Adieu Crystal: The legacy of Crystal Cruises

Vittorio Garroni reflects on Crystal Cruises and its influence on cruise ship interior design

Adieu Crystal: The legacy of Crystal Cruises
The interior design plan for cabins onboard Crystal Harmony, Crystal Cruises’ first ship

Founded in 1988 by Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), Crystal Cruises was one of the first cruise lines to introduce the concept of luxury interiors within the cruise industry.

The interiors of Crystal’s elegant ships have been popular for over 30 years and were characterised by a combination of British and Italian style, with a touch of American modernism and Japanese sensibility.  

Sadly, Crystal went into liquidation in 2021 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic but its legacy will remain for many years through the work of the interior designers that it inspired.  

The director of design for the cruise line was Robert Tillberg, founder of Tillberg Design of Sweden, who I accompanied on all the Crystal projects and it was that feeling of discreet but deeply rooted luxury that I perceived in every detail onboard Crystal’s ships.  

The company’s first vessel was Crystal Harmony, which is still owned by NYK Line but now sails as Asuka II. Crystal Harmony was beautiful and featured an all-white exterior with a thin turquoise line from bow to stern, as well as two seahorses on the funnel that became representative of the cruise line’s branding. Almost all the cabins had a sea-view balcony, which was a novelty at the time. 

I remember seeing the ship when it was moored at Mitsubishi’s shipyard in Nagasaki, Japan, in preparation for its maiden voyage in the early 1990s. I admired Crystal Harmony from the very beginning. 

A couple of other vessels followed on from Crystal Harmony including Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, before the cruise line changed ownership to the Genting Hong Kong in 2015, which marked the arrival of smaller ships for river cruises. 

Following the example of the Mitsubishi family, who were naval shipowners with multiple shipyards, Genting Hong Group purchased three German shipyards in 2016 to form MV Werften. However, the yards were unfortunately inactive during the pandemic since they are mostly suitable for the construction of big ships. Genting Hong Kong made a brave choice but at the wrong time. 

Following the folding of Genting Cruise Line, the first auction of the furniture and furnishing onboard its ships took place on 24 May 2022 and thus the dismemberment has begun. Despite the sad end to Crystal Cruises, I know that the brand’s late president and creator Kimio Miyaoka would have been proud of the legacy it leaves behind. 

For me, the spirit of Crystal remains in the people who have safeguarded it over the years and who will now go on to transfer everything they learnt from the brand into their new jobs. Although I can’t help but wonder what will happen to the beautiful ships, and what opportunities lie within them. Perhaps, they will be revitalised by another cruise line or turned into special destinations such as NYK Line’s former ocean liner Hikawa Maru, which is now a museum in Yokohama, Japan. The end of Crystal is sad but the future that lies within its ships and the interiors that it inspired will live on.  

This article was first published in the 2022 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. 

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By Vittorio Garroni
15 June 2022

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