by Vanessa Lee

I recently met up with Kristin Karst and Rudi Schreiner, co-owners of AMAWaterways and two of my favourite people in the industry and had a chance to discuss their new family initiative with Disney. This is a truly excellent river cruise company that I have watched over the last 10 years make really great strides and expand their operation from regular European river cruises on the Rhine and Danube, to now offering numerous European rivers including Portugal's Douro as well as exotics on the Mekong and Irrawaddy. These are people, and a company, that never sit still.

Ama_VLand RudiCourtesy of Vanessa Lee

I spoke with Rudi in depth about his initiative for family cruising with Disney on 5 upcoming itineraries (maybe more – there are some in abeyance) for 2016 and how they accomplished creating family staterooms/connecting staterooms on board the new ship - the AmaViola - which will be used for the Disney partnership. There are 4 departures during summer vacation and one at Christmas. Ama has been working on this deal for 2 years and planning the logistics.

AmaSonata_StateroomCourtesy of Vanessa Lee

If you look at the image of the stateroom I had on my AmaSonata cruise last July, you will see there is a mirror behind the guest chair right by the window. That is where the connecting door to the next stateroom will be placed. It is a pocket door and there are 12 rooms in total (6 doors if you will)situated on 2 decks that will now connect. The AmaSerena also has some connecting rooms (8 rooms/4 doors) so this is a test to see how it works and makes sense.

Disney will literally take over all reservations and onboard product for these specific itineraries but it will be interesting to see, on the many other departures of these ships, if families decide to try this out – and I suspect they will. Also some rooms that are larger, with those terrific twin balconies – about 235 sq ft, also have a small couch that pulls out and becomes a triple. And in Ama's suites which are 350 sq ft there is a full size sofa which easily affords a spacious triple.

AmaWaterways_BicyclesCourtesy of AmaWaterways

The other news from Rudi and Kristin is their partnership with Backroads and the opportunities available for more active and adventurous guests. Ama has partnered with Backroads for bike tours on 7 departures for 2015 and this will expand to a greater number in 2016 on the Rhine and Danube as well as their new ship on the Mekong where guests can literally bike (and hike) in Vietnam and Cambodia. More guests are asking for active excursions and Ama is answering the call.

Another interesting point is that they have the youngest average age guest amongst river ships so are looking to sustain that and offer their audience more and more opportunities to step out and engage in more general activity. Apparently that goes along well with wine cruises as they are seeing greater interest in these departures. Most of the wine hosts are from North America -and not just from California. I was surprised to hear that EVERY state in the U.S. has some kind of wine industry (yes even Alaska!) and Ama is finding wine hosts from Arizona and Texas, as well as the more obvious areas. They are also keen to work with travel agencies to generate wine groups so if you have some contacts in BC or Ontario, then I suggest you reach out about how you can make this work.

There were 7 focused wine departures in 2015 and next year this will go to 21 so it's easy to see that this is “reaping" rewards for all. Wine groups will sail on the Danube, Rhine, Rhone, Douro, in Bordeaux (new itinerary for '16) as well as the Mekong in 2016.

For more information, contact your local travel professional or visit

Originally published on Open Jaw Network.

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