My introduction to upscale cruising took place in the early 1990s aboard the Crystal Harmony during a Port Everglades luncheon and ship’s tour for travel media. (It was also my introduction to karaoke, but that’s a tale for another time.)
The beautiful ship had a visceral feel of luxury, grace and comfort.
Yes, it oozed “harmony.”
At a panel on upscale cruising at Cruise Shipping Miami, execs from Silversea Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Seabourn cruises discussed this segment of the market.
I ultimately sailed aboard Crystal Harmony and was pampered and treated royally. I was a believer.
All the aspects that have made mass market cruising so successful these last 40 or so years: lavish production shows, a state-of-the-art fitness center, sprawling casino were on board the new vessel.
Crystal touches include fine boutiques, delightful bars, a coffee bar, unbelievable service and gourmet dining, now available on a large ship. It was not only innovative, it was wonderful and that nightly cocktail in Crystal Cove, accompanied by tinkling piano music was memorable. Touches of luxury were everywhere.
At all price points twice-a-day cabin service provides clean linens, etc. But as simple an item as top quality linens set the Crystal experience apart.
The Harmony is gone, but the Symphony (1995) and Serenity (2003) continue to provide that unique Crystal experience. I have a special kinship to the Crystal Symphony having been at the ship’s float-out in Turku, Finland, and my husband and I spent part of a special anniversary trip aboard the Crystal Serenity.
Crystal president Gregg Michel said more than 50 percent of the line’s passengers are repeaters. Michel said Crystal “adopted an all-inclusive policy – including alcohol and tips – last year, and has begun a program of overnights on embarkation and disembarkation days to provide passengers more of the ship experience.
Ellen Bettridge president of Silversea, the Americas, said her 20-year-old fleet of smaller vessels sail all seven continents and more than 500 destinations. The Antarctica expeditions are proving very popular.
Rick Meadows, president of Seabourn, said people have switched from experiencing big vessels and enjoy the smaller luxury experience which, he adds, is growing 50 percent faster than the consumption of luxury goods. “Experiences,” Meadows said, “appear to be more valuable than things.”
All agreed the luxury cruise market is doing well, appealing to younger cruisers, multi-generational travelers and those who, okay, I’ll say it, like “harmony.”