That vessel was Mozart, renamed Crystal Mozart, and it was christened this week in Vienna. An elderly lady by river standards, Mozart was built for Deilmann back in 1987. Wider than any other ship on the Danube, she is only able to operate on this stretch, being too large to go further upstream.
My visit to see the newly remodelled Crystal Mozart was a total eye opener - Crystal have done an amazing job with this vessel, which now becomes the first of their fleet of River Yachts. Stripped back to the bare metal and refurbished from scratch, she feels totally contemporary, with breathtaking design features and high levels of comfort throughout. The furnishings breathe class, and as is typical of a Crystal vessel, every little detail has been thought through to create a beautifully fresh and enticing living space, both in the public rooms and in the spacious (at least by river cruise standards) accommodation.
One area where river cruise has traditionally been unable to compete with its ocean equivalent is in the quality of the food, but Crystal Mozart's offering matched the outstanding dining on Symphony and Serenity, with touches of the molecular cuisine they have developed to such good effect, and beautiful presentation. The breakfast and lunch buffet is laid out in a separate area, behind glass walls, so that for evening dining, which is truly à la carte and open seating (we arrived late and were welcomed and seated just before 9pm), there is no sign of the buffet set-up. A casual lunchtime venue, Blue, can be found at the back of the ship, and there is 24 hour room service, coffee and food available 24 hours in the Pantry, and the Crystal classic bistro open all day for snacks and tea and coffee. Crystal is also offering Michelin starred dining ashore for limited numbers at selected restaurants along the way.
With a far higher crew to passenger ratio than on other river boats, the service really stands out. Charming service from a fantastic and attentive team including butlers for every stateroom ensure that you feel welcomed and embraced right from the start.
The open deck at the top of the vessel, with pop-up bar (everything is lowered to pass under bridges at high water), is divided into separate areas with a living roof (garden), shaded conversation areas with comfy deck chairs and 'lazy boys' (bean bag seating), and a sun deck with sturdy wooden loungers topped by thick cushions for maximum comfort.
Public areas are inviting and light filled, with many Crystal signatures such as the Connoisseur Club, the Vintage Room and the Palm Court.
Most excursions (at least two per day) are included in the cost of the cruise, whilst the river yacht also carries Wider speed boats for further exploration, and electronic bicycles which guests can use to explore independently ashore. The excursions are operated by Crystal's own fleet of modern coaches, with comfortable reclinable seats and plenty of leg room.
The technology is great too. Each suite has an iPad which is a digital directory featuring details of everything available on board, from dry cleaning and butler service to room service and dining reservations, concierge enquiries, Crystal Adventures reservations and more. The bathrooms also feature highly advanced toilets (yes really, who knew this was what we wanted!) with heated seats, automatic open/close, aerated water and warm air dryer.
In the last few years, I have visited a whole number of river vessels around the world and closer to home in Europe, operated by a variety of highly rated operators claiming to offer the best in the market. This is the very first time I have come back fired up and excited - I knew Crystal Mozart would be good, but this experience far exceeded my expectations: a vessel to be passionate about.
Congratulations to Crystal! Now the word will get out quickly, so I recommend you rush to book and enjoy this very special product...