Seeking Serenity

Unlike many middle-market cruise lines, luxury operator Crystal Cruises does not come out with a new ship every six months or even every year. In fact, the small line only has two vessels -- Crystal Harmony and Crystal Symphony -- the last of which made its debut seven years ago. So the approaching launch of the line's third ship, Crystal Serenity, is a very big deal--not just for the company, but for its large following of repeat customers. The new 68,000-ton ship, currently under construction at Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in St. Nazaire, France, will enter service in July, 2003.

Crystal officials have recently been traveling around to give the media and travel agents a preview of the vessel. While they stress that Serenity will live up to the line's usual high standards for excellence, they also point out that the new ship will present cruisers with some significant differences from Harmony and Symphony.

While those two ships are both in the neighborhood of 50,000 tons, with a capacity of 940 passengers, the new Serenity will boast 68,000 tons and room for 1,080 passengers--in other words, it will be 36 percent larger than its predecessors, but will carry only 14 percent more passengers. That means it will offer a "space ratio" of 63.0--one of the greatest for any ship. The space ratios for Harmony and Symphony are 52.6 and 54.3 respectively.

Passenger accommodations on the new Serenity will be skewed toward the extravagant side. Of its 548 cabins, 100 will be Penthouse-category, 56 percent more than Crystal Symphony. That includes 64 Penthouse cabins, 32 Penthouse Suites and four top-of-the-line Crystal Penthouses. The latter will each offer affluent customers a spacious 1,345 square feet--more than a third larger than the Crystal Penthouses on the earlier ships. What's more, 85 percent of all outside cabins and suites will have private verandas.

As for the new ship's public areas:

  • Crystal is following the industry trend to greater dining variety, with three specialty restaurants (vs. two on the earlier ships). Serenity's will include Prego, with Italian cuisine; Silk Road, a Pan-Asian theme restaurant; and The Sushi Bar, with menus for the latter provided by New York restaurant legend Nobu Matsuhisa, whose Nobu restaurant in Manhattan's Tribeca has long been one of the hottest spots in the city. In addition, the ship will have a Crystal Dining Room and an indoor/outdoor poolside casual dining area.
  • The Crystal Spa, at 8,200 square feet, will be twice the size of those on the earlier two ships. The line is adding more treatment rooms, a bigger fitness center and separate weight room and aerobics studio.
  • Entertainment venues include the Galaxy Lounge for production shows, and the Stardust Club cabaret-style lounge. Crystal President Gregg Michel said that Crystal is increasing the entertainment budget for all its ships next year, to provide more and better shows.
  • A new facility called The Studio is being added to the Serenity as a purpose-built space for Crystal's renowned learning programs, where passengers can sit in on classes about everything from food and wine to languages to photography. The ship will also feature a purpose-built art gallery for art auctions.
  • Serenity will offer a computer center, called the Computer University@Sea, that will be more than 50 percent bigger than those on the other Crystal ships.
  • Other public rooms include a piano bar, cigar lounge, disco/nightclub, cinema and conference center, card room, library, children's activities room, teen center and video arcade, along with shopping venues.

The Serenity will debut July 7, 2003 with a 14-day northern Europe sailing, followed by summer cruises in Europe, the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Then the new ship will make a transatlantic crossing, a pair of Caribbean/Canal voyages and a holiday sailing to the Mexican Riviera from Los Angeles.

If you want to get your own private tour of the new Crystal Serenity, the company can accommodate you online. Point your browser to the newly created site at http://www.crystal-serenity.com to see 3-D views of the ship and virtual tours of many of its public areas and staterooms.

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