Day 1 – Koblenz
Accompanied by three members of The Cruise Portfolio team, Mick, Bernadette and Laura, on the 14th May 2018, I was lucky enough as a first time river cruiser, to have the opportunity to experience a two night taster onboard the newest addition to the Crystal River Fleet, Crystal Ravel.
Excited was an understatement and after a smooth flight from London Heathrow, we headed to our private transfer to Crystal Ravel in Koblenz. As soon as we arrived at the ship I was blown away and this was only from the outside!
After a swift check-in, we were escorted to our stateroom where our suitcases were already waiting for us and a glass of champagne had been poured. I was sharing a room with Bernadette and we were both amazed at how spacious our room was, equipped with a walk in wardrobe, an elegant dressing table and a beautiful modern bathroom. I couldn’t believe the fact that I was lucky enough to be staying onboard and was itching to see the rest of the ship!
Once we had finished admiring our room, we met Mick and Laura in the corridor where we decided it was time for a well needed drink after an early morning of travelling. We headed to the top deck which is a spacious outdoor area with an array of comfy chairs and eye catching cushions, a perfect spot to watch the world go by. Just as we found an ideal spot, the waiter was straight over to take our drink order. With such a vast variety of drinks to choose from it was a tough decision, but I went for a refreshing raspberry lemonade which I would highly recommend.
When our cocktails were finished, we made our way to Waterside where a buffet style lunch was being served. I was astonished because this wasn’t the typical buffet style lunch I had ever experienced before. Two smiley chefs were waiting for us, one serving fresh pasta and the other serving a fresh carvery. Both dishes looked amazing and had an array of surrounding trimmings, therefore it was another tough choice! I opted for the fresh pasta and loved the fact I was watching the chef freshly prepare my lunch in front of me. Within the buffet there was also a wide selection of salad and deserts, which I made my way back to once I had finished my delicious pasta.
Pleasantly stuffed, we headed back up to the top deck where we got the chance to adore the stunning surroundings of the river Rhine. Having never been to Germany before, I loved the fact we had a live commentary through outdoor speakers informing us with information about the intriguing landmarks we were sailing past.
After a beautiful afternoon on the top deck full of sunshine and cocktails, we made our way to Palm Court where we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink. Palm Court was another space which blew me away with its outstanding elegant décor. Coincidently, 10 minutes after we arrived indoors it started to rain outside which was fascinating to watch through the open space glass windows. We enjoyed a game of ‘who can get the best picture of lightening along the water’ (miserably failed) and before we knew it, it was time to get ready for dinner.
We ate dinner in Waterside and I got my first chance to experience a la carte dining on board, which definitely didn’t disappoint! On the a la carte menu there were four different main courses to choose from and I went for the steak with black truffle fries. The steak was cooked to perfection and I left Waterside classing it as the best steak I have ever eaten. After dinner we headed back to Palm Court where Mark Farris was singing live with his piano. We couldn’t resist having a little sing-a-long with Mark and after a few more cocktails, Laura showed us her secret singing talent by taking part in a duet with Mark!
Day 2 – Miltenburg
Waking up had never been so easy, mainly due to the fact that as Bernadette drew the curtains open, we had a magnificent view of the stunning waterways of Germany through our panoramic balcony window. Although waking up was easy, getting out of bed was a struggle due to how comfortable it was! We made the most of the opportunity to lay-in and headed down to the late-risers breakfast in the Bistro at around 10am. Whilst enjoying a perfectly cooked omelette for breakfast we browsed the daily itinerary realising that we were going to Miltenburg and that there was a variety of complimentary shore excursions available for guests to choose from. Although we didn’t have an excursion pre booked, we made our way to the front desk after breakfast to see if we could join the ‘Miltenburg E Bike Tour’. The concierge was extremely helpful and booked us on straight away.
Due to the uncontrollable factor of low bridges and locks, the top deck was closed whilst sailing to Miltenburg so we decided to head to the aft of the ship to soak up some sunshine and admire the views. Of course, it didn’t take long until we had the idea of having a nice cocktail so we headed to Palm Court, where I asked the barman to surprise us with something refreshing. I was over the moon when he bought us over frozen strawberry daiquiris!
As we docked in Miltenburg, we swiftly disembarked the ship in an organised Crystal fashion and meet our tour leader who was taking us on an exploration of Miltenburg via E bike. Once we had the correct safety equipment and found the bike that was right for us, we were off!
I was blown away by the tour and found cycling through the beautiful surroundings of Miltenburg a very surreal experience. Half way through, our tour stopped off in the tour leader’s garden where she had prepared us an array of traditional German sausages and dips – which I thought was a lovely personal touch! Once we were refuelled from our delicious German cuisine, we cycled further through Miltenburg to meet the Crystal coach which is a complimentary transfer that is arranged to take guests back to the ship.
The coach was ready and waiting for us when we arrived and just as we got settled ready to head back to the ship, an announcement was made that the ship was running an hour late to arrive back into port. My initial thought was that we was going to have to sit and wait on the coach however, I was pleasantly surprised when we got told we were going to be escorted to a local restaurant for a drink. Upon arrival we were greeted with blankets to keep us warm and a waitress came round to take drink orders. Before we knew it, the ship was docked and waiting for us so we headed back onboard.
When we arrived back at the ship, we were welcomed by staff members holding appetising trays of Bailey’s hot chocolate with cream on top – a perfect treat for the rainy weather. We were reassured that dinner times would be extended, so we had enough time to go and get ready for our last night onboard.
For our last dinner, we decided to go to Waterside because once again, it had an irresistible menu which we couldn’t resist! I opted for the veal with spaghetti for main course which was divine. In the past I had been told that Crystal is known for its outstanding cuisine and I can confirm, it truly exceeded my expectations and beyond. Having indulged in another splendid dinner, we headed to Palm Court to make the most of trying out the cocktail menu for our last night onboard because of course – it would have been rude not too!
Following varied cocktails in Palm Court, we were rather peckish when we arrived back to our room so we decided it was a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the 24 hour room service facilities. Once the food was ordered, it arrived within 25 minutes with a selection of condiments and definitely filled the spot.
I don’t know whether it was the comfort of the bed or the fact I knew we had to disembark from the ship, but getting out of bed was yet again another struggle! Once packed and ready (very hesitantly because I didn’t want to leave) we headed to the Bistro to meet Mick and Laura. After a lovely final breakfast and a belly full of fresh pastries, we dropped our bags to the front desk and headed back up to the Bistro where we decided to relax until arriving in Würzburg for disembarkation.
The worst part of my river cruising experience was when it came to an end. I had an unforgettable time onboard and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. From the best steak I have ever eaten to the comfiest bed I have ever slept on, Crystal Ravel exceeded all my expectations and made me fall in love with river cruising!