By Cherie Weinstein
I recently had the opportunity to cruise on Crystal Cruises’ beautiful new expedition ship, Crystal Endeavor on a two-day “showcase” cruise from Miami to Bimini in the Bahamas. The ship is on her way to South America for her Antarctic season, and she made a quick stopover in Miami.
What is Expedition Cruising?
But before I get into the details of the Crystal Endeavor, what is an expedition cruise? The “Travel Industry Dictionary” defines an expedition cruise as: “A cruise, typically aboard a smaller vessel, with an emphasis on the natural habitat of exotic destinations and responsible tourism. The term also implies a relatively expensive cruise with onboard experts in the ecology of the destination and a certain level of rigor, such as in Antarctic cruises.”
Additionally, expedition cruises are voyages to far-flung areas with a focus on the nature, history, and culture of the destinations they visit. Expedition cruises are very highly focused on sustainability in their operations because of the sensitive ecology of these usually lightly-trafficked regions.
Health and Safety Measures
This was my first trip anywhere in 20 months, so I was beyond excited to have a change of scenery. Crystal is accepting vaccinated guests only and their officers, staff and crew are 100% vaccinated. As part of the pre-registration I had to upload a copy of my vaccination card and I was given a specific time to arrive at embarkation where all guests were given a rapid COVID test, completed health questionnaires and when cleared negative we were allowed to go on board. Once on board mask-wearing for guests is optional, though crew are masked at all times.
Onboard Crystal Endeavor
The Crystal Endeavor is the world’s largest and most spacious luxury expedition “yacht.” She has the largest “space ratio” of any cruise vessel at 1:100. The tonnage of a ship in relation to the number of passengers that it can house at full occupancy equals the passenger space ratio. The higher the ratio, the more space a guest has available. The staff-to-guest ratio is almost 1:1.
This is an all-suite, all-balcony ship, both intimate and elegant, carrying just 200 travelers with butler-serviced luxury. Though Crystal touts “six star” luxury, the luxury is not pretentious, preening nor stuffy; it’s welcoming and unobtrusive, yet there to cater to every traveler’s wishes.
My standard suite had a shared entryway with the adjacent suite, which is nice for families or two couples traveling together as they can lock the hallway door and leave their suite doors unlocked so they can pop in and out of each other’s rooms.
The bathrooms are huge for a ship, with large dual-faucet sinks, a huge shower with overhead rainfall, and handheld showerheads. A walk-in closet has plenty of hanging, shelf, and drawer space. The minibar is stocked and replenished at no charge with guests’ favorite beverages. Each suite has a Nespresso coffee maker for a quick morning cup, though a full breakfast in one’s suite is also an option.
Expedition cruises are typically all-inclusive—premium wines, spirits, expedition guide-led tours ashore (1 included per port). For polar exploration, Crystal supplies outerwear: a dual layer warm parka (that you can keep after the cruise), special waterproof boots, and pants, which makes packing easier. As with all cruises, meals and entertainment are included.
Dining and Other Venues
The food was excellent, beautifully presented and tasty. Breakfast and lunch options were either the Waterside restaurant or the Marketplace buffet in the Solarium beside the indoor pool. Interestingly, the indoor pool can be drained and the pool floor raised to create one large open space in the solarium! Very cool!
In addition to the Waterside dining room, UMI/UMA serves Japanese/Peruvian fusion cuisine and sushi. Prego is the Northern Italian option or The Vintage Room which offers some of the world’s finest wines paired with outstanding cuisine.
For a quick cappuccino, espresso with a pastry or a scoop of delicious ice cream, (I can recommend the Rum Raisin), the Bistro is a great place to grab a bite and share conversation in a casual setting. They also have a selection of fruit, yogurt, and light bites available.
The library has comfy places to relax and is well-stocked with books. Attached to the library is the Pantry which is available 24 hours a day featuring a specialty coffee machine, wine, bottled waters, and soda. For me, it was a convenient place to grab a bottle of water while I was exploring the ship.
And, speaking of water—my go-to beverage, the Crystal Endeavor produces its own bottled water on board, both still and sparkling, with a state-of-the-art purification and bottling system. The bottles are collected, washed, sterilized and reused for maximum sustainability. Guests also receive a refillable/reusable stainless steel water bottle for their use on board and ashore.
Toys for Exploration
There’s a helipad on board the Crystal Endeavor. Initially, I guessed it was for emergency evacuation or boarding, but no…the Crystal Endeavor carries her own helicopters! Two of them! They’re parked in the helicopter garage, just forward of the helipad, and are available for special shore exploration.
And not just helicopters, the Crystal Endeavor has all the toys for excitement and exploration: She carries over 25 zodiacs, all neatly stowed aboard. She has a complement of sea kayaks, oh and she also carries her own 3-man (2 guests + captain) submersible for underwater exploring!
On this quick cruise to Bimini, we had the chance to take a zodiac ride to explore a half-sunken ship or to hop over to the beach for a swim. Some guests tried the sea kayaks, and a few went down in the submersible.
Expedition is the way to go!!
I’m inspired to get into planning mode for my own next vacation and I would love to help our clients plan their own special group trip to create the ultimate incentive trip for high achievers, or a high-end special interest group. Many thanks to our friends at Crystal Cruises for inviting Landry & Kling to sample the Crystal Endeavor and have a warm-weather taste of expedition.
Expedition cruising is one of the fastest-growing segments of the cruise industry. There are a growing number of options for expeditions, from well-established companies like Lindblad Expeditions to specialty luxury operators. The mega cruise lines that have luxury divisions, like Royal Caribbean’s Silversea and Carnival Corporation’s Seabourn are also moving into the expedition arena with new ships. MSC Cruises is developing an expedition brand, Explora.
Find Your Expedition Ship
Landry & Kling is your go-to resource to match your group with the expedition line and itinerary that will best fit your guests’ expectations. Contact Landry & Kling, give us a call at 786-594-0732, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.