On Thursday 14th November 2014 Bolsover Cruise Club were lucky enough to join a group of 10 agents going behind the scenes with thriving river cruise line AmaWaterways; the first river cruise operator ever to take agents to visit their shipyard.
Founded in 2002 by Rudi Schreiner, Kirstin Karst and Jimmy Murphy, AmaWaterways have experienced incredible growth in the river cruise industry and swept the board in the Berlitz: River Cruising in Europe guide, with AmaPrima declared the best river ship in Europe. Leaving a dark and rainy UK behind, we arrived in balmy Amsterdam excited to see for ourselves the next steps for this innovative river cruise line.
After a scenic trip from Schipol Airport, we arrived in the quaint village of Gendt; a place of stereotypically Dutch chocolate box houses and immaculately manicured gardens (and apparently no residents as we never saw a single soul!). Sat in the heart of Gendt is the Vahali shipyard, and it was here that we were to come face to face with the latest additions to the AmaWaterways family.
It was safety first as AmaWaterways shipbuilding partner Koert Kamphuisen equipped us with hard hats, before we made our way to the water’s edge.
AmaVista arrived in Gendt in May and AmaSerena in September; their hull, engine and glasswork all having been completed at Vahali’s Serbian shipyard, before making the four week journey to Gendt for interior outfitting and connection of all major engineering components. With former architect Rudi and master of ships Koert at the helm of an 18-24 month design and planning process, the arrival of a ship for completion of its final stages is an exciting one for all involved.
On entering AmaVista we were met with the sight of the cylindrical elevator and grand staircase; a glistening and elegant contrast to the work continuing all around it and an indicator of just how beautiful the completed article will be. Over coffee, we learnt of Koert Kamphuisen’s close relationship with AmaWaterways and of his passion for shipbuilding. Born on a river cruise ship, and with a long family history of ship building, Koert has river cruising running through his veins and his close partnership with AmaWaterways dates right back to 1997; a relationship that even precedes the AmaWaterways brand and which in fact began during founder Rudi Schreiner’s time with Uniworld.
The combination of Koert’s shipbuilding experience and Rudi’s architectural background has been paramount to the continued innovation throughout the AmaWaterways fleet, and the new additions for 2015 certainly don’t disappoint. Care and attention to detail are intrinsic to the design of all AmaWaterways’ ships and we encountered the first nod to this in the construction of the staterooms; each built individually and directly into the body of the ship, rather than in the usual form of ready-built capsules that are slotted into place. Though capsules are considerably cheaper to create and install, Rudi’s attention to detail is such that he was adamant that he wanted a level surface from the corridor into the stateroom; building capsules into the ship would create a step into the bathroom and so Rudi committed extra time and expense to make his vision a reality.
Revolutionary Twin-Balconies are part of the AmaWaterways innovation; their inclusion giving guests the chance to relax in private on their Outdoor Balcony or simply slide back the French Balcony to open up the room and marvel at the passing scenery. One previous AmaWaterways passenger described lying in bed with the French Balcony open, the lapping of the river providing the soundtrack as he dozed off at night: bliss!
As impressed as we were by the Twin-Balcony concept, it was the switchable glass that really caught our attention. Windows into the bathroom open up already spacious guestrooms, however, press the button beside the window and the glass will switch from transparent to frosted in an instant. Speaking of bathroom innovation, it’s worth pointing out that the shower cubicles in the sleek marbled bathrooms of AmaVista and AmaSerena are built at an angle to maximise space.
Elsewhere, innovation is apparent everywhere from the hydraulic engineering that allows the top deck to fold almost flat, to the specially designed rubber surroundings that minimize noise from the engine room; this dedication to new technology demonstrating AmaWaterways’ determination to stay ahead of the game.
Moving to the aft of the ship, we found ourselves at The Chef’s Table; a vast space surrounded by floor-to-ceiling panoramic views across the river. Twinkling lights formed a starry sky effect above what one expects will be the dining table; an area where each night 30 guests will enjoy a beautifully prepared menu against a stunning backdrop. A state of the art kitchen area will play host to the chef, open to the dining room as he creates his culinary masterpiece. Not only does The Chef’s Table promise an exclusive evening of fine dining, it also removes 30 of the passengers from the main dining room each night of the cruise – opening up the space even further when one considers that AmaWaterways’ ships carry just 164 guests.
Even in such a raw state, and with tools and materials still littering the floors, AmaVista and AmaSerena seem incredibly spacious. Staterooms have been expertly designed to make perfect use of every inch aboard the 135 metre long ships, while the sunken pool and swim up bar area opens up the top deck beautifully. Speaking of the deck, we were shown first-hand how hydraulic hinges would completely lower canopies, handrails and barriers on the sun deck when required, allowing the ships to effortlessly negotiate locks and bridges without compromising on any element of their sleek design. Along with the sun deck and lower sun deck, an al fresco dining terrace will provide an irresistible opportunity to enjoy AmaWaterways’ famous gastronomic pleasures in the most scenic of surroundings.
With a new understanding and appreciation of AmaWaterways innovation, we made our way to Willemsen Interior Design & Ship Carpentry. In this vast building, tradesmen diligently crafted every component of interior carpentry for AmaVista and AmaSerena, from decking and doorframes, to bars and grand staircases. It was here where we were fortunate enough to see a perfect representation of how staterooms on board the two new ships will look; from the spacious wardrobes and full length mirrors, to the multi-jet showerheads of the marble bathrooms and the deluxe hotel-style bedding with high-thread count linens.
Having seen the AmaWaterways product first hand, we made our way back to the airport with great impressions and desperate to see the finished article next year. The AmaWaterways is the culmination of two words; the obvious ‘waterways’ preceded by ‘ama’ meaning love. A love of river cruising flows through the AmaWaterways product and their dedication is made obvious in every element of their design and building process. We can’t wait to see what is to come from this incredible river cruise line…