BY SUSAN HANSON
Flowing nearly 340 miles across France, Luxembourg, and Germany, the Moselle River cuts a serpentine path through some of the most impossibly beautiful scenery in all of Europe. Forested hillsides, terraced vineyards, and tiny medieval villages create a fairytale setting for Crystal Cruises’ first-ever Enchanting Moselle voyage in May.
Virtuoso travel advisor Ralph Bias says the cruise line’s new ten-night sailing, which travels round-trip from Amsterdam aboard 106-passenger Crystal Bach and Crystal Debussy, will thrill not only historians, architecture buffs, and foodies, but also the legions of die-hard Crystal fans who have experienced other European rivers. “Nothing compares to Crystal’s style, exquisite cuisine, and genuine service,” Bias says. Here are six reasons you should consider coming aboard.
1. The river has a romance all its own.
Ancient Romans first settled the Moselle Valley, leaving behind a strong influence that remains to this day. Trier, Germany, known as the “Rome of the North,” is home to numerous UNESCO-designated monuments, including the celebrated Porta Nigra (an imposing city gate), Imperial Baths, and Aula Palatina (basilica). Travelers joining a Christmas Markets voyage also will discover some of Germany’s most authentic markets, favored by many locals and visitors over the larger spectacles. And unlike other European waterways, the Moselle’s entire waterfront is devoid of industrial clutter that would distract from its charming towns and villages. The river’s romantic allure makes it a perfect fit for Crystal’s ultra-luxe vessels. Bias says, “Everything about these river ships oozes luxury and glamour.”
2. Things are up-close and personal.
Perhaps most striking about the Moselle is how intimate the waterway feels. “The Moselle is a very narrow river,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Russell Dunlap, “so you are always close to the beautiful scenery flowing by.” Crystal guests find that same intimacy on board, where butler service for every suite and a staff-to-guest ratio of nearly one to one – the highest among European river lines – create an ambience that is both personal and pampering. Dunlap puts it simply: “The service with Crystal is tops!”
3. There are castles galore …
“Every European itinerary should include a castle,” Dunlap insists, “and on the Moselle, you have your pick.” Some are grand, some modest; some are thousands of years old, while others, such as Dunlap’s favorite, the dreamy Schloss Drachenburg (Dragon Castle), date from the late-nineteenth century. You can hike to the twelfth-century Landshut Castle for sprawling views over Bernkastel-Kues, Germany, and beyond, or join Crystal’s exclusive excursion to Reichsburg Castle led by guides in medieval costumes. After exploring, guests return to their own elegant enclaves. Bias says the palatial, one-bedroom Penthouse Suites, featuring a marble fireplace and glass-enclosed rain shower, are “unlike anything else on the market.”
4. … and plenty more to explore.
Crystal treats guests to an overnight in Trier for a behind-the-scenes tour with tea in an abbey, which is typically not open to the public. The close proximity to Luxembourg allows for a half-day journey to this easily explored gem; on the Rhine portion of the itinerary, Crystal ships call in less-visited charmers like Bonn, Arnhem, and Dusseldorf. Adventurers can head off on fantastic hiking trails made out of ruins from the old Moselle Valley railway, then discover local history and culture on board with conversational lectures by visiting professors and nightly performances from local entertainers.
5. Riesling is king.
Roman wine presses discovered in Piesport confirm that the Moselle Valley is Germany’s oldest wine-growing region. Riesling reigns supreme here, and Crystal guests enjoy several opportunities for tastings. In Bernkastel, you can imbibe during a bicycle tour through the scenic vineyards or opt for a walking tour that leads to the family-run Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler wine estate for a tasting and (spoiler alert!) a meeting with Mrs. Pauly when she is in town. The region also produces exceptional pinot blanc and other wines, a number of which you’ll find on Crystal’s extensive wine list and as part of a private wine-pairing dinner in the Vintage Room, where wine stewards certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers offer knowledge with every pour.
6. A Moselle voyage shows exceptional taste.
A number of culinary-focused outings reveal the full flavor of the Moselle region. You might feast your way through the streets of Dusseldorf or join an optional Amsterdam excursion that visits the Michelin-starred Bolenius restaurant. Of course, you’re also treated to Michelin-inspired, farm-to-table fare each night of your river voyage, with every course prepared à la minute and plated like a work of art. Dunlap noted the spectacular cake display each afternoon in the Bistro: “It’s almost too beautiful to eat – almost!”
This article is sponsored by Crystal Cruises. All images courtesy of Crystal Cruises.