By Georgina Cruz
Crystal personifies the best of both worlds at sea. Its two mid-size vessels combine the luxury and attentive service of yacht-like ships.
Yet, the line's ships -- the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity (shown above*)-- are spacious enough to deliver the diverse facilities and amenities that travelers desire when taking a luxury voyage.
For example, the spacious top deck pool area on Crystal Serenity features lounge chairs, whirlpools and a pool.*
Created in 1988, Crystal is owned by Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), one of the world's largest cargo shipping firms. The Japanese firm is based in Tokyo. Crystal, in contrast, has American management and a Los Angeles headquarters.
The line's distinguishing characteristics include arguably the best enrichment program at sea. Also outstanding is the line's gourmet cuisine featuring the creations of such culinary luminaries as Nobu Matsuhisa, Wolfgang Puck and Piero Selvaggio.
Ambience/Style of Cruising
Crystal operates elegant mid-size ship cruises with gourmet dining and superb enrichment and entertainment. This is definitely a luxury experience and dressing up -- at least on some evenings -- is part of the fun for loyal clientele on this cruise line. That said there are also casual options.
Crystal features some of the finest accommodations afloat.
Many feature private verandas, luxurious bedding including 100 percent Egyptian cotton linens and towels, Frette bathrobes, and a TV/DVD player. Guests also receive complimentary soft drinks and bottled water in their staterooms.
At left is a veranda cabin on Crystal Symphony*
For the ultimate in luxury, Penthouse accommodations are the ticket, with private butler service, complimentary wine and beer and a choice of liquor and other features.
Editor's Note: We sailed on a 10-day Crystal Serenity cruise just a year ago. We were in Penthouse accommodations -- different and less pricey than the Penthouse Suites. The service by our private butler was "to die for." He was adept at knowing every whim. He assured our mini-bar was stocked, helped change shore tickets to a different tour, and seemed to be there 24-7 (although I know he must have slept sometime!). If we ordered room service in the morning, he was there. Ditto for dinner. The Penthouse accommodations are highly prized among luxury customers seeking good value. They're not as large as some of the top-end suites, but still very spacious.
Dining in Style
Dining is an event on Crystal ships.
The menus are like books with a wonderful variety of dishes that can be complemented with selections from the line's extensive wine cellar.
In all, each ship carries more than 200 vintages.
Guests select from up to seven evening dining options. Dinner in the main dining room with European-trained staff is served in two seatings.
In addition to superb European and American cuisine, four-course vegetarian and low-carb dishes are featured in the main dining room.
Casual food is served at poolside at Trident Bar & Grill; on certain evenings, the tables are outfitted with table cloths and a bit more elegant dining look. A special menu is served. Yet, the aura is casual and sometimes themed.
The Vintage Room hosts wine-maker dinners with menus paired with vintages from the line's Wine Reserve List.
The cost of the wine-maker dinners starts at $180 per person or more.
The cost depends on the specific wines chosen to be featured during the dinner experience.
The Vintage Room is at left.*
Two excellent alternative restaurants on each ship feature open seating. These restaurants -- unlike those on other lines' vessels -- do not have any fee. A gratuity of $7 per person is suggested.
Nobu Matsuhisa's dishes are served at Silk Road and The Sushi Bar (see photo at right*) aboard Crystal Serenity.
Wolfgang Puck's Chinois on Main menu is featured at Jade Garden on Crystal Symphony.
Piero Selvaggio's Italian specialties are served at Prego on both ships.
Complimentary in-stateroom dining is also available. During dining room hours, Crystal guests may order off the normal room service menu or also from the dining room menu.
Crystal features a Creative Learning Institute and has forged alliances with such prestigious institutions as Berlitz, Yamaha, the Cleveland Clinic and the Society of Wine Educators.
Other learning opportunities include the Crystal Visions Enrichment Program lecture series and the Computer University@Sea offering complimentary instruction in 16 different areas including digital photo finishing and video editing.
Where to begin? Guests might enjoy keyboard lessons with Yamaha (see photo at left*); Berlitz language classes; a Tai Chi introduction with teachers from the Tai Chi cultural center; watercolor/sketching sessions; enrichment lectures on the culture of the ports of call; or computer classes.
Other activity options include wellness seminars; complimentary bridge lessons; gaming action at the Crystal Casino and fitness activities. You might be tempted to book back-to-back cruises just to take it all in.
This newly renovated Crystal Symphony casino beckons gaming enthusiasts.*
When you're ready to sit back, relax and let someone else perform, Crystal fields Broadway-style productions with elaborate sets and costumes. The onboard Crystal Ensemble of Singers and Dancers consists of performers with Broadway and West End experience.
Spa and Fitness
The Feng-Shui inspired Crystal Spa and Salon features dry sauna and steam room, massage therapies and a host of spa treatments. For example, Crystal offers a full-bodied menu of pampering massages (one guest is shown receiving a massage at right*), exotic skin treatments, facials, manicures, pedicures and so on.
The state-of-the-art fitness center offers personal fitness instructors, a lap outdoor pool, a swimming pool under a retractable dome and the line's Walk On Water or WOW fitness Program.
A 360-degree teak Promenade Deck is ideal for walkers. Golf enthusiasts will love the golf driving ranges and putting greens. Two paddle tennis courts also await.
If fitness classes are your personal passion, you might sign up for exercise classes including aerobics, step and strength-training, yoga and Pilates instruction. Some are free, some carry a charge.
A yoga class is shown at left.*
Organized Kids' Programs
Yes, supervised children's programs are offered during holiday cruises and summer sailings. The junior activities include crafts, cotillion classes and games. (see the Family Fun page for details.)
Suggested guidelines for tips are as follows: $4 per person per day to the cabin steward or stewardess (single passengers at $5 per day); senior waiter, $4 per guest per day; waiter, $3 per person per day; butler (Penthouse Decks), $4 per guest per day.
Tips for the assistant steward or stewardess, maitre d', headwaiter and night room service personnel are at guest's discretion.
Gratuities may be charged to onboard accounts. A 15 percent tip is automatically charged to bar bills. A 15 percent gratuity is suggested for spa and beauty salon services.
Total Ships in Worldwide Fleet: two
Total Ships Embarking from southern U.S. Ports: two
Embarkation Port: Miami
Year Launched: 2003
Passenger Count: 1,080
Itineraries: 11-day Tropical Passage Thanksgiving Cruise, visiting St. Barts, St, Maarten, Aruba, transit Panama Canal, Puerto Caldera (Nov. 19). Ten-day Caribbean Celebration calling at Grand Turk, St. Barts, Antigua, St. Kitts and Tortola (Dec. 11). 14-day Grand Caribbean Holiday visiting Tortola, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Barts, Curacao, Aruba, Key West (Dec. 21).
Embarkation Port: Miami
Year Launched: 1995
Passenger Count: 940
Itineraries: 10-day Coral & Sunsets Panama Canal voyage visiting Tortola, St. Barts, Curacao, Panama Canal transit, Caldera (Nov. 4). Seven-day Mayan Mystique cruise calling on Cozumel, Belize, Costa Maya, Key West (Nov. 24, 2007). Seven-day Crystal Caribbean cruise visiting Cozumel, Belize, Costa Maya and Key West (Dec. 1). Thirteen-day Panama Connection cruise visiting Cozumel, Mexico; Isla San Andres, Colombia; transit Panama Canal; Acapulco, Mexico; Cabo San Lucas and ending in Los Angeles (Dec. 8).
For More Information
2049 Century Park East, Suite 1400, Los Angeles, CA 90067
Main Office: 310-785-9300