We so much liked the Fall 2012 T/A on Serenity that we didn't need much convincing to book this voyage as well. In both cases the chief attraction for Nancy was the ballroom dancing theme, with the opportunity to take private dance lessons from the on board professionals. As for me, I just like to be at sea.
This voyage was more heavily booked than the previous one by about 15%. Wile the differences were perhaps not striking, this did show up in the quality of the service. While we could not recall a single complaint in the Fall, this time around there were three or four occasions on which we we failed to be noticed when we wanted to place an order in the bars and I had to go in search of a server. I understand this was a function of overcrowding of the facility for one reason or another and not a reflection on the extraordinary willingness of the staff to please, but it should be mentioned that, even on Crystal, at peak occupancy, there are glitches.
Nancy was slightly disappointed, particularly as we had persuaded her mother and another lady to join us on the cruise, that this time the ladies were not escorted into the dining room at dinner by a member of the staff, certainly a courtly touch, but again, the passenger to crew ratio did not allow this. To make up for this however, the willingness of the Maitre d'Hotel to find us a good table at the early sitting each evening although, by the time we booked, this was theoretically sold out, went well beyond the call of duty.
I like to eat well, and I certainly was not disappointed in this expectation. The quality of the food as well as the preparation in both the main dining room and in the Lido was absolutely first rate, I truly can't think of a single course in all of our meals there about which I could voice a complaint. I wish I could be equally enthusiastic about the specialty restaurants but, alas, this is not the case. Silk Road, while the food was uniformly superb, was distinguished by service of veritably glacial slowness, so that Nancy's Mom absolutely refused to return there and we cancelled our reservation for a second dinner in that venue. Prego, while once more producing flawless first and last courses, once again fell flat on its face with the main course. Having disliked their Osso Bucco in the Fall, I went for the saddle of lamb this time. One would think this would be all but impossible to ruin, but the chef at Prego managed the feat, the lamb was all but drowned in garlic. Garlic is a very good thing but, please, in measure! I realize that the Crystal Can Do No Wrong set will jump all over me for daring to make this criticism, but I will make it anyway.
Also, although I'm not a great fan of after dinner entertainment, Nancy is and we thought it a pity that the shows were identical with the ones we had seen in the Fall.
So much for quibbles. On a much more positive note Nancy was absolutely delighted with the quality of the dance instruction and with the expertise and grace of Rudy, Natalie and Beverly.
The evident dedication and solicitousness with which the staff at the Lido cared for Nancy's mom, who had a tendency to get lost, was absolutely touching.
Embarkation, in spite of warnings that the Miami Port Authority would throw up roadblocks, proceeded flawlessly, and when we informed the desk that we had a relatively early flight from Lisbon to Madrid, we were gotten off the ship in record time. If it wasn't the perfect cruise, it surely came close, and that's all that a reasonable man can ask.