After a great sleep in and a short workout in the gym, I headed up to the Waterside Restaurant for another epic salad to fortify a gala, if sweltering afternoon.
I felt bad about not wearing my coat but with the heat index and two cameras to juggle, I made my way in shirtsleeves to the Palm Court lounge, where said cameras and necktie did their best to get entangled during a celebratory toast to the “reborn” CRYSTAL MOZART.
Fittingly, we were saluting with the same brew that would be splattered onto the ship’s bow that afternoon: Szigeti Sonderedition Adele 2011.
A short while later, steps away from the CRYSTAL MOZART’s bow, I captured the magnum before it became shards of history. In the meantime, the heat wave in Vienna was nothing short of equatorial. I felt especially sorry for the guests and crew that struggled to keep their formal regalia and composure intact.
Minding the heatwave, the good people at Crystal did their best to make the ceremony as elegant but brief as possible. Once the crowd was gathered, the CRYSTAL MOZART’s regal godmother, Elisabeth Gurtler, the managing director of Vienna’s legendary Hotel Sacher and the Spanish Riding School, walked the red carpet into the pavilion along with a host of other dignitaries that included Genting Hong Kong’s (owner of Crystal Cruises) Tam Sri Lim Kok Thai and Crystal Cruises’ President and CEO Edie Rodriguez.
After brief speeches, Rodriguez and Gurtler paired up for the moment of truth.
With the release of a lever, the bottle collided with the ship’s gleaming white hull and the deed was done. I raced back to my stateroom to file a dispatch as the crowd slowly made it was back to the ship. Had the internet not been working so well, I would have surely missed dinner in the Waterside Restaurant.
A bit disheveled, I made it to table one, where I was shocked and delighted (if not a bit terrified about being underdressed) to find myself seated next to the Godmother and the CEO. They were warm, funny and very welcoming and we all had a fantastic time toasting Crystal’s exciting new venture and the gorgeous ship with a choice of no less than four wines and champagnes.
A fixed menu began with a caviar starter that resembled a Shakespearean stage production and it went gastronomically ballistic from there with an Applewood Smoked Alpine Beef Crudo with Potato Mousseline and Horseradish Cream, a Chilled “Paradeiser” Gazpacho with Kuimer Carp, and Melon Sauerrahm, followed by a choice of Broised Seabass with Jerusalem Artichoke, Garlic Confit, Chanterelles, Wilted Spinach and Zweigelt Sauce or Duo of Veal with Locay River Crayfish, Broccollini, Creamy Topfen Polenta and Lemon Hollandaise. “The Emperor’s Favorite Dessert” that capped it all off included a Marzipan Kaiserschmarrn, Nougat Ice Cream and Wild Forest Strawberries.
Another luxe Crystal River touch is the pair of Setra coaches that accompany the CRYSTAL MOZART on her travels up and down the Danube. They are specially designed for Crystal’s guests and with the removal of a row or two, feature extra legroom and especially comfortable seating.
The Setra coaches also have their own Nespresso bar so one need not worry about grabbing a cup to go before heading off on tour. Water and snacks are also provided.
And indeed, the air conditioning was in fine form as we piled on board to be whisked off to Vienna’s historic Belvedere Palace for the CRYSTAL MOZART’s very first Crystal Signature Event.
Completed in 1715, the Baroque Belvedere complex (consisting of upper and lower palaces) was built for Savoy’s Prince Eugene. Today, it is a museum featuring a vast collection of works, perhaps the most notable being those of Vienna-born Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. What was especially nice is that for the Crystal Signature event, we had the place to ourselves.
After champagne and sweets in the lobby, we had a short amount of time to explore the museum before filing into its magnificent Marble Hall for a private concerto.
Under a canopy of chandeliers and a ceiling fresco by Carlo Carlone, we sat in awe as twilight lingered outside and the music played.
Back aboard, the CRYSTAL MOZART, I packed up my belongings and took a final stroll around the Vista Deck.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Not only did I get a punctual wake up call but at the suggestion of my tireless butler, it came with a full breakfast that included a piping hot omelette and a cappuccino. After that, I headed outside for the first airport transfer. The CRYSTAL MOZART’s funnels were up and she was in the throes of preparation to greet her first official guests.
With the launch of the CRYSTAL MOZART, there is no doubt that a new era in deluxe European river cruising has begun…
And now for a look at the remainder of the ship not covered in Part One:
Following, in descending order, Vista and Crystal Decks (see part one), Seahorse Deck begins with the Crystal Life Spa, with its swim-against-the-current pool and Jacuzzi. Such a vast facility on a European river cruise ship is unprecedented.
Literally perched in the bow, the relaxation area has a wonderful view of oncoming scenery which must be a fantastic vantage during the full day of river cruising offered on most sailings.
Both men and women have separate changing areas with their own saunas and steam rooms.
There are two treatment rooms with a menu of massage therapies provided by Crystal’s own specially trained staff (versus Steiner or another of the conglomerates).
The Crystal Life Spa also has a dedicated beauty salon and barbershop.
A few steps aft of the Crystal Spa, there is a complimentary self service laundry room with new, state-of-the-art machines that may require a degree in computer science to figure out.
Farther aft, the reception area is located at the base of the grand staircase leading up to Crystal Deck.
Guests usually enter the ship on this level, either from the port side, which features a lovely library that boasts a marble fireplace emitting atmospheric vapor flames…
…or from the starboard side, which features the Pantry, a 24 hour self service snack and wine bar.
Due to her double width, the CRYSTAL MOZART boasts port and starboard passageways that access the accommodations on Seahorse and Harmony Decks.
Largely devoted to accommodations with fixed windows (versus French balconies), Harmony Deck begins with the gym on the port side and a stretching area on the starboard side.
The CRYSTAL MOZART has four categories of suite accommodation, the largest of which are two Crystal Suites, which when combined with a neighboring French Balcony Suite, form the largest suites (883-square-feet) on any river cruise ship. Beds in the Crystal Suite bedrooms face a floor-to-ceiling window with a French balcony.
Crystal Suite master baths are lined in marble and have a tub with Jacuzzi jets and a separate shower.
Crystal Suite living rooms also have a full length window with a French balcony. In addition to the sitting area, there is a dining nook.
Crystal Suites also have a marble fireplace and a separate powder room for guests.
Twelve Penthouse Suites measure 330-square-feet and feature an entryway with a dressing area that leads to the marble-lined bathroom.
Penthouse Suites have a spacious bedroom with a sitting area that boasts a large floor-to-ceiling window and a sliding glass door that opens onto a French balcony.
Penthouse Suite bathrooms feature a double sink, a Jacuzzi tub and a separate shower.
FIXED WINDOW SUITES
Forty One Fixed Window Suites on Harmony Deck share the same 219-square-foot dimensions and layout as the French Balcony Suites (see prior post) on Seahorse Deck but feature a narrow fixed window. All suites feature Crystal’s acclaimed butler service, king-size beds, Nespresso machines, 40-inch flat-screen televisions, ETRO luxury amenities, twice daily housekeeping services, and in-suite hors d’oevres. Additionally, suites will have state-of the art technology, including bedside digital iPad directory, and interactive TV system with complimentary movies on demand and an extensive music library.
All suites also feature an American and two European style outlets as well as controls with multiple setting options.
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."