Passengers on the ship's current cruise and a lot of Vilshofen locals, who provided musical and dance performances, were treated as VIPs as they joined AmaWaterways owners Rudi Schreiner, Kristin Karst and Jimmy Murphy, and a team of employees, officers and crew to celebrate. Of course, the real hallmark of the ceremony was the christening itself (though AmaPrima has been cruising since April). Godmother Valerie Wilson, the New York-based founder of Valerie Wilson Travel, successfully smashed a magnum of Veuve Clicquot against the ship's hull, albeit on the second try.
Vilshofen is a town of some 16,000 people on the banks of the Danube, about a 15 minute drive (and three-hour ride by boat) from the better-known Passau. AmaWaterways is the only major U.S.-based river line to call there regularly (it serves as a turnaround port on voyages between Budapest and Germany's Bavaria). It christens its ships there often, too. This is the third the company has named in Vilshofen: AmaCerto in 2011 and AmaLyra in 2009 preceded AmaPrima.
AmaWaterways' Schreiner, who also serves as the company's president, told Cruise Critic the small-town charm and lack of riverboat crowds in Vilshofen appeals to him. It's also about the same distance as Passau to key transportation hubs, such as Munich International Airport, and key pre- and post-cruise destinations including Munich and Prague.
The cruise line, founded in 2002, is one of the fastest growing in the industry. It builds a ship or two per year, and focuses on innovation. Schreiner, a trained architect who served in leadership roles with Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and Viking Cruises before setting up AmaWaterways, pioneered a new cabin category: its 164-passenger AmaPrima, AmaCerto, AmaVerde and AmaBella offer 235-square-foot cabins that have both French balconies and full verandahs.
Commitments to high quality food, wine and service are other hallmarks, as is the variety of mostly fee-free shore tours, which balance interests in history, culture and recreation. Its theme cruise menu, which ranges from food and wine to knitting, is unique. (Curious about AmaPrima? Follow us on Facebook.com/CruiseCritic as we chronicle our cruise onboard the ship, as it sails the Danube, all this week).
Next year, AmaWaterways will introduce two new vessels, AmaSonata and AmaReina, which will be virtually identical to AmaPrima. The cruise line offers river voyages in Europe, Russia, Africa, Vietnam and Cambodia. --By Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief