I am 42, and DH is 47. We have been on one Regent Navigator cruise, one Silversea Silver Spirit cruise, and one Paul Gauguin cruise. I still consider us cruise newbies. We have specific needs as we are "quirky" at the best of times, and we have been looking for a cruise line that meets both our specific travelling eccentricities. Crystal seems to be able to meet this! This is my first review for cruise critic as feel compelled to share joy at discovering this wonderful cruise line.
I get very seasick. I get bus sick. I get train sick. I get plane sick. Gravol and ginger pills are my friend. DH does not understand this AT ALL. Crystal Serenity provides a bigger ship experience, and I found that I did not need to wear my anti-nausea wristbands. The motion from the ship was negligible. This was helped by good weather and smooth seas. In comparison, I could not tolerate the buzzing that was a normal occurence even on smooth seas that I experienced on Regent Navigator.
We booked a Penthouse Suite due to information from cruise critic that usual verandah rooms are smaller than Regent or Silversea rooms. We had 11029 mid ship near elevators. Despite proximity to the elevators the room was very quiet. The room was beautiful and spacious, and the decor was like a boutique hotel in Las Vegas (we usually stay at the Skylofts in LV). The balcony was so nice that we both spent lots of time outside here, and this was not cramped at all. DH wished there was a recliner, but the two chairs with one ottoman and a table was fine. I liked that the sleeping area was demarcated from the rest of the room. The two single beds pushed together works well for us, and we both had no trouble sleeping. DH had lots of choice from the pillow menu, although they did not seem to have buckwheat pillows. Firm worked just as well. Wi-fi two hours free with this room was a very nice touch. Skype does not work, but we were able to facetime no problem. Since the room is close to midship elevators we were able to get wi-fi reception in the room if we stood by the door. We did not use the free phone call time.
Another reason that we booked the penthouse suite is the room service ability to choose from the specialty restaurants. I LOVE that there is Nobu restaurant on board. When travelling, I need to have soup, and was able to have Asian soup every day. Rock shrimp, mushroom soup "tea" and kelp salad was an added benefit! Sushi took too long for room service, so I stopped ordering this (sushi bar ws very popular). DH ordered room service from a mix of main dining, Nobu and Prego, and there was never too much problem with this erratic ordering style. Our butler was amazing- oh I'll start a new paragraph about Ural.
Ural our butler. He was the most professional butler that we have ever had!! He was pleasant, efficient, and even jokey which put us very much at ease. We probably drove him crazy, but he was always smiling. Iced tea in a pitcher... no problem! A big tea pot... no problem! Room service dining from three places... no problem! Special order curry as room service.. yes, tomorrow for dinner! A question about the next port..... he knows the answer! Some things we asked about were not doable, but there was an explanation that satisfied us and we were not disappointed about this.
We ate at the main dining room rarely, but each time the service and food was pretty good. We are not wine drinkers. However, we enjoy tea (eg high end high mountain oolong and Mariage Frere teas) and we found that although bagged tea is fine for everyday, high tea should be loose tea, not the same bagged tea. This was the only real glaring "not five star" thing we noticed about Crystal. Even silversea had high end loose tea with timers and everything, for their tea time. We eventually chose to not even bother with their teatime. However, I really love the self service element at the Neptune bar area for just helping yourself to iced tea and juice etc. This saves time and makes me instantaneously happy. The bar guys were helpful and friendly too, but I can help myself just as well. Breakfast at the Lido was crazy busy. This was also one area that they can improve on. I suppose it may be due to port intensive itinerary with everyone leaving for morning excursions all at once, but the omelet line was just too long (too many people, too much time). There seemed to be much confusion about breakfast, and it felt crowded and "grabby". An unpleasant morning experience. The coffee was not very good! The Bistro was not open early enough for breakfast for morning excursions.
Excursions- these were some of the best I have ever attended. As this was the first time we have been in this region, we wanted to do an excursion at every port, and chose a Crystal excursion for every port. Our Copenhagen acquarium visit was cancelled, but this actually enabled us ot see Copenhagen itself, walking around everywhere, so we were not too disappointed. The complimentary shuttles were very convenient even if we did not use them all the time, as they provided an option for us if we decided to venture out later on our own. We took the 3 hour Sachenhausen and Berlin tour and were not disappointed. Our tour guide was informative and objective. He provided interesting facts mingled also with personal anecdotes. President Obama was in Berlin at the time of our visit, and many sites were closed, but our tour guide was able to walk us to many of the sites, parking the bus further away. A great experience, and makes us want to visit Berlin again. The 3 hour bus ride was not a problem for me as the autobahn was very straight. St Petersburg- a problem with initial immigration! Crystal let us know what to fill out on the immigration forms, but the immigration officials seem to take affront at the lack of filling out the info so everyone had to enter their birthdates etc on the forms once there at the front of the line. A long long delay. The next day, the Reflections noted that you should have your forms ready but we didn't need them for day 2! This was very confusing and I think Crystal could have done a better job with the information dissemination. Otherwise, despite disclaimers about limited bathroom options and possible poor english speaking guides, these were not issues at all with the tours. Tour guides had understandable english and were very informative about.....everything! Bathroom breaks were provided at set intervals. However, these are long long days!! Worse than work! Worse than a bootcamp conference! Catherine palace and peterhof palace started at 715am and you get back the the ship at around 5pm. However, this was worth it. Tour group dynamics apply (It's difficult to keep together and to keep up! ).
The people on the ship were generally older than us, but we found many interesting and friendly folks. Granted there were a few people that tried to push in front of the line at Russian immigration (really? here?) but people are people.......Overall the passengers were friendly and quiet. The ship was noted to be full, but we never felt like we could not do what we had chosen to do due to crowding (except for breakfast at the Lido).
A note on the Laundry rooms. Five washer/dryer combos! This means no fighting or awkward situations. Laundry baskets and magazines were provided. This was so thoughtful it made me want to cry with joy.
Disembark/embark - no problems. We did not have to tender at all with these ports, although we docked at a yucky industrial area in Stockholm. All transfers were without a hitch. We had private car pickup at Copenhagen, and there were no issues. Smooth and seamless.
Overall, we had a great time on this cruise. If DH continues to want to cruise, I will now press to have it to be this on cruise line.