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The next frontier: River cruises offer more destinations, more intimate experiences

(Image credit: (Crystal Cruises))

This post is sponsored by Crystal Cruises

River cruises, known as leisurely and luxurious voyages along inland waterways everywhere from Africa to Western Europe, are now attracting a more diverse group of travelers. Adventure seekers, foodies, history buffs and active travelers are all hopping aboard ships that promise scenic views, customized experiences and stops in intriguing – and often less-explored – cities around the world.

European river cruising was the top trend in Travel Leaders Group’s 2017 luxury trend report, and Virtuoso’s 2018 Luxe Report ranked river cruising third among the top five travel trends of the year. It’s evident that the market is on the rise, and cruise companies are meeting the demand. Cruise Lines International Association reported 27 new cruise lines on order as of December 2017—15 of which were river ships. Two new vessels from Crystal River Cruises, including Crystal Debussy (visiting cities in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland) and Crystal Ravel (exploring the Rhine River between Amsterdam and Budapest), are offering some of the most intimate river travel experiences; four of the line’s five ships are brand new – designed to accommodate only 106 guests as compared to other river ships of similar size accommodating nearly 200 guests.

“River cruising offers clients a more intimate way to explore destinations with personalized authenticity,” said Helen Panagos, vice president of River Destination Experiences at Crystal River Cruises. “Our Crystal Collection of curated destination experiences provides a rich variety of options so that each guest may customize their shoreside discovery to very exacting preferences.”

River cruising provides guests convenient access to many city centers, boasting rich history, unique architecture and enchanting landscapes, and Crystal focuses on designing unique experiences – from cultural enrichment to active discovery – for guests to choose from. In addition, Crystal aims to delight guests with inclusive Signature Events showcasing renowned landmarks, “and our optional Epicurean Program giving guests access to culinary experiences from the simple to the sublime,” Panagos added.

Demand for cruising has increased 20.5% in the past five years, according to CLIA, and eight out of 10 travel agents are expecting an increase in sales in 2018 over last year.

To capitalize on this growing market demand, Walter Littlejohn, Crystal River Cruises’ vice president and managing director, shares that two important sources of new customers for river cruises are free independent travelers and escorted tours.

“Crystal River Cruises gives travel agents an opportunity to tap into these markets as we offer an intimate atmosphere aboard our ships and numerous ways to personalize each traveler’s experience, as well as providing a seamless attention to detail from ship to shore that travelers enjoy with our escorted tours,” he said.

Looking to the future, Littlejohn said he sees river cruise lines putting more effort into differentiating themselves from one another.

“Crystal River Cruises came into the industry and set itself apart as the only true luxury river cruise line, said Littlejohn. “Historically, most river cruise lines have followed a similar path, whereas Crystal River Cruises has undeniably revolutionized the industry with our award-winning all-inclusive luxury, six-star service, Michelin-inspired cuisine and unmatched options for personalized discovery ashore, making an impression on travelers and the industry as a whole. So, I believe we will begin to see more and more river cruise brands starting to differentiate themselves as the next trend.”


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