The superlatives start the moment you step aboard the sundeck of the AmaMagna. You can feel the ship’s extra 34 feet of width immediately, capable of nearly fitting a professional ice hockey skating rink. The pool at the rear of the ship is something more akin in size and appearance to something you would find at a fine city hotel.
As you step down at the bow to the main deck, you enter a space directly in front of the Magna’s Al Fresco restaurant, able to seat about 20 guests, an outdoor extension of the 28-seat venue inside, including windows that drop down in nice weather.
Travel Market Report was invited to visit the ship, docked at a Danube River shipyard just south of Linz, Austria, with about two dozen top-producing advisors from Travel Planners International.
“We designed the Magna for the luxury guest who might now finally come on a river cruise because of the number and variety of restaurants, more space in their rooms, and expanded activities,” said Kristin Karst, AmaWaterways co-owner and executive vice president, who led the group on the 25-minute construction tour.
“A lot of your clients have not waded into the river cruise experience because they didn’t feel it had what they are looking for,” Karst said. “Our research says the typical river cruise ship doesn’t have enough space for them.”
The 443-foot long, 72-foot wide AmaMagna will have 98 staterooms (the majority measuring 355 square feet) and is able to accommodate 196 passengers. That compares with ships like the AmaViola, 443 feet long, but only 38 feet wide. (The Viola has 78 staterooms capable of holding 156 passengers.)
With the extra space, the AmaMagna offers four restaurants, including Ama’s typical main restaurant; Jimmy’s, a wine cellar-style restaurant named for AmaWaterways’ late co-owner, Jimmy Murphy; and the forward deck Al Fresco space.
Karst feels that the larger ship will attract younger clients who are looking for amenities like the fourth restaurant, the 30-seat Chef’s Table restaurant, a new twist on the company’s existing dining space by the same name.
On the AmaMagna, the space has been transformed with a fully open and accessible cooking area, where guests can watch a celebrity chef prepare their meal, or take part in cooking lessons. (The Chef’s Table restaurants Ama currently offers are separated from guests by a glass partition.)
As a result, travel advisors can now offer celebrity chefs in their hometowns the ability to perform for culinary/wine groups, Karst said.
The AmaMagna’s main central reception area has a grand double staircase that leads up to the Violin Deck. See-through partitions divide up the area, but help it retain a spaciousness by opening views throughout the space.
AmaMagna’s main restaurant is directly behind the reception area, for both sit-down and buffet dining. The space is equivalent to the restaurant on the lower level of the AmaViola.
Located at the back of the boat, AmaMagna’s glass-enclosed Zen Wellness Studio, including a gym and massage studios, open up a guest’s workout and relaxation to the unfolding scenes just beyond the ship. Directly below the Wellness Studio is a brand new feature for Ama, a water sports platform equipped with a Sundowner boat to take up to 12 guests on more intimate river excursions.
Travel Planners’ agents on the tour were eager to sell the ship.
“I’m excited to get back and start promoting the Magna,” said Julie Benario, of Benario Travel, in Naperville, Illinois, after her AmaMagna tour. “I can see grandparents who want to travel with their children liking the larger rooms with adjoining doors,” she said.
Benario also raved about the elevator that extends all the way to the sundeck, making the top floor more accessible to older travelers and clients whose disabilities might prevent them from using the staircases normally required to get to the deck.
“It’s amazing,” said Scott Byne, of Time Is Now Travel, in Ringoes, New Jersey. “It has the potential to change everything. I have customers at the higher end of my clientele that will be interested in the Magna. And I can definitely see a chance to get groups onboard.”
While the size of the ship restricts it to the Danube, AmaWaterway’s strategy is to market the Magna to both first-time luxury cruisers, as well as those looking for a return trip in more expansive accommodations.
The AmaMagna will sail the upper Danube in 2019, and both the upper and lower Danube in 2020, which could appeal to prior AmaWaterways clients looking to see the southernmost portion of Europe’s second-longest river.
AmaWaterways will also be offering a commissionable Concierge Golf Program exclusively on the Magna. Priced at $500 per course, clients can play at up to four of Europe’s premier courses during their trip – five if the client also visits Prague. The program is available May through October.
A whole new class of cabins
While river cruise ships are designed to get guests out of their rooms, and either be engaged with their fellow passengers, or participating in excursions, AmaWaterways realized through research that some travelers wanted more space in their cabin — and AmaMagna delivers.
The 710-square-foot Owner’s Suite has a full living room and wet bar for entertaining, as well as a walk-in closet and sliding glass doors to the balcony from both the bedroom and living room. The bathroom includes a soaking tub and separate large shower, as well as a two-sink vanity space.
The six Grand Suites come in at 474 square feet, with up to triple or quad occupancies. There are 18 of the 355-square-foot upper deck balcony rooms, including four that have connecting doors. Four of those rooms can accommodate triples or quads.
On the main deck, there are 28 of the 355-square-foot outside balcony rooms, including 12 that are adjoining and eight that can accommodate triples or quads. On the upper deck there are 18 of the 252-square-foot outside balcony rooms, and another 16 of these same staterooms on the main deck.
In comparison, the Viola’s four largest suites are only as large as the AmaMagna’s balcony rooms. The Viola has 18 of the 235-square-foot French balcony/outside balcony combination suites.
AmaWaterways also is using the extra space to introduce additional amenities, like double closets in 80 percent of the cabins, and much larger bathrooms.