Crystal World Cruise
Cue the violins to Mozart’s “A Little Night Music” written in 1787. Why?
Because when Crystal Cruises serves afternoon tea, Mozart is often in attendance. Yes, many cruise ships hold afternoon tea – but Crystal’s Mozart Tea event is far, far different. First, it features a violinist and pianist who not only play Amadeus, but other great composers of his era. There are more Viennese pastries than you can shake a scone at, including Linzer and Esterhazy Slices, Dobosh torte, and hot apple strudel. But the piece de resistance? The servers are outfitted in period 18th-century attire, with floral waistcoats, breeches, and buckled shoes. It’s a show-stopping, photo opportunity event, and just the thing to expect on Crystal Cruises, which is definitively one of the most upscale ‘small’ cruise lines sailing today.
Crystal is a luxury, all-inclusive line, winning cruise awards too numerous to mention, and my husband Bill and I recently sailed almost a month on Crystal’s Serenity (it holds 1,070 passengers). Everything across the spectrum was as superb as the Mozart Tea.
We took an extended cruise from Charleston, S.C., to Maui, Hawaii, and were delighted to discover the many advantages of sailing more than the typical 10-14 days. One highlight: You can really come to know Crystal’s first-class entertainers -- and yes, make sure to schedule lunch or dinner with them. What a treat! We got to know one of the singers, who invited us backstage to her show on Broadway (Aladdin.) This never would have happened if we had not booked an extended sailing aboard Crystal (which became our second home) and come to know other passengers and entertainers, on a gradual and lovely day-by-day basis.
In fact, longer, extended cruises are a hot new trend in the industry. Tom Stieghorst, Senior Cruise Editor at Travel Weekly, says that Baby Boomers, who are now retiring at the rate of about 10,000 per day, previously only had the time and money to take approximately seven-day cruises. Now, he explains, that audience of passengers has matured, and aspire to enjoy longer cruises, with a World Cruise being a pinnacle. If you really want the top-tier of accommodations, it’s $218,375 per person to take a World Cruise on Crystal Cruises and stay in the best suite in the house -- the Crystal Penthouse Suite.
Having sailed on Crystal for a 25day sailing, we now yearn to take a World Cruise – as so many sophisticated travelers do -- remaining on board for about three months, and experiencing all kinds of special events. It is so easy to adapt to ship life -- spending all day cruising, wining and dining, visiting the spa and gym -- or just reading a book or taking a power nap. Crystal also has impressive, high-end enrichment lecturers who discuss everything from politics to world affairs, along with a fabulous “Hollywood Theater” where you can sit – with popcorn -- and watch a first-rate movie. And of course, you will meet other like-minded guests, where you can share anything from investment tips, travel recommendations, and diet advice. It’s the world’s best country club.
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD
Another area where Crystal excels is the superior cuisine that is readily available throughout the day in a wide variety of venues.
For example, for dinner, the Main Dining Room offers the full plate of five-star treatment. Executive Chef Franz Weiss told us how all cuisine can be ordered gluten-free, vegan, kosher, and vegetarian. Debbi often opted for a special low-fat meal: Salad with sweet balsamic reduction instead of fattening dressing; dry-grilled fish; baked potato; and a wide array of vegetables. Dessert? One night, we had special-ordered a lowfat carrot cake (sans cream cheese frosting) that was, stalks down, the very best we’ve ever eaten – anywhere. We also ordered Nutella crepes that fully sated our chocolate-hazelnut cravings.
Even unusual requests are handled with aplomb: Once, Chef Weiss was asked to serve both male and female Dover sole to a guest. He used vegetables to create a necktie on one filet, and a skirt on the other, and the guest was delighted.
Being an all-inclusive luxury cruise line, all of your spirits on Crystal are included in the price of your fare, including the finest wines. “We have a few thousand bottles of wine on board,” says Mario Da Silva, the head sommelier.
For a truly distinctive, private treat, book the Vintage Room, where, for a minimum of $2,600, you will dine on gourmet cuisine paired with vintage wines of your choice. One family traveling aboard Crystal rented it to watch a football game, and paired their favorite wines with hot dogs, cheeseburgers and onion rings. “They had a blast,” says Mr. Da Silva.
With so much superior cuisine, it’s wise to pace yourself, lest you experience the anecdotal weight gain of one pound per day on less sophisticated, mass-market cruise ships.
Of course, you can dance, dance, dance – and that’s where Crystal’s exemplary Ambassador Dance Host program shines. This upscale service is available on very few cruise lines nowadays, and it’s a symbol of a bygone era from the golden days of cruising. Crystal hires several men who are professional ballroom dancers, and their ONLY job is to dance with the single ladies, at various venues, throughout the day. Says Cruise Director Gary Hunter: “The Dance Host program is very successful. We have a lot of ladies who love to dance, and having that op-
portunity here simply adds to the whole Crystal experience.” In fact, adds dance host Dennis Love from Australia, “Sometimes husbands come up to us and ask us to dance with their wives, as they themselves are not dancers.”
And have you heard of Mama Lee? She’s a household name on Crystal. Why? She’s been living on the ship for the past nine years. Mama, who is in her 80s, is a legend on board, an avid dancer (and even has her own fan club). When she’s not socializing with other passengers, or doing needlepoint, she’s jitterbugging and having the retirement of her life.
Which brings us to another octogenarian: Julie Andrews is the Serenity’s godmother, and her photo is prominently displayed in the lobby. Julie would most definitely sing the praises of Crystal Cruises, and we also heartily admit: Their cruises are a few of our favorite things.