Luxury cruise lines only account 2.5% of the
overall cruise capacity, meaning they are a small sliver of the market. Moreover, the luxury cruise experience is different than the mainstream
lines, with a higher ratio of staff to guests, larger staterooms and suites, elevated dining,
more sophisticated programming and higher standards of amenities.
While cruising is not for everyone, over 95% of
first timers say they plan on cruising again, meaning that once you try it, you
generally end up wanting to cruise more. It’s not unusual for folks to book their next cruise while on their current one, and you can usually get special deals if you do. Earlier this year Ritz-Carlton
announced it was launching its own luxury cruise line after research showed a large percentage of its guests were already cruisers.
Crystal sits uniquely in the luxury space in that
its ocean vessels, even with reduced capacity after the refurbishments,
are among the larger luxury ships, although still under 1,000 guests each. The
benefits of size include more options and choices while still enjoying highly personalized service. In the travel industry, Crystal is often compared to
Four Seasons in that it offers top standards of service, consistency and
luxury, save the flash and glitz.
Leah Bergner of Coastline Travel who travels four to five months per year inspecting cruise ships and luxury hotels for her clients says Crystal is second to none when it comes to service. She says it goes beyond remembering how you like your drink to for example, taking a comment on how much you enjoyed a side dish from the night before and finding that the chef made it for you special order the next night. Bergner calls the ships “elegant, modern, sleek.”
I’ve cruised with Crystal and found the mix of
guests (from the mid-30s to 80s) were all interesting, charming and came away
with new friends. Of course, you can have a private experience if you don’t like to mix.
Symphony and Serenity are each popular with multi-generational family groups (and there are more connecting rooms after the renovations) and even full ship charters for corporate product launches and incentives. Both ships make a great change of pace from traditional resort hotels and can offer attractive, all-inclusive pricing, plus a high level of security and privacy.
I find cruising a comfortable
way to visit some interesting places, particularly for the first time or to take in a geographic region without the hassles of hopping between hotels. More and
more itineraries include overnights in key ports, so you can get the same
experience as if you were staying in a hotel. For my business, I need to stay
connected ongoing and today WiFi at sea is as good as you will find in most
5-star hotels. What’s more, there’s an itinerary for virtually every
destination with Crystal, from Fall Foliage to New England to the Med, Baltic, Indian
Ocean, Asia, South Pacific, South America and Africa.
So what’s the big news on the renovations?
Crystal Symphony’s redesign was completed last
week while Crystal Serenity’s is set for October 14-November 10, 2018. The multi-million-dollar investment will
see the two ships re-imagined to standards in line with its new river vessels,
new ocean-going ships on order and a privately-owned Boeing 777-200LR that
launched in August. You can watch a behind-the-scenes video of the transformation below.
Key is both ships will gain more of the spacious,
butler-serviced Penthouses and Penthouse Suites. Details are below in the
Ruth Turpin, a noted luxury travel advisor, told me she currently has clients on the Symphony. What’s the feedback? “They said, ‘It’s beyond beautiful,'” she says. She says her clients have commented on the oversize walk-in showers in Seabreeze Penthouses and the attentive butler service. “Some lines say they have butlers, but they aren’t 24/7 and they are stretched. Crystal really delivers,” she says.
Several favorite shipboard spaces will feature new
concepts while maintaining their inherent function as part of the onboard
experience. The top-deck, forward Palm Court lounge aboard Crystal Serenity
will be entirely redesigned to feature more intimate seating, while Crystal
Symphony’s mid-ship Starlite Club, a hub for evening dancing and cocktails,
will also be refitted, keeping its panoramic ocean views.
There are also changes to dining options. The
Crystal Dining Room becomes Waterside (below) and moves to open seating. Turpin says, “Clients really like this because one night they can dine as a couple and with a group of friends the next.”
The Lido Café turns into a Brazilian themed
dining experience in the evening. New to the Crystal menu of onboard
restaurants on both ships will be Silk, with modern Chinese-inspired menus.
Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa will also unveil new looks. See the Dining section
below for details. Bergner says, “For food, Crystal is the best, and this takes it to the next level.”
Crystal’s investment in technological amenities
for guests includes hardware and software enhancements to enable expanded
internet connectivity. WiFi is free. Additionally,
a new guest portal – Crystal Connect – enables guests to access an
array of shipboard information including daily menus from each restaurant to onboard activities. International newspapers are also available for digital viewing, as well as a library of box office hit
movies, Crystal lectures on demand and more. Crystal Connect will also be
available in a mobile application you can use on your tablet or smartphone.
The conversion of staterooms into the new
penthouse accommodations reduces the ships’ guest capacities – Crystal Symphony
to 848 and Crystal Serenity to 980.
Crystal Symphony now has two new categories
of accommodations altogether: Seabreeze Penthouse Suite with Verandah (12 new
suites added) and Seabreeze Penthouse with Verandah (28 new suites added), both
occupying Deck 9. Come late 2018, Serenity will receive two additional Penthouse Suites with Verandah and 36 additional Penthouses with Verandah. More on Serenity in a future
Penthouse accommodations offer guests enhanced
all-inclusive amenities, including butler service and in-room specialty dining.
We are particular fans of Crystal’s butler service. It’s more akin to traveling with
your PA as the butlers will chase down virtually any request or get the
appropriate person to get back in touch with you. Penthouse guests will also
now receive unlimited complimentary dining at the onboard specialty
In each stateroom new and larger interactive flat-panel TVs will enable guests to access their onboard folios, make any onboard activities as well as view restaurant menus. These new interactive TVs will also showcase the latest Hollywood movies and hit TV series
PENTHOUSE WITH VERANDAH
The Crystal Penthouse with Veranda comes in at 982
sq. ft. with separate living room, custom wool carpets, walnut floors,
cabinetry and Swarovski chandelier. The dining area has panoramic ocean views
making it perfect for a private dinner. There is a custom, state-of-the-art
entertainment center, separate study, built-in bar, large private verandah with
Option is queen-size or twin beds with Etro linens, plus
his and hers walk-in closets, Master ocean view bath with Jacuzzi, crystal
sconces, Calcutta marble floor (below), Aquavision TV, separate shower and bidet. There
is also a guest bathroom making the suite perfect as a gathering point for
families or to host parties with shipboard friends.
SUITE WITH VERANDAH
At 491 sq. ft., the Penthouse Suite with Veranda offers
a living and small dining area, private verandah, queen size or twin bed, full
Jacuzzi bathtub with separate walk-in shower and large walk-in closet. Bedroom
and living area are separated by a partial wall and thick light
blocking curtain you can pull shut. You can access the bathroom from the
living area or bedroom, and the bathroom includes a double vanity.
PENTHOUSE SUITE WITH VERANDAH (NEW)
Also 491 sq. feet with verandah, separate bedroom
and living area and Queen or twin beds, the oversize bathroom area of the
Seabreeze Penthouse Suite with Verandah has a Jacuzzi bathtub with separate
walk-in shower, walk-in closet separating the bathroom and bedroom as well as double
vanities. There is separate bathroom access from the living room and
bedroom area making the suite good for hosting guests or family members.
The 367 sq. ft. Seabreeze Penthouse with Veranda
includes a combined living and bedroom area. There is a walk-in closet. A large
walk-in shower with body jets replaces bathtubs. A shared entryway enables you
to connect two cabins together.
There are a number of changes to dining options.
The Crystal Dining Room, the centrally located main dining venue, is now
Waterside, reflecting the chic décor and sophisticated ambiance of the main
dining room aboard Crystal River Cruises’ Crystal Mozart.
Additional tables for two and four guests offer
expanded options for couples and friends. A new open seating concept means you can dine anytime between 6 and 9:30
p.m., eliminating Crystal’s previous format of assigned seating and
reservations. Waterside (below) will also continue to serve breakfast and lunch during
The Lido Café becomes Marketplace by
day and in the evenings Churrascaria. Both venues feature an open
kitchen concept with dishes made to order. Churrascaria will serve a selection of Brazilian-inspired
tapas, ceviche, salads and grilled seafood and meats presented by “gauchos” on
New is Silk, Kitchen and Bar (above), presenting modern Chinese-inspired
fare with family-style dinner plates, ideal for sharing, and self-service
options for breakfast and lunch that include dumplings, Asian salads, a soup
and noodle bar and other regional favorites. The Trident Bar & Grill will remain in the adjacent space, serving casual grilled options including
burgers and sandwiches.
Silk Road and The Sushi Bar, the specialty dining
venues by Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa will be rebranded as Umi Uma & Sushi Bar. Both venues
will still serve Nobu menus and will
remain the only Nobu restaurants at sea. All specialty dining reservations for
Umi Uma and Prego are now complimentary for Penthouse guests. Reservations are
required for specialty dining venues.
The Crystal Life Spa & Salon is Feng Shui-inspired and
Readers’ Choice Award winner by Spa Finder and Condé Nast Traveler. It
consistently ranks among the world’s top land-based spas.
Treatments include Aroma Stone Therapy, Japanese
Silk Booster Facial and Well-Being Massage. A private, canopied relaxation area
on the Spa’s aft deck enables you to relax before or after a treatment.
Separate facilities for men and women include sauna and changing areas with
multi-head, body jet showers offering special rain and mist functions.
The spa also offers haircuts, styling, coloring, facials and skin analysis, manicures and pedicures, and barber
services for men.
Medi-Spa Cosmetic Treatments offer noninvasive
procedures for those seeking to reduce signs of aging and improve the condition
of their skin. Rejuvenation services include wrinkle treatments, dermal filler
treatments, and skin tightening.
5. Fitness and Sports
The Crystal Life Fitness center features cardio machines such
as Technogym treadmills complete with individual flat-screen televisions, cross
trainers, recumbent and upright life cycles and steppers, all with heart rate
sensors, and a range of free weights and mats.
Crystal Life Wellness at Sea programming includes Chi-Energizing,
spin, aerobic and step classes, mat-based Pilates, yoga, core conditioning,
lower body workout, circuit training, stretching, aqua aerobics, plus seminars
on slimming and nutrition, back and joint care and detox for weight loss. There
are also personal trainers available, a daily walk-a-thon, paddle tennis -
individual play and tournaments, golf driving range (including instruction by
PGA golf pros on most sailings), lap pool, table tennis, and yes, shuffleboard
6. Entertainment and Enrichment
Like many cruise lines, you will find large-scale
productions uniting West End and Broadway, various lounges, cabarets and
karaoke, and dance clubs for disco and even hip-hop.
“Crystal on Broadway” is an
exclusive new partnership with multi-Tony Award-winning Broadway producer
Kevin McCollum (below) bringing singers, dancers, choreographers, directors,
costume designers and other artists of some of the most famous productions
directly to the stages of Crystal’s grand theatres and intimate lounges.
Crystal is also recognized for its numerous
enrichment programs and educational programs. There is everything from computer
competency classes so you can outshine your PA and kids to stars of the stage and
screen, comedy, Olympians, noted diplomats and ambassadors, celebrated authors,
and renowned scientists with interactive programming on every voyage. Hugh
Downs, Marlin Fitzwater, Ruth Westheimer, General Perry Smith, Ambassador Marc
Ginsberg, Senator Phil Gramm, Johnny Bench, Dinesh D'Souza, James Carville and
Mary Matalin, and Jack Hana represent some past participants.
BARS & LOUNGES
First of all, wines and premium spirits are included in your
cruise fare. While maybe not a big deal, it creates a more convivial feel at bars and lounges as there is no need to keep track of various checks and creates a social atmosphere.
With a large selection of cigars, Connoisseur Club
is ideal for after-dinner drinks and conversation. Starlite is located in the middle of Symphony’s main
activity deck where a dramatic round bar takes center stage in a stylishly open
environment offering panoramic sea views. With a crystal chandelier that sparkles above the bar, the new Starlite Club (pictured above) is the place to see and be seen,
featuring lectures by day and dancing by night.
There is also the Crystal Cove piano bar and The Palm
Court (pictured above) offering panoramic sea views through floor-to-ceiling window walls. It’s the venue for Afternoon Tea daily, evening dancing and entertainment, classical
music concerts and special parties.
The Galaxy Lounge (pictured above) hosts Crystal’s Broadway-style
production shows and headline entertainers with comfortable seating and a
hydraulic-rotating stage for optimum viewing from anywhere in the room. The
Hollywood Theatre (pictured below) runs popular recent-release and classic movies. Both can be
used for corporate meetings.
RESORTS WORLD AT SEA CASINO
Resorts World At Sea casino offers Blackjack,
Craps, Roulette, 3 Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em and Mini-Baccarat (on
request), as well as slot and video poker machines.
The library contains over 8,000 books on subjects ranging from
classics to popular biographies, history to contemporary mysteries. There is
also an entertaining selection of magazines, audio books and a generous selection of board games which may be borrowed
without charge for your enjoyment during the cruise.
7. Children’s Activities
Symphony and Serenity feature a fully supervised
Junior Activities program for kids between the ages of 3 and 17 on Holiday
voyages and many summer sailings, each with dedicated play areas for both young
kids and teens. Children are supervised during their activities with the Junior
Activities Directors, and children with parents’ permission are free to come
and go as they please.
Fantasia welcomes children ages 3-12, with games,
crafts, popular Sony PlayStation and Xbox 360 kiosks and large-screen
televisions, board games and personal computers with entertainment and
education. A video arcade at Waves keeps teens ages 13-17 entertained as well.
The Library offers a selection of children's books and videos for in-room
viewing; children can also see recently released films in The Hollywood
There are also scavenger hunts, story times,
pajama parties, bridge and galley tours, cooking and pizza making classes, trivial
pursuit, karaoke, fashion shows, and even a mini-Olympics.
On all sailings and depending on demand,
in-stateroom babysitting services for children one year and older are available
on a first-come, first-served basis.
Full Ship Charters
You can charter the entire ship. Crystal’s 62-person yacht Esprit and its three river cruise vessels are popular for smaller groups as its 82-seat Boeing 777-200LR. Symphony and Serenity are favorites as alternatives to land based resorts for company incentives, product launches, as well as dealer and distributor meetings. It is believed Oprah has chartered with Crystal in the past and the company is on record that Symphony and Serenity have also been chartered for private birthday parties and other milestone celebrations. The line even outfitted its crew on one private charter with shirts that featured the family crest of the VIP and a special happy birthday greeting. You can contact Bruce Setloff at email@example.com for details.
Symphony and Serenity spend their days cruising
the world with itineraries that offer everything from Caribbean sailings from
Ft. Lauderdale, Tahiti to Chile, Dubai to India, or even around-the-world. In
fact, with the ability to do business from anywhere as long as you have WiFi means
longer, exotic cruises are now attracting young families who want to discover
the world. At the same time, there are voyages that start at six days. In
other words, you’ll be hard pressed to find a place you want to go where there
isn’t a Crystal itinerary.
Crystal Cruises has earned “World’s Best Cruise Ship” in Condé Nast Traveler’s Reader Choice Awards for 24 years; been voted “World’s Best Large Ship Cruise Line” by Travel + Leisure readers for 20 years; and the “Best Luxury Cruise Line” by travel professional organization Virtuoso for three consecutive years (2014, 2015 & 2016). The readers of Travel + Leisure also voted Crystal River Cruises the “World’s Best River Cruise Line” and Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises the “World’s Best Small-Ship Cruise Line” in 2017.
Selected Photo Credits: Paragon Pixels
11. VIP Contact
Senior Vice President, Marketing and Sales