A New Era in Luxury Hotels

The definition of a hotel is “an establishment providing accommodation, meals, and other services for travellers and tourists”. Building on 28 years of expertise of serving luxury customers, Crystal River Cruises has reimagined the concept of luxury hospitality. Debuted in 2016, Crystal Mozart ushered in a new era of luxury in the river cruising sector. A further four ships have been added over the past two years, completely reimagining the European river experience.


We caught up with Walter Littlejohn, Vice President and Managing Director at Crystal River Cruises to understand how they created this new generation of luxury hospitality.

What trends do you see in luxury hospitality and how has Crystal responded?


Luxury travellers are increasingly demanding a more personalised and exclusive experience. While most river cruise companies approach their experiences with a tour operator mindset and plan for the guests as a whole, Crystal has a hotelier mindset, running 5-star hotels that happen to float. With our different approach and philosophy of offering guests as many choices as possible to appeal to their individual wishes, we deliver a truly personalised travel experience. We emphasise our onboard experience first, with the highest guest-to-crew ratios in the industry, affording extraordinary personal attention for each guest. Our chefs do a-la-minute preparation of Michelin-inspired cuisine using only the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients. The only things we don’t source locally are fresh lobster and oysters, which are flown in once a week—lobster from Maine or Canada and oysters from France. Other onboard choices and personalised services include open seating dining in a choice of multiple restaurants and private butler service for every room category.

How does Crystal marry the onshore and offshore experiences?


We recognise that every guest brings his or her own distinct style of exploration, and we strive to cater to that individuality. Our curated destination programme features over 200 shore excursions focusing on choices and offers more intimate, immersive experiences based on travellers’ individual interests. The programme comprises five categories of experiences including Personal Connections, excursions that explore the culture of a destination via tours hosted by local residents, artisans and experts; Tantalizing Gastronomy, designed to showcase signature culinary styles and specialties of the destination; Cultural Discoveries, expertly guided tours to historical landmarks, museums, iconic sites and architectural points of interest; Exhilarating Adventures, designed for active passengers; and Design Your Time, a concierge service that helps guests designs their own private tours and offers a menu of customised choices. To ensure that every detail of each experience is in line with our exacting standards of service, excursion group sizes are limited to no more than 15 guests per guide while spacious custom motor coaches that have been outfitted exclusively for Crystal to hold only 40 guests offer first-class seating, generous leg room, power outlets at every seat and complimentary Wi-Fi service.

Is the profile and expectations of travellers changing?


Our river guests tend to be younger than our average ocean voyage guests. While the average age for river is mid-50s, we also see many honeymooners and younger families. We cater to groups and families by offering connecting rooms and 2-bedroom suites on every ship. Crystal Mozart is unique as we offer triples in every suite category. In terms of the future, Crystal River Cruises’ ships are designed to exceed travellers’ wishes today and anticipate those of tomorrow. We completely refurbished the all-suite, all- butler service Crystal Mozart and have launched four brand new ships over the last two years – the first and only all-suite, all-balcony, all-butler service river ships on Europe’s rivers. These ships feature state of the art technology with free unlimited Wi-Fi, allowing guests to stream across all devices, as well as many other details that make the Crystal River Experience a completely streamlined and seamless one for our guests. Our commitment to offering as many choices as possible for travellers to make the voyage their own helps ensure that we naturally continually evolve to meet and anticipate guests’ preferences.


London based design firm, AD Associates are behind the interior design, so we asked David McCarthy, AD Associates Director of Marine Projects and Communications to share his thoughts, “River cruising is undergoing something of a transformation. As R&D and long standing interior designers for Crystal Cruises, AD Associates were privileged to curate a number of luxurious spaces aboard their first ever newbuild river yachts. Our aim was to create a new level in luxury interiors; selecting the right products has made that possible.” Read full case study on Crystal Bach here.


About Rita Bancroft

A regular features writer on Design Insider, Rita has a passion for interiors. Having worked at a senior level for international brands for over 30 years, today she runs Bancmarketing, her own independent marketing consultancy business she set up in 2011.
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