What is it about Crystal Cruises that makes a voyage aboard one of its ships so…well, entertaining? We sailed on Crystal's newest vessel, the 960-passenger Crystal Serenity, to find out. What we learned is that Crystal boasts the best nightlife in the luxury category; aboard these ships you'll find the most lavish costumed dancers plus a wide array of other entertainment options.
Crystal recently was chosen by Travel & Leisure magazine's readers in an annual poll as having the best service, and as the best line in the large ship category. The superlatives especially apply to the talent and the entertainment on Crystal, which is carefully targeted to the demographics of the line's upscale, sophisticated passengers.
Of particular note on our cruise was the dance team. Their original choreography to "Rhapsody in Blue" was exceptional. This was coupled with the dry and sometimes sardonic humor of the cruise director, Gary Hunter, as he and his cast of "dummy" characters bantered back and forth with his best ventriloquism artistry. The Crystal audience enjoyed him immensely -- and the audience is always the best barometer.
There was a show almost every night. One of the other highlights of evening's fare was vocal interpretation by Donald Cant, the baritone lead from the Australian company of "Phantom of the Opera," served up on two nights -- a little bit of something for everyone.
The London Symphony string quartet was another surprise, and a highlight of the Serenity's entertainment package. The group performed a classical repertoire of the highest quality, in the daytime and the evening, from teatime to pre-dinner. What a treat!
The cast of the production shows impressed us even more with their talent and energy. These are not your typical sequin-and-feather revues -- a great deal of time and money is spent on these presentations. It is obvious that Crystal considers this a high priority. Featuring themes like "Salute to the Gershwins" and "The Million-Dollar Musicals," the on-stage products are certainly impressive by any standard. The theater helps the shows' impact by providing them with all the most up-to-date lighting and sound technology.
The Cruise Director walked me through a short tour of the backstage one afternoon. As a performing artist all of my life, I found the infrastructure fascinating. Large motorized tracks keep scores of hanging costumes stored in an orderly manner, and arranged in sequence. There were two stories of feathered and beaded dresses and suits of all periods, shapes and colors. Because the ceiling isn't high enough to "fly" the sets for the shows (i.e., to raise and lower curtains and sets from a vaulted ceiling over the stage, as in a landside theater), everything has to be wheeled in from the wings (hopefully without running someone over during the frantic "cue calls"). I lost count of how many costume changes there actually were, but it was obvious that the costumes are of the highest quality, design and tailoring.
One new show that I hadn't previously seen was entitled "Chante." With well-thought-out sets, costumes and choice of music, it captured all the verve and excitement of a night out in "belle epoch" Paris. This French theme is always a crowd-pleaser, and would not be complete without the classic Maurice Chevalier piece and his trademark straw hat. The quintessential finale was the proverbial high-kicking, high-energy "Can-Can." Bravo!
As usual, Crystal also gave passengers plenty of "enrichment lecturers" on the cruise, to keep their minds occupied during the day with presentations often related to the ship's itinerary. Peter Solmssen gave an account of Monte Carlo and its history, while Professor Bulent Atalay's perspective of Leonardo DaVinci and Galileo was both informative and entertaining. Other speakers were simply interesting in their own right. The founder and first president of the Disney Channel, Jim Jimirro, captured everyone's imagination with his Mickey Mouse stories. All in all, it was a well-thought-out and varied choice of lecturers.
A special night of entertainment, saved for the end of the cruise, featured a separate and exclusive four-person cast presenting the hit 50's-themed musical "Forever Plaid." A whimsical and nostalgic production, it complimented the existing spectrum of entertainment.
In sum, Crystal's entertainment package remains a cut above the industry norm. Personally, I found little to criticize in its offerings on our Serenity cruise. That is obviously why Cruisemates readers voted the line "Best for Entertainment" in the luxury category.