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16 Crystal River Amsterdam Cruise Reviews

The Mahler is a beautiful ship. The staff were beyond helpful. The food and drinks were more than you could possibly eat or drink. Unfortunately on the 17 Grand Tour they close the top deck for 8-10 days. We couldn’t go up and enjoy ... Read More
The Mahler is a beautiful ship. The staff were beyond helpful. The food and drinks were more than you could possibly eat or drink. Unfortunately on the 17 Grand Tour they close the top deck for 8-10 days. We couldn’t go up and enjoy the scenery, relax, or exercise. The company should disclose this information. It would have made a difference in our choice of ships. There are no other places to sit outside so you are inside a lot. Unfortunately on our cruise the water was too low so we couldn’t finish our trip on the ship. They gave us 2 choices and only a half hour to make a decision whether to stay and go to hotels or abandon the schedule. It was a hard decision to make in half hour. We chose to finish the trip and go to the hotels. Unfortunately the hotel they chose in Vienna was horrible. Sat on railroad tracks on one side and construction on the other. Food service was horrible. Not up to Crystal standards. Unfortunately Crystal would not and has not done anything for the 72 people who chose to stay. We knew that the boats can sometimes not go through because of water level and we were prepared for that. But Crystal did not keep their high standards of accommodations. It was a sad way to end the trip. Very disappointed in how Crystal handled the situation. Read Less
Sail Date September 2019
Our first Crystal River Cruise aboard the Mahler one of their five river ships gave us many special moments to remember. We just completed the sojourn from Amsterdam to Budapest itinerary. We are savvy cruisers having experienced many ... Read More
Our first Crystal River Cruise aboard the Mahler one of their five river ships gave us many special moments to remember. We just completed the sojourn from Amsterdam to Budapest itinerary. We are savvy cruisers having experienced many ocean itineraries aboard vessels of differing sizes. Instead of detailing the ship itself which was 2 years old, I will tell you the design team knows and understands the elements of how to make the cabins comfortably luxurious and the common areas beautiful letting the natural light and colors blend harmoniously with the water and sky. The cabin size was more then adequate. The bed and bedding, choice of various pillow types covered the bases. The dining with attention to detail, creativity, menu selections were of exceptional quality time after time. Each dinner was a favorite until the next dinner. The meat cooked to the perfection it deserved. The lobster and shellfish, caviar were of excellent quality Vegans, Gluten free, and vegetarians can all expect to be happy. Food allergies are immediately noted and special meals can be created to suit you with a personal discussion of your desires. Shore excursions were well managed with smaller groups organized from the larger group. Mahler has just 106 paying guests with its own new spacious road buses. Never a problem getting on or off. Staff at the ready for any assistance before you went ashore and there to greet you upon your return. For many it was their first Crystal experience and the comments were all positive day after day with guests sharing their own “I cannot believe this person did this for me or that for me.” I loved hearing their stories because I already knew what was in store when we booked, a trip well worth the price paid. The inclusive Crystal pricing is the way to go if you have never done so before. All speakers and entertainment were top notch. Crystal has lifetime customers and we are definitely part of this group. Love this company. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
My husband and I are currently on a Grand Europe tour on the Crystal Mahler. Service and food have been superb. We are enjoying the daily canapés and appetizers brought to our room by our butler. Entertainment on board is provided by ... Read More
My husband and I are currently on a Grand Europe tour on the Crystal Mahler. Service and food have been superb. We are enjoying the daily canapés and appetizers brought to our room by our butler. Entertainment on board is provided by Neal, host and piano player. We are staying in a petite suite so storage is tight and we are doubling clothes on our hangers. We brought one suitcase each because we planned to use the laundry onboard and we have used it. Where Crystal has really shone is how they handle a change in itinerary. A boat from another cruise line hit a lock, damaging it so that we can’t sail down the Danube as planned. We stayed extra days in Nuremberg with new excursions added. We will be avoiding the dreaded “my river cruise has turned into a bus/hotel trip” because they are sailing the ship back up the Rhine to Frankfurt with new ports in the way. Once in Frankfurt, Crystal is flying us nonstop to Budapest so we don’t miss our scheduled excursions there and flights home. On top of that, they are giving us a generous amount of Euros in cash to cover meals while in Budapest as well as a credit for a future cruise. We will be in Budapest two nights in a hotel instead on one night on the boat. They have definitely made the best of a bad situation. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
We have never been on a river cruise and decided after more than 20 ocean cruises we would try one. The Crystal line received excellent reviews and we had previously sailed on the Symphony. We read about the stacking of boats at the piers ... Read More
We have never been on a river cruise and decided after more than 20 ocean cruises we would try one. The Crystal line received excellent reviews and we had previously sailed on the Symphony. We read about the stacking of boats at the piers and having no view many times, also the problems with water levels and diversions and were ready for those eventualities. First the boat was very nice well appointed and very clean. The food during the entire trip was excellent and our butler service was impeccable. The room (S2 suite) was very nice and well laid out. The bathroom was quite large for a river boat. The inconvenience of having to cross one or two other boats was as expected however, many times we had to climb up to the top deck to cross and back down again on the boats. The excursions should have been presented with the caveat “ if you are unable to walk more than a mile without stopping you should not go on the tour”. The excursions offered did not make any accommodations for older persons who may be able to walk a half mile with no problems but limited stamina for much longer walking without a rest. One excursion in Strasbourg required a 1.5 mile walk each way to and from the bus, plus whatever site seeing you did in the central city. The tours all required you to wear an audio listening device with ear piece to hear the tour guide. No accommodation for hearing aid wearing guests were made (two earphones can’t simultaneously occupy the same ear canal) and when asked about it appeared that they had never been asked the question before. I eventually just took them off and went without since taking only one side out caused problems with the hearing aid’s smart functions. I understand the limitations of river cruising as compared to Ocean voyages and they were probably greater than I had anticipated, however, the one unforgivable flaw was poor service in the dinning room. This is not a river cruising problem but a basic systemic problem with the cruise. First, the use of buffets for all lunches and breakfasts does not portray a five star experience more a 3 star budget line. On all but the cheapest ocean cruises there is always the option of being served table-side. In addition, the selection on the buffets was quite limited compared with ocean cruising equivalents. When I did not like the mains offered for lunch one day I made a request for a simple roast beef sandwich which was met with hesitation and reluctance by the staff telling me they would have to check with the chef to see what was available and intimating it could take some time. The dinner food was excellent but the wait staff seemed to be hurried all the time. We did not have an assigned waiter. Any waiter would serve us but more often than not, we had to flag down a waiter help us. Waiters did not seem to listen or wait long enough to let your needs be known. For instance I drink ice tea frequently I would get the ice tea but no sugar bowl to sweeten the tea. I would have to get a waiters attention to bring it to me. Then I made an effort to tell the waiters to bring sugar but many times, they were in such a hurry they would be gone before I could get the words out. Many other small inconsistencies were noted each night. For example I was ordered a dish with a bratwurst and did not receive any mustard I asked the waiter to get me some and I am still waiting for it. I could go on but each incident in and of itself seems to be trivial but taken as a whole showed a serious lack attention to service. I have never experienced in the 20 plus ocean cruises we have been on from mass marketed cruises (RCL) to high end (Regent, Cunard Grill suites) Having traveled on a Crystal ocean cruise before I know this is not typical of this cruise line. This is there third season on the rivers and being early in the season maybe we were just unlucky to get a dining room crew that has not worked it out yet. I must say, at this point, I would not recommend Crystal river cruises for those who have any mobility problems or want elegant unhurried service. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Chose the original cruise 15 months in advance splendors of the rhine... trip of a lifetime. Total cost $20,000 by the end of it 3 days prior notified we would be in the Netherlands 7 days and Germany 3..how rude of corporate..we only ... Read More
Chose the original cruise 15 months in advance splendors of the rhine... trip of a lifetime. Total cost $20,000 by the end of it 3 days prior notified we would be in the Netherlands 7 days and Germany 3..how rude of corporate..we only cruised 5 hours of daylight and saw the country side of germany..I know the river was low.we should have been offered a refund. A rebooking for next year...or a discount because the itenery substituted was inferior for the price we paid...the crew was awwsome..Crystal only offered us $500 per cabin toward a future trip with them..they should have given passengers a partial refund or other options and more than 3 days notice of a drastic change in our itenary. We spent 3 days in amsterdam..too many...dorchdeht Netherlands. Rotterdam. Nijmegen cochem they skipped bonn and lastly kolbenz..we cruised at night AMD our trip was half as.long as planned..Hoping that crystal corporate comes through with a better compensation for an inferior itenary...otherwise we have learned a hard lesson and spent alot of money for an inferior product and poor customer service from corporate headquarters Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
Our Crystal Mahler Grand Europe cruise in the summer of 2018 was hit with an unprecedented heat wave and drought which made the Rhine and Danube impassable, so our itinerary from Amsterdam to Vienna to Budapest was diverted once we got on ... Read More
Our Crystal Mahler Grand Europe cruise in the summer of 2018 was hit with an unprecedented heat wave and drought which made the Rhine and Danube impassable, so our itinerary from Amsterdam to Vienna to Budapest was diverted once we got on board and we had to return to Amsterdam via Belgium and the Netherlands. This is a risk on any river cruise, with either flooding or low water levels, but it was a big disappointment when it happened. However, Crystal's Plan B turned out to be excellent and we have nothing but high praise for the ship and its staff. If there's ever a problem, you want to be in Crystal's hands. They pulled a rabbit out of a hat and turned lemons into lemonade by diverting us to many charming ports and sites. Their initial offering of a credit for the inconvenience was paltry, but after negotiations with Crystal, they increased the credit to a very generous one for any future cruise, so that helped ameliorate the disappointment and tension on board. The staff and cuisine were simply excellent. I must have had over 100 courses throughout the various meals and each one was divine. They prepared a wide variety of local and traditional dishes, and favorite standards, all delicious. And the desserts were to die for. Everything gourmet and exceptional. Darryl the sommelier was wonderful, and the chefs did a fantastic job. I've read that the Crystal ships' galleys are much larger than the competitors, so you get a much wider variety and higher quality of cuisine on Crystal. A few in our party had food allergies, but the staff handled that with ease and care. Gluten-free and sugar-free dishes were at the ready and very tasty. We loved all the waiters, butlers, staff, maids, crew, everyone to a person was friendly, helpful, and provided world-class service. We were very sad to leave the ship at the end of the cruise, to be sure. Crystal's ships have half the passengers with the same number of crew as competitors, so you really are waited on hand and foot- all included. Tips are included too, but our waiters and staff were so good that I gave out as many gratuities as I could. The ship itself was a comfort and technological marvel. The Mahler is less than a year old and all the state of the art touches in the room and around the ship were very much appreciated, as was the spotless cleanliness and pleasing decor. While we didn't get to go to most of the ports we had planned on, the replacement itinerary excursions were quite nice. At first, there were some average excursions, then they got better and better (perhaps because the heat wave broke- nothing off the ship is air-conditioned in Europe- be forewarned). Crystal has their own buses that follow the ship so you have the same, new, state of the art and super comfortable buses with the same drivers in every city and village. The tour guides ranged from very good to excellent, and Crystal has their own personal radio listening devices, so everyone can always hear the guide- really a nice system that assigns your device to the correct group. Crystal also put together a private symphony concert in an ancient chapel with world-renown opera soloist Hanne Roos who brought tears to our eyes with her talent. Very special. The on-board entertainer, Neal Fullerton, was a hoot, and an excellent pianist and singer in his own right. There were special local entertainers planned for the original itinerary, but due to the change, Neal had to improvise a bit and some other last minute entertainers were brought on board. So not nearly as many options as a sea-going ship, of course, but we had a great time and Neal was delightful. The gym and spa are necessarily small, but the massage therapist Sally was wonderful and the workout room had everything I needed to lift weights & stretch, albeit just a rudimentary rack. We walked so much in each town that the cardio machines on board weren't necessary. There's also a small pool on board which was lovely on a hot day. All in all, I would highly recommend Crystal Cruises (we've done one ocean cruise with them before, this was our first river one), and certainly the Crystal Mahler. I would suggest for any river-cruiser to avoid June and August as there is a chance of flooding or low water levels. I heard that Viking has so many ships that they had boats on both sides of the breaches, so they bused passengers around to their original ports and swapped them with ships on the other side of the low water. That's OK, I guess, but it sounds like a lot of rigamarole and I ended up really liking the Crystal pampering and luxury in the new itinerary, and will gladly cash in the credit for a replacement cruise. The crowd is mostly older. There were some families like ours. Our 16 and 21 year old weren't as thrilled with the trip as we parents were due to the more relaxed pace, but they still really enjoyed everything. A sea-going ship would have more on-ship options for teens, but the excursions and food on the river cruise were appreciated by ours. they especially enjoyed the 24 included room service. Our 79 year old mother in law had the time of her life too, and was able to do all the excursions and walking and climbing. The only slight negative was the internet. It's all included for free 24/7, but despite being brand new and state of the art, it's still satellite-based and therefore, rather slow and sometimes spotty. We were told ahead of time that the system wouldn't work in the locks, but when we were in the steep Moselle Valley, the satellite signal was also blocked for a long time, I think. It worked well enough most of the time to post pictures and do email, but some of us tried to do some work on line and could not download larger files or apps we needed. Not a problem for most, but could be for some. Most of the time we were within cellular range, so we were sometimes able to use our free international data plans on T-Mobile and get a signal then. The internet was much better than our last ocean cruise, however, but I wish it could still be improved more. The Crystal Mahler and its people are truly exceptional and they are the benchmark for service, comfort, cuisine, excursions, and quality. Kudos to Crystal and the Mahler. Crystal is the pinnacle. We will be back! Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
the really no downsides to anything on this cruise. Food, service and planning were first rate. This is a serious contender for a Rhine river cruise- I would certainly take a hard look at Crystal vs Viking et al. embarcation was 5 ... Read More
the really no downsides to anything on this cruise. Food, service and planning were first rate. This is a serious contender for a Rhine river cruise- I would certainly take a hard look at Crystal vs Viking et al. embarcation was 5 minutes with the iPads that they use and we were in the room in 10 minutes Food was outstanding in every way. There was a set menu with 2 or 3 choices along with suggested regional favorites. One poster said that they didn't follow dietary requests. The ship could probably do a few things but hard core gluten free, reduced salt etc users should look elsewhere - the same as any cruise ship (or restaurant) It isn't a personal chef. Breakfast was good with enough choices as well as lunch. There was a Bistro setup throughout the day for snacks. This isn't a ocean cruise ship with 15 stations set up with every conceivable meal all day - Indian, chinese, sandwiches etc. wine and liquor are included all day and it was top shelf with plenty of choices. Rhine cruises have mostly German and Austrian wines, although there are some French and Italian - mostly for sales as "upgrades". Most would be fine with the wine selections included service around the ship was excellent including the restaurant. The butler is "a butler". he isn't serving food in the off hours. when we had some requests he easily got them for us. Housekeeping was first rate martin kaye was the performer on board and he made the cruise. Piano, singing dancing - he did it all. excursions were good and well planned. The guides included University students who were passionate about telling a story. Take the e bike tour in amsterdam - it was fun. On the top deck it was a collection of couches (under an awning) chaos and padded deck loungers. It doesn't appear that other lines have that. These were comfortable and allowed plenty of space to relax The Petit Suite was big enough for us. Great layout Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
After 15 cruises and over 300 days on Seabourn we decided to try a river cruise, so to be fair my opinion of this cruise is colored by my Seabourn ocean cruise experiences. A river cruise was something we had thought about for the past ... Read More
After 15 cruises and over 300 days on Seabourn we decided to try a river cruise, so to be fair my opinion of this cruise is colored by my Seabourn ocean cruise experiences. A river cruise was something we had thought about for the past several years, and had enticed friends who never did any type of cruise to join us. After evaluating the various lines for a river cruise, Crystal seemed to have the best offerings in a lot of ways. The original itinerary was very interesting Budapest to Amsterdam, but due to low water levels it was changed to round trip Amsterdam, less than 2 weeks prior to the cruise - or at least that was when Crystal let us know. To their credit you could either cancel - as our friends did - and get a credit equal to what you paid or go on the changed itinerary and get a substantial future credit, which we took as the changed ports were not places we had been to. If you took the cruise, they would also cover up to $1000 of airfare per person, which worked out well since we had flights booked to Budapest. We took advantage of the Crystal - included - airport to/from ship transfers on a comfortable coach. Once we got to the ship, the service from start to finish was top notch. But I need to qualify this, the ship can hold 106 pax, we only had 44 due to the changed itinerary. We had a butler who basically was useless, canapes delivered to the room each afternoon, 1/2 the time after we had left to go to the bar for pre-dinner cocktails. Never offered to pack or unpack for us. Nice guy, but one less crew they need to pay, IMO. There is only 1 bar on the ship, excluding the pop-up on the open deck where only one day was anyone actually working there (the hard-working bar waiters always went down one level to the main bar and back up). Given the less than 1/2 occupancy the bar area was nice but if at full capacity not sure how easy it would be to get a seat if one arrived late. The entertainment was varied, when we had over nights in port they brought on some very talented local singers / musicians. When sailing (is that the right term on the river??) we had the on-board entertainer, who was interesting and quite a character but more than a few nights we had karaoke with a few drunk pax and the problem is, this is the only bar on the ship so deal with it or go to your room, or to the top deck depending on the weather. On the ship there are different categories of rooms, unlike on Seabourn that all are basically alike just the deck level determines the category (and deck 5 veranda differences). So I can only speak to what we had, deck 2 not the most expensive. The room was about 200 sq, feet. No walk-in closet, a single sink, but shower was bigger than on Seabourn, but no tub. WiFi is free for all, as are the tours at each port, some worthwhile, others Mhh. No veranda. Window comes 1/2 way down and a screen goes up. Not that useful unless you need some fresh air, IMO. The top deck is spacious with a lot of comfortable seating and not on top of each other. They have a unique popup bar - although it was rarely used, that can go down to deck level when the ship passes under low bridges. All the deck rails on the top deck can also be taken down - as happened one day when we passed under a very low bridge. The crew who run the ship details really work hard, especially when things like having to take down all the rails, which was not expected and then put them back up after we cleared the bridge. Interestingly their title is "Sailor". As far as river ships go, we thought the Mahler was the best looking one we saw - and we saw quite a few at different ports - especially how the top deck was laid out. The ship is relatively new and we did not notice any maintenance issues. Service everwhere was exceptional, but again it is hard to objectively judge since there were only 44 of us. I never waited more than 2 minutes at the one and only bar to have someone appear to take my order, if we were on the open deck someone usually appeared within 5 minutes of us being situated. At all the restaurants we had good service - and friendly, sometimes too friendly, OK I'd like to eat my food now please while it is hot as much as I enjoy hearing your life story - and what we liked was each night the chef prepared a local dish to coincide with the port de jour. We thought the included wines were pretty good. They brought on more wines as the cruise went along. I do have to call out the great people at the reception desk - we had an issue the entire cruise with a bag being lost in airline baggage purgatory and every day they called multiple times for us trying to get the issue resolved. The gym was very small, laundry room (something I missed being able to avoid as a Diamond on Seabourn) was often very busy. Getting on and off the ship at every port was easy, although they hire local people instead of having their own security people. In summary, we very much enjoyed our time on the Mahler and it opened us open to trying a Crystal ocean cruise, and if we ever do another river cruise it will be on Crystal. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
This cruise was amazing. We had a two bedroom suite + another room for our parents. Both were fully appointed. The butler, and service on the room fantastic...particularly found the daily personal laundry helpful. In our group of 5, ... Read More
This cruise was amazing. We had a two bedroom suite + another room for our parents. Both were fully appointed. The butler, and service on the room fantastic...particularly found the daily personal laundry helpful. In our group of 5, there were 3 gluten-free vegans. The chef went out of his way to prepare excellent meals daily with freshly made gluten-free bread! We usually have low expectations with our limited dietary choices, but in this case, the ship exceeded what we expected. The daily lunch buffet was amazing and fresh. Outstanding! The crew and service fantastic. Really, nothing to complain about at all. The ship manager appropriately handled a concern we had about an eBike tour. Very professional and extraordinary personnel on this ship. We had a handful of nights with entertainment (although we realized we were not on a "big" ocean ship). Wow, we were surprised, all were outstanding! Loved the bartending course..big plus. This ship is very clean, precisely managed, and has great service and food. Loved all of the tours and the lap pool in the back of ship. Relaxation areas are fantastic. From one picky person to another...you cannot go wrong on this one! Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
I write this review from the perspective of giving you the traveler some insight about what to expect on this river cruise and to provide some tips. The good: itinerary, excellent food, small group tours, e-Bike tours, nightly ... Read More
I write this review from the perspective of giving you the traveler some insight about what to expect on this river cruise and to provide some tips. The good: itinerary, excellent food, small group tours, e-Bike tours, nightly entertainment, all inclusive (including many wines and liquors, shore excursion, and tips). The bad: expensive, no support for Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), Crystal’s newness to river cruising. Overall, it was a very good cruise. The staff was uniformly friendly, helpful, and upbeat. The butler and room attendant made a point of learning our last names and greeting us when they saw us. After a few days, seeing the dining room attendants was like greeting old friends. My wife and I enjoy river cruising, because the pace is more relaxed than on an ocean cruise. We traveled with a group of 8 family members. Traveling with a group that size was not a problem. We could always find several adjacent tables in the main restaurant to sit at for meals. We had an unexpected situation on the cruise. When we boarded the Crystal Mahler in Amsterdam, the ship was less than half full with passengers; we had 35-40 passengers at that time. We were told that more passengers would join us in Passau for the last week of the cruise, about the same number of passengers. It was nice for the first portion of the trip, because the dining room and lounge were never crowded. But even for the last week, there was sufficient seating. True, it did take longer to be served our dinner meal or drink in the lounge, but the wait was tolerable, and we knew we had to share the staff with the new guests. We liked the itinerary, with the chance to visit so many towns in The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary. We travelled on the Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers. We traversed 68 locks on the trip. Leaving Amsterdam, we would go up in the locks as we headed toward Kelheim, Germany. Between Nuremberg and Kelheim, on the Rhine-Main-Danube canal, we reached the top of the European watershed at one lock, and then we started going down in the locks as we continued to Budapest. Passing through the locks, and particularly the tallest ones, was a popular sightseeing activity for passengers. There were some locks that the ship would barely fit inside width-wise. A downside to the lock system is that the ship’s schedule can be adversely affected. The Captain cannot predict which barges and ships might be on the river and enter a lock before the Mahler; the Mahler may have to wait its turn. For some locks, the Mahler had to wait for a ship to come through in the other direction, for efficient pumping of the water in the lock. However, Captain Pasztor managed the schedule very well. We were only a few minutes late to one port. No shore excursions were impacted. We were lucky to be able to get all the way to Budapest on the river. Ships are at the mercy of river conditions along the route. There has not been a lot of rain in Europe this year, so the water levels can be low. When we booked the cruise, the ship was originally going to spend two days in Regensburg. Once we boarded the ship, we were informed that the itinerary changed, and we would only spend one day in Regensburg and two days in Passau. About halfway into the trip, we were told the water level was too low and that we would extend the stay in Regensburg by one day to see if the water levels would rise and allow us to get to Passau (in which case we would only spend one day in Passau). Fortunately, we were able to continue our trip towards Passau after the 2-day stay in Regensburg; there was some rainfall and some extra water was released from one of the nearby locks. We learned later that the water level dropped again and no other river ships could get between Regensburg and Passau the day after we left Regensburg. You have to be flexible when planning a river cruise. You don’t want the water level to be too high (e.g., in the spring, due to melting snowfall—ships may not be able to go under bridges) or too low (possibly in the fall or winter—ships may not be able to move on the rivers). My wife and I had a Category S1 stateroom (“Deluxe Suite with Panoramic Balcony-Window”), about 253 square feet. (I wouldn’t call it a suite, though; there was no separate sitting area.) We had a king size bed. The pillows were very “squishy”. There was a decent size bathroom, with a spacious shower. The shower had an overhead round rainfall showerhead as well as a handheld shower head. They were operated by separate pushbuttons (press pushbutton to turn on, press pushbutton to turn off or press the other pushbutton). There were dual sinks in the bathroom and a trash can. Each sink had two drawers for storage. There was a design flaw [hint to Crystal]. If you are right-handed, it is extremely difficult to reach the toilet paper which is mounted to your immediate left when you sit on the toilet. It was uncomfortable to reach across your body with your right hand and effectively get toilet paper off the roll. My wife and I came up with a solution: take the toilet paper off the holder and put it in the bottom drawer by the toilet; then it is easily accessible. Two bathrobes were provided for each person—a heavier cotton bathrobe and a lightweight bathrobe. There were hooks in the bathroom. The toiletries were Etro from Milan (La Bottega Home Collection Musk). The towels can be replaced twice a day when the room is made. Although my wife and I would hang our wet towels on the towel racks to dry and not put them on the floor, the ever-efficient room attendant would replace them every time with fresh towels. A nice feature is that the bathroom floor is heated. There is no control for it, but it was never too hot. My wife and I learned late in the cruise to shut the bathroom door at night. We found that our room got hot in the middle of the night and we would be sweating, even though we had a cool setting on the thermostat (3 settings for amount of cold, with a “quick cool” feature). Due to the lock system on the rivers, we were told to keep our room window closed. We started shutting the bathroom door, and the bedroom remained cool at night. In the stateroom there is a refrigerator and a desk with desk chair, and a lounge chair. There are wine and champagne glasses and a corkscrew in a drawer beside the refrigerator. The refrigerator is stocked with still water, sparkling water, Coke and Sprite. Upon arrival in the room, there was a full bottle of red wine on the desk and a smaller bottle of white wine. Your Crystal listening devices are in a charging stand on the desk. There is a pair of Bushnell 7x35 binoculars as well. There are no hooks on the walls for hanging stuff. [Tip] I brought 3 magnetic hooks that I affixed to the walls, to use for hats and coats. There is an iPad in the room that is already logged into Wi-Fi and your account on the ship. You can store your suitcases under the bed. There is a closet with 3-4 feet of hanger space. There are 5 shelves, 2 shoe shelves, 3 drawers, and a safe above some of the shelves. The safe is spacious and can fit a laptop computer. Behind the door are 4 hooks with a Crystal umbrella, a shoe horn, a hair dryer in a bag, and 1 other item I cannot recall. There is a flat screen TV in the room. You can watch live TV and see views from the bow, stern, port, and starboard sides of the ship. You can also watch a variety of free movies. Be aware that the movie selection changes on the first of the month. My wife and I started watching one movie on June 30th and went to bed, intending to finish it the next day. We discovered that the movie was no longer available on July 1st. There were at least 2 USA (Type A) and more than 2 European (Type F) power outlets in the room, as well as 3 USB power plugs for electronic devices [kudos to Crystal]. My wife and I had room 306, a Category S1 stateroom with “Panoramic Balcony-Window” on the Crystal Mahler. Using controls to the left of the window, you could lower a screen over the upper window to reduce the intensity of the sunlight. You could also completely lower the upper window to get fresh air. However, we were told to keep the window closed at night, because the ship might go through a lock, and the window should not be open. In some ports, we did not open the window, because another ship was docked right next to us on our side of the ship. Overall the panoramic balcony window was a disappointment. If you are new to river cruising, be aware that there can be a lot of river boats on the rivers. At a port, we sometimes had one to two other river ships docked next to us. When you leave your ship, you may cross through the lobby or on top of adjacent river ships to get to shore. If you docked next to another ship, you don’t get a scenic view on one side of the ship; you only see the exterior of the staterooms on an adjacent ship. On the occasions when we spent more than one night at a port and there was another ship next to the Crystal Mahler, the river ships would switch positions. Then I would have a view outside my window, and the passengers on the other side of the ship would see the staterooms of another river ship. I think that the type of window view/balcony in your stateroom should be one of the factors in your decision about which river cruise line to select. I looked at other river ships during the cruise (AmaWaterways, Uniworld, Tauck, Scenic, Viking, Croisi) to see the types of balconies. Some had actual outdoor balconies separate from the room. Some had floor-to-ceiling horizontal sliding glass doors with a barrier to keep you from falling overboard (“French balcony”). Some ships had vertically sliding windows. Crystal has the automatic upper window that lowers. Some are easier to open to enjoy fresh air. There is a butler assigned to each room (to a group of rooms actually). I had read reviews saying that the butler could unpack and pack your clothes for you. That was never offered to me, but I would have declined. The butler brings a snack to the room each day about 5:00 pm: cheeses, fruit, or shrimp plate. The butler can provide daily ice in the ice bucket if requested. The butler gives you an orientation to your room after you arrive. There is also a cabin attendant who is responsible for cleaning your room. Typically he or she comes in the morning and in the early evening. The cabin attendants are hard-working, and always smiling and saying “Hello”. There is Wi-Fi on the ship. I had some connection problems on the first day. I had to talk to the Information Technology (IT) guy on the ship to get help. I later found instructions in my stateroom. Once I got each device connected, it would usually, but not always, stay connected. It was a disappointment that Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) could not be used with the Wi-Fi. The IT guy assured me that passengers were behind a strong firewall on the ship. However, that was irrelevant, because I wanted to prevent anyone on the ship from eavesdropping on my web traffic. But I could not, if I wanted to use the Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi was slow (which I expected). On my laptop computer, it would take 1-2 hours to download about 40 emails, some with attachments, each day. Web surfing speeds were OK. One trick I learned is that if your Internet service is not working, go to “connect.crystalcruises.com” (not “login.com”) and see if you are still logged in. Typically, you only had to click the button to connect to the Internet to get reconnected. Crystal Cruises has a useful program that passengers can access via Wi-Fi at “connect.crystalcruises.com”. You can access information on Ship Info, Crystal Collections, Voyage Details, Entertainment, Dining, Crystal Life Wellness, and The World of Crystal. The Ship Info tab provides links to information on ship officers, deck plans, shipboard services, etc. The Voyage Details tab provides access to the ship itinerary and weather, location and points of interest, your amenities, your onboard folio, and port maps. I used the Voyage Details > Location link frequently, because it displays a map showing the location of the ship at any time [kudos to Crystal]. I used this to track the path of the ship along the rivers. The Entertainment tab provides access to select newspapers, magazines, movies, music and Crystal media. The Dining tab provides a link to information on the Waterside restaurant (Deck 2), the Bistro (Deck 3), the Pantry (Deck 2 by the Front Desk), and The Vintage Room (Deck 3). The Crystal Life Wellness tab has info on the ship spa, the swimming pool, etc. The World of Crystal has links to information on Crystal cruises, the Crystal Society, future bookings, etc. My only disappointment was that the shipboard Crystal Internet program does not display the schedule of Daily Activities [hint to Crystal]. There are several places to eat on the ship. The main dining room is on Deck 2 and called the Waterside Restaurant. You can also eat on Deck 3 in the Bistro (reservation needed for dinner due to limited seating). There are snacks on Deck 2 in The Pantry, an area across from the Front Desk. In the afternoon, snacks are placed in the Bistro—the pretzels and pretzel rolls were excellent (with Dijon mustard)! You can also indulge in a luxury dining experience called The Vintage Room. There is a limit of about 10 guests and a per person cost of 290€. The Executive Chef creates culinary pairings with seven fine reserve wines chosen by the Head Sommelier. The experience promotes wine appreciation. My recommendation is to do The Vintage Room at the beginning of the cruise (Amsterdam vicinity) rather than at the end (Budapest vicinity). Towards the end of the trip, there is competition because guests can opt to do special wine tastings and eat at Michelin restaurants in Vienna or Budapest as special Crystal shore excursions (for a fee). There may not be enough interest then to get the minimum number of people to have a Vintage Room event. At the beginning of the cruise, there is more likely to be enough interest to get the minimum number to sign up. If you sign up at home, check with the Restaurant Manager once you get aboard to find out when and if a Vintage Room dinner will be scheduled. At the main restaurant, the Waterside Restaurant, breakfast and dinner are served buffet style. There was a large variety of food to choose from. Some food was served by Crystal personnel; other food you served yourself. My disappointment is that the hand washing discipline for passengers entering the restaurant seemed lax [hint to Crystal]. It was up to passengers to decide if they wanted to use the hand sanitizer stations set up outside the restaurant (and at other locations on the ship). Several passengers had coughs; a few had colds. Buffet style eating can lead to the spread of infections. For dinner, the meal is served table side. You select from a menu. There are 2 entrees available, as well as supplementary dining choices for appetizer, salad, pasta, local main course, traditional entrees, and dessert. You can also ask for simple desserts like ice cream and gelato. An all-inclusive white wine and red wine selection is listed. You are free to ask for other wine. You can also purchase “fine” wines at a price, from a Connoisseur menu. You can get all-inclusive wines at any meal or whenever the bar (Palm Court) is open. The food was varied, tasty, and well-prepared. It was gourmet quality [kudos to Crystal]. The wine pairings at dinner were good. For July 4th, the chef even fixed thick, juicy burgers and a red, white, and blue cake for lunch. The next-to-last night was lobster night. There were only a few exceptions to food quality during the 16-day cruise. One meal had beef brisket; another had lamb; another had purple artichoke. They were overcooked and too tough to cut and eat. But, in general, the excellent food served on the ship is a compelling reason to select a future Crystal River Cruise. You can provide information on food allergies and dietary restrictions before you sail. One of my party of 8 did submit that information on a timely basis. For some unknown reason, it was not communicated by the Crystal head office to the chef on the ship, so a lot of improvising had to be done. I attribute this lack of coordination to Crystal’s newness to river cruising. There are still some bugs to be worked out of the process. I was disappointed that Crystal does not have a policy to prohibit cell phone calls in the restaurant [hint to Crystal]. One lunchtime a gentleman at the next table was using the speaker on his cell phone to carry on a conversation. We complained to the Restaurant Manager, but she said the guest probably needed the speaker to hear the conversation. It was an annoying distraction during the meal to have to listen to that conversation. You have several options for working out on the ship (and enjoying all the good food). There is a small exercise room on Deck 1. It has free weights, a rowing machine, and 2 exercise bikes. There was no elliptical trainer [hint to Crystal]. There is a small “wave” pool at the back of the ship, but still inside, on Deck 3. You activate a jet of water and can then swim against the current. The Active Adventure Coordinator (Fidell on my cruise) offered stretching, yoga, Pilates, and Abs classes in the mornings during the cruise. He also assisted with all the e-Bike shore excursions. When the top deck was open, you could also walk up and down the length of the ship. I enjoyed during my Tai Chi routine on the top deck, or in the lounge when the top deck was closed. During the portion of the cruise on the Main River, about 5 days from Mainz to Regensburg, the top deck of the ship, the Vista Deck, was closed, because of low clearance underneath bridges on the river. There was no good place to watch all the action while cruising. This could be another factor in your decision about which river cruise line to select. Some of the river ships have an open area or terrace at the front or back of the ship for sightseeing. On the Crystal Mahler that area in the back of the boat is enclosed for the small swimming pool. River cruising has become popular, especially in Europe. You should not expect that your river ship will dock in the city center. Expect to dock sometimes in an industrial area or on the outskirts of the city, a 10-15-minute bus ride from the city center. In the Daily Activities handout, Crystal does list the docking location for the next day. It’s a good idea to take a picture of that in case you want to venture out and sightsee on your own, and take a taxi back to the ship—then you know the location to give the driver. Several months before your cruise, you can sign up for shore excursions online at the Guest Check-In & Planning Center at www.crystalcruises.com/already-booked/. That was not a positive experience for me. I attribute some of the problems to Crystal’s newness to river cruising. This was only the second year of river cruising by Crystal. Do not depend on any preliminary list of shore excursions. Wait for the official ones to be released about 6 months before sailing. There were numerous differences. I signed up for shore excursions at the end of December after the trip was booked. Two months before departure, 2 ports were removed from the itinerary (and their tours). There were several changes to tour departure times, which sometimes impacted wanting to do multiple tours in a single day. Sometimes I would logon to check for changes and see that some shore excursions were dropped. Several days later I would logon and see those shore excursions re-appear. Once I found I was signed up for 3 tours on one day, two of which conflicted. My only advice is to print out the list of shore excursions you have signed up for, and then check at least weekly for changes and omissions; then contact your travel agent or Crystal to fix any problems. So, you’re ready to board the ship. One important thing you need to do after you arrive is to check your list of shore excursions (that you printed at home just before you left) with the list you find in your stateroom. I was surprised to find out that one of my wife’s tours was cancelled and replaced by a tour with a fee—not a change either of us made. The sooner you find out, the quicker you can get the problem fixed by the onboard Destination Team Lead (Shore Excursions Director). Also, check to see if the departure times for the tours have changed. I did find changes on the list in my stateroom. Even then, take the listed times with a grain of salt. What really matters is the time that is printed on the “ticket” you get delivered to your stateroom (or the time printed in the Daily Activities schedule) the night before the excursion. I discovered one or two earlier departure times that way; one couple missed a tour, because they didn’t check the times on the excursion tickets. At least 1 new shore excursion was added while we were sailing; we got a notice in our room. If you are doing multiple tours on the same day, do let the onboard Destination Team Lead know. I told the Lead on my cruise, Jessica, about that, and she assured me that my wife and I could make both tours, even though there was nominally only 15 minutes between the end of one tour and the start of the next. We were supposed to get on the bus to come back early. That got cancelled, but we still made it back in time on another Crystal bus. It may be useful to print out a description of tours you sign up for, when you are still at home. There is no description readily available on the ship; you would have to login to the Crystal Cruise website to find the description. It would be helpful to have that information available on the shipboard Crystal Internet program [hint to Crystal]. Be flexible when water conditions dictate changes in the itinerary. When I boarded the ship, I had to rebook some tours because Crystal planned to spend 2 days in Passau and only 1 in Regensburg. That changed due to water conditions, when we delayed our departure from Regensburg and had to change the Passau shore excursions. I couldn’t do the organ recital in Passau. Instead my wife and I attended church service at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Regensburg on the Sunday. One of the locals showed us a shortcut into the church and told us where to sit for the best acoustics. We got to hear the organ and the famous Regensburger Domspatzen (Regensburg Cathedral Choir)—wonderful!! We turned lemons into lemonade. I was impressed with the way Crystal conducted its tours. Like some other cruise lines, Crystal has its own buses, which follow the ship along its route. We would leave the ship and board the buses to go to our excursions. Bottled water and a WC was available on the bus; I learned at the end that Wi-Fi was available as well. The buses could hold about 40 people, and we always had 2 local guides on the buses [kudos to Crystal]. We then split into groups when we got off the buses, tuned our Crystal listening device to the correct channel, and went off on our tour. Thus, the groups were generally 20 people or fewer. I noticed that other cruise lines had a single guide for 30-40 people. Listening to the guide is not a problem in that situation. But I much preferred the smaller groups when we went into churches and other smaller buildings. It didn’t take so long to get in and out. The local guides were friendly and knowledgeable. Be sure to pick up a local map at the Front Desk before going out to explore a town. The maps are available the night before docking. Also bring your Crystal listening device if going on a tour (but not needed on e-Bike tours). The guides carry an extra or two, if you happen to leave yours in the room or experience a problem. Crystal offered many complimentary shore excursions, enough to keep you busy. My wife and I did a different European river cruise with a different company 4 years ago. We loved all the excursions, but decided after we returned home that we were too busy. For this trip we decided to usually do only 1 excursion a day (with 2 exceptions, for Melk-Dürnstein and for Vienna), so that we could have more time to relax and enjoy the sights. We found we had too much free time. Here is my suggestion to cruise lines: have a 2-hour excursion in the morning that leaves about 10 am (gives you time to sleep in) and have a 2-3-hour excursion in the afternoon that leaves about 2 pm [hint to Crystal]. Many times we had an hour of free time during a shore excursion which was basically shopping time—that time could be reduced. Some local guides seemed intent on pointing out places to shop at. They were willing to provide suggestions if you wanted to shop for particular items. I loved the Crystal Signature Event at the Belvedere Palace in Vienna. It was one of the highlights of the cruise. Only Crystal Mahler passengers attended. We were treated to champagne upon arrival. We got to attend a special showing of “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt, and saw other artwork in the palace. Then we were treated to a performance by the Schloss Schönbrunn Orchestra of Vienna with operatic singers and dancers in the Marble Hall. It was a special and enjoyable evening [kudos to Crystal]. I would recommend all the e-Bike tours. For me, they were very memorable [kudos to Crystal]. Helmets were provided. You had assistance with proper bike fitting, although some guides were less helpful than others (but there were always other people who could help out). The gears were not complicated to use—you would just turn a knob by the right handlebar. I enjoyed cycling through the countryside. We had 2 guides with our group, one at the front and one at the back of the group (along with the Crystal Active Adventure Coordinator or substitute) to help ensure everyone stayed on the proper bike path and to help out with any problems. On some trips some people—me included—had problems with the power going off from time to time. That was due to the battery slipping out of its holder. I learned to just push it back in, and power back up. I could keep up with the group without power assist; I typically stayed in a middle gear for pedaling. It was only after stopping to take pictures that I might have to use battery power to speed up and rejoin the group. Power assist was useful to some people when going up an incline. One person in our group pre-requested and used a regular bike which weighs much less than an e-Bike. We typically stopped for refreshments somewhere along the route. On the last e-Bike tour, the Danube Island eBike Discovery in Vienna, the bike group cycled across the Danube to Danube Island. Later we crossed the New Danube river and cycled across the Danube City area and cycled along the Old Danube Lake. That lake is designated for swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, and other water activities. I even saw an overhead wire system for slalom water skiing. I saw several restaurants, piers, and lots of people out enjoying the sunshine. Several of us decided that Crystal should offer a day or half-day shore excursion to hang out on Old Danube Lake. When you’ve visited enough churches, castles, and historical buildings, it would be great to have some “down time” on the Lake [hint to Crystal]. The e-Bike tour stopped for a refreshment break with a drink (soda, water, coffee) and apple strudel at the revolving restaurant on top of the Donau Turm (Vienna Tower), which had magnificent views over the city. Your ship identification/key card lists your name, ship name (and contact phone number), and the deck you live on. Security officers scan the card when you leave and return to the ship, and check against your picture to be sure the proper person is boarding the ship. Most of the passengers on the ship were in their 50s and 60s. There were some older and some younger. There were teenagers with one family and some 20-year old young adults with another family. Most passengers were American. There were also Mexicans, South Africans, Canadians, and Australians. One thing I liked about the Crystal River Cruise was providing nightly entertainment on the ship [kudos to Crystal]. Sometimes we had special guests: La Finesse String Quartet in Würzburg, the Pressburger Duo with unique and traditional Slovakian instruments in Bratislava, and a soprano and pianist performance in Regensburg. Other nights we were entertained by the talented and vivacious Rita and Bruno (piano, guitar, vocals) in the Palm Court lounge. We had game time as well, when not watching the 2018 World Cup competition: Trivia, Name That Tune, and the (Not So) Newlywed Game, to name a few. There was also pre-dinner cocktail music in the lounge. There were several enrichment lectures held in the lounge with guest speakers. Topics included the European Union, Germany, and the Main-Danube Canal. The bar staff was friendly and helpful. They would even serve drinks on the top deck when it was open. Most of the drinks were included in the cruise price. There were some top shelf liquors for which you had to pay (e.g., Hennessy XO cognac, Patron tequila). My sister-in-law spoke highly of the quality of the “Drink of the Day”. She tried them all and loved them. I tried a margarita, and later a mojito, but they didn’t suit my tastes (which could have been due to the base liquors), so I stuck with wine most of the time. I loved the Grüner Veltliner white wine from Austria. An interesting and informative Galley Tour is offered about halfway through the cruise. The Executive Chef takes you down to the kitchen and talks about how your great food is prepared. Be sure to read the Reflections (“Welcome Aboard Crystal Mahler”) and the “Crystal Collections Notice” brochures in your room when you arrive. They provide some information to make the cruise more enjoyable. There is a self-service laundry on Deck 1. There are 2 washers and 2 dryers. There is no charge to use them. Laundry detergent pods are provided (just put into the washer), as are dryer sheets. There are lots of customizable options for washing and drying your clothes. There is an ironing board and iron. You can watch TV while you wait. If you leave, be sure to come back when your washing or drying finishes (look for the estimated time on the control panel of the washer or dryer). There may be other people waiting to use the machines. Laundry service was available for a nominal fee; pressing was complimentary. Stay on top of your folio. I had read other reviews about problems with the stateroom bill, which I also had. Check a few days into the cruise and a few days before the end of the cruise. That allows time to fix any obvious problems, like charges from other staterooms being improperly posted to your account. It would be helpful to have a clock in the swimming pool area and in the bar at Palm Court [hint to Crystal]. Carry some Euro coins with you when you go out on excursions or on your own. You may have to pay €0.50-€0.80 to use public toilets. In Hungary, the official currency is the Forint. The Euro appears to be accepted at stores frequented by tourists. You may be able to get Euros back in change by asking (otherwise you probably get forints); you may or may not get a favorable exchange rate. The Euro was used in all the other countries on the cruise. My wife and I enjoyed lounging on the top (Vista) deck when it was open. You have great views of both sides of the river, especially during scenic cruising, such as early in the cruise after the ship left Cologne and we went through the Rhine Gorge. On the last night of the cruise, the ship went cruising up and down the river in Budapest; there were quite a few illuminated buildings to see and bridges to go under. The furniture was comfortable, including the sofas and lounge chairs. There were also tables for playing cards. There was a large perforated (tight weave) canopy in the central area that provided some screening from the sun. There was an outdoor bar with bar chairs, but it was rarely used on this cruise. With Crystal’s all-inclusive cruising, complimentary gratuities for housekeeping, bar and dining staff (including in-room dining service staff) are included in the cost of the cruise. I was told that local guides were also covered. However, my wife and I still gave some nominal tips if we thought the local guides did an exceptional job. We felt that the room attendant, some of the bar staff, some of the dining room staff, and the Active Adventure Coordinator deserved an additional tip because of their outstanding service, which we gave to them in sealed envelopes the day before disembarking in Budapest. As I indicated above, a Crystal River cruise is expensive. You have to consider value for the money—food, shore excursions, amenities, ship layout (including room balcony access, 8exercise room, laundry, and spa), nightly entertainment, etc. This cruise cost about $12,000 per person. By comparison and for example, a comparable stateroom on Viking (similar layout but 50 fewer square feet) with a similar Amsterdam to Budapest itinerary would cost about $8,000 per person. It’s an individual decision about whether you can have a comparable experience for a lower price point than Crystal. We did have several people on the cruise who have been longtime Crystal ocean cruise passengers and who decided to experience river cruising with Crystal; they seemed very happy with this trip. A Crystal yacht cruise may be in their future. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
We just returned from our first river cruise, a tulip time sailing in Holland and Belgium on Crystal Bach. After 50+ ocean cruises, we boarded Bach with some apprehension, not quite sure if river cruising would be for us. We had barged ... Read More
We just returned from our first river cruise, a tulip time sailing in Holland and Belgium on Crystal Bach. After 50+ ocean cruises, we boarded Bach with some apprehension, not quite sure if river cruising would be for us. We had barged in France and taken an expedition cruise on the Amazon, but traditional river cruising was new to us. We disembarked 12 nites later fully convinced that we had found our sweet spot. For us, river cruising represents the best of luxury land travel combined with the joyful relaxation of ocean cruising. We loved it. As with most river cruise lines, Crystal includes arrival and departure transfers. Upon arrival at AMS Schiphol, we were greeted by cheery ground staff, offered coffee and pastries and then transported to Bach on a Crystal-branded coach. We were the only guests arriving at that time and we had the huge bus all to ourselves! Check-in was handled via iPad in Palm Court. Quick and easy. Lunch was being served in Waterside but we chose to graze in the Bistro. The selection wasn't as extensive as on Crystal ocean ships (no Portuguese tarts) but was just fine for a quick bite and a glass of bubbly. Within a half hour, we were escorted to our suite where our luggage had already arrived. Our butler gave us a walk-through of various features, including how to operate the huge panoramic balcony window. The room itself was gorgeous. Bright, well appointed and functional. Nespresso machine and a well-stocked fridge at the ready. Decent sized walk-in closet with lots of hangers and drawers. The bathroom had double sinks and a fabulous rain head shower. Only downside was Etro toiletries, which looked great in their brightly colored containers, but performed miserably. We settled in and then roamed around to orient ourselves. Bach is just lovely. It has the feel of a contemporary boutique hotel with a casual yet sophisticated onboard ambiance. The boat is compact yet doesn't feel cramped. Corridors and public spaces are bright with pops of art for visual interest. There are not many public areas inside the vessel apart from Palm Court, Waterside and the Bistro, but the entire outside top deck with chaise lounges, comfy deck chairs and a pop-up bar, just begs to be discovered. Dining on Bach was a delight and exceeded expectations. Breakfast and lunch in Waterside was buffet, with self-serve stations complimented by fully staffed cook-to-order stations. Dinner in Waterside featured a 4-course Chef Selection each night, as well as optional classic items. The cheese selection changed daily and offered some interesting local choices, all served at the proper temperature. Daily wine pairings were suggested but all complimentary wines were available for the asking. Crystal advertises Michelin-inspired menus with locally-sourced fresh ingredients and they really deliver. While menu selections were not as extensive as on the ocean ships, execution and presentation was superior. The Bistro was also open for breakfast and lunch with a small self-serve buffet and a limited menu. The daily pastas and soup were excellent. On selected nights (3 during our cruise) the Bistro was open for dinner with a tapas menu. Unfortunately, we didn't get the opportunity to try the Bistro at night, but reports were that it was a hit. It would be great if Crystal opened the Bistro every evening as a casual alternative to Waterside. A feature of river cruising is included excursions, which didn't particularly appeal to us since we like to travel independently and usually avoid ship-sponsored tours. Nonetheless, we pre-booked a whopping 18 tours via PCPC, representing a good mix of cultural discovery, active adventures and culinary experiences. In reality, we had no need to worry about included tours. There was an amazing selection in every port and we managed to get all our top choices. Every single Crystal excursion was exceptional. Interesting itineraries, excellent guides, small groups, whisper listening devices and fabulous (yes fabulous) Setra coaches and friendly drivers. Those coaches were amazing. Purpose-built for Crystal, they have very comfortable seats with generous pitch, which not only recline but move sideways! Super smooth ride, tons of navigational aides, powerful AC, free wifi. On several excursions, so-called Crystal Moments added a special surprising touch. The Crystal Signature Evening Event was exceptional and will be a lasting memory. Looking back, we now think the included excursions contributed greatly to our overall enjoyment of our cruise. We sailed at night and were docked in port every day, conveniently located in the centre of town. Almost always, we were docked alongside the pier with other riverboats docked (barged) right next to us. Only once did we need to enter Bach through another vessel and it was Crystal Debussy, an identical twin to Bach! Unlike ocean cruising, there were few planned activities on board, especially during the daytime. In the evenings, an entertainer played piano in Palm Court both before and after dinner. Trivia, Liars Club and a Guest Lecturer each made an appearance and local entertainment was brought onboard a few times when we overnighted in port. There was a Crystal Society Reception to which all guests were invited. Lovely spread including very generous servings of caviar. We were surprised to be recognized among the top loyalty cruisers, given we have only 63 days sailing with Crystal. Yet another benefit of river cruising! We were crystallized after our first cruise on Serenity almost 2 years ago. We never dreamed we'd love river cruising as much as we did but Bach won us over. We've been recrystallized. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
We booked the river cruise through Road Scholars who had charted the boat for the Tulip Time in the Netherlands and Belgium. We spent three nights in Amsterdam before boarding the boat. The boat is new and lovely. The service is ... Read More
We booked the river cruise through Road Scholars who had charted the boat for the Tulip Time in the Netherlands and Belgium. We spent three nights in Amsterdam before boarding the boat. The boat is new and lovely. The service is excellent and the food very good. We were quite impressed with this new to river cruising line. Because this was the first cruise of the season, there were a few minor glitches, but easily dealt with. The boat was not nearly full which was nice. At maximum capacity it is only about 106 people. It is the same size of the other river boats, but accommodates fewer guests making it seem less crowded. For the most part, all of the excursions were excellent. It was cold and the tulips were just barely blooming while we were there, but that is based upon the weather and no fault of Crystal River Cruises. Embarkation was so easy. We actually were able to get into our rooms much sooner than the time quoted earlier. Debarkation was very smooth as well with no issues regarding the transfer to the airport. I would definitely go on this line again without hesitation. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
For a number of years, we have wanted to experience the Christmas Markets of Germany. We had also wanted to give Crystal Cruise lines a try. When the Crystal Bach was announced, we made our booking immediately and waited nearly two years ... Read More
For a number of years, we have wanted to experience the Christmas Markets of Germany. We had also wanted to give Crystal Cruise lines a try. When the Crystal Bach was announced, we made our booking immediately and waited nearly two years for the ship to be built in anticipation off a once in a lifetime experience. It was worth the wait! From the time that we were greeted at the airport in Amsterdam until we were dropped off at the airport in Basel, the service and the warm hospitality that we received from the Crystal Bach team was exemplary. The ship was immaculate, the cabin spacious for a river cruise, and everything was immaculately kept. While breakfast and lunch were served buffet style, it was not a typical buffet. The buffet simply allowed us to select what we preferred and in the quantity that we liked, It also afforded us to interact with the friendly team that was more than happy to prepare something special to our liking. Every evening the dinner was top shelf. The Chef frequently incorporated local ingredients in the dishes of the region and the staff in the dining room was very attentive Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
This river cruise was a first for both the Crystal Mahler, my wife and me. Both my Wife and I are experienced ocean cruises and this was our first River cruise. The cruise was not supposed to be the the first one for the Mahler but due to ... Read More
This river cruise was a first for both the Crystal Mahler, my wife and me. Both my Wife and I are experienced ocean cruises and this was our first River cruise. The cruise was not supposed to be the the first one for the Mahler but due to construction delays, This became the inaugural cruise. When we booked it it was supposed to be from Budapest to Amsterdam for 16 days but due to construction delays, they were unable to get the boat down to Budapest to start the cruise as planned but instead created a new itinerary Round trip Amsterdam down the Rhine to Basel, Crystal offered a generous compensation for those of us that decided to take the new route. Air arrangements had to be changed, which Crystal helped with and transportation was provided between the airport and ship. The Mahler is a beautiful new ship! We were in Stateroom 209 (S2 category suite), it was nice sized with comfortable beds and pillows, the bathroom was nice with a great shower. One nice surprise was the endless swimming pool that worked great. Food was the best yet on any ship we had been before,( Crystal, Seaborn, Celebrity, Princess, etc) Service was always with a smile and excellent. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style, dinner is full service. Only hiccup was when the 24 hour automatic coffee/expresso machine, which is built in quit on day 2, but hot coffee was always available and expresso products from room service. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
We have just finished the 16-day inaugural cruise of the Crystal Mahler. This cruise had a unique itinerary as it was changed one month prior to its September 30 start due to a delay in completing its construction. The itinerary was ... Read More
We have just finished the 16-day inaugural cruise of the Crystal Mahler. This cruise had a unique itinerary as it was changed one month prior to its September 30 start due to a delay in completing its construction. The itinerary was roundtrip Amsterdam, with stops in Arnhem, Cologne, Koblenz, Rudesheim, Speyer, Strasbourg, Basel, Breisach, Plittersdaorf, Mainz, Niederlahnstein, and Bonn. There were overnights in Amsterdam, Koblenz, Basel, Mainz and again in Amsterdam. Because of the change in itinerary, Crystal was extremely generous in compensating the passengers. I was concerned that there would be some short-comings on this cruise due to the need to complete construction and subsequent crew training on time, but I couldn't have been more wrong. The ship was gorgeous and the hallways even had that "new" smell that usually is associated with new cars. In this case, the smell was that of a Bentley, I believe. Embarkation was a breeze: we walked on board, were greated by smiling staff, had a quick photo taken and our luggage was whisked to our room. Within 5 minutes we were seated in the Waterside Restaurant, downing a glass of quality champagne and checking out the lunch menu. Our room was category S1. The ship has 53 cabins, which include 2 two-bedroom Crystal Suites, 16 "petite suites" (188 square feet), with the remainder being "river suite deluxes" (253 square feet). The river suite deluxes included S1, S2 and S3, with the only difference among these three being their location on the boat (S1 cabins had the more desirable locations, although there really wasn't a bad location anywhere). All of the cabins had "panoramic balcony windows." The entire river-side wall of the room was basically a window, and with the push of a button the top half of the window would retract down. With the push of a second button, a fine-mesh screen would lower from the ceiling to cover the opening and prevent insects and large birds of prey from entering. All of the cabins were above water, i.e., there were no "aquarium class" cabins. The cabin was well designed, with a comfortable king bed that faced out to the river. There was a large flat screen TV on one wall (it was hinged and could be angled in different directions), a walk-in closet, a sitting area with desk, a small refrigerator, a Nespresso machine and a decent amount of drawers/shelves. The bathroom was outstanding, with a double-sink vanity, a large attractive back-lit mirror, adequate shelf space and a large glass-enclosed shower with a wonderful rain shower head. The bathroom floor was heated. The ventilation in the bathroom was so efficient that the mirror never steamed up even after a long hot shower with the bathroom door closed. For techies, the cabin probably would meet your requirements. The TV was interactive, there were USB ports to charge your devices at each nightstand, and each cabin had an iPad, which allowed for internet connectivity as well as for using the Press Reader to get free access to hundreds of daily worldwide newspapers. Eventually all of the dinner menus, excursions and other cruise-related activities will be accessible on the iPad. There was free, 24-hour internet. The public rooms were classy and luxurious. The main area was the Palm Court, which had well-spaced comfortable seating, a grand piano, and most importantly, a well-stocked bar. Talks, evening music and the entertainment were performed here. The entertainment director was Neal Fullerton. He was witty, pleasant, engaging and had a delightful bit of an edge to him. In my opinion, he is the top entertainment director on Crystal (although I know Mark Farris fans may not agree). The gym was small, but with only 53 cabins on the ship and active excursions every day, a larger gym would have been a waste of space. There was a fitness director who led daily yoga classes, stretching sessions, etc. There were several e-bike excursions for those so inclined, and you could always jog along the river or nearby if you wanted to burn off some of the calories that you may have attracted in the restaurant. There was also a spa where you could get a massage, and there was a complimentary self-service laundry with two washer/dryers and iron/board. All of the cabins have a butler assigned, as well as a cabin attendant. The butler will pack and unpack for you, but I doubt many passengers would want to avail themselves of that service. It probably would be quicker to unpack yourself than it would be to hunt around to find where the butler placed your socks or your cummerbund. Our butler came by every day at 5:00PM with some canapes, either a cheese tray, shrimp cocktail or fresh fruit. The food on this cruise exceeding my expectations, which where quite high since I am spoiled by the superb cuisine aboard the Crystal Symphony and Serenity. In summary, the quality of the dinners was way beyond what a Michelin one-star restaurant serves. Compared to the Crystal oceans vessels, our dinners were even better. The quality of ingredients, the often spectacular presentations, and the taste of the food were all remarkable. Of our 16 dinners, I don't believe that any course was offered more than once. It was obvious that no corners were cut in order to provide the exquisite dinners we received. Breakfast and lunch were buffet-style, with a wide variety of incredible choices, as well as several hot dishes that are served/carved/prepared at the hot station. During the day, there is also a bistro (not surprisingly named "The Bistro"), which has a delightful spread of charcuterie, smoked fish, cheeses, breads, salads and outstanding pastries. In case I didn't make myself clear, the food on this cruise was phenomenal. Do you like to drink? Do you enjoy quality liquor, well-crafted, served in generous portions by a bartender who remembers your name and your drinking preferences? Then look no further. I've never had a better negroni than on board the Mahler. The martinis, cosmos, bloody Marys etc. were also excellent. Within one minute of sitting down in the Palm Court, bartenders Adam or Norbert would have a negroni sent my way, and Daryl the sommelier would hardly let me settle into my dinner chair without doing the same. As on virtually all river cruises, there wasn't much in the way of evening entertainment, although Neal Fullerton did very well with his evening performances. There were also a few interesting talks given by local speakers. One evening we all went to a wine chateau for a private performance by a string quartet, which was very nice. Probably the biggest difference between an ocean cruise and a river cruise is that river cruises are port-intensive and depend upon interesting excursions. Here, too, Crystal excelled. There was a good variety of excursions and they were well-organized. On the included excursions, even when all of the passengers going on a certain tour could have been lumped together into one group with one guide, we were broken up into smaller assemblages so that the groups were kept quite small. Highlights for me included a day trip to Lake Lucerne which included a boat ride on the lake; a trip to the Dutch countryside to visit an eel-smoker, a cheese maker and a windmill; a visit to Heidelberg and its castle; a tour of lovely Strasbourg with a boat ride there; and the obligatory tour of Amsterdam by canal boat. Even the otherwise mundane daily walking tours were well-guided and interesting. The Crystal buses were quite comfortable and spacious. I must comment on the service provided on this cruise. The cabin attendant did an outstanding job thoroughly cleaning our room twice daily, seemingly reading our minds and slipping in and out of our cabin when we were elsewhere. The butler was nice to have, he picked up our clothes for the free ironing service and brought our daily late-afternoon canapes, but wasn't all that essential. The food servers, waiters and bar attendants were superb, although occasionally there was a delay in refilling beverages during the buffet breakfasts and lunches. The entertainment director, the hotel manager, the front desk personnel, and even the bus drivers all seemed to make it their goal to provide the best service possible, and they succeeded. Although I was obviously very pleased with this cruise, there were a few minor deficiencies. The lighting system in the cabin was interesting, you could say. It was clearly too sophisticated for me, however. It took the entire 16 days to figure out how to turn on the bathroom light at night without turning on the lights in the rest of the room. The toilet paper dispenser was an anomaly, as it did not provide its intended service properly. The laundry detergent was perfumed, which not all passengers would find desirable. Some of the chairs in the Palm Court, although comfortable, were very heavy and hard to move to face different directions. There was an error in my final statement at checkout, and it took a couple of attempts to correct it. That's about all of the negatives I can come up with at this time. I guess I could complain that it rained the day we went to Heidelberg, but it's debatable whether that is Crystal's fault. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
My husband and I wanted our first river cruise to be a high end luxury one, and Crystal Bach has totally delivered it! We have been cruising for years with various cruise lines, including Regent which is supposed to be the #1 in the world, ... Read More
My husband and I wanted our first river cruise to be a high end luxury one, and Crystal Bach has totally delivered it! We have been cruising for years with various cruise lines, including Regent which is supposed to be the #1 in the world, but Crystal Bach surpassed it by a mile! ~First of all, the food was out of the world! Every meal they served on the ship was excellent! We are foodies and we are very critical of food. Chef Mattias Pape and his team were unbelievable. ~The executions were complementary and they were wonderful. We enjoyed all the sightseeings. There were plenty of umbrellas and bottles of water on the buses. The bus drivers and staff were very attentive and friendly. ~The room was very spacious and chic. All cabins have a floor to ceiling window which can be opened and turn the room to a balcony. The water pressure in the bath room was just perfect. ~The deck was very spacious for relaxing, even for jogging/walking. ~The service was excellent. All staff members, especially the captain, were very friendly and went out their ways to make guests happy. ~ The entertainment was wonderful, to say the least. We have been used to watch full stage productions on those big ocean liners and we did enjoy them. We were told that the entertainment on river cruises tends to be boring due to the size of the ships. Well, it turned out, every night with our wonderful entertainer, Mark Farris, was the best time we ever had on any ship. Not only is Mark a gifted singer and pianist, he is also very kind and friendly. He remembered every guest from day one and always involved everyone during his nightly show. He made us feel like partying with a very close circle of friends. We all love him very much and hope that he will be on our next cruise. Since we were on the inaugural voyage, we did experience some mishaps, mechanically and human errors. But Crystal Cruise made every effort and went above and beyond to accommodate every guest. As I mentioned, we have sailed on different cruise lines. After this wonderful experience with Crystal Bach, we have decided to become lifelong Crystal cruisers. On another note, our fellow cruisers' age range from mid 40s to 90s. Most of them looked like 65 and older. I am in my mid 50s but feel fit in well with this group of kind and friendly international guests. If you want a more lively crowd, or casinos, this ship is not for you. Please excuse my grammatical errors since English is not my first language. Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
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