A major plus for Crystal Serenity passengers is that the ship has a higher percentage of cabins with balconies than its sister Crystal Symphony. (Eighty-five percent have them, compared to 65 percent for Symphony.) During the 2011 refit, the cabins (all of which are outside) received the bulk of the $25 million in upgrades. All new fittings, furnishings and carpeting give the rooms a chic, almost edgy look, complete with white or black leather tufted headboards and the occasional zebra-patterned furnishing.
Cabin sizes and levels of luxury range across the board. The entry-level staterooms measure 226 square feet. While that's slightly larger than most big-ship cruise lines' comparable accommodations, the cabins can feel pretty squinchy, and I think that's because you expect a bit more on a luxury line. Also, these cabins look out onto the promenade deck, albeit through one-way glass that hides any views from curious passersby during the daytime. Balcony cabins are the same size and layout as the outside accommodations, but with 43-square-foot verandahs.
Where Serenity really makes a leap -- and it's worth the splurge -- is in its three different levels of penthouse cabins and suites. (It has twice as many as Symphony.) Passengers staying there are entitled to butler service, and in my opinion, Crystal has consistently rated the best in terms of butlers. They really make the trip special, whether it's serving course-by-course dinners from either the main dining room or the extremely popular Prego and Nobu specialty restaurants, procuring last-minute reservations or taking your clothes for same-day, complimentary pressing. Every evening around 5 p.m., a fresh offering from the "hors d'oeuvre" menu magically appears, with delectables like caviar, shrimp or simpler options, such as hummus. A box of chocolates will be replaced as quickly as it is consumed. Even as you think "I don't need it," you find yourself looking forward to it each evening.
At 403 square feet (including balcony), each penthouse cabin features a fabulous bathroom with two sinks, a decadent full-size Jacuzzi tub and separate, large shower; a walk-in closet; and a full-size couch. Beyond that, 33 penthouse suites -- at 538 square feet (including balcony) -- are somewhat larger and, most notably, offer separate bedrooms. Finally, just four Crystal Penthouses, at 1,345 square feet, are bigger than many New York apartments. Highlights include bigger everything -- from balconies and audio-visual aids to the separate master bedrooms with king-size beds.
Each cabin bathroom has two sinks and a bathtub, Frette bathrobes, slippers and Aveda bath products. (All penthouse grades feature the Jacuzzi bath mentioned above, plus a separate shower.) Key accoutrements for all cabins, regardless of category, include flat-screen televisions, pillow menus, DVD players and mini-bars. While storage in all levels of penthouse cabins is excellent, the closets and drawers in even the standard cabins are more than ample. We found cabin details thoughtful and well-designed. They include nightlights under the desks in the penthouses that are perfect if your companion is coming in late, or narrow bedside lights that can be angled to avoid shining in your sleeping cabinmate's direction.
My one complaint? During the refit, new bedside tables were secured in place permanently. This is fine if you're sharing a bed with a partner, but if you ask for two twins, there isn't much space for the beds to be separated. Expect six inches or so between the beds. By the time duvets and several luxurious pillows are added on, it is often hard to distinguish where one bed ends and another begins. While we were told that not one complaint had been received about this new design, we find it hard to believe that many passengers traveling with someone other than their partner wouldn't have preferred the more flexible arrangement that is common on every other ship sailing.
There are cabins designed for folks with disabilities in all the major categories, including on the penthouse levels.