PORTO, Portugal — With the launch of the 106-passenger AmaVida, AmaWaterways has translated its sleek and sophisticated formula for European river cruising into a smaller, simpler format for the Douro River.
The AmaVida, a ship owned by Portuguese company Douro Azul and being leased by Ama, was christened by Sharon Stone on March 28 alongside a similar vessel, the 118-passenger Queen Isabel, another Douro Azul vessel being leased by Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection.
While the AmaVida is not owned directly by AmaWaterways, the interior design and some of the ship’s features were clearly informed by a style of river cruising that has come to be associated with Ama in Western and Central Europe.
The 215-square-foot cabins on the upper two decks all have small but adequate balconies as well as a cozy interior seating area.
The unique bathroom layout, which features a separate room for the toilet and a standing shower, is entirely clad in marble. The vessel also has two 323-square-foot suites on the upper deck, and the 16 lower-deck cabins are 161 square feet each.
The ship is 260 feet long and 37 feet wide. By contrast, Ama’s newest ship on the Danube River, the 164-passenger AmaPrima, is 443 feet long and 38 feet wide.
That extra 183 feet in length enables the AmaPrima to carry additional cabins and amenities such as several dining venues, a hair salon and a library.
For the AmaVida, with relatively limited space, the vessel has been pared down but without sacrificing comfort or quality.
Ama has made great efforts in its European fleet to incorporate additional dining venues, and it has maintained that tradition here: An alfresco dining area adjacent to the main restaurant can seat 32 passengers for a separate three-course dinner (seating in this dining area must be reserved in advance).
A light lunch is also available in the lounge and on the sun deck, weather permitting, in addition to the buffet breakfast and lunch served in the main restaurant.
There is also a small fitness room, a spa, a heated pool on the sundeck and a gift shop.
The launch of the AmaVida comes at a time of renewed interest in Portugal’s Douro River, which winds through the Douro River Valley, the country’s famous wine region and a Unesco World Heritage site.
Uniworld has been steadily chartering ships on the Douro since 2001. But for 2013, the line has company: In addition to the AmaVida and the Queen Isabel, Viking River Cruises introduced a Portugal and Spain itinerary on the 124-passenger Viking Douro (formerly the Douro Spirit, a ship built in 2011 that previously had been chartered by Uniworld from Douro Azul).
Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.