Ah, Crystal Cruises. Of all the ultra-luxury cruise lines I have followed over the many years this one has tug at my heartstrings in a very special way. They seemed to do everything right and were the standard that other players in this market seemed to judge themselves by. All looked fantastic with growth on the horizon in luxury river boats, a yacht, an airplane, and a brand-new expedition ship…until things weren’t. Through a highly-publicized failure of their business, courtesy multiple poor decisions on the part of previous ownership and the pandemic, all appeared over for this storied line.
Until it wasn’t. A&K Group emerged the victor in the purchase of the two ocean-going vessels, the Symphony and Serenity. Rising like a Phoenix from the ashes Crystal has returned to its roots of providing an outstanding ultra luxury of ocean-going cruising. In the capable hands of the A&K Group the Crystal Cruises we all knew and loved has returned and been very much enhanced. The confidence in the new ownership is so evident that 80% of the former Crystal staff has returned to the vessels. That alone is a striking example of the love had for the brand by the employees that they were glad to return to the vessels and the guests, ready to deliver the legendary Crystal service aboard.
I will briefly detail four areas where I see Crystal Cruises re-establishing itself as THE classic American luxury cruise line.
Occupancy has been significantly reduced on both vessels. The Serenity will now hold 740 guests and the Symphony 606 guests. This means that personal space aboard each vessel will greatly increased, whether in a suite or in the public areas. To redo the living areas and the public areas Crystal utilized Tillberg of Sweden to reimagine the restaurants and spa and GEM to reimagine the suites and staterooms aboard. All rooms now come with butler service, even in the newly-introduced solo cabins. Linens aboard are from Jesurum 1870, a Venetian supplier of luxury linens, and bathroom amenities will now come from Ortigia of Sicily. Many of the previous Oceanview cabins were converted to solo cabins, which means they are considering the solo traveller without exposing them to the typical 200% fare surcharge.
Refurbished public areas. Of note Crystal will no longer have casinos on their vessels. I’ve experienced this difference on a competitor and can vouch for the way it opens up the lounge and public space for the guests aboard. Once more pictures of the public spaces on the lower decks are made public I am very much looking forward to seeing what the new Crystal has in mind for this space.
Refreshed restaurants. Tillberg of Sweden has completely refreshed the look of the specialty dining and have carried a Mediterranean color palette within these spaces. The Italian restaurant is now known as Osterio D’Ovidio: a nod to Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, the chairman of A&K Group. What Crystal has done is kept the fantastic wild mushroom soup served in the bread bowl that graced the menu of the former Prego. Those of us who have had the soup are rejoicing that it’s returning! Also, Umi Umo in partnership with Nobu has returned! Crystal is the ONLY cruise line with a NOBU restaurant aboard and, unlike the land-based NOBU, no months-long waiting list is required here.
The spa has been completely redone and reimagined. It is now called Aurora, named after mythical goddess of the dawn. The pictures of the recreated spa must be seen to be believed. Think of flooding sunlight, and warm, serene colors throughout. The idea is that the new design emulates the sun’s warm, golden glow.
These are my reasons those who dearly appreciate the classic American ultra luxury cruise experience will rejoice in the new Crystal Cruises. I look very much forward to sailing on and hosting groups aboard both vessels. Itineraries for both vessels have been released through end-2024, including a world cruise. Reach out to me at any time to discuss the Crystal experience and itineraries that entice you!