In its first-ever christening of a river cruise ship, the medieval town of Lahnstein, Germany, orchestrated a spectacle to herald the arrival of AmaWaterways’ newest vessel, the AmaKristina, and celebrate the company’s 15th anniversary. Horns blew, bands played, and a fireboat shot water cannons as the ship docked on the Rhine river bank for pomp and pageantry that included jugglers, fire eaters, dancers and wooden huts filled with beer and local German culinary specialties. Dignitaries including Mayor Peter Labonte and town leaders welcomed more than 200 guests to the dockside cocktail celebration, religious blessing and christening, all flanked by guardsmen dressed in medieval garb, helmets and pikes. Two dozen local school children performed newly composed songs to commemorate the celebration, to the delight of guests seated under a tent overlooking the glamorous Stolzenfels Castle on the banks of the Rhine.
Named for the company’s Co-Owner and Executive Vice President, Kristin Karst, the AmaKristina is the company’s 20th ship.
“I never dreamed that as a young girl growing up in Dresden (Germany) on the banks of the Elbe River that I would one day have a ship named after me,” said Karst. “The last 15 years have been a remarkable journey, and today I am so proud to christen our newest ship and take this moment to thank all our guests, employees, onboard teams, ship builders and travel industry partners that have contributed to our success.”
With her husband, AmaWaterways President and Co-Owner Rudi Schreiner, Karst christened the ship with an energetic heave of a champagne bottle, followed by a gala dinner and fireworks display set to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
Afterward we sailed the seven-night “Enchanting Rhine” cruise aboard the AmaKristina, which Karst and Schreiner personally designed in a riot of colors and mixture of touchable texturized fabrics in deep red, coral, teal in solids, patterns stripes and the occasional sparkle that is offset by Gustav Klimt artwork (Karst’s favorite artist). Billed as “the most advanced design of any river cruise vessel currently in operation,” it accommodates 156 guests in 78 staterooms, many of which have twin balconies (one outside and one French), as we had in our BA-category, 210 square-foot stateroom on the Violin Deck.
AmaWaterways hosts 28 itineraries on 20 ships on 12 rivers in 18 countries, yet the AmaKristina “is the first time that ship design is not only about functionality, but firstly about architectural design inspired by the Italian Riva boats,” says Schreiner. “It’s not about space, it’s about maximizing the experience in the space,” he says. “The ship sparkles. It’s magnificent on the Rhine.”
Another new element on the AmaKristina is a large, circular glass elevator that descends to the ship’s lowest floor, the Piano Deck, on which the fitness center, hair salon and massage studio are located.
The Sun Deck, which has a pool with swim-up bar, deck chairs, living room-style setting on the bow, is an ideal place to enjoy sunny days and watch castle ruins, vineyards, changing topography and multiple locks in the 525 miles from Basel to Amsterdam along the scenic Rhine. No corkage fees aboard make it easy to pick up locally produced Rieslings at Riquewihr and Strasbourg, France, Rüdesheim and Speyer, Germany and share with new friends.
AmaKristina’s new Main Dining Room design uses booths to create a more intimate setting and a ceiling wave pattern that cleverly absorbs noise. The restaurant is a passenger highlight for its gourmet cuisine from talented Executive Chef Jozsef Lado who presented specialties from the four countries through which we sailed. In France, one menu featured escargot, flammkuchen, foie gras and fresh white asparagus; through Germany, Chef Lado presented Sauerbraten, red cabbage, roasted potatoes, white sausage and Käsespatzle, a regional favorite dumpling with cheese and fried onions. With breakfast, lunch, dinner, an all-day tapas menu and late night bites presented in the lounge at 10:30 p.m. every evening, there’s really no time to be hungry.
The Chef’s Table Restaurant at the ship’s aft has 28 seats and a menu with 18 different flavors created by the amalgam of ingredients set in multiple courses, accompanied by Austrian white and red wines from the Danube the night we had it. The floor-to-ceiling windows within an intimate setting, attentive service and exhibition kitchen to watch chefs at work is a delight and is offered complimentary for every guest to reserve at least once, or more, if available. During the day, it’s a quiet getaway or workspace.
Other differences on the AmaKristina include new choices; for example, (nearly always complimentary) tours that are divided into Gentle, Normal and Active paces (be prepared for the latter; it’s essentially race-walking in cities like Strasbourg or hikes up steep terrain that are perfect for fitness buffs), bicycle tours and energetic excursions that reflect the ship’s fit owners. Cruise Manager Dragan Reljic is outstanding and always ready to field guest questions about walk levels and tours.
New in 2018 will be “Sip & Sail,” a complimentary evening happy hour on all AmaWaterways ships. Also scheduled for next year, Schreiner is finalizing plans for a new ship to sail the Ganges (India) river.
“I’m looking at all the navigable rivers in the world,” says Schreiner about the future. “We’re again looking at Russia and Egypt, and at increasing inventory it the Mekong Delta (Vietnam) because it is sold out right now,” he said.
Early one morning, Karst and Schreiner took us on a secret mission to Huissen, Holland, an hour from Amsterdam, to a massive carpentry workspace where he unveiled AmaWaterways’ newest masterpiece:
The AmaMagna, which will be the biggest river cruise ship in Europe, especially designed to sail on the Danube. At 72 feet, it will be twice the width of traditional European river ships and double the square footage, meaning a larger spa, multiple restaurants, a larger pool, hot tub and another first for river cruising: an open-water sports platform with zodiac boats, kayaks and recreational equipment. The AmaMagna will accommodate 194 guests in 97 staterooms, most of which will be more than 300 square feet, and outfitted with luxurious finishes including exposed walnut wood ceilings, French doors leading into the living area, double sinks, multiple closets and drawers for ample storage space and full balconies. Flamingo tapestries in the hallways will bring nature indoors. One AmaSuite, the line's version of a presidential suite, will be 650 square feet. The ship is scheduled to launch in 2019.