It Was Only a Matter of Time

 

by Don McCann

With all of the growing popularity of European river cruises, it’s not too surprising that one of the major ‘ocean’ cruise lines has decided to launch their own river cruise division. Recently, Crystal Cruises announced that they will begin river cruises within Europe in 2017. At the time, they released virtually no details, but earlier this week they announced some date information and even showed us a couple of renderings!

Crystal Cruises European River CruiseCrystal Cruises will begin European river cruises in March, 2017 and reservations will open in December of this year, in 2015. That far in advance, you might ask? Yes! With the demand for river cruises and the limited number of cabins onboard, they sell much further in advance than many ocean cruises.

The river vessels from Crystal will each feature standard ‘suites’ at 250 square feet,Crystal Cruises river cruise suite as well as two 500 square feet penthouse suites. Accommodations will have walk-in closets, king-size beds and the bathrooms will have double vanities. As with their ocean ships, the river ships will include their signature Palm Court, which will have a glass roof & dance floor and there will be a fitness center and spa. The ships will carry only 140 guests.

The other lines in the luxury arena of European river cruises (Uniworld, Tauck, and Scenic) will surely be interested to see how Crystal will create their own style of luxury river cruises and we’ll all be interested to see at what price point, as well. Stay tuned for more info!

First Stop: Bratislava

by Don McCann

Viking River Cruises – Danube Waltz – onboard Viking Magni, November 19, 2013

Marek in local Bratislava costume

Marek in local Bratislava costume

After sailing from Budapest, we were treated to a “Bratislava preview” with our Onboard Tour Director, Marek.  He is originally from Slovakia and he even dressed in traditional ‘costume’ to present his talk on the homeland.  Many are unaware that, after the fall of the iron curtain, Czechoslovakia actually split into two separate countries: The Czech Republic and Slovakia.  Marek told us that they simply parted ways with a friendly divorce!  Bratislava is one of the capital cities featured on this Danube itinerary.  He then ended his presentation by suggesting that we all “spend our money” in Bratislava!

Since we were arriving in the afternoon, that left time in the morning for an Apple Strudel Demonstration in the Lounge.  It was actually quite interesting to see the chef, with her two volunteers, roll out the pastry dough, work it into the right shape and thickness, and then to add the filling mixture.  Of course it looks to me as if it is one of those classic “do not attempt this at home” type of exercises.  I mean they made it look easy enough, but I doubt it would work out quite as easily in our own kitchen.  Regardless, the best part is that they passed out finished product samples during the demo and then gave us nicely printed recipes to take with us.

Arriving in Bratislava we were reminded just why we brought those umbrellas with us; yes, it was sort of rainy; not really ‘coming down’, but enough to warrant the umbrella, none the less.  Because of the weather, Bratislava was not nearly as enjoyable as it would have been with more favorable weather.  Don’t get me wrong, we made the best of it and we really liked it, but the first stop on the tour was at Bratislava Castle, up on a hill which overlooks the town down below.  This would have been a lovely view on a clear day, but for us it was a bit misty.  Regardless, we enjoyed seeing the restored exterior of the castle (which looks a bit more like a stylish fortress) and the very impressive gates at either entrance.

Once back in town, our tour continued on foot, through the cobblestone streets of charming Bratislava.  Even with the light rain, we found the old town to be delightful and interesting.  Since the Christmas Markets here were only just being set up for opening a few days later, we opted for some browsing in a few local shops.  One shop in particular converted our ‘browsing’ into ‘buying’:  ULUV Slovak Folk Art & Crafts.  Our few handicraft souvenir purchases may not have been enough to Marek truly happy, but we were quite pleased with them.

A short walk back to the ship included a few moments of confusion about how to cross the busy street using the foreign crosswalk lights, but some cars eventually stopped for us and we were back on the ship in a jiffy.  We freshened up, went in for a talk on our next port, Vienna, had some fantastic chateaubriand for dinner, then finished the evening with a folkloric show onboard in the Viking Magni’s Lounge.  So a day with a little rain, yes; an enjoyable day, ABSOLUTELY!

Apple Strudel Demonstration

Apple Strudel Demonstration

 

overlooking Bratislava

overlooking Bratislava

 

Bratislava Castle gates

Bratislava Castle gates

 

Bratislava - getting ready for Christmas Markets

Bratislava – getting ready for Christmas Markets

Bratislava streets decorated for the holidays

Bratislava streets decorated for the holidays

Bratislava Folkloric Show onboard Viking Magni

Bratislava Folkloric Show onboard Viking Magni

check back for our next post on Vienna!

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