Cruise line history: Crystal Cruises and NYK LINES. Parent company of Crystal Cruises history in the 1920s and 1930s. 

Crystal Cruises carries on a great tradition… 

Japan had one of the great passenger liner fleets. NYK carries on with a wonderful first class cruise line fleet since they created Crystal Cruises. 

Ad from Travel Magazine in the late 1930s.


Jazz Age Destination – 1920s – YouTube video – great films of the fabulous Orient before WW2.

Crystal Cruises Brings You Symphony and Serenity 

When parent company NYK entered the luxury cruise business in 1988, the ‘Crystal Difference’ was but a distant concept.  Today, Crystal Cruises celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2010, the line ranks at the top in the industry.  For 15 consecutive years and 17 years, respectively, discriminating readers of such prestigious publications as Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler have accorded Crystal Cruises the industry’s most coveted ranking:  World’s Best Large-Ship Cruise Line. The company’s first ship, Crystal Harmony, entered service in 1990, and in November of 2005 left the fleet to join Crystal Cruises’ parent company Japan’s NYK’s cruise division.  Crystal Symphony, Crystal Harmony’s sister ship, was launched in 1995.  A third ship, Crystal Serenity, was introduced in July 2003.

How did this relative newcomer propel itself to the top of an established and competitive industry?  What sets its fleet well above the rest?  Its absolute commitment to the company’s simple but all-encompassing goal: To provide its guests with the finest travel experience available in the luxury service business, not just the luxury cruise industry.  The success of the ‘Crystal Difference’ is best illustrated by the company’s number of repeat guests.  It is one of the highest in the industry.

This commitment is apparent in every aspect of the Crystal experience, where attention to detail and an availability of choices are unsurpassed in the world of travel.  It is reflected in a feeling of spaciousness and the highest quality furnishings, including Riedel leaded crystal wine glasses, Royal Doulton bone china tea service, Frette or Garnier Thiebaut table linens, and Brown Jordan Mission teak deck furniture.  Most importantly, it is reflected in the utmost care, attention, and warm hospitality.

The company’s modern standard of luxury is often compared to the world’s finest land-based hotels such as Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton.  First and foremost, however, luxury Crystal-style is neither stuffy nor intimidating.  It represents the very best personal experience a cruise can deliver, from experienced captains, officers, and staff to crew and shoreside personnel who genuinely look forward to welcoming guests into the Crystal family.

Through its uncompromising focus on classic service, abundant space, extensive choices and quality, Crystal Cruises has redefined the luxury vacation.  As a result, it has become the benchmark against which guests and travel agents now measure all other cruise lines.  (For detailed comparisons, see the ship profiles with specifications, venues, and detailed amenities.)

Los Angeles-based Crystal Cruises is headed by President Edie Bornstein who was appointed president in October 2013. Senior management, with decades of combined experience in the luxury travel market, includes Chairman Nobuyoshi Kuzuya; Vice Chairman, Jack Anderson; and Executive Vice President, Thomas Mazloum.

Crystal Cruises is owned by Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), one of the largest and most successful shipping companies in the world.  Headquartered in Tokyo, the firm operates over 800 ships and has offices around the globe.

M/S Asama Maru (1929) and M/S Tatsutu Maru (1930) – NYK Line

One of Japan’s proudest periods in passenger shipping was the 1929 building of two of the finest and most luxurious ships ever to sail the Pacific Ocean – the Asama Maru and Tatsuta Maru. They were routed on NYK Line’s premier express service, regularly sailing from Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe and Yokohama to Honolulu, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Their passenger areas were of the highest quality, much of it in traditional European style. There were polished woods, stained glass skylights, fine dining rooms, lounges, library, gift shop, hair salon, comfortable cabins and a swimming pool on deck. This was luxury cruising at its finest. Notable passengers who sailed on these fine ships included Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin.

The Asama Maru was the first to enter service in 1929 and she soon set the record for the fastest crossing of the Pacific on the Yokohama to San Francisco route. Her sister, the Tatsutu Maru entered service in 1930. In 1936 the Tatsutu Maru become the first merchant ship to pass under the new Bay Bridge linking San Francisco and Oakland. In 1937 the Asama Maru suffered a mishap when she was driven aground in Kowloon Bay during the Great Hong Kong Typhoon. After the outbreak of the Second World War both ships were requisitioned as troopships but unfortunately both were sunk and did not survive the war and it was left to the Hikawa Maru to re-establish the trans-pacific service.

The OSK AND NYK LINES were the equivalent of Japan’s Cunard and US Lines before WWII. The Japanese trans-pacific service was booming during the interwar years following the First World War. NYK and OSK were ordering new and more luxurious ships for the prestigious trans-pacific service. Seen below are elegant postcards from Japan’s two major shipping companies – during the heyday of their passengers service between WWI and WWII.



The company traces its history back to the Tsukumo Shokai Shipping company founded by the Tosa clan in 1870. In 1875, as the re-named Mitsubishi Shokai, the company inaugurated Japan’s first passenger liner service, with a route from Yokohama to Shanghai; and in that same year, the company name was changed to Mitsubishi Mail Steamship Company. In 1885, a merger with Kyodo Unyu Kaisha (founded 1882) led to the adoption of the company’s present name.  The merged company had a fleet of 58 steamships and expanded its operations rapidly, first to other ports of the East and then worldwide, with a liner service to London being inaugurated in 1899.   The majority of Japanese merchant ships, tankers and liners sailed sailed under the NYK banner during this period. Regular services linked Kobe and Yokohama with South America, Batavia, Melbourne, Cape Town; and frequent cruises to San Francisco and Seattle. Other routes connected local Chinese cabotage vessels on the Chinese coasts and upper Yangtze.  Ocean routes went east from Japan to Vancouver (Canada) or Seattle (USA). Another way was to stop in Hawaii, and continue to San Francisco and the Panama Canal. The next commercial routes were south from Japan, across the East China Sea. These went to South East Asia, the China coasts, and towards India and the Indian Ocean, to Europe or Batavia (Dutch Indies), or Australia and New Zealand. The fastest services took ten days from Yokohama to Seattle, and one month to Europe.
Local sea routes connected 78 home seaports (38 open to foreign trade). Yokohama, Kobe and Osaka had the greatest importance for trading with Japan. These ports had the third, fourth and eighth place in net tonnage registered in the world. Coal passed from Moji to Osaka and Yokohama. Karafuto timber represented a third part of local trade. Soy bean products from Dairen and Ryojun arrived at Yokohama. The sugar cane of the South Pacific Mandate and Formosa, cotton, salt and minerals represented other important parts of these transport transactions. The current funnel livery was introduced in 1929.  The company also ran services connecting metropolitan Japan to its exterior provinces (Chosen, Karafuto, Kwantung, Formosa and South Mandate) of the Empire. During World War II the NYK Line operated a military transport service for Japanese Army and Navy troops. Many vessels were sunk by the Allied navies, and installations and ports were attacked from the air. Its surviving vessels and equipment were confiscated by the Allied authorities, as reparations, or taken by recently liberated Asian states, during 1945-46.  World War II resulted in the destruction of much of the fleet. Only 37 vessels remained in NYK’s fleet. NYK lost 185 ships which were supporting military operations in the Pacific.  The NYK fleet expanded in bursts, responding to changed economic conditions and perceived changes in the market for passenger liner travel.  Today, NYK owns Crystal Cruises.

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