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.
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. 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).
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].
Our room on the Crystal Mahler had a “Panoramic Balcony-Window”. 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.
It's always fun to cruise the canals in Amsterdam.
Interesting and informative walking tour
Crystal cancelled a stop in this city
Enjoyed the walk through the forest, but it was too short. The city tour was interesting and informative.
Enjoyed the wine tasting and tour at Burgerspital
Our guides were dressed in historic costumes. Informative walking tour.
The city walk was OK.
Interesting and informative city walk. Liked the town.
Loved the tour of this beautiful abbey.
My wife and I did our own tour of old town, in addition to the cruise line's city walking tour. We skipped the beer pub. There are several sites worth visiting.