TORONTO — When AmaWaterways President and Co-Founder Rudi Schreiner first set sail down Colombia’s Magdalena River six weeks ago, he had very high expectations. By the end of the trip, the destination had exceeded them all.
This is the outcome he hopes for all guests when AmaWaterways launches the river cruise industry’s first-ever voyages on Colombia’s famed river. Two seven-night itineraries with pre- and post-cruise land programs will launch in December 2023 in partnership with Metropolitan Touring, a leading South American tour operator, on a brand new, custom-built, all-suite river cruise ship.
To announce the news, both companies hosted a joint virtual press conference yesterday, July 8, that began with Schreiner and executive vice president and co-founder Kristin Karst sharing their initial impressions of Colombia during their 500-mile sojourn this past spring.
“I’m always looking at rivers and political and environmental situations, finding out what’s viable to be a future destination,” said Schreiner. “We had already been looking into Colombia before we partnered with Metropolitan. We did not really know exactly what to expect when we went on the exploration trip but it ended up being magnificent. It was very pleasant on the river, the climate was great, the cities were beautiful, and Cartagena was stunning.”
Karst looked back fondly on Colombia’s “colourful history, mouth-watering food and all the great wines and coffees,” and, most importantly, the warm hospitality and genuine people she encountered.
“It’s about the people and their smiles, how they welcome you,” she said. “This was so touching and we believe our guests – both our past guests and new ones – will enjoy the destination so much.”
Francisco Dousdebés, Metropolitan Touring Corporate Responsibility and Sustainabilty Manager who was also part of the panel, spoke of the many draws of Colombia and the Magdalena River, often referred to as the ‘river of love.’ In addition to covering approximately 500 miles of the river, the new itineraries will also include two of Colombia’s major hubs – Cartagena and Barranquilla, both known for their vibrant culture, beautiful architecture and European influences.
But at the heart of the new voyages will be the river itself.
“The river is a strong pillar of the trip and of the biodiversity of Colombia, which is astounding and fascinating,” said Dousdebés. “The number of bird species is about 2,000 in Colombia alone, and that list continues with mammals, reptiles and amphibians that bring a very interesting natural component to the trip. It’s a very well-balanced trip between the beauty of the culture as well as the natural components of the region. We couldn’t be more excited to start operating.”
Though Schreiner and Karst did not divulge many details about the new ship, saying it was “top secret,” they did confirm it would accommodate approximately 80-100 passengers and will be very luxurious. As for the name, it will fittingly be called AmaMagdalena to reflect “the heart of Colombia,” said Karst.
Karst also noted that yesterday’s announcement couldn’t have been better timed as it came on the heels of the company’s 19th anniversary on July 1, as well as its long-awaited resumption of service following a prolonged pause due to the global pandemic. AmaWaterways previously celebrated its triumphant return to Europe’s rivers on July 3 with the AmaDouro setting sail on Portugal’s Douro river. And today, July 9, Karst will be flying to Europe to host the line’s very first cruise on the AmaKristina, her namesake ship, which will sail the Rhone River in France on July 22. In total, 16 ships in the fleet will be embarking on voyages in France and on the Danube and Rhine rivers between July and mid-September.
Advanced bookings show that travellers can’t wait to get back onboard; according to Gary Murphy, AmaWaterways Co-Owner and Senior Vice President of Sales, advanced sales are up over 100% for next year. But while 2022 is selling well, Murphy is reminding travel agents and travellers that there’s still plenty of space available for this year.
“This will be the best time to travel in peak season to Europe at exceptional rates,” he said. “Rudi really wanted to get the pump going, he’s putting all the ships into operation and thankfully we’re getting some sales. It’s a wonderful opportunity for clients to cruise this year as we launch into operation all these ships. Europe cannot wait to welcome us back.”
Featured in above photo, clockwise from top left: Roque Sevilla, Metropolitan Touring Chairman of the Board; Francisco Dousdebés, Metropolitan Touring Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Manager; Rudi Schreiner, AmaWaterways Co-Founder and President; Kristin Karst, AmaWaterways Co-Founder and Executive Vice President; Janet Bava, AmaWaterways Chief Marketing Officer; Gary Murphy, AmaWaterways Co-Owner and Senior Vice President of Sales; Camilo Calderon, Metropolitan Touring Managing Director, Colombia