A German luxury hospitality group’s newly launched river cruise line aims to attract both a familiar and also a younger clientele when it begins cruising next year on a former Crystal River Cruises ship.
Riverside Luxury Cruises, owned by the Hamburg-based boutique hotelier Seaside Collection, will launch its first European river cruises aboard the former Crystal Mozart, renamed the Riverside Mozart, beginning in April. And Crystal fans will feel right at home on the double-wide vessel: It will relaunch with many of its Crystal crew members aboard.
Jennifer Halboth, a former Globus director of national accounts who is CEO of Riverside Collection, Americas — the entity selling and marketing the cruise line to the U.S. and Canadian markets — said that soon after Seaside quietly acquired the ship in June, the company began an “aggressive” timeline to launch the brand, which officially went online in September. Although the ship’s availability at the time was a selling point, Riverside said it wanted the Mozart for specific reasons.
“This ship really set the standard of luxury on the river,” Halboth said of its debut in 2016 as Crystal River Cruises’ first river ship. “That is Seaside Collection’s intent. They have luxury hotels, and they really want to have that same level on the rivers.”
The 35-year-old ship, originally built for Peter Deilmann Cruises, will retain much of its structural components and signature amenities while undergoing renovations, with only a few new design elements being incorporated into the refurbished vessel before it begins sailing exclusively on the Danube River next year.
Butler service for every suite, along with four restaurants, an indoor swimming pool with a current machine, a hot tub, saunas and steam baths, a large gym and two pop-up bars on the top deck will be featured on the ship, in line with what it formerly offered.
But the continuity of luxury on the Riverside Mozart, stemming from its parent company and its predecessor, won’t end with cosmetic touch-ups. Gregor Gerlach, owner of Seaside Collection, hired a slew of former Crystal River Cruises’ staff, some of whom will return to the roles they previously held, including the hotel director, executive chef, captain and restaurant manager, Halboth said.
It’s a move she said returning Crystal guests might appreciate.
“All these former Crystal employees in Europe came over to Riverside. So I think being able to build upon that Crystal story, yet make it uniquely Riverside in time, will deliver that level of luxury on the river.”
The Mozart is the only ship in Riverside’s fleet for now, but Halboth said there are plans to expand and possibly buy more of Crystal’s four former ships, which have not yet been reported as sold, although the company is considering all options to grow its fleet.
Riverside seeking younger cruisers
Riverside is also hoping to attract a market that is relatively younger than the typical river cruise client. With its offices in the U.K. and Europe as well as a new one established in the U.S., the company is hoping to entice the European, American and eventually the Canadian market to come aboard.
“We want to go a little bit younger than the normal luxury market and target people in their mid- to late-40s and up,” Halboth said. “We’re not going to wait until people are 60-plus to get them on this product. We want them to start sailing with us sooner.”
The company said it will need to rely heavily on travel advisors to reach its target markets. Instead of offering its base commission of 18% this year, Riverside Cruises is currently offering 21% commission on all 2023 bookings to jump-start interest. It also plans to introduce the Riverside Mozart to advisors at the 2023 ASTA River Expo.
“They can go back to their former Crystal clients, which are great targets, but also if they sell any luxury small-ship cruises — SeaDream or a Regent or a Silversea — these are going to be great targets,” Halboth said.