In 2006, Amadeus Waterways built its first river ship from the keel up. One year later, it built a second vessel. Now, the Chatsworth, Calif.-based river cruise company is investing $100 million to triple its fleet size.

Amadeus is launching two new ships this year, and two more will launch in 2009, which will bring the company's fleet size to six (not including the Swiss Pearl and Tolstoy, which Amadeus charters).

Amadeus Waterways was founded by Brendan Tours Chairman Jimmy Murphy in 2002, when the river cruise company started running seven-day tulip cruises through the Netherlands and Belgium.

It expanded to include a Rhine and Moselle cruise, an Amsterdam-to-Budapest, Hungary, cruise and a Danube cruise. Amadeus began with just one ship, the Amadeus Symphony, which it chartered from Austrian company Lueftner Cruises.

Today, Amadeus' bread and butter is the Danube.

"About 70% to 80% of all our European river cruises include the Danube River, and our new ships are constantly sold out on this itinerary," said Kristin Karst, vice president of sales at Amadeus. "We cannot keep up with the high demand for this river, so we have decided to operate our new ships again on the Danube in combination with the Main, Rhine and the scenic Moselle River."

In all, Amadeus offers seven-night, 14-night and 21-night cruises from Budapest to Prague, Czech Republic; from Budapest to Paris; from Paris to Prague; from Amsterdam to Paris; and from Budapest to Istanbul, Turkey. Amadeus' longest program is Paris to Istanbul in four weeks.

The river operator also has a 14-day Russia cruise from Moscow to St. Petersburg aboard the Tolstoy.

Amadeus' prices are midrange for a river cruise. For example, a 14-night Paris-to-Prague cruise costs from $2,499 to $3,199, not including air.

Amadeus' shipbuilding strategy has been to make all its ships almost identical to one another.

All the ships are being built in the Netherlands and have the same dimensions as Amadeus' existing ships: the Amadagio, which launched in 2006, and the Amalegro, which launched last year.

They are all 360 feet in length and 38 feet wide with four decks, including a sun deck. They all have 71 cabins at 170 square feet and four junior suites at 255 square feet. And all ships will have the capacity to carry a crew of 41.

Amadeus' newest river cruise ship, the Amacello, launched on March 8, and the Amadante will set sail on June 1. In 2009, Amadeus will introduce the Amalyra and the Amadolce.

Of the cabins and suites, 82% feature balconies. The ships have complimentary Internet access in each cabin and wireless Internet access in the lounge, a new amenity that is being introduced fleetwide. (Until this year, passengers paid for Internet access.) Cabins also include flat-screen TVs.

As with the existing ships, the new vessels will house the requisite restaurant, piano bar and lounge; whirlpool; fitness room; massage parlor; and beauty salon.

Amadeus will continue offering unlimited regional wines, beer and sodas during dinner; complimentary champagne with the buffet breakfast; and complimentary bottled water in each cabin.

The ships also will carry 40 bicycles onboard that passengers can use on shore excursions free of charge.

Amadeus' river cruising season runs from the second week of March until just after New Year's Day.

To contact reporter Michelle Baran, send e-mail to [email protected].

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