Crystal redeploying mega-yacht to Caribbean

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Crystal Esprit

Crystal Cruises said its 62-passenger mega-yacht, the Crystal Esprit, will be redeployed to the Caribbean in November 2017.

The yacht has been sailing in the Adriatic in the summer and in the Seychelles in the winter.

“The decision to reposition Crystal Esprit to the West Indies is one that was made with our guests’ expressed wishes in mind,” Crystal CEO Edie Rodriguez said. She said gusts particularly wanted closer proximity to major travel hubs.

The Esprit will sail roundtrip on Sundays from Marigot Bay, St. Martin, on two alternating seven-day routes. One itinerary will feature calls in St. Barthelemy and four locations in the British Virgin Islands.

A second itinerary will take the Esprit to Anguilla, Saba, Nevis, St. Barthelemy and St. Martin.

Crystal Cruises to build polar yacht

FORT LAUDERDALE — Crystal Cruises will add to its growing stable of luxury travel options by building a 200-passenger yacht with polar capabilities.

The 600-foot, 25,000-gross-ton Crystal Endeavor is scheduled to debut in August of 2018.

Crystal said the vessel will be the first purpose-built Polar Code-compliant yacht in the world with a PC6 Polar Class designation. As such, it would be able to cruise in polar regions during the summer and autumn in “medium first year ice which may include old ice inclusions,” Crystal said.

Crystal, which plans to build three 1,000-passenger ocean ships starting in 2018, already has a 62-passenger cruising yacht called Crystal Esprit.

Company president Edie Rodriguez announced the new yacht at the Seatrade Cruise Global conference here. She said Crystal Endeavor will come with a complete range of “toys” that are not commonly found on today’s mega-yachts, including two helicopters and two landing pads for flightseeing expeditions as well as two seven-person submarines, eight electric amphibious Zodiacs, personal watercraft, kayaks, fishing facilities, paddleboards, snorkeling and scuba equipment, a recompression chamber, a dive support tender and a multi-person ATV

With its yacht product, Crystal goes for small-ship intimacy

The 31 suites on the refurbished Esprit are smaller but more intimate than one might expect on a traditional Crystal vessel.

ABOARD THE CRYSTAL ESPRIT — The latest ship in Crystal Cruises’ fleet lies anchored in a protective cluster of tropical islands in the Seychelles, the Indian Ocean archipelago. In one direction, the ship’s two-person submarine is taking enthralled passengers on a 30-minute tour of an undersea coral garden. In another, Zodiacs zip guests to a sandy beach prowled by giant tortoises.

One thing is clear: This isn’t your grandfather’s Crystal Cruises.

The debut of the Esprit after a Dec. 20 christening ceremony marks the operational start of a new era at Crystal under its Malaysian owners Genting Hong Kong, which acquired the line in March for $550 million from Japan’s NYK, which had owned it for 25 years.

Crystal has built up a dedicated cadre of loyalists, and its officials, led by CEO Edie Rodriguez, are confident that the new Crystal will maintain its traditional passenger base, while the extensions of its core cruise product will attract new blood.

So what is the Crystal Esprit like?

A dozen top travel agents on a preview cruise remarked first that the Crystal standard of service has been successfully imported, despite ocean swells that cut a week-long training cruise to a day and a half.

“They’re very friendly and warm,” said Ralph Iantosca, owner of Dallas-based GoGirl.Travel, commenting on staff and crew.

The ship’s Sunset Bar is outside but covered by a canopy.

Another strong impression was about the size of the ship. With just 31 suites, the ship has none of the scale of Crystal’s two 1,000-passenger vessels; instead, it boasts the intimacy of small-ship cruising.

Guests on the Crystal Esprit will get the chance to know each other well. Making a play on the name, Rodriguez said they will develop an “esprit de corps.” They will also make friends with the largely Filipino staff.

At 280 square feet, cabins are not huge by luxury standards, but nevertheless Iantosca said they exceeded his expectations.

The Esprit is not out-of-the-box new. It was built in 1991 and was transferred to Crystal from Genting’s Star Cruises, where it was a charter-only vessel for the company’s high-end customers.

Crystal spent three months redoing the vessel’s interior and giving it new decorations, cabinetry, carpeting and fixtures, said COO Thomas Mazloum.

Its five decks include a small plate/buffet restaurant, a slightly more formal dinner venue, a lounge and an expansive aft Sunset Bar, which is outdoors but covered by a white canopy.

There is a small pool and gym and a postage stamp of a casino.

A good part of the Esprit’s revenue is expected to be from charter business. After the ship was named, Genting Hong Kong chairman K.T. Lim stood in the Sunset Bar and gestured to a nearby yacht that was every bit as long as the 280-foot Esprit.

That yacht, Lim said, would likely charter for as much as $1 million a week, but it has far fewer staff and only a half-dozen bedrooms. By comparison, “this is an incredible value,” Lim said of the Esprit.

“I do a lot of yacht charters,” said Iantosca, “and for a client who doesn’t want to spend [big], this is a good alternative.”

Another feature that distinguishes the Esprit is a toy cabinet with all manner of water sports equipment, including a stylish 12-passenger Wider speedboat and a two-person U-Boat Worx submersible submarine that is one of only four in the world.

The Crystal Esprit made its debut last month in the Seychelles.

On a demo, we were startled to run across a half dozen scuba divers, who were probably equally startled to see the submarine with its 3.9-inch-thick acrylic bubble suspended between two pontoons.

The sub, which will take passengers on 30-minute excursions for $599 a person, is like scuba diving in a high-tech lounge chair.

Food on the Esprit is cooked nearly on demand, and an open kitchen enlivens the Yacht Club dinner venue.

There is a butler assigned to every stateroom, which didn’t match the vibe in the laid-back Seychelles, where the Esprit will sail this winter. In the spring it moves to the Adriatic where it will cruise the coast between Venice and Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Pressed for downsides, Iantosca said the small size of the ship cuts both ways.

“I think you need to be aware of motion” that rocks the ship depending on the vigor of the seas. But all things considered, Iantosca was pretty impressed.