Tailored, personal shore excursions are a point of emphasis for Crystal Bach. This means the cruise line limits tours to 15 people and looks to keep its passengers away from crowds when possible. The ship offers a solid array of excursions, and most of them are complimentary. Shore excursions fall into one of five categories: Personal Connections (exploring sites and experiences with locals), Tantalizing Gastronomy (culinary experiences), Cultural Discoveries (visiting landmarks, museums and iconic sites), Exhilarating Adventures (active exploration) and Design Your Time (concierge-curated tours). Passengers have multiple options for excursions in each port. The line also offers one complimentary Signature Event -- exclusive tours designed to offer rare musical performances in iconic places -- per cruise. (Passengers on our Rhine River sailing were treated to a concert at Eberbach Monastery in Rudesheim.)
Most tours meet outside, in front of the ship. Passengers use Quietvox listening devices, and tour guides speak into a microphone so everyone can hear via earpieces. It's worth noting that the small group sizes for the tours mean passengers often can skip wearing the device, as they're not battling for positions at the front near the guide. Passengers generally board buses; Crystal Bach has customized coaches, equipped with Wi-Fi and lots of legroom, which meet the ship in port each day. Tour guides are residents who know the area well and speak English. We found our guides were loaded with personality and had humor to spare.
The line's Exhilarating Adventures really are meant for active travelers, and options might include biking or canoeing in port. Crystal Bach provides bikes onboard for passengers who want to explore on their own; these same bikes are used for guided biking excursions.
Crystal Bach also carries a speedboat onboard that can be used for special excursion experiences. For a fee, passengers essentially charter the boat -- complete with a skipper -- for private, one-of-a-kind activities, such as high tea at the Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
During the day, passengers generally are in port on shore excursions, so the offerings are somewhat limited. Music trivia, for example, might be on offer if there's space in the schedule. (On our sailing, the session was well-attended and highly competitive!) But, if the ship isn't in port, passengers tend to use the opportunity to sleep in, do laundry, grab a massage or get in a workout.
In the evening, it's another story. The Palm Court is packed before dinner, as the ship's entertainer performs -- playing the piano and singing to keep the crowd entertained. After dinner, the crowd returns for drinks and dancing. (Though on nights preceding an early morning in port, it is pretty quiet in the Palm Court.) Crystal Bach also brings in premium entertainers once or twice each cruise for a special onboard performance. On our cruise, we watched a spectacular operatic performance from a world-class tenor and pianist, both flown in from Italy.
Crystal Bach will replicate the enrichment series offered on Crystal's ocean cruises. To that end, the ship will bring on expert guest lecturers to cover a wide variety of topics, including subjects related to the region in which Crystal Bach is sailing. The plan is that lectures can be replayed on-demand on cabin TVs. On our cruise, the most well-attended talk came from the captain, who discussed maritime issues and took questions about sailing Europe's rivers. While he was scheduled for an hour, he stayed longer to make sure no query went unanswered. Other lectures might include talks by the destinations manager about the region through which the ship sails. Our trip through the Rhine Valley included a talk about the castles and vineyards we passed.
Crystal Bach's Palm Court, located on Deck 3, might be our favorite spot onboard. With its large bar, deep armchairs, crystal light fixtures and circular dance floor, the space seamlessly blends comfort and luxury. During the day, passengers lounge here, reading books, playing cards or trivia, or chatting quietly. In the evening, it becomes the spot for a pre-dinner cocktail with piano music. While Crystal has no set dinner times -- passengers can dine when the restaurant is open -- most people like to hang out in the bar until about 7:30 p.m. and then head to dinner en masse. It's a good problem to have, as it makes the Palm Court a lively spot, and service here is excellent, with servers who remember your favorites from night to night but also make smart recommendations based on your tastes. The Palm Court opens in the afternoon and stays open late, and while many passengers call it a night around 10, it's not uncommon to see people dancing and enjoying the live music until the lounge closes.
In pleasant weather, Crystal Bach's top deck, called the Observation Deck, is the best spot to view the scenery as the ship sails. The deck has a number of canvas lounge chairs set up along the railings, and passengers can while away the occasional excursion-free afternoon here. The deck itself has an unusual layout for a riverboat, as it is designed to accommodate the skylights for the Palm Court and pool below, on Deck 3. It means walkers don't have an open deck for their daily constitutionals, but the payoff is gorgeous natural lighting indoors.
Behind the pool on Deck 3, you'll find a small outdoor space, but it's mostly obstructed by the ship's speedboat, which is stored there.
The reception desk is located on Deck 2. This is the hub for pretty much anything you might need. Here, you can book spa treatments and shore excursions, grab port maps, pay your bill or solve any problems that might come up.
While there's no official library onboard, you can find books on a broad range of topics on shelves in the Palm Court. (While you're looking for a book, browse the knick-knacks on the shelves, where you might find the ship's coins from the coin ceremony, for example.)
The ship has a self-service laundry area onboard, located on Deck 1. Laundry detergent along with fabric softener are provided free of charge, and laundry is complimentary. You'll even find laundry baskets, so you're not schlepping armfuls of laundry to and from your cabin. The laundry room gets busy when the ship is sailing in the morning (as opposed to in port), so if you're going to do laundry at that time, get an early jump on it.
Crystal Bach doesn't have an internet center, but Wi-Fi is available shipwide and is complimentary.
Crystal Bach has a spa treatment room along with one spa therapist onboard. Though small, the treatment room itself is well appointed, with a massage table serving as the centerpiece. Crystal has a partnership with Daniele De Winter, so therapists use products from her line. Treatments were developed using high-touch techniques, and De Winter's products also are available for purchase onboard. A variety of facials and massage therapies are offered, as are salon services like lash and brow tinting and shaping. Massages start at 139 euros for 50 minutes and facials at 159 euros for 50 minutes. Tips are not included in the pricing, but you can add a gratuity to your bill at the end of your treatment.
The ship also has a fitness center that includes a large selection of dumbbells, medicine balls, exercise bands, stationary bicycles, a rowing machine and mats. It's a lot packed into a fairly small space, and it feels crowded if more than two people are in there working out at once. Also, probably because of the low ceilings, the fitness center has no treadmill, a gym staple. Still, the equipment is excellent, and you can get in a great workout. Personal training is offered at a rate of 45 euros per 30 minutes. Complimentary fitness classes, such as stretch or yoga, are offered each morning in the ship's Palm Court lounge.
Crystal Bach has a fantastic, deep indoor pool, located at the back of Deck 3. An unusual feature on river cruise ships, the indoor pool is heated and flanked by thickly padded lounge chairs. A skylight provides ample natural lighting, and the space is the perfect spot for a getaway. (Busy port schedules mean the pool is not often used, making it a gem for those looking for a cool quiet spot to which to escape.)
Children are accommodated on Crystal Bach, though no spaces or services are available specifically for children. Kids must be at least 6 months to sail, and Crystal reserves the right to restrict the number of children younger than 3 years old sailing on Bach. Children who are mature and open-minded and those who are familiar with travel will do best in the decidedly adult environment onboard.