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Crystal Esprit blog

IMG_2705sking my daughters (aged 12 and 9), what would be key on their wish list for a holiday in the Indian Ocean, active sports, sunshine and beaches sat in the top three. It is no wonder then that our recent cruise onboard Crystal Yacht Cruises Crystal Esprit rated as probably our best family holiday. Ever. The opportunity to spend a week mooching around the beautiful picture-postcard beaches and bays in the Seychelles on a six-star luxury motor yacht is pretty indulgent in itself; add in jet skiing amongst wild dolphins, snorkelling with tropical fish, zip lining through lush creeper-clad forests and getting ‘up close and personal’ with various animals and wildlife that are indigenous to these islands… and it is easy to see how quickly we managed to tick off their dream lists and how easily this trip earned it’s stars. And made glorious lifetime memories.IMG_2800-e1457196423263

We chose to fly to Mahe in the Seychelles with Etihad Airlines, on one of their enormous yet super smooth and extremely quiet A380 aircrafts via Abu Dhabi . Arriving on the island at 7am local time, our six-star Crystal service started as soon as we stepped foot on the sun-drenched tarmac, where we were met personally and ushered into a VIP suite. Cold fresh juices appeared whilst our passports were checked, our luggage was identified and placed into the waiting minivan for our private transfer to the Eden Bleu Hotel where embarkation would take place at noon. A very comfortable hospitality room was available here with drinks and snacks and there was time for a jet-lag fixing swim in the pool, overlooking our yacht in the harbour on Eden Island.IMG_2749-e1457273695853

At around 25 years old, the vessel is not shiny and new like the super-yachts of the rich and famous found docked in Monte Carlo harbour. In fact, she was the old Megastar Taurus operated by Star Cruises out of Singapore. Since announcements were made by Crystal Cruises in July 2015, see my previous post Crystal Brand Expansion the yacht has undergone a complete transformation and now boasts contemporary yacht-chic interiors and ultra luxurious accommodations: just 31 suites for 62 guests and 91 crew resulting in a guest to crew ratio of a staggeringly indulgent 1.47. Each suite, at a minimum of 223 square feet (ours, an S2 grade boasted 280 square feet) comes with a personal butler who arranged room service, organised laundry and attended to our every wish. Our daughters loved the bedside iPad, which they eagerly used to order hot chocolate and cookies from our butler Clark. Always super efficient and super smiley, Clark had spent the last 15 years onboard the larger Crystal ships, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity and knew everything there is to know about delivering the Crystal style of service to discerning guests. Extra highlights of our two interconnecting suites were the huge kingsize beds, a large comfortable sofa, chair and table for in suite dining, a Nespresso machine stocked with our capsules of choice, vast amounts of hanging and drawer space and a 42 inch television with movies on demand and live news stations. Although the yacht does not have balconies, on these sunshine itineraries it is really not needed; we enjoyed the views of the turquoise waters and the islands beyond from the two large windows. Crystal’s partnership with Etro provides the sumptuous bathrobes and slippers and an abundance of brightly coloured and musk scented toiletries in the large bathroom. Twin sinks and a large power shower (but not a bath), all newly fitted out in stylish mosaic tiles, granite and shiny mirrors with even an inset tv.IMG_2663-e1456493151934

We found it very easy to quickly slip into the unstructured style of our week onboard. Unlike other luxury cruises, we soon realised that this experience was so much more personal and bespoke and the dedicated crew worked effortlessly to make our trip so special. It really was anticipatory service at it’s finest, yet there was a very relaxed atmosphere throughout the vessel, where nothing was too much trouble for our family and their different needs. We had wondered, prior to this holiday, how Crystal could deliver such a top-notch service on such a small vessel, with limited scope for choice, something that the luxury line has won awards and accolades since its inception 25 years ago. It was instantly apparent that the Esprit offers a scaled down, yet bespoke mini version of the larger ships, with even more attention to detail, if that is at all possible. The cuisine and dining experiences onboard are a good example of this: we ate in the Yacht Club each evening for intimate dinners where we loved the open seating facility. Most guests enjoyed a relaxing pre-dinner aperitif and canapés in the Cove beforehand whilst listening to our Entertainment Host Mark Farris playing the baby grand piano.


A major plus-point for us as a family was the flexibility to the menus, with dishes being tailored to our individual tastes. Our Executive Chef Adam Jenkins, a fellow Brit, had worked onboard Crystal Symphony and previously with Disney Cruise Line. Adam made it his personal mission during our week to create food that our daughters would appreciate, whilst we dined from the Crystal Esprit Menu, which included the theatrically spectacular ‘Modern Cuisine’ together with the traditional classics as enjoyed in the Crystal Dining Rooms on the larger ships. This however, felt as if we were dining in the ‘speciality’ restaurants every night, with incredibly attentive service and an extensive complimentary wine list to match.


The spacious Patio Cafe was the setting for breakfast with an ever changing view. Here large floor-to-ceiling windows let in the wonderful light found in this part of the world where stunning vistas of densely foliaged islands complete with those quintessentially boulder strewn Seychellois beaches. We enjoyed lunch here too, where similar to breakfast food was cooked to order or we could sample the fresh salads and seafood selections and help ourselves. The Grill up on the Sunset Deck was also available for all day burgers, wraps and salads alfresco, we only need to raise our heads and a waiter would offer to bring something for us. I only ever ordered a cappuccino on the very first morning. At every breakfast afterwards my beverage would quietly appear, after my fruit and to accompany my eggs, just as I liked it.


But the Crystal Esprit experience really is all about the action and there are plentiful opportunities to immerse yourselves in not only the wildlife and flora in the Seychelles but the adrenalin pumping watersports. The yacht carries a huge selection of toys at the marina and the team are only too happy to set out the kayaks or paddle boards, or fit you for snorkelling gear. This however, is not a luxury cruise for the immobile or nervy; the yacht does not have lifts and you need to be happy to put your trust in the marina crew as they safely transport you by zodiac and often local wooden boats to the National Marine Parks on the islands. Wet landings became the favoured adventures for our girls and tender rides from the local boats were often ‘white-knuckle’ and choppy. Add in a tropical rain burst and you can soon see they are not for the faint-hearted. The relaxed itineraries though, allowed Captain Thomas Larsen to adjust our day, often changing the anchor point of a bay dependant on weather or swell. Each day two complimentary excursions were on offer, and these included nature hikes to spot White-tailed Tropic birds on Aride Island or the famous Black Parrot on Praslin. Fellow guests of all ages loved snorkelling afternoons from the beaches, and as a family together we loved discovering the cheekily-shaped seeds of the Cocoa De Mer trees at the Vallee de Mai Nature Reserve on Praslin island, and a bicycle exploration of La Digue island amongst the coconut and vanilla plantations. There were additional charges for certified scuba-divers to discover the underwater delights of the Indian Ocean, and for golfers to play a round on the most pristine and exclusive courses in the area. Additional high-adrenalin options included Deep Sea Fishing, helicopter and seaplane tours of the islands. But for those who preferred more peaceful activities there were Pilates and stretch classes on the spacious deck by the small swimming pool. One morning before breakfast there was even a Yoga class scheduled on a deserted beach. It’s not often you get a chance to practice your sun salutations on an un-inhabitated island amongst scuttling green crabs.

The most decadent and much talked about excursion had to be the ride in the 3-man submersible. Anchored off the beautiful Curieuse island, we all watched in awe as the craft was winched away from the aft deck and gently manoeuvred into the crystalline  waters below. Demand was high for the $600 per person half hour immersion,  which smoothly submerged the passengers to a coral reef 15 meters below the surface amongst rainbow coloured fish and silently paddling turtles. Rumour has it, there’s a five man submersible on order for the yacht for future budding underwater explorers.


As for our family, Curieuse Island ticked all the boxes and we spent much of the morning snorkelling from the beach at Laraie Bay and diving off the inflatable pontoon at the back of the yacht swimming in the warm Indian Ocean. We had to keep reminding ourselves it was February, and so very cold at home in London. Later that afternoon we hopped into the zodiac and whizzed out to the jet skis to zip around the bay amongst a school of dolphins that accompanied us. As the sun sunk lower in the tropical sky, we watch in silence as they surfaced and dived beneath our jet-skis, returning again and again in gentle playful splashes.

The crew even threw a surprise beach party on Curieuse Island, wading into the knee high waters to serve chilled Billecart Salmon champagne and fresh ceviche, setting up an impromptu bar amongst the granite boulders. Here the giant indigenous tortoises roamed freely on the sands extending their leathery necks for a tickle and chasing our girls on the sands to be fed pieces of fresh oranges.


Crystal Yacht Cruises are scheduled to continue their season in the Seychelles between January and March for the next two years, and in our summer months the Crystal Esprit will be exploring the islets and coves along the dramatically stunning Croatian coastline, operating 7 days cruises between Venice and Dubrovnik. Thinking back to the action packed week we spent onboard, we asked our daughters for their summary. Would they go back? Would they enjoy this kind of destination immersion active holiday on this kind of yacht? “Quite honestly Mummy,” said my nine year old, “I never wanted to get off the Esprit and go home in the first place”. Enough said, but don’t take Matilda’s word for it, check it out for yourselves.


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