AmaPrima in Passau (Danube)

Bums, tums and abs are not usually synonymous with cruising but they were put to the test on a recent wellness river cruise.

Stretch those hamstrings, strengthen that core and relax in a child’s pose…..  Excuse me while I take a breath and a sip of gemstone water before I announce that the preconception of river cruising as a slow sedate meander along the river has well and truly sunk.


Holidays can be as relaxed as you wish but believe me, river cruising is action-packed and crammed with culture, a recipe attracting singles and adults, couples and multi-generational families alike. Hitting the river arteries in Europe is big business for river cruise lines but adding a wellness programme has definitely added an active dimension.


I travelled with AmaWaterways, a company that has recognised the importance of blending an active component to what has historically been a sedate experience. Currently they are rolling out a wellness programme to most of their 19-strong fleet. I was sailing on one of them, the AmaSonata, a contemporary-styled ship, with around 160 fellow sailors and a crew who could have been handpicked for their lively personalities and their eagerness to serve.


The concept involves a dedicated Wellness Host steering a busy, all-embracing programme of activities and so varied as to cause a dilemma over what to choose.  Perhaps a fast-paced city walking tour of Vienna, an 18-mile bike tour to Durnstein, a fortress hike or a gentle evening stroll around Krems. On-board, such decisions continue – circuit training on the sundeck, early morning stretch, a resistance band class, posture conditioning or yoga flow. Not enough, then there’s a compact gym, jogging track and to wind down, a handful of massages.  In between, of course, there’s afternoon tea, hard to resist, fine dining at lunch and dinner with regional dishes to savour, healthy choices delicately indicated and recommended wines to complement.


Relaxing, yes. This is available on deck, in the lounge, privately from your stateroom balcony or over cultured conversation with fellow guests.  Those niggling personal problems, must-do lists and outstanding chores seem to drift downstream, swamped with the postcard scenery passing by.  Paths zig-zagging across the mountain side, boats moored onto private jetties, villages clustered around steepled churches and families waving from shared picnics and homemade lemonade. Roads track us from the side, trains play hide and seek as they hiss between trees and hills, speed boats playfully whizz by and barges tug past dragging their heavy cargo. Quietening the mind comes easily on a ship which glides along calm waters bordered by lush green river banks. Silent, still and serene.


The commentary along the Danube added a historical date or two, dotted with colourful myths and fables. Rapunzel-like fairy tale castles standing high above, others in ruins, Terraced grooves folded into the landscape, an indication of wine tasting tours and a climate ripe for harvesting apricots and sampling sweet desserts. But it’s not all plain sailing.  Gathering on deck, the locks and low bridges attracted a captive audience watching a skilled crew, adept at untangling ropes and knots in record time and adding a different dimension to our voyage.


But the cultural explosion happens ashore as history finds its groove, echoed through stone passageways, etched on walls, crafted in statues, exposed in Baroque and Gothic architecture, recalled in painful truths and humbling stories, shrouded in monasteries and celebrated in jaw-dropping cathedrals. Our route along the Danube cruised from Nuremberg to Vienna, each port of call having a narrative to tell. The Nuremberg trials and Courtroom, the countless listed buildings and commemorative stumbling stones in Regensburg, the world’s largest pipe organ in Passau’s St Stephens Cathedral and Richard The Lionheart’s imprisonment in Durnstein.  We visited Mondsee, famous for its appearance in The Sound of Music, the awe-inspiring Benedictine Abbey in Melk, ending in Vienna, the capital, personified by the Blue Danube waltz, gilded palaces and gold statue of Strauss, its state opera, rich chocolate Sachertorte, The Spanish Riding School and St. Stephens Cathedral cradled in its centre.


Breathe in and hold that stretch. I concentrate as I watch the sun rise casting shades of reflective colour on the river. This is my final class on the ship. I leave feeling fitter, leaner, (questionable) and healthier – words not usually associated with a cruise holiday.


AmaWaterways is planning the launch next year of a double width ship, meaning more space and more facilities so expect those tums, bums and abs to be reworked harder, hamstrings stretched further and the core flattened.  Namaste!


Want to book your wellness river cruise workout with AmaWaterways, go to, call tel: 0800 320 2335 or visit your local travel agent.


AmaWaterways is headquartered in, California with offices in Switzerland and the U.K. It

provides river cruise holidays on 19 ships, sailing along the waterways of Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia.


Next year AmaWaterways, will launch three ships. The revolutionary AmaMagna will also enter service in May 2019 and will offer a unique river cruising experience. She will offer an unprecedented range of facilities including a choice of restaurants, Zen Wellness Studio and water sports platform as well as offering far more personal space than traditional river cruise ships.



Jane Wilson, Editor,