Courtesy of Crystal
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Courtesy of Crystal
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Courtesy of Crystal
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Courtesy of Crystal
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Our Review
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger

The name Crystal has been synonymous with luxury cruising for more than 30 years, so when the cruise line’s Hong Kong-based parent company faced financial collapse in February 2022, resulting in the seizure of its two ocean ships, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, there was a collective gasp. Just 18 months later and under new ownership, Crystal returned to sea with the July 2023 relaunch of Crystal Serenity, followed by Crystal Symphony in September 2023. 

Now owned by London-based A&K Travel Group Ltd. and luxury cruise visionary Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, and known simply as Crystal, the brand counts just the two newly refreshed ocean vessels in its fleet — for now. A&K plans to add four new-build ships by 2029: two 650-guest ocean cruise ships and two 220-guest Polar-Class-6-rated expedition ships. All will be designed to offer similar amenities to those on Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony. 

Crystal is no longer in the river cruise business (its former ships are now in the German-owned Riverside fleet) and its expedition ship is now owned by Silversea Cruises as Silver Endeavour. 

Looking forward, A&K Travel Group said that it plans to create synergy between Crystal and Abercrombie & Kent, its luxury tour company, beginning with pre- and post-cruise tours curated by A&K in 2025. 

The new Crystal will seem reassuringly familiar to past guests. Ship renovations to both Serenity and Symphony have added an elegant polish to certain spaces — notably specialty restaurants, the spa and fitness center, and many but not all staterooms and suites — while leaving most of the well-maintained public spaces as they were with just minor touch-ups. This was possible because Crystal Symphony underwent a major refurbishment in 2017 and Crystal Serenity in 2018. 

Notably, the cruise line has created a greater number of suites on both ships, reducing passenger capacity and creating an even more highly personalized experience. Loyal Crystal fans will be delighted that 80 percent of the crew on both ships are past employees who’ve returned “home” to deliver the attentive and refined service for which the brand is known — including butler-serviced staterooms and suites. They will also love that Michelin-starred Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s Umi Uma restaurant is back in a setting that’s more inviting than ever, while a new Italian specialty restaurant delivers an incredible dining experience.

What We Love

Classic Décor with Contemporary Flair: There’s nothing cutting-edge about Crystal’s ships, which tend toward classic elegance with modern touches. Much like a beloved luxury hotel with a signature style, Serenity and Symphony have spaces that guests are ardently attached to, such as the airy Palm Court, the setting for afternoon tea and nightly music and dancing, and the Stardust Lounge, which hosts intimate cabaret-style shows. Fans of Avenue Saloon can once again sip craft cocktails while enjoying live piano music, and shoppers who fancy designer labels can browse the offerings in the onboard shops. Those looking to court Lady Luck in the Crystal Casino, however, will be disappointed: The roulette tables and slot machines have been removed on both ships and the space is now the Lounge featuring armchairs and tables — awaiting a yet-to-be-specified use.

The Culinary Pedigree: Crystal ships have always offered culinary indulgence, and Serenity and Symphony’s return means guests can once again savor meticulous, creative cuisine in several smartly redesigned specialty restaurants. In addition to the exquisitely prepared sushi, sashimi, Wagyu beef, and Japanese-Peruvian fusion dishes at Umi Uma, both ships now feature Osteria d’Ovidio. This sleek venue, which replaces Prego, offers a refined menu of classic Northern Italian specialties, each as memorable as the last. Another option, the elegant Waterside Restaurant, has one of the best main dining room menus at sea, while the casual, yet no less satisfying, global tapas-style menu in Tastes Kitchen & Bar is enjoyed in a relaxed, tree-lined setting under a glass ceiling.

The Space-to-Guest Ratio: Crystal has solved the issue of smaller staterooms common on older ships by reconfiguring its passenger decks with more spacious suites. That means Crystal Serenity’s new guest capacity is 740, down substantially from 980 after its 2018 refurbishment and 1,070 when it debuted in 2003. Smaller and older, Crystal Symphony carried 922 guests when it debuted in 1995 and 848 after its 2017 refurbishment. It now accommodates just 606 passengers. The result? Crystal ships offer the highest space-to-guest ratio at sea. These are essentially mid-size ships that feel all the more spacious with fewer guests onboard.

Best Known For

Exemplary Service: It can’t be stressed enough how respectful and genuine the service is aboard Crystal’s ships. Crew members are hired for their welcoming personalities, winning smiles, and willingness to go the extra mile to satisfy customer requests. You will remember them — and they will remember you and greet you warmly on your next voyage.

Global Itineraries: Crystal is already preparing for a 141-night World Cruise in early 2024 aboard Crystal Serenity (another is planned for 2025) and it offers an extensive array of sailings ranging from seven nights to more than 50 nights. In addition to cruises in Europe and the Mediterranean, guests can book itineraries in the Caribbean and South America, Alaska, Africa and the Indian Ocean, the South Pacific, Australia & New Zealand, and Asia.

The Inclusions: Crystal fares are mostly all-inclusive: Crew gratuities, Wi-Fi, and all onboard beverages (with the exception of wines by the bottle and certain premium spirits) are included. This creates excellent value for a luxury product, with some fares on seven-night sailings priced just under $4,000 per person for a 215-square-foot Double Guest Room with an Ocean View. 

Who It's Best For

Traditionalists Who Enjoy Being Pampered: Couples aged 60-plus, and a growing number of single travelers (especially older women) form the core of Crystal’s clientele. They are affluent professionals and retirees who are traditionalists at heart and enjoy sailing on these well-maintained ships with their high-quality entertainment lineup of musical performances and production shows designed to enchant Baby Boomers. Crystal does welcome kids, mainly on summer and holiday-season sailings when multi-generation families board and grandparents introduce younger generations to the brand.   

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

Gaining a Few Pounds is Inevitable: While no one onboard a Crystal ship will force you to eat, you will encounter impossible-to-resist food and expertly mixed cocktails multiple times daily. Luckily, both ships have newly renovated Fitness Centers with Technogym equipment, there’s a wide exterior promenade for walking/jogging, and many ports are ideal for burning calories while exploring on foot.   

Donna Heiderstadt
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger
Cruise Expert