The key to a great river cruise is a great river—and perhaps a cocktail before dinner, say AmaWaterways co-owners Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst.
The pair has been out and about on the world’s waterways personally scouting out new destinations for 2018 and 2019, they told TMR over dinner on the Carnival Vista during the CruiseOne conference last month. While they were at it, they noticed that guests like a cocktail before dinner, and so they considered putting that on the all-inclusive menu as well, they said.
While Ama can provide a great guest experience on the water, its top-selling itineraries—from the Rhine and the Danube to the Nile and the Mekong—all have sites for great excursions along their banks. So they passed on South America, though it’s near to the U.S. customer base, because “you could cruise from Buenos Aires to Bolivia and see nothing but pampas for two weeks,” Schreiner said. Instead they moved on to Asia, where the Iriwaddy, the Ganges and the Yangtze beckoned, offering “rich culture and a lot to see and do.”
They spent New Year’s Eve with a group of Colorado State students doing their Semester at Sea, getting college credits while seeing the world; by spring they will head off to Calcutta to scout out shore excursions for 2018 and then to East Africa to “consider options in Rwanda.”
In “October or November 2018” Ama will add an itinerary down the Ganges from Kolkata to Patna, “a major city with good air service,” 10 nights downriver or 11 upriver, Schreiner said. Ama will build a ship specifically for the India cruises, though the details are not yet set.
Ama currently sails the Danube, Rhine, Douro, Seine, and Garonne Rivers, as well as the Chobe River in Africa, the Mekong in Southeast Asia, and the Irawaddy in Myanmar.
For 2017 it will offer 15 itineraries, including one new adult-only wine and cheese cruise, and double the number of cruises it hosts for Disney. Also growing is its partnership with Back Roads, whose 22 bicycle tours in Europe “sold out the minute they were announced.” Under consideration is one on the Mekong, but “it’s very hot and humid, and so it has not been implemented yet,” Schreiner said.
New for 2018: nightly cocktails
Also under consideration for 2018 was whether to include liquor in AMA’s all-inclusive pricing, but Schreiner just felt it was not the way to go. “My feeling has always been that our passengers probably wouldn’t appreciate a drink package. If you include alcohol you have to charge everyone more, and most of our passengers are gone all day, and in the evening they are fine with the wine and beer that already is included. We serve good-quality wine and change the offering day.”
But Schreiner did notice that his customers were drinking cocktails at the bar before dinner each night, and wanted to accommodate them. So they have come up with a compromise: a complimentary happy hour with an open bar before dinner will be offered each night “on all ships for 2018.”