In an interview with Jelena Milinovic, Cruise Manager for luxury river cruise line AmaWaterways, we discussed the extensive lineup of unique wine & dine itineraries for 2019.

What are some of the most exciting wine cruises coming up this year?
With 68 river cruises hosted by different wine experts, it’s almost impossible for me to choose any favorites. I do particularly like the wine cruises during the fall period as the harvest is in and local winemakers are more relaxed and excited to talk about their production. For 2019, we will have four wine hosted cruises onboard AmaMagna on the Danube.

I also have to make a special mention of all of our river cruises through the famous wine-producing Bordeaux area. They are all heavily focused on different wine experiences and are very popular as guests get to visit many celebrated vineyards and learn a lot about the different wine-making techniques. The Musée du Vin in Bordeaux is a fascinating place, for example, showcasing equipment and technology from 2000 years of wine production in the region. I highly recommend a visit.  

Amawaterways river cruises

How do wine cruises differ In terms of onboard activities and offshore excursions?
Each wine river cruise is hosted by a well-respected North American winery owner, winemaker or sommelier. Under their guidance, our guests travel into European wine regions, visiting vineyards and wine cellars where the local owners or experts act as our guides explaining all about their wines and the fascinating history behind them.

Back on board, guests are treated to exceptional dinners paired with hand-selected regional wines and enjoy three lectures and wine tastings led by the wine host. These hosts not only showcase their respective wines but also provide a more global view of wine by highlighting the different aspects of “New World” wine cultivation, production processes and consumer palates, in comparison to those same aspects found in “Old World” European wine regions that we travel, and taste, our way through.

Amawaterways river cruises

In terms of the culinary offering more broadly, how would you describe the dining aboard an AmaWaterways cruise?

Dining on board AmaWaterways ships is about providing the perfect balance of regional dishes and popular cuisine, all prepared with the freshest ingredients and presented in creative ways. Everything is prepared daily on board including the delicious loaves of bread, healthy soups, and mouth-watering desserts. Our culinary teams are amazingly talented and are very flexible and happy to work with any guests who may have special dietary restrictions. Welcoming only 28 guests, The Chef’s Table restaurant is a very private dining experience with a five-course tasting menu paired with hand-selected wines. All of our guests are invited to dine there at least once during their cruise at no additional cost.  

Amawaterways river cruises

What has been one of your most memorable experiences as a cruise manager?
Besides the many beautiful places that I have had the chance to visit, my most memorable experiences are associated with the guests onboard our ships. Helping them and surpassing their expectations and seeing their happy faces always brings me such wonderful feelings. Our guests are mostly from across the ocean and some guests have waited for this European river cruise their whole life, so for me to make them feel at home and welcome onboard is my number one priority.

Many times I have helped guests locate long lost family members, meet their old friends or find a special souvenir they were longing to buy. Sometimes it is the very little things that we are able to do for our guests that are the most precious. On the last day of the cruise, my desk is usually covered with piles of “thank you” notes which really makes me proud. Long after the river cruise ends, many guests like to keep in touch, sending Christmas cards like we are family. Many have invited me to visit them in their countries and stay in their homes—what an honor to receive such an invitation. I remember one guest sent me a Little Red Riding Hood cape for my 1-year-old daughter, which brought me to tears when the package arrived!