They are two of the world’s most popular luxury lines: Crystal Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Sailing worldwide itineraries, both of these all-inclusive lines are distinguished by their high caliber of service, their exceptional cuisine, and sumptuous onboard appointments.
Both Crystal and Regent have recently put their ships through multi-million-dollar makeovers intended to spruce their older vessels up and add new features and amenities to make them more competitive than ever, and the results have been astounding.
Still, there are several key differences that set these lavish lines apart:
Seven Seas Mariner in Kotor, Montenegro. photo courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises
What differentiates these two cruise lines from one another?
Despite their luxury trappings, there are differences between Crystal and Regent when it comes to the size of their ships and the number of guests they carry.
Four of Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ vessels carry 750 or fewer guests (the smaller Seven Seas Navigator carries just 490). That intimate atmosphere transfers over into the ship’s public rooms, which are more than large enough to accommodate all guests on board. You’ll find unexpected touches onboard Regent’s ships, like soaring, multi-level atriums and show lounges that span two decks in height, plus wide-open pool decks, numerous bars and lounges, and a mouth-watering assortment of specialty dining venues.
Already known for its unique and luxurious fleet, Regent kicked things up a notch in 2016 with the debut of its ultra-lavish Seven Seas Explorer. A sister, Seven Seas Splendor, arrives in early 2020.
Crystal Cruises’ two ocean-going vessels, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, are larger than Regent’s ships and each carry around 1,000 guests each. Because of their increased size, Crystal’s ships typically provide more public venues and open deck space for guests than Regent’s vessels (Crystal Serenity, for example, features a beautiful wraparound promenade deck). All this extra space allows Crystal’s ships to feature additional amenities, like dedicated movie theaters; something you won’t find (or may not have a need for) on any of the other players in the luxury segment (with the exception of Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa 2, which is primarily for German-speaking travelers).
While Crystal hasn’t launched any new purpose-built ships in a while, it is perhaps one of the most conscientious lines when it comes to maintaining its ships, with sweeping refits keeping these grand vessels looking like they just rolled right out of the shipyard.
Crystal’s larger ships even feature movie theaters. photo courtesy of Crystal Cruises
“Every wish … every whim … every want,” Regent’s advertising beckons to luxury travelers, “You can really have it all. Enjoy … It’s all included.” And it is. Regent prides itself on its inclusions, which are some of the best in the industry – though you’ll definitely pay up-front for the privilege of having:
- FREE Unlimited Shore Excursions
- FREE Roundtrip Air on Domestic Flights
- FREE Roundtrip Business Class Air on Intercontinental Flights
- FREE Luxury Hotel Package for guests in Concierge Suites and higher
- FREE Specialty Restaurants included
- FREE Unlimited beverages including fine wines and premium spirits
- FREE In-Suite Mini-bar Replenished Daily
- FREE Pre-paid Gratuities
- FREE Unlimited WiFI throughout the ship
- FREE Transfers between airport and ship
As you can see, Regent leaves little to purchase onboard, other than treatments at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub and items at the ship’s onboard boutiques – and generous onboard credits on select sailings can sometimes take care of even those incidental.
Crystal was the last of the North American luxury cruise lines to join the all-inclusive party. It wasn’t until 2012 that Crystal began to include gratuities and beverages at no charge. In 2014, Crystal added a free WiFi component for all guests fleetwide. Unlike Regent, however, shore excursions (known as Crystal Adventures) are still offered at an additional per-person cost.
While Crystal’s specialty dining venues are provided complimentary, guests should expect a charge of $30 per person if you dine in both the line’s specialty dining venues (Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s Umi Uma & Sushi Bar; and the Italian-inspired Prego) more than once per week. There are some exceptions to this rule, however:
- Guests on Back-to-Back Cruises: Guests sailing on multiple voyages will receive a complimentary reservation on each voyage. For example, a guest sailing on a 27-day back-to-back cruise of three segments (7 days + 9 days + 11 days) will receive one complimentary reservation in each restaurant on each voyage, for a total of three complimentary reservations (i.e. 6 dining experiences: three in Prego and three in Silk Road/The Sushi Bar) per booking, per guest.
- Guests on Cruises 14 days or longer: Guests will be extended two complimentary reservations in each Specialty Restaurant. The second reservation will need to be made and confirmed on board the ship, once the sailing begins and is on a space available basis.
- Guests redeeming their 50+ Milestone Crystal Society Benefit: All Specialty Restaurant reservation fees will be waived for all guests who have achieved their 50th Crystal Society Milestone. One reservation per Specialty Restaurant, per segment, may be booked via PCPC prior to the beginning of each voyage. Additional reservations may be confirmed when on board the ship, on a space available basis.
- Full World Cruise Guests: All Specialty Restaurant reservation fees will be waived. One reservation per Specialty Restaurant, per restaurant, per World Cruise segment, may be booked via PCPC prior to the voyage. Additional reservations may be confirmed when on board the ship, on a space available basis.
Crystal also offers a specialty dining experience known as Crystal’s Ultimate Vintage Room Dinners – a one-of-a-kind culinary experience designed for a minimum of 10 guests. Offered aboard Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, these wine-and-dinner culinary events are priced at roughly $1,000 per person.
Regent takes a slightly different approach, including all specialty restaurants at no charge, even on repeat visits. These range from the delectable steakhouse Prime 7 to the French-inspired Signatures (Seven Seas Mariner) and Chartreuse (Seven Seas Explorer and Seven Seas Voyager). Aboard Seven Seas Explorer, Pacific Rim brings pan-Asian cuisine to the high seas, with delicacies like grilled Korean barbecue lamb chops, wok-fried beans, eryngii mushroom and gochujang dressing.
Regent has the longer list of inclusions, and it is worth noting that Regent’s ships also feature larger suites on average than Crystal’s vessels do.
A major point for Crystal, however: The line generally has the edge when it comes to pricing.
Crystal’s Tastes restaurant is pretty awesome. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle
For many years, Crystal differentiated itself by its exceptional staff. Having cruised with Crystal several times since its inception and again in recent years, I noticed that staff was perhaps a bit more polished during the pre-all-inclusive days when guests handed over gratuities to individuals for a job well done. Crystal’s staff is still exceptional, but the company has experienced unprecedented growth over the past few years, taking on new initiatives like developing its first-ever river cruise program (Crystal River Cruises) and preparing for the future with an aggressive newbuild program. Unlike on Seabourn or Silversea, which admittedly carry far fewer guests, Crystal’s staff weren’t quite as good as staff on those smaller ships in addressing guests by name.
Regent, on the other hand, tends to be a bit more service-focused, which the line can do because of the reduced passenger count aboard its ships.
The differences in the service level are in many ways quite subtle, but there are nuances that some guests may prefer over the others. You’ll find those who sail with Crystal time and time again because it suits their needs and wants better, and those who continually cruise with Regent because of the same. Regardless of which line you chose, the standard of service will be appropriately high and exacting. It is just a matter of taste as to which line suits your personality better.
One thing is for certain: Luxury cruisers would not go wrong in choosing either Crystal or Regent (or Seabourn or Silversea for that matter).
Talk with Cruise Specialists to help you pick the best option!
And check out the key differences between Silversea Cruises and Seabourn Cruises, both small ship luxury sailings.