Janine Kelso caught up with AmaWaterways managing director Jamie Loizou at the CLIA RiverView Conference in Budapest last month.
Have you got any top tips for agents on how to better sell river cruises with AmaWaterways?
Get on board the ship and come to the CLIA river cruise convention! We run fam trips throughout the year as well. We also have wonderful agent rates – our agents can sail with us for a very modest fare if they want to.
If agents sell five of our cruises departing in 2022, they have the opportunity to sail for free on one of our ships in 2022 or 2023 with our Sell Five, Sail Free agent incentive. Experiencing the product gives agents the expertise to sell it.
Are there any particular AmaWaterways cruises you’re looking forward to going on this year?
I’m really looking forward to cruising on the Rhone on the AmaKristina, which is a twin balcony ship that’s sailing from Lyon to Avignon on a seven-night voyage.
I’m also looking forward to getting on AmaMagna, our double-width ship which was built in 2019 and has four restaurants, five bars and a huge wellness area. She’s really unique – there’s no other ship like her; she might have double the space but she only has just under 30 per cent more guests, so we’ve increased the public space of the public area. She has huge 710-sq-ft suites and she’s very good for those luxury ocean cruisers who haven’t considered river before because of that additional space and onboard choice. For those selling ultra-luxury ocean, AmaMagna is the perfect stepping-stone for cruising on rivers.
If a client ocean cruises all the time but has been to the Caribbean, why not offer them a Christmas market cruise on AmaMagna for something different.
Has the situation in Ukraine affected bookings?
The situation in Ukraine is absolutely awful and we’re obviously monitoring the situation. Our operations team are very experienced and if necessary, we can make adjustments to itineraries. At the moment, we are cruising as normal on the Danube.
Have you got any exciting plans for 2022 and beyond?
I’m very excited about Floriade Expo 2022 on the Rhine, which is a horticultural exhibition that’s held once every 10 years and runs between April and October. We’re including shore excursions to the Floriade Expo on our Rhine cruises. That’s proving to be very popular for our Enchanting Rhine itinerary, our Captivating Rhine itinerary and our Tulip itinerary. Lots of garden enthusiasts are booking onto that.
We also have a cruise running with ancestry.com this year where guests can come onboard and learn more about their family genealogy. It’s selling well but there is still space.
What do you think makes AmaWaterways stand out from the crowd?
We are 100 per cent trade focussed – we are there to support the trade in terms of our sales team and marketing support: we have an online booking engine within our travel agent portal that allows agents to create a co-branded website where they can add their own logo and call to action and push that out to their database. All leads and quote requests come back to them directly.
We have a passion for river cruising – we’re family owned and family run. That passion is seen onboard and throughout the AmaWaterways team.
In terms of our product, we are incredibly innovative – we lead the way in river cruising. There are so many Ama firsts that are industry standards. We were the first river cruise line to introduce bicycles on board. We have an active discovery shore excursion programme where guests can take our bikes to explore independently.
We were the first river cruise line to introduce wellness hosts on board – they are there to run group exercise classes, including pilates, band resistant work, yoga and lectures on mindfulness.
We were the first to introduce a double-width ship with the AmaMagna.
We’re also the first to introduce a Seven River Journey, which is a 46-night voyage starting in Paris and ending in Giurgiu, Romania. Setting sail next year, the cruise takes in seven rivers on four ships and visits 14 countries. It’s been so popular that we had to put in two additional sailings.
We also innovate and lead in terms of our cuisine. We’re a member of the French gastronomic society, La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and we use locally sourced food and wine. We offer more than 60 wine cruises every year across Europe with food and wine paired dinners, wine-tasting lectures, and shore excursions to vineyards to meet the producers.
Agents could explore AmaVerde at the RiverView conference. What are your favourite spaces onboard AmaVerde?
Our Chef’s Table restaurant, which is our speciality dining restaurant where we serve a seven-course tasting menu where we match wines to the menu – and that’s included within the fare. It’s in the back of the ship where’s there’s a beautiful view. We have a galley within that restaurant where you can see the chefs preparing each course. Not only do have delicious dining but you have the theatre of being able to see the chefs preparing each course.
What are AmaWaterways’ most popular sailings?
The Douro is incredibly popular with our Porto round trips. Christmas markets are selling incredibly well and we’re seeing lots of interest in our French itineraries.