Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Mozart sets the bar high for the luxury line. Ralph Grizzle reports on a symphony for the senses.
Crystal River Cruises made a bold transformation when it acquired DerTour’s 1987-built MS Mozart, formerly operated by Peter Deilmann and TUI Cruises.
On construction, Mozart was one of the largest river vessels afloat, and easily recognisable by her unique semi-catamaran design. Nearly double the width of most river cruisers, Mozart’s dimensions mean she can only sail the Danube between Passau and the Black Sea.
Indeed, she was taken down to her steel hull, with more than 400 shipyard workers going at it full tilt. “We went through every single inch, both technically and from a hotel point of view,” a Crystal Cruises spokesman said. “We had 14 different contractors, two to three different designers, working the last couple of months in three shifts, 24 hours a day to get it finished in time.
“It was the most ambitious project we’ve ever undertaken. “Our inspiration was, ‘What would the perfect Crystal boutique hotel look like if we were to open a hotel in Europe?’ That was what we asked our designers to create.”
Few vestiges of the 30-year-old vessel are to be seen. There are a few portraits from the old Mozart, and a beautiful Bösendorfer piano that was almost scrapped, but rescued at the last minute. Lovingly restored, the piano is the centrepiece of the forward-facing Palm Court on Deck Three.
Throughout Crystal Mozart’s public areas, such as The Bistro and The Cove, elegant furnishings abound.
Staterooms and suites carry familiar amenities, too, such as Crystal bathrobes and kimonos, Etro toiletries and Crystal-logo shopping and laundry bags similar to those on Crystal Symphony or Serenity. These touches are complemented by USB outlets beside beds and at the desks, while iPads serve as digital directories for guests.
Crystal Mozart distinguishes itselfin several areas:
- Lots of real estate. At 22.9 metres across, Mozart is nearly twice the width of the standard river cruiser. That extra width accommodates a lot more in terms of public rooms and generally larger staterooms than you might usually expect.
- Pre/post stays. Crystal River Cruises will use Mozart as the hotel for pre/post stays in turnaround destinations such as Vienna.
- Crystal-trained staff. Crystal hires, trains and manages its own staff, instead of contracting food, beverage and hotel operations to third-party companies.
- Highest guest-to-crew ratio in the river cruise industry. Mozart has a guest capacity of 154 passengers served by 92 crew.
- Unique public areas not available on other river cruisers. The uppermost deck, Vista Deck 4, features a pop-up bar that lowers flush with the deck for passing under low bridges. On deck 2, the Crystal Life Spa has an indoor pool and fully equipped fitness, spa and salon facilities.
- Michelin dining program. Off the ship, guests can choose to dine in one of eight Michelin-starred restaurants at no additional cost once on each cruise. In each restaurant ashore, there will be no more than 16 Crystal guests.
Crystal Mozart features four dining venues (five counting room service and six with the Michelin-dining program).
- Waterside: The open-seating main dining room features extensive breakfast and lunch buffets and a fancier feel for dinner.
- Blue: This aft indoor dining area offers a casual atmosphere and a menu of global comfort food, similar to Tastes aboard Crystal Serenity.
- Bistro Mozart: The go-to spot aboard Crystal vessels for freshly baked pastries, fruit and snacks, you’ll also find a good cup of coffee or tea, and light meals through the day and into the evening.
- The Vintage Room: As aboard Crystal’s ocean ships, the intimate dining room for approximately a dozen guests hosts winemakers’ dinners and special occasions.
Staterooms & Suites
My stateroom is a Category S1 stateroom measuring 20.3 square metres with a French balcony. The full king-sized bed is exceptionally comfortable, but makes it a tight squeeze between the closets and the bed.
Modern touches include the USB charging outlets, lights that can be programmed with the push of a button for four scenes, and the pull-out mini-bar, stocked with complimentary beverages. The room also features the iPad digital directory and a 40-inch flat-panel HD TV.
Just down the corridor is one of the two Crystal Suites, which measure a whopping 82sq m each. The two-bedroom Crystal Suites feature French balconies, walk-in closets, separate showers and oversized bathtubs.
Crystal Mozart gets high marks for many reasons. First, its width allows lots of space for including features not found on other river cruisers, such as the indoor pool, wraparound promenade, multiple dining venues and expansive public rooms.
Secondly, Crystal hires, trains and manages its own crew. Are they better than the crew on other ships? Debatable. However, what’s not debatable is the highest crew-to-guest ratio. Will that make a difference in your experience? Definitely.
All in all, Crystal Mozart is top of the pops as it sails serenely along the waters of the Danube.
CRUISE LINE: Crystal Cruises
VESSEL: Crystal Mozart
STAR RATING: 5
MAXIMUM PASSENGER CAPACITY: 154
TOTAL CREW: 92
PASSENGER DECKS: 4
ENTERED SERVICE: 2016
FACILITIES: All-suite accommodations, four eateries, two bars and a cigar and cognac lounge, wraparound promenade, beauty salon, spa and fitness centre, indoor pool.
BOOKINGS: 10-day round-trip cruise from Vienna through Germany, Hungary and Slovakia on the Danube is priced from US$4930 ($6273) per person twin share. See crystalcruises.com.
Highs: Mozart itself – nearly double the width of a standard river cruiser and totally transformed.
Lows: Even at 20.3sq m, the standard staterooms feel just a tad tight with the king-sized bed. On the other hand, you get a king-sized bed.
Best suited to: Crystal Cruises’ fans and anyone looking for a truly upscale, luxury river cruise experience on a unique vessel.