You might be forgiven for feeling as if you’ve landed in a chic boutique hotel rather than on a cruise ship. That’s because the new Crystal Mozart, Crystal’s stunningly designed first non-ocean vessel, is a true game changer—and possibly the most luxurious river ship afloat. And yet the vibe is remarkably easy going: There are no formal nights and no set seating times, and the service, which is attentive and warm but not overly fussy, is pitched perfectly for the mostly American clientele. Think of the Crystal Mozart as the perfect ship for that skeptical non-cruising friend you’ve been meaning to convert.
The largest ship on Europe’s rivers, the Crystal Mozart is almost twice as wide as its competition. The vessel’s size restricts it to the parts of the Danube with larger locks, such as the round-trip Vienna to Budapest route we took, but it also allows for four restaurants, expansive public spaces, a wraparound promenade deck, and even a full gym, giving the ship’s 154 passengers plenty of room to move. You’ll need the exercise: With 24/7 room service, multicourse Austrian- and Bavarian-inspired dinners, the on-point wine list, and the amazing ice cream at Bistro Mozart and Blue—all of which is included—calorie restriction feels like a lost cause.
Before Crystal bought the ship, it belonged to Peter Deilmann Cruises, but unlike on many refurbished ships, you won’t see any hints of its previous incarnation: There are no ancient outlets in the cabin, no scratched railings or dated-looking bathrooms left to be redone another day. With the exception of a piano and a few pieces of art, every exquisite detail on the ship is brand new. And though the price tag is high—budget travelers need not apply—Crystal piles on plenty of included perks, from a phenomenal wine list to lavish, high-tech cabins to a private concert at Vienna’s Belvedere Palace. In fact, you might just find yourself wondering if you are getting the better end of the deal.
Travel + Leisure was recently invited as a guest by Crystal River Cruises to sail down the Danube, round-trip from Vienna to Budapest. Here are a few of our favorite things from the ship.