From the tulip fields of Holland to the temples of Southeast Asia, AmaWaterways is offering myriad opportunities to experience many of the great waterways in Europe, Russia, Africa and Asia aboard new ships, following new itineraries, and offering enhanced amenities.
“River cruising has grown at an unprecedented rate,” says Rudi Schreiner, president of AmaWaterways. “This rising tide of river travel is sweeping in as a mainstream vacation choice for North Americans.” Schreiner not only feels very fortunate to be positioned with a fleet of river ships that he describes as “offering superb accommodations, excellent service and great experiences,” but he has no doubt that “with our introduction of new vessels and itineraries, this will be our most successful year on record.” Part of that, adds Schreiner, “comes from a big roster of river cruise products that are drawing both first-timers and now a high percentage of repeat-traveler bookings.”
Floating Through Asia
Right now, AmaWaterways is in the luxury river boat christening mode in Southeast Asia, expanding its Asia program, and making its debut in Myanmar, or Burma, or a cultural paradise. Call it what you will, this 2,500-year-old country has opened its doors and, according to Schreiner, development is still in its early stages, temples and pagodas are largely free of tourists, and the fading colonial legacy exudes atmosphere. “Cruising on the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River offers an ideal way—sometimes the only way—to see this enchanting country in a leisurely and up-close manner. It’s a good time for agents—who account for 95 percent of our bookings—to tell their clients to join us, before the rest of the world discovers this magical and unspoiled place.”
Kristin Karst, AmaWaterways’ v.p., points out that these exotic cruises, including the company’s cruise-tours in Africa, and journeys in the Mekong, are certainly important to the ongoing growth of river cruising. “The repeat-travel factor is amazing,” Karst says. “Out of 50 guests who joined us on the maiden voyage of AmaPura, just five guests were not past passengers. Everyone else had traveled with us between one and four times.”
AmaWaterways’ 56-guest AmaPura launched last November. The custom-built, all-suite vessel cruises the Irrawaddy River. Each suite has its own balcony—either a French balcony, full step-out balcony or twin balconies. Cabins range from 285 to 420 sq. ft. Amenities on board include a restaurant, a main lounge and bar, a pool and sundeck, a spa and gift boutique. Clients have a choice of two itineraries, both starting in Yagon—a 14-day Golden Treasures of Myanmar and a 16-day Hidden Wonders of Myanmar; both feature the classic sights, including former royal capitals, majestic statues and shrines, and ancient monasteries. Rates start at $4,699 and $5,999 pp dbl, respectively, and extensions are available to Inle Lake and Bangkok.
In Vietnam and Cambodia, AmaWaterways is no newcomer to the Mekong. Cruising there since 2009, Schreiner points out that the waterways of Vietnam and Cambodia offer far different experiences than the rivers of Europe, for most of daily life happens on the waterways. There are not only floating markets but floating villages, and many of our excursions are by boat. On the Mekong, more happens on the river than in the towns.
Come Aug. 17, the luxury 124-passenger AmaDara will join the AmaLotus on the company’s Vietnam, Cambodia & the Riches of the Mekong River cruise schedule. This brand-new vessel will be sporting even more stylish accessories—a spa and fitness rooms, a large swimming pool, a hair salon, and two restaurants—than her sister ship.
Floating through Europe
All the AmaWaterways action is certainly not in the Orient, for something’s always happening with this award-winning cruise company on the rivers of Europe, where, according to Karst, the company is also enjoying the once-hooked, twice-booked repeat cruiser factor. “Many guests start with the Danube, sailing on next time to explore the Rhine (often at Christmas markets time) or Holland & Belgium on a Tulip Time cruise, or the Rhine/Main & Moselle on a Rivers & Castles itinerary, or the Rhone & Seine rivers in France with us. And actually, the Douro River has become extremely popular, and truly one of our winners in 2015.”
New vessels coming on line this year are the 164-passenger AmaSerena and AmaVista, joining their sister ships—AmaReina, AmaPrima and AmaCerto—for Danube, Main and Rhine sailings starting this spring. Guests aboard these new vessels not only have luxurious staterooms with twin balconies (a full balcony adjacent to a French balcony), but a new feature of connecting cabins offering added convenience for families and groups traveling together. Everyone, of course, has access to such amenities as hair salon and massage services, fitness rooms, sundecks and heated swimming pools with swim-up bars.
These two new ships are sailing this year on a variety of culturally immersive voyages and special themed itineraries. AmaSerena’s Enchanting Rhine itinerary, for instance, will host wine cruises spotlighting famous wine regions, and onboard lectures and tastings with wine expert Christopher Silva of St. Francis Winery & Vineyard. The Jewish Heritage Cruise is another special interest sailing. AmaVista’s augural voyage will be the dazzlingly colorful Tulip Time cruise—sold out for this year, but with bookings now open for next; she will also sail on the 14-night Magnificent Europe journey from Amsterdam to Budapest.
Come 2016, think ahead to those clients who are wine lovers, says Karst, “for in response to rising popularity and increasing demand, we are offering 34 wine sailings, double the amount we have this year. Front and center will be our brand-new Taste of Bordeaux itinerary, a 7-night voyage that takes travelers through France’s renowned Bordeaux region, with stops along the Garonne and Dordogne rivers.”
Also next year, Europe’s inland waterways will welcome AmaWaterways’ two 158-passenger sister ships, the AmaViola and AmaStella, featuring the line’s new connecting staterooms, as well as larger, 350-sq.-ft. suites; these sister ships will be fitted out with twin balcony staterooms on upper decks, heated swimming pool, fitness room and hair salon. And they will bring Amawaterways’ fleet to 18 vessels afloat on the waterways of Europe. For more information, call (800) 626-0126 or visit amawaterways.com and amawaterways.com/agent.