This ship represents Crystal's first launch since 2003, and it's a big departure. Unlike the line's other, 1,000-passenger ships, this one holds just 62 guests. It's a small luxury yacht that was previously part of the parent company Star Cruises' fleet in Asia.
Because it's so small, you shouldn't board expecting all the same amenities you would find on the line’s larger ships. There are no specialty restaurants, but with one of the best dining rooms at sea, you won't miss them. There are few onboard activities during the day unless weather cancels the shore excursions, and in the evening the only scheduled entertainment is in the main lounge, where you'll find The Newlywed Game and an engaging pianist singing standards and show tunes. If you want to head to your room early, the crew will keep your in-room bar stocked with snacks and the wine of your choosing, and the in-room TV system has a catalog of recent and classic films.
Since it is an older ship, some kinks are still being worked out — the air-conditioning doesn't work as well as it should in cabins, the phone systems occasionally go out, and the self-serve laundry machines are not hooked up yet. But Crystal has more than compensated by making laundry service complimentary until they are working, and passengers raved about going home with suitcases full of clean clothes.
Despite its small size, the ship has large amounts of lounge seating on deck, with cushy double-wide and Balinese daybeds. There's a poolside grill, and a bartender who will whip up whatever you like, as well as a large movie screen over the small pool for films under the stars. You'll always be able to find a place in the sun.
What We Love
Little Surprises: The crew plans unscheduled events for guests, such as a ride on the ship's $1.5 million motorboat or an afternoon cocktail party on the beach with Champagne served by waiters who wade into the surf.
Gorgeous Decor: After two years in dry dock, the ship looks almost as good as new — only a few rust spots in the pool and peels in the paint by the marina give away her age. The interior design is gorgeous, modern, and just as sharp as on the line's bigger ships. Cabins are not huge, and none have balconies, but the well-designed bathrooms have double sinks, large showers with rain heads and hoses, and luxurious Etro products, as well as TVs built into the mirrors.
Complimentary Wi-Fi: The Wi-Fi is fast, reliable, and — best of all — complimentary. This is what staying connected at sea should look like: We could Skype with friends and family members back home, stay on top of email, and occasionally get on the ship's Wi-Fi while on land, too.
Best Known For
All-Inclusive Cruising: Guests rave about not being nickeled–and-dimed at all on this cruise. Most shore excursion choices are complimentary, as are wine, beer, and cocktails.
Unforgettable Dining: Dinner on this ship is impressive every single night, with modern touches such as foams and spherified oils. Each morning, guests chat at breakfast about their favorite highlights from dinner the night before. (Common choices: avocado soup, grilled lobster with panzanella salad, and a peanut butter trifle.)
Service Impresses: There is a high level of personalized attention on a ship this size, where the crew seems to learn everyone's name on day one. The service goes above and beyond just having everything in order: One passenger, after commenting on how much he liked the peanut butter trifle at dinner, found peanut butter cookies delivered to his cabin the next day; his wife commented that she loved the Etro bath products, and her cabin steward left her additional bottles daily. We also loved that our waiter learned the first day that we were avoiding carbs and always cleared the bread plate as soon as we sat down.
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Who It's Best For
Active Types: Excursions range from hikes to dives and snorkeling trips, and these really are the best ways to see the local scenery. While passengers tend to be primarily American couples in the 50-and-over demographic, there are also some Europeans as well as some friends traveling together. Most of the travelers are fit, regardless of age, allowing them to take advantage of the active offerings.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
No Elevators: A portion of the older segment of Crystal fans will just want to skip this ship altogether, as there are no elevators and the dining room and gangways are on different decks from the cabins.
Tendering in Many Ports: This small ship calls on a variety of tiny islands — especially on the Seychelles itinerary, where they are mostly uninhabited except for birds and geckos. The tenders change day to day from Zodiacs to small crafts. In some cases, there are wet landings; in others, you have to sit on the floor of the vessel so you don't fall off.
Itineraries Can Change: Weather may keep the ship out of some ports, when waves are high and tendering isn't safe. That said, moving around based on the weather is part of what makes this a yacht-like experience.
Sherri Eisenberg is a New York City-based writer and editor. She is the former editorial director of ShermansCruise.
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Crystal Esprit at a Glance
- Line: Crystal Cruises
- Number of Passengers: 62
- Ship Size: Small
- Launch Date: 1989
- Refurbish Date: 2015