(12:45 p.m. EDT) -- Within the world of luxury cruising, perhaps no cruise line had as much name recognition as Crystal. Anticipation for the brand's relaunch this month, after a 2022 bankruptcy and subsequent new ownership, has been riding high.
Both of the line's ships, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, are undergoing extensive revamps that include making the suites bigger. The Aurora Spa is coming back, completely redesigned. And, for sushi and fine dining lovers, Crystal has re-upped its partnership with sushi master Nobu Matsuhisa and will have the specialty restaurant Umi Uma back onboard.
Fans of the old Umi Uma will be pleased that the sushi master's most famous cooked dish -- miso-glazed black cod with ginger and peaches -- is back and better than ever. The dish debuted at Nobu's restaurants back in 1994 and has become synonymous with the chef; it's served in all of them worldwide, a number that's projected to become 60 this year.
Other menu items include crispy rice squares, with spicy tuna and spicy avocado dipping sauces; sashimi salad with tuna tataki and Matshuisa dressing and what's known as "new style sashimi" with salmon and white fish.
And of course, there will be sushi. At the lunch, we were able to try tuna, salmon and yellowtail nigiri, as well as California rolls and a special "house" roll. Onboard, more options will be available, including fresh salmon rolls, asparagus rolls, soft shell crab rolls and even abalone, according to sample menus.
Even people who don't eat seafood can dine at Umi Uma and still be happy. The restaurant will serve Wagyu steak with special Nobu sauces, as well as grilled chicken breast and soba noodles.
One reservation at Umi Uma is complimentary for all passengers on Crystal cruises up to 11 days. They can purchase more reservations at $50 per person, based on availability.
When his first restaurant Silk Road opened on the Crystal ships in 2008, it was the first sushi bar at sea, Matsuhisa said. Silk Road was rebranded to Umi Uma in 2018.
On the ships, "every year, come the same people, the same families, the same customers," Matsuhisa said. While other ships now have sushi bars, "Nobu sushi is the best on the ships."
The new owners of Crystal, Abercrombie & Kent, have a long history in luxury travel, offering luxury tours, safaris and private trips for more than 60 years. The executive chairman of A&K Travel Group, Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, was the former head of Silversea Cruises, a luxury cruise line founded by his father.
Cruise Critic will be onboard both ships before their debuts. Stay tuned for coverage.