Two new and exciting ships joined the expedition cruising scene in 2021, and I was fortunate enough to sail on both Crystal Endeavor and Atlas Ocean Voyages’ first ship World Navigator.
Expedition cruises have been growing in popularity, as long-time cruisers aim to add more exotic and adventurous destinations to their wish lists for travel experiences. More expedition ships will be hitting the oceans in the coming years, too. Viking Cruises will debut the much-anticipated Viking Polaris and Viking Octantis this year.
And Scenic Eclipse II is scheduled for 2023. These are in addition to recent new expedition vessels from Ponant, Hurtigruten, Victory, Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic and Silversea.
I was excited to cruise on both Crystal Endeavor and World Navigator, though, to compare these ships that offer luxury expedition cruises. Combining luxury with adventure in exotic locations is an attractive option for many travelers, and these new ships deliver unforgettable experiences.
Here is how Crystal Endeavor compares with World Navigator.
Crystal Endeavor carries up to 200 passengers, and World Navigator has a capacity of 196 guests. Endeavor, however, has quite a bit more space, measuring a huge 20,449 gross tons. This compares with World Navigator’s 10,000. So, Endeavor is twice as large.
This is reflected in the size of the staterooms and additional public space, restaurants and other venues.
World Navigator features the Porto main dining, an attractive venue serving breakfasts and lunches as a buffet (you can special order certain items for lunch such as a gourmet cheeseburger or club sandwich) and sit-down dinners with excellent menus. We had delicious steaks and seafood options nightly during our nine-day sailing. I especially like the slow-cooked ribeye and giant langoustine lobster.
Paula’s Pantry is a casual grab-and-go eatery that features a wide variety of pastries, cookies, sandwiches, fresh-squeezed juiced, smoothies and items such as muesli and fruit cups for healthy fare. In The Dome, the observation lounge on Deck 7, tea time comes with cookies and tiny sandwiches and other small bites.
The ship also has the 7AFT Grill on the lido deck adjacent to the pool. This is a specialty steakhouse for dinners and a gastropub-style pool grill for lunches. It was closed during our expedition sailing in Antarctica.
Crystal Endeavor takes expedition cruise ship dining to new heights, offering several specialty restaurants in addition to the traditional small expedition ship venues. Waterside is the main dining room, with breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Plus, you can eat in a more casual setting in the Solarium (indoor pool area) at Marketplace. This is a buffet-style eatery for breakfast and lunch, and it comes with great views indoors through the glass windows at the aft of the ship, as well as seating outdoors.
Umi Uma is a sushi and Asian-specialty restaurant, and Prego is an Italian restaurant with rich and delicious pastas, seafood, appetizers, cheeses, breads and desserts. You can also book the Vintage Room wine-pairing multi-course meal experience.
The Bistro Café on Crystal Endeavor offers lighter fare from morning to late afternoon and is the place to grab premium coffees and ice cream. Plus, it is a natural gathering space with a bright and cheery atmosphere close to the ship’s atrium and the guest services desk.
Both World Navigator and Crystal Endeavor offer 24-hour room-service dining, too.
The big draw for these ships is the destinations. Cruisers book these expeditions for the adventurous ways you can explore exotic places.
Both World Navigator and Crystal Endeavor have energetic and expert expedition teams who lead you on excursions ashore and give fascinating enrichment talks on the wildlife, history and geology of areas such as the polar regions. The ships are equipped with Zodiacs boats, kayaks and standup paddleboards.
Crystal Endeavor also features two helicopters (coming in 2022) and a submersible, so cruisers can book brag-worthy excursions that take them soaring over their destinations or exploring the depths below the sea.
World Navigator offers the standard entertainment program: Enrichment talks in the ship’s main theater, as well as the resident piano player (performing in the lounge of The Dome) and guest historians or authors who give intimate after-dinner chats in the Atlas Lounge. We also had fun joining the expedition team for team trivia competitions in the lounge.
Crystal Endeavor’s entertainers include a piano player who also serves as a de facto cruise director leading afternoon trivia contests. Our piano performer, Colin Salter, also had a main show in Crystal Cove, an excellent tribute to the music of Billy Joel. The ship also travels with featured acts, and ours was Salvatore Hasard, a dynamic musician who is a virtual one-man band, playing a variety of instruments and belting out upbeat Motown classics and many more popular tunes. He had two main performances and one collaboration with Salter for our farewell show.
Spa and Fitness
World Navigator offers a well-equipped fitness center and the spectacular Seaspa, with treatment rooms and a large relaxation room and sauna with glorious views through large windows. Working this great space into the small ship was a stroke of brilliance.
On Crystal Endeavor, the Crystal Life Spa has massage rooms, plus a steam room, sauna and a salon offering haircutting services, pedicures and other treatments. The gym is a huge facility with a range of cardio equipment and plenty of floor space for self-guided fitness routines.
Lounges and Bars
Crystal Cove and Atlas Lounge are the “living rooms” for Crystal Endeavor and World Navigator, respectively. These are the main bars and lounges where cruisers tend to hang out.
Off Atlas Lounge, you find the ship’s theater, where expedition team does enrichment talks and we gather each day for briefings on the voyage. Crystal Cove serves as the main bar and also the main theater for Endeavor, but this ship also has a fairly large casino right next door to this lounge space. Yes, it’s the first casino on an expedition ship.
Outdoor Viewing Spaces
Both ships have fantastic wildlife viewing platforms. The ships both were designed with an eye on offering plenty of spots for passengers to get outside to see the marvels on display as you cruise.
Each ship features promenades, top deck areas and bow viewing spaces that are integrated with observation lounges, so you go quickly duck inside for a drink and to relax while being just a few easy steps away from the outdoors should any whales emerge from the sea or interesting birds appear alongside.
World Navigator’s observation lounge on Deck 7 is called The Dome. Crystal Endeavor has Palm Court. Both are outfitted in chic style, with a range of comfortable chairs and couches arranged as ideal conversation spots for new friends to relax while enjoying a drink from the nearby bar. They also feature dance floors, piano sessions and floor-to-ceiling windows with excellent sight lines to the great outdoors.
For January 2023, roundtrip Antarctica voyages from Ushuaia start at $19,599 for 11 nights from Atlas Ocean Voyages on World Navigator; cruises start at $19,799 for 11 nights on Crystal Endeavor in that same period.
The Bottom Line
Crystal Endeavor and World Navigator share a lot of the same concepts, and both execute a voyage very well. The difference between them is the scale. Crystal Endeavor is definitely a bigger and bolder ships, while Atlas Ocean Voyages’ very first vessel delivers a wonderful luxury expedition cruise in a smaller package.
These new ships together, though, have helped push the adventure cruise experience to higher levels, giving travelers a new and more indulgent way to enjoy exhilarating trips to all corners of the world.
Video: Sailing on World Navigator in Antarctica
Atlas Ocean Voyages: A Cruise to Antarctica
Video: Tour of Crystal Endeavor
Crystal Endeavor: Walkthrough for Crystal Cruises’ New Expedition Ship