We just came back from our cruise on the Crystal Esprit and enjoyed it very much. It’s a very new and interesting concept and they are still working out exactly what it is, I think. We thought it was terrific and would like to do it again, but we’re also curious how it is going to evolve. Every person on board said they’d do it again but at the same time, everyone had certain “tweaks” they would like to see. I think it’s an interesting territory they are trying to inhabit, in between a “cruise” and the experience of being on a private yacht. Now it’s more the former but I think they will go more in the yacht direction over time.
There are max 62 guests on board and we found it to be a more international crowd than usual for Crystal – roughly equal numbers of Americans and Australians, followed by Brits, with Canadians, Mexicans, Spanish and Italian guests also represented. Everyone spoke excellent English. Mostly couples, of ages varying from about 40 to about 80, though all with good mobility (no elevators on this ship). Some interesting groups, for example there were two young girls (10 and 13 respectively) each traveling with their grandparents (not traveling together, though I think they were happy to meet each other on board!); also 2 large multigenerational family groups (adults) celebrating special occasions. The itinerary was TERRIFIC – from the time we left Venice until we pulled into Dubrovnik we didn’t see another cruise ship, and it was great to be going into these tiny harbours and charming towns with all the sailboats. The weather was perfect, the sea was warm, and Croatia is just gorgeous.
They have all kinds of watersport facilities on board that were underutilized because the Croatian government is still being very sticky about giving them permits to run the jet skis, submarine, etc. It’s clear this is something they’re working on, it the experience will be better when that is an option every day rather than just once or twice during the sailing. I understand that this part of the experience was much more dominant and "amazing" in the Seychelles, where they are much less restricted.
All the shore excursions are “free” (ie included) and they were excellent, but again they were kind of conventional ships tours and that is also something they are working on. Most of them were full day tours with lunch included and most of the guests on board said they would prefer half-day tours that would allow them to relax on the ship, explore on their own or enjoy the watersports for the rest of the day. I suspect that will definitely be a tweak they will make in time. We went zip lining and white water rafting (all included). All the guides were excellent, the experiences were well-chosen and fabulous, and there was attention to our comfort (for example, the most popular excursion saw 30 of the 62 guests all going to Krka national park. Crystal COULD have put us all on one bus, but instead they sent us in 3 comfy mini-buses, each with our own guide. Classy call).
Food was 100% up to Crystal standards and thus FABULOUS. The executive chef on board touches every plate. He runs a very tidy kitchen too! All the drinks are included, and we were impressed by the quality and selection of the “free” wines on the list too.
All the stressors of cruising like embarkation, disembarkation and “rules” are basically gone. You walk on, they give you some champagne, someone shows you your room. At the end, they arrange “free” transport to the airport or your onward hotel and you leave at your convenience. None of this “red group in the show lounge by 7:15 to await embarkation instructions”. We didn’t even need to pack until the morning we left.
"Entertainment" consisted of one piano player/singer; he seemed good but really no one much was looking to be entertained until we had bad weather on the last day. Most guests enjoyed gathering on deck for a drink and great conversation with other travelers. There were no real "enrichment" activities, and although I didn't really miss it, I do think having local lecturers come on board to tell us more about the history of Croatia would have been a bonus. There was also a great watersports team who as mentioned was underutilized; getting those watersports permits sorted out is clearly a priority for the captain.
All in all, we enjoyed this very much (even more than our Crystal "big ship" experiences, and that is saying a LOT). I am very excited to see where else they may take this ship. The downside for me right now is that it seems to be going back to Croatia again next summer (good for you if you haven't done this fantastic itinerary yet; not so great for me as we are not big on repeating ports we've already visited). Hopefully they will seek out other smaller yachting areas to explore in the future.
Oh - and contrary to a prior Seychelles review - we had virtually NO motion on board. Twice the captain warned us it might be a bit rocky; the first time it was very mild and the second we felt nothing. So, at least in these relatively sheltered waters, the Esprit is very stable and comfortable (even in a big thunderstorm which we did experience!).
We had one of the smallest cabins on the ship but it was less tight than I expected given the size of this ship. Beautifully appointed in every way. Reasonable hanging space but a bit short on drawers/shelves - pack accordingly!
what can one say about Venice? end of July, pretty busy but not too crowded to be wonderful. Wonderful! The ship docks right in the centre of town, a 20 min walk from San Marco!!!
Excellent tour up into the hills with lots of history and beautiful views; visited 2 wineries, one FANTASTIC (good wines, sophisticated matched appetizers), the other a bit more rustic, and came "home" by 4x4 over a very scary (but exciting) Cliffside road with amazing viewsView All 4 Wine Tasting Tour Reviews
Our planned sailboat trip to Mjet was appropriately cancelled due to heavy thunderstorms and we were offered this city tour instead. It was very informative and the guide did her best to keep us out of the rain. Not something I would have chosen myself but really the best anyone could ask for given the absolutely miserable weather that day.View All 2 City Tour Reviews