Wide hallways, four restaurants, a wellness studio, two fireside libraries, a dedicated cinema and spacious accommodations — more than half of them suites with full balconies — are the essence of luxury. Other features include a glamorous multi-story atrium, an elevator that goes to all four decks and a drop-down watersports platform with a Sundowner excursion boat.
AmaMagna stretches 135 meters/443 feet in length — the standard for a European riverboat. But its width is 22 meters/72 feet — twice the typical 11.4 meters/37 feet. The vessel carries 196 passengers and 70 crew.
(For comparison, Crystal Mozart, built in 1987 as Mozart, is 120.4 meters/395 feet long and 22.9 meters/75 feet wide, with capacity for 154 passengers and 92 crew.)
More space, more options
AmaMagna's extra girth affords the space to lavish on accommodations and additional dining choices and lounges, while giving greater attention to AmaWaterways brand hallmarks like a fleet of complimentary bicycles (some on AmaMagna are children's bikes), a wellness program and active excursion options.
'The main reason we built this ship is to have more luxury. There is a strong demand in North America for luxury,' Schreiner told international media aboard AmaMagna's christening cruise last week.
He pointed out that 90% of AmaWaterways' clients on the Zambezi in Africa are North Americans for a product that costs $1,500 a night.
'Americans, when they travel far, travel in style,' Schreiner said. That's partly because they get fewer vacation days — typically, two weeks compared to the 11 enjoyed by Germans, counting five weeks for religious holidays. With so much holiday time, Germans don't splurge as much on luxury, he said.
'The essence of luxury has changed. It's very personal,' added Kristin Karst, co-owner and EVP of AmaWaterways, who listed elements of contemporary luxury including pampering service, space and culinary choices.
Karst also noted that groups want suites, and traditional European river vessels have just a handful. So suites dominate AmaMagna, where the 710-square-foot Owner's Suite with balcony is priced at $28,000 a week in high season and sells out. The six 474-square-foot Grand Suites with balcony are selling 'very well.' And there are scores of 355-square-foot suites with balcony spread across two decks.
The lowest category accommodations (205 square feet) are priced $200 higher than on other Ama vessels.
Broadening the market
AmaWaterways opened river cruising to younger, more active travelers by introducing free bikes, free Wi-Fi and active excursions; forging a partnership with active-travel company Backroads, creating a wellness program with dedicated wellness hosts on nearly all vessels and cultivating the family market via Adventures by Disney.
'We see this trend to many, many more families,' Karst said. 'What we were missing is the luxury client from the oceans.' Besides more suites, more dining choices were needed. 'Having one or two restaurants is not enough any more to attract the luxury client,' she said.
AmaMagna's open-seating main restaurant accommodates 140 at tables for two, four, six and eight at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Chef's Table provides a seven-course gourmet dinner for up to 36 diners, by reservation.
The dark and cozy Jimmy's Wine Bar & Restaurant, named for AmaWaterways co-founder the late Jimmy Murphy, serves family-style dinners for up to 60 at long tables, by reservation.
The light, airy, forward-facing Al Fresco Restaurant, ringed with windows and skylights that open, offers a light breakfast and lunch buffet, afternoon tapas and, by reservation, dinner for up to 24. The atmosphere, especially at night under the stars, makes this an extremely popular venue.
In future, Schreiner would like to offer a galley dinner, limited to one table, in the heart of the cooking action.
AmaWaterways' hotel personnel and catering are provided by longtime partner Sea Chefs.
Lounges and open spaces
AmaMagna's elegant main lounge is shorter but twice as wide as on other river vessels. It has a resident musician, grand piano, dance floor, full-service bar, self-serve coffee/tea machine and seating at plump armchairs and sofas. Forward and a few steps down are the pair of fireside libraries with river views and coffee-table books. One is decorated in fiery orange, the other in deep blue. They flank an enclosed cinema, with automatic sliding doors.
The cinema, in plush crimson and slate gray with suede wall covering, has sofa seating lining the walls. Besides movies and live broadcasts of sports events, there's Nintendo gaming, making this a popular spot for families.
The Zen Wellness Studio, all the way aft, has treadmills, machines and weights, plus big river views and a juice bar/lounge. Separate spaces house two massage rooms and, on the lowest deck, a hair salon. A free, self-service laundry provides two washing machines and two dryers. (Laundry service is also available.)
The Sun Deck has a pool and whirlpool, a pop-up bar, lounge chairs and umbrella tables and plenty of space for yoga classes and special happenings like an open-air seafood buffet or parties under the stars.
The drop-down watersports platform isn't currently used much due to the Danube's strong current, but Schreiner wanted to have it in case. VIP excursions have been offered on the Sundowner, and a cocktail reception for 85 people was held there.
Dark woods and rich colors characterize AmaMagna's accommodations, which have a sophisticated look.
Staterooms start at 205 square feet; there are just 11 of them on the lowest deck. The next categories, at 252 square feet, add a balcony. Suites start at 355 square feet with balcony and have an entrance hall, bathroom with a separate toilet compartment, double sinks, roomy shower stalls with both rain-forest and hand-held, multi-jet shower heads, Hydro and Elemis amenities and lighted magnifying mirror.
A wall-mounted touchscreen controls the room's climate, mood (lighting ranges from 'bright' to 'romantic') and the curtains. A large flat-screen LG television also provides movies and music on demand, and there's a large desktop Apple computer and an Apple tablet.
Ample hanging, shelf and drawer storage space is provided, along with bathrobes, slippers, a safe, hand-held hair dryer, bottled water and a mini-fridge stocked with soft drinks replaced daily. The top suites add bathtubs, coffee-makers and other perks.
Will AmaMagna be a one-off?
The response to AmaMagna, which entered service in May, has been enthusiastic.
Karin Heard, a retired teacher from Glendale, California, chose AmaMagna for her 13th AmaWaterways cruise. She's sold on the brand, sailing only with Ama because of the 'outstanding, friendly, helpful' crew and shoreside staff in the company's California headquarters.
Traveling with her niece, Heard praised AmaMagna's suites. 'The room size is very good for two,' she said, singling out features like the double sinks.
Schreiner is pleased with the feedback but said 'Right now we have no plan to build another one.' The company needs time to evaluate AmaMagna before deciding. Plus, the logistics of moving the hull from Serbia to Rotterdam for interior outfitting and then back to the Black Sea to enter the Danube are no small matter.
Currently AmaWaterways plans to introduce AmaSiena on the Rhine in 2020 and a sister vessel in 2021. Two newbuilds are on order for 2022 to hold the shipyard slots. If Ama does opt for another double-wide vessel, that would go on the Danube — the only waterway with locks big enough — and the two other ships to the Rhine, Schreiner said.