Review of A-ROSA SENA: a river cruise for all the family

By Linsey McNeill
19/12/2022
Home » Review of A-ROSA SENA: a river cruise for all the family

A-ROSA SENA is the biggest and greenest of European river operator’s fleet, sailing on the northern Rhine. Travel Gossip Co-editor Linsey McNeill went onboard to find out what it’s like.

The cabins

A-ROSA SENA caters for 280 guests in 119 balcony cabins, seven suites, two accessible cabins and 12 family cabins.

Our balcony cabin, number 336 on deck 3, had a pleasant seating area with a sofa and small dressing table, in addition to twin beds, plenty of hanging space for two, and a nice little shower room. The décor was bright and fresh, with blonde wood and splashes of blue, which I much preferred to the darker colours of the older A-ROSA ships.

We managed to store our (large) suitcases under the beds, which was a bonus, and there was a hairdryer and also plenty of European sockets, plus useful USB charging points for phones next to the beds.

Talking of beds, I thought mine was comfy enough but my 78-year-old mum said hers was ‘a bit too hard’. I guess you can’t please every Goldilocks.

Our shower room wasn’t quite big enough for an adult to get dressed in, but it was roomy enough and there was good storage and lighting.

The space

A-ROSA is a four-deck ship, whose crowning glory is a fabulous sun deck with two small, heated pools, a shallow one for kiddies and one for adults and plenty of sun loungers. I could just imagine sitting on deck and sipping a G&T, watching the scenery sail by! It also has a unique UP & DOWN bar that disappears into the deck when going under low bridges.

Further use of the outdoor space has been made on deck 4, with both an outside lounge area at the front and a small outdoor dining area at the rear.

Inside, on deck 4, there’s a large main dining room, but it’s divided into several separate seating areas so it doesn’t feel so big. We particularly liked the ‘Pavilion’ conservatory-style dining area, which is topped with a glass-dome, making it nice and bright in the mornings.

The other half of deck 4 is the lounge area, which has lots of seating and a large dancefloor, plus giant TV screens. There’s a decent-sized bar at one end. Sectioned off from the main lounge is the ‘Winery’, a small, stylish wine-bar used for tasting classes and private functions, but the rest of the time it’s a more intimate space for a quiet drink.

The Food

The main restaurant provides buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinner. A live cooking station serves up fried eggs and omelettes in the mornings, and the stir-fries were particularly good at lunch and dinner. There’s plenty of choice, including a salad bar, two or three deserts and cheeses. Vegetarians won’t starve as there was always several non-meat options.

Waiters bring drinks to the table, including a choice of wines.

Unusually for a river cruise ship, SENA has an à la carte speciality restaurant, the SENA Grill, which costs extra. You need to make a reservation and since the SENA GRILL is only small (one of its charms), make sure you tell clients to make a booking asap.

The menu is mainly steak or fish, with one or two additional dishes. Mum’s steak was so tender you could have eaten it with a spoon, my grilled fish was delicious, as was the Riesling, which the waiter chose to go with it.

Definitely leave room for afternoon tea, especially on the last day of the cruise when there’s so much choice that you’d be disappointed if you can’t fit in at least three (maybe four) cakes!

The actual tea is disappointing, the water in the machine isn’t hot enough for a really good brew. I put in a request for kettles to the Hotel Manager Christian, he said I wasn’t the first Brit to suggest this but he seemed genuinely perplexed at our obsession with  hot brews, so let’s see if he takes the idea it onboard (geddit?!) The coffee is fine, if you can manage to fathom the machine (unlike mum!). That said, staff are always on hand to help.

Family Facilities

SENA is one of the first river cruise ships to actively target families. It has 12 family cabins sleeping five and what kid wouldn’t love sleeping here? There’s plenty of space for a family of four, and I loved the bunk beds and the diddy table and chairs in a little alcove.

All 12 family cabins are on deck 1, so parents don’t need to worry so much about their children disturbing other guests, and there’s a nice big playroom at the end.

Accessiblity

There are two accessible cabins, and there’s a lift to access all indoor areas.

The Gym

With so much good food onboard, you’re going to need to visit the gym (full disclosure: I didn’t), which you’ll be pleased to find is spacious and well-equipped. There’s something I could easily identify as a treadmill and I spotted at least one rowing machine too and a static bike, as for the rest, I think they work your arms and legs, but don’t hold me to that.       

The Spa

I was much more interested in the spa than the gym, and it didn’t disappoint. It has a sauna, whirlpool and relaxation area, plus two treatment rooms. I had a facial, which was lovely, but more importantly my mum, who’s had nearly as many facials as I’ve had hot dinners, said hers was excellent. Other treatments include massages, reflexology and eyebrow shaping and tinting.

           

The onboard vibe

On my roundtrip Rhine cruise, from Cologne to Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Utrecht, there as a definite German vibe. There was only a small handful of British guests onboard, so all of the entertainment – bingo, quizzes etc – was in German. However, all of the staff, most of whom were Asian, spoke English and we never had difficulty communicating. Also, all literature is in English as well as German.

The entertainment

With little time spent onboard I didn’t go looking for entertainment but there was salmon pickling, Italian lesson and wine tasting if you fancied it. In the late afternoon and evening there were quizzes and bingo, and a DJ playing in the lounge from mid-afternoon, mostly pop music and – because this was a Christmas markets cruise – I think we heard Last Christmas ­­­ a few times!

Excursions

Excursions in ports of call aren’t included in the package but they are available to book onboard. We decided that it was easy enough to do our own thing, especially as the ship on our cruise docked only a taxi or bus ride away from most of the attractions.

The staff

It’s the staff that make a cruise special, and every one of the crew on SENA was exceptional, from Tina who told us where to go and what to do in the ports to Christian the hotel manager to all the waiters and cabin stewards, and  especially the receptionist who guided us back to the SENA when we got lost in Amsterdam because we couldn’t remember where we’d left SENA and didn’t realise the address was helpfully printed on the back of the boarding card we were given before we got off!

What was also good to hear was that they all loved working for A-Rosa. One told me she’d moved to the company specifically because of the excellent way it treated staff during the COVID lockdowns, continuing to pay most of their wages when some other cruise lines didn’t.

Top tip

Book spa treatments as soon as you get onboard, especially if you want to visit during a sailing day, as they’re very popular and there are only two treatment rooms.

Linsey McNeill was a guest of A-ROSA

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