Crystal Cruises launched its first luxury liner in 1990. The company is a subsidiary of NYK, one of the largest shipping companies in the world with over 100 years of experience in running ships. The company’s objective is to provide cruises at the top end of the market. The fact that they have won many accolades and prizes from the industry is testimony of their success.
The company has unusually had famous actresses become “Godmother” to their ships. The first to be launched, Crystal Harmony has Mary Tyler Moore. The second, Crystal Symphony has Angela Lansbury. The latest edition to the fleet, Crystal Serenity was launched under the eye of Dame Julie Andrews.
Crystal manage to give a much higher standard of individual service to its passengers than any other large cruise ship operator. As high, if not higher than many small ship operators can manage. They do this by having a high ratio of crew to passengers and a higher ratio of space per passenger. Not unsurprisingly, the line has a very loyal following. A large proportion on any Crystal cruise passenger list will have sailed with the line before.
In many ways Crystal have been innovators in providing a wide variety of services and activities to the luxury end of the cruising market. However, on the point of dining arrangements, they have been slow to change, only allowing on-demand dining times and seating arrangements in the main dining room from 2011. Even so, there are still two formal sitting for dinner with allocated seating for those who prefer the traditional methods. On the other hand, Crystal was the first luxury cruise line to introduce boutique dining venues and seats can be booked with the ships’ on-line booking systems.
The elegantly furnished and wood panelled dining rooms are the hub of on-board eating. There is an extremely varied menu for both breakfast and lunch and both have open seating arrangements. There is often a daily special dish at breakfast such as scrambled eggs with truffles and chicken – not a usual Aussie breakfast dish! Lunches usually offer a choice of hot dishes or salads. Dinners in the main dining room are all that can be reasonably expected from a luxury line as are the meals in the Japanese and Italian themed restaurants. These two are very popular and it is wise to book early. It is easier to obtain a seat on nights of formal dining in the main restaurant, but passengers still need to be quick in making a booking, especially later in the cruise.
There is a range of cabins available on each of the ship with up to 85% of them having balconies. Cabins tend to be larger than on comparable ships and are fitted out to a very high standard. Cabins on the Penthouse deck are particularly luxurious and have a butler service included. The suites have marble fitted bathrooms, separate bedrooms and are larger than many on-shore apartments. There are a few cabins fitted out for the special benefit of the disabled.
Rather than giant waterslides etc, Crystal emphasises activities to enrich the mind. Their Creative Enrichment suite offers a range of subjects including language course, are appreciation, computer skills including the building of web sites, cooking and dancing exhibitions. There are experts who give talks on such varied topics as wine tasting, antiques and astronomy. Other activities include the traditional casino, including slot machines, live music, disco and ballroom dancing. There is a wide choice of very comfortable places to relax and enjoy a drink and a chat. Of course, there are shops, beauty and hair salons.
Crystal operate at the top end of the cruise market. They have large ships but give a very high level of personal service. Food is excellent and there is a choice of restaurants and themes. There is much to do and passengers vote for the quality that the line provides by returning again and again.