Setting the Scene: European Travel - Holiday Season 2021
When travel advisor Mike K. and his husband Pat planned their Christmas Markets on the Rhine journey in 2021, they were looking forward to their second river cruise with AmaWaterways and to spending some extra time in Amsterdam and Zurich before and after their sailing. To show his clients how wonderful it felt to be out in the world again, Mike had been “pioneering” international travel throughout the year – this cruise would be his fifth.
But in the days leading up to Mike and Pat’s departure, Covid restrictions tightened in Europe and, several of the famed Christmas Markets were cancelled and The Netherlands announced a temporary lockdown. The men were faced with a difficult decision: should they move forward with their much-anticipated Christmas sailing or spend the holiday once again back at their Virginia home?
Change of Plans
Fortunately, according to Mike, AmaWaterways made their decision easy. “Our sales rep assured me that the Operations Team was working on adjustments to our itinerary and that the sailing would go on,” said Mike. “The day before our flight, she told me they’d rescheduled our pre-cruise land package and we would be staying at a lovely hotel in Brussels. Our entire itinerary was reconfirmed by email as we sat in the airport lounge on departure day. It was phenomenal that they were able to rearrange everything within a matter of hours over the weekend and communicate it all to us. That took a lot of commitment from their teams in Europe and in their headquarters and made a great start to our vacation.”
Behind the Scenes
AmaWaterways’ Operations Team has always planned for unexpected situations that could arise along the rivers and anticipates every possible scenario, creating a Plan B, and in some cases, a Plan C for every single itinerary they create. During the past couple of years, that anticipation and preparedness has only been enhanced as global teams work together to coordinate alternative arrangements, including new embarkation ports as well as new flights and hotels if needed. Individuals from the Air, Operations and Marketing teams work around the clock to communicate changes to both travel advisors and their guests through all means necessary, whether by email or personal phone call, and as soon as possible. Once on board, the Cruise Manager and crew step in and ensure guests are informed, feel safe and have a wonderful time.
A Consistent and Capable Cruise Manager
In addition to being wowed at AmaWaterways’ swift adjustments to their plans, Mike was full of praise for the way in which the same Cruise Manager traveled with the group on their pre-cruise land package in Brussels through their Rhine River cruise and even accompanied them on their post-cruise land package in Switzerland. “I love the way Ama does this, ensuring you have the same person taking care of you all the way through your journey,” he shared. “In Brussels, our Cruise Manager Nikola was ‘flying by the seat of his pants’, but he made our experience there feel seamless.”
Mike was similarly delighted by Nikola’s commitment to his guests. In fact, Nikola shared insider information including a tip on where Mike could buy a beloved beverage nearby without paying a tourist’s mark-up. He also quickly arranged for a scooter to help Mike navigate on longer walking tours with ease.
“Home” For the Holidays
Although they missed the Christmas Markets on shore, the ship was beautifully decorated and a festive holiday atmosphere was ever-present on board. Not only did a special visitor in a jolly red suit arrive on Christmas Eve, but tree decorating was encouraged, and Pat found the Christmas “pickle,” winning a decorative item the couple will proudly display next Christmas. “The crew made us feel like we were at home celebrating the holiday even though we were thousands of miles away,” recalled Mike fondly. “We really enjoyed the whole atmosphere and feeling like part of their family.”
Although other guests made the personal decision to cancel the same Christmas Markets departure, Mike and Pat were so appreciative of the opportunity to continue with their plans and make new memories with their AmaWaterways family. As Mike professed, “The world is too big, and we have too much left to see.”
Don’t miss out this year: most European Christmas Markets we visit are scheduled to open by November 24, 2023. Join AmaWaterways for a Christmas Markets river cruise and contact your travel advisor to take advantage of special limited-time offers!