Crystal has been wowing ocean cruisers for years, but now with the launch of the Crystal Mozart on the Danube River, they are setting a new standard for service on the riverways!
The Crystal Mozart was stripped to the steel and completely rebuilt before debuting as Crystal’s first river vessel. It is the widest ship on the Danube and boasts some of the most sumptuous public space on the river. So while it cannot always get into every city center port of call, it’s always within a stones throw, and you can be sure you’re coming and going in style!
Crystal has three new state-of-the-art luxury ships coming on line in 2018 and 2019 that will sail the Rhine, the Main, and the Danube.
If you were not one of the lucky 18 who joined our fun group of friends (lovingly called “the Boat People”), please join me below as I share some of the highlights of our most recent voyage!
First, the ship:
Below is a typical dinner on the Crystal Mozart:
Our favorite spot for lunch was Aft at Blue which had a great team – they were always happy to prepare a fabulous burger, a niçoise salad, and, as we say, a glass of “rosé all day!”
The spa is terrific, featuring a forward location with beautiful views in the relaxation lounge and luxurious treatments. My treatments with Maria – massage and facial – were truly some of the best I have had! The pool is excellent for laps and the hot tub is a cozy option for warming up on a cold day.
First Port of Call – Vienna
Vienna is lovely and stately and elegant. There are opportunities to enjoy music everywhere including the famed Opera House, the Vienna Philharmonic, and even the lovey Crystal signature event with an orchestra at the Belvedere Palace!
Most delightful about Vienna in my opinion is the cafe culture that is so prevalent throughout the city – it is not unusual to sit for hours with a single coffee or beer or glass of Grüner. I love this pace!
Something else that the Crystal Mozart does for their guests is allow them to select a Michelin star restaurant experience in Vienna or Budapest and completely includes it the price of your cruise! Crystal arranges the reservations, transfers to and from the restaurant, and prepays a three course meal with wine. It is a very nice touch!
We enjoyed a spectacular dinner at Konstantin Filippou pictured below:
As the Crystal Mozart embarks and disembarks in Vienna, this is a perfect opportunity to stay at the immaculate and historic Hotel Sacher, owned and run by the same family for generations. A step back into a sumptuous, by-gone era!
Second Port of Call – Krems, Austria
A cycling trip through the Wachau River Valley:
Of course with a stop or two to try the local Reisling and Grüner wines of the region!
River cruising is special because you are never far from land. The Danube is particularly scenic. The top deck is the place for sipping something cold and taking it all in!
Third port of call – Melk and the lovely Abbey
Back on board the Crystal Mozart
Going through one of the dozens of locks along the Danube – a very cool feat of engineering.
And as evening falls, another wonderful dinner is served. Seating in the dining room is as you wish – some nights Gil and I dined alone, some nights we joined another couple or two from our group, one night we invited a single traveler to join us, and a few times our entire group of 18 – the “Boat People” dined together. The nice thing about Crystal is that everything is included – all meals and always terrific wines, champagne, beers and spirits! No one ever needs to reach for the bill.
Fourth Port of Call – Linz, Austria
From here we took a day trip to Salzburg
Fifth Port of Call – Passau, Germany
This is a lovely, lovely town and I wish we had more time there. We instead opted for a day trip to Munich. Munich was a great time but, in retrospect, the transfer was too long to warrant the trip – over 2.5 hours each way. Suggestion: Enjoy Passau instead. We traveled to Munich with our friends John and Carrie and had a blast visiting several beer halls! “When in Rome!”
Everything in Germany is about their wonderful sports cars and Munich is the home of BMW. For those that are BMW enthusiasts, a visit to the BMW headquarters and show room may be in order.
We enjoyed an overnight in Passau and wonderful meal aboard the Crystal Mozart.
The next day we joined a cycling trip that rode along the Austrian-German border. The bikes on the Crystal Mozart are e-bikes which means anyone can pedal along and it is never too strenuous. Not a great way to burn a lot of calories, but a lovely way to sightsee!
Enjoying some comfort food aft at our favorite lunch spot on board, Blue.
And some post lunch R&R on the top desk of the Crystal Mozart, my kind of sight seeing!
The crew on the Crystal Mozart is spectacular – truly outstanding service, always with a smile, just like this:
The entertainment aboard river vessels usually includes some wonderful piano bar music, some well informed lectures, an occasional round of group trivia, and on this occasion, a hilarious bout of the “Not-so-Newlywed Game!” Gil and I participated and came out BIG LOSERS! We did become minor celebrities though and gave everyone a good laugh!
Sixth Port of Call – Bratislava, Slovakia
A stunning capital to a small, new country with a big history!
A walk through the old town to a local brew pub where we enjoyed tasting several local beers.
Final Port of Call – Budapest
This lovely lady greeted us as we cruised into Budapest. Lady Liberty! She was erected by the Russians as the self-proclaimed liberators of Hungary from the Nazis. Today the Magyars (as the Hungarians rightfully call themselves) say that she is actually saying goodbye to the communists as she liberated the country once and for all from all oppressors. She is beautiful and Budapest may be one of Europe’s most breathtaking cities!
The pubic transportation throughout the city is excellent and we easily moved about by tram, bus, and subway!
One of my favorite things to do in ANY city is to visit the local market – this is always the heartbeat of the city where you can shop and dine as a local.
It was fun to try local specialties such as the stuffed cabbage and the goulash, with sauerkraut, of course.
Budapest has absolutely wonderful cafes and wine bars through out the vibrant city, especially lovely in the summer time!
And not to be missed is one of the grandest hotels of all of Europe, Four Seasons Hotel Budapest Gresham Palace, a stunning restoration of a former palace overlooking the Chain Bridge and the hills of Buda.
We stopped in to listen to live music and have a cocktail on their new terrace and I must say I think the libation I found suited me to a T – the Señorita!
We enjoyed a wonderful dinner of innovative contemporary takes on traditional Hungarian dishes at Tigris. Did you know that Hungary is one of the world’s most important procurers of Foie Gras? You are in for a treat! Here it is prepared four ways as my appetizer:
Budapest by night truly takes your breath away! Upon returning to the ship from dinner, the Crystal Mozart graciously sailed up and down the Danube for guests to gawk at the lights of Parliament, the Chain Bridge, and the many palaces and monuments completely restored and rebuilt after the Nazis and then the Communists left the country.
What a magnificent trip with a great group of “Boat People!” Crystal, I will see you soon on the Rhine and the Main rivers, no doubt! Well done!
Laura Madrid is an avid cruiser and can help you navigate the many ships and private yachts from the oceans, to the rivers, to the canals. Read a bit more on options and climb aboard here!