Just over a year away from the debut of its newest ship, AmaMagna, AmaWaterways is looking at taking advantage of new markets that are opening up in the world of river cruising.
In total, AmaWaterways has three ships coming next year — AmaMagna, AmaDouro, and AmaMora. AmaMagna, an exclusive-to-the-Danube ship, is a first-of-its-kind of AmaWaterways. The ship will offer ultra-spacious accommodations, a water sports platform, and expanded fitness facilities, and it is specifically designed to target ocean cruise passengers who have yet to travel on the river.
“We open up the market for the ocean cruiser that has not considered river cruising yet,” Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-owner of AmaWaterways River Cruises, told Travel Market Report. “This is the double-wide ship – more space, luxury of more, many more, restaurants and bars onboard, more opportunities.”
There is also a new younger market that AmaWaterways is hoping to draw. While Karst admitted that Baby Boomers and Generation X will most likely continue to drive sales, AmaWaterways is seeing the emergence of its younger guests. More families with children and grandchildren have started to come onboard, especially on the Rhine, something that has been partially driven by the line’s partnership with Adventures by Disney.
Other emerging marketplaces
AmaWaterways' plan to debut in India sometime over the next two years is still on hold because of design issues that come with sailing the Ganges, which presents low water level issues during most of the year.
“It’s still design issues, and everybody has different ideas about how low a ship should be,” AmaWaterways President and Co-owner Rudi Schreiner said. “We are more concerned with getting stuck.”
To be successful in India, Karst said, AmaWaterways is going to have to find the right partner, which it has not yet found.
Schreiner is also eyeing a return to China, once the area is cleaned up.
And, Schreiner said, “It’s always of interest when they get safer, some people are cruising on the Nile. But, I don’t feel comfortable yet.”
In addition, while there is interest in Russia, there are still some red tape and political issues that AmaWaterways has to work around. “The last ship for Russia was built in 1990, so people are remodeling new ships. The Russian government has been working on a project for almost 10 years now,” Schreiner said.
Despite a number of European destinations announcing initiatives to combat overcrowding, AmaWaterways is not worried about congestion on the more popular European rivers.
“I don’t worry too much. The rivers are very long and there are many, many freight ships. But when you’re cruising, you barely see any ships,” said Karst.
For guests who want to have local experiences, Karst suggests going in the lower season, when ships from markets outside of North America are not typically sailing. In the lower season, Karst said, AmaWaterways is generally the only ship at a docking location.
“You want to be together with the locals. Being by yourself means so much more to the guests than being together with 10,000 other people,” she said.
The company is also looking at new ports that are not part of the typical river cruise itinerary, to give their guests more of those authentic experiences.
“The challenge is to make these ports more known here that the guests are asking for … we know it’s up to us to really push these itineraries, again, so that more people go and talk to other people,” Karst said.
Also new for 2018
For the first time, each AmaWaterways ship will have a security guard onboard, something that the company decided to implement because of feedback from agents and clients. Nobody from outside is allowed to enter docked ships anymore.
However, AmaWaterways will still allow and encourage travel agents to get a look at ships in docked ports. Any agents who come onboard get a certificate that will give them the chance to earn a bonus commission with their next booking.
The company is also getting set to expand its wellness program fleetwide, all in addition to its biking and hiking tours onshore.
“Clients want to be more healthy and eat more healthy food. They want to work out and be part of classes,” Karst said. “We see quite a bit of participation no matter what age it is. Because people realize we have to do it in order to feel good.”
“Fifteen years ago, Baby Boomers went on a river cruise and the goal was to sit, eat, and drink. Today, it’s about being actively involved in every step, to do things, to have this extraordinary experience,” she added.