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River cruising in Europe and other destinations is quickly becoming the cruise vacation of choice for discerning Boomers and pre-Boomer travelers looking for an in-depth experiential vacation that is also an exceptional value and includes all the essential elements of a five-star resort stay.  If that's what you're looking for, look no further than an exciting Premium river cruise on AmaWaterways.

In Europe, you can now sail via the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal through more than a dozen countries, from Amsterdam to Budapest. As you cruise you’ll ascend and/or drop over 1300 feet when approaching and crossing the Continental Divide — yes, there is also one in Europe. But, why are river cruises so popular today? After all, they’ve been around for many years.

That’s kind of like asking why we fly on jet airplanes today instead of propeller aircraft as our parents did. In the case of river cruising, we feel that today’s modern contemporary river ships have evolved in the same manner as the jet plane — through experimentation, innovation and understanding. This evolution has brought us to where we are today: a bounty of fine river cruise ships, and more exquisite ones on the way

No, it didn’t just happen overnight. It took lots of bright people, lots of money and lots of passion. In the case of the jet, it began with the Wright brothers, advanced with Lindberg, TWA & United, and then WWII created a more compelling need for enhancements and new technologies.

As noted above, river cruising has been around for a long time, but prior to the early 1980’s, it was mainly a 2-star vacation developed only for Europeans. It was a inexpensive and easy way for them to see more of the Continent and Russia. Additionally, they could usually drive to their cruise embarkation point. It was not until the late 1980’s and early 90s that a few very bright and innovative people realized that with a reasonable amount of modifications to the onboard product and to the ships, river cruising could be an extraordinary vacation idea for North Americans — the largest and most mobile traveling segment of the 20th-century. It was kind of like: “build it and they will come.”

Two of those bright and very innovative individuals were Rudi Schreiner, then an executive with a major European river cruise operator and Jimmy Murphy, owner of what was at the time called Brendan Tours, one of the largest tour operators here in the States. Rudi knew river cruising inside and out, and Jimmy had a fine understanding of the North American traveler — it was a perfect marriage of talents. They had the perfect “pedigrees” and experience to take Rudi’s modern river cruise idea that he helped pioneer in 1994, and develop it into a new North American river cruise concept. In 2002, Rudi, Jimmy and a very gifted sales and customer service executive, Kristin Karst launched Amadeus Waterways which is now known as AmaWaterways and they and the company have never looked back

If you’re like me, ideas are come by pretty easily. It’s the execution and ongoing improvement of such ideas that are truly the measure of one’s success — and no company has been as successful at the river cruise concept as AmaWaterways. A person far wiser than me once defined experience as measuring the sum total of all your mistakes and making sure you do not repeat such actions. Yes, the growth of AmaWaterways has had an occasional bump in the road as one would imagine, but all in all, their growth and market dominance has been nothing short of sensational and that’s because they’ve done it the right way.

At Premier we think that beyond the extraordinary executive team which now includes travel industry veteran Bruce Rosenberg as Vice-President of Marketing, Ama has mastered the art of “fine-tuning” their product in a way overlooked by many of their competition. To us, we feel that Ama’s ability to be so “on-target” with their product centers around one word — passion.

It’s the same kind of passion for one’s work you would feel if you were an architect, a winery owner or a baker of fine cakes; a passion that drives you to create the very best product you can and continually be looking for ways to improve it. That’s what we see when we talk to or visit with Rudi, Kirstin and Bruce. And, it’s the same passion they’ve been able to impart to every single member of the AmaWaterways team here in the States, and aboard each of their exquisite ships. It’s that passion and quest for perfection that has enabled Ama to evolve their ships to what many are calling a “revolution” in river ship building. Part of this remarkable revolution is their exclusive “twin balcony” design. You’ll find this innovative concept aboard their two newest ships, the elegant MS AmaBella [launched in May 2010]and the MS AmaVerde [launched in 2011.

Both ships are far more spacious than even other Ama ships, but still carry only 162 pampered guests. They can provide more space, more dining venues, and larger staterooms [averaging 214 square feet] because Rudi and Kirstin, knowing they couldn’t widen the ships [maximum width for any canal ship is only 38 feet], decided to make them 80 feet longer. Result: a simple, meaningful improvement for each and every guest.

While the AmaWaterways entire young fleet is comprised of marvelous ships, the new “custom” designed ships have attained a whole new level of design. Beyond their stunning staterooms, both feature an intimate Chef’s Table restaurant that seats a mere 24 lucky guests. Those who chose to enjoy this intimate dining spot will be treated to extraordinary regional cuisine prepared by the restaurants own private chef! Need we say more? The new ships also feature a library with working fireplace, an ‘infotainment’ system offering complimentary high speed Internet, complimentary first-run Hollywood movies available on your flat screen, and even email access. And, like all other wonderful Ama ships, you’ll always enjoy more balconies, free-flowing complimentary regional wines, beers [at dinner] and specialty coffees. Each luxurious stateroom features hotel-style beds, Egyptian cotton linens, down duvets, marble-appointed baths and some of the most comfortable robes you’ve ever worn.

All of the balconied cabins aboard feature the “revolutionary” new, twin balcony design that is exclusive to AmaWaterways. This very practical enhancement ensures that irrespective of the weather, you can always enjoy the view from your balcony. On warm days sit, relax, and even dine on the outside balcony; if a cool day should arise, enjoy the view from your enclosed French balcony, it’s the best new river ship concept ever.

The shore-side experiences are equally well thought-out. Complimentary shore excursions in each port are led by one of the industry’s best group of English-speaking tour guides. On Ama, there are also enough bicycles for anyone who desires to tour via bike without a wait.

AmaWaterways is also building a third [September 2011 delivery] luxurious 124 passenger ship, the MS AmaLotus. The Lotus will join the beautiful La Marguerite which currently sails Vietnam and Cambodia along the Mekong River from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Ho chi Minh City, Vietnam. In our opinion this is one of the finest and most rewarding itineraries in the entire world — try it, you’ll love it.

As Kirstin recently told us, “Our priority in designing our innovative fleet in Europe has always been to maximize the enjoyment, convenience and comfort of our guests – not to maximize the number of passengers on board.” We wholeheartedly agree.

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