Retired people should be enjoying the fruits of their many years at work. They deserve the best: excellent service, comfortable accommodations, delicious food, great experiences, and no hardships or discomforts to get in the way. 

For people who have the time and money, it's hard to beat a luxury cruise, and now is the time to take advantage of some of the best luxury cruise deals in decades.

Crystal Cruises just released an excellent set of value offers. Crystal has two ships: Symphony and Serenity. Serenity is the newer and larger one, carrying 1,070 passengers on a 68,870-ton ship (655 crew members and a passenger space ratio of 63). Symphony is slightly smaller at 922 passengers on a 51,044-ton ship (566 crew members and a passenger space ratio of 53).

Crystal’s cuisine is among the best at sea, according to Janice Wald Henderson, the Los Angeles culinary editor for Epicurious and CruiseMates. In addition to their main dining rooms, both ships have an alternative restaurant called Silk Road, created by Nobu Matsuhisa, one of the world's most recognized sushi chefs; and an Italian restaurant called Prego, the brainchild of Piero Selvaggio, famous for bringing modern Italian cuisine to Los Angeles.

Larger than average luxury ships, Crystal's Symphony and Serenity offer more on-board events and amenities. Days are filled with art, music and language lessons, movies, concerts, lectures, high tea and more. Nights offer award-winning entertainment and ballroom dancing. Gentlemen hosts are onboard to dance and mingle with the single ladies.

More On This...

The deals already include half off all brochure prices, but this week Crystal has added new discounts of $3,000 per couple for booking a penthouse or verandah stateroom. (Airfare is included in all quoted cruise fares.)

Finally, each couple gets $2,000 in shipboard credit. Not only is this a terrific value, it's a convenient way to pay for most of the cruise in one payment.

Newly-announced Crystal Cruises deals are listed below. Remember, the prices include airfare and a $2,000 per couple shipboard credit, to be used as you please -- spa services, gratuities, tours, drinks, etc.

South America: Sail from Los Angeles to Valparaiso, Chile, to visit Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands; 15 days from $5,170 per person. Sails Jan. 5, 2011.

Sail from Buenos Aires to Miami with stops in Rio, Devil’s Island, Barbados and Grand Turk, 16 days from $6,525. Sails Feb.7, 2011.

Panama Canal: Sail Miami to Los Angeles; 13 days from $4,550. Sails either Jan.4 or March 17, 2011.

Scandinavia cruises: Hamburg to Copenhagen; Helsinki; St Petersburg (with three full days in port); Tallinn, Estonia; and ending in Stockholm; 11 days from $6,290. Sails May 22.

Arctic: Sail from Copenhagen to Geiranger, Norway; North Cape; Bear Island, Svalbard (three days); Alesund and Bergen, Norway; and ending in Stockholm; 14 days from $10,460. Sails June 13.

Mexican Riviera: Sail from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Loreto and La Paz (in the Sea of Cortes), Cabo San Lucas, San Diego, and return to Los Angeles; 10 days from $3,580. Sail March 31, 2011.

Mediterranean Cruises:

Barcelona to Cannes, Florence, Rome, Sorrento and Dubrovnik, ending in Venice (overnight); 12-days from $7,770. Sails Aug. 26.

Barcelona to Monte Carlo (overnight), Florence, Rome, Sorrento, Kusadasi (Ephesis) and Mykonos, ending in Athens; 11 days from $6,020. Sails Oct. 13.

Istanbul to Kusadasi (Ephesus), Mykonos, Athens, Santorini, Montenegro and Dubrovnik, ending in Venice (overnight); 11 days from $5,730. Sails Nov. 5.

Venice to Slovenia, Dubrovnik, Sicily, Naples, Rome and Florence, ending in Barcelona (overnight); 11 days from $5,470. Sails Nov. 16.

Cruising 101
As always, if you need to know more about cruising we urge you to consult our Cruising101 FAQ.

CruiseMates Cruise Glossary

I started writing about stock market investing for Motley Fool in 1995, but previously I worked aboard cruise ships. I co-founded CruiseMates.com, the first cruise travel guide on the Internet in New York City in 1999. CruiseMates, one the Web’s top cruise travel guides was acquired by Internet Brands (NASD: INET) in 2006. Once CEO, I am now the editor of CruiseMates – Paul Motter.

Paul Motter is the editor of CruiseMates.com, an online cruise guide. Follow him on Twitter @cruisemates.