suites, including four master suites, feature air-conditioning and a private balcony where you can enjoy unobstructed views of the river and African landscape. Wake up to the sight of an elephant drinking from the river, or watch a fish eagle take flight—all from the comfort of your own luxurious bed.

Ready to travel to exotic lands with the comfort, convenience and luxury you expect at home? Select Waterways has just the ticket.

A TASTE OF VIENNA

A TASTE OF VIENNA

One of the joys of a river cruise, especially a European river cruise, is the ample time in ports of call to explore. Since river cruising gets you up close and personal in each city, we like to experience the cuisine of the land while touring ashore.  At Select Waterways, one of our favorite memories is exploring the city on foot, after getting our bearings with the complimentary guided motorcoach tour during a recent stop in Vienna on a Danube river cruise with AmaWaterways. On a misty afternoon, we popped into the Demel Bakery some coffee and a slice of Sachertorte, a Viennese specialty. To this day, we’ll crave a Sachertorte on a cool, misty afternoon and reminisce about that perfect moment in Vienna.  Thanks to our friends at AmaWaterways, what follows is a bit of history about this glorious chocolate confection and, more importantly, the recipe!

The crème-de-la-crème of cake wizardry in Vienna is the iconic Sachertorte, available at the renowned Hotel Sacher. Rich dark chocolate, apricot jam and utter deliciousness will send your taste buds spiraling into sensory overload. Always served with a side-dollop of schlag, aka whipped cream, this cake promises to indulge your most delightful champagne wishes and decadent dreams.

Celebrating its own national holiday on December 5th, the Sachertorte had its not so-humble beginnings in 1832 when Franz Sacher first created the dessert for Prince Wenzel von Metternich and his very important guests. Just sixteen years old at the time, the young chef-in-training received this lucky break when his boss, the Prince’s actual chef, fell ill. It’s been said that the older man cautioned his apprentice with ‘Let there be no shame on me tonight!” — and the rest, as they say, is the chocolate history dreams are made of.

Fueled by the cake’s immense popularity, Sacher’s son Eduard ultimately built the Hotel Sacher, a luxury hotel which has hosted such notable guests as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, JFK, Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and Leonard Bernstein over the years. Some of these guests’ famous signatures can even be found on one of four tablecloths the hotel keeps on display.

There is also a stunning art gallery with works from the 19th century, so stop by here for an extra slice of culture. Of course, you can find variations of the Sachertorte throughout the city (most notably at the Demel Bakery, which waged a legal war for decades for the right to the name), but many consider the hotel’s to be the most authentic. While in Vienna, experience a true taste of Austria. It is a treat for the taste buds as much as the senses.

Ingredients

  • 4.5 oz. butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate, melted
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 7 egg whites, whipped
  • 7 oz. flour
  • 2 tbsp. apricot Jam

Ganache:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate
  • 1 stick butter

Preparation Method

Mix butter, sugar, and egg yolks together until creamy. Fold the melted chocolate into the mixture. In a separate bowl, fold the whipped egg whites and flour together. Combine with the egg yolk and chocolate mixture. Pour into a greased 9” round cake pan. Bake for approximately 45 min. at 370 F°. Let the cake cool and remove from pan. When fully cooled, cut the cake in half horizontally. Fill with apricot jam and glaze top of cake with the ganache. Makes 8 servings.

Recipe courtesy of AmaWaterways

OUR TOP 3 RIVER SHIP DINING INSIDER PICKS

OUR TOP 3 RIVER SHIP DINING INSIDER PICKS

When travelers are selecting a river cruise, especially a European river cruise or American river cruise, we’re often asked about our favorite ship dining experiences. That’s always a tough question to answer, since river cruising affords so many culinary delights. While where to dine ashore is best left to a future series of blogs, dining aboard a river ship is a bit easier to narrow down. Of course, it’s all about the food but don’t forget the importance of ambiance as well. At Select Waterways, we have a few clear favorites. Our choice on AmaWaterways is all about the presentation, sweeping river views and the intimate room with only a handful of diners. On American Queen Steamboat Company’s American Queen, the largest vessel ever built for US river cruising, the throwback décor and soaring windows are the star. With Uniworld, it’s solely about the extraordinary food, especially since they are such a gastronomic star in European river cruises. Here then, without further ado, are our Top 3 River Ship Dining Insider Picks:

The Chef’s Table

AmaWaterways (All European Ships) Join a few of your fellow travelers at The Chef’s Table, where the fully visible kitchen becomes part of the entertainment. You’ll have the opportunity to watch the chef prepare a special, multi-course meal right in front of you. The menu here is unique, making this a truly distinct gastronomic experience. Indulge in delectable dishes paired with unlimited fine wines, hand selected just for this dinner. You’ll need reservations but don’t worry—everyone aboard gets their chance. We always try to dine at The Chef’s Table on the last night of our voyage. It ends the cruise on a culinary high note.

J .M. White Dining Room

American Queen Steamboat Company (American Queen) With its ornate fretwork and galleries rising two decks high framed by narrow, Victorian-draped windows, this elegant room is one of our favorites because it feels completely authentic. It’s easy to imagine you’re drifting along the Mississippi with Mark Twain as a charming table companion 125 years ago. Along the way, indulge in Southern favorites like bourbon pecan pie, Cajun shrimp and cheese grits, spicy gumbo, fried green tomatoes and, of course, a refreshing mint julep.

All restaurants

Uniworld River Cruises (All European Ships) Uniworld boasts the only Zagat-rated restaurants on the rivers, and it shows. When dining onboard, you’ll be treated to world-class cuisine made from fresh ingredients, locally sourced from the destinations you visit. For example, a dinner menu on the Catherine, enroute to Avignon, features delicacies such as cod loin in bouillabaisse jus, barigoule artichoke, broad beans and saffron potatoes; roasted rack of lamb in mustard herb crust, olive and sweet garlic sauce, eggplant mash, tomato provençale and boulangère potatoes; iced Montélimar nougat parfait with red berry sauce; and French lemon tart with homemade melon ice cream. Delicious!

THAT PERFECT MOMENT

THAT PERFECT MOMENT

As you can guess by our passion, there is something special about river cruising. But like any vacation, a river cruise is often remembered for those handful of special moments where time seems to stand still, and the world’s focus is on you, and only you. You know that moment we’re talking about. You might have forgotten every detail of a vacation from two or three decades ago except for that one special event, amazing day, incredible meal, or special feeling that still comes up in conversation today. What we love about European river cruises is that it’s not just one of these moments that stand out, it’s several.

One of our favorite memories is from a recent Danube river cruise with AmaWaterways. It was a wonderful day exploring Budapes that turned into an absolutely unforgettable evening. AmaWaterways has a complimentary specialty restaurant they call the Chef’s Table. Each guest makes reservations once during the cruise and the experience is heavenly. It was the last night of our Danube cruise and with the addition of the Chef’s Table, it was already building into a memorable evening.

What happened next was completely unexpected. In recent years thanks to a grant from UNESCO, Budapest has been able to dramatically light its awe-inspiring architecture at night, from the stunning Parliament building to its many graceful bridges. Visitors to Budapest regularly book evening river cruises on small dinner boats, paying a pretty penny to traverse the river and see the amazing light show. As our vessel, the AmaSerena, began to pull away from the dock, we realized we were going to have the same experience, all included in our fare.

We finished our dessert and champagne in the Chef’s Table and then headed up on deck. This is where things fell into place and perfection became the order of the evening. It was a chilly night in November and as we settled into a deck chair on the top deck, we learned what a luxury river cruise is really all about. A staff member passed by, handing out cozy wool blankets, which we wrapped around our legs. Just as the warmth was starting to cradle us in its comfortable embrace, we passed the Parliament building, looking for all the world like a fairytale castle or elaborate gingerbread house. The elegant Chain Bridge draped across the river just ahead and to the other side, the Hungarian National Gallery glowed atop the bluffs overlooking the water, its reflection sparkling like diamonds. It was positively sublime.

But premium river cruises are about more than just the sights. From the darkness came a parade of twinkling lights onto the upper deck. We turned away from the picture postcard view for a moment and squinted our eyes. A white gloved gentleman bent down, and we saw that surrounding a single candle in the middle of a tray were several small glasses with an enticing amber liquid. He explained that it was a peach liqueur, produced and bottled in Durnstein upriver. We took the glass and sipped the nectar of a drink so deliciously European, so delightfully unexpected, and so utterly ideal for that moment.

For that moment, everything was utterly, impossibly, and wonderfully perfect. We knew we would talk about that evening for years.

These are the moments that all of us at Select Waterways wants to create for you. We are your river and small ship cruise insiders, specializing in European river cruises, including Danube River cruises, Rhine River cruises, wine cruises, Seine River cruises, as well as China river cruises with Yangtze river cruises, Vietnam river cruises with Mekong River cruises, Russia river cruises with Volga river cruises, Nile river cruises, Africa river cruises and Amazon river cruises. Naturally, we have American river cruises with Mississippi River cruises, Ohio River Cruises, Columbia River cruises, Illinois River cruises and Tennessee River cruises. We also offer expedition cruises and small ship cruises throughout the world, with polar cruises such as Arctic cruises and Antarctica cruises among the most popular. Whether it’s luxury river cruising, premium river cruising, expedition cruising or small ship cruising, we’ve got you covered. Visit our website at www.selectwaterways.com or give us a call at 1-844-SWCRUISE (1-844-792-7847). Be sure to join our Insider Club by clicking here and Like our Facebook page by clicking here.