In Crystal Bach, Crystal River Cruises has elegantly stitched together a gorgeous ship that sails Europe's Rhine, Main, Moselle and Danube rivers. The ship takes the best of what Crystal does on its oceangoing vessels -- dining, service and design -- and brings it to the rivers, only on a smaller-scale, with 110 passengers.
Crystal Bach, which debuted in 2017, hits all the right notes with its dining, which is sophisticated without being snobby. Passengers indulge in clever, delectable dishes paired with fine wines, no matter where they dine onboard. The menu smartly walks the line between being ambitious and accessible to passengers with more traditional palates, and it does so while bringing in elements of local cuisine. This is a foodie's river cruise ship.
Likewise, service shines on Crystal Bach, which offers a 1-to-1.6 crew-to-passenger ratio -- meaning passengers feel as if there's always someone looking out for their needs. Crew are friendly and knowledgeable, yet service feels appropriately formal to fit the luxury setting. (For example, crew know passenger names even before they board, but staff refers to cruisers by "Mr. Smith" or "Ms. Doe" unless otherwise asked. Even then, it's likely you'll get "Mr. John" or "Ms. Jane.") What stands out, though, is the flexibility. Clearly, the crew know much about the ship -- Crystal's first new-build on the rivers -- and its venues as well as operations, and they're empowered to make decisions to satisfy passenger requests. This means any problems that might arise are handled quickly, and special requests are handled with confidence and ease.
Each cabin on Crystal Bach is assigned a stateroom attendant, as well as a butler. We loved having both on our Rhine River sailing and were thrilled when both took the time on the first day to introduce themselves and explain who does what. Our attendant kept our mini-bar stocked with our favorites, while our butler delivered daily afternoon tea and brought us room-service breakfast. On our last day, we had an especially early flight, and our butler kindly brought us a snack of bagels and lox -- perfectly wrapped -- to take with us for an airport snack. This thoughtful service is simply standard on Crystal Bach.
The design of the ship is beautiful; it feels like a high-end restaurant, with chic decor, elegant light fixtures and sunlight everywhere. All spaces naturally feel open because of the design elements -- such as a glass ceiling in the ship's Palm Court lounge -- that allow natural light in. (One downside to the glass ceiling is that it cuts into usable space on the ship's sun deck immediately above.) Passengers are content to lounge in the public spaces between meals and excursions, and it leads to a convivial environment. Cabins are roomy, with convertible tables that allow you to have a true ensuite dining experience and then tuck smartly out of the way after your meal. Many of the suites feature walk-in closets, and they're all fully loaded with any amenity you might need on your cruise.
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Excursions and onboard enrichment are still a work in progress for Crystal, which plans to bring a version of the successful enrichment programs from its oceangoing brands to its river ships. Likewise, Crystal Bach is embarking on a new shore excursions program that is designed to give passengers more intimate, personal experiences in port.
Passengers on Crystal Bach generally are well-to-do and well-traveled. The average age hovers around 60, and most are from the United States and the United Kingdom. Children are permitted to sail, though Crystal warns that it reserves the right to restrict the number of children 3 and younger. Children six months and younger aren't permitted to sail Crystal Bach.