I thoroughly enjoyed my 1st river cruise on Crystal Mozart, sailing the Danube for 10-nights. I’m going to use a different angle to view this cruise and write a not-so-common trip report. I’ll start with a list of the pros and cons of this cruise. Of course, it’s only based on my own opinions, but hopefully it would be helpful enough for fellow cruisers to learn more about the 5-star river cruising experience on Crystal Mozart, as I found that I got very limited information regarding this while doing my research homework on the cruise throughout my almost 2 years’ planning period. I spent a ton of time to write on Wismergirl’s travel blog to include a lot more details if you are interested in my daily activities on board.
Refer to photo: Crystal Mozart, “the Giant” of Danube river cruising, docked at Linz on July 13, 2018:
1) Truly all-inclusive – not even one extra cent I had to pay on board. Of course, if you want spa/hair treatments, Connoisseur wine, upgraded excursions & extra tipping, that’s another story. Now, cruise fare, airport transfers, selected shore excursions, meals, entertainment, gratuities, unlimited soft drinks, beer, most wine & spirit, unlimited WIFI on board & on coaches (though quite spotty at times), are all paid for. We even got a complimentary meal at a Michelin-star restaurant (only applicable to guests staying at Penthouses and above or those booked before Aug 7, 2017). Tips for cruisers: Buy a 3G/4G Europe SIM card. I bought one for CA$39 (US$30) with 5 GB data & 3000 talk/text for 30 days that covered all countries that we visited so I had internet access all the time. I only used less than 2GB for 16 days, even sharing personal Hotspot with my husband.
2) Unpack and Pack only once – This cruise took us to nine European cities in Austria, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. There was no need to pack our bags every day for a new destination. Setting off along the Danube from Vienna, we passed through the beautiful Wachau Valley; went for guided walking tours in Vienna, Melk & Durnstein; did all-day side trips to Cesky Krumlov & Munich; visited historical landmarks in Budapest with a violin concert in the Imperial Palace & a night cruise on the Danube; and discovered the modern art scenes and Communist-era architecture of Slovakia's capital, Bratislava. What a great itinerary!
3) 5-star Luxury accommodation and service - Cabins aboard the Crystal Mozart started at 219 square feet (except 1 that was only 206 sq. ft.). The high-end amenities like Toto toilets, mini iPad in each stateroom, free use of eBikes, 24-hour complimentary room service, Crystal clear audio device for excursions, free self-serve laundry with detergent & drying sheets, complimentary pressing, plus free butler service for all guests are incredibly awesome! Besides, Crystal Mozart is twice as wide as most river boats (22.85m instead of the normal 11.4m). Its spacious top (Vista) Deck 4 with a bar, big TV & garden features modern luxury! Low guests to staff ratio means top-notched service & 3 restaurants for meals are also big pluses. Food tasted better than that from the Crystal ocean cruises, though not enough varieties. Tips for cruisers: DON’T bring too much clothing as there is limited storage space in the room, plus you only need to wear smart casual attires for dinners. Remember: self-serve laundry is at your service!
4) Compact ship size and seasickness-free – Most of the time we didn’t even feel like the boat was moving. Being a couple of mid 50’s, we kept forgetting things and it was so easy to go back to the room to get them. We met lots of people and could call about half the ship’s passengers and most staff members by names when we left the ship.
5) Great workouts without going to the Gym – Not sure if you classify it as a pro or a con?! We did so much walking while on excursions that we didn’t gain any weight even though we ate like crazy. On average, it’s about 10,000 steps a day, walked for about 7 km with LOTS of steps.
6) Fantastic experience passing through the locks – It was really fun going upstream/downstream with different river levels through the locks. Being so windy, sunny and hot while staying on the top deck to watch the passing of the locks, we mostly stayed at the spa waiting area, lying on the loungers to watch the locks open and close. Even when we passed the locks at night time, the views were great.
1) Docking – This has been a major issue for a lot of passengers. We had a few passengers who needed to use wheelchairs and they either had to get off the wheelchairs and walked with assistance, or crew/family members needed to help lift/carry the wheelchairs for disabled passengers to get on/off the boat. Europe is not N. America and many places are still not wheelchair-accessible, including bathroom locations. The ship elevator could only go up to Deck 3 but not the Vista Deck. When we docked at Passau (Lindau), we had to take the stairs to walk up to Deck 4 and walked off the ramp to the pier (see the picture with the gangway from the top deck to the pier).
Besides, many passengers complained that they were always facing a concrete pier when the boat docked, especially if your room was on Deck 1 midship. I advise you to choose your room location properly. We didn’t have any problems being at the front part of the ship on Deck 2 with a French balcony. On a river cruise, midship cabins are not the best locations, always choose Forward. If you choose the Aft cabins, you would feel more vibration because it’s closer to the engine. We could totally experience the difference while eating at Blue on the aft of the ship. Many times, there were 2 or even 3 ships parked and tied together. Look at the picture of 3 boats triple-parked in Vienna.
2) Entertainment – Entertainment was really limited and low-key. We spent most nights at the Cove Bar listening to Derek Conlon’s piano playing, with a couple of very entertaining local shows and professional guest singer/pianist for 2 nights, and a so-called “concert by 3 princesses on the violin” in Budapest. Being a concert pianist myself, I played some Beethoven and did a “Sound of Music” singalong with fellow cruisers for a couple of nights at Cove Bar. It’s actually a social time more than anything. There was no casino and shops to even spend your onboard credits. Use your OBC at the spa or on premium wine or spend it at the Vintage Room. The passing scenery on both banks was the key to river cruising. We ventured out to the city centre on our own while we were in Vienna, Linz, Bratislava & Budapest. It was very easy to move around using public transport being in the city, or Crystal could call a taxi for us.
3) Food – Breakfast buffet was the only choice for breakfast, unless we wanted to go for room service or have a late-riser breakfast at Bistro Mozart. The only varieties we could get were different types of eggs (cooked to order), smoothies and fruit. I really liked their congee with different little ingredients on the side that we could add to our own liking (see picture). There were more choices for lunch as we could eat at Waterside (buffet) or Blue (same menu every day with a different soup and pasta). Dinner menus changed daily, though choices were still limited. We actually liked to have tapas-style dining at Bistro Mozart (reservation needed) rather than eating at Waterside. The ingredients were fresh and the dishes were delicious though again, there was a lack of variety.
4) Excursions – Lots of senior cruisers depended on travel agents to plan from flights to hotels to transportation for the entire cruise. A lot of travel agents charged way too high while booking hotels and limos for pre- and post-cruise activities but did not help their clients book the excursions. Many ended up booking excursions while on board and they did not have time to fully understand what’s to be expected while signing up. The Crystal concierge had been really helpful but sometimes the tours were full (like eBikes that they only had that many number of bikes) and there’s nothing the concierge could do but to wait for cancellations. A ton of walking was involved in most tours, and many times we had to walk on cobble-stone streets which was not easy for most people, not to say seniors. Having big coaches like Crystal’s, though they were super comfy, they couldn’t park close enough for boarding at most attractions, even in big cities like Vienna. I walked 9,971 steps for 6.7 km just for one 4-hour excursion “Vienna in a Nutshell”, with about an hour on the bus. Tips for cruisers: Use PCPC (Priority Check-in & Planning Center) to book excursions that are appropriate for your own health conditions well in advance.
Highlights of the whole trip
1) 2-night pre-cruise in Salzburg & 2-night post-cruise in Vienna so I could visit the 2 cities in depth and attended concerts…of course, I did a ton of homework to plan for the extra 4 days including purchasing train tickets in advance, booking hotels plus “Sound of Music” shows and Mozart concerts at Salzburg Fortress, Sternbrau in Salzburg, Musikverein and St. Charles Church in Vienna
2) Wachau Valley scenic cruising & passing through locks
3) Private tour to Szechenyi Thermal Baths (see photo) and a 1-hour Royal Thermal Massage in Budapest (I booked these in advance before the cruise but Crystal concierge could book it for you with just a few hours’ notice) – taxi ride only 10-20 Euros each way
4) Night cruise on the Mozart in Budapest with an incredible view of the illuminated parliament (see photo)
River cruising definitely suited us a lot so we made an open booking on board. I need to do more homework before committing to the next Crystal cruise. All the 4 new Crystal riverboats are very different than the Mozart, so I have to look at the itineraries carefully to book one within the next 6 months.
Thank you, Crystal Mozart, for making our 1st river cruise experience so enchanting and memorable!
The S1 suite #203 that I'm in has the best location of all French balcony suites (see photos). It's close to the spa relaxation area which was hardly occupied by anybody on our cruise. I always wrote my travel blog there while watching the ship go through the locks. Look at the beautiful view from the front windows of the spa (see photo). As for the room size, it's only 219 sq. ft., so it's much smaller than a regular hotel room but it's good enough for a 10-day river cruise. Just pack light for the river cruise and there would not be a problem to fit 2 suitcases of clothes in the closets or the drawers. Even when the ships were double- or even triple-parked, this room almost never got blocked.
Many guests complained that the bathroom was too small but I found it actually bigger than those on the ocean cruise ships. We always closed the bathroom door so the Toto toilet wouldn't keep opening and closing. We chose to operate it using the control pad on the wall manually, so it's less annoying but very convenient and hygienic as we didn't have to use our hands to touch any part of the toilet.
Drove around "The Ring" to see lots of city sights.
We only visited the outside of the Schönbrunn Palace but the ground was absolutely stunning.
An excellent and informative tour guide, Gabriela, with very good English. Lots of walking!!View All 183 Walking Tour Reviews
Being exclusive, we actually got in the museum 20 minutes before it was opened to the public and had some quiet moments to view the exhibits and listened to the guide's explanations.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We started the walking tour by going to Dürnstein Abbey, established in 1410 and rebuilt in 1710 in the elaborate Baroque style. The abbey is definitely very well-kept, with the famous blue spire of the church and its stunningly beautiful interior.View All 8 Stift Durnstein Reviews
Huge and beautiful!! Again, a ton of walking was involved. We couldn't take pictures inside the abbey.View All 182 Melk Abbey Reviews
We boarded the Old Town Trolley and it was really fun! We took the Red loop and it took 30 minutes. It was great that we could see our ship from the bridge while crossing the Danube.
Totally worth the 2-hour drive from Linz. We started from the top of the castle and walked downhill, passing by many courtyards. We had our lunch by the Moldau River and both the food and the scenery were fantastic! Had a nice stroll to the Old Town Square and its surroundings with cobble-stoned narrow streets.
Our museum guide, Roman, gave us a brief explanation about the history of the Holy Roman Empire and the 3 forts that were built at the current museum site. We also prepared dishes in the "Roman Style" and savoured the yummy snacks and drinks.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We were on the ship excursion to Chatam Sofer Memorial, an important Jewish heritage site & took some panoramic photos from the Bratislava Castle. Didn't visit the inside of the castle. After the excursion, we went on the Old Town trolley on our own which was more fun than the ship ecursion.
Visited the Budapest Parliament Building and had a great guided tour. Had some free time at the Great Market Hall.
It was an amazing excursion with a little "surprise" up on the castle. The view was beautiful at the Fisherman's Bastion. The stunning Matthias Church was worth a visit. We walked past many souvenir shops, great for shopping!View All 70 The Castle District Reviews
We booked a VIP spa entrance with a 1-hour royal thermal massage. It was so spectacular going through the various outdoor and indoor spas with different water temperatures. The private change cabin was great and the massage was most relaxing!View All undefined undefined Reviews