Friday, October 9, 2015

Crystal Cruises - An Excellent Cruise Option for Both Luxury and Premium Travelers: The Perfect Move-Up and Move Over

I regularly hear...and I mean regularly..."I never thought of Crystal Cruises!" when I make the suggestion.  It is both frustrating and fascinating.  So I thought I would write about "Why?" 

And why now?  There are a few reasons, but mostly I am preparing to join the Crystal Serenity on November 13, 2015 as she sails from Lisbon to Funchal to the Canary Islands to Malaga, Spain to Monaco.  Pretty unique itinerary, isn't it?  But I don't want to get ahead of myself.

I met up with Crystal Cruise's president, Edie Rodriguez, for a private lunch in New York City earlier this week not so much to discuss all the new things happening at Crystal, but to "get personal".  I may love certain types of luxury, but I'm not really big on hype or flash.  I'm all about the people and how they relate to their product. (It tells me a whole lot more than the "most luxurious" mantra.)

Edie and I have never really had the chance to really sit down and talk and the new driving forces at Crystal Cruises decided it was time to remedy that.  We met at Ca Va, the Todd English brasserie in the Intercontinental Hotel near Times Square.  The choice was perfect:  Casually elegant with fantastic cuisine and wonderful service...without any pretense. 

Todd English's Fig Toast
OK, it has nothing to do with this article other than I enjoyed it
while dining with Crystal Cruise's President, Edie Rodriguez,
but it was soooo good I had to include it!
We mostly discussed personal matters, but as we spoke I kept thinking:
Isn't it great that there is a cruise line that is essentially being run by women?  I wonder what changes are going to be made because of the different perspectives that are being brought to the table along with the freedom to implement them?
While I mentioned it, that answer will be determined over time; not a lunch!

One topic we discussed at length is what I thought of Crystal Cruises now. As I have written here before, I think Crystal is a fantastic cruise product with a number of "bests" including:
  • Best Enrichment Program
  • Best Cruise for Mature Singles
  • Best (Asian) Restaurant at Sea
  • Best Cigar Lounge
  • Best Ballroom Dancing
  • Best Volunteer Tourism Program
And Crystal Cruises also excels when it comes to overall cuisine and service.  (I will discuss all of this more during my upcoming cruise.)

Yes, we discussed the new yacht, the Crystal Esprit, and we touched on river cruises, but for me they are possibilities for the future, but what about TODAY?  I mean there are some fantastic cruises still to sail in 2015 and 2016.

And that brought on a bit of discussion about why is it that people don't first think of Crystal Cruises? As I discussed with Edie, I believe it is because it is perceived as "neither fish nor fowl".  

Crystal Cruise's  Silk Road's Nobu Black Cod
For example, if you are wanting a small ship experience a 1,000 passenger ship is expected to be too large and with too many people.  If you want a large ship experience, the Crystal ships give the impression of being too small.  In both instances you would be wrong.  As I will discuss during my cruise, the moderate size of the Crystal ships allows for more venues and diverse activities which not only spread the guests out, but provides more in the way of intimate settings.

Another example is the perception that the Crystal staterooms are too small.   If you are looking to move down from a suite on Seabourn, Silversea or Regent Seven Seas it would be true...but why would you compare accommodations you wouldn't occupy?  If you are looking at lateral move into a Crystal Cruises suite, which is designated as a PH Penthouse (probably confusing because it is is not really a penthouse and should simply be called a "Suite") it aligns perfectly.  (Crystal's PS Penthouse Suite and the very luxurious Crystal Penthouse align with the upper suites on those lines.)

Crystal Serenity's Penthouse - The standard suite
That said, if you are moving up from a premium cruise line such as Celebrity or Oceania the oceanview and veranda staterooms are actually larger and/or filled with amenities that you do not receive on those lines (higher quality furnishings, double vanities, bathtub, upgraded bedding and towels, bath amenities, etc.) in a very inclusive experience.

Yes, on Celebrity Cruises with its new "Big, Better, Best" pricing you can obtain a significantly inclusive experience at a premium over its base rates, but not quite the same...as you will also being extra for premium alcoholic beverages and will need to pay extra for all specialty dining as the main restaurant cuisine quality is not nearly at the same level as Crystal's (and Crystal includes two nights of specialty dining)....while sharing your experience with 2,500+ fellow passengers with a nice, but lower, level of service. 

As for Oceania Cruises, absent a slow sailing with promotions it makes you pay for everything with extraordinarily expensive beverage packages; though its cuisine is quite good (but still not at the level of Crystal outside of its specialty restaurants).  I regularly compare the pricing of a Oceania cruise to a Seabourn or Crystal cruise and regularly find that Oceania to be more expensive and the service levels, again are nice, but not nearly the same.

On my November 13, 2015 Crystal Serenity cruise I am going to have a really hard look at these issues and I hope you follow along.  Let me whet your appetite!

My accommodations will be a standard 406 square feet, including the balcony, suite (a PH Penthouse) which comes with Butler service with cocktails and canapes each evening, a stocked bar and priority reservations along with a jacuzzi tub and separate shower and, among other things, the ability to dine course by course from the main restaurant, Prego (Italian) or Nobu's Silk Road (Asian) restaurant.

Crystal Serenity's Penthouse - Another view
Just by happenstance this is a Crystal Wine & Food Festival with Kevin Zraly, a James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award winner and founder of the Windows on the World Wine School being the wine expert.  (I know Oceania pitches its culinary and wine experiences, but this is the sort of thing that Crystal just, 'er um, "shines" at.)  This is not going to be a simple wine tasting/paring class or a visit to a winery or a pasta/chicken making experience.  When the extraordinary Vintage Room wine tasting dinner ($250 per person) and a Nobu Silk Road dining experience is added a truly memorable oenophile (wine lover) experience is assured.

Crystal Serenity Vintage Room
Clearly Crystal Cruises has much to offer and, to be sure, it is a cruise line that deserves your attention and, with a wide variety of accommodations being available for those many budgets and desires...all with a very inclusive experience...I would urge you to Think of Crystal Cruises.

If you are interested in booking your luxury or experiential holiday, please give me a call:

United States:          (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom:     020 8133 3450
Australia:                 (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else:     +1 732 578 8585

Or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com.