A rising tide of small ships with big-ship benefits are charting a thrilling new era of exploration. And a forthcoming expedition yacht from Crystal Cruises promises to elevate this small-is-big trend to the next level. Here are three ways to make the most of the moment – this year and next.
1) See why an expedition yacht inspires such a fuss.
The 200-passenger Crystal Endeavor, debuting in August 2020, promises to combine intrepid itineraries – to eastern Russia’s rugged Kamchatka Peninsula and the exotic Spice Islands of the Banda Archipelago in Indonesia, for example – with the many diversions and amenities of larger ships.
“In exploration cruising before, you had to decide between a luxury vessel or an epic shore experience,” says Paul Largay, a Virtuoso travel advisor based in Waterbury, Connecticut, who has traveled on every ship in the Crystal fleet since 1990. “Crystal has been able to elevate the standards of accommodations, food – the entire onboard experience – and still not surrender intimate shore experiences. It’s the best of both worlds, and you no longer have to decide between luxury and adventure.”
The polar-rated expedition yacht is built both to handle the Antarctic ice and to ensure guests are well insulated from it. Each cabin comes with butler service and features king beds, walk-in closets, spa-inspired bathrooms with heated floors and rainfall showerheads, and heated storage designed to dry damp parkas between excursions.
The Endeavor’s public spaces will offer amenities that defy its boutique size, starting with a casino and six restaurants, including an elegant northern Italian spot; a European bistro; and Umi Uma & Sushi Bar, a Japanese-Peruvian restaurant from celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa. The stern’s glass-enclosed, two-story solarium offers unobstructed views from the swimming pool, hot tub, and deck chairs in all climates. The full-service spa and salon encompass a fitness center and sauna with ample windows so passengers won’t miss any passing thing. Two helicopters parked atop the ship and one personal submersible tethered near the water-level marina enable passengers to explore both above and below the sea.
“The Endeavor will offer alternative destinations full of wonder and adventure and is bound to appeal to those who are seeking new places and cultures to experience in an entirely different way,” says Patty Calvert, a Memphis-based Virtuoso advisor.
In its inaugural season, the ship will make its way from coastal Japan to deserted beaches in the Philippines, the jungles of Borneo (home to orangutans), the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the fjords of New Zealand, and eventually nightless Antarctica, where it will spend summer in the Southern Hemisphere as the first PC6 polar-class luxury expedition yacht. Sailing between Hobart, Australia, and Christchurch, New Zealand, these itineraries near the South Pole venture ashore on the continent, with the heli-assisted possibility of traveling deeply inland.
2) Keep yourself pleasantly distracted while you wait for 2020.
In many ways, Crystal’s first yacht, the 62-passenger Crystal Esprit, served as a test lab for well-appointed adventure sailings, blazing a trail for the Endeavor. Like its successor, Esprit features a marina platform from which passengers can swim, snorkel, paddleboard, and kayak.
It also harbors a submersible, so there are plenty of options for plying the seas around Saint Bart’s and hundreds of anchorages in the British Virgin Islands this winter, or the Mediterranean from medieval-walled Dubrovnik to hideaway Hydra in Greece next summer. By next winter, the yacht’s seasonal base in Dubai will provide opportunities to explore the Arabian Peninsula. Think: the desert forts of emerging Oman and wildlife safaris on Sir Bani Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates.
“The ship will call on unique ports, and you’ll have the benefit of your floating hotel without packing and unpacking as you transfer,” Largay says.
3) Discover the joys of midsize ships inspired by smaller ones.
To some degree, the boutique phenomenon is reverberating in Crystal’s ocean ships as well. The Crystal Serenity will relaunch in November after a three-week dry-dock renovation, reducing its capacity from 1,070 guests to 980 and adding 36 new penthouses and two penthouse suites, each with butler service and spa-like bathrooms. Open-seating dining will be introduced across its range of restaurants, from a South American churrascaria barbecue to Chinese comfort food served family-style.
Serenity and sister ship Crystal Symphony offer the advantage of speed, crisscrossing the world – from the Caribbean, Mexico, and California down to South America and over to New Zealand and the South Pacific this winter alone – in wanderlust-inspiring itineraries.
Frequent guests highlight the consistency of Crystal service across its fleet – from midsize to small – and its abundant destinations.
“Crystal’s staff seem to love their jobs and being a part of the line, which shows in the service and in interactions with each other,” says Calvert, who has taken 50 cruises in the past two decades.
“The single most differentiating feature of Crystal’s six-star product is the service,” Largay says. “When you’re comparing different products at that level, people talk about the size of the rooms and the number of dining options and entertainment and enrichment, but it gets back to the interface of their staff with our clients, which has never failed to impress.”
This article is sponsored by Crystal Cruises. All photos and renderings courtesy of Crystal Cruises.