The brand-new river cruise line Riverside Luxury Cruises has some storied roots. The line, owned by the German hotelier Seaside Collection, acquired the five luxury ships formerly owned by Crystal Cruises last year.
Six months later, and the first of those ships to set sail under its new ownership is the 150-passenger Riverside Mozart. The four-deck, 77-foot-wide Riverside Mozart is double the width of a regular river cruise ship, and the new line’s ambition is to be the best of the best - an ‘ultra’ luxury cruise line which serves the best cuisine and the best wines on the water.
We hopped onboard one of the ship’s maiden sailings, a four-night roundtrip cruise along the Danube River from Vienna. Here are five things we think you’ll love about Riverside Luxury Cruises and Riverside Mozart.
Staterooms are where Riverside excels in the ‘ultra’ luxury department. Every cabin is a suite and every suite comes with a personal butler. The only difference between suites is their floor space. All come with velvet and silk furnishings and have deluxe marble bathrooms with smart Japanese Toto toilets - think automatic opening, flushing and heated seats. Cabins are equipped with an Espresso machine although, if you’d prefer tea, your butler will bring you a kettle and a daily delivery of upscale tea bags and fresh milk.
The butler is a personal genie – your wish is their command. Our suite was kept beautifully with everything tidied and polished to perfection, and we’re pleased to report that on Riverside the nightly turndown service is firmly de rigueur. Every suite is gifted with a bottle of bubbly at the start of the cruise (Champagne for the highest category cabins, good quality sparkling wine for the rest) and a selection of petit fours-style treats are replenished every day. Wardrobe space is excellent, with plenty of strong, sturdy hangars and all cabins on Deck 2 have French balconies.
A touch that made us smile the most is that all suites have an outside doorbell. Whenever it rang, it made us feel like we were Lady of the Manor -- and that Riverside Mozart really was our luxury home away from home.
Riverside prides itself on its all-inclusive product, as well as its flexibility. Itineraries range from 3 to 14 nights, and you can combine voyages to make a longer cruise – during our voyage several guests were sailing two consecutive four-night Danube River itineraries. River cruises shorter than a week are a rarity, but the company sees the offerings as a way for people to combine some time on the rivers with a land vacation in Europe.
All fares include accommodation, all meals and drinks -- soft and alcoholic throughout the cruise, as well as one excursion per destination. (When the ship’s house Champagne is a Taittinger, you know you’re onto something good. Also included are gratuities (both on board and ashore) as well as Wi-Fi and transfers. If you’re in an upper suite not only will your transfer be in a limo, but you’re even entitled to free laundry. Top tip: this means you can return home with a suitcase packed full of freshly washed clothes. Better still, you can ask your butler to do the packing for you. They’ll even UN-pack for you if you so wish!
In an unusual move for a river line, Riverside acknowledges that the all-inclusive package might not suit everyone. So, if you’re unlikely to make good use of the included drinks and/or prefer to explore independently as opposed to join a ship excursion then it’s possible to go ‘a la carte’ by booking full board accommodation without any drinks and/or excursions.
Beginning August 2023, Riverside will begin rolling out its other ships on the Saone and Rhone (Riverside Ravel), with the Rhine and the Moselle to come later. Once this happens, guests will be able to combine Riverside cruises not just on the same river, but on different rivers too.
Food and beverages is another department where Riverside aims to be the best of the best, and there’s great attention paid to detail. There’s always something mouth-watering on offer, whether it’s a slap-up meal or an in-between snack - think cookies, artisan ice-creams and a posh cheeseboard.
Riverside Mozart has four different dining venues, which is unusual for a river cruise ship and offers considerable choice. The day starts with a gourmet breakfast buffet served in the main Waterside Restaurant – everything’s so beautifully presented that it’s like a work of art. For elevenses you might head to the Bistro where fresh-leaf tea is served in a pot and with a timer so that you know exactly when the brew is ready. Lunch can be enjoyed overlooking the wake in the Blue Deli, where burgers, salads and pasta of the day are all on the menu.
Our favorite, however, is when they fire up the BBQ’s on top deck (this is weather dependent) and pop lobster, salmon, prawns and steaks onto the grill, dishing it up with salads. It’s all absolutely delicious, as are the five-course waiter-served dinners accompanied by leading wines from the region. Sometimes the bottles are even from the vineyards you’ve just sailed past. The signature cocktail of the Danube voyage is the Wachau Bellini Spritz which is a cocktail of regional ingredients – apricot puree, peach schnapps and sparkling wine. It’s a must.
Think river cruising is sedentary? Well, not when it comes to Riverside. Certainly there are opportunities to relax and enjoy the passing scenery, but on Riverside Mozart there are also multiple ways to be active both on board and off.
Thanks to its double width, the Riverside Mozart has facilities that are unusual for most river ships. Not only does deck 3 have a wraparound promenade deck, but there’s also a large, fully-equipped gym as well as an indoor swimming pool. Press a button to activate the pool’s nifty counter-current and you’re in for a proper workout!
Also on the ship are 30 excellent-quality bikes, half of which are electric. These can be enjoyed when the ship’s docked in port or used to cycle from one port to another instead of getting back on the ship when it relocates. Our only issue is that the bikes are big – having short legs made it hard to touch the ground even on tippy-toes.
The ship also stocks walking poles, available for independent exploration or shore excursions. Top pick along the Danube is the hike to the hilltop castle in the Austrian village of Durnstein. Scheduled activities back on board include itinerary-focused demonstrations – ours was learning how to make apple strudel. We were in Austria after all.
Not only are you royally pampered on a Riverside cruise, but there’s so much space per passenger that at times it feels like you have the ship to yourself. There are two crew members for every passenger and 50% of that crew are ex-Crystal, including the executive chef. So although this isn’t a Crystal cruise, you can expect the same level of luxury service that you would have experienced on the former line.
This huge crew-to-passenger ratio means that you never have to wait long to be served anything, be it a cup of tea, a cocktail or an ice cream (incidentally, the mango flavour comes with juicy chunks of fruit in it and is sensational). Nothing is too much trouble. Want to tuck into the BBQ on the sun deck but also order a salad from Blue Deli? No problem. They’ll bring it to you. Want to order something off menu? Certainly, Madam, what would you like? Crew constantly bend over backwards.
Our favorite space on Riverside Mozart is the sun deck where, at times, we were the only people on it; it felt like we’d chartered our own personal yacht. On it are more deck chairs, bean bags and loungers than there are passengers as well as a pop-up bar and a well-tended herb garden. These herbs are used in the botanical cocktails served in Cove Bar.