Luxury cruise line Crystal's entry into river business got a gala kickoff on July 11, Monday as its first river boat was christened along Vienna waterfront.
The managing director of Vienna’s Hotel Sachler, Elisabeth Gürtler, served as godmother for the new 159-passenger ship, Crystal Mozart, during the afternoon event. As Crystal executives, local officials and other dignitaries looked on, Gürtler released a lever that dispatched a magnum of 2011 Szigeti Sonderedition Adele Blanc de Blancs Brute into the ship’s bow.
The largest river ship ever to ply European waterways, the 395-by-75-foot Mozart originally was built in 1987 by the Deggendorfer Shipyard in Germany to sail for German-owned river cruise operators Peter Deilmann and Dertours. It was sold to Crystal's newly formed subsidiary Crystal River Cruises in late 2015.
Twice the width of the standard European river cruiser, the Mozart is limited to operating on the Danube River between Passau, Germany and Budapest, where the locks are large enough to accommodate her.
“When I saw her, I realized she had the ‘bones’ of our ocean ships Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony that include a walk-around promenade, pool, jacuzzi, spa and enough space for (Crystal's) popular Palm Court Lounge, multiple dining venues and our lavish suites,” Crystal CEO Edie Rodriguez said at Monday's event.
A top-to-bottom overhaul of the Mozart was performed over the last six months at the Linz Shipyard in Austria with more work done in Ems, Germany.
“The Mozart was stripped to the bare steel," Crystal River Cruises managing director Walter Littlejohn said at the event.
The makeover included the installation of all new wiring, a new air conditioning system and an elevator that connects the ship's three interior decks, Littlejohn said. A damaged propeller also was replaced, and the hull was repainted in a special type of coating that is used exclusively for yachts. In addition, all new windows and doors were fitted, skylights were installed (adding more light to the completely rebuilt Crystal Deck public rooms) and new support beams were built to accommodate an expanded top deck. It now boasts a permanent roof garden with teak benches, a collapsible bar and large TV screen.
In addition to the Palm Court, which can seat all of the ship’s passengers at once, the vessel has a bar called Crystal Cove that features a Bosendorfer piano, a smoking lounge called Connoisseur Club and a library. Eateries include the Waterside main restaurant, the extra-tariff Vintage Room (which offers wine pairings) and a casual outlet called Blue. There's also a specialty coffee venue that serves light fare called Bistro Mozart and The Pantry, a self-service wine and beverage bar.
Mozart also has a spa with two treatment rooms, a swim-against-the-current pool and a Jacuzzi as well as a full-service salon and gym. Accommodations range from 215-square-foot Window and French Balcony Suites to 330-square-foot, one bedroom Penthouse Suites to a pair of 883-square-foot, two-bedroom Crystal Suites. The latter are being billed as the largest rooms on any river cruise ship. All accommodations feature marble bathrooms, Nespresso coffee machines, king-sized beds and butler service. In the Penthouse and Crystal Suites, there are walk-in closets and separate bath tubs as well as showers.
Crystal plans to add four more river ships in 2017, all newly built. Two of the vessels will sail on the Rhine River; the other two on rivers in France's Rhone and Bordeaux regions. Citing an unprecedented-for-river-cruising staff-to-passenger ratio, Rodriguez said at the event that Crystal was redefining luxury river cruising.
“This is not your grandparents’ river ship,” she said.
Mozart will kick off its maiden season on July 13 with a 10-night roundtrip sailing from Vienna. Stops include Melk, Duernstein and Linz in Austria; Passau, Germany and Budapest.