Crystal Cruises’ New All-Inclusive: What’s Being Poured?

Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
A glass of Ouzo while cruising the Greek isles? Now one of the many alcoholic beverages included in your Crystal cruise. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

In case you missed it, Crystal Cruises went all-inclusive in May. Now, you won’t need to dole out an extra dime for alcoholic beverages or gratuities.

Toni Neumeister, Crystal’s vice president, food and beverage, says that his beverage budget is “generous,” and that along with 50 different wines being served in the restaurants and bars, some premium brand spirits are also being offered at no additional cost (fine wines and spirits are offered for a charge on the Connoisseur’s List).

Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
Bart Dufour, head sommelier on Crystal Serenity, says the line’s new all-inclusive is being done “the Crystal way,” with up to 12 complimentary reds and whites available on each cruise, along with Crystal’s own “C” wines. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Typically, “we serve 10 to 12 red wines and the same number of white wines on each sailing,” says Bart Dufour, head sommelier on Crystal Serenity. If you’re doing the math, that’s 20 to 24 wines on a typical sailing, not 50 as Neumeister noted. However, the wine list is designed to complement the regions where Crystal is sailing, so when in South America, 24 different wines may be introduced, hence the number 50.

On Crystal Serenity this week and last, I found the wines to be quite good and with enough variety to satisfy the aspiring oenophile in me. For those with money to burn and the desire for finer wines than what’s offered free of charge, Crystal offers a Connoisseur’s List, with wines touching as high as $800.

Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
A few of the reds I tasted on Crystal Serenity. The Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon are Crystal’s “C” wines. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Crystal also offers its so-called “C” wines, made especially for Crystal. “We’re not just buying wines and putting our label on them,” Dufour says. “We’re actually leasing a plot for the grapes (in California’s Santa Lucia Highlands). Tony and I visit the vineyard to evaluate the wines and make suggestions so that they are bottled to our guests’ tastes.”

The “C” wine lineup includes a soft and easy to quaff Pinot Noir, a heartier Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and a palate-pleasing Chardonnay. C wines are always available and at no extra charge.

Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
Ask for champagne and you’ll receive champagne. Ask for something bubbly, and you may get a glass of California sparkling wine. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

The complimentary beverage policy also extends to beer and spirits. I was impressed that Grey Goose vodka, Hendrick’s gin and Johnny Walker Black, were among the free offerings.

Crystal’s move to all-inclusive has changed the social dynamic on its two vessels, which could have been expected. With no worries about who is picking up the tab, there is no longer the awkwardness in sharing a bottle of wine at dinner or a cocktail in the lounge. So belly up to the bar. This one, and the rest of what you consume on Crystal, is on the house.

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