Super cruisers Anne Marie and Keith Steiner first sailed with Crystal in July of 2002, and have been sailing with Crystal ever since. They have almost 1,600 days of cruising, including eight full Crystal World Cruises and two partial ones. Keith also administrates the immensely popular ‘Crystal Society Family’ Facebook page.
It’s 10 AM in the morning in Monte-Carlo when I reach out to Keith Steiner. As I know he lives in Texas, the seven-hour time difference, I think, will give me time to read up on one of our favorite Crystal Society members. Not so. Within minutes of pressing send, I get his reply, “sure, I’m available. Can you meet now?”. It’s 3 AM for him. And he’s already been up for hours.
Talking with Keith is a little bit like talking to Crystal royalty. He and his wife Anne Marie are perhaps two of Crystal’s most famous cruisers; between them they have an incredible eight and a half years of sailing, and 117 Crystal cruises under their belt. Yet he affords an affable confidence of a person who knows Crystal well and is excited to share his enthusiasm, knowledge and love for the brand. “We’ve tried other cruise lines,” he says, “but in the end, we just love Crystal.”
Why’s that? I ask.
“Nothing can beat it. The product is luxurious, the itineraries are great, but above all the service is unbeatable. The crew feels like family to us; never once have we felt like a number. Crystal’s greatest strength is undoubtedly the service – guests are people, whether you are onboard or on land. In fact, we became ‘Crystalized’ the first day of our first sailing, when a concierge helped uswith something. It was when he said the magic words, “Mr. Steiner this is your vacation. Leave this in my hands and we will take care of it for you,” that I realized I would never sail with another cruise line again.”
Do you feel like part of a big family?
“Oh, very much so. And that goes from the butler to the night crew to the entertainers.”
“The crew feels like family to us; never once have we felt like a number. Crystal’s greatest strength is undoubtedly the service – guests are people, whether you are onboard or on land.”
So, what is it that you and Anne-Marie are excited about with the launch of the new Crystal?
“We’ll be traveling on Crystal Serenity’s inaugural voyage from Marseille to Lisbon on the 31st of July, and we can’t wait. We are both looking forward to getting back to cruising, but we are also very excited to see how the new ownership will evolve the brand. From its beginnings Crystal was always a pioneer in the industry, and this does not look like it will change – I am confident the new ownership will take the best of the ‘old Crystal’ and bring it forward to this exciting new era.”
And what do you hope will be kept?
“You know, people don’t like too much change too soon, which is why we were thrilled to hear that around 80% of the crew will be familiar faces. And we know the ships; we’ve travelled extensively on both Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, so we’ll be pleased to be back onboard these two beautiful vessels that we know and love so well. Food and drink have always been such a big part of the Crystal experience as well, so we’re delighted that the restaurants will be the same, but with an updated twist. As long as we can keep our tradition of Cobb Salad and a flute of Champagne for a Bon Voyage on embarkation day, I’m good!”
What are you looking forward to about the inaugural sailing?
“We have traveled the world with Crystal, but we love Europe and the Med. We felt this itinerary was perfect for us, and a perfect introduction for the brand’s return to sail. We’re combining the inaugural sailing with the following voyage, a 10-night trip from Lisbon to Southampton, which has two overnights in Bordeaux – where we will be taking a tour of the vineyards and enjoying some of the region’s wine!
I think the introduction Abercrombie and Kent powering the excursions can only mean good things for the brand too. My wife and I have been on tours with A&K in the past, and our experience has been really positive. The collaboration between the two brands will certainly take Crystal’s land packages to another level.
We’re definitely looking forward to exploring Lisbon again too, and maybe take a trip into Sintra. Although this time we will not forget to buy some pasteis de nata while we are there. Last time we visited, we realized we arrived back on the ship without buying any of the city’s famous custard tarts. We mentioned this is passing to our butler as we left for dinner, and by the time we returned, we had a box of pasteis in our suite. We didn’t ask anyone to go and get them, they just appeared. This is what I’m taking about when I say Crystal’s service is second to none. It’s just exceptional.”