CRYSTAL MOZART’s Danube Debut, Part One

Part One of Knego’s recent two night preview experience aboard Crystal River Cruises’ ultra-luxe MV CRYSTAL MOZART, Europe’s “Queen Of The Rivers”, in Vienna.

Crystal Cruises

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THE SANDS OF ALANG: The latest DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2016.

Monday, July 11, 2016

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Fleischmarket, Vienna Centrum.

After hauling my luggage from the metro station through the labyrinthine alleyways of Vienna’s Centrum, it took a good deal of sleuthing to find the narrow strip of real estate called the Fleischmarket. Pleading for English directions in Vienna, especially when the destination sounds suspiciously like the local red light district, isn’t for beginners.

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Polanski-style courtyard.

Just as the wheels on my luggage threatened to crumble off, I finally located the Post Hotel, which admittedly sounded more affordable than charming in its Expedia description. And charming, it is, if one has no desire for privacy, air conditioning (not even a ceiling fan), a comfortable bed and more than one flat, hard pillow. Roman Polanski’s 1976 “The Tenant” film noir came to mind as I creaked opened the swollen windows that faced a bleak courtyard in the hopes of attaining a gasp of fresh air.

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Falafel stand.

Perhaps the only saving graces of that first night on my own in Vienna were the local falafel truck and utter exhaustion from the long commute from California. I would sleep most of it away and first thing in the morning, head off to the banks of the Danube to sample the utterly opposite of lifestyles.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART arrives.

Fresh from her complete transformation into an uber deluxe river cruise ship and following a short shakedown cruise to acclimate her staff, the CRYSTAL MOZART was running about forty five minutes behind schedule. That would give me enough time to cross the river and stake out her arrival from the opposite bank. River cruise buffs are well familiar with Europe’s “Queen Of The Rivers”, the largest river cruise ship on the continent. Built in 1989 for DDSG (First Danube Steamboat Shipping Company) as the MOZART, she is the same length but twice the width of most standard river cruisers at 395-by-75 feet. Although her 3,341-gt girth restricts her to the locks and canals between Passau in Germany and Budapest in Hungary, the MOZART has enjoyed successful incarnations for Peter Deilmann Cruises and most recently Dertours.

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MOZART’s passage.

Despite the lighting challenges and her top Vista Deck and funnel in un photogenic “collapse” mode to clear Vienna’s bridges, it was nice to witness my home for the next two nights in motion. Crystal Cruises bought the ship last fall, gutted her to the steel framework and rebuilt her with suites to accommodate a mere 159 guests. Aside from her hull, which was completely sandblasted and re coated in a glossy medium used for superyachts, she is a virtually new ship. Her accommodation and public areas are all new and even her original powerplant will be replaced prior to embarking on her second Crystal season.

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Greeters for CRYSTAL MOZART.

I crossed back and reached the ship just as her lines were being tied. A small crowd had gathered along the landing to welcome the CRYSTAL MOZART, her crew and ultimately, the launch of Crystal Cruises’ new Crystal River Cruise division.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART French Balcony Suite, facing port.

Anyone who has experienced Crystal knows just how seamless their operation is. Even with a recent CRYSTAL SERENITY cruise under my belt, I was nonetheless impressed by just how effortlessly boarding commenced and how quickly I was shown to my stateroom, a French Balcony Suite on port Seahorse Deck. The hardware was instantly impressive, boasting the latest in boutique hotel style courtesy of Toronto-based II by IV Design and London-based AD Associates, with muted tones offset by vivid splashes of color inspired by, in this case, the Danube ports she visits. Of the ship’s four categories of accommodation, the 219-square-foot French Balcony Suites are the most plentiful, numbering twenty two. All Crystal River suites feature king-sized beds, a large flatscreen television, writing desk, living room area, butler service, twice daily turndown service, a complimentary fully stocked mini-bar, Nespresso coffee machines and daily hors d’oeuvre service.
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I-pad powered.

With my late Baby Boomer mindset, it was hard to embrace the sophisticated new i-Pad technology at my fingertips but the good thing is that in addition to the i-Pads, all of the stateroom controls can be manually operated, as well.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART French Balcony Suite WC.

Even the bathrooms are over the top luxe, with en suite phones, a mirror that has a built in TV screen (which was not yet up and running), tiled showers with rainforest and massage controls and…

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Auto flush.

…Toto toilets with heated seats that automatically open and flush.

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Etro toiletries.

And the luxe toiletries? Etro, of course.

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Butler service.

Within moments of my arrival, there was a tap on the door. My butler had arrived to demonstrate the i-Pad controls and ask if I needed anything before I headed out to document the ship.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Waterside Dining Room facing forward from starboard.

Once I had the MOZART fully covered, I headed to the Waterside Dining Room for a much-desired and blissful lunch. As an anomalistic heatwave withered all life outside, I sat in its cool confines, admiring the smart decor and table settings as a troupe of wait staff descended with drink offerings. Iced water and iced tea, please, with extra ice…

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART salad bar.

Although there are daily specials on the full service menu, I cannot resist a salad bar with fresh, locally sourced quality produce and a bevy of homemade dressings, multiple toppings and a choice of artisan vinegars and oils.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Penne Arrabiata.

In addition to the salad bar, of course, there is a carvery and a wide selection of hot and cold dishes as well as a pasta station, where I succumbed to a Penne Arrabiata with extra garlic and a mound of Parmesan. All I had to do was point and the perfectly prepared end result soon arrived at my table.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART dessert buffet.

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Capping it off in the Bistro.

Afterwards, I managed to resist the siren’s call of the dessert buffet for a frothy, potent cappuccino in the nearby Bistro, the go-to for complimentary specialty coffees and snacks throughout the day.

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Wider boat alongside.

The CRYSTAL MOZART has a few exclusive, upscale “toys”, including a pair of Wider boats that can be hired by guests for private excursions. We joined Crystal Cruises CEO and President Edie Rodriguez for a short ride along the Danube.

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Racing with Edie.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART at Vienna.

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Danube daredevils.

We held tight as Edie buzzed past the MOZART and throttled the Danube into a fine mist.

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The CEO and her MOZART.

Before we returned to our air conditioned headquarters for the rest of the afternoon, there was a quick photo op with the guiding force behind Crystal Cruises and the line’s new progeny.

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Chiming in the MOZART.

In descending order, the CRYSTAL MOZART has four guest decks: Vista (4), Crystal (3), Seahorse (2) and Harmony (1). An elevator and stairs link the lower three decks and forward-situated and midships stairs lead up to the Vista Deck.

Vista Deck

When transiting low-lying bridges, everything on Vista Deck, including the railings, wheelhouse, funnels, canopies and the bar either collapse or recede into the deck below. During the Crystal conversion, no less than nine large skylights were cut into the Vista Deck to bathe the public spaces on Crystal Deck in natural light.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Fwd Vista Deck, facing aft.

The forward portion of Vista Deck boasts a permanent garden called the living roof.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Fwd Vista Deck, facing forward.

A walkway and teak benches give the living roof a park-like vibe.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Vista Deck facing aft.

An outdoor living room sheltered by a large canopy is located aft of the bridge on Vista Deck. A large high definition video screen mounted on the back of the Pop Up Bar is used for broadcasting sports programs and al fresco movies.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Pop Up Bar, facing forward.

The Pop Up Bar is fully stocked and its contents, save for special top shelf orders, are complimentary.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Vista Deck, facing forward.

A large sunning and observation area is located in the aft portion of Vista Deck. Beyond the funnels on the port side are 30 electric bikes that are available for escorted and self-guided tours at no charge.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Funnel collapsed.

Here is what the starboard funnel looks like in “collapse” mode.

Crystal Deck

Crystal Deck is dedicated to a suite of elegant new lounges and dining venues.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Forward Crystal Deck promenade, facing port.

Another thing the MOZART boasts that no other European River cruise ship can offer is a fully encircling promenade. The forward portion of the promenade has a sheltered, alfresco seating area that is accessed from and adjacent to the Palm Court observation lounge.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Starboard Crystal Deck promenade facing forward.

The Crystal Deck promenade continues aft on either side to a terrace at the ship’s stern.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Palm Court, facing starboard.

Framed on three sides by large picture windows, the Palm Court on the CRYSTAL MOZART is every bit the equal of its counterparts on Crystal’s ocean-going ships. It features large, comfortable furnishings and a bright, contemporary color scheme.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Palm Court, facing port from aft.

The Palm Court can seat up to 158 guests and is the key venue for the ship’s mainstage entertainment.

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Bosendorfer.

One of the few things to remain from the CRYSTAL MOZART’s prior incarnation is the Bosendorfer piano that is now in the Palm Court Lounge.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Crystal Cove, facing forward.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Totally Random Crystal Cove Carpet Shot #2.

The Crystal Cove Bar follows the Palm Court on the starboard side. It can accommodate up to 33 guests and is often the evening “end up” for sing-alongs and live music.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Connoisseur Club, facing aft/port.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Connoisseur Club, facing forward.

On the port side of Crystal Deck, directly aft of the Palm Court, there is the 12-seat Connoisseur Club cigar and smoking lounge.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Bistro, facing aft.

The Bistro is the CRYSTAL MOZART’s cafe with complimentary specialty coffees, homemade ice creams and snacks that range from breakfast fruits, pastries and smoothies to sandwiches and savories as well as tea time treats.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Crystal Bistro, facing forward.

The Bistro seats 60 and is located off the forward end of the double deck lobby that surrounds the central staircase linking Crystal Deck with Seahorse Deck below.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Crystal Deck lobby, facing aft.

The Crystal Deck lobby has a comfortable seating area surrounding a marble fireplace that emits atmospheric, SOLAS-compliant vapor flames.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Crystal Deck Lobby, facing port/forward.

The staircase leads up to Crystal Deck from the reception area on Seahorse Deck.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Lift.

Large enough to accommodate any wheelchair and then some, the CRYSTAL MOZART’s brand new lift replaced cabins on the decks below and can be accessed on the starboard side of the Crystal Deck lobby.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Waterside Restaurant, facing aft from starboard.

The Waterside Restaurant is CRYSTAL MOZART’s U-shaped main dining venue that can accommodate up to 152 guests in one leisurely seating.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Totally Random Waterside buffet terrace Tile Shot #1.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Waterside Restaurant, facing forward from port.

The Waterside Restaurant offers buffet style breakfast and lunch with a limited full service menu of daily specials and a full service, multi-course dinner.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Vintage, facing aft.

Accessed from the forward end of the Waterside, Vintage is the CRYSTAL MOZART’s 12-seat extra-tariff chef’s table restaurant featuring a lavish fixed menu wine pairing dinner. Guests can reserve the entire space or book on an individual basis for varying fees. Vintage can also double as a private meeting room.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Blue, facing port.

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MV CRYSTAL MOZART Totally Random Blue Tile Shot #2.

Aft of the galley on Crystal Deck, Blue is the CRYSTAL MOZART’s casual 38-seat lunchtime eatery with an open kitchen offering up world cuisine courses.

End Of Crystal’s Danube Debut, Part One

More To Come…

Special thanks: Paul Garcia, Gene Sloan

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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