Cruise & Ferry Review - Spring/Summer 2023

INTERVIEW An exclusive market entrant Gregor Gerlach and Stuart Perl tell Rebecca Gibson why Riverside Luxury Cruises will set new standards of luxury in the river cruise sector when its first ships begin sailing in spring 2023 New ultra-luxury brand Riverside Luxury Cruises will set sail on Europe’s Danube, Rhine, Rhône and Saône rivers in April 2023, offering personalised guest experiences, exclusive excursions and diverse itineraries that have been carefully curated to meet the ever-evolving demands of today’s most discerning travellers. The brand was launched by German hotelier Gregor Gerlach, co-owner of Seaside Collection, which operates 11 boutique properties in Germany, the Canary Islands and the Maldives. “In 2018, we realised there was growing demand for a contemporary, upmarket river cruise brand, and decided to fill that niche by developing our own six-star offering,” says Gerlach. However, launching a boutique resort on the water was more challenging than Gerlach originally anticipated. “We couldn’t buy existing vessels because none of the available ships met our requirements, and we weren’t able to build our own because all the shipyards already had full order books, so we had to sideline the project.” Gerlach’s fortunes changed when luxury cruise operator Crystal Cruises filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations in January 2022, leaving five river cruise ships and several other vessels without owners. He immediately launched a plan to buy the river vessels, successfully purchasing Mozart in October 2022 and acquiring the remaining four in January 2023 after an extended bidding war with a competitor. “The vessels are the perfect size to deliver an intimate, personalised and luxury experience, particularly Riverside Mozart, which offers more spacious suites than any other river cruise ship on the Danube,” says Gerlach. After seeking feedback from Crystal Cruises’ former guests who all rated the vessels highly, Riverside Luxury Cruises opted not to carry out major upgrades on the ships. “We’ll install a new Vista Grill barbeque venue on the top deck so guests can dine al fresco while admiring the passing scenery or watching the sunset, but otherwise, we’re just adding small touches that will elevate the overall level of luxury,” says Gerlach. “For example, we’re introducing pops of colour to the décor, using plush towels in the bathrooms, and decorating restaurant tables with flowers and high-quality tablecloths. We’ll also offer 24/7 personalised butler services.” The brand has also created a unique food and beverage programme to enhance Riverside Luxury Cruises will offer cruises to destinations along the Rhine 82