river cruise ship pool deck

(9 a.m. EDT) -- The first new-build of Crystal's ambitious river cruise expansion program -- Crystal Bach -- was christened today in Rudesheim-am-Rhein, Germany by renowned soprano Anna-Maria Kaufmann.

The low-key ceremony, on the banks of the Rhine, was the culmination of an action-packed eight days for Crystal CEO Edie Rodriguez, following the inauguration of the company’s luxury 777 jet, Crystal Skye and the Virtuoso Travel week in Las Vegas during which Crystal was recognized for Best Dining.

Guests of honor included local mayor Volker Mosler and Port Director Gunter Dries, together with passengers from Crystal Bach’s inaugural cruise, which left Amsterdam August 13 and will conclude in Mainz on August 27.

Other guests included Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, chairman of Crystal’s parent company, Genting Hong Kong, and group president Colin Au.

Crystal Bach is the first of four Rhine-class ships being built by MV Werften in Wismar; its sister ship, Crystal Mahler follows next month. Debussy and Ravel join the fleet next spring. Each carries 106 passengers in all-balcony, all-suite accommodation.

Rodriguez said the vessels "raise the bar for cruising in the region and for river cruising in general."

She added: "This ship is more than just a new river vessel. It brings luxury amenities and decor that surpass anything seen so far on the rivers of Europe, a standard of luxury and elegance that had been missing until the launch of Crystal Mozart last year."

The ship's crew lined the sun deck as Fr Waldemar Eichholz blessed the ship with holy water and renowned German soprano Anna-Maria Kaufmann sang J.S.Bach’s Air on a G String with her own specially-composed words dedicated to Crystal.

She said: "Despite the fact that I live in this region, I am still awestruck by how much beauty there is to discover on a river cruise."

Before releasing a bottle of German Szigeti sparkling wine to smash against the bow, she said "I christen this ship Crystal Bach and I wish smooth waters for all who sail on her."

Later, in a brief ceremony in the ship’s Palm Court, Rodriguez presented her with a Tiffany Note necklace.

--John Honeywell, Cruise Critic contributor