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Crystal River Cruises, a dream come true

Dreams  can come true with Crystal River Cruises

I was very fortunate to experience an extraordinary river cruise ship that has been newly launched by the renowned high-end ocean cruise operator Crystal Cruises.

The move from the luxury cruise line to enter the river holiday market was a surprise to most within the travel industry. Everyone was eager to see how the company would take on the challenge going from oceans to rivers .

However, I must say without bias they have delivered on their promise. Crystal Cruises have put a stamp on the river market with a standard being set at an unparalleled high level, this I believe will now shape the future of the premium river cruise experience for discerning travellers that will be hard to follow .

My story begins when I was an 8 year old child raised along the river Danube in the north west of Hungary.  I spent my free time watching ships going up and down on the majestic Danube, freighting goods and cruising passengers. This was the very first moment I spotted the ship; Mozart and I remember being astounded by her elegance. She was anything but ordinary, a river cruise ship that had so much charm.  Since seeing her in all her glory that day, I could only dream of stepping onboard her 30 years later…

So imagine today how excited I was to accept an invitation to join Crystal Mozart for a few nights on the 14th November sailing from Linz to Bratislava. Having been on this part of the river numerous times, I decided I would dedicate my time to focus on what the ship’s design, facilities and services offer for their clientele.

Having sailed on most of the premium river cruise lines I was looking forward to my first rendezvous with this ship and I must confess the moment I stepped onboard I had an immediate sense that this would be one of a kind.

She was built by the First Steamboat Shipping Company (DDSG) in 1987. Due to her size (she is twice as wide as the standard river cruise ships ) she is very much confined to the Upper Danube between Passau and Budapest. If the waterlevel is optimal, she may be able to venture further as far as from Regensburg to the Black Sea.

The ship was sold to Peter Deilmann Cruises in 1993, she was then she was sold to Dertour in 2009 and here she remained until her recent acquisitaion by Crystal Cruises in 2015.

Within less than a year Mozart was stripped to bare steel and completely rebuilt to become an ultra luxury Crystal River Yacht. She was christened by Elisabeth Gurtler, the managing director of the famous Hotel Sacher and the Spanish Riding School  of Vienna and made her inaugural cruise on the 13th July 2016…

Now 4 months later here I am and seeing really is believing.

My suite was on the Harmony deck (Deck 1) midship number 127 with fixed windows. The suite size is 219 sq ft / 20,3 sqm,  5 sq m larger than an avarage river cruise stateroom. The additional  space truly is luxurious and Mozart boasts the largest luxury suites of any river vessels in Europe, it comes with all the amenities and comfort that I could imagine, from 24 hour butler service, to toilets with heated seats, rainforest shower, bathrobes and kimonos,  Etro beauty toiletries, back-lit mirror with integrated TV, heated towel rail, Nespresso coffee machine, sofa , coffee table, 40’ wall mounted flat screen TV, in-suite safe, doorbell, magnet key, fully stocked minibar, welcome champagne, large closet, binoculars and headsets for land discoveries. Wow!

All suites come with an Ipad that can be used for daily information, digital newspapers, butler service and suite lighting control, music & movies and so much more.  

There are two corridors each side of the ship on both Harmony and Seahorse deck linking the accommodations and public rooms.

Some of the amenities Crystal offer onboard, I have yet to encounter anything similar onboard another river cruise line.

The most striking difference is that Crystal Mozart has no cruise director onboard, no announcements were heard during the entire sailing making the whole experience much more of a  personal one.

We had an entertainment host Neil from London who inspired all the guests to get together and sing along with him while we were sailing through the evening. What a great character he was.

I was mesmerised taking a stroll on a fully encircling promenade of the Seahorse deck, the only one of its kind on European river cruises, it was like being a performer in Agatha Christie’s story.

If a couple or a small group of travellers wish to be treated to some additional VIP experiences, then  the motor cruiser (supplement applies) would live up their expectation to cruise off the beaten track tributries  by the one and only Captain Béla who has been working on Mozart for over two decades. Mozart is his own baby. I learnt from Béla that we grew up very close to each other, having completed A Levels in the same school. What a coincidence. He comes from Gönyő  village, set along the Danube close to my hometown Győr. Gönyő is famous for his nautical heritage, home to many river officers and captains.

I was so excited to be invited to step onboard the bridge during the sailing and learn some aspects of the every day navigation on the river waterways.

Another rather sophisticated feauture of the vessel is The Connoisseur Club Cigar Lounge that offers a comfortable and elegant area for smokers in Edwardian style. One of the passengers said that they felt like being in the Downton Abbey inspired milieu.

A pop up bar on the Vista deck, which also feautures a living rooftop garden surrounded by cushioned teak benches and an outdoor movie screen for evening viewing beneth the stars. Numerous skylights were cut into Vista Deck to thoughtfully infuse the Crystal deck directly below with natural sunlight.

The ship’s main entertainment hub is Palm Court (named from the observation lounges on Crystal’s ocean going ships) it boasts a Bosendorfer piano, one of the finest in the world. The 158 seat panoramic lounge is adorned with intimate alcoves.

Crystal Cove Piano adjoins the Palm Court and accommodates 33 guests on the starboard side.

The Crystal Bistro is an 80 seat cafe that serves lights tapas as well as speciality coffees and teas throughout the day, including home made ice creams.

The main Michelin styled Waterside restaurant offers open seating for 152 guests with undivided attention from the waiters and wine sommeliers.

Yet still I have not finished listing all the culinary options onboard as there is an exclusive 38 seat BLUE restaurant located in the aft. This is a casual, tapas style eatery featuring international food prepared in an open kitchen. This restaurant can only be reached through the promenade.

Moreover if you require total privacy for a party of yours, The Vintage lounge offers a secluded dining experience for gourmet &  wine lovers pairing wine and culinary delights. The entire room is available at 3200EUR per occasion (max 12 guests).

Breakfast and lunch are semi buffet style. We made our selections and staff brought our courses to table. There are also daily menu specials available.

There is an egg and omelette station for breakfast that becomes a carvery and pasta station for lunch.

And last but not least there is a Pantry which provides a self service wine, beverage and snack bar located near the reception area.

The reception is located on the Seahorse deck, just steps away from the entrance. A welcoming library with a Carrera marble fireplace (that emits vapour flames) is located near the entrance.

A new lift with automated doors was specially built in to connect all decks except the sundeck.

The skylights give an open and airy feel to the staircase linking the Seahorse and Crystal  lobbies.

Guests can totally relax and unwind in the Crystal Life Spa located on Seahorse Deck. It is simply the largest on any European river cruise ship. I enjoyed swimming against the current wading pool and a dip in the jacuzzi.

There is also a relaxation area with a large panoramic window that provides an astounding view of oncoming scenery. Two treatment rooms with dedicated spa staff are for those of you who may be  looking for some total pampering. Men and women have separate changing rooms each with their own steam and sauna areas.

A full service beauty salon with two stations adjoins the Spa and you will find a deck below there is a gym complete with cardio equipment, weight machines and free weights. Complimentary use of the laundry room  is also available.

Beside the sophisticated amenities onboard, hold your breath, the land programmes are equally delivered with  some  true specialities.

Such as a private fleet of deluxe Setra coaches that Crystal provides for inspiring shore excursions, these boast extra legroom, a coffee maker, a supply of bottled water and WC amenities available onboard. I took part in a visit to a glass factory and sampled the traditional Schnaps in the Bayern Wald. I also blew my first glass watering ball that I could bring home with me complimentary along with a certificate. A great creative experience.

Crystal also provide a complimentary Signature Event per sailing, i.e. a private evening concert at Vienna’s historic Belvedere Palace.

I also took part in a cycling adventure along the Inn and the Danube rivers in Passau. There are 30 BMW e-Bikes that are ready for guests to utilise on group excursions of self guided tours. A great way to see the sights.

After a few days onboard I learnt so much from Crystal’s experience and I truly believe they offer something rather unique on the river cruise market that may inspire fellow competitors to adjust their offerings to attract those of you looking for total relaxation and discovery.

For more information on Crystal River Cruises please contact our team on 01954 232802 where we would be happy to guide you through this truly expectional holiday.

 

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