Q – My wife and I are looking to take a Baltic Cruise next year. Given the current offers, we’d prefer booking now rather than wait. But we are rather new to cruising and not really sure about the differences between Crystal and Silverseas. Any light you might shed on the differences? We understand they are both rated five stars.

A – A good first step to understanding the major differences between these two lines would be to carefully go over our Ratings which you can reach from our home page. In our Ratings, we rate and evaluate the world’s top ten rated lines in descending order. Crystal is currently ranked higher than Silverseas.

We think it likely you would have a thoroughly enjoyable experience on either line and any of their ships. But here are a few recommendations and points of differentiation we think you should consider:

01 – We would look carefully at the time you will spend in St. Petersburg. We recommend three full days – not two, as offered on most itineraries. St. Petersburg is always the highlight of any Baltic cruise and we think you should maximize your time there.

02 – Silverseas has  smaller ships and they are permitted to dock in the inner harbor, directly across from the Hermitage in the center of the city. The larger (940 Guest) Crystal ships normally dock on Vasilyevsky Island using one of the Sea Facade berths, along with other larger ships. This is going to mean that you are about a 20 minute taxi ride from the pier to central St. Petersburg. This becomes somewhat less of an issue given that you will likely be on tour rather than wandering about the city on your own but it definitely adds driving time.

03 – Silverseas is a more elegant experience, with one or two dressy nights one each cruise and an international clientele. Crystal will have a majority of American guests, while Silverseas is more likely to have about a 50-50 mix of international guests and Americans. Crystal guests are predominantly from four States, Florida, New York, Texas, and California.

04 – We believe that the entertainment, lectures, and on board options are far superior on Crystal.

05 – Crystal staff is warmer and more likely to provide personalized service. But some guests are annoyed by, what they view as, insincere friendliness.  Silverseas service is more classically European and reserved.

06 – Crystal provides a greater degree of options in its sightseeing program in the Baltic. But Silverseas provides a number of excellent, but pricey, unique experiences.

07 – Both ships are inclusive in the sense that they include drinks, wines, and gratuities. Premium wines are available at an additional cost.

08 – Crystal has more dining options and, we believe, superior cuisine. Our reviewers have felt that Silverseas has, in the past, exercised portion controls in their main dining venues. That doess not mean that one cannot dine extremely well on any Silverseas ship. Crystal, however, is unique among the top-level cruise lines for the variety and overall quality of its dining choices.

09 – Silverseas feels much more like a Four Seasons Hotel. Crystal feels like a well-run mid-size cruise ship.

10 – Cabins on Silverseas are superior. Some guests complain that smoking in portions of the Silverseas dining room is an ongoing problem. Smoking is tolorated in some sections of the ship as a means of accommodating the large proportion of guests from Europe. Silverseas has, however, recently taken steps to address this issue and it is less of as problem than it once was.

There now, that should thoroughly confuse you. But we hope it also sheds some light.