PATRICIA DOHERTY September 1, 2019

Emmy award-winning travel TV host Samantha Brown christened the AmaMagna in Grein, Austria amid music, dance, and festivities that included local residents in traditional dirndls and lederhosen, fireworks, entertainment, and of course, champagne. The new AmaWaterways ship, twice as wide as traditional river vessels, was designed specifically for cruising the Danube.

Brown ‘s Places to Love is in its third year of filming, and she told guests at the christening event that it’s the people who really make us feel we are part of a place. “It is my belief that we travel in order to feel like we belong to this world and that the new luxury of travel is simply meeting and connecting with people,” she said.

The AmaMagna cruises between Budapest, Hungary and Vilshofen, Germany with stops in Bratislava, Vienna, Grein, Linz, and Passau, with a variety of shore excursions in each place. On board, guests enjoy dining options that include the Main Restaurant, Chef’s Table, Jimmy’s Wine Bar & Restaurant, and Al Fresco, with retractable windows and outdoor seating.

The additional space on the larger ship added more luxury, not more passengers, according to AmaWaterways co-founder, co-owner, and president Rudi Schreiner, who conceived the unique ship. Open areas, dining options, and staterooms were enhanced, and space for a spa, fitness center, and leisure areas were important considerations.

In concluding her comments before the traditional breaking of the champagne bottle against the AmaMagna, Brown reminded guests that when we travel, we are part of a greater community — a global community that can truly make the world a better place.

Travel + Leisure caught up with Brown as she headed off to New Zealand to film an episode of her show. She shared some thoughts about her experience on the AmaMagna christening cruise.

T+L: What did it mean to you to be the godmother of a cruise ship?

Brown: “It’s quite honestly the biggest honor I’ve been given in the travel industry. And I took it very seriously — I watched all the videos of her being built, saw all the computer renderings, and now I even follow her on Instagram.”

What was the most memorable part of your AmaWaterways cruise?

“I loved meeting and learning from the locals of towns, villages, and cities and then when back on board, sharing those experiences with the crew and fellow passengers. It was this powerful human exchange that reinforced the idea we are not just consumers of travel, but we are in fact a part of a greater community.”

Why do you think river cruising has become so popular?

“The intimacy and personal nature of it. Being on a river, you are physically connected to the natural beauty of a region, and you are sharing this experience with a small group of people that you get to know. People are traveling today in order to connect with people and places in a way that our own daily lives may not allow.”

What’s one thing you wish you knew before taking your first river cruise?

“Just how overwhelming it can be to be on a, say, seven-day cruise, with every day being another incredibly anticipated destination. You have to pace yourself and you should plan this in advance of your trip. You just can’t physically do tour excursions every single day. So mark off which cities you want to explore on a walking tour, to go totally on your own, or which ones you’ll pass on, giving yourself a day off to stay on the ship.”

What is the one thing not to do on a cruise?

“Don’t pack everything in one checked suitcase! If your bag doesn’t make it, it’s really hard for your luggage to get to you since you are moving to a new port every day. That’s a game of tag that no one wants to play. Either bring a separate carry-on with a few days’ worth of clothes, or if you’re traveling with someone, split your things between the two suitcases so if one doesn’t make it, you still have the other (hopefully).”

What is the one thing you should always pack for a cruise?

“Really good walking shoes that have been broken in.”

What’s the next destination on your cruise bucket list?

“I would love to do the lower Danube and go deeper into Eastern Europe places like Serbia and Bulgaria.”