Here is the story of how and why retiree Matthew G. spent 6+ months creating a LEGO tribute to our award-winning AmaVerde.

It all started when Matthew was just a child. Interlocking LEGO bricks at that time came in just two colors: red and white, yet they satisfied his passion for building. Then, when his own son turned five, and a rainbow of colored bricks was the norm, what was once an occasional activity turned into a more serious hobby. Matthew began to spend up to four hours on weekends in the media room of his home, amassing hundreds of thousands of LEGO pieces in all shapes, colors, and sizes. But Matthew was not ordering LEGO sets that came with complex instructions. Instead, he was concepting his own impressive builds, honoring his colleagues by representing them as minifigures in locations they traveled to together, such as the Sydney Opera House and Paris. 

Why AmaVerde?

“We had done ocean cruises before, but a river cruise was always on my bucket list,” said Matthew. As part of his final trip before he retired from his insurance company, he was excited to plan a 14-night Grand Danube Cruise with AmaWaterways. This all-encompassing Danube River journey cruised through eight European countries – Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany – on board the beautiful AmaVerde. In the months leading up to the cruise, Matthew, like many guests anticipating a long-awaited vacation, began to look up photos, though his were not of the fascinating destinations he’d be visiting, such as Belgrade and Budapest. Instead, Matthew headed to AmaWaterways.com and our AmaWaterways Loyal Guests (Official) Facebook group to get a glimpse of AmaVerde – and an idea was born.

With no real plan in place, six months before embarkation, Matthew began accruing and assembling the pieces he would need to recreate AmaVerde – to 1:35 (considered the proper scale for LEGO minifigures).

From Brick to Deck

After poring over two-dimensional printouts of photographs and building approximately 90% of the ship before ever laying eyes on it in person, you can imagine Matthew’s excitement as he and his wife Debbie embarked on AmaVerde in Giurgiu, Romania, following their pre-cruise land package in Brasov and Bucharest. The couple was delighted to open the door into their spacious suite and made frequent use of their twin balconies to take in the fresh air and scenic views.

“Our stateroom was fantastic, with more storage space than we could use,” Matthew recalled. “The Main Lounge was perfect for visiting with other guests and we loved The Chef’s Table restaurant.”

Of course, while admiring his surroundings and indulging in delicious regionally inspired cuisine, Matthew, ever the perfectionist, made note of some things he could improve in his miniature version of AmaVerde. However, he was able to set aside the bricklaying plans for a time and simply live in the moment while immersing himself in the rich culture and unique history along the Danube River.

“The library at Melk Abbey was amazing and the grand imperial views from Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest were awesome,” reminisced Matthew. “I also loved the Iron Gates from a scenic and nature perspective. It was like sailing through the Grand Canyon on a lounge chair while people bring you drinks.”

Matthew was also delighted by AmaWaterways’ exclusive Oktoberfest celebration in Vilshofen, Germany, and considers our river cruises “a cut above.”

At Home in Texas

Despite having an extensive collection of LEGO bricks already, Matthew had to order some special pieces to ensure his prized vessel came together. “It took two hundred blue windows to build AmaVerde, and I had to order those,” he said.

Though Matthew does not count the total number of pieces it takes to finish his creations, AmaVerde is far too large to be on display in its full glory at his house. “LEGO sells fifteen by fifteen-inch base plates with 2,304 total studs apiece,” he said, “I can put four of those together on my building table. There are eleven of those pieces on AmaVerde.” He also estimated there are more minifigures on board his creation than AmaVerde’s maximum capacity of 156 guests and 51 crew, as he likes to add extra visual elements that encourage LEGO enthusiasts to come back and look again.

LEGO AmaVerde’s latest public showing was Oklahoma City’s Brick Convention, where it was broken up for transport before inspiring awe in the thousands of wide-eyed adults and children who stood in its presence.

Building A New Dream

Matthew is extremely interested in planning another AmaWaterways river cruise and is most inspired by the idea of cruising along Europe’s fairytale Rhine River at Christmastime. “I could do a scaled-down version of one of the ships on the Rhine with a city behind it, all decorated for Christmas, with the market stalls, pretzels, and mugs of glühwein,” he stated. In the meantime, he is hard at work on creating a LEGO space station and Mars planetary base. He also has plans to build a mountainside with a working wind turbine farm on it.

Needless to say, Matthew is enjoying his retirement.

If you would like to sail on board this beautiful ship, watch our AmaVerde Video Tour and contact your preferred travel advisor to plan your river cruise journey with us today.

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