Travel Weekly’s Michelle Baran was in Portugal for the debut of AmaWaterway’s new river ship, the AmaVida. Her second dispatch follows. Click to read Michelle’s first dispatch.
It had been quite a week. And while we didn’t get to see much in the way of the Douro River, what we did get was a glimpse into the ways in which river cruise companies have to make quick decisions and adjustments when mother nature and other unpredictable disruptions intervene with the itinerary.
After sailing just a short 35-mile stretch upriver to get a mere glimpse of the Douro, as the 106-passenger AmaVida tried to make its way back to Porto for disembarkation and to welcome a new batch of passengers onboard, Portuguese authorities informed the vessel that the one lock it would need to pass through was not operating due to strong river currents.
We would have to dock and overnight in a small riverside town about 30 minutes outside of Porto, and all transfers would have to take place from there.
As I write this, I have no idea if the AmaVida was or will be able to make it back to Porto in time to pick up its new passengers — it was again pouring rain during my early-morning departure on the last day of the “cruise,” and it was, after all, heavy rains and higher-than-normal water levels on the river that had prevented the cruise from taking place in the first place.
At the last minute, Ama President Rudi Schreiner decided to stay onboard an additional week to troubleshoot what appeared to be a situation that was going to drag out longer than anyone would have hoped or thought.
But as I watched Schreiner and Ama Vice President Kristin Karst in action, trying to decide how to adjust the schedule to accommodate their inconvenienced guests, it was clear that they had one goal in mind — to make the passengers as happy as possible given the circumstances.
The profitability of the cruise left the room when Karst told guests they would be given a future cruise credit for the entire amount of the Douro cruise. This was no longer about making money. This was about customer satisfaction and trying to make up for a situation entirely out of their control with alternatives, little extras, communication and understanding.
Guests got a firsthand glimpse at the temperamental nature of rivers. They can be too high, and they can be too low. But what can be controlled is how the situation is handled, and Ama Waterways handled it with as much grace and class as any passenger could hope for.
Unfortunately, another week of uncertainty appears to be awaiting the next batch of passengers. But I can confidently say Ama Waterways has their best interest at heart, regardless of whether the forecast does.
Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.