My wife and I have cruised with Crystal Cruises for many years and have also cruised on several other cruise lines.
Prior to this cruise, we had cruised on two full world cruises with Crystal in 2007 and 2008 respectively.
Cruise Overview ============
This review is for our combined voyage on the Crystal Serenity, which included two cruises.
The first cruise was a seven-day round-trip Miami cruise, which included stops in Grand Turks, Grand Cayman and Key West along with three full days at sea.
The second cruise was a 108 day World Cruise that began in Miami, Florida and concluded in London, England. This cruise included stops in North and South America, Africa, The Middle East and Europe and included 59 days in port and 49 days at sea.
Combined, we spent 115 glorious days cruising on the Crystal Serenity
We had an outstanding cruise. While this was our third world cruise it was by far the best one yet.
The World Cruise provides a wonderful opportunity to really get to know fellow passengers and the wonderful crew. In many ways the cruise ship becomes a village for everyone since you share many of the same experiences and memories over the course of this cruise.
While some cruise lines have cut back on the services and amenities offered to their passengers during these challenging economic times, Crystal has actually enhanced the overall cruising experience. This World Cruise included more diversity in entertainment and other offerings then ever before.
Crystal continues to exceed expectations with respect to service, cuisine, evening entertainment, enrichment programs and other daytime activities and the overall cruising experience. Their customer focus is unsurpassed.
The other highlight of the itinerary was the extraordinary itinerary. We visited many unique ports of call including several in the Middle East that very few ships visit. This included ports of call in the UAE including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, and ports in places such as the Ukraine which very few cruise ships visit during this time of the year.
We enjoyed a wonderful pre-cruise in Miami, Florida. We visited with friends and took care of some last minute purchases for some items that we could not take with us on the airplane. We were joined in Miami for three days by our daughter and son-in-law and for one day by our son and his fiancE prior to them sailing with us for the seven day voyage.
We stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel in Downtown Miami and enjoyed the facilities at this hotel. We stayed here last before we boarded the Crystal Serenity for the 2007 World Cruise.
Crystal took care of all our travel arrangements. This included sending two vehicles to our home to transfer the two of our luggage and us to the airport for our flight to Miami. Upon arrival to the Miami airport, two vehicles took us over to the Hotel and then on embarkation day we were transported over to the Miami Cruise Ship Terminal. Crystal also made our flight arrangements, as this was included in the cruise fare.
Embarkation was very smooth and orderly and we were on the ship by 12:15 PM. Once on board the ship we all enjoyed a wonderful lunch in the Main Dining Room. We toasted the start of the cruise with flutes of complimentary champagne provided by Crystal.
Our room was ready by 2:00 PM and when we arrived most of our luggage was already in the room.
The Ship =======
The ship began service in 2003 and we have sailed on the Crystal Serenity many times.
For us it is the perfect size ship for voyages of this length.
The Serenity is a mid-size ship. At almost 69,000 tons it is capable of carrying as many as 1,100 passengers and a 650 passenger crew. It very rarely carries this number of passengers as it also appeals to many guests traveling solo.
The ship has a total of thirteen decks, ten of which are used by passengers. As the World Cruise is comprised of seven individual voyages the number of passengers on board the ship at anyone time varied by voyage to voyage. We had almost 950 passengers on the seven-day sailing. There were 201 passengers who took the entire world cruise and the total number of passengers ranged from around 400-450 on the first two voyages to anywhere's from 500 to 650 passengers on some of the legs. Like any ship there are probably a few minor areas showing some wear and tear but these items are normally addressed in dry-dock.
The crew is always taking good care of the ship. They can be seen thoroughly cleaning the ship throughout the day and evening hours and also painting outside areas of the ship on a frequent basis.
Our room is called a category PH Penthouse Suite. It was a perfect size for us for this length voyage. The room was located mid-deck on Deck 10.
The room has a nice desk area which could be utilized for the computer and other related items while also having a vanity makeup table with mirror. There are shelves adjacent to the desk where we could store items along with a refrigerator and storage areas for bar and glassware. There is a nice walk in closet, which comes in very handy given the amount of clothes that are needed on a world cruise.
Overhead lighting in the room is fine and the size of this category room and outside verandah works very well for us.
The bathroom is quite spacious with both a separate shower and whirlpool bath and the bath products are quite nice.
We are able to use the wireless Internet capabilities that are available in the room and other areas of the ship.
We had the same room stewardess for the entire world cruise and the same assistant stewardess for both the seven-day voyage and almost the entire world cruise. They both kept the room looking great.
The PH and above categories also have butler service and we had an outstanding butler who we also had in 2008. He takes care of the snacks and beverages and also will set up breakfast, lunch or dinner. For dinner he can serve meals course by course either from the Main Dining Room or from either one of the specialty restaurants on board the ship. While our children were on board he served the six of us a beautiful breakfast and also one night we all enjoyed shrimp, lobster, caviar and other canapEs and champagne. He sets a perfect table and everything was always perfect. During the course of the World Cruise he also served us dinner from one of the Specialty Restaurants a couple of times and he also served appetizers and champagne when we had some guests meet us for a pre-dinner drink and appetizers.
Dining & Cuisine =============
There are many dining choices on board the Crystal Serenity.
There is the main dining room serving breakfast, lunch and dinner at either the main or late seating's. There is open seating for breakfast and lunch and assigned seating for dinner. We enjoy the assigned seating as we like to have the same wait staff that quickly becomes familiar with all of your preferences. We sit at a table for two but there are various size tables from two to ten people. While our table was for two we could fit four people there so from time to time we would invite others to join us for dinner.
For breakfast in addition to the main dining room there are other dining options such as the Lido Cafe serving a buffet breakfast, or The Bristo serving a light breakfast or Tastes serving a later risers breakfast.
For lunch in addition to the main dining room there is also the Lido Cafe serving a buffet lunch, the Bistro serving various luncheon items, Tastes serving a nice lunch and also the Trident Grill serving hot dogs, burgers, wraps and other items
For dinner there is the Main Dining Room. There is also Prego serving Italian Cuisine, Silk Road serving Japanese Cuisine under the direction of Nobu, Tastes which is open on most evenings which serves dinner by the pool in a casual atmosphere, The Vintage Room which for an extra charge serves a nice pairing of various wines/champagne with a multi course dinner.
Of course there is always room service.
The service and cuisine on board the ship are just outstanding. With 24 hours you can have almost any item you can think of. The staff is very accommodating to each individual.
There are also many healthy items to choose from and these are designated on the various menus.
The Crew =======
The Staff is the best of any staff that we have sailed with. The crew does not know the word "no" and makes every effort to please each passenger. It is amazing how quickly many on the staff learn your name and preferences. We saw many staff that we had not seen in two years and they not only remembered us but they remembered those items that we enjoyed from the previous cruise. Sometimes I felt that they know more about us than we do.
The crew retention rate by Crystal is outstanding. Many on the crew have been with Crystal for many years and many have been promoted to increasing levels of responsibility.
They like their jobs and it really shows.
The Passengers ===========
We know many passengers from previous cruises and we met many passengers for the very first time.
We have made many friends from our previous cruises and this cruise was no exception.
While we dined at a table for two, its size would accommodate up to four guests. From time to time we would invite one or two other people to join us for dinner in the Main Dining Room. Other times we would get together with others at one of the specialty restaurants on board the ship.
As mentioned, over the course of such a long cruise many of the passengers and the crew become like an extended family and are clearly one of the reasons we come back to Crystal again and again.
Itinerary/Shore Excursions ===================
This itinerary was quite unique and diverse. We began in Miami, visited a few ports in the Caribbean and then made stops in Brazil and Argentina. From South America we cruises eight days until we reached Cape Town, South Africa. We made several stops in Africa and from there sailed to the Middle East. We not only stopped in places such as Jordan, Oman, UAE, Israel and Egypt but also stopped in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Kuwait. From there we stopped in stopped in various ports of the Mediterranean and then we sailed the Black Sea before ending the cruise in London. It was a very unique itinerary.
We took many shore excursions through Crystal and find that they offer a nice array of choices. They also offer several overland tours for those who want to spend additional time on land to then meet up with the ship a few days later.
We stopped at various ports of call that such as Kuwait that had not been visited by other passenger cruise ships or some other ports that only on occasion are visited by passenger cruise ships.
We congratulate and commend Crystal Cruises for putting together such as unique itinerary. There were some who criticized the cruise line for including the Iranian Port of Call so it would have been easier for them not to have included this port of call and a couple of the others to avoid criticism. We respect the fact that Crystal Cruises believes in providing their clientele with an extraordinary experience and providing their guest with the opportunity to explore and discover the world.
In short, this itinerary surpassed our expectations. Internet ======
Internet connectivity including speed was quite good. We had less delay than I anticipated and less delay than we have had on previous cruises on board this ship. We brought our own computer on with us but there are plenty of computers located in the computer university.
There are many Internet plans to choose from. Per minute pricing varies by Internet plan.
Crystal also has a computer university offering help to technical computer issues and also offering a variety of computer classes from basic classes to more advanced classes. My wife and I both took classes and enjoyed them. Fitness Center ==========
We used the Fitness Center throughout the cruise. It is open 24 hours a day seven days a week and has a wonderful array of machines such as treadmills, elliptical and stationary bikes and a nice variety of weight lifting equipment.
There is a wide range of classes offered, especially on sea days.
Enrichment Programs, Activities and Entertainment, Special World Cruise Events =====================================
This is core strength and Crystal offers what we consider to be the best enrichment and entertainment program on the high seas.
There were so many great and interesting activities to choose from and on sea days there are 50+ activities offered during the daytime and afternoon hours.
On the World Cruise there were many special programs in addition to the core entertainment and enrichment programs and we found that we kept very active each and everyday. We enjoyed wonderful sea days because of all of the wonderful activities.
The lecture series offered on this cruise was the best ever. The world cruise is divided into seven voyages and each voyage had a diverse set of very knowledgeable lecturers. In fact, one of the seven legs had twelve lecturers. Each sea day two to three lectures were offered.
There were two special shore side events for those on the full World Cruise, which were fabulous. On each leg there was usually a special world cruise cocktail reception with drinks, dancing, and a special performance. There were also two special dinners held on the ship; both of which were truly outstanding.
One of the shore side events that we will remember for the rest of our lives was one that was held in Israel. It was held in a very unique location and featured wonderful food, entertainment in a breathtaking location.
There were several other activities and entertainment which were fabulous.
On board the ship there are several stores featuring sundries, jewelry and clothing. There is also a photo studio featuring cameras and video equipment and also there are several photographers on board the ship taking pictures.
The disembarkation process was a snap. We were off the ship by around 6:40 AM and the process was perfect. We were escorted off the ship by a member of the crew who carried our carry on luggage to the area where the checked luggage was stored. All our checked luggage was not only in the assigned area but our luggage was grouped together. After we claimed our luggage we were taken to an area where luggage concierge was located as they will be sending all of our luggage back to the United States. We then proceeded outside the terminal where we were greeted by a familiar face from Crystal. The person responsible for the shore excursions' took us to the vehicle that was waiting for us.
Summary/Final Thoughts ===================
For us, each time we sail with Crystal we feel that we are returning home as we know many of the crewmembers and fellow passengers so very well.
This was our third World Cruise with Crystal and by far the best of the three Everything was perfect and we really appreciated all of the thought and care that went into both the planning and the implementation of the World Cruise. Crystal has a very loyal customer following because of their strong desire to make each and every sailing the best it can be for each and every passenger. Success can be measure by the customer service surveys which consistently rank Crystal number one and by the number of repeat cruisers that Crystal attracts.
I hope others will find this review helpful.