Cruise Guide: Crystal set to host sophisticated theme cruises

By Mike Coleman

Ultra-luxurious Crystal Cruises has unveiled 12 sophisticated theme sailings in 2008 aboard its two globe-trotting vessels.

A new arts and antiquities program, a classical music voyage with distinguished performers and an expanded series of golf cruises with tee times at some of the world’s most exclusive courses highlight the line’s offerings. Look also for jazz, big band and ballroom dancing and film- and theatre-themed cruises, perennial favorites among Crystal guests.

Long renowned for its onboard enrichment, Crystal’s theme offerings seek to tap the interests of today’s savvy traveler with in-depth experiences and varied programming emphasizing destination, culture, history and contemporary trends.

“Whether the cruise theme is a lifelong passion or a budding interest, guests will enjoy access to industry experts, talented performers and culinary stars who bring an unparalleled depth of knowledge to today’s hot topics and interests,” said Kristin Turner, the line’s manager of entertainment.

The 12-day arts and antiquities cruise, beginning Oct. 6, will explore the Greco-Roman empire aboard a cruise from Athens to Rome featuring artists, architects, and experts from top museums and auction houses. The Mediterranean voyage includes an overnight in Cairo aboard Crystal Serenity.

Guest lectures and live performances will highlight the classical music cruise. The works of Beethoven, Bach and Mozart will fill the air aboard Crystal Symphony during an 11-day voyage to the Baltic’s imperial cities.

Famed mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade headlines the entertainment lineup. The trip also includes an option to attend a performance at Russia’s famed Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and a classical concert at the Hermitage.

Meanwhile, Crystal’s wine and food festival, now in its 12th year, will be held on six voyages and again feature world-renowned chefs and wine experts. Look for lectures, demonstrations, special menus and tastings aboard and ashore during five voyages to Asia, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and New England and Canada.

Also returning is the line’s golf cruise, expanded from one voyage in 2007 to three sailings in 2008. Itineraries in April, September and October feature instruction by top PGA pros. Shore excursions offer optional play at prestigious courses, including the Monte Carlo Golf Club, and other links throughout New England, Europe and the Canary Islands.

In January, guests will enjoy historical and cultural insights from lecturers of the Smithsonian Institute as they transit the Panama Canal. Later in the year, look for experts in Tai Chi, yoga and Pilates to focus on rejuvenation and wellness aboard voyages to South America and the Caribbean.

Cruise Guide: Crystal Symphony undergoes extreme makeover

By Michael Coleman

One of the world’s top luxury cruise ships will receive a $23 million stem-to-stern makeover this fall during a two-week dry dock at BAE Shipyard in Norfolk, Virginia. 

The 940-guest, 50,000-ton Crystal Symphony, a perennial favorite among well-heeled cruise travelers, will enter the shipyard October 31 through November 12. Emerging, say Crystal officials, will be a “decidedly sophisticated and contemporary” ship.

The facelift includes work on some 150 projects, highlighted by the transformation of Tiffany Deck, the ship’s main entertainment area. As the hub of social activity, shopping and casually elegant dining, it will be transformed with the addition of new color schemes, construction and contemporary lighting that will create different moods as day moves into night. Look for a reconstructed social lounge (Starlite Club), new casino and a new nightclub.

Elsewhere, look for the redesign of shipboard boutiques, shops and cafe – Symphony’s bistro, a favorite venue, will be enhanced with new decorative tiles, new wall finishings and fresh upholstery – as well as dozens of other behind-the-scenes improvements.

The ship’s Computer [email protected], expanded just two years ago to accommodate the increased demand for its growing portfolio of courses, will also be upgraded with new equipment and wireless access.

Even the staterooms are getting a makeover. The ship’s 416 staterooms will be redesigned and appointed with new Murano glass bedside lamps, Rubelli fabrics and leather headboards. A reconfigured space includes state-of-the-art features, from special LED reading lights to new 20-inch LCD flat screen televisions. Bathrooms will be reconstructed as well, with a contemporary style, showcasing oval glass sinks atop granite countertops.

The makeover follows on the heels of a multi-million dollar renovation two years ago that debuted a brand-new Feng Shui-inspired spa, a new Vintage Room, the redesign of specialty restaurants and a refurbishment of all shipboard penthouse accommodations.

Since its debut in 1995, the ship has enjoyed a decade of accolades, consistently earning the industry’s highest honors. Earlier this year, readers of Conde Nast Traveler voted Crystal Symphony one of the top two “Best Ships in the World” – a distinction it shares with fleetmate Crystal Serenity, launched in 2003.

Cruise Guide: Crystal Cruises unveils 2007 world cruise itinerary

By Mike Coleman

The cruise industry, like all of us, will soon be ringing in the new year but a world cruise aboard Crystal Serenity scheduled for 2007 is creating a buzz this holiday season.

Just over a year from now Crystal Cruises, the Los Angeles-based luxury operator, will offer its 12th annual world cruise.

The 1,080-guest ship will embark on a 109-day journey that includes a return to Israel, Carnaval in Rio, three days cruising Antarctica, three days in Dubai and Cape Town, and multiple African safari options.

Departing from Miami to Southampton, England, the ship will explore 44 ports of call in 27 countries on five continents the most extensive global crossing ever offered by the line. The voyage features transits of Chilean fjords, the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal, Cape Horn and the Bosporus, as well as opportunities to visit the Galapagos, Machu Picchu, Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, Luxor, Petra, the Pyramids of Giza, Jerusalem, Ephesus, the Acropolis, Marrakech and safaris to Kenya, Botswana and other exotic locations.

Available in seven segments, Crystal is offering departures from Miami; Valparaíso, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Cape Town, South Africa; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Istanbul, Turkey; and Civitavecchia (for Rome), Italy. The line will be making maiden calls in Coquimbo, Chile; Maputo, Mozambique; and Gabes, Tunisia.

“We crafted an itinerary that blends the wonders of the world, sophisticated cities, romantic and unexpected ports, breathtaking scenery and a fascinating mix of cultures, both modern and ancient,” said Crystal’s president Gregg Michel.

When the ship departs South Florida it is scheduled to transit the Panama Canal before circumnavigating South America from Ecuador (for the Galapagos) to Peru, Chile (for Machu Picchu), Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. Other highlights include a cruise through the Chilean fjords, the rounding of Cape Horn, cruising through Antarctica, an overnight in Buenos Aires and a stay in Rio de Janeiro during 2007’s Carnaval.

The ship then crosses the Atlantic to Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope, where she will visit Cape Town for three days. The luxury vessel will head up Africa’s east coast to the Seychelles and on to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for a three-day stay.

Continuing from Dubai are ancient cities in Oman, Egypt, Jordan, and Israel (the line’s first visit since 1999), a transit of the Suez Canal, followed by the architectural wonders of Greece, Turkey, Tunisia and Italy. From Rome, the world cruise concludes on a gastronomical note, blending the food, wine and spices of Italy, Spain, Morocco, Portugal and overnights in Bordeaux before arriving in Southampton.

Guests who book the entire 109-day journey will enjoy two exclusive, shoreside events; a complimentary Crystal Adventure ashore on each of the seven segments; a gala event on the eve of departure from Miami; pre-paid shipboard gratuities; private car transfers, a $1,000 shipboard credit (per person) and an array of onboard events and gifts.