The Crystal cruise line has been revived and refined – and not just because of the name change from Crystal Cruises to, simply, Crystal.
After the bankruptcy of its previous owners, Abercrombie & Kent (A&K) purchased and renovated both the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony. Recognizing the cruise line's loyal clientele and staff, A&K has kept much of the Crystal brand the same: the elegant atmosphere, the attentive service, the logos, even, and is merely elevating the existing brand to bring it to the next level: “exceptional at sea,” as the new slogan states.
On top of renovating its two existing ships, Crystal is building four new ships – two similar ocean liners and two expeditions ships. So there is a lot for Crystal veterans and prospective Crystal cruisers alike to be excited about. Here’s what travel advisors should keep in mind about the reborn cruise brand when selling to clients.
It's a luxurious product
Crystal was always luxurious, but even more so now. There are now fewer smaller cabins on each ship and more larger suites – but even the small cabins are spacious for a cruise ship.
This means that there are fewer passengers on board and even more attentive service because the crew-to-guest ratio is nearly 1-to-1 on each ship. On Crystal Serenity, the guest capacity is 740, and on Symphony, it’s 606. As the hotel director of Serenity, Scott Peterson, put it, “One thing our guests will not find here is a line.”
In addition to the cabins and suites, there are four large penthouses on each ship. The Symphony previously only had two of these, but two more were added in the renovations.
“Our guests like luxury. They like an exceptional experience out here,” Peterson said. “That’s why there was such a commitment to upgrading all the spaces and accommodation areas, starting with the Crystal penthouse.”
Regardless of which room a guest stays in, though, every room includes butler service. Of course, with this level of luxury comes high price points. The lowest fares start at $2,500 per person for a 7-night Caribbean cruise from Miami in a double-bed room with an ocean view. That includes all food, drink, gratuities, and entertainment on board, but doesn’t include excursions or spa treatments.
Foodies will love it …
Each Crystal ship has nine restaurants and six bars, plus 24-hour in-suite dining. Their two specialty restaurants, Umi Uma and Osteria D’Ovidio, are the only ones that require reservations, and guests can only dine at each of these once per sailing. Umi Uma, a Japanese-Peruvian restaurant with a menu created by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, is the crowd favorite on board and the only Nobu restaurant at sea.
Waterside is another popular spot for fine dining. The restaurant’s dinner menu changes each night and offers a diverse range of cuisine. Included in a guest’s stay is also one reservation to a supper club, an evening at the Stardust Club that includes singing and dancing performances while guests enjoy their meals. On the menu are the best choices from Waterside that night.
For an additional cost, guests can also plan for private dining in the Vintage Room.
There are also more casual eateries on board, such as Trident Grill and Tastes Kitchen & Bar, and the food remains high quality. Plus, there is a coffee bar at The Bistro and daily afternoon tea at Palm Court. The Marketplace is also popular for its buffet-style breakfast and lunch.
… So will solo travelers and lifelong learners
Many guests choose which Crystal cruise they’ll take based on destination. When the ship docks, they can either take a shuttle bus, paid for by Crystal, into town and explore on their own, or they can purchase an excursion, led by a tour guide who educates the group about the destination.
Crystal’s ships have a designated excursions desk in the front lobby for guests to plan those excursions. While most of these land activities remain the same as the old Crystal, A&K will soon bring its own tours to cruise customers.
Yet still, other guests don’t find the need to leave the ship to enjoy a Crystal cruise. It’s clear that many would describe themselves as lifelong learners, engaging in several of the daily activities listed on the “Reflections” pamphlet delivered to cruisers’ doors – or found digitally on their room’s tablets – each day. These include art workshops, such as painting and bracelet making, golf lessons, tennis and pickleball lessons, and fitness and technology classes. There are also daily lectures about a wide range of topics, often pertaining to the part of the world the ship is sailing.
Since the ship is small and has lots of space, it makes it easy for solo passengers to mingle and make friends in a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. Plus, Crystal has special accommodations for single travelers, including hosting dinners for solo travelers and offering dancing hosts for singles.
Crystal cruisers – and employees – are loyal to the line
While on board a Crystal cruise, you’ll often see guests chatting away at the future cruise manager’s desk. That’s because many guests are repeat customers who make Crystal cruises at least an annual holiday.
Longtime cruisers appreciate that the new owners have kept the ships mostly the same and don’t even notice most of the changes; they’re just happy to see the crew – 80% of whom returned – back on board.
"The thing that has always set us apart is the crew,” Peterson said. “I’ve had dinner with guests, and when “What a Wonderful World” starts to play, they tear up because there’s such a connection, not only with the ships but most importantly, with the experience and the crew.”
Aboard the Crystal cruise from New York to Quebec City this fall, there were two guests who had been on more than 100 Crystal sailings in their lifetime. When asked what keeps them coming back, 85-year-old Sandra Matteucci, who has been on 107 Crystal sailings, said, “The service, the attitude of the employees. They make you feel like it’s home. It’s like old friends. It's such a good connection between the employees and the guests.”
Future sailings include a world tour
As is tradition, Crystal will continue offering world cruises as well as shorter sailing trips to a variety of destinations in the coming months and years. So a stay on Crystal can last anywhere from 7 nights to upwards of 100.
Crystal’s grand journeys for 2024 include trips from Syndey to Singapore, Lisbon to Monte Carlo, Stockholm to London, and Vancouver to Quebec City.
Crystal also recently announced its 2025 World Cruise itinerary, which is 123 nights stopping at 62 ports in 31 countries. It sets sail on Jan. 7, 2025, and booking is now open.
“We are immensely proud to showcase our 2025 World Cruise itinerary as it illustrates Crystal’s deepened connection with Abercrombie & Kent for a truly authentic experience,” said A&K Travel Group CEO, Cristina Levis. “Guests will encounter the full potential between the two brands as we unveil a plethora of our custom-created activities that will be experienced first-hand by Crystal guests.”
As the new ships are built and the renovated ships embark on more sailings, there will surely be more updates from the new Crystal line in the future. Travel advisors can contact Crystal’s dedicated trade sales team for more information.