Expedition cruises are all the rage because they offer what travelers want these days: fewer people and an adventure off the beaten track.
These odysseys are made on (relatively) small but powerful ships, built to navigate the icy waters so that they can reach distant destinations like Antarctica.
I had the opportunity to experience one of the most breathtaking additions to this class when it was moored in Greenwich, London last week – Crystal Cruises new mega-yacht Crystal Endeavor, the first ever company fleet shipping. It has 100 fully-equipped veranda and butler suites for 200 passengers, a one-to-one crew-to-passenger ratio and, with 10,000 cubic feet per guest, claims to have the largest space per guest of any ship at sea. .
Crystal Endeavor, Crystal Cruises’ premier expedition vessel, is designed to travel to remote destinations
Seeking the shape of a ship: Palm Court, pictured, offers afternoon tea, cocktails, and a floor-to-ceiling view
But it was actually the level of intimacy that stood out for me.
The ship – which made its maiden voyage on July 17, a 10-night circumnavigation around Iceland – has a wonderful warm feeling that you just don’t get on the big liners.
On arrival I was greeted by my personal butler, who was on hand to take my luggage. He showed me to my room and made sure I had everything I needed to settle in.
Crystal Endeavor made its maiden voyage on July 17 of this year – a 10-night circumnavigation in Iceland. She is pictured above moored during this trip to the Icelandic town of Seydisfjordur
Samantha Lewis of MailOnline Travel stayed in a luxury suite, pictured, and had her own personal butler
Suites feature king-size beds with crisp white lines, elegant marble bathrooms (deluxe suite pictured), and spacious private verandas
I stayed in one of the deluxe suites, which had a king bed with crisp white linens, an elegant marble bathroom, and like all other room types, a spacious private veranda.
Bedrooms are dotted with thoughtful touches, such as binoculars and a heated locker for drying wet outerwear.
I was also delighted to find a Nespresso machine, a stylish Dyson hairdryer, and a free mini bar filled with champagne.
Pictured above is the living room of Crystal Endeavor’s lavish Penthouse Suite
Sometimes the best things happen at sea: above is the veranda and living room of the Crystal Endeavor Penthouse
The ship’s two-story solarium houses a casual restaurant, pool, and hot tub
Samantha dined at the Waterside, which serves modern cuisine. She said the Valrhona chocolate dessert was a “fitting finale”
100 guest rooms
An owner’s suite – 1130 m²
An ‘expedition’ penthouse – 985 sq. Ft.
Eight penthouse suites – 457 sq. Ft.
90 luxury suites – 304 m²
209 crew members
1 to 1 personal / guest ratio
Length: 539.7 feet (164.5 m)
Width: 76.7 ft (23.4 m)
Toys: Submarine, 18 zodiacs, 14 kayaks
Attention to detail continues elsewhere on the ship where common areas have been designed to showcase the exterior landscape.
The glittering skyscrapers of Canary Wharf looked fabulous from the ship’s Palm Court community center, which offers afternoon tea, cocktails, and floor-to-ceiling views.
Then there’s the glass-roofed solarium, which houses a casual restaurant, pool, and hot tub. If the thought of diving and dining doesn’t float your boat, don’t worry.
The ship has no shortage of restaurants.
I had dinner at the main restaurant, Waterside, which serves modern cuisine like salted salmon gravlax with gin and seared Atlantic halibut.
The service was, as you might expect, impeccable and now I think all bread baskets should be served with truffle butter – and the Valrhona chocolate dessert was a fitting finale.
Meanwhile, specialty restaurants on board include Prego for traditional Italian fare and Umi Uma for sushi and Japanese specialties.
Prego also hosts the Vintage Crystal Room, which is an exclusive food and wine pairing experience.
After dinner, guests can head to the casino – an unusual addition to an expedition ship – and live music continues until late in Crystal Cove, a “gathering space” that Crystal Cruises describes as ” the heart of the ship “.
Others might opt for an early night knowing that a long day of adventure awaits them.
After all, the ship carries its own fleet of zodiacs (18 of them), a submarine, kayaks (14 of them), and snorkeling gear ready to help you explore the polar regions.
Crystal Cove, pictured, is a “gathering space,” the “heart of the ship,” where guests can enjoy cocktails and late-night entertainment.
With 10,000 cubic feet per guest, Crystal Endeavor claims to have the largest space per guest of any ship at sea. Pictured is the Crystal Cove Bar
Of course, living the high life on the high seas doesn’t come cheap.
An 11-night ‘Wildlife and Culture Discovery’ of Africa and Ivory Coast departing April 5, 2022, costs from £ 8,516 per person and a 19-night Antarctic cruise from Ushuaia from £ 24,367.
But it’s worth it if you want to travel to the ends of the earth in style.
A 19-night Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctica Wildlife Expedition cruise departs Ushuaia on November 23, 2022 and includes stops in the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Elephant Island, South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. Cruise-only price from £ 24,367 per person for the 19-night cruise in a deluxe veranda suite with butler service, all meals and drinks on board, most excursions, gratuities, port taxes, transfers abroad, one night in a hotel before the cruise to Buenos Aires and return flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia.
There is also an 11-night Antarctic cruise departing December 12, 2022, priced at £ 13,244.
An 11-night ‘Discovery of African and Ivory Coast Wildlife and Culture’ cruise departing 5 April 2022, costs from £ 8,516 per person.
These prices include a deluxe suite with veranda and butler service, all meals and drinks on board, most excursions, overseas transfers, port taxes and gratuities.
For more information call 020 7399 7603 or visit www.crystalcruises.co.uk.