The connection that AmaWaterways has with its Canadian travel partners is key to the cruise line’s success, says Kristin Karst’s, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President, AmaWaterways, in this edition of Take 5.
1. Many Canadian travellers prefer longer vacations that span two weeks. Which river cruise itineraries would you recommend for these guests?
“I have two personal favourites that are perfect for Canadian travellers who have a bit more time to explore a destination – one is on the Mekong River cruising through Vietnam and Cambodia and the other is on the Danube River.
“During our 15-night Charms of the Mekong and Riches of the Mekong cruise and land adventures, guests are treated to authentic experiences like riding an oxcart through a rural village, receiving a Buddhist blessing offered by monks, and visiting local artisan workshops in villages that haven’t changed for centuries.
“Savvy travellers choose these full 15-night itineraries to include our 2- and 3-night pre- and post-cruise land extensions that take them to the UNESCO-designated Angkor Archaeological Park and beautiful Ha Long Bay, as well as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Plus, new for 2020, there is an optional 3-night extension in Bangkok, Thailand.
“Totally different but equally interesting is our 14-night Grand Danube Cruise that sails from Vilshofen, Germany to Giurgiu, Romania. This unforgettable river cruise includes the grand capitals of Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade and encompasses both the upper and lower portions of the Danube River.
“For guests who truly want the getaway of a lifetime, we have a 3-night land extension in Prague, Czech Republic as well as 2-night extensions each in Brasov and Bucharest, Romania. A unique feature of our pre- and post-cruise land extensions is that our Cruise Managers escort our guests so the Ama care and attention continues throughout their entire journey.”
2. What is AmaWaterways’ biggest differentiator in the river cruise industry?
“I think it all comes down to our genuine passion for connecting with people – from our guests to our travel partners to our employees to the incredible people we meet in every destination we sail to. ‘Ama’ means love – and we put love in everything we do at AmaWaterways, including our name! As a family organization, we want to ensure that we are offering the best place for our people to work and the most luxurious and memorable vacations for our guests.
“Destinations, ships, rivers and excursions will change over the years, but that human connection is essential and will always remain the top priority at AmaWaterways. It is what we are recognized for. We have won many awards for our innovative ship design, excellent food and wine and the quality and quantity of included excursion options we provide, but it is the strong connection our guests make with our extraordinary crew that keep our guests returning to AmaWaterways again and again.
“The genuine trust and strong relationships we have established with our valued Canadian travel partners has also helped define AmaWaterways since we started the company in 2002.”
3. How does AmaWaterways show their love and support for travel advisors?
“Since the company was created, travel advisors have consistently contributed over 95% of our sales. As their needs continue to evolve, we listen to our travel partners to ensure they play a central role in the development of all our marketing and sales tools as well as the introduction of new technology to assist them in reaching new clients for river cruising and ensuring repeat guests come back to AmaWaterways.
“We have made significant investments in travel advisor education, including our reimagined travel advisor training program, AmaAcademy, which you can find on our Travel Advisor Portal at AmaWaterways.ca/agent. With in-depth information on our new award-winning ships, itineraries and onboard experiences, AmaAcademy also offers rich rewards, including reduced FAM rates.
“In addition, we have our popular Webinar Wednesday series, during which an AmaWaterways executive leads an informative session designed to help our advisors grow their business. Rudi, Gary and I have all had the pleasure of leading various sessions followed by an open Q&A, and even if you’re not available on a particular Wednesday, you can always review the recorded webinar later. Sign-ups for Webinar Wednesdays are also on our Travel Advisor Portal.
“Last but not least is the valuable support provided by our reservations team, our dedicated group sales department and your local BDMs who host cruise nights, attend conferences and host Seminars on the River. We consider travel advisors an extension of our sales teams and recognize the importance that education and hands-on experience play, whether an advisor is new to the industry or a veteran advisor looking to take their business to a new level.”
4. What is AmaWaterways’ most valuable offer for guests right now?
“For the 2020 WAVE season, your clients can fill their hearts with Ama with our limited-time Triple Savings offer on select 2020 Europe, Mekong River and Holiday Cruises. This offer includes up to C$2,400 savings per stateroom, a $100 per stateroom onboard credit and a complimentary stateroom upgrade for European sailings or complimentary pre-paid gratuities on Mekong River sailings.
“It really is one of our most comprehensive offers to date, and it is valid on select 2020 river cruises booked through March 31, 2020. Best of all, it is combinable with our Past Guest Privilege Rewards and Future Cruise Benefit Program – plus, it is applicable to new Group bookings. Our solo travellers have instead a choice of a reduced single supplement of 25% on all stateroom categories excluding certain suites.
“We didn’t forget our travel partners during WAVE – you can earn 5% bonus commission on select 2020 Holiday Cruises. Full details are on the Travel Advisor Portal.
“To further support our growing Canadian market, we have an exclusive offer for 2021 sailings available only to guests who live in Canada. Canadian residents will receive free pre-paid gratuities – on EVERY AmaWaterways river cruise departing in 2021 – when they book by April 30, 2020. And I couldn’t be happier to share this with our Canadian travel partners!”
5. What’s new and exciting for AmaWaterways?
“2020 is already shaping up to be another excellent year – we are introducing a new ship, AmaSiena, on the Rhine and Moselle itineraries. AmaMagna has her own unique itinerary, Magna on the Danube, which was personally curated by Rudi and includes a visit to Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace as well as an exclusive evening wine experience in Spitz, a lovely Old-World town in Austria that is finding new life through its visitors. We also have additional sailings on the much-requested Gems of Southeast Europe on the lower Danube.
“For 2021, we will have another new ship, AmaLucia, on the Rhine and Moselle as we move AmaKristina and AmaDante to France to answer the increased demand we have for sailings on the Seine and Rhône rivers.
“We also have four new 2021 itineraries that Canadian guests will love – our new Impressions of the Seine & Paris itinerary includes options for two nights pre-cruise in Paris and two nights post-cruise in St. Malo (or reverse) to experience the magical island monastery of Mont St. Michel. The new Essence of Burgundy & Provence itinerary is a 13-night journey that includes a Rhône River cruise with three nights in Geneva, Switzerland pre-cruise and three nights in Barcelona post-cruise (or reverse). AmaKristina sails this cruise from Chalon-sur-Saône to Arles with new excursions and experiences in Macon, Villefrance-sur-Saône and Valence, such as a cooking school Special Interest Tour included in the price of the cruise.
“Also new will be a 12-night Rhine Castles & Swiss Alps itinerary that includes land extensions in Amsterdam and a new extension in Lake Como, Italy – a very sought-after spot for travellers. And for those guests who can’t get enough of Dutch culture, our Best of Holland and Belgium itinerary runs throughout the year and is a fantastic cruise that includes a pre-cruise stay in Amsterdam as well as visits to Castle de Haar, the Castle of the Counts of Flanders, Gaasbeek Castle and so much more.
“Last but not least, stay tuned as we unveil more details on our ship for Egypt!”