Anthony Pearce talks to Rudi Schreiner, co-owner of the river cruise line that is growing its UK presence and recently offered all agents a free sailing
In November 2017, at the Clia River Conference in Amsterdam, AmaWaterways promised every agent in the room a free sailing for two in 2018, just months after offering similar at Clia’s cruise conference in summer. The cruise line, which was previously represented by Fred Olsen Travel in the UK, knows that, just over a year since going alone, it needs to grab travel agents’ attention. And what better way to do it?
“It’s really the only way to see the product,” says Rudi Schreiner, president and co-owner of AmaWaterways. “Everyone can talk about luxury and this and that, but if you want to sell river cruises you need to get on board and experience it.”
The line, which is well established in the US, is still finding its voice in the UK. But moves like this – as well as increasing commission to 50 per cent for cruises for a period at the end of last year – are certainly helping.
Schreiner, along with his wife and co-owner Kristin Karst, have built a formidable team in the UK.
The company opened its office in Guildford, Surrey in autumn 2016, headed up by river cruise veteran Stuart Perl, with the likes of Jamie Loizou (previously of Uniworld) and Augustus Lonsdale (previously Clia, UK & Ireland) joining the team.
And Schreiner says there are big plans for 2018 and beyond. “We are looking to increase [sales] by at least 50 per cent in the UK, but hopefully even more. We are more established in our brand here now, but we still need to get out there more,” he says.
He explains that Fred Olsen Travel remain a preferred travel partner, and still do a lot of business for the line, but says that “it’s good to have a presence in the UK and focus on this market”.
“The trade wants to work directly with a cruise line,” he says. “So, for agents, it’s very important that we’ve taken that step, because we are focusing on trade, we are not focusing on consumer. Pretty much everything we do is trade focused.”
In 2018, the cruise line has one new ship (AmaLea) arriving, with three more following in 2019, including AmaMagna, which – at 22m – is double the width of other river ships. On board, the average stateroom will be an impressive 28 square metres, with the largest room a massive 66 square metres. It will sail on the Danube between Budapest and Vilshofen, just outside Passau, Germany. But despite the increase in size, the ship will only hold 36 more passengers – up from 160 to 196.
“You have double the deck space. The cabins, they are more like ocean staterooms. Plus, there are more public areas, more dining facilities, a big spa and probably five bars. There will also be a sports deck at the aft of the ship,” says Schreiner of the open-water sports platform that will come complete with a range of equipment.
With interconnecting state cabins, an addition to newer ships – which means families can cruise – and an emphasis on wellness, the line is targeting younger, more active guests.
“On every cruise we do guided biking tours, we have hiking, we do very active walking tours, we had a full-time fitness trainer on the AmaLyra in France; in 2018, we will have six ships with full-time trainers and, by 2019, we will have them on all European ships,” says Schreiner.
With a growing reputation in the UK market, expect to hear more from AmaWaterways in the future.