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Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises Review

Crystal Cruises Review

Crystal Cruises, Crystal Symphony, Prego Ravioli Prego Crystal Cruises

These are all-inclusive, floating palaces for the well-heeled set: Crystal operates the largest ships in the luxury category and manages to deliver a level of service you wouldn't expect from such big vessels. Expect perks akin to an opulent hotel, including attentive butlers and memorably good cuisine.

Although the two primary ships in the fleet — Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity — are getting older, they've been kept "shiny" with multimillion-dollar renovations, though some may argue that the polishing in some areas and not others makes these vessels feel inconsistent.

In addition, in the last few years, Crystal has begun expanding its reach beyond its 1,000-passenger ocean-going ships. Today, in addition to the two large ships, Crystal also has the 64-passenger, yacht-style Crystal Esprit — a different, if equally posh, experience from sailing on her bigger, older sisters. This ship is most well known for carrying with it a submarine in its marina. The line also has a quickly growing fleet of river ships and a private jet service as well as plans for residences on the three ocean-going ships in the luxury line's new "exclusive" class, the first of which is scheduled to launch in 2019. 

What We Love

You Can Dress Up: While there are casual nights when a collared shirt and pants or a sundress will do, there are also "Black Tie Optional" nights, and many passengers take full advantage of the opportunity.

Actual Nightlife: This is not the go-to-bed-early crowd you find on other luxury lines. After dinner, you'll encounter plenty of passengers in the casino, at show productions with live orchestras, doing the rumba and cha-cha, and hanging out in the piano bar and disco.

Best Known For

Extraordinary Cuisine: On the two large ocean-going ships, the line's calling card is Silk Road, a Japanese restaurant and sushi bar by acclaimed Japanese chef Noboyuki "Nobu" Matsuhisa, of the Food Network's "Iron Chef" fame, and certainly those tables are the first to fill up. There's also an Italian restaurant, with handmade pastas, but meals in the main dining room are impressive too: Half the menu is dedicated to classics such as beef Wellington; the other half is all about creative modern dishes.

Well-Executed Enrichment Program: Crystal's Creative Learning Institute leads the pack, bringing boldface names on board to talk about their areas of expertise, such as sports or politics. Past guests have included Barbara Walters, Buzz Aldrin, and James Carville. Plus, with the Computer University@Sea, you can learn new tricks on your iPad.

Who It's Best For

Age 50-plus: This line is for sophisticated world travelers who want great food and service. Longer cruises tend to attract older guests, even on more rugged itineraries, such as in Antarctica.

Multigenerational Families: Crystal has made an effort to serve these groups, and it's the only luxury line with dedicated playrooms and staff. It occasionally runs kids-cruise-free promotions.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

It's Almost All-inclusive: Plan to spend extra for shore excursions and other temptations. Some passengers complain, for example, that there's a charge if you dine at Silk Road more than once, and that wine and liquor are often upsold.

Fran Golden

Fran Golden is a Cleveland-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for USA Today.

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