We’ve often written that the nature of river cruising presents each individual line with some unique challenges. With so many locks and bridges to clear along the waterways of Europe, operators are limited in how long, high, wide, and even deep they can build their river cruise vessels.
These physical constraints put all river cruise companies on the same playing field: They can’t “overbuild” their river cruise ships in the same way that deep-ocean cruise companies can do to one-up the competition simply by making their latest-and-greatest larger and with more frills.
By necessity, the focus with river cruising must be placed inward, centering on the onboard experience. California-based AmaWaterways has been one of the industry leaders in pioneering new features and amenities related to the onboard experience.
Even on its “oldest” vessels (the AmaDagiowas constructed just seven years ago), AmaWaterways’ staterooms are large, even at the lowest cabin grade levels. On many river cruise vessels, these so-called “River View” staterooms are often the most affordable, but can suffer greatly in the amenities department.
On AmaWaterways, however, guests staying in these entry-grade rooms still get all the features and amenities offered to their neighbors a deck or two up. These amenities include designer toiletries, robes and slippers, and an interactive entertainment console that allows guests to watch a wide selection of on-demand movies (free) or access the ship’s internet system (also free). It should be noted that nearly all vessels on the rivers nowadays offer complimentary movies and Wi-Fi internet access.
AmaWaterways did help to blaze a significant trail in the industry: The addition of dual-balconies in a single stateroom. Aboard its newest ships, select categories feature both French and full step-out balconies, allowing guests access to the outdoors in all kinds of weather. While AmaWaterways is not the only line to feature dual balconies in each room, the company’s execution is remarkably well thought-through.
Another AmaWaterways’ innovation has been the focus on Theme River Cruises. The line started featuring its “In Celebration of Wine” cruises just a few years back with a handful of sailings. Now, more than 30 different cruises have been crafted that showcase not only the history and process of winemaking, but also the storied regions of the world that these fantastic vintages come from.
These wine cruises have proved so successful that the line branched out into other specialty areas as well, with themed departures focusing on the rich Jewish History of Europe; a Chocolate Connoisseur’s voyage, and even a sailing that features an entire Gluten-Free menu, mirroring one of the the latest health crazes.
The line has taken the same innovative approach with its on-shore touring options. While AmaWaterways continues to offer a mixture of complimentary tours supplemented by more in-depth excursions available for an additional fee, the company takes things one step further on its inclusive walking tours by featuring both “casual” and “active” groups. These are perfect for those who enjoy their touring at faster paces, while still catering to those who want to stop and smell the roses along the way.
There are also options for those who prefer to set off and blaze their own trails: AmaWaterways offers complimentary bicycles for guests to use ashore. And being in the heart of Europe, nearly everything is accessible by bicycle in cities and towns alike.
Finally, there’s one last aspect of AmaWaterways that’s worth mentioning: The company’s highly skilled crews appear to enjoy their jobs. One telling aspect of that is that there is little staff turn-over.
From the Captain to the Hotel Manager to the stewardesses, everyone always seems to have a smile on their faces each time we’re on board. River cruising on AmaWaterways feels a lot like coming home.