Tag Archives: crystal serenity

THE BEST SHIPS FOR REPOSITIONING CRUISES

CRYSTAL SERENITY
Crystal Serenity

By their very nature, repositioning cruises represent some of the best value travel options in the entire cruising firmament. As cruise lines confront the inevitable fact that they must move ships from one part of the world to another once, and sometimes twice a year, the question of how to fill them becomes paramount.

The lines, from deluxe to mass market, are all hampered in their efforts by several factors. One is the odd length that such a trip usually entails-often in excess of two full weeks. That alone can play havoc with the holiday entitlement of many potential travellers.

Another handicap is the inescapable fact that there will be several days spent at sea- typically between four and eight, but sometimes more-without any landfall whatsoever. For many prospective passengers, that’s the kiss of death, right there.

Then you have to consider that passengers fly into, and then home from, different airports that are located on two different continents. The air fare alone on such trips can easily be between two and three times the cost of the actual cruise itself. And the singular act of having to fly anywhere-anywhere at all-is a potential turn off for many travellers these days.

Small wonder, then, that many of these trips sail at nowhere near full capacity, and quite often are only around half full. Prices are, therefore, pitched at relatively low rates to reflect this. Imagine trying to fill some 4,000 passenger mega ship on a westbound crossing in November. It would hardly be the first choice for many leisure travellers, and quite understandably so.

And yet… for those who do enjoy sea days, with their endless scope for relaxation, pampering and serial self indulgence, a ‘repo’ trip can seem like the very antechamber to Heaven itself. At once evocative of the classy old days of true, ocean liner travel, they have space for everyone, and a complete lack of pace that is truly cathartic. Despite the potential pitfalls of a long ocean crossing as outlined above, this writer in particular remains an avowed fan of just such crossings. I make just such voyages at every single opportunity that arises. Up to now, I have made well over a dozen.

With that in mind, here are some of my very favourite ships on which to make an ocean crossing. Please note that this list does not include the year round sailings of the Queen Mary 2 on her regular, scheduled services to and from New York.

MARCO POLO; CRUISE AND MARITIME VOYAGES

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Marco Polo

Imagine a cruise shop as a Faberge Egg, or a small, beautifully crafted jewel box, and you’ve got the Marco Polo in one. Built in 1965 with an ice strengthened hull, her sharp, raked bow and relatively broad waist make her an ideal, inherently stable ship on which to cross large tracts of ocean. At 22,000 tons and carrying just 800 passengers, the ship is intimate, and her carefully preserved Art Deco interiors give her that true, authentic ‘ocean liner’ feel and vibe. There are no balcony cabins, but you’re unlikely to miss them on the often changeable Atlantic, in any event.

CRYSTAL SERENITY: CRYSTAL CRUISES

CRYSTAL SERENITY
Crystal Serenity

70,000 tons of artfully crafted, deliciously deluxe indulgence, with a maximum capacity of just 1,000 guests, this beautiful ship boasts a stellar entertainment handle- a huge boon on long sea crossings. Themed crossings, including Big Band, Film, and Food Festivals are a staple feature of Crystal’s typical ‘repo’ voyages. Spectacular amounts of private space-both in cabins and public areas- is allied to outstanding, open sitting cuisine in all dining venues. Exemplary on board service sets the tone for the rest of the deluxe cruise industry. A crossing spent cosseted aboard this ship somehow never seems long enough.

SOVEREIGN; PULLMANTUR CRUISES

SOVEREIGN
Pullmantur’s Sovereign, the former 1988-built Sovereign of the Seas

This 78,000 ton, 2,250 passenger ship is far more likely to be filled with Spanish and Brazilian passengers as she sails to and from Brazil each autumn and spring. Outstanding, all inclusive value becomes even more so when you consider that these crossings do not always sell out. With passenger accommodation located mostly forward and the public rooms stacked up in the aft half of the vessel. this big ship is surprisingly easy to navigate, and the central, five story Atrium Lobby- the first of it’s kind ever to be installed on any large cruise ship- is still one of the finest people watching spots on any ship afloat today. And, her original role as the world’s first, purpose built mega cruise ship- the Sovereign of The Seas- still gifts her a sassy, retrospective kind of cachet that makes her a true delight to sail.

BLACK WATCH;FRED. OLSEN CRUISE LINES

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Fred. Olsen’s Black Watch

With a sharply raked prow and a deep hull, this 28,000 ton, 800 passenger ship is elegant, intimate, and eminently seaworthy. A series of broad, aft facing terrace decks are sublime lounging spots for lazy, languid crossings on the famous ‘Sunny Southern’ route, and there are nice terrace balcony cabins down on Seven Deck that offer the best of all worlds. Excellent food and inspired, unobtrusive service raises making a crossing on this ship to the level of an art form. And the ship also has a large number of cabins dedicated to single passengers, too. A true seagoing treat.

CRYSTAL’S NEW DIAMONDS, AND HOW THEY STACK UP TO THE COMPETITION

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Broadside view of the first of the new Crystal Diamond class vessels. Image copyright is that of Crystal Cruises

Well, Crystal Cruises has finally delivered details of it’s first, new purpose built cruise ship since the Crystal Serenity back in 2003. And what details they are, too.

However, what is also interesting is the extent to which the project has been scaled down since the tenure of Edie Rodriguez at the helm of the ultra luxury cruise line.

She originally outlined a series of breathtaking, 100,000 ton siblings, each one with an ice strengthened hull and an entire upper deck of exclusive, condo style apartments available for purchase. Under any circumstances, these would have been the most impressive ultra luxury siblings ever to have been built.

Post Rodriguez, the scale of the new trio-now defined as the Diamond Class- has been pared back to 67,000 tons each, with a maximum capacity of just 800 guests. There is no more talk of any bespoke apartments available for purchase. To be built by Crystal’s own, in house shipyard of MV Werften in Germany, the trio is now slated for delivery over a six year time frame, with the first expected to debut in 2022. With a passenger space ratio of 83.75, these ships will offer a level of space unparalleled in luxury cruising.

To see how they stack up against other, contemporary ultra luxury ships, check out the table below;

Silver Muse. Silversea Cruises. 40,700 tons. 596 guests. Passenger space ratio of 68.28

Seabourn Ovation. Seabourn Cruises. 40,350 tons. 604 guests. Passenger space ratio of 67.1

Seven Seas Explorer. Regent Seven Seas Cruises. 55.234 tons. 738 guests. Passenger space ratio of 68.3

Europa 2. Hapag Lloyd Cruises. 40,000 tons. 516 guests. Passenger space ration of 77.5

So, seen purely from the standpoint of on board personal space, the Diamond Class ships are set to become the new benchmark of ultra luxury cruising.  But, what else will Crystal’s upscale, pampered clientele be getting, other than space bragging rights?

For sure,while general interior arrangements have been settled according to the company, these are not yet public knowledge. We have to go with these first, tantalising renditions on general display to try and play detective here.

Images released by Crystal reveal a class of ship with a brace of large, upper deck pools, separated by a deck house. The single funnel is located aft of these, and it bears more than a passing resemblance to the new funnel design on Regent’s recent Seven Seas Explorer.

A series of terraced decks descend right aft, timeless acknowledgement and welcome continuation of the areas so popular over the years on both Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. A large, terraced deck on the lowest aft deck could either contain a third pool, or serve as part of an outdoor dining area.

Lifeboats are nested above the lower hull, just as they are on the Crystal Serenity, and there is a smaller promenade deck in evidence. This marks a first, distinct link with either of the current duo. Worthy of note is the absence of an enclosed, upper deck area with a sliding glass roof. I suspect many regular Crystal acolytes might miss this.

On the other hand, the always popular Palm Court makes a welcome reappearance in it’s usual, forward facing upper deck location.

Of course, ideas can change and morph into something entirely different from the process of renderings, through to actual physical realisation. As of right now, there stands some four years between the two.

It’s going to be quite instructive to see how this first ever, dedicated class of sister ships for Crystal evolves over time and tide. Though they are to be constructed on what is essentially the same platform, expect each of these Diamond Class ships (Crystal Diamond, Crystal Ruby and Crystal Sapphire, anyone?) in turn to offer some wonderful new, cosy twerks and hallmarks of their own as the debut on the cruising circuit.

Interesting times, for sure. As ever, stay tuned.

CRYSTAL SYMPHONY AND SERENITY TO GET NEW PENTHOUSE SUITES, DINING OPTIONS

CRYSTAL SERENITY
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.

ANOTHER SHIP RECALLED FROM EUROPE FOR 2017

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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.

A GREAT EIGHT FOR CRYSTAL CRUISES

CRYSTAL MOZART
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.