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Crystal Cruises


Company Overview:
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 facilities.

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 growth.

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.

Fellow Passengers:
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.

Shore Excursions:
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.

Tipping:
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 discretion.


 

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