--Updated by Colleen McDaniel, Senior Executive Editor
For years a top choice for luxury ocean sailings, Crystal Cruises branched into river cruising in 2016 with the introduction of the 154-passenger Crystal Mozart. In 2017, the line added Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler; Crystal Ravel and Crystal Debussy are slated to join the fleet in 2018. The vessels are equipped with beautiful interiors and luxurious amenities that will keep Crystal River Cruises passengers sailing in style as they cruise Europe's rivers.
Crystal will float your boat if you like...
The Crystal River Cruises vessels are more like small cruise ships on rivers than riverboats. They offer multiple dining venues, including main restaurants that are part buffet/part sit-down, bistros that serve continental breakfast and light fare (including an ice cream bar) by day and sit-down menu at night, 24/7 snack bars and room service. Each riverboat has a gym and spa, along with an indoor pool area with padded lounge chairs and large windows. Even suite designs resemble cruise ships more than riverboats on other lines, thanks to elements like king-sized beds, customizable lighting and walk-in closets.
If you like gadgets, gizmos and digital developments, Crystal is definitely your brand. Suites include customizable lighting; an iPad from which to control room settings and order room service, among others; French balcony windows that open with the touch of a button; plenty of USB and electric outlets; and even digital "do not disturb" signs. Crystal Mozart suites have electronic Toto toilets, with remotes to change settings like heated seats and automatic open/close. Crystal’s riverboats also carry speedboats, which can be chartered privately for shore excursions. Even the line's shore excursion motor coaches have techy options, including free Wi-Fi and Nespresso machines.
Crystal offers active tours in nearly every port. Options include cycling, hiking and rafting, and at least one active tour is complimentary in every port with tour choice. Crystal labels these "Exhilarating Adventures"; they're designed to give passengers historical or cultural tours in a more invigorating way. Some of Crystal's riverboats offer bikes (with e-assist!) that you can take out on your own for independent exploration.
If you adore fine dining, Crystal is your line. Onboard chefs whip up creative fare that is drool-worthy. Menus are flexible enough to appeal to the gastronomically bold as well as the picky. Dishes are delightful, tickling every sense. Crystal also provides its passengers the opportunity for a special wine-pairing dinner, called The Vintage Room. Here, meals and wine meld perfectly, as a sommelier and chef deftly lead diners through a multicourse extravaganza, complete with high-end vintages and refined ingredients. Off the ship, Crystal passengers can choose "Tantalizing Gastronomy" excursions that give them hands-on cooking experiences or put them in exclusive restaurants. Complimentary and extra-fee options are available.
Attention to detail
Crystal's riverboats wow when it comes to their interiors. The designers thought about every space, and they all fit serenely together. Were it not for the changing scenery, you might forget you were on a riverboat. That's because the decor is reminiscent of what you'd expect in a luxury hotel. Depending on which ship you're sailing, you'll see faux fireplaces, enormous crystal-studded light fixtures and expansive spiral staircases. Palettes are neutral, with a sprinkling of bold color throughout. Spend some time perusing any bookshelves you come across; you might find a bit of the ships' history among the well-curated knickknacks.
If the weather's nice, Crystal riverboats make it easy to enjoy fresh air and river views, thanks to its sun decks and innovative use of natural lighting. Of the ships, Crystal Mozart, which is roughly twice as wide as its fleetmates, most effectively takes advantage of the outdoors. Mozart's aft restaurant, the casual Blue, has alfresco seating for enjoying a burger or some flatbread out of doors. One deck up, the Vista Deck is more tricked out than most riverboat sun decks. It's got a fitness area for outdoor yoga, and a "living roof" where you can stroll or chat among beds of live plants. In the middle, it has a hip hangout, complete with a hydraulic bar (it sinks down when Mozart needs to pass under low bridges), flat-screen TV for sporting event and movie viewing and colorful cozy chairs for chilling day or night. The rest of the Crystal fleet incorporated a tremendous amount of glass into its design, so light comes pouring in to the ships' lounges and restaurants. Passengers can enjoy sunshine even when it's chilly.
Crystal probably isn't the river line for you if you like...
Set-time group dining
Crystal's river fleet features open-seating dining; passengers can arrive anytime during open hours at the Waterside Restaurant, and typically sit with members of their party, rather than at group tables. If you like meeting new people over dinner or like the bustling atmosphere of everyone onboard dining at once, this is not the river line for you.