With Crystal Cruises officially shutting down, many fans of luxury cruises may be wondering what alternatives they have to be pampered and indulged at sea.
Among the top luxury cruise lines, Crystal Cruises always received high marks for its dining options, as well as the intuitive service and onboard lectures and entertainment (particularly its Broadway at Sea program). Although the line's two ocean ships were not spring chickens, especially with rooms that were smaller than their competitors, the expedition ship Crystal Endeavor and the four Crystal riverboats in Europe were all built within the last five years and were considered stars within the cruise world.
Fear not, though, luxury lovers. Cruise Critic has rounded up the top 5 cruise lines that will satisfy your needs for endless Champagne, high-thread-count sheets, and decadent dining. Some of these lines even have specials for former Crystal customers.
Silversea Cruises has been on a roll in the past few years, adding new ships and programming that is designed to appeal to its luxury loving clientele.
When Silver Dawn launches in March 2022, the line will debut the Otium spa concept. Modeled loosely on decadent Roman baths, Otium extends beyond the actual spa walls to include all kinds of luxury indulgences in your room. Think scented baths drawn by your suite's butler; designer sun creams and cashmere blankets on your private balcony; a foie gras burger delivered to your cabin.
The S.A.L.T. culinary program that Silversea first launched with Silver Moon in 2021 is impressive. It's designed to showcase the flavors and cooking techniques of the ports where the ship stops, both onboard with demonstrations, tastings and lectures and on shore with excursions. If food and wine is important to you, you might want to choose Silversea based on the S.A.L.T. program alone.
But one thing that Silversea has that Crystal fans will appreciate is the sheer variety of itineraries that the line has. With 11 ships in the fleet – both ocean and expedition – Silversea offers cruises to the literal ends of the earth, including the Galapagos, Antarctica and arctic regions.
And like Crystal, Silversea guests prize the friendly, convivial and exacting service delivered by the line's dedicated onboard crew, many of whom have been with the line since its inception.
For many, a top luxury cruise line is one that makes things easy for their passengers. Regent Seven Seas fits this description, as the line is the most all-inclusive out there.
On a Regent cruise, your fare includes airfare, plus unlimited shore excursions in port. All dining is complimentary, as are most beverages (yes, spirits too). Gratuities, Wi-Fi, a hotel night before you get onboard, transfers, laundry service – on Regent, once you pay your fare, you won't have to worry about a thing.
Where Regent also shines is in the suites. The newest Regent cruise ships have some of the most over-the-top rooms at sea, with décor and amenities that will make you feel like a star. The Regent suite on the line's two newest ships, Seven Seas Explorer and Seven Seas Splendor, is over 4,400 square feet and boasts wraparound balconies, a Steinway piano, Picassos on the walls and a spa in the bathroom.
But even the standard cabins on Regent will outshine those that were found on Crystal. That's because Regent's fleet is newer overall -- with another new ship, Seven Seas Grandeur, coming in 2023.
Dining is sumptuous on Seabourn, and hits all the notes that luxury loving foodies are seeking. Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller has a restaurant onboard Seabourn's ships, and most voyages have a Shopping with the Chef shore excursion, particularly intriguing on the line's more exotic itineraries.
And if you love caviar, then Seabourn is your ship. You can order the delicacy whenever you want, and wherever you want. Plus Seabourn offers a Caviar in the Surf beach party on its warm weather cruises, where ship officers stand waist-high in water and spray passengers with Champagne while serving up brioche loaded with fish eggs. It's as decadent as it sounds. (The event is held on deck in cold weather destinations).
Besides the special surf day, Seabourn usually has an Evening Under the Stars deck party. While it's not as robust as the ballroom dancing program that Crystal used to feature, it still gives passengers a chance to loosen up.
Finally, for passengers who were eyeing Crystal Endeavor, Seabourn has a luxury expedition ship debuting in 2022. Seabourn Venture takes the expedition program that has already been well developed on certain ocean ships, and amps it up, on a new vessel that will have submarines, sea kayaks and Zodiacs. Seabourn also offers its Ventures by Seabourn expedition program on its other ships as well, allowing passengers to explore destinations like Alaska in comfort and authenticity.
Seabourn has an offer for former Crystal passengers. Guests with a deposited Crystal booking made by January 23, 2022, will receive a 15% discount off select Seabourn sailings. The 15% discount is applicable to the cruise only fare inclusive of TFPE. Book before Monday, May 31, 2022. Guests must submit confirmation of proof of a deposited Crystal booking or a Crystal FCC within 7 days of making the new Seabourn booking to email@example.com. Crystal booking confirmation must indicate the booking was made and deposited or paid in full prior to January 23, 2022 to qualify. Guests and travel advisors should call Seabourn at any of our four global offices for more details. No deposit will be required if the new Seabourn booking is outside of final payment requirement periods. Offer is capacity controlled and may be modified or withdrawn at any time.
Scenic is another option for Crystal fans who were thinking of cruising on Crystal Endeavor. Launched in 2019, Scenic Eclipse has the submarines and helicopters that are coming to define luxury expedition cruising, as well as an array of high-end dining options packed within a small 228-passenger ship (Crystal Endeavor carried 200 guests).
A 2021 Cruise Critic trip on Scenic Eclipse revealed a well-prepared staff that knew every guests' name as soon as they came onboard and intuitive service where favorite cocktails appeared without asking.
What Scenic offers that the other top luxury lines in this article do not are European river cruise ships. The "space ships" have butler service, as Crystal river cruise ships did, with a slightly less formal atmosphere. Scenic also stands out in the river cruise space for its inclusions, active excursions and variety of dining options (although Crystal really outshone all competitors in river cruising when it came to food and wine).
Scenic has noted the similarities and has made a 2022 offer to Crystal passengers who may have plans changed: up to $750 per person off of a Scenic river cruise (as well as a reduced $250 per person deposit) or up to $1,000 per person off a cruise on Scenic Eclipse. The offer is valid through March 31, 2022.
Our last pick for Crystal cruisers is not an obvious one, but hear us out. Cunard is traditional, but not necessarily luxurious. What's the difference? Cunarders take pride in dressing to the nines for most meals, take pride in itineraries full of leisurely sea days and love that ocean liner atmosphere (Queen Mary 2, Cunard's flagship, is technically the only ocean liner sailing today).
What will appeal to Crystal fans is Cunard's sheer amount of interesting and unique things to do onboard. On the QM2, you can take in a planetarium show, participate in a fencing class, listen and meet an acclaimed author or public speaker and watch the Royal Shakespeare Company put on a show. You can even sing in a choir yourself, or soak up the abundant live music on offer each evening.
All Cunard ships have lovely high end traditions like English tea, croquet and ballroom dancing. Indeed, the latter is so much a part of Cunard that the line's ships have ballrooms built for this purpose (the largest one at sea being onboard Queen Mary 2) and gentlemen hosts that will dance with single women. Classes take place all day long and large balls are held on gala nights.
The tradeoff for all this activity is that there's more people onboard. QM2 has 2,691 passengers – far more than what you'd find on Crystal – and the other two ships, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria have 2,081 guests – more than twice what you'd find on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenade.
To make the experience more upscale, book a suite in the Princess Grill or Queen Grill category. Princess and Queen's Grill suites come with more luxe touches in the cabins, plus exclusive dining rooms and lounges. When you stay in the Grills, you feel like you're in a "ship within a ship," being able to have more intimacy without sacrificing the variety of activities onboard -- all while staying in some of the grandest accommodations afloat (Queen Mary 2's top-of-the-line suites, the Grand Duplexes, span two decks in height).