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.

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.

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.