Crystal Cruises is not really a company that orders ships just about every year. Their first liner was the Crystal Harmony, that entered service in 1990. The company itself was started up by long established NYK Lines from Japan, and with Crystal Cruises they tried to enter the global cruisemarket with large ships, something totally new for a Japanese company. The ship was loosely based on the design of Princess Cruises' 1984-built Royal Princess as well as NYK's own Asuka. A second ship, slightly different from the first but mostly a sister was launched in 1995 under the name of Crystal Symphony. For the thirth ship, Chantiers de L'atlantique at Saint Nazaire in France was awarded the contract.
Crystal Serenity seen entering the port of Amsterdam for the first time in the summer of 2006. For Crystal cruises, she offers varied worldwide cruises. You can clearly see the placement of her lifeboats is different from most ships, it keeps the decks open and there are no cabins where views are obstructed.
She was larger then the first two, measuring 68.870 tons. The ship, that was launched at the 8th of november 2002 under the name of Crystal Serenity, has a lenght of 250 meters, is 32,30 meters wide and is driven by 2 pods giving her a speed of 22,72 knots. On board, there is room for 1140 passengers in total, but another measurement is 1096, based on two persons per cabin. Some 655 crewmembers are also present and this shows that the ship has a very low crew to passenger ratio. Her yardnumber at the wharf had been H32 and she was of course the largest ship that was ever built for a Japanese company. The ships did not fly the Japanese flag, though. Normally, the country is very traditional but the ships of Crystal Cruises fly the flag of the Bahamas, with their homeport being Nassau. The ships captain is of Norwegian origin and her crew is international, but mostly European and American.
Crystal Serenity looks quite different from other liners, mostly because the unusual placing of the lifeboats. This has two advantages, at first the promenade deck is clear of the obstruction and second, no single cabin's view is that of a large lifeboat. In general, Japanese ships are outside-orientated. All Crystal ships, even this big liner, have an outdoor promenade that is really open and there is a lot of outdoor space for the passengers. This in contradiction to the big western cruiseliners that are mostly faced inside to get more money out of the pockets. But allthough she is an outside ship, the inside is very marvellous too. She recieved a five star plus rating by Berlitz and that is somewhat outstanding for a ship of this size, taking only 150 passengers more their her smaller fleetmates. The ship is marketed as a familyship, but most passengers seem to be around 50. Crystal Serenity is a quiet ship, but you can learn to play the Yamaha keyboard in a room filled with 30 of these in the ships Creative Learning Institute, a unique classlike environment.
On the picture above, made at the 9th of june in 2018, the unusual placing of the lifeboats can clearly be spotted.
The ship was delivered to the company at the 30th of june 2003 and sailed her first crise from Southampton and her naming ceremony at the following 7th of july. The ship was named by Dame Julie Andrews at the Eastern Docks. All VIP guests were asked to be wearing black and white and the ship's bow was blessed with the liquids out of a specially made 6-liter bottle of Louis Roederer Crystal champagne. The ship was named at Southampton because NYK chairman Jiro Nemoto made clear that NYK was one of the oldest customers of the port and the company has many connections to the south-English port. Like her sisters, she doesn't have a fixed cruiseregion, sailing varied cruises worldwide. It seemed that Crystal Cruises was confident in the future, because they announced that a new ship would be added over time, but just when they thought the time was ripe. But untill today, we haven't seen another order for Crystal Cruises, there was even a reduction in the fleet when the Crystal Harmony was transferred to NYK Cruises itself in december 2005 as their Asuka II.
In november and december of 2013, Crystal Serenity had a huge update for a staggering $17 million. For this amount, the ship recieved a total maintenance update, environmental update and deep cleaning. Also her exteriour and interiour spaces were updated and refreshed. The design team tried to design a 'home away from home for the sophisticated world traveller', based on a London flat or a Manhattan upscale appartment. In total, there were 700 projects aboard and the whole rebuilding took place in the Navantia Shipyards at Cadiz, Spain. The old furniture that was replaced, was donated to a local Cadiz organisation devoted to the recovering of (former) drug addicts.
Almost ready to enter the Northsea Canal locks at IJmuiden, Crystal Serenity sails for the sea at the 9th of june, 2018.
On the 5th of november 2014, Crystal Serenity depated New York for a very special voyage, commemorating the so-called 'Voyage Of The Damned'. This was a sailing by the German ship St. Louis, owned by HAPAG departing may 13th, 1939 from Hamburg bound for Cuba. The ship was filled with Jewish refugees who were trying to escape from Europe during the beginning of the second worldwar. The then president of HAPAG, Albert Ballin, was a Jew himself. When the ship arrived at Havana, St. Louis was denied to dock and instead, she sailed for the United States. Also here, the refugees were not given permission to land and the same story came out when she tried Canada. Because she could go nowhere, St. Louis had te return to Europe. Out of her total complement of 937 refugees, 254 eventually died in the concentrationcamps while they could have been saved. In november of 2018, the Premier of Canada, Justin Trudeau, officially made apologies for the decisions from the Canadian government at the time.
On the november 2014 cruise by Crystal Serenity, passengers are able to hear stories directly from survivors of that fatefull voyage as well as have a glimpse at the documentary 'Complicit' made by the 'St. Louis Legacy Project', that also organizes this educational cruise. Also, original documents are on display and passengers can learn in every way about the tragic voyage of the German ship. The cruise will head for the Caribbean, but off course Cuba was still off limits at that moment sailing from a US port, so Havana was not in the itenerary.
Another special cruise will be undertaken in the summer of 2016, when Crystal Serenity will become the largest and most luxurious passengership to navigate the Northwest Passage. For this, the ship will be equipped with surveillance and ice navigator systems to be sure the passage will be safe. Next to that, the ship will also be accompanied by a small escortvessel that provides additional environmental-protection and safety equipment.
Crystal Serenity also has one very special passenger, who knows all about the good life aboard as she had lived on the ship since 2008, when she had turned 80. Her name is Lee Wachtstetter, but aboard she is fondly known as Mama Lee. Wachtstetter had sold all of her belongings in Florida in that year so she could be spending her golden years aboard the ship. She had also written a book about her life at sea, called 'I may be homeless, but you should see my yaught'. Aboard, Mama Lee just lives in a normal stateroom, which has been remodelled by the crew to her liking. In 2004, the Journal of American Geriatrics Society concluded in a study that it may look very expensive, but that living in a retirement home is almost the same costs.