Kristin Karst (left) and Rudi Schreiner, co-owners of AmaWaterways // © 2016 Elizabeth Dupuis
Feature image (above): AmaKristina will be the 25th member of AmaWaterways’ fleet. // © 2016 Elizabeth Dupuis
On April 28, the 164-passenger AmaSonata docked in Belgrade, Serbia — a port of call on AmaWaterways’ Gems of Southeast Europe itinerary on the lower Danube River. Although this particular voyage was the first of the 2016 season, passengers Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst, co-owners of AmaWaterways, saw an opportunity to place the spotlight on another member of the fleet: AmaKristina.
AmaKristina, a newbuild that is set to begin service in 2017, recently had its hull completed at nearby Vahali Zasavica shipyard in Serbia, located approximately 40 miles from the Belgrade port.
Together with shipyard employees, ship-building partners, top-producing travel agents from Expedia CruiseShipCenters and select media, Schreiner and Karst held a surprise “pre-christening” shipyard ceremony for the 158-passenger ship, complete with speeches from company executives, traditional Serbian fare, live entertainment and a fireworks display.
AmaKristina is the ninth ship that Vahali Zasavica shipyard is building for AmaWaterways, and the event served as both a celebration of the companies’ partnership and an opportunity to celebrate the shipyard employees themselves.
“We knew we were going to be here in Serbia, so it was perfect timing,” Karst said. “Next year will be the 15th anniversary of our company, so it’s a very special year. The shipbuilders are really the ones behind it all. They, as much as our crew, are our greatest ambassadors, and they are the ones putting all the puzzle pieces together.”
Originally, AmaKristina had been planned for service on the Elbe River, a major waterway in Central Europe and one that Karst visited often during her childhood. But when reports of low water levels surfaced, Karst says she and Schreiner decided the ship should be moved to the Rhine River.
“The building process had already started, so we decided we would go back to the traditional rivers,” she said. “So the ship will sail the Rhine next year from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland. On one side, it was an emotional decision. We would have liked to see it happen, but it wouldn’t have been fair to our guests.”
During the April 28 event, Karst, who will serve as the godmother of AmaKristina, recited a maritime blessing during a ribbon-cutting ceremony that ended with a bottle of champagne crashing against the ship’s bow.
Shipyard director Vincent Becker and shipbuilder Koert Kamphuisen were also in attendance. During the ceremony, Becker and Schreiner unveiled a plaque that lists each of AmaWaterways’ 25 ships, a gift to Kamphuisen that will be placed inside AmaKristina upon the completion of its interior refurbishment.
Geraldine Ree, senior vice president of franchise and supplier performance for Expedia CruiseShipCenters, a retail franchise travel agency that currently has 215 locations in the U.S. and Canada, attended the event with more than 30 of the agency’s top-producing advisors.
She says she was thrilled that Karst and Schreiner invited agents onboard the AmaSonata voyage to attend.
“I love AmaWaterways; they’re one of our top suppliers and are amazing to work with,” Ree said. “As soon as I told the franchise partners onboard that there was a chance to go to the shipyard, everybody wanted to come.”
She went on to describe the evening as “one of the most incredible evenings I’ve had in travel.”
“To be there, and to watch everything unfold with the Serbian workers, how excited they were — it was just an amazing event,” she said.
AmaKristina is AmaWaterways’ 25th newbuild. Next, the ship will sail to the Netherlands, where the interior will be completed. A traditional, in-water christening will follow.