Founded in 2002, California-based AmaWaterways has expanded to include over 20 ships sailing in Europe, Asia and Africa.
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AmaWaterways focuses on Europe's Rhine, Danube, Rhone, Saone, Seine, Mosel and Main rivers using its own ships, and chartering a ship in Portugal's Douro. The line also offers options in Africa, France, Vietnam and Cambodia. Though its itineraries are international, AMA cruises are typically aimed at English-speaking passengers from North America, the United Kingdom and Australia.
An AmaWaterways cruise offers ambitious regional cuisine, well-designed cabins, guided port stops (most included in the fare) -- on ships with amenities like an in-cabin Entertainment-on-Demand center, featuring complimentary internet access via an Apple iMac, Hollywood’s newest releases and a selection of classic movies, news, sports and satellite TV, as well as a large selection of music channels; elevators, and mechanized wheelhouses that can be lowered to transit under bridges.
Since the company was created in 2002, it has launched several ships. The first half-dozen vessels in the fleet tend to represent standard riverboat design and layout, with two lounges -- a large main lounge at the bow and a more intimate lounge located aft -- that offer panoramic views of Europe, as well as expansive sundecks with plenty of loungers. Public areas offer free Wi-Fi, and all cabins have Entertainment on Demand, basically flat-screen TVs with Internet access, movie and music libraries, and bow and navigational cams. Eighty-two percent of cabins feature French balconies.
Newer debuts, which began with AmaBella in 2010 and now include several more, feature a unique-to-the-industry design in which cabins have two balconies: One's a French veranda, with floor-to-ceiling windows that open, the other is a true, step-out balcony with a pair of tables and a chair. These ships also feature The Chef's Table specialty restaurant, using the traditional aft-lounge area to create an alternative venue, complete with glassed-in chef's kitchen.
Every ship is nonsmoking (except on the sundeck) and features a beauty salon and spa. Unlimited local wines, as well as beer and sodas, are included with each open-seating lunch and dinner, which consists of indulgent regional cuisine with special selections from local European ports.
Ama ships feature international staffs. The majority of workers onboard are Hungarian, Romanian and Slovakian, and all staff members speak English. Each cruise also features a knowledgeable Cruise Manager who does everything: leads shore excursions, arranges for airport transportation and offers running commentary during scenic cruising.
Daily sightseeing programs are included with each cruise, and tours include wireless audio devices so cruisers don't miss a word on history or culture. All ships offer roughly 20 bicycles that passengers can use to explore ports on their own or participate in guided bike tours.
Entertainment is focused on local customs and culture -- performances by European dancers or an orchestral group keep passengers occupied in the evenings. There are also some more down-to-earth offerings such as an always entertaining crew talent show and wacky trivia night.
AmaWaterways' passengers tend to be 50-plus, experienced, well-educated travelers with a strong interest in culinary arts and active exploration. Geographically, passengers are strongly drawn from North America, but the cruise line attracts a solid representation from the U.K. and Australia
In Europe, AmaWaterways started with six 148-passenger ships (AmaCello, AmaDante, AmaDolce, AmaLyra, AmaDagio and AmaLegro, although the latter two were retired in 2016). In 2010, the company launched a new class of ship, which it markets as "twin balcony" ships, and these make up the majority of the line's 20-plus vessel fleet. These ships range from 160 to 164 passengers and offer both a French balcony (floor-to-ceiling windows that open, but don't allow passenger to step out) off the living area as well as a two-seater verandah off the bedroom. The ships ply the waters of the Rhine, the Danube, Main, Mosel, Rhone, Saone, Seine, Garonne, Dordogne, the Dutch and Belgian waterways and Portugal's Douro River. Beyond Europe, AmaDara sails along the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia. In addition to the ships it owns, the line leases the 28-passenger MS Zambezi Queen sailing along the Chobe River in Botswana. 2017 marked the arrival of AmaWaterways’ 20th ship with AmaKristina - named for the company's co-founder Kirsten Karst - as well as the company’s 15-year anniversary. In 2018, the company will welcome the AmaLea, sister ship to AmaKristina; and then in 2019, they’ll introduce AmaMora. Also in 2019, AmaWaterways will unveil their biggest ship ever with the AmaMagna, representing a game-changing new design.