It’s ‘adios’ to the Mediterranean for Crystal Serenity in 2017

In what amounts to a complete about face, Crystal Cruises has cancelled the entire 2017 European deployment for Crystal Serenity. Instead, the 2003 built, 68,000 ton ship will offer a whole new raft of itineraries, centered on the continental USA.

Summer will see the ship offering a second, consecutive season of Alaska cruises, ranging in length between seven and ten days, and the year is filled out by a string of Eastern Seaboard sailings, before the ship heads down into the Caribbean for a fall and winter season.

There will also be a series of New England itineraries in the fall, also typically in the seven to ten nights’ range.

A fourteen night repositioning cruise from Miami to Los Angeles will be the prelude to a series of seven night West Coast USA cruises, and at least one long, exotic, sixteen night swing out cruise to Hawaii and back. There will also be a longer, more in depth, fourteen night itinerary to Mexico as well the more conventional seven night options.

Bookings for these new itineraries open on December 31st.

This is the first time since her launch in 2003 that the Crystal Serenity has spent two consecutive seasons away from her usual run of peak season cruises in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe.

So far, there is no news of alternative itineraries for sibling vessel, Crystal Symphony. Her full season of Baltic and Northern Europe cruises, scheduled to operate from May to October, is thus far unchanged.

As always, stay tuned for updates.



As it was almost exactly five years between my last two cruises on the Crystal Serenity, I thought it might be worth sharing a few personal impressions of this captivating, continually evolving vessel, one of the absolute true scions of the luxury market.


Now sprinkled with a good helping of super comfy, circular pod beds, the outer decks are more a hazard to activity than at any time before. Ease and casually spectacular use of space remain the watchwords here.

The newly revamped area under the sliding glass roof is the crown jewel of the latest upgrades. The lush, verdant ‘living wall’ and trees, festooned at night with little, twinkling lights, make this area more alluring than ever. Keeping the original teak decking underfoot makes this space feel expansive, lush and clean, all at once. And with both a wonderful ice cream bar, grill area, plus drinks service, this particular venue was my ‘go to’ choice for large parts of our cruise through the Adriatic, any time of the day or night.


Mercifully, these remain instantly familiar and welcoming. The Bistro is a secluded little joy, tucked away on the upper deck of the Crystal Atrium, that serves up matchless Cappuccino, cakes and pastries from dawn until late into the evening.

Crystal Cove remains elegant, expansive, and just simply unbeatable. We embarked to a soundtrack of The Blue Danube, beautifully executed by a quartet of even more beautiful Asian ladies. That very much set the tone for what followed.

At night, and especially before dinner, it remains the venue for cold, perfectly crafted Martinis and cool, sultry jazz. With the discreetly tumbling waterfall coming down just behind it, Crystal Atrium has no peer as a crossroads, or people watching venue. A timeless classic.

The Avenue Saloon remains a cool, clubby little enclave for the after dark crowd. A piano bar by name, but one with a quirky, delightful twist in the normal repertoire. Ever heard Riders On The Storm done on a piano? Nope, me either. Brilliant.


This remains simply flawless, right across variety, concept, preparation and delivery. Whether picking at cold lobster on my balcony or savouring gorgeous, saffron accented lamb skewers in Tastes, the Crystal Serenity continues her own sublime culinary traditions.

Prego remains the absolute epitome of fine, feisty Italian food and service, with sumptuous steaks and mouth watering desserts, that is an absolute must-do on board. I never ventured into Silk Road on this trip, but others on board assured me that it remains as well served as ever.


So, just a few thoughts there. Like many, I guess, I was a little concerned about how the takeover by Genting Corporation might have impacted life on board such a fondly remembered ship.

Having just spent a week renewing my love affair with Crystal Serenity, any latent anxieties that I might have had have now gone. The crew- from top to bottom- remain as superlative and courteous as ever; the absolute epitome of gracious seagoing hospitality (along with those aboard Crystal Symphony). Quality and standards throughout the ship remain as high as ever. I honestly see no signs of slippage anywhere. In fact, a renewed sense of purpose and forward momentum is more in the air on board.

One or two personal niggles; the paper cups in which Crystal so lavishly serves up it’s free ice cream do not do justice to the taste, and neither do the plastic spoons offered up with them. On a ship of this calibre, they should be glass bowls with silver spoons.

Other than that, all remains as reassuringly well as ever aboard the good ship Crystal Serenity. Like the Martinis, I was stirred, rather than shaken. This ship remains one that really does set the bench mark for all of the opposition. Long may she continue to do so.

Crystal is taking its legendary standards of luxury to a whole new height

Crystal is taking its legendary standards of luxury to a whole new height


In a move that is sure to prove popular with many, Crystal Cruises is going the extra mile by gifting all of its passengers a minimum of one hours’ free Wi-Fi time on board their two current ships every day, commencing on August 30th this year.

Those booked in deluxe cabins and penthouses will benefit from the free hour, available across a range of personal devices or, alternatively, at one of the ship’s internet stations or portable lap tops. Those booked in penthouse suites will receive ninety minutes free access each day.

The perk- previously available only to repeat Crystal Society guests- comes as a welcome addition to the current on board packages still available for purchase. A Plan A ‘Pay As You Go’ package costs from $0.74 per minute, while a Plan B package has two hours’ available at $55, and a Plan C option serves up five hours at $127.

If you really intend to spend more time hunched over your laptop than savouring those gorgeous Lemon Drop Martinis, the block busting Plan D offers ten hours for $220.

Internet capabilities aboard both Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity were considerably enhanced last year, with both ships being Wi-Fi enabled everywhere on board, as well as increasing the bandwidth on board both ships.

Whether you’re enamoured of this increasing focus on the on board communication technology or not, the fact remains that more and more people plainly are. It is gradually becoming more and more of a deciding point for people looking at booking a specific cruise line anywhere in the world and, as such, Crystal is simply responding to customer demand.

More inclusivity inevitably makes for happier guests. Slowly but surely, internet connectivity is gradually improving across much of the cruise industry, and certainly not before time.

I expect other lines to follow suit in short order. For want of a better phrase, stay tuned for further developments.

Crystal is going further to keep you more connected....

Crystal is going further to keep you more connected….


In what amounts ot a double shot of elegant, exclusive luxury, the port of Newcastle will for the first time play host to two ultra luxury cruise ships in August within the space of a week. This is a huge coup for the port that could set a possible trend for future, upscale arrivals in the region.

First, we have Regent Seven Seas’ classy Seven Seas Voyager. The 50,000 ton, 700 guest all suite ship will dock at North Shields for the day on Wednesday, August 19th.

One week later, it will be the turn of the sublime Crystal Symphony, slated for an 1100 arrival at North Shields on Wednesday 26th, and departing at 1900 that same evening.

The Tyne is no stranger to great luxury ships; as well as being a seasonal home base for the ships of Cruise And Maritime and Fred. Olsen, the port has been graced by such star attractions as the QE2, Silver Cloud, Westerdam and MSC Magnifica among others in recent times.

While this should hardly be surprising when considering the sheer glut of scenic overkill that the region is famed for, not to mention it’s world renowned hospitality, the arrival of these two highly styled, very exclusive vessels one after another cannot help but raise the region’s profile on the international cruise circuit.

For the locals, it will be a matter of great pride to welcome these two superb vessels and their guests to the Tyne. Stay tuned for further details.

Magnificnet Durham Cathedral; one of many regional masterpieces on offer to cruise passengers visiting the Tyne

Magnificnet Durham Cathedral; one of many regional masterpieces on offer to cruise passengers visiting the Tyne


I had to double check myself today when I came to the sudden realisation that two of the finest ships afloat turn twenty years of age this year, namely P&O’s stately dowager, Oriana, and the truly sumptuous Crystal Symphony, of Crystal Cruises.

Though designed and executed for two totally different markets, both of these beautiful vessels actually have some strikingly common characteristics.

For a start, the interiors of each were the concept of the Swedish based firm, Tillberg Design. Both ships boast beautiful, flared bows and a series of elegant, stepped terraces at the stern. Each is crowned by a single, graceful funnel amidships, looming above a central, open pool complex on the lido deck area.

However, they are the product of two different yards. Crystal Symphony emerged from what was then the MASA shipyards in Turku, Finland, while the Oriana was delivered from German shipbuilders in Papenburg.

While Oriana is the bigger of the two at some 69,000 tons against 50,000 for Crystal Symphony, the former has a large number of inner and outer cabins without balconies, whereas the Crystal ship features no inside cabins at all, and a vast number of balconied cabins and penthouses. Her passenger capacity is also considerably smaller- around 1000 as against 1900 for Oriana.

That said, Crystal Symphony was designed for the deluxe market from the start, while Oriana- the first P&O cruise ship to be named by the Queen, some twenty years in advance of new fleet mate, Britannia- is very much a mainstream resort ship, albeit a very beautiful one. The requirements of two such diverse markets resulted in two very different kinds of cruise experiences.

That said, both ships have aged quite beautifully, and sympathetic updating in the case of both has made them among the most compelling classic cruise experiences afloat today. Oriana took on board many of the most popular features of her earlier sibling, the beloved Canberra. Crystal Symphony has been sympathetically updated over two decades to enhance her extensive spread of on board facilities, without selling short on her original sense of style and panache.

Each ship has retained a great sense of cool, classy poise, though the jury is still out on whether the ‘new’ P&O colours suit the distinguished Oriana as much as the old ones did. Few people resent change as much as traditionalists, and P&O has sold just that for decades.

New to Oriana, and very welcome too, is a small block of single cabins. And, to complement her stylish, mellow vibe, the ship is now sold as an adults- only vessel.

The take over of Crystal Cruises by Genting has left more than one Crystal veteran gazing uneasily at the future over the rim of their pre dinner martinis. Could more change be in the offing? Time alone will tell.

But meanwhile, it is definitely worth celebrating this beautiful brace of ‘ladies of the sea’ as they celebrate their 20th anniversaries. Each is a landmark vessel in her own way; stylish and chic in execution, comfortable and familiar to legions of passengers that have come to know and love them both over the decades.

Smooth sailing and fair seas to both!


There’s no shortage of news to digest on the maritime front. And, like anything that you are obliged to chew over- whethether actually or mentally- some leave a better taste in the mouth than others. In this industry, that is the inevitable default setting.

I was immensely saddened, but not surprised, to see the sale of the lovely little Lisboa to a scrapyard, some two years after her partially completed refit had to be aborted owing to unexpected extra costs. I had the pleasure of sailing on this staunch, dignified little dream of a ship and, to those who love her, her loss is tragic indeed, if inevitable.

On the plus front, the forthcoming arrival in the UK of Anthem Of The Seas will add a welcome splash of colour and diversity to the big ship market. Sleek, state of the art, and jam packed with a conga line of beguiling new gimmicks and estalished, old fashioned favourites, I expect this ship to be an absolute smash during her first ever European season.

For my own, native North East, this coming August will see the very welcome visits of not one, but two, six star ships within two weeks of each other. First is a very welcome debut for Regent’s sybaritic Seven Seas Voyager, still currently one of only three all suite, all balcony cruise ships in the world. She is followed a fortnight later by the excellent, perenially elegant Crystal Symphony, recently extensively refurbished and definite

Old, new, borrowed and blue. It's all going on right now in the cruise industry...

Old, new, borrowed and blue. It’s all going on right now in the cruise industry…

ly looking as regal as ever.

The arrival of such high end vessels in the region is a wonderful opportunity to show just how much this area has to offer to cruise ship passengers. I hope all concerned do everything possible to provide these incoming visitors with a wonderfully inclusive experience for the day.

For my part, I am also very much looking forward to seeing CMV’s Magellan when she arrives for her inaugural visit to the Tyne on Saturday, 28th March. The 46,052 ton ship- formerly the Holiday of Carnival Cruise Lines- has been extensively refurbished, and looks stunning in her new livery. Expect a full review of this ship shortly.

And, of course, it is not too long now until the poised, beautifully styled Viking Star makes her debut. The first of Viking Ocean’s quartet of cruise ships is very much a throwback to the traditional style of inclusive excellence once typified by the legendary Royal Viking Line, and this new ship is clearly aimed at a market that prefers a more inclusive, tradtional kind of cruise experience. Clearly, the lady is going to be quite something.

Interesting times, for sure. As ever, stay tuned.



I have to admit being as surprised as almost everyone else by Genting’s acquisition of Crystal Cruises the other week. It certainly threw the entire industry a curve ball; quite a fait accompli that still leaves a lot of unanswered questions and, in some- mainly traditional quarters- a sense of vague unease as palpable as Atlantic fog.

That said, what we do know is that the line is finally getting a new build- the first since Crystal Serenity back in 2003. To even contemplate competing with the likes of Regent and Seabourn in terms of itinerary reach, Crystal needs to be a minimum three ship fleet. I have always felt- and still do- that the loss of Crystal Harmony hurt the brand in terms of the global deployments it could offer. It was, in my mind, a big mistake.

So, in that framework, three really could be a magic number again. But should we expect something radical and new, full of flash rather than substance?

God, I hope not.

Part of the reason why Crystal has been so uniquely successful is what I would describe as it’s proven policy of gently rolling, smooth evolution. The hardware and construction of the two current stalwarts- Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity- has allowed them to gradually ingest and absorb a series of thorough, yet superbly done updates and enhancements over two decades now. While continuing to offer the deft, attentive levels of service and outstanding cuisine that has made the product a modern day legend almost on a par with the old French Line, the ships continue to be the cool, welcome retreats so beloved of a whole generation of loyal guests. In short; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

This is not a rallying cry against innovation; far from it. And, like as not, the new ship will have bigger cabins and suites across all grades. Perhaps the line will go for an all balcony design, which would be nice. But Genting should remember and treasure the core Crystal values and unique selling points, rather than trying to create a kind of maritime floating exclamation mark that would ultimiately fail under the weight of it’s own hype and expectation.

I, for one, am thrilled at the news of the new Crystal sibling (Crystal Symmetry, anyone?) and long to see the end result of the decision making process

Crystal Cove lobby on the Crystal Symphony

Crystal Cove lobby on the Crystal Symphony

.  While she will no doubt sail- like her sisters- to a whole raft of exotic, thrilling destinations world wide, it is to be hoped that this new Crystal swan is not too much of a departure.

As ever, stay tuned.


Spend quality time ashore in Monte Carlo on an overnight stay with Crystal

Spend quality time ashore in Monte Carlo on an overnight stay with Crystal

Crystal Cruises has announced a series of week long cruise options in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe for 2015, each offering at least one overnight stay in a major port of call.

In what must be seen at least as a partial response to the overnight stays offered by Azamara Club Cruises, both Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony will offer some very welcome opportunities to explore these key cities in depth, as well as the chance to sample some of the shore side night life as an optional extra- a delightful extra incentive in the long summer nights in these waters.

The bulk of these will inevitably be in the Mediterranean, and offered on the 68,000 ton, 1.07o guest Crystal Serenity. These are outlined here. Please note that all of these voyages are of seven nights’ total duration.

Crystal Serenity;

30th August Rome to Venice offers an overnight stay n Venice, as well as in Sorrento, mid cruise. However, bear in mind that the ship will anchor off Sorrento, and will use tenders which are unlikely to run ‘all hours’ of the night. If this option interests you, you’ll need to find out what time the last tender is.

6th September has a Venice to Istanbul run, that offers overnight stays in both of those fabled cities.

13th September has a round trip sailing from Istanbul that offers a first night, overnight stay in the only European city to actually straddle two separate continents.

11th October offers up an Athens to Venice sailing that stays overnight in Venice itself.

18th October is a Venice to Monte Carlo sailing that overnights in Venice on the first night.

6th November features a Monte Carlo to Lisbon sailing that has an overnight in Monte Carlo on day one.

22nd November has a Monte Carlo to Marseille sailing that also overnights in Monte Carlo.


Meanwhile, the 50,000 ton, 970 guest Crystal Symphony will be serving up a handful of memorable, week long itineraries in the waters around the Baltic and Russia. As currently listed, these are;

16th August round trip cruise from Copenhagen that overnights in Saint Petersburg.

23rd August Copenhagen to Amsterdam cruises features overnight stays in both Edinburgh and Hamburg.


Fares for both ships are all inclusive. Fly cruise fares for the Mediterranean voyages begin at £1,826 per person, and are valid through until March 2nd.

All things considered, all of these voyages are ideal ‘tasters’ for anyone wanting to dip a toe into the highly styled, elegant world of Crystal, or as a very welcome extra ‘top up’ break for regular connoisseurs of the company. As such, they represent extraordinary good value while remaining time sensitive and practical. I expect them to sell briskly.


is a new future Crystal-ising for Deutschland?

Is a new future Crystal-ising for Deutschland?

The highly respected German wen site, Schiff und Kreuzfahrten (www. is reporting the sale of the former Peter Deilmann flagship, MS Deutschland, to Crystal Cruises for a cost of fifty million euros.

Final payment is said to be due on January 6th. The report states that the ship will continue to stay in the German market, but will not fly the German flag.

Deutschland is an intimate, luxurious paragon of 20,000 tons, with a quartet of superb restaurants and sumptuous, Victorian era interiors designed to evoke memories of the great German liners from the turn of the 20th century. A voyage on her a few years ago revealed her to be a beautifully run, exquisite little jewel box of a sdhip. A kind of nautical equivalent to a Faberge egg, if you will.

Against that, the ship is quite small compared to the current, award winning Crystal duo. Her cabins are quite small, and there is little real scope to expand these without ripping out many of the classically beautiful interiors. There are no balconies, except for the owner’s suite.

But- a revitalisation plan for the ship had already been drawn up by the former owners. This included the addition of a number of Juliet balconies, and the addition of a new funnel. It is perfectly possible that Crystal could follow this programme through, especially if- as is being bruited- the ship is to remain pretty much in the German market.

While it does seem a strange fit, there is certainly a good deal of symmetry between the style and beauty for which Crystal is known, and the timeless elegance that the Deutschland embodies so perfectly.

Now this one truly is intriguing and, like most people, I can hardly wait for the formal announcement, due to come from Los Angeles on Monday.

Stay tuned for more.


More new mood music for Crystal?

More new mood music for Crystal?

After a long period of ‘will they, won’t they’, Crystal Cruises has finally let it be known that the line will be making a ‘big announcement’ this coming Monday.

While details beyond that are non existent, almost anyone with a positive IQ count will expect this to be the announcement of a new build, a necessary step in the face or recent new builds for rival lines. Crystal also needs a third vessel simply to boost its global deployment reach.

Fuelling this speculation is the public knowledge that new Crystal CEO, Edie Rodriguez, has been actively campaigning NYK, the Japanese parent company of Crystal Cruises, for the funds for a new ship ever since she took over the reins in Los Angeles.

Some will remember that rumours of an announcement for last December were teased out in various outlets. Wisely, it seems that the line has decided to wait for January, presumably in order to get it’s banner 25th anniversary celebrations off to the most momentous start possible.

So, what kind of ship can we expect? I think that whatever emerges will not be too distinctly different to the current, multi award winning pair of Crystal show stoppers, the 1995 built, 50,000 ton, 1,000 guest Crystal Symphony and her sibling, the 2003 built, 68,000 ton, 1200 guest Crystal Serenity.

I expect the new ship might, perhaps, encompass one other extra dining venue, but the truth is that this original format, emphasized on the two current, heavily refurbished ships, has been so successful that all it really need is some fine tuning on the edges.

The two previous ships were built in Finland and St. Nazaire respectively, and I think it quite likely that the new order will also go to STX.

Size wise, I don’t think that the new ship will be any bigger than Crystal Serenity. The line found a unique ‘sweet size’ with those two ships; small enough to offer intimate, excellent service in plush, elegant surroundings, while also being large enough to offer an extensive entertainment handle, as well as being seaworthy enough to cross any ocean in the world in great style and comfort.

Crystal clearly had to act; with new builds from rivals such as Regent and Seabourn, plus continuing talk of new orders from Oceania and Silversea, Crystal is also facing new competition from the nascent Viking Cruises, itself due to start sailing this year.

Whatever is coming down the line on Monday, it will surely constitute one of the most eagerly anticipated new build announcements for two decades, and the air of excitement is already quite palpable.

As always, stay tuned for more right here.