Creating evolutionary designs for luxury river vacations

AmaWaterways is a globally admired luxury hospitality brand with an award-winning fleet of innovative river cruise ships. Jon Ingleton asks naval architect Lauren West about the newest additions

Creating evolutionary designs for luxury river vacations

AmaWaterways

AmaMagna’s al fresco restaurant is popular with guests thanks to its panoramic views and high-quality cuisine

AmaWaterways has 23 ships in its fleet and three new additions under construction, all of which have been designed to a luxury standard that has become a touchstone for the river cruising industry.

“Our president and co-founder Rudi Schreiner has introduced countless new innovations to the company’s river cruise ships with great success, while also steering the company’s continuous and steady growth,” says Lauren West, a naval architect at the company. “I work closely with Rudi on various nautical projects, including newbuilding. I’m the first person in this position at our head office in Calabasas, California and I collaborate with our team members in Europe, our technical partners at Rivertech, hotel operations partners at SeaChefs, and shipbuilders.”

AmaSiena is the company’s latest newbuild, joining the fleet on the Rhine later this year. “After launching at Severnav in Romania, she arrived at the outfitting yard in Holland in March,” says West. “Interior works began immediately but coincided with the outbreak of Covid-19. Fortunately, however, our shipbuilders were fast to react to the daily changes in guidelines to slow down the spread of the virus and took precautionary measures from the beginning to protect staff, subcontractors and clients at the shipyard.”

Despite strict government regulations, including reduced occupancy, work on AmaSiena has progressed well. “As long as the situation does not decline in the Netherlands and no further restrictions are needed, we expect AmaSiena to be delivered at the end of October,” says West.

As a relative newcomer to the business, West enjoyed a first visit to the Romanian yard during the launch of AmaSiena, “I was introduced to the shipbuilders, facilities and processes during a tour of the yard,” she says. “The presence of women with distinguished roles at the shipyard, and their tradition of dressing up for the launch ceremonies, really struck me.”

West was encouraged by the yard’s commitment to diversity but its skilled contingent of women came as a welcome surprise. “It’s uncommon for women to work in shipbuilding and I was impressed by the shipyard’s support of their skills and culture,” she explains. “The painting department is led by, and entirely made up of, women and the yard’s most skilled welders are women. I am very proud of their contribution to our new, beautiful ships.”

Severnav has followed AmaWaterways’ innovative lead, recently implementing new welding technology. “In total, 10 per cent of AmaSiena was welded by the shipyard’s new welding robot and, once the technology was proven, it was used for 40 per cent of AmaLucia,” says West. “It’s a significant technical innovation for the yard and I’m proud that our ships have proven the success of this technology.”

AmaLucia will follow AmaSiena into the European fleet in 2021, and despite the common hull form, both will have a unique character. “AmaLucia is now being transported to Holland to begin outfitting,” says West. “Every one of AmaWaterways ships are designed as an evolution of the previous ships, furnished with unique colours and patterns to give each vessel its own personality.” West is conscious of Schreiner’s legacy of thoughtful design evolution from ship to ship: “In 2019, we launched AmaMagna and AmaMora, each exhibiting successful innovations that have been incorporated in the design of AmaSiena and AmaLucia.”

This tradition applies equally with AmaWaterways’ approach to interior design. “The al fresco restaurant onboard AmaMagna, which became a favourite venue with breathtaking views from the bow of the ship, has been adapted and planned for AmaSiena,” comments West. “AmaMora departed from the rounded shapes used in the layout and furniture of her predecessors, featuring square shapes instead. AmaSiena is being built with lessons learned from both versions, a sort of hybrid design. One of the developments introduced by AmaMora that is being included in AmaSiena is the more spacious design of the Chef’s Table restaurant in the aft.”

Looking to the future, West is acutely conscious of the company’s passenger demographic and their high expectations. “AmaWaterways will continue to lead the way in river cruising by innovating and adapting to the needs of the luxury market,” she says. “Our guests are inquisitive and active, so in terms of ship design this means staying on top of the trends for fitness, culinary experience, entertainment, and the ever-growing notion of sustainability.”

Onboard facilities, services and initiatives make an important contribution to upholding AmaWaterways’ values. “We are well-positioned in these areas with enlarged fitness rooms and onboard wellness hosts, bicycles onboard, enhanced Chef’s Table alternative dining venue, and specific actions to eliminate single-use plastics – just a few examples of how we are anticipating our guests’ needs,” says West.

The pandemic has inevitably altered the current onboard experience but, true to form, AmaWaterways is deploying industry best practice. “We have followed all appropriate guidance and legislation and we are continually reviewing new ideas to maintain extremely high standards of hygiene, safety and overall wellness onboard,” explains West. “The situation surrounding Covid-19 has revealed aspects of ship design and hospitality that may change forever, such as food service.”

Until the technology and infrastructure is in place, battery power remains unfeasible for river cruising, but the company continues to pursue a full sustainability agenda. “This year, 18 river cruise ships within AmaWaterways’ European fleet earned the Green Award certification, recognised for industry-leading safety, quality and environmental performance,” says West. “AmaKristina was the very first river cruise ship honoured with the Green Award in January. Jan Fransen, executive director of the Green Award Foundation, presented the award to Wade Korzan, director of AmaWaterways’ European operations, and representatives from Rivertech, the company providing technical services to AmaWaterways.

“We plan to continue making strides to improve our ships, enhance our guests’ experience and preserve the environment by investigating and implementing new, green technologies.”

The company has occasionally strayed from its successful baby-stepped evolutionary approach by flirting with more revolutionary designs, particularly with the almost double-width AmaMagna.

“Following the successful launch and operation of AmaMagna, we are interested in building a second in this series and we’re also looking into a Rhine-max vessel design,” says West. “Schreiner’s revolutionary design of AmaMagna was developed over many years and the response from new and returning guests is very encouraging.”

AmaMagna has garnered credit for inspiring traditional cruise passengers to take to the rivers. “It’s inspiring to see how one ship can promote such a shift of cruise passengers from ocean to rivers,” West concludes.

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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Jon Ingleton
By Jon Ingleton
21 October 2020

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