|Crystal Symphony sails in the Aegean Sea, calling on gorgeous Greek islands like Santorini.
There is nothing more attractive to a frazzled parent of young kids than pushing a button to call a butler and have him arrange nanny service, show tickets, dinner reservations or lobster tail and rosé Champagne à deux. When that happens on a cruise ship, it isn’t just attractive; it’s a godsend.
Seamless butler service is the calling card and distinct advantage of Crystal Cruises (888-722-0021). There is precious little these professionals won’t do. Throw them a curveball (we asked for a babysitter with 10 minutes’ notice), and watch them shine (she was there in nine). It is an integral part of shutting out all worldly pressures and tedious details so you can journey in carefree bliss.
And it truly is bliss, beginning with the accommodations. The almost-500-square-foot Penthouse Suites have a separate living room with a big mahogany desk (if you must work) and bar area stocked with complimentary beverages, plus a huge veranda that is a must during those early-morning approaches to ports of call or sunsets at sea. The appointments are equivalent to those of a luxury hotel: Egyptian cotton linens, featherbeds, down pillows (or nonallergenic alternatives) and silk brocade bedding. Don’t be surprised if, between the luxe cocoon of the beds and the gentle movement of the ship, you have the best night’s sleep you’ve had in a while.
At 982 square feet, the Crystal Penthouse is more like a chic apartment with amenities like floor-to-ceiling windows, a library, an exercise room and a powder room with a crystal pedestal sink. This year, Crystal also launches its new PURE staterooms for allergy sufferers. Serenity, one of two Crystal ships, will be in dry dock this month so 70 of its staterooms can be transformed through deep disinfection with nonchemical cleaners and installation of air purification, bacteriostatic barriers, allergy-friendly bedding and antimicrobial sanitizers. Sensitive or not, guests will definitely be able to breathe easier and feel better for those fascinating excursions.
|The Norwegian fjords is a popular destination onboard the Symphony.
And that, of course, is a highlight of cruising. One of the unique Crystal offerings, available on both the Serenity and its sister ship, Symphony, is its collection of shore adventures. Here’s a short list: private cooking lessons with a Michelin-starred chef in Taormina; rainforest zip lines in Hawaii; gorilla tracking in Uganda; trekking on Mount Kinabalu in Borneo; volunteering in an orphanage in Cambodia as part of the line’s Voluntourism Adventures program; and trekking in the Chilean Andes. There are more than 2,000 options and the ability to customize a private adventure. Almost anything is possible.
Gone are the days when cruising meant soft vacationing for sedentary types. With this cruise line, at least, you can be as active as you want to be and have experiences that are well beyond the ordinary—without sacrificing luxury and the convenience of unpacking only once (which, by the way, your butler will be happy to do for you).
|The Symphony approaches New York Harbor
It’s especially great for showing young children new places and feeding their short attention spans with diverse, meaningful experiences in small bursts. Crystal’s Junior Activities Directors are terrific with kids. They not only lead programs (anything from making their own T-shirts to competing in mini Olympics), they also accompany them to the age-appropriate shows in the evenings for an enriching cultural experience. It’s fun to watch them from across the room, all dressed up and sipping Shirley Temples, their eyes glued on a concert pianist or a Broadway revival.
Enrichment is offered for adults, too. In addition to standard themed cruises, 2014 brings a new array of fascinating options, including Extreme Thrill Seekers (March 10, Singapore to Cape Town), with expert shark divers, deep-sea treasure hunters, shore adventures and more. Must. Go.
|Halifax, on Canada’s eastern shore, has a modern vibe and an unexpected mix of old and new.
Three Musts for Foodies
Silk Road, a Nobu Matsuhisa restaurant, is an intimate dining venue with amazing Asian cuisine and sushi you’d never expect to find outside of a major urban center. Do not miss the salmon tartare with sevruga (left) or the mushroom broth served in a Japanese tea kettle.
Once every sailing, the Palm Court on the Lido Deck presents a Mozart Tea, with servers dressed in eighteenth-century Viennese costumes offering things like mini Linzer and Sacher tortes, and rum-spiked hot chocolate “Amadeus.” Indulge now, hit the gym later.
Cheese lovers, ask to meet the cheese sommelier. These individuals, all certified by the International Cheese Academy (yes, there is such a thing) in Austria, will help you distinguish between an erborinato and an époisses.