We anticipated our Crystal Serenity cruise for many months if not years before finally having the time and affordability of a Mediterranean Cruise. My husband and I and a single friend began our journey in the States and flew to Rome via London on British Airways (fabulous airlines). We stayed for 2 days prior to cruising at the St. Regis, Rome. Our stay could not have been any better! The service and the accommodations were excellent as was the location.
We boarded the Serenity at Civitavecchia. No smile greeted us as we arrived at 4:00pm and not much help with bags, etc. First of many disappointments along the journey. We entered the ship and were immediately whisked away to our accommodations; my husband and I stayed in Suite 11040; Penthouse Suite and our friend was a few doors down opting to pay the single supplement for a Penthouse Suite as well. Our room was on the small side compared to other ships we have sailed on but very well appointed. There was more than adequate space for clothing, etc. The bathroom was beautiful and the bathtub was an added bonus. The new furnishings were beautiful and the veranda chairs were very comfortable. We met our two stewardesses; two very young girls who were quite efficient at keeping our rooms well cleaned during the 7 days. Our butler never showed up to greet us until many hours later. He was running (most every time we saw him)and hurriedly told us if we needed ANYTHING he could get it for us. The first of many untruths for our experience. We asked for appetizers to be delivered and he did so without haste; so much so that the dining table along with the living room table was full to overflowing! We thought this was indicative of the manner to which we would be accustomed on our cruise. Sadly, this was not so. We had trouble getting back dry cleaned items from Sami's (our butler) closet. We ordered appetizers on several more occasions only to be told that they "were out of" that particular item. We asked for waters to be delivered one evening so we could pack them for our excursion the next morning and they never showed up. When we asked where they were Sami said they were waiting for their delivery of water and he only had 4 bottles he could give us because someone else wanted water also. Not exactly the kind of treatment we had expected on Crystal. Another area where we had trouble was with the front desk. We had trouble with my name on the entire cruise. I was known as Mary Beth (my name is Nina) the entire trip; this was my friend's name. The computer somehow made an error in my information being confused with our friend's and everything I received came in my friend's name. I could not correct this even after speaking to the front desk 3 times.Even our waiter in Prego tried to help us out. They also did not cancel a tour we had originally booked and left the amount on our final bill; another hour and a half of speaking to the front desk and proving that we had cancelled it before the cruise even began. We also had to request that the Share The Experience Credits be appropriately added to our cabin and also had to prove with an email that we had signed up for this. We were late to our formal night dinner because of the time it took to finally fix all the problems.
Our meals were all stupendous; a great relief after the disappointing butler experience! The main dining room served exquisite meals meticulously presented by our servers. The wine steward was a delight to work with; he knew exactly which wines we would like with each course of our meal. We could not have been more excited about our meals. The specialty restaurants, Prego and Silk Road were the most decadent meals we have ever had. The Black Cod signature dish of Nobu is not to be missed as well as the mushroom soup in Prego and the Limoncello souffle. All meals were beyond our expectations.
While eating up in the Lido deck buffet style the food was once again elevated to a level well above any other cruise line we had experienced. What was not elevated was the service once again. We could not find anyone to serve us and we were not allowed to serve ourselves in a portion of the buffet. When we finally asked a head waiter why we would have so much trouble he let loose with his complaints that the cruise line added more 7 day cruises along with the "all inclusive" nature and the crew was just too overloaded to keep up with everyone. He told us that the crew was not happy with the all inclusive decision. He was not the only one who told us this during our cruise.
The excursions we took were just amazing; the tour guides were completely knowledgeable and the vehicles were clean and new. The Taormina Wine Tasting Tour was incredible; it was over 100degrees that day and they kept us comfortable in the bus as well as at the winery; tasting appetizers of bruschetta and local cheeses and sampling wines from the winery under a beautiful canopy of trees. We even bought a bottle to take home with us. Our only other tour we reserved was on Dubrovnik; we took the Olive Mill and Noble House tour. What a completely wonderful time we had. We were treated to personally grown tomatoes and cheeses and sampled olive oil made by a gentleman and his family; his family owned the land for generations. The second part of the tour took us to a house owned by a Noble family from Dubrovnik. A beautiful 2 story house made of rock overlooking the beautiful waters of the bay. We became immersed in the two diverse ends of cultures in Croatia. We came away from that tour with a full heart.
We must say we made some very nice friends on board despite all of our negative experiences (did I forget to mention my luggage was not delivered until 10:00pm that night because it was held up in security - I attended dinner in my crop pants and flip flops!Quite embarrassing) including the Assistant Cruise Director whom we had dinner with one evening. When I told him how I always eat the same thing every morning; shredded wheat with yogurt and blueberries and was not able to get them on the ship; he so very kindly sent them up to my room that next morning.
Our last port Venice was an exciting experience like no other. What a fantastic time we had in this port. However, once again, Crystal was not on the ball when it came to our transportation. We had to wait over an hour at the designated place for our next water shuttle to arrive. We were told that there would be shuttles every 1/2 hour but there was something wrong and we had to wait over an hour in the 103 degree weather. We were quite worried for the elderly people waiting along with us. The gals holding up the signs for Crystal were quite flustered as well.
As much as we disliked embarkation our disembarkation went quite smoothly with Crystal. They took us from our meeting space on the ship without much waiting at all and delivered us to a hotel not 5 minutes from the airport. We had refreshments waiting for us and of course had lovely bathrooms to use as well. When it was time for us to head to the airport we boarded the same bus and all went smoothly.
My summation for this cruise; we did not receive what Crystal promises, a care-free receive anything you request cruise because of the nature of 7 day cruises as well as the feelings of employees regarding the all inclusive decision. We will not try Crystal Cruises again even though a dear friend is the Cruise Director on the Symphony. We will stay with Holland America or possibly try Silversea or Seabourn next time.