The cultishly beloved Crystal Cruises brand hit financial rough waters in 2022. Alleged unpaid fuel bills to the tune of millions were the culprits, leading to the seizure of the company’s assets (i.e., ships) in the Bahamas last January.
The fleet subsequently went under the hammer, and luxury travel wave-maker A&K Travel Group was the winner. Abercrombie & Kent reportedly scooped up 2002’s Crystal Serenity for $103 million and the 1995-built Crystal Symphony for a song of $25 million. The deal sunk the drama and kept the brand—synonymous with small-ship luxury paired with big-ship bells and whistles—afloat.
Born-again after $150 million refurbs in Italy, the brand has been re-envisioned as simply “Crystal” with the tagline “Exception At Sea.”
Crystal Serenity’s maiden voyage was on July 31—a 12-day, one-way trip from Marseilles to Lisbon. From there she’ll journey to Iceland and the U.K. before relocating to North America in September, with all her cruises featuring less-traveled ports of call. Prices start at $4,700 per person. (Serenity’s sister ship, Symphony, is slated to join the fleet on September 1. The first sailing will be out of Athens.)
The ship sports the same classic cruise liner bones as before, but now with a cutting-edge facelift and updated features. It has 377 newly enlarged rooms and suites for a total of 740 passengers, all ocean facing. Penthouses now line the upper floors like luxury apartments.
“I’m thrilled that Crystal guests will now have the best comforts of home with our enhanced suites,” said Cristina Levis, CEO of Crystal Cruises. “We merged smaller-sized guest rooms into larger suites that offer separate living room and bedroom areas, large bathrooms with a walk-in shower, and double faucets and sinks. With more space, guests will have all the functions expected on a high-end cruise, while feeling right at home.”
You’ll be especially at home if you’re used to having your own butler—one who will do everything from unpacking your undies to “tracking down the perfect cigar when in port,” as per the company. Expect unparalleled service throughout, too, with a guest-staff ratio of almost one-to-one.
Serenity has kept one important gem from the ship’s former incarnation, though: an exclusive Nobu at sea restaurant. The UMI UMA dining experience created by Michelin-star chef Nobuyuki offers Japanese-Peruvian cuisine with dishes such as Nobu-style lobster with truffle-yuzu sauce and grilled Australian Wagyu beef filet. Almost eclipsing the food is the relaxing midcentury-modern space in blues and grays, which has a panoramic view overlooking the sea.
All of the ship’s refreshed look, designed by Tillberg Design of Sweden (TDoS), goes for a blend of modern and classic lines, using high-end materials and lush fabrics to give it a quiet air of, well, serenity.
“Our goal was to unveil a new look and feel that blends the best of its renowned past with a new vision fit for a bright future ahead,” said Levis. “Fresh colors, unique textures, and first-class tangible elements create an ambiance that elevates the existing spaces and evokes timeless moments of leisure.”
Within the 13 decks, the top one featuring a panoramic glass roof, guests can indulge in body treatments in the Aurōra spa, namaste in the fitness room or, in a sign of the times, practice dinks and firefights on the two onboard pickleball courts. Afterwards, take afternoon tea in the elegant Palm Court, with its 270 degree forward view. Beyond the nightclub, you’ll also find the Galaxy Lounge, which claims Broadway-style shows, and the Hollywood Theatre for newly released movies.
If you can’t get enough and feel like staying on board for four months, her January 2024 round-the-world cruise will take you on a loop around the globe, with myriad stops including Tahiti, Australia, Israel, Istanbul, and Monaco. Expect to pay from $61,500 per person.