There was one noticeable difference about the AmaWaterways booth at the recent Cruise3Sixty Convention in Vancouver, British Columbia. It wasn’t that the company’s tables were any nicer, or that its displays were any more elaborate than the competition. But throughout the afternoon, a steady stream of people queued up at the AmaWaterways booth.
The reason? Co-founders Kristin Karst and Rudi Schreiner were both there, working their own booth.
Of course, they didn’t have to be there. The 11-year old company that was founded by Karst, Schreiner and Brendan Vacations’ Jimmy Murphy in 2002 continues to grow and expand at an astonishing rate. Yet it becomes apparent that Karst and Schreiner still operate the company like the small, boutique operation it started out as – and that’s to their credit.
Today, AmaWaterways continues to innovate in Europe, with recently launched ships like the beautiful AmaCerto. Schreiner took time out of a press conference to point out the unique architectural features of the ship, which included a circular theme in the atrium. Coming from an architectural background, he still plays a role in the design of every AmaWaterways vessel, most notably creating the innovative Sun Deck storage space for the onboard bicycles that the line debuted with the AmaDagio.
He noted that in Europe every operator is limited by the maximum physical dimensions allowed on its vessels due to restrictions like bridges and locks. “Everyone deals with the same size, and then we do whatever we can to maximize the whole thing,” Schreiner told River Cruise Advisor. “Up until the 1990s, staterooms used to be 120 square feet. Then, in 1992, when they opened the Main-Danube Canal, the first ship was built with 150 square foot cabins. Now, they are over 200 square feet.”
AmaWaterways has made great strides in Europe but is also seeing success in other parts of the world. The company is continuing to develop and enhance river cruises in Africa aboard the Zambezi Queen; in Vietnam & Cambodia aboard La Marguerite and the recently launched AmaLotus; and in Russia aboard the AmaKatarina.
Part of the success of AmaWaterways in non-European regions like Vietnam and Cambodia can be attributed to the company’s desire to ensure consistency across its entire product line – something that isn’t without challenges in regions like Russia or Asia, where the company charters ships from trusted operators.
“We bring our European staff and management teams over to teach the locals. We bring the Cambodian and Vietnamese staff over to Europe to see how we run things over there. The most difficult part is Russia,” Schreiner said. “The ships are old; there are no new ships in Russia; the newest ship was built in 1991. In most cases, they have the same old diesel engines. They start up [and] black smoke shoots up into the air. What’s the reason behind it? It’s a short season – five months only. The capital investment for a new ship [in Russia] is too much.”
For AmaWaterways, the solution related to river cruising in Russia presented itself in the form of the AmaKatarina: a Russian-built ship that the line had stripped almost to the bare steel and rebuilt from the ground up in order to bring it up-to-par with the line’s European offerings.
This winter, AmaWaterways’ first six vessels will also be refitted with the line’s trendsetting chef’s table dining experience, while the line will also roll out a Viennese-style café experience across the fleet. The enhancements will come during the off-season, following the line’s popular Christmas Markets Cruises that take place during the month of December.
The result: no shortage of agents at the AmaWaterways booth, looking to make new partnerships and enhance existing ones.
More information on AmaWaterways can be found on our AmaWaterways Company Profile page here on River Cruise Advisor.