Crystal is famous for its theme cruises, like Pacific crossings that explore maritime history; golf-themed cruises that have you teeing off at renowned courses and taught by PGA pros; and emerging artists cruises on which up-and-coming musicians, vocalists and dancers perform. Ours was a "Gladiators & Empires" cruise through the Mediterranean, with engaging lecturers who spoke about everything from life in Rome for the gladiators (and everyone on down) and the frescoes and mosaics in Pompeii and Herculaneum to the French Riviera as playground for the rich and famous.
Aside from the enrichment program and athletic classes, daytime activities are fairly low-key. They may include a movie shown in the theater, a dance lesson taught by the gentlemen hosts, lessons by the golf instructor on the putting green (which were well-attended on our cruise) and a sometimes raucous trivia competition. Otherwise, passengers are content to spend days at sea enjoying the public rooms, the extensive open decks or the many lectures offered throughout the day.
Another area in which Crystal Serenity excels is live music. You don't have to be an old fogey to appreciate classical music at teatime, a classical quartet in the atrium, torch songs at cocktail hour in the Palm Court, Broadway show tunes in the Avenue Saloon before and after dinner and fabulously fun karaoke in the intense Pulse Disco.
One noteworthy improvement is the Sunset Bar at the forward end of the Palm Court. It offers gorgeous views over the bow (hence the name) and is rarely crowded. It became a favorite watering hole as we sailed out of port. Dancing (with gentleman hosts) is popular and takes place there nightly.
The Crystal Casino, on the way to the Galaxy Lounge, offers a comprehensive range of table games and slots; it's no longer operated by Caesar's Palace.
The Galaxy Lounge is the ship's main show lounge, used for Broadway-style production shows and headline entertainers, including singers and comedians. While larger and more elaborate than the cabaret acts found on smaller luxury ships, the shows are far simpler than what you'll find on larger mega-ships. Still, they seem to please Serenity's passengers, who appreciate the option of seeing a show most evenings but who don't need the full glitz and glamor of more extensive productions.
Serenity also extends the Crystal tradition of its Hollywood Theater, which, on our trip, showed both classic and second-run films. Popcorn is served, but get there early. The screenings are great for cloudy afternoons at sea.
For shoreside pursuits, Crystal offers a fairly noteworthy range of options. In addition to the expected selection of tours focusing on city highlights and culture, the ship has several unusual and exciting options that cater to the line's well-heeled passengers. If an $8,900 tour driving a Ferrari isn't quite exciting enough for you, perhaps flying a MIG fighter jet in Russia is? More active offerings are also starting to be included, and the line has added complimentary "Voluntourism" excursions to all sailings. Examples include assisting with meal preparation for abused, ill or abandoned children in Nafplion; aiding injured sea turtles at a sea turtle research center in Athens; and helping to maintain the gardens with the elderly inhabitants of the 660-year-old Domus Christi shelter in Dubrovnik.
A word of caution though: Even Crystal's standard shore excursions are notably expensive, with full-day excursions often costing $350 or more.