Written by Debbi K. and William D. Kickham
Let us start this article by telling you an interesting story about a production we saw on Crystal Serenity, which demonstrates the acclaimed service that Crystal Cruises provides to its guests.
While we’ve seen a lot of shows at sea, this unforgettable evening of opera highlights featured not only the Serenity’s own singers but two professional opera singers that Crystal flew in specifically for this performance. Backed by the ship’s orchestra, the show featured Met-worthy music that ranged from “Phantom” to “Pagliacci.”
To say this production was fantastic is an understatement. Dozens of passengers not only saw the first pre-dinner show but went back after dining to see the second performance. This one example makes it no wonder that the cruise line repeatedly has been named “World’s Best” in the small-to medium luxury cruise sector by travel industry publications. Under the supervision of CEO and President Edie Rodriguez, Crystal Cruise guests are assured that when they get on board, they will have an experience unequaled elsewhere.
Crystal is where affluent cruise aficionados go when they wish to mingle with passengers-with-panache. One unmarried passenger we met — Myrna — was taking her 28th Crystal Cruise, and she was sailing with a male friend whom she had met on a previous Crystal Cruise. She raved about how the staff fixed her broken stiletto.
If you want to maximize the luxury experience, book one of the four penthouses (at a cost of about $2,000 per day), which comes with amenities that include butler service, complimentary laundry, pressing and internet, a bottle of Champagne and many more choice goodies. “They go fast, especially for people who book the World Cruise every year,” says Crystal Serenity Hotel Director Hubert Buelacher.
Many passengers who opt out of the World Cruise still take an extended cruise — a hot new trend in the industry — as sophisticated travelers understand that a seven-to-10 day cruise would never be enough. We totally agree. We were on a 28-day Antarctica cruise through South America and, even after that number of days, it was hard to disembark.
The cuisine onboard is extraordinary, under the direction of Executive Chef Werner Brenner. The ship flies in fresh food, like lobster from Maine, “no matter where we are in the world,” Buelacher says. One restaurant, the Vintage Room, features food-and-wine pairings for $250 per person. If you desire the Ultimate Vintage Room experience, including Crystal’s own signature brand of wine and Nobu cuisine from Silk Road, the price is $1,000 per person.
If you want to “give back” — and who doesn’t? — take part in Crystal’s admirable “You Care, We Care” program. Crystal has developed “volun-tourism” programs in which guests and crew get directly involved in destinations visited. Crystal makes all the arrangements and offers these opportunities for free to guests and crew. Opportunities include poverty relief, education, workplace training, cultural preservation, environmental conservation, animal welfare and much more.
Regular daily activities range from engaging excursions when you are in port to nonstop on-ship action. Not only were there lectures by a former CIA director and an American ambassador as well as “Magic Castle” shows at sea but a writer, Joe Kita, who offers classes in memoir writing. This daily class is a popular benefit for people wishing to write for grandchildren and future generations. It’s thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining — and, with added humor, you’re also sure to have lots of laughs. We sure did.
P.S.: When we departed from Buenos Aires, we treated ourselves to a stay at the Holiday Inn Buenos Aires at the airport. Don’t let that mislead you. This is one of the world’s best Holiday Inns, and we were delighted by the accommodations, the complimentary breakfast, the gym and spa, the hospitality of General Manager Hernan Kenseyan, and the hotel’s signature steak restaurant, El Mangrullo. Here’s where you can indulge in all kinds of Argentinian specialties such as empanadas, grilled provolone and a terrific tenderloin brochette. This modern business hotel is just 14 miles, from downtown, so make sure to visit the leather manufacturer’s street. Holiday Inn is also part of IHG Hotels (which also own Kimpton, Intercontinental, Hotel Indigo and other brands), and they all are “IHG Green Engage Hotels,” which means that there are more than 200 initiatives in place to reduce energy and waste and improve their effect on the environment. It sure is the right way to go.