Cruising from ports in the United States has been off limits for more than a year. This will remain the case until the CDC gives the all clear for cruise lines to restart big-ship cruising.
Crystal Cruises has become the master of its own fate, however, with a brilliant plan to offer Caribbean cruises on its ultra-luxury ship Crystal Serenity, using the Bahamas as its homeport.
Crystal Cruises plans a return to cruising with its new close-to-home "Bahamas Escapes" itineraries beginning July 3, 2021. Crystal is offering 16 seven-night, roundtrip cruises from Nassau on Crystal Serenity, a 980-passenger luxury ship. In addition to its Nassau itineraries, Crystal is offering 16 seven-night voyages roundtrip from Bimini beginning on July 4, 2021.
Crystal Serenity becomes the first ship to homeport in the Bahamas, as well as the first ocean ship to sail from the Americas since the cruise industry's voluntary halt in operations in March 2020.
"Like our guests, we have been eagerly looking forward to the day we can welcome them back on board, and we're thrilled that this day will come in The Bahamas," said Jack Anderson, Crystal Cruises' interim president and CEO. "The new Bahamas Escapes cruises will allow travelers to enjoy luxury cruising now, as well as bring much-needed benefits to the local workforce, airlines, restaurants, retailers and hotels for pre- and post-cruise stays. The launch of these cruises will also drive economic growth to The Bahamas, which, like other destinations around the world, has been negatively affected by the global pandemic."
"Crystal Cruises will go on record as the only cruise line offering Bahamas-only voyages that highlight the signature features and experiences travelers can find here in our islands," said Dionisio D'Aguilar, Minister of Tourism and Aviation for The Bahamas. "And the support that these cruises will bring to multiple communities within the country will be tremendous."
"The all-Bahamas itineraries allow us to sail without risk of border closures, and our North American guests to sail as close to home as possible," Anderson said.
Crystal Serenity will sail with a reduced capacity (lower than its 980-passenger maximum) This gives passengers a space ratio twice that of contemporary cruise lines and allows for the best social-distancing aboard any cruise ship. We have sailed on Crystal Serenity twice (see our video tour of the ship) and had noted that it features among the most generous amounts of space per passenger even when sailing full.
Plus, the ship experience that features elegant and roomy staterooms, suites and social areas, as well as abundant choices for activities and enrichment. Most importantly, we loved the attentive and highly personalized service provided by the crew.
The new Bahamas itineraries highlight the enchanting, romantic nature of these gorgeous islands. You can dive into the action, which includes ecotourism adventures; thousands of miles of irresistible beaches and blue waters; scuba diving and snorkeling; and world-class fishing. You'll also enjoy the chances to savor the dining, resort experiences and much more.
"Travelers' sense of exploration has only grown over the past year, and the destinations featured on the new itineraries are ideal for unwinding and renewing the spirit, as well as adventures that remedy restlessness brought on by extended stays at home. Some of the destinations we are calling on are only visited by private yachts, and our guests will have the opportunity to visit these idyllic places that are not on other cruise itineraries," Anderson said.
Cruisers have two choices for embarkation. You can start your voyages in Nassau, a hub of art, nightlife, and history -- and home to 17 spectacular beaches, colorful fish, ancient reefs, lavish resorts and straw markets and the third-largest wine cellar in the world. Or you can depart from Bimini, a Hemingway favorite known as the sport fishing capital of the world where cruisers can also enjoy the resort amenities of The Beach Club at Bimini, a private island oasis with a lagoon-style pool, hammocks, cabanas and cocktail lounge.
Harbour Island -- Called the Nantucket of the Caribbean with its colorful New England architecture and famed for its Pink Sand Beach, the island is a former capital of the Bahamas and has been twice recognized as The Best Island in the Caribbean by Travel + Leisure magazine. You can also discover Preacher's Cave, Glass Window Bridge and Sapphire Blue Hole on North Eleuthera Island.
Great Exuma -- The largest of the 300-plus islands and cays of the Exumas, Great Exuma is home to stunning blue waters and the famous swimming pigs. Cruisers can island-hop among pristine isles, snorkel gorgeous reef-fringed cays, escape to secluded beaches and hidden caves, enjoy an ATV adventure and dive in clear waters.
San Salvador Island -- This island features more than 50 dive spots and splendid beaches. (Of course it does; it's in the Bahamas.) Activities include hiking up to Watling's Castle ruins to gaze out at French Bay from the lookout tower and visiting the first landing spot of explorer Christopher Columbus. The site is marked by an iconic stone cross.
Long Island -- An 80-mile-long island straddling the Tropic of Cancer and known for its white-sand beaches, Long Island has technicolor waters and lush greenery. You can explore the geological and ecological exploration of Hamilton's Cave and Dean's Blue Hole and enjoy some of the bluest waters among the islands at Gordon's Beach.
Port stops could vary according to the captain's discretion based on weather or other conditions.
Crystal Offers Array of New Trips on European River Cruises
The line has an ambitious plan with a set of fun new itineraries on its river ships. Crystal's majestic doublewide Crystal Mozart leads the way for the luxury sailings on the calendar for 2022 on the rivers of Europe.
Crystal Mozart, which features 38 suites dedicated to solo cruisers and an overall capacity for 120 passengers, offers an unusually spacious and chic river cruise experience. The ship will sail weekly seven-night voyages -- Danube Dreams & Discoveries -- going round-trip from Vienna, beginning March 28, 2022.
Also, Crystal Mahler will sail the Rhine, Main and Moselle rivers with a variety of new itineraries. Crystal Mahler and her sister ships -- Crystal Bach, Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel â carry up to 106 guests, far fewer than most ships from other lines on these same rivers.
New Routes and Highlights
Beginning March 28, 2022, Crystal Mozart's "Danube Dreams & Discoveries" itineraries will sail from Vienna on Mondays with overnight stays in Vienna and Budapest, as well as calls to the historic city of Esztergom, Hungary; Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia; and Linz, Austria. You'll also experience day trips to Salzburg and Durnstein and a day cruising through the breathtaking Wachau Valley.
Crystal Mahler will now sail a variety of new itineraries, ranging from five to 16 nights on the Rhine, Moselle, Main and Danube rivers, including some voyages that combine three rivers in one journey. The routes highlight the seasonal beauty of the region, including five-night summer "Rhine & Moselle Summer Escapes" sailings between Amsterdam and Trier; 10-night fall "Splendors of the Rhine & Moselle" voyages between Amsterdam and Basel; and 14-night "Magnificent Europe" sailings between Amsterdam and Budapest on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers.
"This is the perfect time to expand the options available to our guests, who are well-traveled, inquisitive and always seeking new experiences," said Walter Littlejohn, senior vice president and managing director of Crystal River Cruises.
Crystal Mahler begins the season on April 2, 2022, with a series of "Legendary Rhine" and "Romantic Rhine" seven-night sailings between Amsterdam and Basel followed by springtime "Tulips & Windmills" voyages on Dutch waterways and the Rhine River, beginning April 30, roundtrip from Amsterdam.
These voyages showcase the once-in-a-decade Floriade Expo near Amsterdam, where the city and surrounding area transform with flora and greenery from across the globe. The voyage also visits Hoorn, Kinderdijk, Middleburg and Rotterdam, Netherlands, and Antwerp and Ghent, Belgium.
The popular seven-night "Romantic Rhine" and "Legendary Rhine" itineraries between Amsterdam and Basel, which Crystal Mahler will again offer from October through December of 2022 and are also featured on Crystal Bach and Crystal Debussy, feature overnights in Koblenz and Amsterdam; calls in Cologne, Rudesheim and Mannheim, Germany; and Strasbourg, France, as well as daylight cruising through the Rhine Gorge (Middle Rhine Valley).
Along the Moselle and Rhine rivers, one of the most breathtaking waterways in Europe, you can explore the legendary vineyards of the Mosel Wine Region. Five-night summertime "Rhine & Moselle Summer Escapes" voyages sail between Amsterdam and Trier, with late-night stays in the lovely wine villages of Cochem and Bernkastel; the UNESCO World Heritage City of Cologne; and overnights in Trier for exploration of Roman heritage sites or day trips to Luxembourg. From Trier, you can even extend your trip with optional two-night pre- or post-cruise land programs in Reims, France, the unofficial capital of the Champagne region. The land package includes sightseeing, tastings and transfers between Paris and Reims.
The new 10-night autumn "Splendors of the Rhine & Moselle" sails northbound and southbound departures between Amsterdam and Basel in September and October during peak harvest season in the vineyards. The voyages sail through the Middle Rhine Valley and UNESCO World Heritage-listed Rhine Gorge, with its storybook castles and rolling vineyards; wine valley cities of Cochem, Trier and Bernkastel (considered the epicenter of Riesling). You can also enjoy a day trip to charming Heidelberg and a visit to Koblenz, situated at the confluence of the two rivers.
Crystal Mahler offers longer luxury voyages with 14- and 16-night springtime "Magnificent Europe" and "Grand Europe" itineraries, which combine sailing along the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. Beginning and ending with overnights in Amsterdam and Budapest, the river cruises offer immersive experiences throughout Germany's riverside towns of Cologne, Rudesheim (overnight), Miltenberg, Wurzburg, Nuremberg, Regensberg and Passau; Vienna (overnight) and Durnstein, Austria; and Bratislava, Slovakia.
Special Holiday River Cruises
Both Crystal Mozart and Crystal Mahler will offer special holiday sailings. Crystal Mozart's "Danube Holiday Wonders" voyage spends Christmas and Hannukah sailing roundtrip from Vienna, starting December 19, 2022, and visiting Melk and Linz, Austria; Bratislava, Slovakia; and Esztergom and Budapest, Hungary. The holiday cruise offers the chance to experience the magic of the region during the wintertime holidays. Also on Crystal Mozart, you can ring in the New Year aboard a "Spectacular Danube Holiday" voyage, embarking in Vienna on December 26, 2022, visiting Melk, Linz, Krems and Durnstein, Austria; Passau, Germany, and ending with two nights in Vienna for New Year's Eve celebrations in the capital of Austria.
Crystal Mahler will sail a new 10-night "Holidays on the Rhine" itinerary from Basel to Amsterdam on December 23, 2022, spending overnights in Strasbourg, Mannheim and Amsterdam (two nights) and exploring the winter wonderlands of Rudesheim, Cochem, Koblenz, Bernkastel, Trier and Cologne, Germany. You'll spend Christmas Eve in Strasbourg and can attend a midnight mass and Christmas Day in Mannheim. On New Year's Eve in Amsterdam, Crystal Mahler will be joined by Crystal Bach for a special celebration.
Spacious Suites and Sensational Service
The Crystal River Cruises fleet represents the most spacious ships sailing on Europe's rivers. The ships offer generously sized suites, expansive social spaces and open-air top Vista Decks. In addition to the newly dedicated suites for solo travelers, the all-suite Crystal Mozart sets the standard in European river cruising in several other ways, as the only ship to feature a wrap-around Promenade Deck, the largest spa and two fitness centers.
Crystal's Rhine Class ships -- including Crystal Mahler, Crystal Bach, Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel -- are the industry's only all-balcony, all-suite, butler-serviced vessels in Europe. All suites feature Panoramic Balcony Windows and walk-in closets, with most categories offering dual vanity bathrooms.
All Crystal's River ships feature private butler service in every room category, king-sized beds, deluxe toiletries, robes, slippers and wall-mounted flat-screen HD TVs. Additional enticing features include farm-to-table cuisine in multiple, open-seating eateries: the elegant Waterside Restaurant, Bistro cafe and Vintage Room. The Palm Court is the main lounge for entertainment, enrichment presentations and sweeping views of the riverside scenery. Crystal's attention to detail reaches ashore, as cruisers are transported on excursions in luxury motor coaches equipped with complimentary water and Wi-Fi for added convenience and comfort.
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