We Tried It! Submarine on Crystal Espritby Sherri Eisenberg | February 08, 2016
Crystal Cruises' 62-passenger Crystal Esprit, the first yacht from a company known for 1,000-passenger ships, carries with it the line's most unusual amenity: a submarine. The vessel itself is a C-Explorer, made by a company called U-Boat Worx, which specializes in research vessels made for scientific exploration.
Housed as part of the watersports marina, home to jet skis, kayaks, wakeboards, and Zodiacs, the three-passenger submersible can plunge 300 meters (about 984 feet) under sea level. There, passengers who don't dive — or are just looking for a new experience — can explore the bottom of the ocean floor and watch the sea life from inside a protective clear acrylic bubble. What exactly will you get to see? That changes not just from week to week, but really from ride to ride.
What It's Really Like: You're given a 15-minute safety briefing, then put on a Zodiac boat and taken out to the vessel, which is placed in the water for one day of the week-long sailing over an especially clear, fish-filled reef. Several crew members (including the captain and his first mate) have been trained to pilot the submarine. The crew helps you onto the roof of the vessel and in through the top hatch opening at the peak of the bubble-like hull. You place your feet on the armrests and then ease yourself into one of the seats. There are cup holders for bottles of water, and the crew hands your phone to you, so you can take pictures of the ride.
The submarine is small, but it doesn't feel claustrophobic, since the 180-degree view through the clear acrylic makes you feel at one with the open ocean. After the second passenger and the pilot get in, the pilot gives some numbers to the crew outside, gets the clearance to proceed, and begins the descent under water.
It's warm inside, but only from the sun beating on the acrylic when the submarine is above ground. Once submerged, the air conditioning kicks on.
Sherri Eisenberg is the New York City-based editorial director of ShermansCruise.com.