Yachting: Just the word conjures images of Champagne flutes toasting the horizon, scarves dancing in the wind, shiny buttons on a captain uniform, and glamorous voyagers poised on deck as the vessel sways through gentle, turquoise waters.
Enter the Crystal Esprit, Crystal Cruises’ first yacht, which joined the sailing circuit in 2015. Aiming to give customers exclusive, at-sea experiences that feel like scenes from a film or novel, the ship is a sanctum of nautical chic. As swanky as a boutique hotel, the Esprit hosts just 62 passengers in total, creating a feeling of intimacy without forsaking the hallmark comforts of Crystal’s larger Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony ships. “The ship’s size is perfect: large enough to provide for respect-your-personal-space desires, and yet small enough to encourage a yacht-like, country club, floating house party atmosphere,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Paul Largay. The Esprit‘s small stature also means it can maneuver into tinier ports and moor at remote, off-the-beaten path locales. With itineraries designed for active travelers, the Esprit offers at least two complimentary outings at most ports of call: one offers a local culinary experience; the other caters to more athletic pursuits.
Where does a yacht-style cruise ship sail? Anywhere it likes. In January 2020, the Esprit will return to the Seychelles with nine eight-day itineraries. “The Seychelles are one of the most beautiful island destinations in the world, and there is no better logistical, personal, deluxe, and joyful way to explore and capture all the beauty that destination has than exploring it aboard the Crystal Esprit,” Largay continues. This collection of 115 coral and granite islands in the Indian Ocean sits 1,100 miles off the coast of east Africa. The proximity of islands, many of them seldom traveled, means that the Esprit can eschew sea days (something some travelers feel wastes precious vacation time), in favor of night traveling. Passengers wake up in the morning with new locations every day that beckon with lush landscapes, rare wildlife, and Crystal’s active shore excursions that offer immersive cultural experiences.
The French-influenced Seychelles – say hello to locals with a “Bonzour” – have a bit of everything for travelers hungry for movement and learning. The islands offer sweeping crescents of sandy beaches, wildlife reserves, coconut plantations, cinnamon groves, hiking trails, and more. On a typical Esprit sail, guests might hike through the bewitching Valée de Mai Nature Reserve on Praslin Island amid eye-catching coco de mer plants with their double-sized coconuts, then play 18 holes of golf at the Lemuria Golf Course. Try to spy giant tortoises on Curieuse Island, or visit Mahé Island’s colorful market in the capital city, Victoria. Some Crystal excursions offer the opportunity to visit a local school or village, or even plant native trees.
Back on board, passengers can choose from snorkel gear, ocean kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and Jet Skis – or even descend 1,000 feet below the surface in a two-passenger, one-pilot submersible – to seek out marine life, from dolphins to manta rays to whale sharks. To wind down after a long day, order in-suite dining 24/7 (ask your personal butler for his or her recommendation), or try the range of onboard restaurants, from the al fresco Sunset Bar and Grill to the gourmet dinner-only Yacht Club. The Esprit‘s onboard attractions include a fitness center, plus classes in pilates, yoga, and meditation. The standard 280-square-foot Yacht Suites feature fully stocked minibars, king-size beds, 42-inch flat-screen TVs, plush carpeting, and other perks like Etro bath amenities. Twice as big, the Owner’s Suite feels like a floating penthouse, bedecked in modern furnishings.
Ready to live the yachtsman’s dream? Set sail on the Esprit. A flute of Champagne at sunset: optional, but encouraged.
This article is sponsored by Crystal Cruises. Photos courtesy of Crystal Cruises unless otherwise noted.