TCP’s Danube Diary written onboard the Crystal Mozart

From the moment we arrive at Munich we are in Crystal Heaven!  Met by the representative and taken to our luxury coach we are impressed by the amount of leg room, the refreshments available -including a coffee machine and bottled water – and the refreshing face towel provided.  Perfect for those customers arriving from afar.

After a 2 hour transfer (guests on our regular voyages will be arriving straight into Vienna, so will only have around a 30-40 minute transfer) we are here……and it is STUNNING!

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We are greeted by warm friendly faces and checked in via iPad technology at the front desk. Our suite is not quite ready so we are offered lunch, but we are not hungry and we can’t wait to look around so go on a yacht tour instead!  She is beautiful, from the reception we head up to deck 3, Crystal deck, and find what appears to be the main hub of the yacht the “Mozart Bistro” with funky art deco design and an array of tempting cakes.  Our next stop is the outdoor Vista deck, we are greeted by an actual herb garden that once in full bloom will complement the teak decking beautifully. What I like is there is none of that horrible fake grass.  The huge Fatboy bean bags add a colourful, playful touch, and as you move further along the deck past the outside bar you reach gorgeous sun loungers.

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Now we have worked up an appetite, we decide lunch would be a good idea, as we want to go on a bike tour this afternoon. We choose to try Waterside Restaurant which was the classic Crystal style ‘Market’ lunch – delicious fresh salads, a choice of hot dishes and freshly cooked pasta – fantastic!

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We then met our travel buddies who had already checked into their rooms, they then wanted lunch so we headed for Blue which is an alternative restaurant located behind Waterside, opening out onto the Promenade deck. Although only open for lunch, the Homemade Pizza flat bread and “German” style meatloaf burgers were lovely – it is really nice to have the regional options, which I feel is perfect for River Cruise guests that really want immerse themselves in the local culture.

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Speaking of local culture we decided to head off on the bicycle tour however, unfortunately the power-assist bikes were rather on the large side so those of our party of slightly smaller stature couldn’t safely ride them. However hats off to Crystal staff by the time we got back from our walking tour of Passau they had solved the problem, no excuse for Bratislava!  So instead, we headed off on foot to explore the beautiful Passau. Such a perfectly charming German town, with lots of bars tempting us to stop for a beer (which we did of course!) I now understand the lure of River Cruising you are right in the towns and cities you are visiting, no long bus rides to get to the heart of everything.

Heading back ‘home’ we had a short welcome briefing before cocktails were served in the Palm Court. Getting ready for dinner in our suite was quite an occasion once our Butler popped open the champagne!

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Our suite is a French balcony, the décor is elegant with a bathroom so hi-tech it needs instructions, (heated toilet seat anyone?)  No expense has been spared in the technology department throughout the suite; USB ports are dotted around, mood lighting can be controlled using your in-suite iPad (on which you can also order room service, book excursions or book your Butler service), the flat screen TV has on demand movies & destination information… the list goes on!

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We are finally ready for dinner, back to the Waterside restaurant which is waiter service in the evening offering a choice of traditional fare as well as regional specialities. Our waiter was absolutely lovely and kept the wine flowing – the food of course was amazing.

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More cocktails followed in the piano bar, but before long it was time to head for bed – Oh My God the PILLOWS!!  I’m contemplating working out if I can fit one in my suitcase to take home!

Day Two

And the sun is shining!  We open the French balcony which for an ocean cruiser feels unusual being so close to the water, but the main draw of course is the stunning scenery that you pass.  You could easily just sit on your sofa and watch the world go by. The MS Mozart is being tested today full throttle to get us to Bratislava for this evening… our day of cruising gives us the full day to explore our new luxury home.

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After a leisurely breakfast in the Mozart Bistro, we find the Crystal Life spa which is just having the finishing touches laid out, what a beautiful and peaceful space, with a his and hers sauna and steam room, Jacuzzi, and a pool – though not quite Olympic in size is gorgeous. There are treatment rooms available also.

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We are also given a tour of the ship including a viewing of the Crystal Suite – the style and feel is very similar to that of the Penthouses, Penthouse Suites and Crystal Penthouses on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. The bed faces out to gorgeous floor to ceiling windows, which is different to the rest of the suites on Mozart, and there is a bathroom fit for a king with a beautiful plunge bath, separate shower and his and hers vanity. There are two Crystal Suites onboard as well as several Penthouses and these larger suites I feel are worth their weight in gold for those looking for that little bit extra space that is often hard to find on a river cruise (not to mention the gorgeous bath tubs!)

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This afternoon I managed a stretch class out on the top deck with the on board personal trainer next to the pop-up bar that sinks under the floor when we approach a low bridge!

Dinner tonight is early and we had back to the Waterside Restaurant, where I have to say the food manged to excel the night before if that’s possible. We held back on too much wine though as we were soon to be off on a guided evening walking tour of Bratislava.

For our tour, we got to use the Crystal Clear Headsets so that we could hear our guide without having to stand right next to them, these were excellent and indeed Crystal clear! I really enjoyed the walking tour, and it was actually very pleasant to experience this beautiful cosmopolitan city at night. Unfortunately our guests will be visiting Bratislava during the day, so will not have the opportunity of this evening tour, but there are plenty of other overnight opportunities on the Danube itineraries for guests to go ashore.

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We head back on board and had planned an early night but Palm Court lured us back with her wicked cocktails!

Day Three

Our last day – too short a trip we are not ready to get off!  Today is all about Budapest and on arrival into the city along the Danube I can see why this is one of the main highlights.  To enter the city via the river is truly epic, what a stunning view.  Again this highlights a difference for Crystal River Cruise guests as all of our Treasures of the Danube itineraries include an afternoon arrival in Budapest.  Another experience with Crystal is that we will be offering more overnights, and Budapest is one of the cities where this will be an option.  After spending just a couple of hours exploring the city today I can see why you need the extra time, it has a majestic feel to it.

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We manage a late lunch back in Blue, which with it’s relaxed chilled vibes is the perfect place to spend the last few minutes/hours on board Mozart.  With final goodbyes before a quick cake and coffee in the Bistro we head off.  I cannot wait for our customers to come on board this beautiful vessel and you can visibly see how excited the staff are also.  They have been training for this opportunity for months now and it was so lovely to see the enthusiasm and sparks behind them all, they really couldn’t do enough for us, from our butler to the bar and restaurant staff & shore excursion crew, they are a wonderful team and our customers are going to have hit the jack pot of River Cruising when they travel on MS Mozart!

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And Team Two take over!!!

So we arrived into Budapest this morning to take over from TCP Team One on the Crystal Mozart Shakedown Cruise.

We were the only three to arrive on our flight, so we didn’t get met by the Crystal Coaches; instead we had a sleek 7-seater and driver meet us at the airport for our private transfer to the yacht.

On arrival we had a short walk along the river side to the gangway, where we had to embark by crossing over another river vessel that we were moored alongside. This is quite normal in river cruising, you will find several river boats can be moored next to each other, forming a ‘boat bridge’ between you and the river bank. It can be a bit restrictive for guests who are less mobile, but I find it fascinating, getting a sneak peak at boats you may not normally see! Our check in was also done at front desk. We were swiftly issued with our room key cards and shown to our suite – an S1 French Balcony Suite on Seahorse Deck (2).

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We were absolutely blown away by the sophisticated décor of the suite as well as the amenities & tech which we had fun playing with for a while before quickly unpacking and heading out to get some lunch.

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As we had arrived mid-afternoon, we headed straight to the Mozart Bistro rather than the main restaurant which had finished serving lunch and settled straight into the rhythm of river life with a Viennese cooled coffee, some Austrian cheese and biscuits and cakes to finish. Unfortunately the ice-cream freezer was currently out of action, so we’ll have to save that for another day!

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At this point, Team One returned from their morning in Budapest so we joined them in Blue whilst they had a late lunch, which was good to see as unfortunately we did not get another opportunity to dine in here over the two days we were onboard.

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It was pretty late in the afternoon now, so we decided to retire to our suite to freshen up before meeting for a pre-dinner drink in the Cove bar.

Once back, we met up with our wonderful Butler (a perk of every guest onboard Crystal Mozart) and he actually recognised us from a cruise on Crystal Serenity – We found this in several departments onboard Crystal Mozart, faces you will recognise from our ocean ships have come across to work onboard and it is lovely to see them alongside the new crew members.

He had come armed with a welcome bottle of champagne for us, a smaller version of the magnum of Szigeti’s 2011 Sonderedition “Adele” champagne that was used for the Christening set for a few days later in Vienna! Delicious!

mozart blog 22We decided to sit at the bar in the Cove on the gorgeous plush velvet high chairs, which was lovely as we could chat to the bar staff whilst the expertly poured our drinks. We found this is a great venue to mingle with other guests as lots of people would join us and talk to us too.mozart blog 21

Dinner was served in the Waterside restaurant and we were so impressed. There were around 3 choices of all courses from appetisers to salads, mains and desserts. And across a selection of traditional cruise fare to regional dishes such as a traditional Hungarian dish of cabbage roulade for main, and a Hungarian sweet dumpling for dessert.  Dinner was accompanied by a choice of red or white wine, although you could ask for something different if you prefer.

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After dinner we went to check out the Vista deck after dark. The pop-up bar was all lit up, and the Hotel Director arranged for someone to come up and get some drinks for us. We sat in the big deckchairs and took in the sights of Budapest by night.  It had been a long day so it wasn’t long before we went back to our suite and chose a movie from the large selection on our in-suite TV before falling asleep.

Day Four

Today we had the whole day sailing along the river as we made our way from Budapest to Vienna.  It was good as it meant we could make use of some of the facilities onboard.  We had breakfast in the Waterside again. The buffet was set up with cereals, fresh fruit, meats and cheeses, pastries as well as a hot selection – eggs, bacon, sausages etc. You could also get waffles. Coffee and juices are served at your table – it reminded me very much of the Lido Café onboard Crystal Symphony & Serenity – just on a smaller scale.  The restaurant closes at 9am but a continental breakfast is available in Bistro until lunchtime. The weather was gorgeous so we headed up to the vista deck to try and sunbathe, but unfortunately it was very windy, so instead we headed down to the promenade deck, which whilst not very wide, does have two benches and a small seating area outside the Palm Court which are a little more sheltered.

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All guests are provided with listening devices which they can use on excursions and our Butler also advised that they can be used whilst sailing as any points of interest will be mentioned as you sail past. For lunch we returned to the Waterside restaurant which is again a buffet.  There was an extensive salad bar, and a couple of hot dishes – usually a local dish and a meat or fish with sides and a fresh pasta dish being made as well as a selection of desserts.

This afternoon we had a Q & A session with some of the Crystal staff from head office. There are a lot of new staff members that in their previous careers worked for other River lines, so it was a great opportunity to hear about the differences between our river cruising experience and the others in the market.

For dinner we went back to Waterside as the only other evening option the Bistro was not yet open in the evening (as we were only on the Shakedown cruise). When it is open it will be waiter service, with a small menu of things like fillet mignon, fish and pasta for example.

Tonight I chose Duck liver pate followed by one of the traditional choice of steak which was served with sweet potato wedges and cauliflower cheese and then for dessert a bread and butter pudding – it was all absolutely delicious. Our wines this evening were from Austria and Italy.

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We headed into Cove bar after dinner where the pianist – Mark Farris from Crystal Symphony – was entertaining the small group. He did a special medley for us of Rule Britannia and You’ll Never Walk Alone (in honour of our colleague Jon from Liverpool!). We then saw through the windows that we were going through a lock, so we all headed up to the vista deck to watch. It was a really large lock and there were two other vessels in there with us. It took about an hour to get through, at which point we went back to our suite to bed.

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Day Five

This morning we were due to arrive into Vienna in the early morning but we had had a medical debark yesterday which delayed our arrival, so we would not be arriving just after 11am. Therefore the complimentary Vienna City tour excursion scheduled for this morning had been moved to 2pm, which meant that unfortunately we would miss it as our transfer to the airport was arranged for 1pm. As it was, we had a wonderful morning on deck in the sunshine watching out approach into Vienna from the Vista deck.

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As we arrived we could see the preparations ashore for the forthcoming Christening, and as we docked the cleaning crew and maintenance staff came onboard to fix the final niggles before her inaugural cruise.

We had time for a final lunch back at the Waterside, before getting our cases and hopping on our private transfer back to the airport

Our Crystal Mozart Highlights…

The Vista Deck: The top deck of Crystal Mozart was a sight to behold in the sunshine of Vienna. With the beautiful little garden at the front and the choice of sofa seating, giant coloured deckchairs & beanbags or sun loungers there was always a perfect spot to watch the world go by. Add to that the fantastic ‘Pop-Up’ bar serving throughout the afternoon into the evening, this was easily my favourite spot onboard

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Crystal Life Spa: We have all arrived on holiday a little weary at times, and needed to unwind before we can even think about enjoying our destination – well look no further for the place to do that than the Crystal Life Spa. The instant I set foot into the tranquil indoor pool area I could breathe easier. The small but perfectly formed plunge pool and inviting hot-tub were calling my name whilst the secluded loungers with a river view were inviting me to rest a while. The dedicated spa professionals in the salon next door are also on hand to ease away any tensions you packed in your suitcase and brought with you

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Palm Court/Cove Bar: Whilst this panoramic lounge is perfect for enjoying a little daytime cruising in the peace and quiet, it really came to life at night. Spectacular lighting installations; Delicious cocktails from the bar and Entertainment from the resident pianist – who you might remember from Crystal Symphony, Crystal Serenity or Crystal Esprit, Mark Farris – made the Palm Court one of my favourite places to have a drink after dinner. Find yourself a cosy chair and enjoy

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Mozart Bistro: Those of you who have cruised with Crystal before will know all about the fantastic European café onboard Crystal Symphony & Crystal Serenity, well it’s newest incarnation is onboard the Crystal Mozart. Offering a light breakfast and snacks throughout the day – including regional specialities such as German sausage and pretzels –accompanied by delicious coffees, teas or chilled Viennese Chocolate drinks. The evening time offers guests a casual dining option featuring delicacies such as filet mignon, or local fish

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My suite: What can I say, a king size bed laid with the crispest linen; luxurious ETRO toiletries; a personal Nespresso coffee machine; and a huge variety of on demand movies – I didn’t want to leave!

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