Expedition cruises are all the rage as they have the things travellers want these days: fewer crowds and off-the-beaten-track adventure.
These odysseys are made on (relatively) small but mighty vessels, built to navigate icy waters so they can reach remote destinations like the Antarctic.
I got to experience one of the most jaw-dropping additions to this class when she was docked in Greenwich, London, last week – Crystal Cruises’ new megayacht, Crystal Endeavor, the first expedition vessel in the company’s fleet. She boasts 100 all-veranda, all-butler serviced 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’ first expedition ship, is designed to travel to remote destinations
Looking ship shape: Palm Court, pictured, offers afternoon tea, cocktails and floor-to-ceiling views
But it was actually the level of intimacy that stood out for me.
The ship – which sailed her maiden voyage on July 17, a 10-night circumnavigation of Iceland – has a wonderful homely feel that you simply don’t get on the big ocean liners.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by my personal butler, who was on hand to whisk my luggage away. He showed me to my room and made sure I had everything I needed to settle in.
Crystal Endeavor sailed her maiden voyage on July 17 this year – a 10-night circumnavigation of Iceland. She’s pictured above docked during that voyage at the Icelandic town of Seydisfjordur
MailOnline Travel’s Samantha Lewis stayed in a deluxe suite, pictured, and had her own personal butler
The suites have king-sized 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-sized bed with crisp white linens, an elegant marble bathroom and, as with all the other room types, a spacious private veranda.
The rooms are peppered with thoughtful touches, such as binoculars and a heated cubby hole for drying wet outdoor clothing.
I was also delighted to find a Nespresso coffee machine, a snazzy Dyson hairdryer and a complimentary mini-bar stocked with Champagne.
Pictured above is the living room in Crystal Endeavor’s opulent Penthouse suite
Sometimes, the best things happen at sea: Above is the verandah and living room in the Crystal Endeavor Penthouse
The ship’s two-storey solarium houses a casual restaurant, swimming pool and hot tub
Samantha dined in Waterside, which serves modern cuisine. She said the Valrhona chocolate dessert was a ‘fitting finale’
100 guest suites
One owner’s suite – 1,130 sq ft
One ‘expedition’ penthouse – 985 sq ft
Eight penthouse suites – 457 sq ft
90 deluxe suites – 304 sq ft
1-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio
Length: 539.7ft (164.5m)
Width: 76.7ft (23.4m)
Toys: Submarine, 18 zodiacs, 14 kayaks
The attention to detail continues elsewhere on the ship where the communal areas have been designed to showcase the outside scenery.
The glittering skyscrapers of Canary Wharf looked fabulous from the ship’s Palm Court social hub, which offers afternoon tea, cocktails and floor-to-ceiling views.
Then there’s the glass-roofed solarium, which houses a casual restaurant, swimming pool and hot tub. If the idea of dipping and dining doesn’t float your boat, not to worry.
The ship isn’t sparse on eateries.
I had dinner at the main restaurant, Waterside, which serves modern cuisine such as gin-cured salmon gravlax and pan-fried Atlantic halibut.
The service was predictably flawless and I now think all bread baskets should be served with truffle butter – and the Valrhona chocolate dessert was a fitting finale.
Meanwhile, speciality restaurants on board include Prego for traditional Italian fare and Umi Uma for sushi and Japanese specialities.
Prego also hosts Crystal’s signature Vintage Room, which is an exclusive food and wine pairing experience.
After dinner guests can hit the casino – an unusual addition to an expedition ship – and live music goes on until late in the Crystal Cove, a ‘gathering space’ that Crystal Cruises describes as ‘the heart of the ship’.
Others might opt for an early night knowing a long day of adventuring awaits.
After all, the ship carries its own fleet of zodiacs (18 of them), a submarine, kayaks (14 of those) and snorkelling 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 late-night cocktails and 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 cultural discovery’ of Africa and the Ivory Coast departing April 5, 2022, costs from £8,516 per person and a 19-night cruise to Antarctica from Ushuaia starts from £24,367.
But it’s worth the splurge if you want to travel to the ends of the earth in serious style.
A 19-night ‘Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctica Wildlife Expedition’ cruise departs Ushuaia on November 23, 2022, and includes calls in the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Elephant Island, South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. Cruise-only prices from £24,367 per person for the 19-night cruise in a deluxe suite with veranda with butler service, all meals and drinks onboard, most excursions, gratuities, port taxes, overseas transfers, one night pre-cruise hotel in Buenos Aires and round trip air from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia.
There is also an 11-night Antarctica cruise departing December 12, 2022, costing from £13,244.
An 11-night ‘Wildlife and Cultural Discovery of Africa and the Ivory Coast’ cruise departing April 5, 2022, costs from £8,516 per person.
These prices include a deluxe suite with veranda and butler service, all meals and drinks onboard, most excursions, overseas transfers, port taxes and gratuities.
For more information call 020 7399 7603 or visit www.crystalcruises.co.uk.