Inside AmaWaterways and the Future of Luxury Cruising

In an exclusive interview with Rudi Schreiner, Founder, President and Co-Owner of luxury cruise line AmaWaterways, we discussed their culinary offerings onboard, unique wine itineraries and excursions, the future of luxury cruising, and the AmaMagna, their newest luxury vessel and one that is twice the width of traditional river cruise ships.

How has your culinary offering evolved over the years, and how would you describe today’s culinary experience aboard an AmaWaterways ship? 

It is important to me that our guests discover the culinary offerings of a region as well as the historical and cultural elements. From the beginning, our culinary focus was on the quality and freshness of ingredients and making sure that our menus reflected popular dishes as well as lesser known regional specialties. Being a member of the La Chaine des Rotisseurs has provided a lot of inspiration for our culinary team. In addition, offering a tasting menu in the intimate Chef’s Table restaurant allowed us to experiment with a variety of dishes and presentation styles. We have also introduced certain Asian influences like Pho soup and offer more menu items and cooking stations that allow personalization to accommodate dietary restrictions. Farm-to-table sourcing is very important as well as more “vegetable forward” menus.

Photo Credit: AmaWaterways

Where did the idea to launch a series of wine cruises come from? And what are some onboard activities and offerings, along with offshore programming, unique to wine cruises?

Coming from wine growing countries in Europe, we share a love of wine and the importance it plays in a culinary experience. What started out as a couple of private wine-themed groups really took shape once we decided to hire a wine specialist to spearhead the program and work with our travel partners to promote it. We now offer 68 wine themed cruises in 2019—each one hosted by a well-respected winery owner, wine maker or sommelier. Under their guidance, our guests travel into European wine regions, visiting vineyards and wine cellars where the local owners or experts act as our guides, explaining their wines and the fascinating history behind them.

Back on board, guests are treated to exceptional dinners paired with hand-selected regional wines and enjoy lectures and tastings led by our wine hosts. These hosts not only showcase their respective wines but also provide a more global view of wine by highlighting the different aspects of “New World” wine cultivation, production processes and consumer palates in comparison to those same aspects found in “Old World” European wine regions that we travel, and taste, our way through.

Photo Credit: AmaWaterways

More generally, how would you describe AmaWaterways’ luxury offering relative to the broader cruise market?

To start with, the small size of river cruise ships provides a unique, more intimate cruise experience. We have always strived to provide a comfortable and luxurious environment onboard our ships and that involves two aspects: the hardware, such as the design and décor, and the software, or our teams onboard. Our award-winning ships are designed to be spacious and elegant yet warm and welcoming. We tweek design features on each new ship and no two ships are exactly alike. But what we really pride ourselves on across the whole fleet is friendly, personalized service, as we believe that’s what sets us apart from our competition. We recruit staff with a sparkle. We train them carefully and explain exactly what North American guests appreciate.

To exceed guests’ expectations means listening to their needs and anticipating what will surprise and delight them, whether they are traveling as a couple, solo or as a multigenerational family. Our guest feedback shows that we have a winning combination of elegant ships, personalized small group tour options, wellness-related activities, excellent food and wine and warm, friendly professional service.

Next spring, AmaWaterways will launch AmaMagna, the largest luxury ship to cruise any European river. What was the thinking behind this new ship, and what will be some of the defining features that put it in a category unto itself?

We really wanted to take the luxury of space to a whole new level with AmaMagna. The ship is twice the width of traditional river ships, offering 196 guests the luxury of more space and more ways to personalize their river cruise experience. Space abounds with ocean-cruise sized suites—the majority are between 355 and 710 sq. ft. with full balconies, and eight pairs of suites are connecting.

The culinary experience onboard is taken to new heights with four unique dining venues including The Main Restaurant, The Chef’s Table, Jimmy’s Wine Bar Restaurant and the Al Fresco Restaurant. The Water Sports Platform, Zen Wellness Studio and expansive sun deck with large swimming pool, barbecue area and first ever pop-up elevator to the top deck will make this one-of-a-kind ship very appealing to multi-generational families.

Photo Credit: AmaWaterways

Looking ahead 5 or 10 years, where is the luxury cruise ship market heading, in particular as it relates to the evolving needs of guests?

River cruising is a luxury product, but the word “luxury” is being constantly redefined and has become more about time, space, service, and personalization of the travel experience. Acting as floating luxury hotels, river cruises almost double the amount of leisure time spent in each destination and while the small size of river cruise ships may limit entertainment options onboard, it allows for unique opportunities to personalize both the service and amenities onboard as well as the onshore tour experiences. I strongly believe that while destinations, ships, rivers and tours will change over the years, human connection is more essential today than ever and that feeling of being treated like family will always remain the top priority at AmaWaterways.

Rahim Kanani is the author of A Wealth of Insight: The World’s Best Chefs on Creativity, Leadership and Perfection (Black Truffle Press, April 2019).