The following article, by me, was published in 1992, just after Crystal Cruises (1990) and before Silversea Cruises (1990 redefined luxury cruises. Many of the ships and cruise lines are long gone, but it is interesting to read about cruises back in the day…..so much has changed. There are now more balconies, freebies such as your tips, drinks, WiFi, higher standards but it was still fun to cruise….
Top Ships For Cabins, Food, Fitness And More Cruising published April 05, 1992 |By Patti Covello Pietschmann. Special to the Tribune.
Once upon a time, back in the 1990s, a savvy seafarer set out in search of the best cruise ship. Not an easy task, considering the number of passenger vessels, around 150 at last count, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). Relentless in his quest for quality, this seafarer (hereafter to be called S.S.) booked voyages on dozens of luxury liners. She scrutinized each ship from stern to bow, top deck to lower, outside cabins and suites to below- waterline closets that pass as berths.
From ship to ship S.S. searched until she could no longer stand to elbow her way through another midnight buffet, watch one more magician pull a rabbit out of a hat, listen to another off-key singer belt out oldies or endure one more washed-up comic trying to revive his career. When her mission was accomplished, S.S. concluded that while all cruise ships had something going for them, some did a few things better than others. Eager to share the knowledge with other potential seafarers, S.S. jotted down a few important categories (such as food) and matched them with the ships that excel in each.
In this old Chicago Trib piece the S.S. went public in this exclusive Savvy Seafarer`s Somewhat Scientific Ship Survey:
The best nautical cuisine (remember we’re talking the 1990’s
Sure there`s always plenty of chow on a cruise, but only a handful of galleys dish out the quality fare of a Crystal Harmony (Crystal Cruises), Sea Goddesses I and II (Cunard), Seabourn Pride and Seabourn Spirit (Seabourn), Wind Star and Wind Song (Windstar Sail Cruises) or Song of Flower (Seven Seas Cruises). We`re talking tasty, creative, beautiful dishes designed for discerning palates, gourmets, gastronomes, foodies who know their way around quail soup, pheasant and foie gras.
Also recommended: Paquet`s Mermoz (for fabulous French Provencal food); Alas this line has since bit the dust, but it was wonderful.
Princess Cruises` Star Princess, Crown Princess and Regal Princess for homemade pasta dishes, Royal Cruise Line`s Golden Odyssey and Crown Odyssey`s Greek salads and entrees and Holland America for its fresh fish and outstanding pastries.
Most civilized meal hours (This has completely changed with many lines now offering dine when you like options and/or reserved or open seating alternative dining venues)
Usually you have only one choice in this matter: early sitting (6:30 p.m.) or late (between 8 and 8:45 p.m.). The savvy seafarer just hates that. If you feel the same way, these are the ships best suited to your taste:
Sea Goddesses I and II (now under the SeaDream Yachts moniker), Wind Song, Wind Star, Wind Spirit, Seabourn Pride and Spirit (expanded in several more ships such as Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn EncoreSeabourn Quest, Seabourn Ovation) , Club Med 1 and Seven Seas Cruises` (now Regernt Seven Seas) Song of Flower and Crystal Harmony. If you don`t feel like going to the dining room, you can have a full-course meal served in your stateroom, and, in most cases, in courses.
|Dawning of a more deluxe era with Seabourn Encore in the 2000’s
While the late great Crystal Harmony had two seatings in the main dining room, passengers had the option of dining at two other restaurants between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Today’s Crystal Cruises swank ships Symphony and Serenity have open seating and alternative dining choices in an Italian, Asian and continental restaurants).
Classiest cruise ship
Back then it the 900- passengers Crystal Harmony since replaced by Crystal Serenity and Symphony. Most cabins on both boast balconies, free WiFi, spacious sitting areas, twin beds that convert to queen or king, mini-fridges, upscale toiletries, terry robes and round-the-clock room service. Bulters man accommodations on Penthouse decks.
In the small-ship division, it doesn`t get much better than Silversea’s fleet of fancy vessels: Seabourn`s equally elegant chic offerings, Regent Seven Seas and for an amazing sailing experience Windstar Sail Cruises four-masted, 440-foot sailing ships sport diving platforms and luxurious staterooms.
There was also the now defunct fledgling Song of Flower, (former Explorer Starship until Japanese-owned Seven Seas Cruises bought and renovated it), has garnered rave reviews since its debut a year ago. The 172-passenger luxury liner has a crew of 144 along with outside staterooms that range from 183 to 258 square feet. Ten larger suites (321 square feet) have private verandas and another 10 have 398 square feet.
Tops in entertainment
I wrote back then that this area is in dire need of improvement on most ships. Too often the
|Gregory Porter performed outstandingly on QM2 last fall
“talent“ just doesn’t have any. I can’t tell you how many shows we walked out of in the past (1990s). But today’s another story with class acts appearing on Princess, Crystal Cruises, Cunard especially QM2 crossings, Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas. Even Carnival’s gotten more into the act.
Back in the day my exceptions included the SS Norway, a luxury liner that housed the Saga Theater, the best Broadway-style theater at sea and presented a floating jazz festival each fall. That year the 10th Annual Floating Jazz Festival took place Oct. 24-31 featuring 65 performers-among them: Dorothy Donegan Trio, Anita O`Day, Gary Burton and His Quintet and a special trio of Ed Higgins, Keter Betts and Jackie Williams.
Free-flowing booze and wine was pretty much a dream in the 1990’s but is now a reality on Silversea, Seabourn, Crystal, Regent Seven Seas and SeaDream with lines like Viking Cruises offering complimentary beer and wine with lunch and dinner. Even Champagne is free on Silversea, Seabourn and Crystal.
The then most exciting ship on the horizon was SSC Radisson Diamond, a twin-hulled, 354-passenger catamaran-like, hi-tech, knocked-your-socks-off , Today’s most exciting new launch to look forward to is Celebrity Edge which debuts with a blast in December 2018.
Shopping has now gone overboard on many ships with glitzy boutiques purveying high-priced goods, but back then the glitziest lobby/shopping arcades were on Crystal Harmony`s showstopping Crystal Plaza atrium features glass sculpture, a waterfall and the 3,000-square-foot Avenue of the Stars shopping arcade. Princess Cruises` Crown and Regal`s three-story atrium lobby with its circle staircase and fountain sculpture is topped by a two-level Galleria shopping arcade. The Star Princess Plaza, another three-story affair, has a vivid kinetic sculputure with a circular staircase leading to shops and restaurants.
Boffo cinemas in the 1990s for late run movies was Crystal Harmony`s 270-seat Hollywood Theatre and the Star, Regal, Royal and Crown Princess theaters are some of the most comfortable and also offer the best sound systems and wide screens. Today Princess show films on a behemoth screen over the pool and in the theater. Crystal continues to run new releases, too, in its theaters.
Best casino bets were on Crystal Harmony`s Caesars Palace at Sea which at the time was the most authentic Las Vegas-like casino afloat, with a staff direct from the gambling capital of the world. Now Carnival Cruises is king of the gambling game.
Best pools for swimming i the 1990s
|Crystal Serenity pool 2016 by Richard Pietschmann
Not all ship pools were made for swimming. Notable exceptions include Carnival`s Ecstasy`s attractive 50- by 16-foot pool, complete with water slide and two Jacuzzis.
The Royal Caribbean Cruise Line`s (RCCL) Monarch of the Seas (to debut in November), Sovereign of the Seas and Majesty feature two 13- by 46-foot pools on deck. Crystal Harmony also has twin pools: the Seahorse, measuring 40 feet long and the 21-foot-long Neptune, an indoor/outdoor arrangement. Princess Cruises` Royal Princess boasts a true lap pool that measures 14 by 33 feet, in addition to its 50 by 16-foot main pool. The main pool on the Star, Crown and Regal Princess sports two Jacuzzis, a swimup bar and measures 18- by 27-feet. On the Crystal Harmony, there are Jacuzzis at either end of the Seahorse pool while the ship`s indoor/outdoor pool (the Neptune) is about 21 feet long and has a swimup bar.
Today best pools are on Silversea Silver Muse and Crystal’s two ships. The water’s inviting also on some of the behemoth builds from NCL, RCL and Carnival.
Best tipping policy was pretty nebulous back then and tedious, passengers used to fill envelopes with cash to dole out. Then came automated adding to your shipboard tab and on Crystal, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas and Seabourn a no tipping policy.
There was little or no WiFi in the early 1990s but now every ship offers it for a fee or free.
Want to read more about cruising in the 1990s? Go here.