“The river cruise industry puts 4,000 people on riverboats in one week.”
In an interview, Rudi Schreiner, president of AMA Waterways, a US company that provides river cruises in Europe and Asia, discusses this and next year’s river cruise season. In total, the company will have more than 350,000 bed nights onboard its vessels and its lines operate at near full capacity. Capacity will increase slightly in 2011 as the newly renovated “AmaKatarina” replaces another vessel on sailings between Moscow and St Petersburg.
It will offer a capacity of 212 passengers in 106 staterooms, and 75 percent of which will have balconies. In the Mekong region, AMA Waterways will add a second vessel in September 2011, while the new “AmaVerde” will begin operations in Europe in March 2011. It is to be chartered for the Australian market during the summer, sold on both a group and FIT basis, and the North American market in the spring and autumn.
Schreiner argues that the Mekong region has taken off well as a 16-day complete destination with fascinating stops along the way in Vietnam and Cambodia. And almost all FITs spend two nights on land in Hanoi and sail on to Halong Bay, Vietnam, on a junk before flying to Siem Reap in Cambodia for three nights. He says that most people booking the Mekong have already done ocean cruising and are experienced travellers looking for something different.
In Europe, the Rhine and the Danube are the company’s prime sailing region. Europe’s river cruise market is becoming more active, particularly with walking and bicycle tours included. “The river cruise industry puts 4,000 people on riverboats in one week – while one ocean line does that with just one ship every week,” Schreiner explains. “So there is great potential for river cruising.”