Cue the violins to Mozart’s “A Little Night Music.”
Because when Crystal Cruises serves afternoon tea, Mozart is often in attendance. Yes, many cruise ships hold afternoon tea — but Crystal’s Mozart Tea is far different. First, it features a violinist and pianist who not only play Wolfgang Amadeus but other great composers of his era. There are more Viennese pastries than you’ll find in Vienna, including Linzer and Esterhazy slices, Dobosh torte and hot apple strudel. But the pièce de résistance? The servers are outfitted in 18th-century attire, with floral waistcoats, breeches and buckled shoes. It’s a showstopping photo op.
My husband, Bill, and I recently sailed almost a month on Crystal’s Serenity, where everything was as superb as the Mozart Tea.
We took an extended cruise from Charleston, South Carolina, to Maui, Hawaii, and were delighted to discover the many advantages of sailing more than the typical 10 to 12 days. One highlight: You can really get to know first-class entertainers — and yes, schedule lunch or dinner with them. What a treat. We became acquainted with one of the singers, who invited us backstage to her show on Broadway (“Aladdin”). This never would have happened if we had not spent significant time aboard the Serenity, which became our second home, and engaged other passengers and entertainers on a day-by-day basis.
Now we yearn to take a World Cruise — as so many people do — remaining on board for about three months and experiencing all kinds of special events. It is so easy to adapt to ship life — spending all day cruising, wining and dining, visiting the spa and gym — or just reading a book or taking a power nap. Crystal also has provoking lecturers who discuss everything from politics to world affairs, along with a fabulous “Hollywood Theater” where you can sit — with popcorn — and watch a movie.
‘FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD’
Another area where Crystal excels is the excellent cuisine that is readily available throughout the day in a wide variety of venues.
For dinner, the main dining room offers the five-star treatment. Executive Chef Franz Weiss told me how all cuisine can be ordered gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and kosher. I often opted for a special low-fat meal — salad with a sweet balsamic reduction, dry-grilled fish, a baked potato and a wide array of vegetables. Dessert? One night, we special-ordered a low-fat carrot cake (sans cream cheese frosting) that was the very best we’ve ever eaten — anywhere. We also ordered Nutella crepes that fully sated our chocolate-hazelnut cravings.
Even unusual requests are handled with aplomb: Once, Weiss was asked to serve both male and female Dover sole to a guest. He used vegetables to create a necktie on one filet and a skirt on the other, and the guest was delighted.
Being an all-inclusive luxury cruise line, all of your spirits on Crystal are included in the price of your fare, including the finest wines. “We have a few thousand bottles of wine on board,” says Mario Da Silva, the head sommelier.
For a truly distinctive, private treat, book the Vintage Room, where, for a minimum of $2,600, you will dine on gourmet cuisine paired with vintage wines of your choice. But don’t be intimidated — one family traveling aboard Crystal rented it to watch a football game and paired their favorite wines with hot dogs, cheeseburgers and onion rings.
“They had a blast,” Da Silva says.
With so much superior cuisine, it’s wise to pace yourself, lest you experience the anecdotal weight gain of one pound per day on a cruise ship.
Of course, you can dance, dance, dance — and that’s where Crystal’s exemplary Ambassador Dance Host program shines. This upscale service is available on few cruise lines nowadays, a symbol of a golden, bygone era. Crystal hires several men who are professional ballroom dancers whose only job is to dance with the single ladies at various venues throughout the day. Says cruise director Gary Hunter, “The Dance Host program is very successful. We have a lot of ladies who love to dance and having that opportunity here simply adds to the whole Crystal experience.” Indeed, adds dance host Dennis Love from Australia, “Sometimes husbands come up to us and ask us to dance with their wives, as they themselves are not dancers.”
And have you heard of Mama Lee? She’s a household name on Crystal. Why? She’s been living on the ship for the past 12 years. Mama, who is in her 80s, is a legend on board (and has her own fan club). When she’s not socializing with other passengers, or doing needlepoint, she’s dancing up a storm and having the retirement of her life.
Which brings us to another octogenarian: Julie Andrews is the Serenity’s godmother, and her photo is prominently displayed in the lobby. Julie would most definitely sing the praises of Crystal Cruises and we would heartily concur:
Crystal’s cruises are a few of our favorite things.