What inspires ocean-cruising travel advisors to keep coming back to the river.

Alonzo and Sheila C. own Our Gang Travel, one of the oldest minority wholly-owned travel agencies in the Northeast United States. From the very start, Alonzo stated, "We wanted to do something educational, experiential and totally different."

Throughout the agency's 35 years, this has included everything from bringing their own personalized entertainment – including art auctions – on ocean cruise ships to taking communion over the grave of John the Apostle in Ephesus, Turkey. But until more recently, the travel advisors had always been skeptical about river cruising and its appeal with Our Gang Travel’s predominantly ocean cruising clientele.

Personalized Attention

As top sellers with an ocean cruise line, the couple was used to being treated to a kind of "elite status" while sailing aboard ocean liners. Although river cruise ships are much more intimate vessels, they certainly weren’t expecting to receive as warm a welcome as they did when they ventured out as first-time river cruisers with AmaWaterways on the Danube River.

"With Ama, every single guest receives special attention," said Sheila, "not just the people staying in suites." She and Alonzo were surprised and delighted that every AmaWaterways crew member remembered their names almost immediately, from the front desk staff to the dining room. "It was like we were on our own personal yacht," Alonzo shared.

Overall, Sheila recalled, "The included tours were out of this world and the food and wine were indescribable." There was no doubt after their first river cruise that Alonzo and Sheila would return with their infamous groups.

Unique Experiences

Early on, Alonzo, Sheila and their clients were encouraged to enjoy one of AmaWaterways' complimentary guided bike tours. However, knowing their guests' interests reasonably well, they really didn't think biking would be their group’s cup of tea. "To my surprise," Alonzo laughed, "the bikes are now somewhat of a magnet and our guests always ask us if there will be bike tours on their next river cruise."

Now several sailings in and proud members of the AmaWaterways family, the couple has made many incredible memories on board. Sheila recalled one sailing in particular where Our Gang Travel brought a well-known entertainer from Atlanta, Georgia on board to personalize the experience for their guests. Another group of French guests traveling together thought Our Gang’s entertainment – and guests – made their sailing the best vacation they’d ever had. "We welcomed so many guests into our group. It was a melting pot," Sheila said. "We had an unbelievable time and it was an experience we’ll never forget."

AmaMagna – Redefining the River Cruise Experience

Sheila and Alonzo have also had the opportunity to sail aboard our most innovative ship to date, AmaMagna, during her inaugural year on the Danube River in 2019. Twice as wide as traditional river cruise ships and personally designed by Co-Founder and President Rudi Schreiner, AmaMagna offers the luxury of space with more than 50% ultra-spacious suite accommodations and a number of welcome enhancements for all guests – especially those who have only previously cruised on ocean liners.

"The ship is unbelievable," raved Alonzo. "The spacious suites, the layout of the dining areas and even the onboard boutique – they were all incredible. It was the epitome of what I would want on my own yacht."

Sheila’s favorite things on board were AmaMagna’s chic cinema and the ability to choose from four unique dining experiences, including two new AmaWaterways restaurants: Al Fresco, which offers light vegetable-forward dishes with panoramic views, and Jimmy’s, with its warm, familial atmosphere. "We appreciated having more space and more areas to go. I also loved the Zen Wellness Studio," she recalled fondly of the expansive space that encompasses a fully equipped fitness room with outdoor spin bikes, a relaxing juice bar, two massage rooms and a hair and nail salon. "I don’t ever take a cruise without a spa treatment – and it was fabulous!"

A Personalized Experience

Although they were a little skeptical before their first AmaWaterways river cruise, Alonzo and Sheila now feel that river cruising has a wide appeal. With a variety of included excursions offered each day – including tours for gentle walkers – as well as active guided hikes and bike rides, and immersive culinary-themed Special Interest Tours, every river cruiser can personalize their AmaWaterways experience, no matter what their activity level or interest.

"People want to know if it’s only for mature travelers," said Sheila, mentioning some children she’s seen connecting with one another on board. "It’s definitely not – and I can’t wait to get my grandchild and grandniece on a river cruise with us in the future."

At the same time, Sheila noted, you’re never "too" mature to sail with AmaWaterways. "We took my mother when she was 90 and we have a client that is over 90 who has sailed with us," she said. "We call her the Energizer Bunny because she’s been all over the world and is always out on the dance floor. Whatever age you are, you do it for the memories."

Join us aboard our award-winning ships, including AmaMagna, in 2021 or 2022 – contact your preferred travel advisor to reserve your next unforgettable vacation today!

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