Europe’s rivers are crowded with cruise ships. Some of the world’s biggest lines like Viking have scores of vessels plying just about every waterway, spreading from Holland and Germany now to southern France and Portugal.
But Asian-owned Crystal Cruises believes it can offer something different. And on a recent sampler down the Danube, Cruise&Travel Asia found out what.
Thatcher Brown, the president of sister company in Asia, Dream Cruises, said, “The ship just oozes of Edie (Rodriguez). It’s sophisticated, elegant and chic – just like Edie. It is the epitome of Crystal luxury.”
Crystal Mozart was launched just weeks ago, and is the first of five new river vessels sailing on the Danube, Seine, Rhine and Rhone Rivers.
The ship is double the width of any other river vessel and she heralds a new age of luxury for those looking to travel in style. With personalised butlers who will serve hors d’oeuvres in your room at any time of the day as well as unpack your luggage, and all inclusive shore excursions, Crystal River Cruises has pushed the luxury boundaries.
The 154-guest Crystal Mozart is modern and chic – she is decked out in plush velvet armchairs and settees, metal circular lights, abstract modern art and brass statues.
There are also more dining options than other river vessels like the Palm Cove which serves breakfast after 10am. The casual dining area selection of local cheeses, cold cut meats as well as pastries like miniature danishes, Portugese tarts, pretzels and for the Asian guests, cup-of-noodles. The ship’s main dining room, the Waterside Restaurant serves a breakfast buffet and lunch and the buffet area is decked out in white marble, beautiful hanging copper lights and large mirrors.
The dining room has a beautiful wine wall, offering Slovakian and Austrian wines behind a copper coloured cabinet. Guests will dine at white marble tables, plush white leather chairs and rich brown leather booths.
For dinner, the chef will prepare an a la carte dinner using local farm produce from growers around the Danube – we feasted on local dishes like schnitzel, Austrian apricot dumplings and country rye soup.
For other public spaces, there is The Cove and Piano Bar is where you can hear Broadway tunes in the evening by resident pianist and singer Mark Farris. There is also the Connoisseur Club which is the only place on the ship where smokers can puff away. Like most cigar bars, it is dark and moody but beautifully decorated with blue velvet chairs, chess boards, cabinets covered in leather and coffee table books.
The Vista Bar on deck four is perfect for a summer evening. You can sit and have your drink at the tables or sit on the colourful deck chairs.
Onboard there is also a salon, spa, sauna, as well as Jacuzzi and indoor pool. Prices are steep for treatments – 60 Euro for a manicure! And while you can get your butler to press your shirts and iron your skirts, you can also do it yourself. The ship has a laundry with three dryers and three washing machines.
The suites are decked out in beautiful hues of blues and greys. The king-sized bed, which transforms into two king singles, is fitted with Egyptian cotton sheets and linen. Inside the Suite with Fixed Window is a small velvet sofa, a desk, a pull out fridge with sparkling and still water, coke and diet coke as well as a bottle of white wine. Inside all suites is also a Nespresso machine so you can have coffee at your own leisure.
Suites on deck 2 have a French balcony where guests can open full-length doors for views but cannot step outside. The downside of these cabins is while beautiful, are a bit cramped – the king sized bed is placed right up against the ornate wardrobe doors, which makes it a hindrance to retrieve your clothes.
For those who are looking for a but more opulence, the Penthouse Suite with French Balcony can accommodate a third passenger and has all the amenities of the suites, but a walk in wardrobe, a separate sitting area, as well as a larger bathroom with a full-sized bathtub. On the other hand, the two-bedroom Crystal suite can accommodate five people. It has a large wall-mounted TV over the LED fireplace, a dining table, separate sitting area. The master bedroom has a king-sized bed, armchair and TV.
While we didn’t get to experience the full-range of shore excursions, guests travelling on the Crystal Mozart will get to dine and Michelin-starred restaurants in Budapest, listen to classical music in Vienna’s famous opera
house or even take a high-speed ride in a speed boat up the Danube like James Bond.
While there still needs some work to be done on the service and efficiency of the waiters, butlers and housekeeping, once Crystal works out the kinks, it will be a truly magnificent experience.