|The Crystal Luxury Air jet that flew me from Italy to Germany and back again.|
Early Monday morning, our group of 12 people (nine journalists and three people from Crystal, including the President and CEO Edie Rodriguez) got off the ship at Crotone and transferred to Crotone airport and the awaiting Crystal Luxury Air Bombardier Global Express XRS jet.
|Inside the jet - which will hopefully get a proper name at some point, making it much easier to write about. Sitting closest to the camera is John Honeywell, alias Captain Greybeard.|
Now I don't like flying. I never have. Apart from the fact that it's fast, I find it has nothing to defend it as a method of transport. Crystal's first aircraft made me change my mind. The small plane is quite simply gorgeous. For the first time in my (adult) life there is enough leg space, the service is fantastic, the food is fresh and tasty, and because it's a private jet then security procedures are much simplified.
|The buffet for our little two-hour flight. Notice, on the plate, the actual menu for the meals available; the buffet was just for little snack things.|
All this does come at a price: flying with the 12-seater plane sets you back 8 000 US dollars per hour, plus possible extra expenses. That 8 000 gets you the entire aircraft, however, so with a group sharing the price it might be worth it. I'm fairly certain I'll never be able to afford the plane with my income, but being able to fly with it from Italy to Germany and back was an experience I will not soon forget.
So, a little over two hours we had left Crotone we landed in Bremen, from where we transferred to a bus that speeded us to the nearby town of Bremerhaven and the Lloyd Werft shipyard for the opening of the Lloyd Werft Design Center. As eaders are probably aware, Genting Hong Kong (who also own Crystal Cruises) bought Lloyd Werft last year and quickly made evident their intention to build a series of new ships for Crystal at the yard. Subsequently, Genting also acquired the Nordic Yards company with three shipyards in Wismar, Warnemünde and Stralsund, which were recently merged with Lloyd Werft to form Lloyd Werft group. With the new Crystal Cruises ships in the works, Lloyd Werft group needs to radically expand their design capacity, thus the new Design Center, which is located in Lloyd Werft's former administrative building. Interestingly, the red brick house was originally built as a laundry to serve the ocean liners of Norddeutsche Lloyd (North German Lloyd) who, as the name suggests, were also the original owners of the shipyard.
|Opening ceremony - or more precisely, after the opening ceremony - of Lloyd Werft Design Center (we actually arrived late and missed a part of the celebrations).|
In fact, the Lloyd Werft Design Center will be fully operational on 30 May. As other related ceremonies were to be held this week, the yard decided to hold the opening ceremony at the same time. At least from the point of view of international coverage this was a smart move.
|Edie Rodriguez of Crystal Cruises (left) with Rüdinger Pallentin of Lloyd Werft (right) shortly before the steel cutting for Crystal's first newbuilt river yachts commenced-|
|The steel cutting machine made an impressive shower of sparks.|
With the steel suitably cut, we left Bremen for Wismar (stopping en route for dinner at an obscure but pleasant town with the name Bargdeheide). In Wismar we checked in at a hotel for well-deserved rest after what had essentially been a 15-hour day.
The morning of our second day started off leisurely in Wismar; I took the time to find a shop selling hair gel and sunscreen (both of which I had forgotten to bring along), as well as try to find some buildings dating from East German era – Wismar lying just to the east of the border that divided Germany for over five decades. After that, it was time for another bus ride, this time to a business building near Lloyd Werft Group's Wismar yard where, we were promised, the actual contracts to build the first series of ships for Crystal Cruises would be signed (interestingly, this included the contracts for the four river ships that had already begun construction the day before!).
|A random shot I snapped from Wismar's Old Town in the morning. Later on, I realised that the large building you see in the distance is Lloyd Werft's Wismar yard, so the image becomes highly appropriate.|
|Staff of the shipyard and Genting explain the cabin layout of Crystal Cruises' future ships to the assorted media. I hope they change the wall covering into something more refined in the final version.|
|Assorted journalists and shipyard staff at Lloyd Werft, with Crystal's Edie Rodriguez andPaul Garcia in the center.|
|Back to the jet and the awaiting Crystal Symphony at the end of a superb two-day-plus tour.|
Edited 14.5.2016: added author of the longest shore excursion quote.