Crystal Cruises was formed in 1988 by the Japanese company Nippon Yusen Kaisha to sail worldwide cruises, different from most Japanese owned cruiselines that mostly keep their cruises closer to home. Although NYK operated just the modest Asuka at that time, they intended the new ships for the Crystal Cruises brand to be quite big for Japanese standards. The beginnings of the company were really laid out in 1986, when a special department within NYK was investigating in which sector the new company could operate at best. People within the company sailed on many ships and many cruiselines from 1986 onwards to get to know the western cruise culture. From their findings, the new Crystal Cruises was established as an upmarket, luxury line. Their goal, to provide the most elegant and most luxurious cruise experience in the cruise industry.
Nippon Yusen Kaisha itself was formed in 1885 when two companies, Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha and Kyodo Unyo Kaisha combined forces. Firstly, the company concentrated on route's in Asia close to Japan, in 1893 they opened a long-haul line to Bombay in India. Three years later, NYK also opened lines to America, Australia and Europe.
Crystal Serenity was built in St.-Nazaire at Chantiers de L'atlantique as yardnumber H32. She is the largest cruiseship that is owned by a Japanese company.
When Crystal Cruises was formed in 1988, it was a great breakthrough in Japanese passengershipping. The company ordered a large cruiseliner and their headoffice was to be located in Los Angeles. Still, we can say Crystal Cruises is a Japanese firm, due to their owners. The first ship, Crystal Harmony, was launched in 1989 and started cruising at the 24th of july of that year. She measured around 49.000 tons and had room aboard for 960 passengers. Due to the backing of the Mitsubishi company, owners of NYK, the ship was built at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries wharf at Nagasaki, Japan. For the cabins, mock-ups were built at the wharf and those were tested by executives of the wharf and their wives, who spended the nights in them and reported back or those were comfortable enough to be put into the ship.
It took five years for Crystal Cruises to add a sistership and double the fleet. In 1995, the almost equal Crystal Symphony was added, slightly larger then her earlier sister at just over 51.000 tons. She was built at another yard, though, she came from the Kvaerner-Masa Yards in Turku, Finland.
As a special treat for their passengers for the coming of the new millennium, Crystal Cruises offered the possibility to buy one out of 2000 specially made bottles of Crystal champagne. Of course, the bottles did cost 2000 dollars each!
A thirth ship was added in 2003 under the name of Crystal Serenity, so this time it took the company eight years to enlarge its fleet. At this time, also the statement was made that another ship would be added to the fleet, if conditions permitted. It was clear that the company didn't want to enlarge itself too soon and just look at the markets they were working in. Untill now, there is no sign of a new ship for Crystal Cruises. Instead, the company is truly keeping its fleet up to date with large investments made in rebuildings and refreshing of the exsisting ships. Instead of enlargement of the fleet, in 2006, just three years after the introduction of Crystal Serenity (that was the largest Japanese passengership ever built), the fleet was even reduced when Crystal Harmony was replaced in the fleet of NYK itself to become Asuka II. She replaced Asuka, that was moved to Phoenix Reisen of Germany as their Amadea. For NYK, a larger ship was needed.
Below, Crystal Symphony is seen sailing the Northsea canal passage from Amsterdam during the summer of 2006.
Crystal really seems to wait untill the time is ripe for enlargement, but they seem to do pretty well with their two-ship fleet and they are content with the ships. Not surprisingly, because readers of the Condé Nast Traveller have voted for Crystal Cruises to be the Best Large-Ship Cruise Line for the 16th time in a row.
In 2006, the companies first ship was placed in the fleet of mothercompany Nippon Yusen Kaisha as Asuka II, the replacement of the earlier and much smaller Asuka. Below, the ship is seen in NYK colours at Amsterdam in 2008.