I began cruising with AmaWaterways back when it had a slight identity crisis. That was nearly a decade ago when AmaWaterways was called Amadeus.
Back then, it was a small company being taken forward by one of the hardest-working couples in the cruise industry, Rudi Schreiner, an Austrian, and Kristin Karst, from Dresden. The couple worked trade shows, visited travel agents, did everything they could to build their company from the ground up.
The two are now married and live in Southern California, and they are more passionate than ever before about their company and river cruising. Hear them talk about both in a podcast at this link.
In the winter of 2006, Rudi and Kristin invited me on my first river cruise in Europe. It seemed an odd time to go, when the continent was under a cover of snow, but I was immediately smitten. Europe’s Christmas markets were well underway, and the atmosphere oozed charm. I loved bundling up in my jacket and strolling through Christmas markets that smelled of gingerbread and mulled wine.
Since that first cruise with Rudi and Kristin, I’ve been on AmaWaterways’ vessels more than a dozen times. Here are my favorites:
- Christmas Time Cruises. Europe all done up for Christmas, what’s not to like? Stroll the nostalgia-inducing markets on an 11-day trip that begins with two nights in Prague before sailing the Danube from Nuremberg to Budapest, with multiple stops at cities and towns where the Christmas markets are active. A great trip for Christmas shopping too.
- Vietnam & Cambodia. Exotic cultures, monasteries and monks, the legacies of wars and ruthless dictators, age-old temples and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Vietnam and Cambodia are rich with religion, history, culture and attractions. I traveled with my teenage daughter. We weren’t able to do the whole trip, which started with two nights in Hanoi, including an overnight in Ha Long Bay. We joined in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) where we stayed for two nights before cruising up the Mekong to Siem Reap, where we stayed overnight and visited famed Angkor Wat before heading home. Trip of a lifetime.
- Douro River. I was blown away by the beauty of the Douro River and by the friendliness of the people we encountered along the river valley, not to mention the wonderful food and port wines. AmaWaterways’ Enticing Douro itinerary starts with three nights in Lisbon, followed by a seven-night cruise through the Douro River Valley, roundtrip from Porto. One of river cruising’s best kept secrets.
Looking ahead, AmaWaterways operates a few itineraries that are on my wishlist.
- Myanmar. In the 1980s, I traveled around what was then Burma with four Canadian backpackers in the back of a pickup truck. I’ll never forget that bumpy journey. I would like to return to Myanmar, and the Hidden Wonders of Myanmar trip sounds like it would be the perfect way to retrace much of what I saw decades ago. The trip begins with one night in Yangon, followed by a flight to Mandalay to embark on a 14-night cruise down the Ayeyarwady ending in Yangon. If you want exotic, Myanmar is a must.
- Golden Trails of East Africa. I’ve always wanted to experience a safari, and AmaWaterways offers a package that includes multiple safaris and a river cruise. The trip begins with an overnight in Johannesburg before beginning a four-night African river safari, followed by two nights at Victoria Falls. There’s another overnight in Johannesburg, then its off for eight nights in Tanzanian luxury safari lodges in Arusha, Tarangire, Ngorongoro and the Serengeti. There is a variation on this itinerary that includes Cape Town and another that includes a three-night train journey on the Rovos Rail. What a way to see Africa and do safaris.
- Provence & Spain. This itinerary begins with three nights in Paris before traveling by high-speed TGV train to Lyon to board AmaDagio for a seven-night cruise through Provence. The trip ends with either three nights in Barcelona or two nights in Marseille. C’est magnifique!