European river cruising is throwing Off ITS DOWDY IMAGE ONCE AND FOR ALL THANKS TO CRYSTAL CRUISES’ NEW-BUILD RIVER SHIPS, WHERE SUE BRYANT DISCOVERS A TRUE BOUTIQUEhotel experience.
Sue Bryant enjoys a true boutique-hotel experience on Crystal Cruises’ new European river ship.
Upmarket cruise lines often say their biggest rivals are not one another, but luxury hotels ashore. You could certainly argue that lines such as Silversea, Regent, Seabourn and Crystal have created ocean-going ships that are comparable to some of the world’s most gorgeous hotels.
The situation on Europe’s rivers, though, has not quite kept pace. While there are without doubt some stunning river cruisers out there, it’s debatable whether any of them can offer a true boutique-hotel experience – the kind of holiday that gives you highend service, exquisite design and the freedom to dine and explore in the way you want.
Until now. Crystal made waves on the Danube in 2016 wHEN It ACquIrED AND rELAuNCHED Its first rIvEr ship, Crystal Mozart, to great acclaim. In 2017, the line has gone one step further, launching two identical new-build ships, Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler, which take river cruising to a whole new level.
Crystal Bach is, quite simply, stunning. Like all European river cruisers, its dimensions are DEtErMINED By tHE LOCKs AND BrIDGEs It HAs tO fit through. Step up the gangway, though, and you’ll fiND A wHOLE NEw wOrLD.
For a start, there are only two decks with accommodation, so every cabin has a panoramic window that slides down to create an indoor balcony effect. There are only three grades –15 smaller Petite Suites, two massive Crystal Suites and 35 River Suite Deluxe rooms.
I stayed in one of the latter and was blown away by its beauty. Heavy silver drapes and a whole wall of glass. Cream and grey tones, with a beautiful, emerald-green velvet armchair and a black glasstopped vanity. Even the light switches are chic,