A travel advisor’s perspective on AmaWaterways’ Holiday Cruises – and the benefits of river cruising

Longtime ocean cruiser and travel advisor Stephany H. did not know what to expect when she ventured on a Christmas Markets on the Rhine sailing with her sister Nakita – but she knew one thing: it would be far more intimate than her previous cruise ship experiences. Below she shares her thoughts on her first river cruise experience with AmaWaterways and why she is planning to bring future groups on board.

What inspired you to choose AmaWaterways for your first river cruise experience?

I was enrolled in a luxury specialist course and did the AmaWaterways training through AmaAcademy. We also had recently moved to California from South Carolina. One of the things I was able to do through my host agency was have an experience day at AmaWaterways, where I met Co-Founders Kristin and Rudi. They are such genuine people. I think that was the icing on the cake for me. Everyone that I met was so real and genuine and welcoming and it spills down to everyone on the staff and crew. On the day I visited, Kristin was even serving us food and drinks – that really spoke to me.

What was the atmosphere like on board AmaSerena?

All the crew members were super friendly. And they didn’t just have the typical surface-level conversations you get from some hospitality staff while traveling. AmaWaterways’ crew was really engaging and so genuine. What really surprised me about the experience was the other guests on board. There were a lot of returning guests who embraced us and welcomed us and wanted to get to know our story. I was not at all intimidated talking to new people on board.

As a travel advisor, you’ve stayed in a lot of different accommodations – how did your stateroom measure up?

I am extremely picky about my accommodations and so is my sister. When we opened up the door to our stateroom, it exceeded our expectations. We appreciated that we could open the doors to our French balcony, turn up the heat a bit and see all the scenery as we sailed through the countryside. Cleanliness is really important to both of us and Nakita actually traveled with an ultraviolet flashlight. AmaWaterways passed her ‘inspection’!

What was the best part of your onboard experience?

The onboard experience was festive and brought so much joy. The ship was decorated beautifully throughout. We were given the treat of experiencing the German tradition of leaving our shoes outside the door and receiving a gift. We also celebrated with St. Nick giving us a visit, decorating the Christmas tree with our shipboard family, and singing Christmas carols. Each night was made memorable for everyone on board. I also enjoyed cruising through the Rhine Gorge to see the castles. I loved the way the Cruise Manager provided narration as we were sailing so we would know the history of all the beautiful castles we were looking at.

How did the Christmas Markets on the Rhine sailing compare to other holiday vacations you have taken?

The Christmas spirit was so alive – Europe takes the holidays to a whole new level. Each market we visited was unique and I enjoyed the culture brought to each city along the Rhine River as well as the support that was provided for small businesses. The items in the markets were one-of-a-kind. All of the Christmas Markets were amazing in their own right, but the Riquewihr Market in the Alsace region of France was magical. It felt cozy and the vendors had some amazing items to offer. My sister and I both smiled as we heard one of the songs being played was by Boyz II Men.

What was your favorite excursion and why?

On ocean cruises, you’re required to return to the ship much earlier because the ports are farther apart. So, when we could get off the ship in the evening in Rüdesheim, Germany to taste the town’s famous Rüdesheimer coffee, we jumped at the chance to experience a port at night. I liked the atmosphere of the coffee shop, being able to taste the coffee in the place it originated and seeing how they prepared it. In all my travels, that was definitely not something I had seen before.

Speaking of tasting…how was the food on board AmaSerena?

With AmaWaterways, the quality of our included meals exceeded those that you have to pay for on ocean cruises. Every dish was delicious, and I liked how they used local farms to source fresh, seasonal ingredients.

What did you think about the AmaSerena crew?

They all went above and beyond. They worked so hard to make sure we were happy that we wondered if they ever slept. On top of it all, they were always there to make sure we were sanitizing our hands too. They were incredible.

How did your river cruise differ from your previous cruises on the ocean?

As an introvert, I didn’t know how it would feel being in such an intimate setting. But I loved it! It was so easy to get to the ship from the airport where we met our AmaWaterways representative. There were a lot of included excursion choices, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed, and I enjoyed the chance to participate in a complimentary dance class on board. We just had a great time. There are many different cruise lines to choose from, but I loved the genuine feeling that AmaWaterways provided.

Which of your clients do you think would enjoy AmaWaterways’ Christmas Markets cruises most?

They’re great for couples as a romantic getaway. I love the idea of having your spouse or significant other there and walking through the lights with Christmas magic all around. I think families with children who are interested in learning about different cultures will love this as well – it would be a fantastic educational opportunity and a special Christmas gift. And since I traveled with my sister, I know this sailing works great as a girlfriend getaway, although we also want to take our extended family as well.

What are the top differentiators/benefits of river cruising that you would share with your clients, particularly those who are more familiar with ocean cruising?

First, the intimacy of the ship. The smaller number of guests really allows for more opportunities to connect with different people from around the world. Second, everything is included. There was no nickel and diming. I didn’t have to budget for onboard cruise expenses because excursions with local guides and drinks – including wine – was all paid for upfront. I also appreciated the seamless process of embarking and disembarking. From the time we met our driver at the airport, the embarkation process was by far the most seamless experience I’ve ever had in cruising. And lastly, being able to sail on the river and actually see the countryside villages, farms and castles from your stateroom is so magical.

How would you recommend advisors sell Christmas Markets sailings for groups?

I’m trying to get one together myself! Find a pied piper or influencer with a following that can get the word out to their followers. Tell your group leader about the perks that AmaWaterways offers when reserving a group with a minimum of 5 staterooms. Use social media, and if you don’t know how to use Facebook ads, hire someone who understands it and pay them to do it for you. Create a Facebook group and promote within your group.

What has helped you the most as you begin to sell AmaWaterways?

I would recommend advisors take advantage of AmaWaterways’ Travel Advisor Portal. If you haven’t enrolled in and completed the AmaAcademy, I would highly suggest that to get a deeper understanding of the brand. Also, on the site, there’s a Travel Advisor Suitcase that I would absolutely recommend. It has marketing images, captions and blogs there that are right at your fingertips and can be used for your social media.

Will you return to the river with AmaWaterways?

I’m hooked. I’ve done many ocean cruises, but I don’t know if I love the huge ships as much anymore. After AmaWaterways, I think it will be hard for me to go back!

Encourage your clients to join us on a Christmas Markets river cruise through Europe in 2021 or 2022 – and be sure to watch our recorded Webinar Wednesday: Kristin’s Guide to Holiday Cruises within your Travel Advisor Portal!