Note: John was a guest of Crystal Cruises. Opinions are his own.
And when I say luxury, I mean that this cruise ship offers an experience above and beyond any other kind of cruise vacation you can imagine. Now, if I could only win the lottery to be able to afford to do this more often.
Admittedly, this is not a cheap cruise, but with so many inclusions and the gourmet food and outstanding service offered, it is definitely worth considering a sailing to treat yourself to something special.
A Crystal Cruises voyage is the perfect way to see the world in pampered comfort and luxury while celebrating a big birthday or anniversary, for example.
Warning: These cruises will spoil you and may very well change your expectations for how you want to cruise from here on out.
Hey, if you’ve got a big bank account, this could end up being your line of choice. If it already is, you know what I’m talking about here.
I’ve discovered at least five things that make a Crystal Cruises’ trip worth every dollar.
I stayed in the new Crystal Seabreeze Penthouse with Verandah. The staterooms on Crystal’s two ocean ships, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, are among the largest and most elegantly designed at sea. The Seabreeze Penthouses and Seabreeze Penthouse Suites offer 350 square feet and 509 square feet of space, respectively.
I enjoyed the comforts of a large living space with a couch and chair, a big flat-screen TV, small desk, walk-in closet and spa-like bathroom with dual sinks, large counter space and a big walk-in shower (20 square feet) that had high ceilings and three shower-spray setting, including the glorious rainfall that I used. You also get ample supplies of upscale toiletries from Etro.
Additionally, 24-hour room service is included, and this class of cabin comes with butler service. A minifridge is stocked with unlimited drinks and alcohol that you can custom order to suit your tastes. A fruit plate is refreshed daily, and a box of chocolates is always filled. Take one out to eat it, and the empty spot is refilled – it’s like a magic box of chocolates!
Your cruise fare on Crystal includes nearly everything onboard. During your cruise, you’ll only pay for flights, shore excursions and spa services. All drinks and meals are included, including dinners at the specialty restaurants Umi Uma and Prego.
Cruisers pay no extra for gratuities, room service dining, entertainment or fitness classes.
Each passenger deck also has a self-service laundry room to use during your cruise – and the detergent is provided. Crystal Cruises also offers a special included excursion. The line’s “You Care. We Care” voluntourism adventures are featured on every itinerary (where possible). In San Francisco, a group of us helped out packaging food at a food bank to help feed those in need in the communities around the city.
Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony sail diverse itineraries all over the world. The ships don’t settle for continuous loops back and forth around the Med or in the Caribbean. Instead, they move systematically around the globe, hitting exciting and exotic ports of call that tempt cruisers to stay onboard for long periods of sailing.
For example, Symphony sails in the Caribbean, then to Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile, before heading over to Tahiti. Serenity is in Los Angeles before going to Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. These routes represent just a sampling of the line’s two-month calendar.
Crystal Serenity features Umi Uma, a Japanese-Peruvian fusion and sushi restaurant developed in a partnership with celebrity chef Nobu, and the meal I had there was outstanding, with so many courses of delicious food, from noodles, to soups to appetizers, sushi platters and main courses that our big group was buzzing about that dinner for several days. It was a meal that easily would run up a bill into the hundreds per person at one of Nobu’s land-based restaurants.
Prego offers savory Italian cuisine across a huge menu. We had to go there twice during our cruise to try as many of the selections as possible. Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony also offers Silk Kitchen & Bar, a Chinese restaurant, and Churrascaria, a Brazilian-style all-you-care-to-eat steakhouse. These fine eateries are on top of the main dining room Waterside, which features an intimate atmosphere, flexible dining and plenty of two- and four-seat tables for small group. The Trident Grill has delicious burgers and fries, as well as other made-to-order sandwiches. Right next door is Ben and Jerry’s for sweet treats.
The ship also offers a special Supper Club experience in Stardust Club for up to 108 passengers (get your reservations quickly) on the black-tie optional nights. The event features live music and dancing alongside the meal.
You can also order off any menu on the ship for in-room dining. A couple I met onboard waited to dine in one evening near the end of the cruise and ordered one of their favorite items (for each course) from four different restaurants.
There’s more: tapas are delivered at three different bars and lounges each evening at 11 p.m. in case you need a late-night snack.
Crystal Cruises offers among the highest space-per-passenger and crew-to-passenger ratios in the industry. Crystal Symphony, for example, has 655 crew for up to 980 passengers. You can feel the difference in service, as staff is always at the ready to get your favorite drink order or to help you navigate the ship. Crew also make great efforts to quickly learn passengers’ names.
From our time in the dining rooms to late night in the lounges, bars and the disco, the crew was always ready to fill a drink order and have a friendly chat.
John Roberts is a freelance writer and operator of InTheLoopTravel.com. He writes about cruising and active travel, highlighting how people can connect with the world and other cultures through rewarding travel experiences.