**Update** Crystal River Cruises has now gone out of business but I’m going to leave this blog post for the time being
From the welcome airport greeting to the final farewell, our Crystal River Cruise was a fantastic experience!
We met the friendly Crystal staff at the Amsterdam airport and were promptly transferred by Crystal’s own fleet of buses (that follow along the cruise) to the Crystal Mahler. The river cruise pier is located right in front of the historic Grand Centraal Station so we took a stroll around the ship, checked into our cabin (they call them suites) and headed out to tour the city.
We walked past the station, Anne Franks House, over many bridges & canals and even the Red Light District (which is usually fairly quiet during the day but a rather robust women was standing outside as we went by). Amsterdam is such a beautiful, bustling walkable city although one has to look both ways frequently to avoid the constant whish of bicycle riders that whiz past (at top speeds I might add) as that is their main form of transportation there.
Heading back to the ship, we decided to unpack and took some pictures to show the features of our Petite Suite – category S4/S5. The cabin was spacious enough at 188sq ft but with the closet & bathroom lacking drawer space to put some of our stuff, just made do with using the cupboards instead. The mini-bar was fully stocked with water, beer, pop and later white wine. The Nespresso type coffee maker is unique to Crystal as you don’t often see any type of coffee maker in a river cruise cabin. The suites are also equipped with binoculars, Audio machines for going out on tour to hear the guides without having to stand beside them and lots of plugs.(great for all the devices we tend to bring along)
If you upgrade to the Deluxe Suite -category S1/S2, which is larger at 253 sq ft (there is one cabin in category S3 and if ever interested in that one, just pop me an email to email@example.com and I can explain the difference between that one and the S1/S2) you get a full walk in closet plus two sinks in the bathroom and drawers in both) Both have the luxurious King Size bed (or two singles), the Panoramic Balcony Window, interactive TV system with complimentary movies on demand, a bedside Ipad and wifi.
Dining options on the Mahler were plenty starting with breakfast at the Waterside restaurant, usually served between 7:30 and 9am or if felt like sleeping in, could catch the late risers breakfast at the Bistro served from 9 to 11:30am. If you happened to really sleep in, there were snacks & pastries at the Bistro from 11:30am to 6pm or lunch service started at 12:30 to 2:30pm. The Waterside restaurant times varied daily but was usually between noon and 2pm. Of course you could also order 24 hour room service (including selections from the main restaurant menu) or help yourself to the 24 hour self-service pantry which featured snacks, specialty coffees, teas and non-alcoholic beverages.
Dinner was either at the Waterside restaurant, the Bistro for a Tapas menu or for a special multi course with wine pairing evening, there was the Vintage Room which had an extra cost and needed to be reserved in advance. The food on Crystal was some of the best I’ve ever been served – the presentation was always artistically crafted and the taste was delicious.
Our cruise itinerary had to be changed due to the record low water conditions on the Danube so we ended up sailing on the Rhine, Mosel and the Belgian Waterways instead and it couldn’t have been more perfect. Crystal was to be commended for coming up with new excursions due to the changes and we visited some wonderful picturesque places like Bernkastel, Bruges, Ghent and Arnhem. They included cultural visits in Nijmegen to the Van Gogh Kroller-Muller Museum, the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague, Drachenfels Castle in Bonn and a magical Concert evening with Eva Vermeeren, Hanne Roos & The Turnhoutse Snaar.
We participated in many of the bike excursions that Crystal offered and although they do not store the bikes onboard, top quality e-bikes were brought to each location where they offered the excursions. We rode through Historic Nijmegen, Veluwezoom National Park, the Netherlands Waterlands and even biked up a mountainside to play golf and sample some local wine (don’t worry, they bussed us home after that ?)
If you would like to view a video about the bike excursions, you can view it below:
The evening entertainment ended up being something we looked forward to every night. Some lines just have a piano player softly in the background in the lounge but our cruise had Rita and Bruno, a musically talented couple who both sang and played the piano. They seemed to be able to sing anything and even led a couple of triva contests too. There was also an indoor pool that looked inviting but I never saw anyone using it (perhaps they did early in the mornings?) Same with the gym, but again, could have been used early. One place that did get a lot of use was the self service laundry room which included two washer/dryers and ironing board.
While it is true that the cost of a Crystal River Cruise can be higher than other companies offering an all inclusive experience, it seemed as though most passengers felt that it was a very good value for what they received. Plus their crew to guest ratio is one of the lowest at 1 to 1.55 which we noticed as there always seemed to be a helpful crew member to assist. Crystal has four Rhine class sister ships which are the Mahler, Bach, Debussy and Ravel while the Crystal Mozart that sails on the Danube is configured differently.
For a video tour of the Crystal Mahler, please watch the video below: