Introduction

As big fans of Crystal Ocean cruises we decided to take an all-inclusive river cruise on one of their newest ships the Crystal Ravel. This is our Crystal Ravel Review of our “Danube Dreams and Discoveries” cruise which started in Vienna and took in the ports of Esztergom, Budapest, Bratislava, Melk, Linz, Krems and Wachau Valley back to Vienna.

This is our cruise review of this wonderful ship. Sitting at the top end of the market both for Ocean and River Cruising our expectations of Crystal were quite high and our first impressions good. This is definitely and Ultra Luxury cruise. Everything seems to have been thought of from the minute you step off your plane. Excellent and comfortable transfers, super welcome on board with a glass of really good champagne and the spot on introductions from our suite attendant and Butler.

The Ship

Crystal Ravel is one of the newest ships in the River cruise fleet having been built in 2018. With just 106 passengers and a crew of 68, the crew/passenger ratio is 1:1.5. The ship is finished to a very high standard and the decor is contemporary but not overly so. The public areas both inside and on the  sun deck are comfortable, very inviting and the bar on the sun deck is a clever touch. As with many river cruise ships, everything on the top deck is collapsible to allow passage until the numerous low bridges on the rivers of Europe.

The ship has 3 decks, excluding the sun deck with the main accommodation on deck 3. There is some accommodation on deck 2 along with a guest laundry facility and small gym. On deck 3 forward of the guest suites is the Ravel Bistro and Palm court bar and observation lounge which is delightful. On deck 2 you will find the main Waterside restaurant along with the main reception desk and tour excursions desk. There is also a small area called the pantry where self-service drinks and snacks are available 24/7.

Dedicated fleet of Coaches

Most river cruise companies have their own fleet of coaches that travel with the ship from destination to destination. The Crystal coaches are very comfortable with plenty of legroom, good air-conditioning and clean. They also never seem to be overcrowded. On arrival at the airport, they certainly set the scene for what Crystal River Cruises offer. Free wi-fi for guests is available on the coaches.

Embarkation

This was really simple and straightforward with a glass of bubbly to help the check-in process. All handled swiftly and efficiently in the Palm Court lounge. Shortly after embarkation, the mandatory muster drill for all guests was held.

 

Dining Options

Waterside Restaurant

This is the main dining venue on board and is on deck 2. The decor in here is contemporary and very upmarket. It has a lovely feel about it. Dining is open seating so you sit with whom, where and when you want with no reservation necessary. The food at breakfast and lunch is predominately from a small buffet area but there are also a limited number of freshly cooked menu choices. Dinner was al la carte which a good selection of choices plus some standard Crystal choices each day. The food was of a very high standard with sensible portion sizes. To accompany each meal, there was a variety of wines and or soft drinks available as part of the fully inclusive package. Premium wines were available at a fee but we did not need to use this option. Wines were generally matched to the regions we were travelling in.

Ravel Bistro

The second option on some evenings was Tapas served in the Ravel Bistro. We did try this once on our 7-day voyage and it was superb. The menu included a selection of tapas bites including aged Vulcano prosciutto, caesar Fondo, alamo beef tartar, goats cheese dip and lemon marinated alpine salmon.  These were just the appetizers. For mains, we had oven-roasted cauliflower, roasted jumbo shrimps, herb-marinated alamo beef medallions and a pulled pork slider. All absolutely delicious. Service in the restaurant was excellent with the staff clearly being well trained. We recognised a few familiar faces from Seabourn. Quite a few staff had also come from the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony ocean ships.

STATEROOM STAFF

All guests on Crystal Ravel get a butler which is a lovely touch. Ours was Daniel who was always there to help and organise those little things. A bit over-indulgent but it all goes to make your Crystal River Experience special. Our suite attendant Simona from Slovakia kept our accommodation in near perfect condition. We had met Simona before when she worked on Seabourn Encore.

Accommodation

Our stateroom was designated as a Petit Suite which sounds quite grand but all staterooms on this ship are call suites. As with most river cruise ships the accommodation is small in comparison with ocean ships. Ours was fine for 7 days, 190 sq ft, compact but very comfortable. The large queen size bed was just right for us and the luxurious pillows just made the whole sleep experience something to look forward to after a full day of excursions and the eating and drinking.

The suites are well-appointed and have floor to ceiling electric opening windows with an insect screen, premium bed linen, Coffee machine, USB charging points and in-suite iPad. The 40-inch flat-screen tv had a vast array of on-demand features and films. There is unlimited free wifi throughout the ship. Although compact the ensuite shower room worked well. With Crystal’s top-end range of toiletries from ETRO and one of the best showers we have experienced afloat, this was perfectly fine for 7 days.

Shoreside Experiences

Most cruise lines include at least some shore excursions as part of your river cruise fare. With Crystal there were trips every day and we found these to be of very high quality. Crystal categorizes their shoreside experiences by the type of excursion being provided. These included “Crystal Personal Connections”, “Crystal Cultural Discoveries and Crystal Tantalizing Gastronomy” and the descriptions really did reflect the type of tour being offered. The “Crystal Exhilarating Adventures” were generally Bike rides through the stunning Danube region.

One of the highlights of our trips ashore was the Crystal Signature Event in Budapest. This was a delightful evening of music at the stunning Gundel’s Queen Elizabeth Ballroom with “Princesses of Violin”.  A private performance just for Crystal River Cruise guests was a fitting experience for our overnight in Budapest. Along with some other River Cruise companies, Crystal uses the QuietVox system radio linked audio system when on shoreside excursions.  This is a brilliant system and a must for busy tours. The quality of the guides on this cruise was amazing: very good English spoken and very knowledgable experts in their specialist fields.

Entertainment

The onboard cruise director/hostess was Claire from the UK who organised all onboard entertainment. For a River Cruise ship, this was well executed with something for the guests each day. There were a number of enrichment lectures on the Danube region during the day for those guests not on shore excursions. After dinner get-togethers including Trivia, Sound of Music singalong, Liars Club and local artists. All in all, this was about right and good fun. We hope you found this Crystal Ravel review helpful.  We are just planning our next River Cruise adventure and next time we will be sailing with Scenic River Cruises on the Duro River in Portugal.

Helpful Hint

Read up on your destination. With so many sights along the way, it is worth getting a guide book and start reading up on your destination. It will give you a better understanding of the place when you’re actually there and will dramatically improve your experience.