Crystal Serenity to receive face-lift

By Michael Coleman

One of cruise travel’s most luxurious vessels is scheduled for a face-lift.
Crystal Cruises will be spending more than $25 million this spring to keep its largest ship, Crystal Serenity, on the cutting edge of luxury style.

Some 400 expert technicians flown from around the world, working round the clock for just 14 days, are scheduled for the massive redesign of her 531 deluxe staterooms, penthouses and penthouses suites; retail centers; expansive outdoor pool deck and other design projects during a May 8-22 dry dock at Hamburg’s Blohm + Voss shipyard.

“In the past two years, we have invested well over $50 million in our ships,” says Gregg Michel, president, Crystal Cruises.  The line also operates the 922-passenger Crystal Symphony.

“Our guests can look forward to dazzling new spaces, which will serve as a stunning  backdrop to the incomparable service and choices that always characterizes a Crystal vacation.”     

Interior designer, Keith Rushbrook, principal at the Toronto-based II BY IV Design Associates, summarized the vision: “We wanted modern classic elegance.  We wanted Fifth Avenue — crème de la crème New York-inspired living and retail spaces that people love and look forward to spending time in.”

All of the ship’s deluxe outside staterooms, penthouses, and penthouse suites will sport new, floor-to-ceiling tufted headboards, bedside cabinets, wallpaper, sofas, curtains, pillows, and custom carpets in contemporary lines and classic stone, silk, velvet, leather, and crisp linen textures.  New modern lighting features and electronic “do not disturb” and doorbell system will allow guests greater personalization of their home-away-from-home. 

Serenity’s retail shops will receive a similar, sophisticated metamorphosis.  The Facets fine jewelry store will mirror a jewelry box, with mother-of-pearl feature wall, beveled chrome vitrines, and new, private sales area.  The Apropos boutique will become three-shops-in-one, with a flagship Christian Dior cosmetic/skincare area showcased amongst rich Zebrano wood and herringbone rosewood, arresting black-plum-magenta carpeting, and tufted leather seating.

Inspired by Symphony’s recent transformation, the Seahorse Pool teak deck will be refashioned with circular pod beds, plush sofa groups, and lounge chairs in a kaleidoscope of lime green, azure, and mango.

The corridors throughout the ship will be transformed with new, custom carpeting, inspiring artwork, and mood lighting.  Dramatic new lighting will also be installed in the Crystal Dining Room, as will new furniture on all stateroom verandahs.

Following the dry dock, Serenity will embark on a series of Baltic, North Cape and British Isles cruises before heading to the Mediterranean for late summer and fall.

Poll: Crystal, Regent, Seabourn deemed world’s best

Three ultra-luxury cruise lines — Crystal, Regent and Seabourn — have been voted as the world’s best. Regent Seven Seas Mariner is pictured here in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.
Images courtesy Michael Coleman

By Michael Coleman

Luxury cruise ship operators Crystal, Regent and Seabourn have been voted as the world’s best cruise lines.

Crystal and Regent tied for number one in the “large-ship” category in the 2010 Condé Nast Traveler readers’ poll while Seabourn was named best in the “small ship’’ category.

Considered among the travel industry’s most coveted honors, the magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards celebrate the best-of-the-best cruise lines, hotels, airlines, cities, rental car companies and islands.

Travelers evaluated cruise lines on their Itineraries and Shore Excursions, Accommodations, Food/Dining, Crew/Service, Design/Layout and Activities/Facilities to determine the overall score. Complete results appear in the magazine’s November edition.

Crystal, soon to celebrate its 20th Anniversary, shares the number one billing with a competitor for the first time in over a decade-and-a-half yet still holds the distinction of having won the award more than any other cruise line, hotel or resort in the magazine’s poll history. 

Renowned for their service, space, quality and choices Crystal’s two stylish ships, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, are recognized for innovative partnerships with Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Piero Selvaggio, stimulating Creative Learning Institute and Computer [email protected], Feng Shui-designed spa, and a myriad of culinary, cultural and fitness-oriented enrichment. In 2011, Crystal will introduce Perfect Choice dining featuring flexible open dining times, by reservation, and two seating choices. Itineraries of seven to 100+ days are available throughout the world.

Regent, meanwhile, the world’s only cruise line to include airfare, all-suite accommodations, acclaimed cuisine, open bars, sightseeing excursions, gratuities and taxes as part of the overall cruise fare, features a three-ship, all-suite luxury fleet carrying 490 to 700 guests to ports in Australia, Europe, Asia, Alaska and the Caribbean. Facilities include several bars, a show lounge, intimate casino, library, Internet center, card room, outdoor pool, hot tubs and Canyon Ranch SpaClub. Depending on the ship, guests can choose from up to four, open-seating gourmet restaurants, including Prime 7, the line’s new steakhouse.

Seabourn Odyssey docked on Grand Turk Island, Turks & Caicos.
The 2010 Readers’ Choice award comes as Seabourn is in the midst of a three-year, three-yacht expansion of its small ship fleet, which has included the launch of Seabourn Odyssey in June 2009 and Seabourn Sojourn in June 2010. The new Seabourn Quest is scheduled to depart on its maiden voyage from Barcelona, Spain, on June 20, 2011. The expanded fleet has enabled Seabourn to increase its capacity in the most popular destinations, such as the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, while adding new, exotic ports of call around the world, including Indonesia and the South Pacific. 

More than 26,000 subscribers voted in the 2010 survey. 

On the web: www.crystalcruises.com, www.rssc.com, www.seabourn.com

Crystal Serenity pictured off the coast of Taormina, Sicily.

Special deals offered for ‘World’s Largest Cruise Night’

Most cruise lines are offering some sort of special deal for the World's Largest Cruise Night on Oct. 13. Some offers are only good for deals booked that day and some last a bit longer. Pick your ship, see what sort of deal you can get and plan your next getaway. Photo by Matt Roseboom

By Jackie Roseboom

The Cruise Lines International Association is holding a special World’s Largest Cruise Night this Oct. 13. Travel agents across North America will be hosting a special events in partnership with several cruise lines. Some amazing deals are being offered. As the event gets closer, more deals will be offered. Here are the ones already showing up:

Carnival is enticing vacationers with cruise upgrades on virtually all “Fun Ship” departures through December 2011. To sweeten the deal, Carnival will offer up to a $200 onboard credit per stateroom for all Carnival Magic Europe voyages booked on Oct. 13. The Carnival Magic Europe offer includes best available upgrades and a $100 onboard credit per stateroom for seven-day Europe sailings and a $200 onboard credit per stateroom for nine- and 12-day sailings.

Celebrity is hosting a three-day sale beginning Oct. 13 for sailings departing April through December 2011 for select seven- to 14-night sailings. Look for onboard credits of $50 per stateroom for oceanview accommodations; $100 per stateroom for veranda accommodations; and $150 per stateroom for AquaClass (only on Solstice-class ships), suites, and Concierge Class.

Costa is offering a $50 onboard credit per stateroom on any sailing. The offer is valid only on Oct. 13.

Crystal Cruises is offering a $100 per person additional savings incentive on most 2010-2011 departures for new bookings made from Oct. 1 to 31.

Cunard is offering an onboard credit (per stateroom) of up to $300 for Queens & Princess Grill accommodation; up to $200 for Balcony staterooms; and up to $100 for Oceanview/Inside staterooms, depending on length of voyage. Bookings made during the Cruise Sale will receive a waiver of the deposit on the second guest.

Holland America Line is offering shipboard credits that can be combined with group amenities or cruise night offers. Plus deposits are only $100 per person for cruises of seven to 36 days.

For booking between Oct. 13 to 27, MSC will offer exclusive shipboard credits, such as $25 per passenger for inside cabin/oceanview bookings; $50 per passenger for standard balcony/superior balcony accommodations; and $100 per passenger for suites bookings.

Oceania Cruises is celebrating its maiden season in Alaska with two-for-one cruise fares, plus free round-trip air and bonus savings up to $1,000 per stateroom.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises is offering a $100 per person ($200 per suite) shipboard credit booking incentive. This offer is valid for any new reservation on a 2010 or 2011 departure of seven nights or longer booked between Oct. 1 and Nov. 15.

Silversea Cruises is offering a $100 per guest ($200 per suite) savings on any 2010, 2011 or 2012 cruise booked during the month of October.

Windstar is offering a $100 per person shipboard credit on any Wind Spirit, Wind Star or Wind Surf sailing in the Caribbean or Costa Rica between Jan. 2 and April 2, 2011. The offer is valid for new bookings made between Oct. 13 and Nov. 15, and the credits may be combined with all nationwide offers including two-for-one offers.

On the Web: visit cruising.org for more information or check with a CLIA-member travel agent.

Days-at-sea voyages in vogue

Cunard Line is the only company that offers regularly scheduled transatlantic crossings, most often aboard the Queen Mary 2. Transocean voyages are in vogue among today’s cruise travelers. Image courtesy Cunard

By Michael Coleman

Transocean cruise travel opportunities are gaining in popularity as luxury, premium and mass market operators offer longer haul, sea-going choices than ever before.

As cruise ships large and small are seasonally repositioned from one cruising destination to another, travelers have dozens of opportunities to enjoy one of life’s most memorable and unique experiences — a voyage by ship from one continent to another.

The Cunard Line, for decades, was literally built via the transatlantic voyages offered aboard her ships and today is the only company that offers regularly scheduled transatlantic crossings on the Queen Mary 2 from April to November.

But, in this highly-competitive global industry that is cruise travel, more and more lines are offering a host of transocean opportunities as well.

In this the first of a two-part series, we’ll look at the transocean voyages being offered by the world’s best luxury cruise lines, each a member of the Cruise Lines International Association.

Next week, we’ll take a closer look at the transocean voyages being offered by the world’s top mass market and premium cruise lines.

CUNARD LINE Queen Mary 2 — Twenty-one transatlantic crossings, April-November, including classic six-day voyages between New York and Southampton, plus a seven-day option as well as eight- and nine-day crossings to Cherbourg and Hamburg,

CRYSTAL CRUISESCrystal Symphony — From Dubai to Athens, departing May 12; from London to New York, departing September 5; from New York to Los Angeles, departing November 2; Crystal Serenity — From Dubai to Athens (part of the 2010 World Cruise), departing March 15; from Rome to Barcelona, departing October 19.

REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISESSeven Seas Mariner — 16 nights from Fort Lauderdale to Monte Carlo departing March 22; Seven Seas Navigator — 20 nights from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco departing May 6; 18 nights from Seward to Tianjin (Beijing) departing September 15; Seven Seas Voyager — 14 nights from Fort Lauderdale to Reykjavik departing May 12; 15 nights from Barcelona to Fort Lauderdale departing November 8.

SEABOURN CRUISE LINESeabourn Spirit — 13 days from Fort Lauderdale to Lisbon departing March 19; Seabourn Legend — 13 days from Fort Lauderdale to Lisbon departing April 8; Seabourn Legend — 13 days from Malaga to Fort Lauderdale departing November 20; Seabourn Odyssey — 13 days from Nice to Fort Lauderdale departing December 6.

SEADREAM YACHT CLUBSeaDream I — 13 days from San Juan to Malaga departing April 30; 12 days from Malaga to San Juan departing October 14; SeaDream II — 12 days from Barbados to Malaga departing April 25; 2 days from Barbados to Malaga departing November 8.

SILVERSEA CRUISESSilver Spirit — 14 days from New York to Southampton departing April 23; Silver Cloud — 15 Days from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Barcelona, Spain, departing April 14; Silver Whisper — 12 Days from Southampton, U.K. to New York City, New York, departing September 2; Silver Shadow — 16 Days from Vancouver, British Columbia to Tokyo, Japan, departing Sept. 12.

Cruising offers the ultimate in romance

Whether your idea of romance is a nice dinner, playing games in the casino or relaxing on a beach, a cruise offers it all. Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises.

By Matt Roseboom

With breakfast in bed, dining under the stars and dancing until dawn, you can’t get much more romantic than a cruise. If you haven’t already made plans for your sweetie this Valentine’s Day, surprise them with a romantic cruise.

Here’s a sampling of Valentine’s Day-inspired offers, programs and activities:

Carnival Cruise Line

In addition to a huge number of balcony staterooms on its ships, Carnival offers tables for two in the main dining rooms. Try a couples massage in the spa.

Costa Cruises

Costa makes it affordable at $75 per day, or up to 60 percent off regular fares. An authentic Italian style of service sets the perfect backdrop for a romantic cruise.

Crystal Cruises

From special dinner requests to “Crystal Private Adventures” shore excursions to renewal ceremonies, couples can arrange pretty much anything they’d like for a romance package. In penthouse accommodations, guests can request dinner for two to be served by their personal butler on the verandah.

Cunard

Where better to follow in the footsteps of such starry-eyed couples as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor or Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, than aboard a Cunard ocean liner? Luxurious couples massages, ballroom dancing and elegant dining add to the intimate appeal.

Disney Cruise Line

Disney offers romantic dining experiences specifically for adults. High atop both ships, Palo, Disney’s signature restaurant at sea, treats adults to sweeping ocean views and northern Italian specialties.

Holland America

Some of the special romance packages offered include breakfast in bed, champagne and caviar, cuddly stuffed bears proclaiming “I Love You” and the Valentine’s Red and White Ball in the Crow’s Nest.

MSC Cruises

From elegant Italian ambiance to evenings filled with dancing and live entertainment throughout the ship, MSC sets the mood. They also offer a seven-course gourmet dinner and breakfast served on your private veranda.

Norwegian Cruise Line

NCL offers several “Romance” packages such as intimate dinners for two, customized “dream dates” ashore and couples massages.

Princess Cruises

Princess will be holding its first ever Romance Summit aboard Crown Princess during the Valentine’s week cruise, Feb. 13 to 20. Passengers will be treated to romance-themed events and activities, including a renewal of vows ceremony and a gala Valentine’s Ball.

Seaborne

A Seabourn yacht cruise offers gourmet dining, whether in the ship’s elegant restaurant or at a private candlelit table on your suite balcony.

Silversea

Silversea’s intimate ultra-luxury ships provide a uniquely appealing option for those seeking a truly indulgent, romantic getaway. Couples are welcomed onboard with a glass of champagne and then escorted to their richly appointed suite.

Windstar

Windstar offers unique romantic adventures in the Caribbean this winter – seven day voyages from Barbados or Saint Maarten  and seven-day explorations of Costa Rica. A variety of romance, honeymoon and wedding vow renewal packages are also available.

Cruise Guide: You deserve to save money on a cruise

By Matt Roseboom

cruiseguideheadersmallYour alarm clock goes off early. You’re late to work and get reprimanded by your boss, who makes you work late, which makes you get home late, which makes your spouse and kids unhappy. This chain reaction won’t happen every day, but just one of these things may make you think to yourself, “I deserve a cruise.”

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) agrees and it’s teamed up with its cruise line members for the “You Deserve a Cruise” promotion. Most of the top cruise lines are offering special limited-time deals. Here’s a sampling: Continue reading “Cruise Guide: You deserve to save money on a cruise”

Cruise Guide: Crystal tees up golf, culinary packages

By Michael Coleman

Golf may not be at the top of ones agenda when traveling in Asia but Crystal Cruises is providing guests with a rare opportunity to tee it up at renowned links in Thailand and Vietnam.

Its the first time that Crystal has expanded its golf theme cruises to the continent. 

The lines 940-guest Crystal Symphony will depart on an 11-day itinerary from Hong Kong to Singapore beginning April 20. Golf enthusiasts will enjoy a host of onboard lectures, clinics, contests and events including the chance to win a free cruise.

Meanwhile, Crystal will also be expanding its 2009 Wine & Food sailings to include cocktail and mixology curriculum in addition to its wine and food focus.

 

Asian Links

The line has made arrangements for guests to play at four Asian clubs, including:  

Vietnam Golf & Country Club, Ho Chi Minh City The countrys first 36-hole golf club, widely regarded as the premier club in Vietnam.

Burapha Golf, Bangkok A 36-hole championship course set amid lakes, hills and tropical vegetation. 

Laem Chabang International Country Club, Bangkok Three distinct nines: The Lakes, Mountain and Valley courses, each offering respective challenges.

Montgomerie Links, Da Nang, Vietnam Asia’s first “Montgomerie” branded golf links set against the Marble Mountains and China Beach coast.

Look also for guests to be able to sharpen their skills on board and ashore with instruction from a guest celebrity golfer and PGA golf pro.

Every detail of the program will be arranged in typical Crystal six-star fashion, from onboard practice with TaylorMade equipment to caddy, cart service and cocktails at each club. Complimentary cleaning and storage of golf clubs and golf shoes will be offered after each round.

Whether one is an avid golfer looking to conquer some of the worlds finest golf courses, or simply sharpen ones short game with tips from our onboard PGA golf instructors, there is great attention to detail at every level said John Stoll, Crystals director of land programs. 

Even non-golfing guests traveling with golfers will have a wide selection of onboard and shoreside activities that suit most interests.

Crystal even offers a Luggage Concierge service where guests can ship their clubs in advance of the sailing.

The line will be offering golf-themed itineraries in the British Isles and Northern Europe, plus Canada/New England in 2009.

Food & Wine

On the food and wine front, look for two dozen of the worlds most intriguing and topical names on the culinary, wine and cocktail scenes to offer insights and instruction during voyages through the Panama Canal, Asia, Northern and Western Europe and the Caribbean aboard Crystal Symphony and the 1,080-guest Crystal Serenity.

One of the hallmarks of a Crystal vacation is the extraordinary onboard culinary experience, said Toni Neumeister, Crystals vice president, food and beverage operations. Were excited to pair our chefs with the highest caliber of experts to offer guests an unparalleled wine and food vacation.

Cruise Guide: Crystal, Princess offer guests distinct amenities

By Michael Coleman 

It will be a summer to remember for guests embarking on either a Crystal or Princess cruise.

The ultra-luxurious setting aboard Crystal Symphony will be matched by a series of utra-exclusive shore excursions in St. Petersburg, Russia. Princess, meanwhile, will be expanding The Sanctuary its popular, adults-only onboard retreat fleet-wide.

 

From Russia with Love

The 940-guest Crystal Symphony will be making six Baltic cruises departing from London, Stockholm and Copenhagen, June through August, ranging in length from seven to 11 days. Each features at least two days in St. Petersburg. Five of the six cruises boast three-day stays providing guests with the opportunity to dig deeper into one of the worlds most celebrated destinations.

Look for some 30 shore excursions dubbed Crystal Adventures to include an actual flight on a MiG Fighter (zooming over Russia’s landscape at over twice the speed of sound) to a more serene, bicycle trip through Krestovsky Island.

Look also for a visit to the modest memorial apartment of author Fyodor Dostoevsky and an overnight stay in Moscow where guests will explore the Kremlin and its Armory Chamber, complete with its royal crowns, jewelry and priceless Faberge eggs. The visit also includes a trip to the Cathedral of the Assumption and Grand Kremlin Palace – typically off-limits to visitors. The famed State Tretyakov Gallery and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts are among the other wonders of the Russian capital guests will enjoy.

Crystal Adventures range from less than $50 to as much as $38,695 for the MIG flight. 
 
Princess Sanctuary

The Sanctuary, which debuted in 2006 aboard Crown Princess, was an instant success. It gave passengers an ideal onboard oasis, complete with a plush, outdoor spa-inspired setting, massage cabanas, signature beverages, light meals, attentive service and relaxing personal entertainment. It enjoyed continued popularity on sister ship Emerald Princess, and will also be available on Ruby Princess, debuting in November.

Beginning this summer, the line’s trademark retreat will be added to Island Princess, followed by Grand Princess and Star Princess by the end of the year.  Additional ships will have The Sanctuary added through 2010. 

In addition, The Sanctuary features two outdoor private cabanas where guests can also take advantage of exclusive Lotus Spa Services including sybaritic favorites such as a Deep Tissue Muscle Massage, a relaxing Swedish Massage or a Full Body Lotus Massage especially for couples.

Half-day passes are available for $10 per person, for 8 am to 12:30 pm or 1 pm to 5 pm.  Passengers choosing to indulge with an outdoor massage may also enjoy an hour’s use of The Sanctuary area after their treatment.

Cruise Guide: Crystal expands partnership with Nobu

By Mike Coleman

Famed global restaurateur Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa, having enjoyed culinary success on both land and at sea, has expanded his partnership with Crystal Cruises.

Renowned internationally for the innovative blend of classically styled Japanese foods with distinct Peruvian and European influences, Nobu-trained chefs will showcase some of Nobu’s most popular specialties in two new restaurants aboard the 940-guest, ultra-luxurious Crystal Symphony.

In The Sushi Bar, guests can indulge in yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño and tuna tataki with ponzu sauce while, among the more than two dozen menu selections at Silk Road, Nobu-style lobster with truffle-yuzu sauce, saikyo miso black cod and beef with three distinctive sauces are cant miss choices.

The new restaurants will debut during Crystal Symphony’s March 3, 2008 Trans-Pacific cruise from Los Angeles to Hong Kong. Nobu will join the ship in March to personally oversee the launch.

Occupying the former Jade Garden space, the restaurants will accommodate a total of 68 guests and will be open most evenings. While there is no additional charge for enjoying Nobu’s cuisine, reservations are recommended for Silk Road. Dining at The Sushi Bar will be on a first come, first served basis.
 
“As our guests explore the world in search of new adventures and discovery, we look to provide them with access to unique experiences,” said Toni Neumeister, Crystals vice president, food and beverage operations. 

“To dine at one of Nobu’s restaurants is a treat unto itself, and we look forward to presenting our savvy clientele with yet another new dimension of choice and superior quality aboard Crystal Symphony.”
 
Described as a “sushi mogul”, Nobu has earned a litany of awards beginning in 1989 when Food & Wine magazine taped him as one of the 10 Best New Chefs. In 1993 The New York Times recognized his Beverly Hills restaurant Matsuhisa as one of the top destination restaurants in the world.

With restaurants in almost two dozen cities – his eponymous empire reaches from Beverly Hills, New York and London to Milan, Mykonos, Melbourne and beyond – Nobu’s lone partnership at sea was forged in 2003 aboard Crystal Symphonys fleet mate, Crystal Serenity.

Like Nobu, Crystal has also earned the highest ratings in its industry. The luxury line has been voted “World’s Best” by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure magazines more than any other cruise line, resort or hotel in history.