Tiago, the wellness guru on board the AmaLucia, was conducting a yoga class on the ship’s sundeck. It was early morning, the group was focused and intent on getting the exercise right, but we were becoming distracted. In fact, we were mesmerized with what was coming into focus behind Tiago, and as much as we wanted to follow his lead, the 11th- to 18th-century castles that were appearing one by one on the cliffs along the Rhine River had our full attention. Tiago said downward dog, but our eyes wanted nothing of it. No, we wanted to look all around us, out to the horizon as the ship began sailing the UNESCO World Heritage Upper Middle Rhine Valley.
It had been tough to coax my 17-year-old daughter out of bed in the early mornings to take one of AmaWaterways’ well-regarded wellness classes, but the moment I rushed into the stateroom with news about the castles, she practically pushed me aside and dashed out of the stateroom, running all the way to the sundeck. She most certainly wasn’t about to miss this.
“Gen Z is always underestimated,” says Kristin Karst, AmaWaterways’ co-owner and executive vp, who along with her husband Rudi Schreiner, the cruise line’s co-owner and president, was on board during this christening sailing of the AmaLucia. “A river cruise can be a soft adventure and it’s extremely attractive to them. We are a floating boutique hotel—they can be in their spacious cabin, they can sleep the morning in if they like, or they can be very active. For them, it’s about choices.”
And the Rhine River, she says, offers boundless choices. There are four countries on this itinerary—running Amsterdam to Basel, or the reverse—The Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland, each with its own unique flavor. And AmaWaterways offers so many excursions it isn’t easy for passengers to choose what they want to see at each port of call. Should one hike the Black Forest or take an excursion to the charming Alsace hamlet of Riquewihr, with its cobbled streets and half-timbered houses hosting enchanting shops filled with cheese, wine and Christmas decorations? Should one opt for the Active excursion while visiting the Heidelberg Castle, or choose the regular one, which goes at a more gentle pace (AmaWaterways does also offer a gentle track, but that’s not recommended for families with teenagers, unless there are special circumstances).
There are also countless bike tours to be had, including a Cologne Bike Tour that has passengers whizzing through the city all the way to its spellbinding cathedral (recommend teens and their families climb the 533 steps to the top; it takes about 15 minutes). In Strasbourg, active families might want to hop on a bike tour, but we recommend the regular walking city tour track. You’ll get up-close and personal with Strasbourg, and this is one place your clients will really want to savor (the Petite-France area had us enthralled). For something truly unique, recommend clients take the gondola excursion in Rudesheim for that ultimate bird’s-eye view. And in this German town—where the AmaLucia was christened in July of this year—a visit to the Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum is a must.
Everyone needs to take time to simply wander around in each of these beautiful cities and towns, and AmaWaterways’ excursions allow for plenty of free time to do just that. Sit down, enjoy people-watching, peek into the many Christmas and handicraft shops…live like a local, if only for a few hours. Oh, and while in Amsterdam…well, the activities run the gamut, including opting for a canal cruise, which is a must for first-time visitors to this captivating city. Another fave is the Van Gogh Museum with its stellar collection.
“We have four countries on this itinerary,” says Karst, “and the countries are all quite different, between the Dutch heritage and Germany, the French culture, the Alsatian region, yes, it’s France, but it’s not really France, and then of course comes Switzerland, so they see very different parts of Europe. You have big cities, and smaller towns, with history, shopping, the castles…. You can learn a lot—it’s a huge learning experience.”
And when it comes to its onboard offerings, AmaLucia doesn’t disappoint. The accommodations are more than spacious (our 210-sq.-ft. stateroom with a balcony offered plenty of space for two), and the options for families include staterooms with a pullout sofa where you can accommodate a family of three. This can connect to the same stateroom—don’t forget AmaWaterways’ ships have connecting doors—so a family of six can be together. Another option is to connect to a double stateroom for a family of five.
The service, too, is truly top-notch. Here’s an example of just how stellar: One morning, when my daughter woke up a little too late to have breakfast in the restaurant (the breakfast menu, by the way includes wellness bowls that are to die for) and was not thrilled with the Late Risers offerings (pastries and whatnot—delish, but she wanted something more hearty), we asked if she could perhaps have waffles, if the kitchen hadn’t closed. They said, it might be too late, but just 15 minutes later, a plate full of delicious waffles sprinkled with berries was presented to her in the Lounge. It’s the little things that are unforgettable, including the delightful personality of the precious crew members. But, most importantly, for families traveling with teenagers, the Internet service on board is excellent. How do I know? My daughter didn’t complain once.
Although families want their kids engaged during excursions, Karst says, they also know that it’s important for teenagers to be “connected to their friends at home—to take pictures, have those bragging rights, and so our Internet functions very well.”
She adds, too, that, “The perception is that this product is only for older people, but we need the travel partners to spread the word, and let clients know it’s for everyone because, as you saw during this cruise, you have the choice to do what you want to do, and there are so many choices.”
For more information, visit amawaterways.com.