AmaWaterways sets course to attract new cruisers

Launching next May, the AmaMagna will be 72 feet wide, almost twice the width of AmaWaterways' existing river cruise ships.
Launching next May, the AmaMagna will be 72 feet wide, almost twice the width of AmaWaterways' existing river cruise ships.

VILSHOFEN, Germany -- AmaWaterways plans to add three vessels to its fleet next year, the most ships the company will have launched in a single year since its founding in 2002. The launches will include its biggest ship to date, the AmaMagna. 

AmaWaterways executives said the expansion is a testimonial to a river cruise market that continues to see healthy growth in U.S. passengers as well as in emerging markets, such as family travelers, active cruisers and wine aficionados.

Onboard the 154-passenger AmaLea, the company's newest ship, which was christened here last month, AmaWaterways president Rudi Schreiner said, "We have a couple of very unique, new-to-cruise groups. One, I would say, is Adventures by Disney families who enjoy it, and hopefully the kids will stick with cruising and continue doing it."

AmaWaterways entered into a partnership with Adventures by Disney in 2015 and began sailing its family-focused departures in 2016. The partnership has grown each year since, with additional inventory and destinations. 

Another partnership is the one forged with Backroads, which offers active cycling and hiking trips. Schreiner said that those travelers came to river cruising through their love of bicycling. 

In addition, he said, "A very strong new-to-river-cruise group is on our wine-themed cruises. These are really people who follow their wine host. And [aside from Disney] that's our youngest age group, probably 40s and 50s for the majority."

AmaWaterways' wine-themed cruises, he said, are typically hosted by a U.S.-based winemaker. With the company growing the number of its wine-themed departures to 60 next year, up from 50 this year, he said, that represents some 9,000 potential passengers on such sailings with AmaWaterways.

Schreiner added that river cruising continues to see overall growth from the U.S. source market. 

"We are probably right now at somewhere around 600,000 or 700,000 people who are river cruising," Schreiner said. He  added that the total is a drop in the bucket compared with the 27.2 million passengers expected to take ocean cruises in 2018, according to CLIA.

A river ship for ocean cruisers

Converting more ocean cruisers is exactly where the AmaMagna comes into play. AmaWaterways hopes it can attract more blue-water passengers to Europe's Danube River by offering larger staterooms, more dining venues and amenities such as a sprawling spa and wellness center and a watersports platform, the kinds of features ocean cruisers have come to expect.

Launching in May, the 194-passenger AmaMagna will be 72 feet wide, almost twice the width of AmaWaterways' existing river cruise ships. More than half of the 98 staterooms will be suites of between 355 and 710 square feet, featuring step-out balconies, seating areas and bathrooms with double vanities. 

There will be four dining venues onboard: the main restaurant; the Chef's Table already featured on Ama vessels, with its trademark tasting menu; a more health-oriented alfresco restaurant that can be fully enclosed when necessary; and Jimmy's Wine Bar, named in honor of the late Jimmy Murphy, one of AmaWaterways' co-founders.

The Zen Wellness Studio will feature a large exercise area for group classes focused on stretching, cardio and core strengthening; a juice bar; massage treatment rooms; a separate manicure and pedicure facility; and a hair salon. 

The sun deck will house a large heated pool, a hot tub and a pop-up bar. The watersports platform will be at the rear of the ship, from which a smaller touring boat, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards can be launched.

Kristin Karst, AmaWaterways' executive vice president, said, "With the AmaMagna, we also now want to attract ocean cruisers who have never looked at the rivers because [the ships were] too small, there were not enough options. So now, hopefully, with the regular cabins being 350 square feet, which is a suite here, they will come because now they feel they have the space." 

A growing focus on wellness

There will be a strong health and wellness element on the AmaMagna, but that is also a growing emphasis fleetwide. 

At the christening of the AmaLea last month, passengers were given the opportunity to experience AmaWaterways' wellness program, which launched last year onboard the AmaLyra for its Seine River sailings from Paris to Normandy, France. 

It was expanded to the AmaCerto, AmaPrima, AmaSonata, AmaDante and AmaDolce for 2018; it will be offered fleetwide in Europe in 2019 (though it has not yet been confirmed for Portugal's 2019 Douro River itineraries) and on the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. 

As part of the program, a wellness host leads daily stretches, jogging, cardio, core strengthening, circuit training and yoga classes. 

Sports scientist Selina Wank, who is overseeing the wellness program, was on the AmaLea offering a sampling of the classes that will be available next year. Passengers can expect exercises that accommodate a wide range of physical capabilities.

Onboard each vessel, the wellness hosts also lead discussions about healthy eating, relaxation techniques and other topics.


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