Boarding the Crystal Harmony in Los Angeles and seeing Mary
Tyler Moore in the lobby was “deja vu, all over again.” I had been
on the inaugural cruise in 1990 from Los Angeles when Moore
performed her Godmother duties at the ship’s naming ceremony. In
those days it was called a christening ... remember?
I remember I had first heard of Crystal Cruises back in 1988 at a
press conference in Los Angeles at which a few Japanese
representatives of Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), the parent owner of
the new line, announced the formation of this venture. There was no
ship at that time, just a painting of what was to come. Most of the
journalists nodded politely and came away with an attitude of “show
me the ship.”
A year later, I joined a group of journalists invited to see the
new ship under construction in Nagasaki, Japan. The shipyard was in
stark contrast to European shipyards. Everything was neat and
organized. We wore white jumpsuits, metal construction hats and
white canvas booties over our shoes. The interior of the ship was
still unadorned steel, gray and cold, and did not give off any
indication of what the final result would look like. As we toured
the ship we were instructed to stay on the plastic runners that
snaked through the corridors and public areas. When I stepped off
to get a better angle for a photo, I was politely lifted back onto
The ship had no name in those early days and a contest among travel
agents produced the winning entry: Crystal Harmony. The winner was
awarded a cruise and a Rolex watch.
The first gala sailing took place in 1990, a northward cruise from
Los Angeles to the waters of Alaska. That inaugural journey raised
the standards of large-ship luxury cruising to a new level that
would always be identified with Crystal with attractively appointed
cabins with balconies, more deck space per passenger than any other
ship, quality food presentation and service earning the highest
ratings from cruise writers around the world. This all came to be
known as the “Crystal Attitude” which was the result of intensive
training and motivational tapes and videos comparable to the
world’s top hotel schools.
Through the years, Crystal became known for its attention to
passengers’ desires. The stories of the line catering to the whims
of its clientele are endless, and it all started with Crystal
The Harmony was the first cruise ship to offer more than one
alternative dining venue. Prego, an intimate dining area on a top
deck overlooking the sea, and Kyoto, with its excellent Japanese
menu of sushi, sashimi, fish and beef, soon became passenger
favorites. Contrary to today’s trend, there was no surcharge at the
restaurants, only a nominal gratuity.
From the beginning, Crystal Harmony was a dressy ship with two
formal nights on a seven-day cruise and more on longer cruises. I
for one will always remember the lobby with the golden statues that
I called Fred and Ginger, waltzing before the crystal fountain to
the music of the crystal piano. Crystal Harmony had a style all her
own, and that’s why I was filled with nostalgia as I boarded the
ship in Los Angeles this past fall, some 15 years after that
This time, she was beginning a series of farewell cruises to the
Mexican Riviera. The ship is leaving the Crystal fleet and joining
that of her Japanese sister company, Asuka Cruises, in 2006.
a multi-million-dollar renovation, Crystal Harmony will emerge as
the Asuka 2, marketed primarily to the Japanese.
“It was a bittersweet decision for us,” said Crystal Cruises
spokeswoman Mimi Weisband. “You have to remember that in 2006, the
ship will be 16 years old, and we have to stay contemporary.”
Weisband added that Crystal has been inundated with letters from
travel agents and passengers, especially those on the West Coast,
who were distressed to hear that the Crystal Harmony is “moving
“People have such fond memories of that ship, and they’re sorry to
see her go,” said Weisband.
I share the sentiment.
2006 Season: Crystal Cruises is gearing up for an
exciting 2006 with its two ships, the Crystal Symphony and Crystal
Serenity calling at many new ports. A record number of passengers
have already booked full passage on the line’s 11th annual world
cruise. And Crystal a leader in theme cruises will offer a total of
34 different theme cruises in 2006. Theme topics will range from
food and wine to golf.