One-on-one with AmaWaterways' Kristin Karst

05-19-2017 9:13 am

There’s no doubt May 10 will always be a special date for Kristin Karst from here on out.

Not only does it mark the 15th year anniversary of AmaWaterways, it’s also the day she officially welcomed her 20th and namesake ship, the AmaKristina, to the fleet amidst a lively christening ceremony in Lahnstein, Germany.

“I never dreamed that as a young girl growing up in Dresden 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 and travel industry partners that have contributed to our success.”

Christening the AmaKristina

The AmaKristina is a beauty with room for 156 guests, three dining venues, a fitness centre, a hair salon and spa, a heated pool with swim-up bar, a sprawling sundeck and free WiFi throughout; moreover, a majority of staterooms also feature AmaWaterways’ signature twin balconies. The vessel will be sailing the Rhine River between Amsterdam and Basel.

Such a stunning ship deserved a worthy christening. In the shadow of Schloss Stolzenfels, local residents and Mayor Peter Labonte, travel industry partners, international media and fellow cruisers mingled to the sound of a medieval cocktail reception complete with fanfare and traditional German cuisine. The dockside event was a smashing success indeed, as the bottle of champagne burst in a million pieces after Karst vigorously flung it against the ship’s hull as per cruising tradition. Celebrations continued into the evening with a gala dinner and culminated with an astounding fireworks display.

“It’s of course an incredible honour to be a godmother," added Karst. “It’s also a motivation going forward because when I see what the last 15 years have brought and how we have grown the company, I consider this a milestone. River cruising is the fastest growing segment not just in the cruising industry but in the travel industry altogether. I know that the future is bright and that we have many beautiful things ahead of us.”

Is river cruising at a crossroads?

Kristin Karst’s smile is not only genuine, it’s also unbelievably contagious. As she sat down with PAX for an exclusive interview in the lounge of her very own AmaKristina, the co-owner and executive vice president of AmaWaterways is gracious and kind-hearted and quick to make her interviewer feel like a family friend, not something commonly said about people in similar positions. She seamlessly transitions between talking about how she loves working with her husband Rudi Schreiner and about their more aggressive growth plan for 2019 with exciting new ships and itineraries.

And about the state of the river cruising in 2017, Karst is unequivocal: the demographics and perceptions are both rapidly changing.

“Fifteen years ago, I would’ve said that the average age of river cruising customers was in the mid-to-late 60s," Karst said. "But we actually have initiated a change here at AmaWaterways by adding the wellness and active segments. In addition to our traditional client base, we now target younger, more active people and even families.”

She is also eager to debunk the myths that river cruising is all about sitting down, eating subpar food and watching monotonous riverbanks go by.

“River cruising is the most comfortable and elegant way of discovering the world, not just Europe but also Asia and Africa”, explained Karst. “Back when we started, river cruising was very much in the shadow of ocean cruising but Rudi and myself were adamant about changing that perception to make river cruising into what it is today. This can only be done with exceptional ships, unparalleled cuisine and irreproachable service so that our guests experience the vacation of a lifetime.”

AmaKristina’s godmother strongly believes that a successful river cruise is a combination of both alluring destinations and an exciting on-board experience, stepping away from the cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all model of the last decade. By catering to their increasingly diverse clientele’s specific set of needs, AmaWaterways prides itself on being pioneers in making river cruising sexy and sophisticated – and most importantly, fully customizable.

“Everyone should try a river cruise. And you don’t have to be 85 years old!” Karst added.

A note for travel agents

From a sales standpoint, AmaWaterways’ programme is very attractive for Canadian travel agents with commissions starting at 15 per cent on the cruise portion, with group conditions starting at a minimum of five staterooms/10 guests.

“We also find that once a client has booked and enjoyed a river cruise, they are likely to book multiple other cruises in the future, which is good for us and for the agent”, added Karst.

And indeed, she is right; AmaWaterways’ repeat customer ratio edges around 40 per cent. It’s also worth pointing out that land programmes are also commissionable.

For more information about AmaWaterway’s travel agent portal, visit amawaterways.ca/agent-login. This portal provides access to a booking engine, a travel agent university with bonus commission upon completion of the course as well as individual FAM and ‘Seminar on the River’ opportunities.

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