Crystal Cruises — Serenity Review

Crystal Serenity | Guests: 1070 - Crew: 655 - 68,870 Tons

by Susan Walsh

From the beautiful common areas to the excellent food, service, entertainment, and guest lecturers we could not have been more pleased. The entertainment was on a different level than most ships and the food equal or better than most.

There is a great emphasis on ship activities, particularly on sea days. While this ship is larger than Regent and Silversea ships, we were surprised that we rarely ran into anyone in the passageways and we never had to wait in line. If there were 1070 people onboard I don’t know where they were all hiding because I never saw them. Crystal includes all gratuities, wine, spirits, and open bar service. If entertainment, food and activities are important to you, you might want to consider Crystal.

Reception/Shops

The main reception area has a large two-story atrium with a stained glass dome, a wonderful piano bar and waterfall. There are three sets of elevator banks forward, midship and aft. They were rarely busy. While the ship was built in 1995 it has gone through a number of ongoing refurbishment the late was a $17 million overhaul in November 2013.

The Crystal Cove on this deck is a very comfortable bar that often has a pianist playing or on our trip there also was a four piece violin/cello ensemble that played before and after dinner.

The spiral staircase winds up to deck 6, which is the main public deck. Here you will find 3 good-sized shops. One has fragrances, cosmetics, accessories and a selection of clothing in a wide spectrum of prices. The second shop, Captain’s choice has Crystal logo wear and some medium priced clothing and accessories. The third shop is unique, beautiful jewelry. During our sailing they had several jewelry shows and trunk shows.

Entertainment/Internet

Next to the shopping is a quality movie theater with very comfortable seats and excellent sound system, featuring two recent release movies per day. Religious services were also held here.

On this floor there is a good sized casino with blackjack, roulette, craps, 3 card poker, mini-Baccarat, Texas Hold ‘Em poker, and slots. Most evenings it was really hopping.

Outside the casino is the Galaxy show lounge, which is quite comfortable and plenty of room for each show as well as lectures. There are two shows, one for early seating and one for late. The entertainment is outstanding. On our trip there was a virtuoso violinist, a ventriloquist, a magician, a comedian, a professional dance team, and full production company. The quality of the entertainers and the costumes and sets for the Broadway-style shows were incredible. We don’t usually stay for all of the entertainment and on this cruise we didn’t miss one.

Also on deck 6 is the Stardust Club where they have daily dance lessons, bingo, some of the guest lectures, and later in the evening a dance band. All cruises have ambassador dance hosts for those interested in a dance partner. Adjacent to the Stardust Club are the Connoisseur smoking/cigar bar and the Avenue Saloon which is a beautiful bar with dark woods where there was a pianist from Ireland playing before and after dinner and quite late into the evening. There is a Disco bar called Pulse that also has karaoke most evenings and was quite popular.

Further down the hall is the photo studio where you can view pictures taken either at dinner or on shore. They also have a machine where you can print individual pictures from your memory chip. I found the photographers to be quite helpful in assisting guests learn how to use their equipment or answering questions.

On deck seven is the Computer University at Sea, which is open 24 hours per day. This was manned from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. every day and the staff was very helpful. They also had complimentary computer classes including digital imaging and desktop publishing. Private instruction is available for $75 per hour. Wi-fi is available throughout the ship with a $15 set up fee. If you don’t bring your laptop, you can rent equipment for $5 per day to use in your suite. iPad rentals are available for $1.00 per hour.

Internet access speed is better than most ships I have been on, and there are four plans to pick from.

It is possible to type documents in Word when off-line and then cut and paste when you go on-line to save money. However, once you log in you are charged for each minute on-line. If you prefer to use ship email there is a one-time set up fee of $5.00 and you use your private CU@Sea email address printed on your cruise ticket. Every message sent or received is $2.75 each for the first 100 kilobytes of data, which is roughly 15 pages of text. There is a flat $19.95 charge for copying as many digital images as will fit on a single compact disc.

Crystal has a complimentary digital entertainment system with access to movies on demand, lectures, shore excursion information, and worldwide news on your tablet or smart phone. You can download PressReader and Swank Media Player on iTunes and the Google Play Store prior to arrival at the ship to avoid paying internet charges to set up these required programs.

Restaurants

There are four primary dining rooms. There are two seatings in the Crystal dining room, one at 6:00 and the second at 8:30. There are tables for 2, 4, and 8. Tables for two can be requested but will not be confirmed until day of embarkation. We had requested a table for two and when we got to our suite it had already been assigned. However, the maitre d’ was available the day of embarkation should you care to discuss seating arrangements. They also offer Dining by Reservation where you can reserve your time and size of table after final payment is made. These reservations must be made in advance, although I found the maitre d’ quite accommodating onboard.

We found the food and service to be excellent. There is a Modern Cuisine menu based on contemporary cooking techniques as well as their Crystal Classics offerings. There was always a variety of meat, poultry, and fish options as well as vegetarian selections and pastas. The rack of lamb, filets, and lobster were exceptional. Often the headwaiter prepared a specialty dessert such as bananas foster, cherries jubilee or baked Alaska on a moving cart close to the table. However, the pastry chef was outstanding and I found plenty of tempting offerings on the main menu. They offer low fat or desserts for diabetics. Wine and spirits are included. If you bring a bottle of your own wine, there is a $15 corkage fee.

Lunches in the Crystal dining room were exceptional and we ate there most of the trip. The food and window views could not be beat. There is open seating breakfast and lunch in the Crystal dining room and we found that if you came within the first 30 minutes you could always get a table for two on the window. Interestingly there are tables for two lining both sides on the restaurant on the windows. There are also tables for two along the center walls. While dinners are more restrictive, I did find that people invited others to their table when tablemates were using alternative restaurants and of course you can always join whoever you would like for breakfasts, lunches, and alternative restaurant dining.

There are two specialty restaurants. Both require reservations. Silk Road, which is an Asian restaurant based on recipes of Nobu Matsuhisa had great sushi as well as main dishes. There are 8 seats at the Sushi Bar or you can be seated at a table. Prego, which is the Italian restaurant, had equally good food and service.

The Lido has breakfast and lunch buffets with both inside and outside dining. At breakfast they had an omelet station and at lunch a carving station. Inside is air-conditioned, which I preferred. We really liked the wide variety and the restaurant is light and airy. Adjacent to the Lido Café is an area where they have pizza ovens and make custom pizzas for guests. There also is a chef making stir fry dishes.

The Trident Grill is an indoor grill with hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken, a wonderful steak sandwich and a salmon burger. We also enjoyed the sweet potato fries. Adjacent is a great ice cream bar featuring Ben & Jerry’s ice cream with a number of selections that change daily including both yogurt and ice cream for diabetics. The make their own waffle cones which I couldn’t resist. Daily there are several types of fresh baked cookies on the bar that are restocked all daylong, another treat I couldn’t resist. There is a very nice seating area here with a retractable glass roof that is opened during nice weather and often people would sit here to read or play board games.

Adjacent to the Trident Grill is Tastes that offers Global inspired Cuisine in partnership with Sapphire Restaurant in Laguna Beach. It is casual dining at lunch or dinner and offers dishes such as Crispy Tostada Ceviche, Peruvian Hamachi, Scottish Cured Salmon, Spanish Morcilla Sausage, Greek Octopus Salad, and California Street Tacos.

There were several special buffets throughout the cruise. One was an American buffet, another was Asian. Both had incredible amounts of great food including desserts.

On Deck 6 there is a Bistro that was quite popular and very well done. All beverages are complimentary. It is open daily until 6 p.m. and serves all types of coffee and tea. This includes cappuccino, espresso, and iced lattes. They also have fresh fruit and snacks all day with table service and very pretty china. If you prefer to take your drink with you they have “to go” cups similar to Starbucks.

24-hour room service offers a wide variety of selections. During dinner hours, you can order from the dining room menu and have it delivered to your suite. What I found unique is that your cabin steward took and brought your room service order during their working hours between 6:45 a.m. and 9 p.m. It is not necessary to tip.

There is afternoon tea in the Palm Court, which is the observation lounge at the front of the ship on deck 12. A four piece violin/cello ensemble played at tea each day. Tea included the traditional tea, coffees, and pastries except for the Mozart tea where the wait staff dressed in period costumes and the musicians played Mozart music. They do not offer Trivia.

Suites

The standard ocean view staterooms and verandah staterooms are smaller than most on Regent and Silversea.

The ocean view staterooms are 226 sq. feet with a large picture window and the veranda staterooms 269 sq. feet including the veranda. The ocean view staterooms are located on the promenade deck where there is a walking track right outside the window. You can see out but those walking on the track cannot see in your stateroom.

The veranda staterooms have a good size balcony with 2 lounge chairs and a table. The first 10 staterooms at the front of the ship and the last 10 staterooms in the aft section have a slightly deeper balcony due to the side metal panels on the ship but the balconies have metal from about the waist down and open rungs above the waist. All other veranda staterooms have metal from about the knee down and open rungs above the knee. The rooms are beautifully decorated. There is a nice HD flat screen TV with a DVD player. There are 16 movies per day, several news channels, the Morning shows, shore excursion channel, guest lectures rebroadcast, and music selections as well as typical ship channels. Below the TV is the mini-fridge at counter top level which is stocked daily with your choice of non-alcoholic beverages. You also can request beer, wine or spirits in your room. There are 8 drawers in the wall unit including a safe. There are both 110 and 220 plugs at the desk, although only one of each. My stateroom has a multi-plug, but you might bring one just in case. On the side is a side cabinet where there are high ball and wineglasses as well as a bottle opener and drink stirrers. You can bring alcoholic beverages onboard and use in your suite without any charge. If you plan on bringing wine onboard there is a $15 corkage fee in the restaurants. There is a 2 seat leather sofa. The bed is quite comfortable and there is a pillow menu where you can select from a list of pillow types. There are great reading lamps on each side of the bed as well as end tables with lamps. All lighting is part of a one touch lighting system that will dim lights or turn them off totally. They also have a “Do not Disturb” or “Clean up my Room” electronic bell system. No more paper door tags. An alarm clock is provided as well. The closet has a shoe rack and 3 drawers inside. It is a closet with two sliding doors, which I found to be noisy when one was resting in bed. There is a 2000 watt hand held hairdryer, 2 mohair blankets, robes, slippers, shoe horn, clothes brush, umbrella, laundry bags, etc. There is a full-length mirror outside the bathroom. The bathroom is a bit narrow for two. There is a tub with shower. They have two nice sink bowls, a magnifying mirror, 1200-watt hairdryer on the wall, plug for shaver, good space and shelves, as well as Aveda toiletries. The tub has a grab bar and a sliding showerhead to adjust the height for tall or petite guests.

During the remodel in 2014, 48 PURE hypoallergenic staterooms were added. These have an air purifier that filters out 99.9% of all airborne impurities.

The next size stateroom is a Penthouse with verandah, which is 403 square feet. What I like about this one is there are a sofa, a walk-in closet, and a larger bathroom with a separate shower and Jacuzzi tub. The next size is the Penthouse suite with verandah, which is 538 square feet. What is nice about this suite is that there is a heavy drape that can be drawn to close the bed off from the rest of the suite if one wants to rest and the other wants to read. The final suite is the Crystal Penthouse that is 1,345 square feet. The bedroom is on one side and the living on the other. There is a guest bathroom and the main bathroom has a large bathtub overlooking the sea. The living area is large with room for about a dozen people. There is a dining table for in suite dining. All the suites penthouse and above have a butler, a larger television, walk-in closets, larger bathrooms with separate shower and Jacuzzi tubs, and complimentary bottle of wine and choice of two bottles of liquor upon embarkation.

Fitness/Spa

The main pool is small but adequate. There are 2 Jacuzzis, which had plenty of room daily. There is a full size paddle tennis court, ping pong, aerobic studio, spa, salon, sauna stream/steam rooms, and an incredibly large fitness center with all the traditional equipment. There were a number of daily fitness classes that were complimentary. A personal trainer was also available for a fee. Complimentary Nordic Walking Poles and a WALKVEST that uses weight pockets around the waistline as part of the Walk On Water fitness program are available for use during the cruise after an orientation by the Fitness Director. There was a putting green with driving range nets as well as a Master Golf Professional offering golf clinics or private instruction. It is also possible to rent clubs to take onshore if you do not wish to bring your own. There are two walking tracks and one jogging track. There were a number of areas on the ship where there were lounges to sit and sun or read including around the pool, in the Palm Court or in the Trident Grill area. Amazing how much space there is!

Laundry/Dress Code

There are self-serve laundries on deck 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. The laundry is complimentary and each laundry includes 5 washers, 5 dryers, 2 irons and ironing boards. Crystal provides the liquid detergent, dryer sheets, and spray starch. A nice deep sink and folding table are also provided. Dry-cleaning and laundry services are available at comparable ship prices. Pressing is complimentary in the butler suites.

Effective December 2014 the two dress codes are: Casual which is slacks and top for women and slacks and collared shirt for men. Black Tie Optional is where men can wear a jacket and slacks with no tie and women slacks and a top. On black tie optional there were all types of clothing from tuxedos and long gowns to slacks and tops. Jeans cannot be worn on formal nights, but I did see jeans on casual nights. Most guests dressed casually the majority of the time.

Lectures/Activities

We found the guest lecturers to be some of the best we have heard at sea. We had General Nick Hailey and Dr. Jay Wolff. There wasn’t a lecture we missed, something not common for us. Traditionally there were at least two lectures per day which were rebroadcast on the television. Most days there were activities all day long including dance classes, fitness classes, bridge lessons, Yamaha piano instruction, scrapbooking, enrichment lectures, Berlitz lessons, golf clinics, origami classes, needlepoint classes, gaming lessons, art lessons, bingo games, several different bridge games and mahjong play; all of which were complimentary.

Library

There is a good size library that offers DVD’s, cd’s and books to lend. They also have board games and daily Sudoku and crossword puzzles.

Mobile Phones

Crystal has Sea Mobile that enables many to use their mobile phone, receive text messages, etc.

Onboard Booking Savings; Full Payment Bonus, Crystal Society discount

Onboard booking savings of 5% for future cruises can be transferred as many times as needed or you can make an open booking and take up to 6 months to decide on your next cruise. A Crystal Society past passenger discount of 5% applies to all cruises. If you make final payment 6 months prior to sailing there is a 2.5% discount.

Shore Excursions

We participated in several shore excursions and felt these were similarly priced to other luxury lines and were well run. These ranged in price $39 for a 2 hour tour to $209 for a 7 hour tour.

Smoking Policy

Indoor smoking is permitted only in the Connoisseur Club smoking lounge. It is not permitted in any public rooms, lounges, restaurants, or staterooms. Outdoor smoking is permitted on deck 8, 9, 10 and 11 aft, by the seahorse pool area, and port side on the promenade deck.

Gratuities are included