Celestyal Crystal Cruise: Small ship offers big ship comforts

ABOARD THE CELESTYAL CRYSTAL – After years of traveling, I’ve stayed in many different accommodations. But my cabin aboard the Celestyal Crystal has a feature I have never seen before.

My room has twin beds. Across from the beds is a large full-length mirror. Next to the mirror is a curtain on an aluminum rod to pull across the mirror to hide it.

Each evening at turndown, the cabin attendant draws that curtain, leaves a towel creation (my favorite so far has been the swan) on my bed along with a wrapped chocolate and a copy of the next day’s ship newsletter.

My cabin is comfortable and roomy for a small ship.

I don’t know if the cabin attendant thinks I will be shocked to awaken in the morning and see myself looking back at myself in the mirror. Strange but handy to have a tall mirror to check if I am dressed correctly.

Today is cruising day between Santiago de Cuba and Havana so it seems like a good time to explore the ship. Whenever we are docked, our itinerary is usually packed full so it is nice to have free time aboard the ship.

I’ve said before that I think Crystal is one of the best ways to see Cuba. We get to experience some of the major attractions and cities without having to worry about packing up to check into a different hotel or to look for a place to eat or to find a qualified local guide. Crystal takes care of all of that.

The 1,200-passenger Celestyal Crystal is 37 years old but has undergone several major renovations and is a clean, well-maintained ship. The décor is simple but elegant.

A “curtain” can be drawn to cover the full-length mirror opposite the beds.

One of the latest renovations was to add new balconies for some of the 476 staterooms. Alas, my room doesn’t have a balcony which is always one of my favorite places on a cruise ship. I like to sit there in my nightgown first thing in the morning and last thing at night

However, I have found a quiet place at the back of the ship to watch the ocean roll. I made a short video to share how relaxing it is to see the ocean and sky seeming to blend together. I do not wear my nightgown on those ocean-watching jaunts.

My cabin does have a large picture window. It also has a fair amount of room, especially since I am a solo traveler. It has a sofa, comfy chair, coffee table, flat screen TV, phone, mini fridge, desk with straight-back chair, big closet, hair dryer, safe, robe and more drawers than I need.

I’d like to see the patterned bedspreads and curtains tossed and replaced with clean white ones but that is just my preference. That’s what I have in my home.

The Horizons Bar on Deck 10 is a great place to watch the ocean.

Cruise director Danny said that our cruise has 232 passengers, mostly from America, Canada and Germany, in that order. Crystal is a small ship by today’s standards but it has a big ship feel while still offering easy movement between the decks so you can get almost any place in a matter of minutes. I really appreciate that advantage.

The ship has 10 decks, named after Greek gods, such as Zeus, Athena, Poseidon and Hermes. I’m on Deck 7 Apollo. The ship has a good-sized duty-free shop selling souvenirs, toiletries, snacks, jewelry, liquor and clothing. The ship also has a small casino, medical center, photo shop, excursion desk and well-equipped fitness center.

The beauty salon offers standard treatments in lovely private rooms, along with a tiny sauna and steam bath and roomy showers. I had a 30-minute aromatherapy massage this morning and it was delightful.

Providing good seating with cocktail tables for drinks and snacks, the large Muses Lounge theater is where shows and programs are presented. I don’t think there is a bad seat in the theater. I have sat in the front and in the back and have had no trouble seeing or hearing. I’ll write more later about activities and entertainment on our ship.

Ship co-captain Johannes Fikioris maps the ship’s course in the Crystal bridge.

The Eros Lounge & Piano Bar on Deck 8 also has comfortable seating and tables and is where the ship’s violinist and pianist often perform. The Horizons Bar on Deck 10 is a wonderful place to watch the ocean and enjoy a mojito or drink of choice, including a Hemingway favorite. The drink menu is quite large and serves the best mojitos I’ve ever had. That opinion is shared by several other passengers who may be more expert at mojitos than I am.

Deck 9 has a swimming pool and hot tub, plus a bar. The ship has two restaurants – Amalthia and Olympus. I’ll write more about them and the ship’s cuisine later.

Of course, any ship is only as good as its crew and the Crystal boasts some of the best. From ship Captain Nikolaos Vasileiou and energetic cruise director Danny to talented dance teacher Martha and destination expert Dr. Jorge Arocha, all the people I have met are friendly, professional and helpful.

Cabin attendants always seem to be busy cleaning something or bidding me a “Good day.”  Dining room staff seem to know what drinks we prefer and where we like to sit. I don’t know how they do it but on my first day, crewmembers knew my name.  Always felt like coming home to walk back onto the ship.

Photos and video by Jackie Sheckler Finch

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