Riverside Luxury Cruises: European Luxury Cruising Lightens Up

Have you ever noticed that river cruise ship lines often name their crafts after classical music composers? One could argue that it is because river cruise clientele has traditionally been older passengers. Another theory is that these travel experiences are, by design, supposed to be elegant and leisurely. Loyal ‘Boomer’ cruise travelers aren’t going anywhere, but even with that built-in audience, the recently launched Riverside Luxury Cruises has developed a new arrangement for cruising composition and is hitting some of the right notes with the younger generation of travelers.

“We did a lot of research on the web and looked at feedback and comments about how passengers felt about their river cruising experience, and we were surprised to learn it could be tiring for some passengers,” said Gregor Gerlach, co-owner of Seaside Collection, the parent company of Riverside Luxury Cruises.

“(It’s a schedule where) breakfast is at eight o’clock every morning and then it’s onto a bus for an excursion and off you go. And when you come back late in the evening, you’re tired even if you’re an active person. Therefore, we’re trying to make the Riverside cruise a more balanced experience where the passenger decides what days he or she wants to be more active.”

Riverside Debussy began her inaugural year with a five-night voyage from Brussels, Belgium to Amsterdam, the Netherlands in March 2024, joining sister vessels Riverside Ravel and Riverside Mozart in stepping up what savvy travelers now expect from high-end river cruising. The 110-passenger capacity ship has a terrestrial boutique hotel-like feel designed to make this cruise experience a “less is more” proposition with more personal space, a smaller staff-to-passenger service, and less crowding. The ship’s interior aesthetic is modern luxury, achieved with rich earth and jewel-toned furnishings crafted in velvet, leather, fine cotton, and other rich textiles. Mid-century lighting fixtures and accessories complete the look.

Seahorse Suite

The top tier 883 square-foot Owner Suite, which can accommodate two to four guests, houses two bedrooms, a larger living room area, a fireplace, and two bathrooms. The premium Riverside Suites, meanwhile, house a sitting/living room area as well as larger bathrooms, separate vanity areas, and closets. The smaller Melody and Symphony suites are big on style and comfort and read bigger than they are, while the larger Seahorse and Riverside cabins are a bit larger and expand on these comforts with a walk-in closet, a full-sized bathroom with two sinks, writing desk, and a king-sized bed. Each suite has floor-to-ceiling windows and is abundantly stocked with spa brand Natura Bisse products and a minibar with premium libations and snacks. Passengers in the larger suites can look forward to such perks as personal butler service, 24-hour in-suite gourmet dining, and airport transfers.

Waterside Dining Room

A Riverside Luxury Cruise experience follows a similar formula of features and activities as other premium and luxury river cruises: Fine and upscale/casual dining, plush living spaces, history, and culturally focused excursions, and bikes on the ready at various ports of call. However, what makes the Riverside Debussy different is that it is markedly quieter than other river cruises boasting more relaxation and fewer distractions, allowing for greater customization for personal travel and small business retreats.

The Debussy’s open-air fourth deck captures the feel of a boutique hotel patio with several seating arrangements accented with bright pillows and blankets. A couple of green hibachi barbecue grills are fired up, weather permitting, and cocktails, wine, and beer can be enjoyed on request with the “Full Board” package. The Palm Court Lounge, effectively the ship’s living room, is stocked with books and cozy seating but readily becomes a theater by night and a site for cooking demonstrations and informative talks. As with other high-end river cruise ships, the second floor is the heart of the ship with its reception desk and a coffee station with baked goods replenished throughout the day.

On the bottom level, there’s a spotless fitness room stocked with new Technogym equipment and free weights, a compact but charming indoor pool, and a Whirlpool Jacuzzi. The wellness setup is supplemented by specialty fitness classes on board and Nordic Walking Sticks, and complimentary loaner bicycles for use on excursion days. Next to the gym, a self-service laundry room features Miele washers and dryers. Next to that, there is a well-attired spa area with an expanded range of Natura Bisse skin care for use in body and facial services.

Riverside Luxury Cruises places a strong emphasis on its culinary program, from made-to-order breakfast and lunch options and fine-dining dinner offerings in the Waterfront main dining room to casual menu and all-day snacks in The Bistro, which adjoins the Palm Court bar/lounge/living room/library area.

Vintage Room

An extravagant add-on dinner service is available for an extra charge (295 €) inside the Art Deco-flavored “Vintage Room,” which accommodates up to 12 guests. Each course of the seasonal multi-course gourmet feast is introduced by one of the ship’s top chefs, while the head sommelier guides guests through inspirations for the wine pairings. During the April maiden voyage, the dishes offered in the tasting dinner and daily menus consisted of familiar continental classics like smoked burrata salad, sea bass, lamb, and pasta with interesting ingredient swaps and modern culinary tweaks. Flavored butter that changes daily and the interesting use of condiments bring extra creative flair.

Most of the food offerings met or exceeded expectations thanks to modern tweaks to European/Continental recipes, ingredients sourced fresh at the geographic locations along the route, and excellent service throughout. In keeping with the Belgium/Netherlands location, The Bistro offers made-to-order bubble waffles with a choice of toppings, a chocolate souffle baking demonstration, and cheese plates and cart. There is also a “tapas” concept meal served (with reservations) in The Bistro at night that at press time could stand some improvement in its presentation, especially with larger groups.


Many of the excursions are exactly what one would expect to find on a river cruise itinerary: Bus tours that familiarize participants with the geographic locales and Belgium-Netherlands walking tour standards such as beer-and-chocolate pairings and tastings and visits to windmills and landmarks along with scenic bike rides. On Riverside’s itinerary, however, standout jaunts provide a deeper dive into history, culture, and food. These include a tour of Cathedral of St. Bavo, where high tech meets with history to bring the storied history of the Ghent Altarpiece and its existence within and removed from the cathedral; a bike tour through Verre to take in its Scottish influence and nearby Schellach dairy farm, and a visit to Oud-Vossemeer in Zeeland, the ancestral seat of the American Roosevelt political dynasty with Huys van Roosevelt, owned and operated by Bas Quist.


The Roosevelt Foundation in Oud-Vossemeer, which will be of interest to American history buffs, was established in 2015 to trace the family history, legacy, and accomplishments of Franklin, Eleanor, and Theodore as well as their ancestors and descendants in both the old and new worlds. The information center houses significant artifacts, documents, and memorabilia while nearby Brasserie Restaurant ‘Huys van Roosevelt,’ owned and operated by descendant Bas Quist, is a fun shrine to the wisdom imparted by beloved historical figures. The menu playfully blends traditional Dutch and American comfort food, and a fun twist on Canadian poutine: Zeeland fries covered with Vosmeer’s stew and beer cheese. The establishment’s craft beers (Roosevelt blonde beer, Estaminet Pils 5.2%, and the heady Cornet) and liqueurs inspired by Franklin and Eleanor (featured in its popular spiked coffees) are also big draws.

Based on this cruise, the guides hired for the tours are among the most personable and consistent and read their participants well. For the more well-traveled, meanwhile, other stops are great on their own without a formal walking tour. Above and beyond Brussels and Amsterdam on the front and back ends, tiny-but-ultra trendy Dordrecht is tailor-made for wandering about, along with Middelburg, Verre, and Ghent. Narrow streets, canals, and marinas give way to visually interesting residential areas, inviting cafes, inspired shopping, and places to just chill a while to appreciate the views.

Riverside Luxury Cruises also offers a series of seven-night, Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta voyages aboard the Debussy, departing roundtrip from Amsterdam with stops in Antwerp Gent, Belgium; and Middelburg, Veere, Willemstad, Dordrecht, Rotterdam, Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Other itineraries on the sister ships are dedicated to the Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland, and from Basel to Amsterdam. Stops on these itineraries include Speyer, Mannheim, Rüdesheim, and Cologne, among other German cities. The Belgium/Netherlands itinerary constitutes a full vacation within a six-day/five-night period but may be combined with another itinerary for a longer sojourn across Europe’s most elegant villages, towns, and cities.

Fares include meals, Wi-Fi, port fees, and taxes. However, investing in the Premium or Ultra Premium All-Inclusive packages maximizes the ship’s “wow” factor. Benefits include a premium beverage package, room service, a regularly stocked in-room non-alcoholic mini-bar, and a shore excursion in each port.

Getting Centered in Centraal

If you’re like many cruisers, you’re not just going to get off in a vibrant city like Amsterdam only to go straight home. A centrally located hotel and a good city tour are like a substantial snack that will leave you satisfied, even if time only allows for a taste.

INK Hotel Amsterdam (an MGallery Collection Hotel), a nine-minute walk from Grand Centraal Station in one direction and ten minutes from the heart of Jordaan in the other, takes the “living like a local” idea to the next level through attention to detail…and lots of details in expected and unexpected places. The experience of a stay in this transformed former newspaper office begins with a sunny lobby that warms and welcomes the guest even during a downpour.

And if you are not sure how to spend 24 or 48 hours getting the most out of your stay, look out your window and then get a good look at the wall. Although the suite is outfitted with maps and “what’s on” publications, the most distinctive decorative attribute is a whimsical “chalkboard” wall that the city’s character through the perspective of a local child or teen’s memory. Little drawings make up a larger map with a few hidden “insider tips” hiding in plain sight on markets, quirky eateries, and other curiosities. The mixology at its Pressroom bar is also first-rate in creativity, including its signature cocktail INKcredible.

The hotel also serves a breakfast buffet that could be its own mini Amsterdam food tour. Inside the restaurant, anything from pastry, to chocolate, cheese, meats, produce, and preserves are painstakingly labeled with information on the producers and location within the Netherlands.

While Eating Europe tours have proliferated through Europe since its inception in 2011, competing food tour companies have cropped up. However, the firm continues to grow and is adding more neighborhood tours to its Amsterdam roster this year. However, thanks to the Jordaan’s central location, humble roots, trend-setting retail renaissance, and history as an international crossroads, this tour remains a cornerstone for the company.