SOMEWHERE ABOVE GERMANY -- I never thought I would be writing about an airplane bathroom – unless of course it was a nasty gram about the disgusting state of a commercial lavatory.
But here I am onboard Crystal Cruises’ new luxury charter jet, not only writing about it but also taking pictures.
The spacious, elegant lavatory at the rear of the company’s 13-seat Bombardier Express SRS is just one of the elegant touches that make it, as CEO Edie Rodriguez might say, “Crystal worthy."
The specially configured plane is about the size of a small regional jet but designed for long-haul flights of up to 10 or 11 hours, and it is outfitted to carry up to 13 passengers in the utmost comfort, with wide leather seats that can be converted into two lay-flat seats, one twin bed and one double bed; a lounge with a couch and large entertainment center, personal entertainment consoles; and many other bells and whistles.
The jet is the first in one of Crystal’s fast-growing product line, to be joined in 2017 by an all first-class Boeing 777 and in 2108 a Boeing 787 Dreamliner for the round-the-world air “cruises” under Crystal’s Luxury Air division.
Given the constantly growing list of hassles, delays and discomforts associated with commercial air travel today, it’s no wonder Crystal has joined companies like Four Seasons in buying or leasing their own planes for the ultimate in fast transportation. The Bombardier also gives Crystal a tool to help agents book multiple legs of the company’s expanding range of itineraries, get clients on and off cruises more easily or to help them reserve custom excursions.
The jet was officially put into operation May 1, and a small group (including me) got one of the first looks, and a very smooth ride, because we had to get to the Lloyd Weft shipyards near Bremen, Germany, for last-minute ceremonies for steel cutting and newbuild contract signings for Crystal's river yacht unit, which will launch its first ship in July. The events coincided with Crystal’s annual gala for top-selling agents, which was held on the Crystal Symphony as it sailed from Greece to Italy. Options for a quick commercial flight from the Symphony to Germany were not feasible, so Rodriguez hosted the group on the plane.
The luxe lavatory on Crystal's new 13-passenger jet. Photo Credit: Jeri Clausing
While we spent most of the two-hour flights discovering all the cool features of the plane, from furry blankets to the host of buttons that controlled everything from the bathroom window shades to the swivel seats, I have to admit we were especially wowed by the back bathroom. Complete with a square leather seat covering the toilet, it’s large and plush enough to serve as the proverbial office. There is also a smaller loo up front.
We were sorry to have to leave the comforts of the Symphony for two days of bus rides and a less-than-luxurious hotel near the yard, but the jet was one of the gala cruise highlights. Now, unfortunately, it’s back to reality -- and an commercial flight all the way home.
Correction: This story was updated to correct information about the Lloyd Werft shipyards in Germany; there were two yards visited, not one.