AmaWaterways christened its newest river cruise ship, AmaDouro, at a fabulous ceremony in Porto, Portugal, on the 12 April.
The ship, which features 51 staterooms, a Panoramic Lounge, heated Sun Deck swimming pool, fitness room and massage room, was hailed as a resounding success by guests and ceremony attendees.
The line’s first British godmother and Advantage Travel Partnership CEO, Julia Lo Bue-Said, told of how she was “honoured to help officially welcome AmaDouro to AmaWaterways’ extraordinary fleet”, while guests and company representatives alike spoke passionately about the “Ama family” and the brand’s care towards it guests.
Speaking to Cruise Trade News on what was her first river cruise, Lo Bue-Said explained: “I am overwhelmed by the experience and I’m really proud to be associated with a beautiful ship and a company that I have got to know over the past few days. Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst (AmaWaterways co-founders) are incredibly caring and passionate people. I’ve seen how they interact with guests and it really resonates with how I feel about the travel industry.
“[On a river ship] you get to meet and engage with the same people and that helps build relationships. It is really very relaxed. You see so many remote villages and places during a river cruise.”
When asked what she thinks is the next stage in cruise line and agent relationships, Lo Bue-Said added: “There is still so much more to learn. We’ve seen growth in river and ocean cruising, but the really key thing is to ensure agents can experience the product. Until you see and feel it, you just cannot sell the right cruise to the right customer. I met a guest onboard who has eight cruises booked this year, four with AmaWaterways, and it’s easy to get it wrong. From an educational point of view, we need to ensure agents have the chance to see ships in action, not just in port.
“The feedback we get is about ensuring that every sector of the industry is providing that opportunity to experience the product. The more cruise lines do that, the more confident agents become in selling cruise.”
Following a gala dinner onboard, AmaWaterways executive vice president and co-founder Kristin Karst told CTN: “We always wanted to have a British godmother and this was the opportunity. We do not deal directly with consumers… when you look back at our previous godmothers, they are from consortia that have made a difference and really put their hearts into the travel industry, and we believe Julia fits right into this role. We are all about the human connection. It’s very important to build memories together – this is how we inspire people.
“We see a growing trend among families coming together – a cruise is a time for them to reconnect and talk. We also want to introduce young people to travel. However, it goes both ways… we also have the skip-generation with grandparents taking their grandchildren.
“Rudi [Rudi Schreiner, co-founder of AmaWaterways] and I go on so many cruises; we talk to our guests and listen to what they want us to do next. That personal connection is what sets AmaWaterways apart – the heart, the soul, the spirit.”
AmaWaterways UK managing director Stuart Perl was similarly enthralled by having Lo Bue-Said as godmother, explaining to CTN during a fascinating illuminations cruise: “Julia brings the same values as AmaWaterways – in a word that is family. She is CEO of an organisation that cares about its members, works on behalf of its members and works closely with suppliers.
“It all boils down to the fact that Julia has family values. The fact that she travelled with her family for the christening highlights that Julia has the same passion and sparkle that we share for our guests. She embodies the AmaWaterways spirit.”