TravelWireNews exclusive interview with Kristin Karst, Amadeus Waterways vice president for Sales.
How has 2007 been for AW?
Kristin Karst: 2007 has been a great year with almost 95 percent of our cabins occupied. Although our target is mostly within North America, our reputation for a luxurious product has preceded us into the international travel market with new agencies approaching us for space. Honestly, word-of-mouth is probably our biggest advertising source that has generated the highest amount of new and repeating business.
With the launch of the MS Amadagio in 2006 and MS Amalegro in 2007, Amadeus Waterways truly defined the concept of luxury travel. From the gorgeous contemporary artwork in the lobbies, to the inviting hallways, you will feel at home from the moment you step on board. Staterooms offer hotel-like amenities, including French balconies on the upper two decks and flat-screen TV with internet access. Enjoy a cocktail in one of the contemporary lounges before gathering for dinner, where you will enjoy free-flowing wine. Relax on the sun deck, unwind in the whirlpool or take advantage of the bicycles available onboard to explore the charming towns and villages. The combination of all of these elements, plus the personal service you receive within our office and onboard the ships, has set Amadeus Waterways apart from other cruise lines
What trends were evident this past year?
Karst: Clients are looking for luxury travel with state-of-the-art amenities, gourmet meals and personal service all wrapped up in an affordable package. We believe this product itself has become the trend and it is evident that more and more travelers are catching on.
By offering special services such as internet in all the staterooms, WIFI in the Aft Lounge, fitness area and bicycles to explore the towns on your own, Amadeus Waterways has caught the strong interest of the younger market. River cruising, at least for Amadeus Waterways, is no longer for the seniors, over age 65, but has now reached also the 40-50s.
How has your biggest (or best clients) responded to such trends?
Karst: Some of our tour operators and large travel agencies are requesting more cabins for their clients and at a much earlier stage than previous years. They are seeing the high demand for this product and they know that if they do not book their clients early, the ship will fill up quickly.
What do you see happening in 2008 with regards to these trends?
Karst: Because these trends were already developing in 2006, after the launch of the MS Amadagio, we knew immediately that it was imperative to build additional ships to fill the growing demand. Since then, we have added MS Amalegro (2007), MS Amadante (2008) and MS Amacello (2008), and two additional ships are scheduled to debut in 2009. We see our product expanding even further into the international travel market; however, our specialization will continue within the Northern American market.
What products were successful this past year?
Karst: Russian Waterways has proven to be an extremely successful program with almost every departure sold out. Other successful programs are the Legendary Danube, with three nights in Prague and seven-night cruise from Nuremberg to Budapest, and the Blue Danube Discovery, which is the reverse direction with a pre-two nights in Budapest and post-three nights in Prague. Venturing into Eastern Europe, with our Paris to Istanbul program, has also proven to be successful.
What new products can we expect for AW to be introducing this coming year?
Karst: To meet the growing demands for new destinations from our past passengers, we have created new programs for 2008:
Amsterdam To Paris: 12 days along the Rhine river from Amsterdam to Trier, ending in splendid Paris
Christmas Wonderland: 12 days from Paris to Amsterdam with fascinating Christmas markets along the way
Provence & Spain: 15 days from enchanting Paris to romantic Barcelona, including high speed TGV train
Cruising Portugal & Spain: Spend three nights in Lisbon and a seven-night cruise along the beautiful Douro River
We are constantly looking for new, innovative tours and excursions to enhance our product every season. Each year, we are offering more choices for destinations, new ships and when possible, new onboard amenities and/or services.
What is AW’s outlook for 2008?
Karst: The season hasn’t even begun and we are already at approximately 80 percent capacity. I think this says it all for 2008’s outlook.
Are there new markets which AW wishes to tap?
Karst: The current “river cruise” market here in North America is still enormous, especially with the growing interest of the Baby Boomers and Generation X. This is where we find our product highly successful, so we will continue to cater to this market!
How aggressively do you plan on tapping new markets? Is this even a priority for AW?
Karst: We are in a very fortunate position to have more demand than capacity, so an aggressive market approach is not a priority for Amadeus Waterways. We are focusing on offering the best product and customer service, and are committed to constantly developing our strong relationships that we have built up with our partners in the Travel Industry.
Amadeus Waterways owns the newest and most luxurious fleet of ships operating on the European Rivers (Rhine, Main, Danube and Moselle). Our ships offer a long list of amenities that no other European River Cruise ship can match! Since all meals are included and select wines, beer and sodas are provided complimentary with every dinner, onboard expenses can be kept to the very minimum. All 71 staterooms (170 square feet) and four Junior Suites (255 square feet) offer river view and 83 percent of the staterooms (Upper and Middle deck) have French balconies. We also have an elevator, which operates between four different levels: restaurant (level 1), Cello Deck staterooms (level 2), lobby and panorama lounge (level 3) and Violin deck (level 4).
We truly care about our clients and they can see and feel that from the personal service they receive from the moment they call our office to book, to their last day onboard as they say their farewells to our smiling crewmembers. There is nothing more rewarding than getting so many wonderful comments saying that this was the best cruise/vacation that our clients have ever taken, and that they will be back on another cruise soon