River Boat Generic Danube No Boat AXQ – We were just about to contact you folks to do our first river boat voyage. We’ve cruised the large cruise ships perhaps a dozen time, most often on Crystal, which is the creme de la creme. So we were rather shocked to read that Crystal is actually launching a new river cruise line. Is this true, should we wait, what do you think about this? It must be every exciting for you all.

A – We are besides ourselves with joy. We are all wearing Spandex tee-shirts that proclaim “You Grow Crystal.” Nothing like a river cruise line with no name, no boats, and no specific points of differentiation. But that is coming.

Luxury operator, Crystal Cruises, recently purchased by Genting Asia, which owns Asia’s Star Cruises and a hefty stake in Norwegian Cruise line Holdings, has announced that Crystal will launch two new river boats in March or April of 2017.  For competitive reasons, details will come out in dribs and drabs. No one really understands why Crystal would enter this arena since profit margins on a two or three-ship operation are potentially meager when compared with three new ships carrying 3,000 guests.

Crystal River Boats are the biggest hush-hush story in the industry and details will be leaked very slowly, for competitive reasons. If they are really going to launch these new boats and have them sailing by spring 2017, the books would have to open no later than June 1st next year. We would suggest putting off your decision until then as we do believe that Crystal may become the world’s top-rated river boat brand. It is, currently, their game to lose. Unlike other river boat operators, Crystal’s management already knows how to launch truly five-star luxury products. It remains to be seen if the  limited construction and size options of boats that will fit beneath Europe’s locks and bridges enable them to truly design a product on the rivers of Europe that is superior to all existing inventory. For river cruise enthusiasts, this makes for a rather fascinating case study. Let’s all pull up our chairs, open a nice Pinot from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and watch this thing float out of the yard.