Crystal is back – and I for one couldn’t be happier.

Almost a year to the day when the most-awarded luxury cruise line was unceremoniously placed in the hands of administrators and abandoned by Genting Hong Kong, new owners Abercrombie & Kent have announced its two ships, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony are back – refurbished, restyled and refreshed.

There are larger suites and fewer passengers. New itineraries, including Australia. And, in a move that looks like getting the band back together, many of the staff have been rehired.

It’s a good thing since many of them were the backbone of the line’s fearsome reputation for great service and more than two decades of awards.

Ironically, when I last sailed on the Crystal Symphony in April 2019, she was also newly refurbished. We were on a 114-day world cruise from Cape Town to Fort Lauderdale. I joined her from Fiji to Cook Islands.

Then Symphony looked refreshed after her multi-million-dollar facelift – the main dining room was revamped as the Waterside Restaurant with open seating. There was a new Brazilian Steakhouse called Churrascaria on Deck 11, a new Chinese eatery called Silk, also on the same deck. But best of all, famous and much revered Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa restaurant was renamed Umi Uma with the seven-seater sushi bar as popular as ever.

Throughout the ship, there were contemporary chandeliers and paintings, giving the vessel a sleeker look. T

The line also added 40 new Seabreeze Penthouse suites on Deck 9.

I stayed in one – it had a veranda which was decorated in a soothing palette of beige, white and silver. It was spacious and elegant. The grey and white marble bathroom had double washbasins, a shower room big enough to fit two people, ample supplies of Etro bath products and fluffy Egyptian cotton towels.

A chilled bottle of Charles Heidsieck champagne in a silver ice bucket was waiting to be opened.

“Crystal is reborn”, declared the line’s President Jack Anderson this week – he, incidentally, also served as President when Crystal Cruises dissolved its operations in February last year.

Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony have now been “reimagined and enhancements made to every part of our guess’ journey,” he added.

Looking at photographs of the “revitalised” suites today, the names may have changed, the space may be larger but they looked eerily familiar.

As a plastic surgeon would say: “The bones are there, all you need are some tweaks, tucks, and lifts.”

The old Crystal ships had six restaurants and six bars. The “new” Symphony and Serenity will have nine restaurants and six bars.

The real test will come when Crystal ships set sail again – will it deliver on its renowned personalised service or will the crew push the bar a notch higher?

We certainly hope so.

What you’ll get:

Thanks to new owners Abercrombie & Kent, Crystal Cruises is about to become more luxurious than ever before. 

Reduced occupancy and larger staterooms and suites mean you can expect an even more personalised and opulent experience onboard Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony. Crystal Serenity’s capacity will be reduced from 980 to 740 and Crystal Symphony from 848 to 606, making Crystal Cruises return one marked by extra attentive service and more space at sea.

Most of the rooms will be refurnished, with brand-new Italian marble finishings and fine cotton linens awaiting guests.

While some of the 19 square metre classic ocean-view rooms will remain, they’ll still be drenched in some extra luxury with butler service now being extended to all of those onboard. Furthermore, a near 1:1 crew-to-passenger ratio will remain, and if you’ve sailed with Crystal before you won’t be returning to strangers, with the return of many captains already announced and news on the returning of further crew soon to come. 

The lower capacity is also allowing a revamp of the ship’s spaces, not only are familiar favourites like Palm Court, Le Bistro, the theatre, show lounge and Connoisseurs Club sticking around, but you can also expect exciting changes such as the return of Crystal Symphony’s nightclub.

The courts will now play host to both paddle tennis and pickleball and both the spa and gym have also been renovated.

You can also expect the off-ship portions of your cruise to be more expertly curated than ever, with Crystal to team up with new owners Abercrombie & Kent and their 60 years of land travel experience to design pre and post-cruise land programs and shore excursions. 

The cabins

Where will Crystal be sailing?

Crystal Serenity 

Crystal Serenity will make its triumphant return to the seas with a July 31 sailing over 12-nights from Marseille to Lisbon, commencing a path that will take it through Northern Europe, Iceland, Canada and the Caribbean. This will position it to kick off a huge 2024 world cruise, which will start either out of Los Angeles, or from Miami with a journey through the Panama Canal included. 

Crystal Symphony

Crystal Symphony will get back to sailing on September 1 with a seven-night Athens to Istanbul cruise. After some sailing in the Mediterranean, Symphony will excitingly then reposition and head for Asia, Australia and New Zealand via the Suez Canal. 

Symphony will first touch down on Australian shores after a 15-night Singapore to Perth cruise, departing November 21, 2023 and arriving December 6.  Then there is a host of further local sailings before Symphony moves back to Asia, including a 30-night Sydney to Bali voyage.

Similarly to how Crystal used to operate, there will often be the option to combine cruises, without having to repeat any ports. 

Price comparison

The revamped Crystal Cruises prices are coming in fairly standard for a luxury cruise line when compared to similar lines such as Silversea, Seabourn and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

A Crystal Cruises Sydney roundtrip 17-night cruise comes out at $13,600pp and an Auckland to Sydney 15-night cruise starts from $12,600 per person.

Silversea hits similar price points, but slightly more expensive, with a 13-night Auckland to Sydney cruise starting from $13,700pp.

A Seabourn cruise comes out a bit cheaper, with a 15-day Australia exploration beginning from $9179pp, and a 15-day New Zealand and Australia cruise coming out to the exact same price of $9179pp.

If you wanted to sail with Regent, you’d have to fork out a little bit more, a Sydney to Auckland 14-night sailing starts from $17,330pp.

For more information, click here