Though some river cruise operators have reported a recent slowing in the Russia river cruise market, Ama Waterways is confident that interest remains strong in the culturally rich Volga-Baltic Waterway.

"From the time that we first launched our Russian waterways program, it has proven to be one of our most popular and successful itineraries," Rudi Schreiner, president of Ama, said in a statement.

Consequently, Ama Waterways will be leasing a newly renovated river cruise ship, the Amakatarina, from Russian company Vodohod, which will set sail on May 10, 2011.

The Amakatarina will replace the company's existing leased vessel in Russia, the 160-passenger Tolstoy, which will sail through the remaining 2010 season.

Ama did not reveal the financial arrangements of the lease but said it would be lending Vodohod some capital to refurbish the ship, which was built in the 1980s.

Ama signed a five-year lease with Vodohod with the option to renew.

"We are overseeing every detail of the ship's renovation," Schreiner said. "This will allow us to make sure the vessel is perfectly tailored to the high standards that Ama Waterways passengers expect."

In addition to lending capital, Schreiner said that Ama would consult on the ship's redesign and interior renovations.

The ship is going to be stripped entirely and is being converted from a 400-passenger to a 212-passenger vessel, Schreiner said.

Of the 106 cabins, 76 will feature balconies. There will be 10 cabin categories, including four suite categories, with suites ranging from 280 to 432 square feet.

The ship will have a total of 24,025 square feet of interior space. The public areas will include a restaurant, panorama lounge, conference hall, sauna, bar and nightclub and solarium.

Ama is offering 11-day itineraries on the Amakatarina along the Volga-Baltic Waterway, including three days in St. Petersburg and two days in Moscow. The cruise also includes visits to Uglich and Yaroslavl, then transit across the two lakes of Onega and Ladoga.

The Amakatarina will sail 14 departures for the 2011 season.

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