Interview: AmaWaterways’ Kristin Karst

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Founded in 2002 by Kristin Karst, Rudi Schreiner and Jimmy Murphy, AmaWaterways has become symbolic of the much talked about renaissance that the river industry has undergone in recent years. Renowned for their quality of hardware and depth of destination, the line now offers cruises in Europe, Vietnam, Cambodia and Africa across a growing fleet.

Cruise Adviser: During your time at AmaWaterways, what has been the most noticeable trend you have seen in the river sector?
Kristin Karst: One of the most exciting things about being part of the travel industry — and the river cruise sector, specifically — is that trends are always shifting! Because of that, we challenge ourselves to anticipate consumer behaviour as much as we can, continuously innovating and staying ahead of the game. Most recently, we have seen an increasing interest in experimental, health, wellness and active travel.

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What is the best thing about owning a cruise line?
The best thing for me is that I can introduce our clients to the most beautiful destinations in Europe, Asia and Africa. Places with an incredible history and culture and the most wonderful people. To allow them to discover this by river cruise ship, the best and most luxurious way to travel to all these destinations in an intimate and highly inclusive environment!

At AmaWaterways, we love working to provide our guests with only the best travel experiences.  In fact, ‘Ama’ is derived from the Latin word for love — an energy that we put into crafting every aspect of our river cruises. It is this passion that fuels our attention to detail, commitment to innovation and culture of making our guests our top priority.

Even more important to me as we continue to build the AmaWaterways business is the relationships we are fortunate to create. From local residents in cities and towns we visit to the close-knit bonds we’ve formed with travel agents who are out there on the ground, selling our product, it really is all about the incredible people we get to interact with on a daily basis!

There is an increasing amount of noise coming from the river sector. How do you differentiate from your competitors?
Our president, Rudi Schreiner, has had his hand in helping shape the river sector as we know it today, most recently being named Most Innovative River Cruise Executive by a leading US–based travel media organisation. I mention this because I feel the expertise Rudi brings is so important, as is the experience of the rest of our team, who have dedicated our careers to the river cruise industry.

Together, we have made AmaWaterways the most distinctive line in the entire industry. Our hands-on approach to management allows us to give attention to every detail, making an AmaWaterways river cruise truly stand out from the rest.   

When it comes to specific differences between AmaWaterways and our friendly competitors, I would say a few things.  First is our ship design.  Rudi has a degree in architecture and as a result, every aspect of our ships is purposefully built, designed with the optimal guest comfort in mind.  Our ships feature unique French balconies or our signature twin balcony designs, which we created, each consisting of a French balcony with a second full-size step-out balcony. This gives travellers even more space in their stateroom, which is so important.

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We feature unique in-room entertainment on demand systems with complimentary internet, music, movies and English TV programming; fitness rooms, massage suites and salons; a second speciality dining venue called Chef’s Table and our wine bars, which gives travellers more options than just the main dining room; sun decks with heated swimming pools featuring swim-up bars and so much more.

At the end of the day, our biggest point of differentiation, I feel, is the personal service we provide. We are family-owned and try very hard to create a family feel for travellers, starting with personal involvement from our senior leadership team.  We are here for travel agents and our guests directly at any time, and we go above and beyond to ensure our staff are trained with that very same passion for guest service.

Why should a travel agent sell more river cruise?
The most important things to travel agents, I hear time and again, is the ability to make money and the chance to offer unique experiences to their clients.  River cruising offers both of these things, and so much more. Given the average price point of a river cruise, the earning potential for travel agents is very strong. Just as important, though, is that river cruising is one of the hottest travel segments right now. Selling the right river cruise to a client, you are not just sending them on another vacation. You are affording them the opportunity to visit some of the world’s most beautiful, off-the-beaten path destinations, creating memories that will last a lifetime. River cruises create loyal customers, so once a guest has experienced a river cruise on the right ships, they will come back and try many more river cruises on the different rivers in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Anthony Pearce

Anthony Pearce is the co-publisher of CRUISE ADVISER. He can be contacted on anthony@cruise-adviser.com 

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