ONBOARD THE AMALYRA -- When a new ship is launched by AMA Waterways, there's not much new and different to report. And that's exactly part of AMA's plan.

AMA's newest river cruise ship, the Amalyra, sailed its eight-day christening cruise from Budapest to Vilshofen, Germany, where the christening ceremony took place on April 12.

And although the launch of a ship always comes with a certain degree of anticipation and excitement, the Amalyra isn't much different than the four AMA river cruise ships before it.

The Amalyra has 71 staterooms at 170 square feet and four junior suites at 255 square feet, just like its sister ships -- the Amadagio, Amalegro, Amacello and Amadante. And just like the next ship, the Amadolce, which launches on May 22.

FIRSTCALLAMALYRAThere are, however, slight differences in the interiors. The Amalyra's interior is based in soft, warm hues: brown, white and red in the staterooms and brown, beige and turquoise in the lounge. The staterooms feature boutique hotel-like furnishings, flat-screen TVs and stand-up showers.

Of the cabins and suites, 82% feature French balconies, which is actually just a railing on the other side of sliding doors. The ship has complimentary WiFi in the cabins and in the lounge areas. (I can report that the WiFi actually works, which should not be taken for granted on river cruise ships.)

As for the common areas, the restaurant features tables that accommodate as few as two and as many as 10 people. There is complimentary wine with the three-course dinners. The lounge is open and airy with a bar and piano. The sun deck features a track and Jacuzzi, and the fitness center includes a sauna. There are also a hairdresser and masseuse onboard.

Two amenities AMA ships have that some of its competitors don't are an aft lounge with alternative dining options and bicycles that can be used for shore excursions.

The bikes were a big hit.

AMA carries between 25 and 30 bikes onboard, with helmets and locks, for passengers who wish to ride at any of the destinations, or between destinations, as was the case on an 18-mile bike ride between Durnstein and Melk through Austrian vineyards and small towns, along the Danube River.

In 2009, Amalyra will be sailing a 12-day Legendary Danube itinerary, which starts with three days in Prague and includes a nine-day cruise from Nuremberg to Budapest. It will also be sailing a 14-day Blue Danube Discovery from Budapest to Nuremberg with three days in Prague.


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