The poet Robert Browning first coined the phrase in 1855. Architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (now there’s a name to conjure with) picked it up and ran with it in the 20th century, and countless others have used it to varying degrees of success ever since.
‘Less is more’ has become the mantra of the culinary world, design studios, fashion houses and film-makers, and is also the prime watchword of minimalism. It is used, frequently, by college lecturers urging their students to be more meaningful in their essays, by second-hand car dealers, and almost certainly by chocolate makers, who think we won’t notice when the size of a Mars bar shrinks by 15 per cent but stays at the same price.
Yet, Robert Browning’s poem about the artist Andrea del Sarto said it so much more fluently:
Who strive – you don’t know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,-
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter) – so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia.
The reference to ‘carelessly passing with your robes afloat’ is, of course, the key in this instance, as it points a distinctly 19th-century finger at a future holiday phenomenon, namely the cruise world. Pretty shrewd fellow that Browning
So, when is less more in the cruise industry? When it is the forthcoming new Diamond class build of cruise ship for Crystal Cruises. That was our overwhelming conclusion back in January when Crystal announced a notable down-sizing of their follow-up vessels to the current Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity for 2022 and beyond.
From 100,000 tons, they were reined back in to around the 68,000 mark, and with a mere 800 passengers instead of 1,000. True, news of any Crystal new-build was always going to command our full attention, but scaling things back in this instance definitely sounded like a smart idea. While 1,000 guests on a 100,000-ton ship still makes for a hugely generous space ratio, no-one has yet manufactured a vessel that reaches the mega-ship scale while still delivering that true ultra-luxe style that is the hallmark of the six-star lines such as Crystal.
To be fair, several cruise lines have already got with the minimalist beat, notably Viking Ocean Cruises (building all their new tonnage at a modest 47,842 tons) and Saga Cruises, who have capped their forthcoming new vessels for 2019 and ’20 at a shade under 60,000 tons.
But, as of last week, we also have some more details to put on the bare bones of what is likely to be Crystal’s ‘crown jewel,’ as well as some new exterior artist’s renderings of what they will look like, and they all make for seriously intriguing anticipation.
Just to start with, the Diamond class will borrow heavily from the look and design aesthetic of the existing duo. The classic profile with a sharp bow and stepped stern will be back, along with the overall dimensions that make Symphony and Serenity such eye-pleasing vessels. Bottom line – they will still look like proper, well-proportioned ships, as opposed to floating condominiums bestrewn with gimmicks and gadgets.
The funnel will move further forward from its notable aft positioning, but otherwise, the superstructure and sleek contours should look extremely similar. There are no additional details on what we can expect the interiors to look like, but we can certainly discern the main structural difference with the new ship, in that she will have five full decks of balcony cabins as opposed to the four on Serenity and three on Symphony.
Crystal president and CEO, Tom Wolber, insisted: “Our ocean ships are the heart of the Crystal brand and have been loved by our guests for more than 28 years. We are delighted to expand this celebrated fleet with amenities and spaces that our guests have come to love, along with more choices and new experiences that will take luxury to the next level. We look forward to sharing more details next year with our guests and travel partners.”
Keen-eyed observers will immediately notice that the Diamond class will actually be the same tonnage as the Serenity (which is 17,000 tons larger than Symphony but carry 200 fewer passengers. The Space Ratio will be somewhere in the region of a whopping 85, which is an astonishing figure for a ship of that size. The original specifications of the QE2 in 1968 – 66,000 tons, carrying 2,000 passengers – gave her a space ratio of 33, while even the more spacious QM2 (at 150,000 tons) can manage a ratio of only 55.
That means the staterooms – already on the generous side – are likely to be even larger, and virtually all with balconies, while the public areas continue to be the most varied and roomy of all ships in the six-star category, and then some.
That also means even more space for signature features like the Palm Court (and arguably the best Afternoon Tea on the high seas), the Avenue Saloon, Computer University @ Sea and innovative alternative dining like the superlative Silk Road, with its tie-up with Japanese master-chef Nobu Matsuhisa. We can already taste that Black Cod with Miso and the amazing Wagyu Beef!
The newcomer will be built at the MV Werften shipyard in Stralsund, Germany, as soon as the yard has completed construction of Crystal’s 200-passenger boutique expedition ship, the Crystal Endeavor in 2020.
Never heard of Werften? That’s because their three yards were originally part of the big Lloyd Werft conglomerate but were bought out by Hong Kong’s Genting group of resorts and cruise businesses (including Star Cruises, Dream Cruises and, of course, Crystal), so that this is, in effect, a self-build project for the company, which has already created the new generation of six-star vessels for European river-cruising. Werften’s other two yards, at Wismar and Rostock, are currently fully engaged in building the first 204,000-ton Global-class mega-ships for Dream Cruises in the Asian market.
It will be fascinating to see the first Crystal Diamond take shape in the years to come (there is only one confirmed new-build at the moment, but we fully expect another two to three in future), and we have been promised more details on the internal arrangements in 2019.
100,000 tons was definitely too ambitious, but, 68,000? Yes, we know how well Crystal already caters at that figure, so the Diamond class ships should definitely be real gems in their own right. And less will definitely be more!
What most excites you about the forthcoming Crystal Cruises vessels? Give us your thoughts or let us know your favourite Crystal experiences in the Comments section below.