When German company Riverside Luxury Cruises acquired the Crystal fleet of river vessels, I was surprised, as the company had no background on the European rivers. I did a bit of research and found that they were a luxury hotel company owned by Gregor and Anouchka Gerlach from Hamburg, operating properties in the Canary Island and the Maldives.
They clearly knew what they were doing in hospitality, and great reports about their hotels gave me confidence in their credentials. I also learned that many key personnel from the Crystal river cruise operation were involved in this new company.
As I set foot on the airy Riverside Mozart in Vienna, I was immediately confident I had made the right decision. A warm welcome was everything we could have expected, and our butler immediately took us to our spacious cabin, with glorious floor-to-ceiling river views, a supremely comfortable bed, plenty of storage space (although access to the closets was a little tight) and a well-designed bathroom.
We ventured forth to explore the ship and loved the spacious lounge, bistro-style coffee shop and comfortable casual restaurant at the back of the ship. The top deck was inviting with comfortable loungers and seating areas, and this was where we ended up spending many of our early evenings, enjoying the sunshine.
The dining options were one of the key features that had attracted us to this vessel, as we had the sort of choice we would expect on an oceangoing vessel. We also valued the number of tables for two and the fact that it was completely open seating dining - as we are used to, rather than, as on most river vessels, a requirement to arrive for dinner at a specific time for banquet-style dining. On Mozart, meals are cooked a la minute, and the food was of an excellent standard.
After dinner we retired to the lounge for some excellent piano playing and a preparation for our visit to Salzburg the following day, where not only Mozart but also the Sound of Music were on our musical agenda.
Cruising the Danube is a very special experience with some fantastic ports of call as well as some very scenic stretches. The itinerary is designed to ensure that you are able to be outside on deck enjoying the fantastic views whenever the scenery is at its most spectacular, for example cruising through the Wachau Valley.
What stood out for us versus other river cruises we had taken was the amazing, dedicated crew. Riverside offer the best crew-to-passenger ratio on the Danube, and this translates into knowledgeable staff, specialising in their particular area of expertise rather than being required to multitask, with time to stop and talk about the region. The majority of crew were born and raised in the very area we were cruising, so their insights were excellent.
Riverside have slowly reintroduced the other vessels in the fleet, so in 2024 you can experience the Ravel on the Rhone, and the Debussy and the Bach on the Rhine. Based on our Mozart experience, we will definitely be back.