|Crystal Cruises' Crystal Harmony, the luxury line's first ship, will leave the fleet in December, according to a surprise announcement from the cruise line last night. The 50,000-ton, 940-passenger ship, launched in 1990, will be transferred to Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), Crystal's parent company, where it will replace Asuka, its existing vessel. The Japanese-oriented company will rename Harmony the Asuka II.|
What's surprising about the announcement is timing of the move. With no new ships on order, Harmony's departure will leave a hole in Crystal's fleet. The company said it the statement that it has, however, "established a shipbuilding team and is already involved in developing new designs for the future." Still, cruise ships -- from a shipyard commitment onward -- typically take about 1.5 to 2 years to build. So Crystal will be a two-ship fleet for at least the next few years.
What's less surprising is the fact that Harmony will move on. The ship, although lovely, and despite a major refurbishment a few years ago, simply can't offer the same necessary amenities -- numerous balcony cabins, larger bathrooms and a wide variety of suites, among them -- that characterize the Crystal experience.
While Crystal Harmony and Crystal Symphony share the same design characteristics, such as passenger capacity, the latter vessel (launched five years later) has a few more contemporary touches. For instance, Crystal Symphony has a higher number of balconied cabins, and alternative restaurants can handle more diners at the same time. Crystal Harmony has 19 inside cabins -- Symphony has none.
Crystal Harmony will sail its farewell cruise over the Thanksgiving holiday -- a seven-night Mexican Riviera itinerary from Los Angeles that calls at Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. The planned Caribbean holiday sailing from New Orleans on December 21 has been cancelled. The ship will then go into its already-scheduled dry-dock before heading to its new assignment.
As a result of Harmony's departure, Crystal is juggling some already-scheduled 2006 itineraries though this impacts only Crystal Symphony, which will take over some of Harmony's tried and true voyages. Symphony's January-to-May slate has been revised to include an additional Panama Canal transit, Amazon voyages, cruises to South America and an extra Mediterranean itinerary. The cruise line says it will post its new itineraries on its Web site on Monday.