With 11 of its ships filling the top slots in the Berlitz guide to river cruising in Europe, AmaWaterways knows the recipe for success as well as Mary Berry knows how to make lemon drizzle cake. As the company expands its presence in the UK, newly-appointed sales, marketing & digital director Jamie Loizou talks about what makes Ama amazing.
The locks and bridges of European rivers impose restrictions on the size of ships that can be squeezed through them and under them. Which means many ships, operated by different companies, are exactly the same size – like packets of biscuits on a supermarket shelf.
What makes them different is the ingredients – and the reality is that the ships can be as different as rich tea and chocolate chip cookies, ginger nuts and Jaffa Cakes.
AAmaWaterways has a fleet of 18 purpose-built ships on the Rhine, Danube, Main, Seine, Mosel, Rhone, Garonne, Dordogne and Douro. The vessels carry a maximum of 164 guests, with a high crew-to-passenger ratio. Further afield, AmaDara operates 10 and 15-night itineraries on the Mekong and the Zambezi Queen takes passengers on water-borne safaris in Africa.
Sales, marketing & digital director Jamie Loizou spotlights four key areas where he believes AmaWaterways sets itself apart from the competition: active discovery, cuisine, innovation, and passion.
“The active nature of our product, with our newly enhanced biking and hiking excursions, attracts a different type of cruiser. We offer traditional city tours of the must-see sights, but we also know that choice is crucial, so enabling people to cycle along the Danube between Durnstein and Melk in the Austrian Wachau Valley, for example, gives our product a different appeal.
“Cuisine is very important. We were the first river cruise line to be inducted into the prestigious international gastronomic society La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, and our Chef’s Table gives guests an amazing six-course tasting menu with paired wines in an intimate setting – all at no extra cost. We have more than 40 wine-themed cruises operating across Europe, the most extensive of any river cruise line, and offer Limited Edition tours, many of which are built around local food and drink, such as visits to cooking schools, and stops at culinary specialty shops, chocolatiers and charcuteries.
“We continue to be an industry leader in innovation. We were the first to introduce Wi-Fi on board, the first to carry our own fleet of bikes, and the first to introduce twin balconies.
“The passion and experience of the team really is second to none. We recently hosted Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst, the husband and wife team and two of our owners, who were over from the US. They are actively involved in the day-to-day running of their company and their love and enthusiasm for the business is infectious. This passion is also seen within the UK team, who have a huge amount of cruise experience. Our love for the industry is clear to all that know us.”
So what sort of customer should travel agents consider promoting an Ama river cruise to?
“Our ships are aimed squarely at the luxury market,” said Jamie. “However, it’s an understated luxury. Many of our guests have been on ocean cruises; from 50-plus, they are younger than the average river cruiser. They are active and they are discerning. Food and wine are very much of interest, and our dedicated wine cruises are very popular.
“Multi-generational river cruising is an expanding area and AmaWaterways are always ahead of any emerging trend. As a result our newest ships, AmaViola, AmaStella and AmaKristina, have all been built with interconnecting cabins, designed to appeal to families looking to cruise together.
“Next year will bring the launch of the AmaKristina, which will be cruising on the Rhine from her launch in April all the way through to our Christmas Markets departures in December. In 2018 we will launch 10 and 11-night cruises on the Rhine and Moselle – a first for Ama. We are also looking to expand into India… plans are being worked on at the moment, so watch this space.”
What else is new? “Growth in business out of the UK is a key goal and we will achieve this by further raising the profile of the brand and by working closely with key partners through cooperative marketing and the excellent support that the team can offer,” says Jamie.
“We have recruited some fantastic people with a wealth of experience in luxury travel and cruise, both in the field and through our Guildford office in our commercial, marketing and reservations departments. The UK travel trade is key for us in achieving this growth and we will be working with each partner in the way best suited to them. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution… an OTA works very differently to a family-run independent, and we will offer everything that agents need in order to grow their Ama business.
“For me the key thing is to be the best to do business with. There are lots of cruise lines vying for business; we therefore need to deliver the wonderful standard of service that our guests enjoy on our ships with every single touch point we have with our agent partners.”