Our Indian Ocean voyage on Crystal Symphony was the perfect choice - the chance to see the ship (one of my favourites), freshly out of drydock; Abu Dhabi for the new Louvre gallery and the Grand Prix; and a relaxed and sunny journey southwards, with lots of sea days interspersed with paradise islands.
Crystal Symphony is looking great after her re-imagining - it always amazes me how the elderly Crystal vessels manage constantly to look as spotless and contemporary as if they had just left the yard for the first time, a tribute to the quality of the original build, and Crystal's commitment to investing in the very finest materials.
The key difference in this evolution was the reduction in guest numbers from 940 to 860, resulting in two very tangible benefits to the guest: firstly, an increase in the number of spacious Penthouses and Penthouse Suites available, and secondly - at last, many will say - the introduction of genuine open seating dining in the main Waterside restaurant.
At a stroke, the two main barriers to testing the Crystal product have been removed, and many people will now consider enjoying the outstanding entertainment and activity programme, the fantastic dining options, and the award-winning service for which Crystal has long been renowned.
We particularly liked the new Silk Kitchen (family style Chinese menus) and Bar (a wall of tropical birds, hanging basket chairs, and comfy sofas, in cool greys with pink accents); the lively midships Starlite Club, once such an unattractive - and empty! - space right in the middle of the ship; and the choice of entertainment all through the evening.
Abu Dhabi has much to be proud of in the beautiful new Jean Nouvel design of the Louvre Museum on Saadiyat Island. For the collection itself, it is early days and it takes a lot to impress we Europeans. But the building is something else. The museum is covered by a dome, 180 metres across, which resembles a spacious Bedouin tent of silver lace, with a geometric template of stars repeated in different sizes and at different angles. Sun filters through the dome like a delicate, protective rain of light, whilst the strange internal angles and spreads of water within the building make the whole space quite magical.
Sailing southwards, we enjoyed three days in the Seychelles, which awakened an interest in a longer visit to this beautiful location with its magical island hotels and endemic wildlife - particularly appealing if you are interested in marine and bird life.
The French department of Réunion Island was a real eye-opener. It has an active volcano on its south coast and 17 miles of warm, welcoming beaches in the west, but we chose a tour through stunningly beautiful mountains and forests to enjoy vanilla plantations, lush green vegetation, sheer drops, rugged peaks, rushing waterfalls and pretty villages.
We finished our trip in lovely Mauritius, for a taste of the laid-back lifestyle before an easy journey back to London, non-stop overnight, and with not too much of a time difference.