By GERRY BARKER
At the recently concluded Seatrade Cruise Global conference in Fort Lauderdale, Janet Bava, chief marketing officer for AmaWaterways, talked about how a ship becomes "an extension of the destination." That's just one reason the cruise line is so excited about their newest venture: River cruising in Colombia, South America.
Next year, AmaWaterways will become the first major river cruise line to sail guests on Colombia's Magdalena River. Ms. Bava said they will have two ships "because of so much demand," adding, "it will be phenomenal."
The two ships -- the AmaMagdalena and AmaMelodia -- will sail 7-day cruises between Cartagena and Barranquilla, offering a variety of cultural experiences, including sampling local cuisine and observing the hundreds of bird species, some of which are exclusive to the region. "Included are shore excursions, Wifi and all the amenities guests are used to having in the luxury cruise space," said Ms. Bava.
In addition to the biodiversity and beautiful villages along the river, Ms. Bava said guests who love culinary experiences can sample from 350 different fruit species that are native to the area -- "you could taste something different every day of the year."
Getting there is easy as well, as Ms. Bava pointed out that Cartagena is only a two-and-a-half hour flight from Miami.
Meanwhile In Europe, where AmaWaterways has long been a leader in river cruising, the line's second Seven River Journey is set to embark April 20 from Avignon, France. Guests will sail on three ships over 46 days through 14 countries, ending June 4 in Giurgiu, Romania.
Ms. Bava said there are several factors driving the decision for guests to take longer cruises, including the ability to work remotely and "younger people not waiting to retire to travel." Also, given the higher cost of flying, people going to Europe "want to be there as long as they can." It also helps that the value of the dollar is strong, she said.
They've also seen a trend of guests who want to customize their cruise, choosing more back-to-back voyages. "We've designed our itineraries and departure dates so people can create their own journey," Ms. Bava said.
Two of the most popular rivers they transverse are the Rhine and the Danube, including a 21-day cruise on the Danube, where guests experience eight countries from Germany to Romania. Another popular itinerary is on the Douro River in Portugal, which has seen so much demand "we have had to extend the season," she said.
Along with immersing guests in local culture, they can also choose to add extra days to their trip to further enhance their travel experience.
AmaWaterways was founded in 2002 by Rudi Schreiner, co-founder and president, a river cruising pioneer, and Kristin Karst, co-founder and executive vice president. along with Jimmy Murphy. With the addition of two Colombia ships, they operate a fleet of 28 vessels in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, including sailings on the Mekong and Nile Rivers. All 20 river ships in AmaWaterways’ European fleet have earned the Green Award certification, recognizing "quality, safety and environmental performance."
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