Crystal Cruises Review

Crystal Symphony at sea. Photo courtesy of Crystal Cruises
Crystal Symphony at sea. Photo courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Offering the best of both worlds, Crystal Cruises delivers an intimate, upscale cruising experience on a variety of ships with itineraries that span the globe. The line offers a unique blend of luxury coupled with the amenities and venues typically found on much larger vessels. With just 848 and 1,080 passengers apiece, Crystal’s two classic ships, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, globetrot around the world, spending significant time in the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe and New England and Canada, not to mention voyages to the Far East, the South Pacific and South America. The company also operates world cruises, and has completed a  transit of the fabled Northwest Passage.

Meet Crystal Esprit - and her own submersible craft. Photo-illustration courtesy of Crystal Cruises
Meet Crystal Esprit – and her own submersible craft. Photo-illustration courtesy of Crystal Cruises

In 2015, Crystal Cruises mounted an aggressive expansion campaign that saw the introduction of Crystal Esprit; a purpose-built expedition vessel that visits off-the-beaten-path ports of call in the Seychelles and the Mediterranean, and which even carries its own submarine.

It’s just the first prong of a massive three-pronged plan to expand the Crystal brand in ways the line could never have dreamed of just a decade ago. Crystal plans to introduce river cruises in Europe in 2016, beginning first with a re-purposed (and heavily-refitted) vessel called Crystal Mozart. Beginning in 2017, the line will begin to take delivery of its first purpose-built river cruise vessels, with the lead ship, Crystal Debussy, arriving in June of that year. Three additional ships – Crystal Bach, Crystal Ravel and Crystal Mahler – will follow between July and August of 2017.

The S.S. United States is closer than ever to returning to service, thanks to Crystal Cruises. Illustration courtesy of Crystal Cruises
The S.S. United States is closer than ever to returning to service, thanks to Crystal Cruises. Illustration courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises also plans to debut three brand new oceangoing hybrid cruise-expedition vessels in 2021. These Crystal Exclusive Class vessels will measure 1,050 feet in length and will carry 1000 guests.

To top it all off, the line plans to  introduce its own fleet of Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner aircraft to whisk guests around in comfort.

It’s just one more piece of the exciting – and ever-changing – puzzle that is Crystal Cruises.

Dining On Crystal Cruises

Tony Neumeister
Tony Neumeister prepares a Modern Cuisine menu item in the galley on Crystal Serenity. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Food, and the lavish table settings and smart service that come along with it, is a highlight of a Crystal cruise. Each ship has an elegant formal dining room with two seatings as well as three chic alternative restaurants: an Italian venue  inspired by Piero Selvaggio of Valentino in Los Angeles and two pan-Asian restaurants featuring cuisine by renowned master chef Nobu Matsuhisa, including a sushi bar. Crystal Serenity also offers Tastes on the Lido Deck for casual dinners. Also see: Dining On Crystal Symphony, Prego & Other Options

See related video: Crystal Symphony’s Silk Road & Sushi Bar, But Is It A Real Nobu Experience?

The Bistro offers specialty coffees and a delectable spread of pastries, cheese and cold cuts. Evenings, The Bistro features petit desserts and cheeses.

There’s also a poolside grill serving everything from salmon burgers to tuna melts until 6 p.m. Enjoy the daily elaborate high tea service and the great themed luncheon buffets that are legendary in cruise circles.

Activities Galore On Crystal Cruises

Crystal Serenity, anchored off the coast of Nafplion, Greece, will commence 2015 world cruise. © Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity, anchored off the coast of Nafplion, Greece. © Ralph Grizzle

Crystal’s impressive roster of activities is another high point. A typical Crystal cruise hosts four or five accomplished lecturers, from authors to politicians, scientists and other luminaries, as well as complimentary computer training classes, Berlitz language classes and Yamaha keyboard instruction.

Sign up for art classes conducted by the Parsons School of Design and wellness programs organized by the Cleveland Clinic and the Tai Chi Cultural Center. Further, there are dozens of themed sailings spread over the year and focused, food and wine, art, film, dance, jazz, wellness, and other subjects.

See related video: Crystal Cruises, Activities That Are Traditional, Tried & True? Or New & Fresh?

For more physical pursuits, large oceanview gyms are stocked with the latest equipment and offer complimentary classes like spinning, yoga and pilates. There are also golf-driving nets, a putting green, paddle-tennis courts, shuffleboard and walks along the 360-degree Promenade Decks.

Multiple entertainment venues include a theater for production shows, plus several romantic lounges, a dance club, a couple of bars and a spacious casino.

Family Cruising On Crystal Cruises

With my son in Athens, Greece, on Crystal Serenity. © Ralph Grizzle
With my son in Athens, Greece, on Crystal Serenity. © Ralph Grizzle

Of all the luxury lines, Crystal does the most for families with bright playrooms and supervised activities whenever demand calls for ages 3 and up. Teens also get their own space and you can borrow kiddy books and videos in the library. Anytime there are 10 children on the ship, there is a camp counselor, and on summer cruises, Crystal may have as many as 10 camp counselors and three different age levels for the programs – 3 to 8, 9 to 12 and teens.

Staterooms onboard Crystal Cruises

Though considered the largest true luxury vessels in high-end cruise market, the cabins aren’t as roomy as they are aboard Crystal’s smaller high-end peers (ie, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises, and Seabourn). Still, the recently refurbished cabins are comfortable, and all categories have a mini-fridge, exceptionally comfy bedding and in-cabin movies that can be checked out in the library. Crystal also holds an added advantage over some of their competitors, having redone staterooms and suites on both Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony multiple times in order to keep up with current trends. Thus, these accommodations have a very new, modern feel when compared with some of their competitors.

Accolades For Crystal Cruises

For more than a decade running, readers of upscale travel magazines have given top honors to Crystal Cruises. The distinction is well-deserved for Crystal, which succeeds in its goal to provide guests with the finest luxury services available.

Crystal Cruises Cruise Reviews
Crystal Symphony off the coast of Sicily

These People Will Love Crystal Cruises

  • People who like to be pampered. Staff strive to make your Crystal cruise vacation the perfect one by anticipating your needs for luxury and pampering. You can expect superior service on Crystal Cruises.
  • People who like to learn. From acting workshops to foreign language classes, Crystal Cruises offers its guests opportunities to enrich their mind, body and spirt.
  • Healthy Diners. Crystal Cruises went trans-fat free in response to a growing public health concern that associates trans-fats with increased risk of coronary heart disease. Low-carbohydrate menus also are available for all meals in all dining venues.
  • World cruisers. Crystal Cruises offers world cruises of more than 100 days.

What’s Included On Crystal Cruises

  • All meals, from classic two-seating dinners in the main dining room to specialty dinner restaurants for more intimate evenings. Bottled water, soft drinks and specialty coffees are served complimentary, as are all alcoholic beverages.
  • Fitness Center and Crystal Spa, featuring the high seas’ only Feng Shui-inspired spa. Readers of Conde Nast Travel gave top honors to Crystal Cruises’ spas, naming them World’s Best Cruise Line Spa. Complimentary instruction in such classes as yoga and Pilates.
  • Entertainment, including dazzling production shows as well as celebrity entertainers and speakers. Watch movies on the big screen in the Hollywood Theatre.
  • Course Work. One of Crystal’s most popular programs is its Creative Learning Institute, offering a range of classes and workshops to expand your knowledge in an entertaining, hands-on style.
  • Alcohol and gratuities. Crystal went all-inclusive back in 2012.

Destinations Served By Crystal Cruises

  • Africa
  • Alaska
  • Asia
  • Australia & New Zealand
  • Canada & New England
  • Caribbean
  • Hawaii
  • Mediterranean
  • Mexico
  • Northern Europe
  • Panama Canal
  • South America
  • South Pacific
  • Transatlantic
  • West Coast
  • World Cruise

Crystal Cruises Reviews

To read a review of a particular ship, click the link under "Read the Review." If applicable, our Live Voyage Reports offer a day-by-day overview of an actual cruise onboard. In some cases, there may be more than one report, to be sure to see if your favorite destination is represented.
Ship ReviewLive Voyage Report
Crystal Serenity Review
Crystal Symphony Review
Crystal Esprit Review

Search all Crystal Cruises articles on Avid Cruiser.

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