Tag Archives: crystal cruises


Crystal Serenity; sailing into a new era of excellence. Photo credit: http://www.cruisemapper.com

As part of a massive refurbishment project that will also include several new dining options, both Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity will be dry docked to allow for considerable enhancements to their current passenger accommodation.

Some existing rooms will be replaced with an entirely new class of room, designated as Seabreeze Penthouse suites. They will be pretty much the same size as the current penthouse suites aboard both ships, but will come with an entirely new design.

Approximately forty to fifty suites will be added to each ship and, as well as featuring new touches, some will offer use of the first ever washer/dryers ever seen in rooms of this size, the new, expanded suites will also have the effect of lowering the current guest capacity on each ship, thereby increasing the already generous on board space ratio.

In the case of Crystal Symphony, the count on board will revert from a current 922 down to 848. For Crystal Serenity, the figures go from the current 1070 guest down to a svelte 980- just over half of the 1800 routinely carried on the similar sized former Cunard flagship, QE2.

In addition, Crystal will introduce unlimited, free internet across both ships, 24/, for the duration of each cruise.

In stealing an edge on the competition, Crystal will enhance and revitalise the dining options available aboard both ships with a whole range of new eateries. These will include:

The Crystal Dining Room on both ships will be rebranded as the Waterside Restaurant, offering open seating dining and featuring a range of classic dishes and modern, contemporary favourites.

Tastes will morph into Silk, a venue that offers casual breakfasts, lunches, and family styled dinners that will showcase many Chinese style favourites.

The Lido on both ships will be restyled and reorganised as The Marketplace, offering buffet style tapas and ceviche during the day, along with other casual fare. At night, one part of the venue will become a Brazilian styled steak house- a churascaria- where succulent cuts of meat will be served up on skewers.

Silk Road will go on both ships, but will be replaced by a new Nobu venue entitled Umi Uma. In a nice nod to Crystal’s twenty seven years’ heritage, the phrase actually translates to ‘Seahorse’, the company logo. Suite guests will be entitled to unlimited dining in here, with other guests being offered one free dinner per voyage.

Popular Crystal stalwart, Prego, will remain and, once again, suite guests will be able to avail themselves of unlimited dining here. The Vintage Room will also remain, but with a modified menu that will also feature a ‘lunch and lecture’ programme on sea days, featuring fewer courses than the evening menu, and all paired with appropriate wines and beers.

With both the Crystal siblings going to open seating for dinner, entertainment options throughout will be redefined to enhance the roster of evening choices, under the supervision of former Norwegian and Costa entertainment guru, Keith Cox.

Overall, this programme of retrenchment and refinement to both of these fabled ships must be regarded as the most comprehensive in their history, and something of a leap of faith for Crystal Cruises itself. With expanded dining, accommodation and entertainment options, plus free internet and a higher guest/crew space ration than ever, these ships- like fine wine and good music- just seem to get better with age.



Holland America’s Oosterdam is giving Europe a wide berth for 2017 in favour of an Alaska season. Photo credit: http://www.shipparade.com

A couple of days ago, Holland America Line announced that it’s popular MS Oosterdam would be withdrawing from European sailings next year. The 2003 built ship will, instead, switch to Alaska and Inside Passage sailings from the west coast of the USA.

Of course, Oosterdam is not the first ship to up anchor and go west, as it were. Recently, the entire Mediterranean programme for the deluxe Crystal Serenity was cancelled, in favour of a series of voyages that would involve sailings from both the east and west coasts of the USA. This will be her second consecutive season in the USA. And it is also the first time that the current Crystal flagship has spent two consecutive seasons away from Europe since her debut in 2003.

Things being what they are on the international scene right now, it seems that Americans in particular are reluctant to travel to Europe. Terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, Nice and Turkey, in particular, have had an inevitably baleful impact on the plans of the travelling public. And Britain’s shock decision to quit the European Union has only added to a general air of unease and uncertainty.

Ironically, cruise ships have some of the best and most stringent security measures in the entire travel industry. But the seemingly random, mindless natures of atrocities carried out ashore is what has really made people stop and think.

Of course, there has also been the belief in some quarters that the European cruise market has simply been over tonnaged for several years now. In the wake of the 2012 loss of the Costa Concordia, fares plummeted across many of the mainstream lines, and have still to regain the pre-2012 levels of traction overall.

In the current climate, expect to see the curtailment of more European schedules for 2017. But, as everywhere in such circumstances, there are of course some winners.

Primarily, these will be in the US domestic market, where lines such as Carnival and Norwegian in particular, have been very adroit at positioning ships all around the perimeter of the mainland USA. Pacific Mexico cruises, already regaining popularity slowly but steadily, could see a real resurgence over the next couple of years. Increased competition in home waters should help leverage rates right around the continental USA. Bermuda cruises, too, should enjoy a bumper season.

Strange and uncertain times, for sure.


The tastefully re-imagined Crystal Mozart will spearhead the company’s river borne invasion of Europe in 2016

In a deal announced just minutes ago, Crystal Cruises confirmed plans for no less than eight new builds, to be delivered via the German shipyards it has acquired over the last few months.

The announcement was made by Crystal CEO, Edie Rodriguez, to a select media group during a visit to Wismar-one of the German yards in question.

Highlight of the announcement was an enhanced order for six new river cruisers- two more than the quartet envisaged previously.

Germany will also deliver the expansive, 25,000 ton Crystal Endeavour mega yacht, as well as the first of a bruited trio of 100,000 ton, polar ice strengthened cruise ships. Thus far designated simply as Exclusive class ships, no formal name for this first new, ocean going ship has yet been formally announced.

All of this comes against the backdrop of the line preparing to launch it’s inaugural river sailings with the radically enhanced and refurbished Crystal Mozart, a vessel known for its sybaritic standards of luxury, and also the upcoming survey of the long moribund SS United States in Philadelphia. The aim is to return the legendary liner to service as an 800 guest, all suite cruise ship, subject to a truck to keel series of inspections.

Meanwhile, the long standing flag bearer, Crystal Symphony is beginning her European cruise season, while her sibling Crystal Serenity is embarking on her first dedicated Alaska season for several years; a role she will repeat again in 2017.

Add to this the recently created Crystal Air luxury air fleet, and you have an operation that has triggered the most expansive and exciting expansion that I can ever recall in the field of luxury travel. And, while all of these developments are dramatic enough in themselves, I’m particularly excited to see the new class of ocean going cruise ships as they come to fruition.

Obviously, so much more is to follow. As ever, stay tuned.


The Lady in waiting….

I’m going to take a leap of faith here. That being that the SS United States does, indeed, pass her comprehensive, stem to stern, truck to keel evaluation, due to be under way by November 2016. The official go ahead is then given, and the ship proceeds, under tow, to a German shipyard for her stem to stern, projected $800 million regeneration.

The ship that re-emerges into commercial service combines many salient, lovingly restored features of the original construction; the great sampan funnels remain gloriously intact, as do the long, expansive indoor promenades. Even with the addition of two new decks, that sleek, beautifully raked bow and elegant counter stern stand out as proud testimonials to a unique, matchless maritime heritage.

Of course, the Crystal Cruises’ magic wand has also been waved over the now 60,000 ton ship. In place of 2.000 berths, there is now a capacity for just 800 guests maximum, housed in four hundred suites. Even the smallest of these romps in at an expansive 400 square feet.

And, with a crew imbued with Crystal’s sybaritic service and hospitality ethic, the United States is a clear winner in more than just speed terms. This marvellous marriage of old and new will be one of the biggest draws on the cruising circuit, and surely the most newsworthy.

But what then?

I would expect a sell out maiden voyage from Germany to New York, via Southampton and, perhaps, Cherbourg. And the sheer, emotional impact of being aboard the United States when she sails back into her former home port, under her own power, is something that you simply could not hang a price tag on.

Her future could be a mixture of the exotic and the truly dramatic. Crystal has already said that the United States will, indeed, make transatlantic crossings, along with coast to coast voyages that would take her from New York to Los Angeles, and back again. Within these two hugely diverse parameters, a whole host of other sailing options becomes apparent.

From New York, the ship could offer fast, five or six day round trips to Bermuda. She could sail down the historical eastern seaboard, calling in at evocative focal points such as Boston, Charleston and Philadelphia.

From Miami, the ship could offer a series of breezy, very destination inclusive Caribbean itineraries. Passing through the jungle shrouded magnificence of the Panama Canal, she could sail on to San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

The ‘Big U’ could swing out from under the Golden Gate and set a course for the gorgeous Hawaiian islands. Her speed would make short work of the long haul out and back to those islands. From L.A, she could make a run for the dramatic, sun splashed hot spots of the Mexican Riviera.

The liner could run immersive ‘wine cruises’ up to Santa Barbara, and down to oft neglected Catalina Island. And all of these options- so numerous and diverse just in this listing- presuppose any potential European deployments, for which I think there will be a huge, ultimately irresistible demand.

A series of dream voyages on a ship that has yet to cut salt water again? For sure.

But, if ocean voyaging is anything at all, surely it is the sublime pleasure of savouring the often improbable. Not in some chilly, technicolor virtual reality scenario, but for real. Up close and personal.

I’ll leave you with that though, and let those voyages begin to take form in your heads.


The Lady in waiting….

The news last month from the joint Crystal Cruises/SS US Conservancy about the cruise line’s intentions for the long moribund SS. United States was, it is safe to say, a complete curve ball that no one really saw coming.

The plan to return the ship to service as a deluxe, all suite, eight hundred guest cruise vessel, served and styled in the sybaritic Crystal standards, was simply too much for many to take in. From across the Atlantic, I could almost hear the sound of a hundred thousand jaws hitting an equal number of shoes in stunned unison.

Of course, all of this is subject to a full, stem to stern, truck to keel survey of the United States. The press conference indicated that this work is likely to be completed in situ, at Philadelphia, this coming November.

Once the shell shock of the initial announcement had subsided, the inevitable naysayers began to surface. Their disbelief and sheer incredulity began to build up a real head of steam.

We’ve all seen their arguments and opinions- which, to be clear, they are perfectly entitled to espouse. I happen to disagree with them, but I am also the first to admit that, for the moment at least, my opinions have no more credibility than theirs.

Herein lies something of a quandary for that formidable duo of Rodriguez and Gibbs.

Yes, they have funded the liner’s docking fees for many months to come. And yes, they have commissioned a team of hugely competent individuals to bring their incredible vision to actual fruition. But much is going on behind the scenes here that the ordinary public can, for various reasons, be unaware of, in the same way that tidal currents are invisible below the ocean’s surface. In some quarters, a lack of some kind of visual progress could, indeed, be wrongly interpreted.

But something symbolic- a real statement of intent- wow, how that would really galvanise public opinion behind this project. What I’m suggesting is something cosmetic, relatively cheap, and yet hugely symbolic to everyone interested in the project.

Why not tidy up the ship’s long neglected exterior right now, right where she is?

Make the rust fade like the last of the winter snow. Paint the hull, the superstructure and, above all, lavish some TLC on those awesome sampan funnels. Illuminate those stacks at night; let people see them from miles away.

It would be a huge, relatively inexpensive PR coup; a way of keeping the ship visible in the public eye- quite literally, as it happens. And, as the mechanics of her rebirth slowly gestate on the inside, could there be a more potent or visible statement of intent than this relatively simple act? I think not.

Forty seven years of neglect and false, raised hopes, finally disappearing into history under a stunning new sheen of colour and light. Lingering doubts finally vanishing astern.

That’s my take. Am I the only one who feels like this?