One of the most popular travel radio show hosts, before she retired, was Jane DeGrow, host of the Travel Queen Radio Show. She loved having Jimmy Murphy on to talk not only about his latest venture, AmaWaterways River Cruise Line, founded in 2002 with Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst, but some of the history behind Brendan Vacations, which Murphy founded in 1969 with two fellow Irish ex-pats.
At the start of this E.B.GO Radio Show Video, one fact that came out was that when Brendan started in the late 1960’s 90% of their clients were traveling on their passports for the first time, a fact that reflects how international travel was not the more normal activity it has become today. Then it was an expensive luxury, however, Jimmy Murphy helped change that with his pioneering working in molding the modern travel industry we know today.
Twenty years ago the completion of the 162-mile Rhine-Main Canal in Bavaria , which linked up the Rhine and Danube Rivers, launched a revolution in the tourism business and Jimmy Murphy, a force in shaping the modern travel industry, has helped create the premier company, AmaWaterways, in the rapidly growing worldwide river cruise industry. Murphy’s first company, Brendan Vacations, which he founded in 1968 with two other Irishmen, set a high standard for innovation in escorted tours and became the largest American tour operator in Ireland. No longer involved with Brendan, his identification with travel to the Emerald Isle led Tourism Ireland to induct him as Ambassador in 2010.
In the mid-1990s, with passenger ships able to travel from the North Sea to the Black Sea, literally across the face Europe as never before, a number of companies sprang up which catered primarily to Europeans. But to attract American consumers the ships needed more amenities. In 2002 Jimmy Murphy, now Chairman, founded AmaWaterways with travel industry veterans Rudi Schreiner, President and Co-Owner, and Kristin Karst, Executive VP and Co-Owner, with the purpose of offering the finest of everything on board state-of-the-art river cruise ships designed with luxury, comfort and beauty in mind.
When approached by Rudi Schreiner with the idea of starting AmaWaterways, Murphy surmised that river cruising would be popular and, since coach touring had seemed to reach a peak, they would capture many of those travelers who might enjoy a new experience. It turned out that Murphy, as he said on the Travel Queen Radio Show, was “right for the wrong reasons, which is not always a bad thing.” River cruising was popular, as he predicted, but in the first five years of operation 80% of their clients were big ship cruisers who had run out of options and loved getting the cruise experience in the heart of Europe.
In contrast to ocean cruising with thousands, the all-inclusive AmaWaterways’ river cruise experience, at least in Europe, involves around 150 people and entails waking up just about every morning in the center of a different city, town or village. Clients quickly learn to close stateroom drapes in order to avoid being gazed upon by early morning pedestrians.
With 14 ships in the fleet, AmaWaterways celebrates its 10th Anniversary by launching two new ships and kicking off African Safaris and Wildlife River Cruises aboard the Zambezi Queen in the Chobe National Park. AmaCerto, the other new ship, will operate across Europe and has a series of exciting revolutionary design additions. Restrained in width by canal locks, European authorities are now allowing longer ships that will thus accommodate more passengers. September 2011 saw the launching of AmaWaterways’ second ship on the Mekong River, AmaLotus, which will join La Marguerite on the highly popular run between Vietnam and Cambodia. In addition, the Katarina plys the waters of the beautiful Russian rivers and lakes book ended by visits to the cosmopolitan cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow.
When Jimmy Murphy appeared with Arthur Frommer, famous publisher of tour books and travel magazines, on his nationally syndicated radio show he was asked by Frommer, “You’re well known for land tours, what made you switch over to river cruising?” In a forthright manner, which reflects his personality, Murphy answered, “Very simply, I thought river cruising was a thing of the future, and I’m glad to say it would appear to be the correct decision.” Queried as to whether figures supported his decision, the emphatic answer from Murphy was that “river cruising was literally leading the way in travel agency sales.”
AmaWaterways has evolved, in part, because they listen to their clients. For example, as Murphy noted on a radio show, passengers wanted to take the bikes on board the ship and ride ahead along the river. This privilege was restricted on safety grounds, but as requests became more numerous they relented and now more bikes, with helmets, have been added and escorted local bike tours tacked on to the list of included shore excursions.
AmaWaterways and Jimmy Murphy haven’t missed a beat over the last few years and will be seeking more avenues of expansion and ways to improve river cruising in the travel industry.