Passengers have a nice choice of excursions on Crystal Mozart, and many are complimentary. Included excursions include city overviews, art or museum tours and one active option (usually a hike or e-bike tour). The majority of tours are half-day, with morning and afternoon departures; we were told that passengers could choose to do two tours in one day if they wished.
Extra-fee tours include private guide and driver options, as well as more over-the-top activities, such as a helicopter tour, an exclusive wine-tasting event or white-water rafting. Vienna had the most extra-fee options, including some that seemed less over-the-top and somewhat overpriced.
* May require additional fees
Local tour guides use the Quietvox system to communicate with participants. You will find your unit and earpiece on the desk in your suite. They work well, though the guides need to turn off the mics when not discoursing; we could hear ours breathing heavily each time we started walking.
Crystal has purchased and redesigned four private motorcoaches for use on tours (as well as airport transfers). The Setra buses are high-end and have spacious seats (Crystal removed seats to bring the seat number from 46 to 42 to give more seat pitch), a secret fridge with cool bottled water, Wi-Fi, a Nespresso machine and a bathroom.
Every cruise will offer two signature and complimentary excursions. On the Danube, one is the evening tour of the art collection at Vienna's famed Belvedere Palace, followed by a classical concert. The other is lunch or dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant, available once per cruise to every passenger. Included in the tour is transportation to/from the restaurant, the meal, wine/drinks and gratuities. Passengers can choose from four options in Vienna and four in Budapest; 2016 choices include Le Ciel, Edvard, Konstantin Filippou and Tian in Vienna, and Winekitchen, Costes, Costes Downtown and Tanti in Budapest.
In addition to the group tours, Crystal Mozart will carry two Wider speedboats (while its two are on order, it is borrowing just one for the first several cruises) to offer custom small boat tours for up to eight passengers. The speedboat has a teak deck, outside seating and an indoor area and can be used for scenic day and night touring, as well as transfers to wine regions and other hard-to-get places. We predict Crystal passengers will go ga-ga for the high-speed ride as the boat feels like a place where a starlet should be sipping Champagne or James Bond taking his latest girl before the bullets start flying. Expect to pay 180 euros per person, per hour.
Independent passengers can also take out e-bikes (pedal bicycles with a small motor for that extra kick) on their own. Nordic walking poles will also be available for complimentary use in port. In some destinations, the ship will run shuttles into town for travelers who prefer not to do group tours.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
The ports are the focus on a river cruise, but that does not mean Crystal will skimp on entertainment. The line will bring on local entertainers during the evenings in select ports. Instead of oompah bands or cute kids in costumes, Crystal is going for something more sophisticated; look for a jazz trio or local dancers, with representative guest performers from each country on the itinerary.
In-house evening entertainment is fairly low-key. A singer/pianist (such as Mark Farris who works his way around the Crystal ocean/yacht/river fleet each year) performs in Palm Court pre-dinner and in the Cove Bar at night, starting when the Waterside closes. Several large TVs around the ship, such as on the sun deck and Palm Court, can be used to view major sporting events or for movies under the stars. Otherwise, socializing over a round of drinks is the main evening activity.
Crystal plans to replicate its enrichment lecture series found on the ocean cruises on its riverboats. That means inviting guest speakers onboard whose areas of expertise are relevant to the destination or interesting to its passengers. Lectures will take place in the Palm Court, and be recorded for viewing on your cabin TV.
Bistro Mozart Bar (Deck 3): Bistro Mozart is a riverboat version of a French cafe. Order from an extensive menu of coffee drinks, hot chocolate and Julius Meinl tea, or order a glass of wine, Scotch or a cocktail once it's 5 o'clock somewhere. The cafe tables have the best vibe, but you could take your drink behind the dividing wall to do your sipping on the comfy couches by the fireplace. Snacks are readily available at the bistro's small buffet throughout the day.
The Cove and Piano Bar (Deck 3): This is the indoor late-night venue where a singer-pianist creates a lounge atmosphere where everyone knows your name -- or does by the end of the evening. There will be performer-passenger conversations, and if it's a special day, you might be invited up to the piano bench to sing. Make sure you're prepared with a martini or cocktail. Open 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Palm Court (Deck 3): This multipurpose space is inspired by the ocean ship venue of the same name. Enjoy ambient piano music on one of the few original pieces kept and refurbished from the original Mozart vessel -- an Austrian Bosendorfer piano -- while you sip a pre-dinner drink obtained at the Cove Bar or from a circulating waiter. Root for your favorite team when major sporting events are shown on the big-screen TV. A stage can host local entertainers, guest lecturers or even dancing. Crystal ocean-ship fans should note that Mozart will not host a traditional afternoon tea in this venue.
Connoisseur Club (Deck 3): The cigar bar is the only place passengers can smoke onboard the ship. It's got the typical dark and smoky feel of most cigar bars. Order cigars for a fee, or a drink, from the wait staff who check in on the club.
Vista Bar (Deck 4): On a warm night or during scenic cruising, the Vista Bar serves those relaxing on the sun deck. This pop-up bar, with a canopy over the seating area, boasts a TV on its backside and the ability to sink down below deck when Mozart sails under low bridges. Waiters will provide service from the Vista Bar to passengers lounging all over the top deck.
Most riverboats do not have a full wraparound promenade, but Crystal Mozart has a teak deck, perfect for walking, running or river-gazing on Deck 3. A few cushioned benches are available should you get tired from your jaunt.
The rest of the open-air space is found on the Deck 4 sun deck. Here, you'll find the wheelhouse (which has an open-door policy so come and talk navigation with the officer on duty) and the "living roof" herb garden, canopied spaces for relaxing on comfy couches out of the sun and colorful deck chairs when you want to feel the warmth. At the back of the deck is an open area for outdoor yoga and other fitness classes, and a crew smoking area. (Passengers who smoke will have to disembark the ship if they prefer an alfresco cigarette break.)
Fun fact: Crystal Mozart has two side-by-side funnels by the yoga area, which split apart and lie flat when those pesky bridges loom ahead.
Deck 2 is the hub for guest services, and is the main entry point and lobby for Crystal Mozart. When you walk through the front door, you run straight into the Destination Manager's table where you can inquire about shore excursions and sign up if you haven't done so online or on your in-suite iPad. To the left is the ship's library space, which is more of a waiting area than a place to find books to read. In the main lobby by the stairwell is the reception desk, where you change your local currency into euros and ask questions. It's flanked by two computers for passenger use.
The ship is also outfitted with Wi-Fi. Passengers receive 60 minutes per person, per day -- given in one lump sum at the beginning of the cruise -- of internet access. Penthouse passengers receive 90 minutes and Crystal Suite passengers benefit from unlimited complimentary internet. There is also free Wi-Fi in all of Crystal's private motorcoaches and that Wi-Fi use does not count against your on-ship tally. Should you blow through all your minutes during the first half of the cruise, you can pay for more Wi-Fi time, either at 70 euro-cents per minute on a pay-as-you-go basis or 39.99 euros per day for unlimited use.
The ship's self-serve laundromat for passengers is also on Deck 2 amid the cabins. There are six washer-dryers, an ironing board and utility sink. Use and soap is free.
Smoking is only available for passengers in the Connoisseur Club cigar bar onboard. The outdoor smoking area on the sun deck is for crew only.
Many river ships only offer a small spa and gym, often tiny spaces without much atmosphere. Not on Crystal Mozart. Here you'll find separate Crystal Salon and Crystal Life Spa spaces (on Deck 2) and fitness center (Deck 1), which are small by ocean ship standards but humongous by river cruise ones. Also unusual in the cruise industry, Crystal is operating its own spa on Mozart, rather than outsourcing that service to Steiner or Canyon Ranch. Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The salon has a manicure station, pedicure chair and two chairs for hair treatments. The spa has two treatment rooms, but the real standout is the indoor pool area, which is stunning. It offers a small pool and a hot tub, with a relaxation area full of padded loungers facing slanting windows and two modern-looking rocking chairs beside the pool. Separate men's and women's changing rooms each have their own sauna and steam rooms.
Downstairs, the fitness center is split into two halves. One half offers cardio machines (two treadmills, an arm bike, three stationary bikes and a rowing machine), while the other has free weights, yoga mats and balance balls, and two TechnoGym resistance machines. Hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Outdoor stretch, yoga and Pilates classes take place up on the sun deck. Passengers can also borrow electronic bikes for use in port, or walk or jog on the Deck 3 promenade deck.
The minimum age to sail is six months. Crystal Mozart does not have any dedicated kids' facilities -- unlike the ocean ships -- or provide cribs or high chairs, but it does offer connecting cabins and several suites with sleeper sofas. Babysitting is also available, but only while parents are onboard.
Older children who are happy to hang out with their families and explore the European cities and towns along the Danube could have a fine time on the riverboat, especially with the active tours and onboard e-bikes.