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Crystal Strikes a Chord with a New Rhine Class of River Cruise Ships

Instead of river cruises, they're calling them river yachts. Crystal has translated its uber-luxury sea experience to the rivers of Europe with a new, 'Rhine' class of river yachts, evoking the great music icons of the region.

Four Crystal Rhine Class river yachts launch in 2017-2018. In creating a new, signature Crystal experience on the waterways of Europe, the company was inspired by some of the classical music heavy-hitters who made some of the most popular cities in its itineraries long-lasting cultural centers of Europe. The Crystal Bach has made her debut, and the Crystal Mahler, Crystal Debussy, and Crystal Ravel follow.

But if the classical music associations make you concerned the experience is too formal for your tastes, think again. The Crystal river yachting experience, night and day, is about comfort and style ('Crystal Casual'), and immersion into the best of the destination.

Here's what excites us about Crystal's Rhine Class ships and European river itineraries:

Ships:

  • Only 110 guests, making the ships feel expansive as well as intimate.
  • The only all-suite, all panoramic French balcony river cruise ships - with king-sized beds and Crystal's renowned personal butler service.

  • Walk-in closets and dual-vanities in bathrooms that defy the feeling of limited space on river cruise ships.
  • Crystal's farm-to-table, Michelin-inspired cuisine in more dining venues than you thought could exist on a river cruise, and open-seating so your day can flow at your own pace.

  • Hydraulic Sun-Deck Bar as well as panoramic interior lounges for enjoying the scenery indoors or out.

  • In-suite USB ports, and customized interactive digital bedside iPad tablet and directory.
  • The luxury is all in, so you don't have to fuss with tips and checks: Unlimited fine wines, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages, 24-hour room service including a restaurant menu, transfers and gratuities for ship and shore.

Shore

  • At least 2 'Crystal Adventures' in every port: included cultural, active or overland excursions, and others for purchase.
  • E-bike excursions to allow nearly everyone to be a little bit active enjoying vineyards and scenic villages on shore.
  • A 'Crystal Signature Event' every itinerary, like a private concert in a palace.
  • Plenty of overnights in port, so you can enjoy the full destination experience including evenings on the town.
  • Even Michelin restaurant dining experiences in ports of call you can book ahead as shore excursions.

If you're already a Crystal cruise lover, expanding your horizons to the Crystal experience on the rivers of Europe is just what you've been waiting for. And the Rhine Class ships and Crystal experience are a marvelous way for new cruisers to discover Crystal on an intimate river itinerary in the heart of Europe.

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MSC's 'Wonder' at Sea

There's a new Wonder at Sea. The MSC Meraviglia. If your language skills are rusty, that's Italian for 'wonder', and this European cruise line's new flagship is a wondrous destination at sea for five thousand guests. The MSC Meraviglia is the biggest ship to be built by a European ship owner, and also the biggest cruise ship to come into service in 2017.

The 13th addition to the MSC Cruises fleet brought wonder to the northern French port of Le Havre for her christening in a glittering event. Italian screen legend and fleet godmother Sophia Loren, accompanied by a parade of the ship's officers, cut the ceremonial ribbon in a time-honored crescendo of champagne and fireworks.

The MSC Meraviglia is the first of six new ships for MSC's between 2017 and 2020, a massive fleet expansion giving the cruise line the opportunity to introduce innovations in technology, design and experiences.

Here are a few of the unique features on MSC Cruises’ newest flagship we love most:

Entertainment:

Cirque du Soleil's first cruise line partnership: Cirque du Soleil at Sea. The world-renowned entertainment company has created two exclusive shows just for MSC Meraviglia. With two performances six nights a week, guests can enjoy a unique show and dinner or cocktail & show experience.

Design:

The longest LED Sky Screen at Sea in the Meraviglia's Galleria: 262 feet of LED sky creates an awe-inspiring atmosphere in a stunning 315 foot long Mediterranean-style indoor promenade, designed to become the social hub of the ship. It's a round-the-clock display of stunning visuals and effects.

Technology:

The MSC for Me suite of smart features that enhance your cruise: navigation and geo-located wayfinding, a digital concierge for on board, real-time bookings, planning schedules, and tailor-made recommendations to your preferences.

The Emotions immersive gallery is a tunnel of oversized video and photo walls. As you move through the tunnel, you're surrounded by cruise events and you can interact with the walls, searching for you and your loved ones amongst the imagery and experiences.

Family:

MSC shows its roots as a family-owned company in its commitment to kids’ activities and a dedicated family deck area. Furthermore, the technology that is a signature of the ship extends to its youngest guests too: Kids get to participate in MSC for Me, too, with wristbands that enable parents, crew and staff to locate and monitor their kids as they participate in their own programs and activities on the ship.

Luxury:

The cruise line's 'luxury ship within a ship' MSC Yacht Club formula appears on the Meraviglia too, with new features and premium accommodations spanning three decks, with private facilities, available amenities, and butler service round-the-clock.

Dining:

Widest range of dining options and bars on any MSC Cruises ship to-date with 12 dining venues and 20 bars: you'll be delighted to find an authentic American steakhouse, Teppanyaki and Sushi restaurants, and a continued partnership with Italian eatery Eataly.

Accommodations:

Configurations for every type of cruise traveller, including modular staterooms, accommodations for solo travelers and suites in the MSC Yacht Club. The Meraviglia is designed for multi-generation family travel where everyone is comfortable and feels at home.

Following her christening, the MSC Meraviglia departed on her maiden voyage from Le Havre to Genoa, Italy. She spends the summer of 2017 sailing Mediterranean itineraries, including popular Western Mediterranean ports of call Genoa, Marseille, and Barcelona and as well as more unique ports like Naples, Messina in Sicily and Valetta in Malta.

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The Ship that's Changing River Cruising

How do you revolutionize river cruise ships? River cruise ships are limited in length by the navigational requirements of rivers... like the sizes of locks. The design for the AmaMagna, launching in 2019, is game changing. It's twice the width of traditional European river cruise ships.

What makes the double-width river cruise ship a game changer?

The concept has been 'floating' around for a while (pun intended), but AmaWaterways is the first cruise line to pull the trigger on building a double-width river cruise ship.

That opens the doors wide to re-interpret the guests' experience on a river cruise ship. So with the debut of the concept of a double-width ship, AmaWaterways design team has aimed high at maximizing the two times more space available than on a single ship.

The AmaMagna will include:

  • River cruising's first open-water sports platform, complete with zodiac boats, canoes and recreational equipment.
  • Only 194 guests in 97 large staterooms - that's only 30 guests more than single-width ships.
  • Expansive public spaces, including:
  • Dedicated multiple dining spaces including an al fresco, glass-enclosed restaurant.
  • A large heated sundeck swimming pool with whirlpool and sky bar.
  • Expanded spa and fitness area and wellness offerings that will complement AmaWaterways' popular biking and hiking programs.
  • And they're even able to double the ship's width while doubling down on eco-friendly innovation with a more fuel-efficient engine that's also quieter.

Sound familiar? What we're seeing is the best of small-ship/ yacht, luxury ocean cruising... brought to rivers.

Construction on the AmaMagna began in early 2017 and the ship launches in 2019 on Danube itineraries.

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Why We Love River Cruising in Europe

We love river cruising. Like all cruise travel, it's a hassle-free way to navigate to multiple destinations and get an overview of a region. You unpack once, really settling in to your ship environment like a home away from home.

River cruise ships are small – almost by definition. They're restricted to the size of a ship that can navigate the rivers and canals and locks of Europe. Depending on the itinerary and the water levels, you may even see the wheelhouse on the top deck of the ship ingeniously lowered to make it under bridges!

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

So, while modern river cruise ships feel surprisingly spacious, much like boutique hotels, you won't find extravagances like climbing walls or Broadway shows. There's usually one main restaurant, and sometimes, a much smaller alternative dining room in an aft area normally devoted to a lounge, or near the main dining room, or on the top deck for alfresco dining. Sommeliers offer wine tastings and sometimes even tasting dinners with local wines.

In direct support of local culture and economies, local performers and even artisans are scheduled to share their talents during sailing time. They literally bring their culture on board the ship in an intimate setting that fosters interaction between guests and the talented locals.

But for us, the true enchantment of river cruising is that rivers are at the heart of Europe, weaving through not just the major cities, but also the scenic rural areas and picturesque small towns between them. Historically, rivers were the best – sometimes only! – way to travel between communities. Most European cities started and were built from the river.

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

In many ways, river cruising is the way Europe was meant to be seen; one of the most authentic ways to experience its diverse regions.

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