Part two of our two-part story on the history and future of AmaWaterways

In July 2002, our Co-Founders Rudi Schreiner, Kristin Karst and the late Jimmy Murphy sat together in a one-room office. With passion in their hearts and a vision to show people the world one river at a time, they formed their river cruise company. "Our roles were clearly defined," said Kristin. "Rudi would design and build the ships, I would fill them, and Jimmy would provide both of us the guidance and wisdom we would need to turn this dream into a reality."

From the beginning, our dynamic leaders wanted to create a river cruise experience they, themselves, would love. That meant excellent food and wine, comfortable and tasteful decor, ample space in which to relax, and staterooms with maximum views to enjoy the ever-changing countryside.

Similarly, it meant listening to guest feedback and taking it to heart, creating enhancements and innovations, from a fleet of complimentary bicycles to The Chef’s Table specialty restaurant.

Timeline: A Trio Grows

By 2005, AmaWaterways opened another office in Vienna, Austria, to handle our operations; and in 2006, we had our first fully-owned and operated ship, the AmaDagio, designed by Rudi, whose previous ship design credits included the raft he sailed down the Amazon River some three decades earlier. “It was the realization of a lifelong dream to both build my own river ship and show people the world from a unique perspective,” said Rudi.

AmaWaterways started to gain a following. With a small group of employees in our intimate office in Chatsworth, California, Rudi, Kristin and Jimmy recognized the need to expand accommodations for growth, so in 2013, we moved to the top floor of our current office in Calabasas.

A Legacy of Love

Jimmy, known lovingly around the California office as Mr. Murphy, passed away in 2014. The legacy he left was one of greatness, and although the heart of the AmaWaterways family mourned, it also continued to grow in his memory. With the help of Jimmy’s son, Gary Murphy, who now finds success in his role as Senior Vice President of Sales, the U.S. team expanded, taking over the entire Calabasas office building by 2017 and accounting for approximately 300 employees worldwide. "It’s been inspiring to see employees who worked with Dad at the very beginning still working with AmaWaterways and continuing on his legacy today. He would be touched that so many of them are still a part of our AmaWaterways family," said Gary.

Though oceans separate AmaWaterways’ teams in Europe and the U.S., our leaders maintain a close connection with the people who make up our diverse family-owned and-operated company. "Dining aboard the new AmaMagna with Rudi and Kristin was deeply moving to me," said Leo Starico, Manager of European Operations. "It made me remember dining together in 2005 and that we are still as much a family company today as we were back then."

"Working for AmaWaterways since 2003 has meant the world to me," said Wade Korzan, Director of European Operations. "It’s changed and shaped my life in so many ways and my enthusiasm and passion only grow each season."

The Innovations Continue — Another Dream Realized

In 2019, another of Rudi’s dreams came true — the award-winning AmaMagna. Twice the width of traditional European river cruise ships, AmaMagna is a distinctive evolution of AmaWaterways’ fleet.

Real innovation was thought to be virtually impossible because river ships couldn’t be any wider than the locks in which they travel through on the rivers and other inland waterways. However, the mighty Danube is exceptional as many of the locks on the Danube are twice as wide as any of the other rivers in Europe. So, Rudi seized this opportunity to design a prototypical river ship: AmaMagna.

A Passion for Sustainability

Drawing from his architecture and design experience as well as the company’s mission to reduce our impact on the environment, Rudi has incorporated many eco-friendly elements into the ships’ design across the fleet. Our modern river fleet has innovative fuel-efficient engines, microfiltration and onboard recycling, and energy-saving LED lighting. AmaMagna also features an innovative 10-engine configuration designed to reduce overall fuel consumption by up to 20% depending on river conditions. Further, the ship’s Sun Deck features a sustainable herb garden. Biodegradable tetra-pak water containers are also distributed on board AmaMagna to guests to replace plastic water bottles during our included shore excursions.

A Positive Outlook

While 2020 is proving to be a challenging year for travel, our company is financially strong, and our ships and crew are well prepared to welcome our guests back on the rivers as soon as it is safe to do so. "The future looks bright," said Rudi. "The travel industry will come back. It will take some time and there will be some compromises, but we will adjust." Always keeping the environment in mind, Rudi is able to see the glass half full as he talks about the cleanliness of the air in his June 24, 2020 video interview with German university MCI. "Maybe the Earth just needed a little break."

The Godfather of River Cruising

Without Rudi’s vision and passion, river cruising may not exist as we know it today. Recognized as the "Most Innovative Cruise Executive" and presented with the prestigious "Lifetime Achievement Award" by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), our kind-hearted patriarch, the so-called "Godfather of River Cruising," always looks toward the future. Together, our leaders Rudi, Kristin and Gary have never lost sight of what is important: the warm, inviting atmosphere that welcomes our guests, dedicated travel advisors, staff and crew into our extraordinary AmaWaterways family.

Read part one of this story, The Big Adventure is Not Dead, follow our AmaWaterways story, and subscribe to our YouTube channel to get inspired for your next river cruise.

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