Here’s an interesting little cruise conundrum that occurred to us this week: when is a World Cruise not a World Cruise?
The answer comes from the distinguished style of Crystal Cruises, who have just announced a new series of Grand Journeys, sailings that look and feel a lot like a world voyage but which don’t require 100-plus days of your time.
And we absolutely love the thinking behind this idea. As a general rule, Crystal’s two ships, the original Crystal Symphony and slightly larger younger sibling Crystal Serenity (and, if ever a ship was aptly named, it is the Serenity, with her blissfully expansive elegance and serene ambience), tend to operate in more linear style than most of their upmarket counterparts.
That is, they tend not to return to the same starting point for each cruise but continue on a regional basis, with only limited calls to the same port.
It, therefore, makes sense to convert some regular sailings into Grand Journeys, for an extended exploration of up to four weeks that take on the ethos of a global voyage without the full commitment, but with the kind of cultural immersion that comes with the longer-range version.
At the same time, Crystal is also introducing what they call their Crystal Getaways, which take some of their longer cruises and break them up into more manageable chunks.
Here’s what they say: “Crystal Cruises has unveiled a selection of voyages that offers more options for travellers seeking expanded global journeys, as well as those with limited time for globetrotting. Crystal’s ‘Grand Journeys’ combine existing worldwide itineraries, allowing guests to extend their exploration, while ‘Crystal Getaways’ offer abbreviated segments of longer sailings that perfectly accommodate today’s busy luxury travellers.
“New for 2019 and 2020 are Grand Journeys that sail the Mediterranean and Western Europe, Caribbean, Central America, south-east Asia and the South Pacific. With multiple overnights offered on every extended voyage and nearly no repeating ports, these Grand Journeys range from 14 to 33 days, affording travellers the chance to immerse themselves in entire regions over the course of one vacation or enjoy diverse experiences across cultures.
“The Greek Isles, Holy Land and Italian countryside are all featured on one expanded itinerary, while another explores Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica and New Orleans along a Gulf Coast route.”
The Grand Journeys will comprise all of the onboard and shoreside options and amenities that typify the ultra-luxe style of each Crystal voyage, with almost everyone offering specialised programming of at least one of the line’s acclaimed Experiences of Discovery themed cruises. And, with more time on board, guests will be able to pursue new passions – maybe photography, ballroom dancing or computer skills – or delve deeper into their favourite interests like Broadway shows, jazz, wine, food and golf.
In our eyes, it’s a classic win-win scenario. Enjoy a more immersive style of cruising that features those essential elements of a long-distance voyage – namely greater opportunities on board to get into that sea-going rhythm and a more extensive cultural experience that is the essence of a world cruise – but all in a more concentrated fashion.
In fact, it might even be the perfect ‘taster’ cruise for a full world voyage at some stage. We know that the idea of three or four months at sea sounds like a truly grand and appealing option, a nautical no-brainer if you like, but it isn’t everyone’s cup of maritime tea simply because that one stateroom can feel awfully small after a month or so.
But, put it to the test with these shorter style sailings, try it out for three or four weeks, and you’ll have a pretty good idea if true global wandering is for you.
So, where exactly will these new Grand Journeys and Crystal Getaways take you? Good question. This year, they will start in the Mediterranean in late July (on Crystal Serenity), cruising between Athens and Lisbon, and then branch out transatlantic to Fort Lauderdale before encompassing sectors of the January World Cruise from Miami to Rome.
Crystal Symphony, on the other hand, will be departing her summer series in Alaska in September and featuring a 27-night Grand Voyage from Los Angeles to New Orleans (via Mexico, Central America and the Panama Canal) and then reversing her course and taking in a tantalising trio of possibilities from San Diego in California to the Far East, including 27 nights from Hawaii to Hong Kong or a 33-nighter from San Diego to Hong Kong.
Also in 2020, Crystal is offering travellers three new Getaways, sailing through the islands of Hawaii, the South Pacific and south-east Asia, ranging from seven to 14 days. The shorter options enable guests to fill their limited travel time with adventures and luxurious touches, while also offering the line’s exceptional value.
For us, we would most like to take time out of our busy schedule for the Far East, somewhere we have yet to visit but a region which holds enormous fascination, especially between Vietnam and Hong Kong.
These are areas that would be tough to travel independently, by land, or with multiple flights. But, by sea, this would be a golden opportunity to sample Ho Chi Minh City, the full Vietnamese coast, and glittering Hong Kong, all without having to pack and unpack every few days!
And, right there, we are back to one of the essential ‘secrets’ of taking a cruise – the ability to travel so widely while still being in the same accommodation. It’s easy to forget that primary facet of sea-going convenience, and it is never truer than on these longer-distance sailings.
So, anyone for a Grand Voyage…?
Are you ready to try a longer voyage? If so, what most appeals to you about a ‘Grand Voyage’ or ‘Getaway’? Give us your thoughts in the Comments section below.