These New River Cruises Celebrate Black History and Culture Around the World

On the heels of its first sold-out Black heritage cruise in August, AmaWaterways is unveiling new trips in France, Portugal, Egypt and beyond

River cruise ship on river in France
AmaWaterways' first Black heritage river cruise took place in August on the Rhône River in France. AmaWaterways

In a bid to make travel more inclusive, one river cruise line is rolling out new sailings that celebrate Black history and culture around the world.

This week, AmaWaterways unveiled a new “Soulful Experience” trip in Portugal for 2024. The ten-day schedule includes seven nights of sailing on the Douro River, plus an additional three nights in Lisbon. Travelers will be able to learn about the history of the Black and African diaspora in Lisbon while also immersing themselves in Portuguese wine, food and music.

The newly announced Portugal trip joins three other Black heritage itineraries the cruise line will offer next year. Two of the 2024 cruises will sail the Rhône River in France between Arles and Lyon, with extra time spent in Paris, which the cruise line notes is “a city steeped in the history of famous Black artists, writers and entertainers.”

The other 2024 cruise will take place in Egypt. The 11-night trip includes seven days of sailing on the Nile River, plus four days in Cairo. Stops on the itinerary—which focuses on Egypt’s African history and regional foods—include Luxor, Edfu, Aswan, Esna, Kom Ombo and Qena. Travelers will also visit a Nubian village.

In 2025, the cruise line will once again offer Soulful Experience trips in Portugal, France and Egypt, as well as two new destinations: South Africa and Colombia.

Cruise ship on the Nile River in Egypt
One of the new Soulful Experience river cruises will take place next year on Egypt's Nile River. AmaWaterways

To craft the itineraries, AmaWaterways worked with Black travel advisers in the United States and Black travel suppliers in the different destinations the ships visit, according to USA Today’s Nathan Diller.

For example, in Paris, travelers can participate in an excursion focused on dancer, singer and civil rights activist Josephine Baker. Other excursions include the Blachère Foundation in Bonnieux, France, where visitors can see African art, and the Tata of Chasselay cemetery in Chasselay, France, where guests will learn about the Senegalese soldiers who fought in World War II, reports Travel Noire’s Rafael Peña.

“We are hopeful that through the demand for cruises such as these and the experiences they bring, more Black-owned businesses can be included in the mass selection of tour operators for international destinations,” Jazzmine Douse, AmaWaterways’ director of national accounts, tells the publication.

Soulful Epicurean Experiences

AmaWaterways announced its first Black heritage cruise in June 2022. The inaugural trip sold out “almost immediately,” said Kristin Karst, AmaWaterways' executive vice president and co-founder, in a statement. And when Black travelers eventually boarded the AmaKristina this August for the sailing on the Rhone River in France, “the tears came early,” writes Travel Weekly’s Nicole Edenedo, who joined the trip.

Historically, the river cruise industry has “catered to a predominantly white clientele,” writes Travel Weekly. But the success of the inaugural Soulful Experience cruise in France this year—and the demand for subsequent sailings in 2024—proves “river cruising is for everyone,” Douse tells the publication.

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