With home offices based in Los Angeles, Crystal has long been a favorite of
the well-heeled West Coast crowd (though actually a subsidiary of
Tokyo-based NYK or Nippon Yusen Kaisha). Crystal Cruises is the line of
choice for voyagers deep-pocketed enough to afford a luxury cruise, but
gregarious and lively enough to crave a larger ship (by luxury standards)
and lots of fellow passengers and a broad range of activities and
The company's 68,000-ton newest state-of-the-art luxury ship, Crystal
Serenity, carries a mere 1080 passengers, boasting one of the highest
space-to-passenger ratios in the cruise world. Intent on being even more
popular than its predecessors Symphony and Harmony (no longer in service, it
left the fleet in November, 2005 to sail for parent company NYK as the Asuka
II), the 14-deck ship has three alternative restaurants among seven dining
venues, two paddle tennis courts, a completely new learning center, and an
enlarged computer center. Its boardroom has its own wine cellar and a
special lounge for repeat passengers.
Currently sailing only two vessels, Crystal has plans underway to design
and build a new vessel to replace Crystal Harmony in the future.
The Crystal Experience:
Crystal definitely has a feel of its own among the luxury vessels, and some
people find it intoxicatingly addictive. The service is impeccable, and if
anything tends to be almost too much for private types, but if you love
being doted upon then Crystal has the highest guest-to-staff ratios at sea.
There's a general atmosphere of what might be called California-ness aboard;
everyone tends to be friendly, socially aware, and committed to personal
Crystal focuses on the image conscious, worldly passenger interested in
knowledge and self-improvement. Even on the balmiest afternoon, far fewer of
your fellow passengers are likely to be sunning themselves by the pool than
inside listening attentively to a guest expert lecture about climate change
or jewelry. The line also innovated the first computer training program at
sea as far back as 1999 (copied by many other cruise lines eventually)
called it Computer University@Sea class. That isn't a real address by the
way. Though far ahead of the game when it came to teaching about computers,
they were one of the last cruise lines to actually install decent Internet
access aboard their ships. They have since solved that little nuisance.
That said, bingo and the casino are both very popular, as are the ship's
wonderful floor shows which generally get rated as the best at sea in the
luxury cruise line division. Because Crystal's passengers generally prefer
to stay aboard and attend lectures and computer classes, Crystal seem to
call in relatively fewer ports per cruise than many other cruise lines. For
example, the 10-day May 31, 2007 Mediterranean cruise on Symphony, only
stops at four ports (one for 2 days), while a comparable luxury line known
for port-intensity on a 10-day, May 27, 2007 Mediterranean cruise stops at
nine (including two in one day).
Obviously, being aboard a Crystal ship is being in the lap of luxury, and
it is for people who appreciate that more than the world travel. The company
has introduced a whole raft of passenger-pleasing new policies in recent
years, none more popular than its Reserve Wine List of 20 rare and
much-sought-after vintages. Special dinners were conceived around particular
wines and champagnes. Crystal may have introduced alternative, �boutique�
restaurants, but assigned dining at one of two seatings remains the rule in
the main restaurant.
Mostly widely-traveled, well-heeled sixty-somethings from California who
almost invariably "look great for their age" whatever that age may be. The
line also attracts a fair number of relatively younger (40s-50s) singles
attracted by the line's single supplement program, usually more women than
men single travelers, so the line often has gentlemen hosts aboard.
Crystal's attractively priced and well-organized shore excursions can be
reserved in advance; just download the form from www.crystalcruises.com and
fax or mail it in. Onboard, a Land Program Specialist can work up a
personalized itinerary for those who prefer to set off on their own. Some of
the excursions are extraordinary, including a whole new raft (pun intended)
of active excursions such as driving a Formula 1 race car in Monte Carlo, or
a hot air balloon ride over Ireland. In keeping with the California
media-based clientele, there is a tour of Rome showcasing the key symbols
and landmarks in Dan Brown's best-selling book Angels & Demons.
Crystal also offers "private adventures" which means they will customize
a shore excursion just for you, including a car, lunch reservations, museums
or tours, fully organized for you by the concierge on board.
Taking The Kids:
As far as youngsters are concerned, Crystal is the most welcoming of the
high-end lines. Each ship has a dedicated playroom, and a Junior Activities
counselor is present on any cruise with ten or more children aboard. There
are Junior Activities counselors aboard any Crystal cruise where 10 or more
children are booked. Children's play rooms are well equipped and the "Surf
Runner," children's newsletter details scheduled activities.
Past Passenger Program:
Crystal's passengers are the most loyal in the industry, and the line makes
its appreciation apparent. Crystal Society members receive special discounts
on select cruises, including reservations made during a cruise, and enjoy
special onboard parties and photo sessions with the Captain. They're sent
the Society's newsletter, and granted priority check-in. Once aboard, they
enjoy in-cabin wine and flowers. The line also offers a Milestone-level
rewards and recognition program.
Theme Cruises and Special Programs:
Crystal specializes in integrating destinations and shore excursions into
theme-based adventures. About half of Crystal's sailings are themed,
including 16 Wine & Food Festival cruises. There are also occasional
music-theme cruises with big bands and jazz singers, and such cruises
usually involves going to special events on shore in keeping with the theme
of the cruise. On other cruises, you can learn to play the stock market more
shrewdly, study a language, or gain an increased appreciation for various
sorts of art. Crystal's unique enrichment programs include the Creative
Learning Institute, Computer University@Sea and, for the more
recreation-minded, a golf program taught by pros.
Crystal's per-day/per-passenger (including children) guidelines are: $4.00
for stateroom stewardess ($5.00 for single travelers); $4.00 for the senior
waiter; and $3.00 for the waiter. On the Penthouse Decks, they suggest $4.00
for the butler. All may be charged to your shipboard account.
The servers in specialty restaurants Prego, Jade Garden, Silk Road and
The Sushi Bar all expect $6.00 per person per dinner.
All bar drinks and wines automatically get a 15 percent gratuity added. A
similar gratuity is recommended for Salon and Spa services. Tip the maitre
d', headwaiter, assistant stewardess and night Room Service at your