Earlier this week, I was one of a lucky group of passengers to get a first look at the all-new Crystal Esprit yacht, on a two-night "pre-inaugural" voyage in the Seychelles. For those who haven't been following all the news out of Crystal Cruises lately, the beloved cruise line—number one in our World's Best Awards survey for 20 years running—acquired this year by Malaysian billionaire Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay's company Genting Hong Kong. Since that moment, Crystal, which for years has been operating two large ocean vessels, has announced an aggressive expansion plan. This includes new river cruises, new ocean ships and residences at sea, private air charters, and two- and four-week private-air trips.
The first of Crystal's new products to launch is Crystal Yacht Cruises, with the debut of the Crystal Esprit. The yacht was formerly Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay's own private vessel, which the company has transformed into a 31-cabin passenger ship that will primarily sail around the Seychelles for part of the year and the Adriatic (between Dubrovnik and Venice) for the rest. After my two days aboard, I can attest that Crystal has translated the brand and what its fans love about it—including butler service, a (mostly) all-inclusive program, and luxuries like caviar and free-flowing champagne—to a very different and much more intimate experience. The whole vibe is designed to appeal to a younger and more active clientele, especially. Among the highlights: getting up-close and personal with undersea life in a submersible, which even on the low-visibility day I did it was pretty incredible. (It's also one of the few activities that are not included; 30-minute sessions run an extra $599 per person.)
Yachts like the Crystal Esprit can of course get you places the big ships can't, and on its Seychelles itineraries, you'll explore uninhabited islands and laze on completely empty beaches—all reached by Zodiac. Crystal Yacht Cruises will definitely satisfy Crystal devotees who have been longing for something a different and more high-energy. The yacht experience will also attract newcomers for whom the big ships don't jibe. Crystal executives on my trip also said that the ship has already been chartered. So for those looking to drop some serious dough on taking over the yacht—ideal for big family celebrations or corporate meetings—it's also an appealing new option.
Seven-day Seychelles itineraries, which include a two-night Dubai Land Package, begin at $4,960 per person, all inclusive.