Instantly, our worries vanished as we were welcomed back on board like long lost family, hugs and handshakes and chilled glasses of Bollinger all round. From gangway to suite in sixty seconds, Crystal Esprit's smooth embarkation wins another accolade for the award-winning line.
First impressions were that the yacht was still in immaculate condition, without any signs of wear and tear over the past 18 months since our last cruise. Familiarity is a key component of a happy travel experience for many, but the genuine warmth and smiles from the crew who recognised us was one of several elements of the week that made us feel very special. The high staff-to-guest ratio (an amazing 91 staff to look after the 62 guests) contributed to our great experience, and we loved the stylish designer interiors and 280 square foot suites. But it's the exclusive ambience that earns Crystal Esprit her six stars.
Her flexible unstructured itineraries are just perfect for cruising the Adriatic. Her shallow draft allows her to anchor in small bays, far from mass tourism, providing a private yacht experience at a fraction of the cost. Freedom to explore by kayak or jet-ski, a stop to lower the marina for a snorkelling exploration... these are key attractions, as are the complimentary excursions that include guided historical and cultural sites, river rafting or mountain biking, or just simply discovering a market or local cuisines, all in small groups.
For such a small vessel, there is a vast amount of space and it was never a struggle to locate a seat in the sun or the shade, a window table in the Yacht Club or at the aft of the Patio Café for al fresco dinners in balmy Mediterranean evenings. And that brings me to the highlight of our week on Esprit - the exquisite culinary creations of Executive Chef Adam Jenkins. Imagine dining at the chef's table in a top Michelin-starred London restaurant every night, yet in the casual relaxed setting of a private yacht, with waiters who know your preferences and where you can watch the magic at work in the galley right in front of your eyes.
Locally sourced truffles were a highlight of our menus, alongside fresh seafood and Wagyu beef; Adam's dishes were theatrical and colourful and deliciously memorable. Evenings were enhanced by pre-dinner cocktails in the Cove, or a sundowner at the Sunset Bar on deck. After dinner, we enjoyed a game of cards or piano music, coffees and socialising with fellow guests where we could be as private or as sociable as we wished.
Crystal Society members may miss the choice and variety of the ocean ships, but it is the intimacy and uniqueness that secures lasting impressions…and of course the food! On arriving back to the UK we were thrilled to hear that Esprit will be back in the Mediterranean for summer 2018 and 2019, offering more discerning travellers the yachting life with Crystal Yacht Cruises.