Despite the unprecedented challenges that the coronavirus pandemic has brought upon the travel industry, AmaWaterways is positive about the future of river cruising.
During a webinar on Tuesday, the river cruise line’s executives outlined how AmaWaterways is uniquely positioned to appeal to travelers post-COVID, as well as how it’s adapting.
Executive Vice President and Co-Founder Kristin Karst said luxury traveler are looking for trips to less popular destinations, and the ports along the rivers AmaWaterways sails provide just that. There’s also plenty of opportunities for guests to be outdoors, with hiking and biking.
It’s a small environment where you can participate in groups or take a bike and go into town on your own,” agreed Rudi Schreiner, president and co-founder. “With European river cruise ships, you’re in an environment where you’re outside in the spring, summer, and fall and you can sit outside – 80% of the cabins have balconies – with fresh air.”
Another added strength of a river cruise, compared to an ocean cruise, is river cruises are bound by the rules and regulations of the country’s ports they are in, whereas ocean cruises are within international waters and not held to the same standards.
AmaWaterways has seen strong booking trends for 2021 and 2022, according Schreiner. The company even opened 2022 bookings a couple of months ahead of schedule due to the demand. “June was the strongest month ever for booking the next year. It’s partially some rebooking’s, but also strong numbers of new bookings, as well as groups and charters.”
Sailings have already resumed for some charter sailings onboard AmaKristina in Germany, with European guests, and “the Rhine cruises have been successful, and are already booked up until end of October,” Schreiner said.
In terms of new procedures, there’s a new breakfast set up, with a choice of different breakfasts that can be served, as well as room service available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Karst said, adding “with the current number of guests at much less than 100, you’re able to keep social distance everywhere.”
Plexiglass has also been installed at the reception area, and ships do not have entertainment with singers onboard right now.
It’s still unclear when American travelers will be able to visit Europe, the EU is monitoring the situation every two weeks.
“The U.S. has fairly high numbers so it doesn’t look promising, but we’re hopeful we can get [Americans] cruising by the end of this year,” Schreiner said. “I still do hope we get cruising in for the North American market this year, but we start up again in March and I think a lot will happen in the next couple of months. I hope by spring next year people can travel again.”
The future is bright
“We have a bright future ahead of us,” Schreiner said. “We’re building three ships, and continue to innovate new approaches.”
New ship designs will focus more on wellness space, and dining, he said. There could also be less passengers onboard. “Over the last 25 years since I’ve been doing this, the number of guests has really dropped, while the space has doubled. We have increased per person space on board, this is where I see the future of luxury cruising going.”
Next year, the AmaDalia will debut on the Nile River in Egypt September 2021, and Karst said it’s already more than 65% booked. The AmaKristina will also move to the Rhone River.
Dedicated to travel advisor partners
AmaWaterways has held more than 1,000 virtual cruise nights and Sip and Sail events. Advisors had the opportunity to invite clients, and hear about destinations, rivers, new protocols, and more.
“We’re not really selling, but we are planting the seed for when they’re ready,” Karst said.
AmaWaterways also offers a cruise protection plan that covers COVID-19, and a travel waiver with cancellation for any reason prior to 24 hours of departure, making it easier for travel advisors to close the sale.
The river cruise line is also offering exclusive transfers – where a private car and driver will take a party to the vessel without putting 30 different people on a coach bus – when booking air with AmaWaterways.
“With different world events, when things settle, the business comes back quickly,” said Gary Murphy, senior vice president of sales for AmaWaterways. “We have our sales team and marketing teams, and when business rebounds and it will rebound we are ready to capture it.”