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 ships are older, they've been kept "shiny and new" with multimillion-dollar renovations.
What We Love
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.
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.
Best Known For
Extraordinary Cuisine: The line's calling card is a Japanese restaurant and sushi bar by acclaimed Japanese chef Noboyuki "Nobu" Matsuhisa, of the Food Network's "Iron Chef" fame. 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.
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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.
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 is a Cleveland-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for USA Today.