1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Crystal Cruises
  4. Crystal Cruises Cruise Reviews
27 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Over the past 20 years Crystal has been our favorite cruise line and we still feel the same today. The updates are lovely. We really enjoyed the open seating and the addition of Silk which was wonderful. The Brazilian restaurant was not ... Read More
Over the past 20 years Crystal has been our favorite cruise line and we still feel the same today. The updates are lovely. We really enjoyed the open seating and the addition of Silk which was wonderful. The Brazilian restaurant was not our favorite but was good. Umi Uma and Prego are just as good as always. The service in all departments is exceptional and we rate just as highly as we always have. We did notice some younger entertainment onboard which was very much appreciated. Carl Wishneuski in the Avenue Saloon is an awesome pianist and entertainer. We enjoyed some great evenings in his company. Neil Lockwood (ex. E.L.O.) was fabulous and had everyone on their feet - his was the best show of the cruise IMHO. He also did a good Elton John Tribute but his own show was better. We always feel so relaxed and looked after onboard Crystal and can’t wait to return. We have no desire to try other cruise lines as we have in the past. Read Less
22 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
This was listed as a jazz cruise and was fulfilled,at least for us, more than expected. My husband loves jazz. The group that was put together by J. Tate are not known to the general public, but among the music world top notch. They are ... Read More
This was listed as a jazz cruise and was fulfilled,at least for us, more than expected. My husband loves jazz. The group that was put together by J. Tate are not known to the general public, but among the music world top notch. They are the backbone of most major groups today. Jazz was just part of the entertainment as you still had shows every night and music in the Crystal Cove Lounge. Palm Court, Starlight and Avenue Saloon. Lectures are always outstanding on Crystal and Jamey Tate did several very interesting lectures on music over the course of the cruise. The cuisine and service are as good as ever, some of the personnel that were on our first cruise 24 years ago are still serving on the ship which says a lot of a company. You now have two more choices for dinning. Silk for lunch and dinner, reservations not required and Churrascaria a Brazilian Steakhouse, dinner only, no reservations required. Enjoyed them both and we could dine any hour without a problem. I will admit a little prejudice when it comes to Symphony. We have sailed on other lines, but always come back and wonder why we ever left to try something different. We signed up for the transfer between ship and airport. Were taken to a hotel in New Orleans, left the luggage locked on the bus told we would have lunch, could walk around and than driven to the airport. It was a wonderful value without any hassle. Read Less
18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
This was our first luxury cruise and our travel agent highly recommended this line. We have sailed many times and the most recent had been with NCL Haven. While we loved the Haven, we hated the crowds, overwhelming smoke and mediocre food ... Read More
This was our first luxury cruise and our travel agent highly recommended this line. We have sailed many times and the most recent had been with NCL Haven. While we loved the Haven, we hated the crowds, overwhelming smoke and mediocre food and service on the rest of the ship. We couldn’t wait to disembark. That was when our agent recommended we move up to Crystal. We will never go back. From the first minute, we noticed the huge difference from other cruise lines. We were greeted by name immediately and by evey crew member. Honestly, before we sailed, we were greeted by our names by every crew member each time. I don’t know how the do it. By the first day at sea, everyone knew our preferences. From Clarry at the pool to Jonathan at the Marketplace and Viktor at the Bistro. I could ask Clarry to leave a message for my husband and he would keep an eye out for him and relay the message. Anyone who has ever lost their husband on a cruise ship knows how impressive and helpful this is! We enjoy good food and entertainment and Crystal impressed us more than we thought possible on both. The entertainment was spectacular thanks to the regular ensemble, great costumes and programs. On top of that, it was a Jazz themed cruise with the most amazing visiting artists. Perry Smith jazz guitar was exceptional and Crystal should continue the relationship with this amazing artist!! Another huge shout out to Carl Wishnewski, best piano man since Billy Joel. Umi Uma, by Chef Nobu is not to be missed. The miso cod is “last meal” worthy and the mushroom soup is sublime. We ate there twice and could easily have gone again. Don’t be worried if you don’t like sushi. There is plenty of variety for anyone. I love sushi but my husband doesn’t. His Kobe steak was one of the best he has ever had. The main dining room was always available, we never waited. The food was excellent with a few exceptions. Shout out to Roger and our fav, Viktor as waiters!! The pool was where we noticed the amazing crew that took care of is with outstanding service. Clarry, Kiko, Rikkii and Ronnie are fabulous! From cold drinks to cold towels and little treats throughout the day. Most surprising, from other cruises, deck chairs around the pool and elsewhere always available! I never had to fight for a deck chair at anytime of the day, even on sea days!! Crystal passengers on our sailing were around 40 -80. Some younger some older. There was one baby that everyone on the ship saw once. He was our great white whale in baby form. Everyone talked about the one sighting. The passengers were a nice mix of US and internationals. Out of 860 passengers, we encountered 2, only 2, somewhat grouchy people. Everyone was just so friendly and enjoyable. Again, a first in our cruising experience. The most important part of our cruise was our cabin and attendants. It’s literally your home for 2 weeks. While I am convinced there is not a bad cabin on this ship, we always want a balcony and this time we wanted to try the suite. We selected the Seabreeze Penthouse with veranda and we are so glad we did. Our butler, Ay, the best on the ship! I’m serious. When we immediately booked another cruise, a first for us, we requested Ay. We never used our butler on the NCL Haven. He was never around. But Ay was omnipresent in the most unobtrusive way. He helped us switch reservations around as we met new friends and served a full dinner from the main menu to my husband on the first night as I had a raging migraine. He didn’t want my husband to miss out just because he was taking care of me. And for me, he brought the best consume I have ever had and a huge bucket of ice for my ice bag. Mayori and Alexandra were our attendants who cleaned our rooms throughout the day with the loveliest smiles and service. Our final shout out to Sergio the head concierge who was willing and able to do anything to make our first Crystal experience even better. And the Captain who was generous enough to invite us and a small group to his private quarters for cocktails. It was a unexpected surprise. Thank you. We are Crystalized! We aren’t going back to the other lines. I am counting the days until our next sailing in December and trying to figure out how to squeeze another in between. Choose Crystal. You will love it! You will never want to leave. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
We have been repeat Crystal passengers. This last Carribean 14 days sailing was not up to par to past Crystal standards. let me share pros and cons: PROS: Our Butler , Costas was the best part of this sailing. An outstanding ... Read More
We have been repeat Crystal passengers. This last Carribean 14 days sailing was not up to par to past Crystal standards. let me share pros and cons: PROS: Our Butler , Costas was the best part of this sailing. An outstanding employee and a delight to see every day. Similarly, the stewardesses who cleaned our suite were most diligent and keeping our rooms in immaculate condition each day and night! Kudos to those spectacular staff members! Reception and Concierge desks were efficient and most welcoming! Production shows as well as individual artists were most entertaining and enjoyable . Similarly, most of the guest speakers were most informative and had good presentations, CONS: The service in the Crystal Dining Room was consistently slow, no matter what time we made our reservations and regardless where we sat. Some of the wait persons were quite lovely and attentive, while other appeared to be 'burned out' and ready to end their contracts and go home. The quality of the food in Dining room far less satisfactory than the alternative restaurants. Both the food and service was far better in alternative dining venues! Photographers not as well trained as they were in past. Phone operators usually most slow to respond Music played at pool whether it be recorded or live, far too loud. At times, not enough poolside attendants, requiring a long time to request a drink order. Towels left on lounges by guests who have clearly left the pool area, tend to be left there and not collected and new lounge covers replaced! Has Crystal cut back on staff? ALL excursions that we took were most poor.. One just showed flamingos, more flamingos and cacti FOR OVER TWO HOURS~! For us, the service in Crystal Dining Room was the most negative experience on this sailing as were the excursions. We are sadly questioning if we shall return to Crystal in view of the above. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
Love Crystal but see traditional items going by the wayside, eg: no more guest list. Very thankful for the complimentary laundromats onboard. B1 cabin is just the right size for the two of us. Plenty of closet space (I bring our own ... Read More
Love Crystal but see traditional items going by the wayside, eg: no more guest list. Very thankful for the complimentary laundromats onboard. B1 cabin is just the right size for the two of us. Plenty of closet space (I bring our own wire hangers to get more space here) and have never lacked for drawer space. MDR staff is outstanding. Varied shore excursions with endurance level, in depth or not so much, Front desk is not as sharp as they used to be. We asked when the Cruise Critic gathering was to be and front desk person looked 3 places and said there was not one on our cruise. Got back to the cabin and there was an invitation to the Cruise Critic gathering which we very much enjoyed. Very much enjoy Tastes, Prego, and Silk Road as alternatives to the MDR. Crew keeps us coming back to Crystal. They are great. I hope Home Office get the new system up and PURRING soon. It has been a struggle for anyone trying to use the PCPC. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
Crystal offers us an experience that we have come to expect: dedicated service, better food than most cruise lines, an ambiance of only slightly faded gentility--the last being rectified by planned major drydock changes in the near future. ... Read More
Crystal offers us an experience that we have come to expect: dedicated service, better food than most cruise lines, an ambiance of only slightly faded gentility--the last being rectified by planned major drydock changes in the near future. Service is the signal distinction, as exemplified by the bar tenders, who are remarkable both for their skills and their welcoming personalities. Try and order a Hemingway daiquiri elsewhere and you get either puzzlement or a dreadful concoction. The bar tenders on Serenity know what they are about, and are quick to remember your favorite libation. The crew smiles, some will recall your name, and in general there is a sense of dedicated courtesy--an effort to please. Luxury has many definitions, but Crystal's seems to satisfy us most of all. Is it perfect? Of course not. The shore excursions share the same high mark us and lack of inspiration common to other cruise lines. Boarding can hit a snag--presumably because of computer failure--and thus take longer than it should. And the food is often under seasoned--West Indian curry might have come from Gerber. A soup can be too salty to consume.But every cruise line kitchen has the occasional fluff (or worse) and Crystal, though not exempt, seems to have fewer than most. (Though under seasoning of food which should be well spiced does frustrate me.) One question is whether Crystal can find and train replacement crew for the future who share the line's dedication to service. You--and I--will be the judge of that, Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
6 stars is good for me. We already booked another cruise and after trying almost all cruise companies we feel that Serenity is the ship for us. The ship was in beautiful shape and yet it is going for a major makeover in November 2018 we ... Read More
6 stars is good for me. We already booked another cruise and after trying almost all cruise companies we feel that Serenity is the ship for us. The ship was in beautiful shape and yet it is going for a major makeover in November 2018 we hear. Again the cabin was comfortable with two sinks and shower and bath. Very luxurious furniture and decorations. The room attendant was fabulous and we left her extra tips although this is an all inclusive cruise. There were approximately 900 passengers and lots (600)of crew members to look after the guests The dining experience was absolutely perfect and commended 6 stars. The lectures were of prime quality and up to two or three a day The movies were well chosen according the area where we were at the time of the movie. The waiters and bar tenders were so attentive to and new our preferences after a day or two.. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
Entertainment,food,accomadation,service fantastic.Could not have better.Cruise at night disembark during the day,great citys visited.One bad experience in the Falklands,on the way to Goose Green our driver stopped the bus,to clean the ... Read More
Entertainment,food,accomadation,service fantastic.Could not have better.Cruise at night disembark during the day,great citys visited.One bad experience in the Falklands,on the way to Goose Green our driver stopped the bus,to clean the windows and never came back,he had a heart attack and died,we were stranded in the middle of the island without communications.The shore excursions were great.Thank goodness not thousands of people not a disgusting floating hotel.The entertainment was fantastic and world class.The talks on the cruise were fantasticThe best cruise we have ever had,and we have cruised on the majority of the large cruise liners,Australia,Carribean,Meditteranian,Mauritious,The far east. The Crystal Serenity was by far the best of all cruises we have been,and certainly recommend the Crystal cruise lines.The Casino was well organised and very professional The prices for the photos were expensive,and we received full DVDs on our whole cruise,which always bring back happy memories and the interesting people we met from all over the world Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
If you enjoy First Class Service and Going to the Club to be pampered, this is the cruise for you. We are younger and had our 16 yr old daughter with us, so we did not fit the normal clientele, but that was just fine. ... Read More
If you enjoy First Class Service and Going to the Club to be pampered, this is the cruise for you. We are younger and had our 16 yr old daughter with us, so we did not fit the normal clientele, but that was just fine. Embarkation/Disembarkation where so smooth, we got on and off according to posted schedule with no delays. We stayed in room 9018 which is a smaller room, but the beds where comfortable, including the pull-out couch. First Class room amenities and if you need anything additional, just ask and it was provided. Stocked fridge was nice, Shower was great, balcony was large enough for the 3 of us. Specialty dining was Five Star, we did all 3 Specialty venues (Silk Rose, Prego and Tastes) and went back to the Sushi bar for an additional night. (I recommend getting there before they open because Sushi bar is first come first serve) Our experience in the main dining room for 3 nights was just OK, the food was Excellent, but the service was lacking, we are not wine drinkers, so they showed little interest in even taking a drink order, one night, we got our appetizer before getting a drink...seemed like they catered to the larger "Clubby" tables and did not think much about the little family. The excursions went as planned, but nothing first class about these island excursions, but the price was great and we got what we expected. We spent most of our time on the pool deck at a shaded table playing games or shaded couch/chair relaxing. Pool deck Staff is the best, always eager to satisfy your drink and comfort needs. Tastes, Trident Grill, Ice Cream Stand and the Buffet are all just steps away from the pool for easy dining throughout the morning and daytime. We went to the shows every night, Billy Joel and the Ventriloquist were our favorites. Don't expect Broadway or Disney quality, but they were fun. Casino was nice, and i was surprised to see the $5 Craps, Blackjack, Roulette and other table games. (I was expecting $25 minimums) The Lobby Bar is elegant and has a great drink menu, afternoon and evening. Even thou the crowd was older, it was so easy to just sit down anywhere and meet someone, everyone was so nice. *****Five Stars***** Pool Deck Staff Cabin Stewardess (Linda) Specialty Dining Venues Ice Cream Man Pizza Man Serenity Staff for great Communications throughout the Cruise Had internet and phone service most of 24 hours a day Clean Ship with Great Venues I know they say tips are included, but they go above and beyond.....PLEASE DON'T BE CHEAP and TIP ACCORDINGLY. (They have a "Crew Fund" you can tip to, just go to guest services) Thanks to our Crystal Travel Agent Marian for some on-board credits and great service. My wife and I will cruise Crystal in the future when our daughter is gone to college. Thanks again Crystal Serenity Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
This was our fifth cruise with Crystal and it was wonderful. At first we were a bit wary because Thanksgiving week means families and although there were many aboard, we never encountered an unruly or bratty child the whole time. The only ... Read More
This was our fifth cruise with Crystal and it was wonderful. At first we were a bit wary because Thanksgiving week means families and although there were many aboard, we never encountered an unruly or bratty child the whole time. The only way to explain the Serenity is impeccable service, delicious food, clean ship and wonderful entertainment. The Serenity is the whole deal & once you sail her, you'll keep coming back. Two waitstaff remembered our names from 3 years ago when we had last sailed. That shocked me!!! Our cabin steward was Tatjana and she was okay. I'm pretty sure she was fairly new because she forgot to replenish and some other minor things but when I reminded her, it was there right away. She covered herself by saying, "If there's anything you need, just ask." I requested goose down pillows that were so soft, when my head hit them, my face disappeared!!! The linens were very soft & luxurious as well. The entertainment was very good: one night with James Fox's homage to Billy Joel, a wonderful Broadway singer named Rachel York, the Serenity dancers and of course, Gary, the social director and ventriloquist/comedian who was hysterically funny yet clean. The gym had plenty of machines and they offered spin classes, abs and all kinds of different options to work off those delicious desserts. You could also get individual training sessions. I found the people in the SPA to be very pushy. They were always trying to close a sale. I asked someone for a price on body wash, and she wanted my room number. I said, "Why do you need my room number just to give me a price? Just tell me the price." I'd say when dealing with them, proceed with caution and make sure you know exactly what you're being charged up front. Don't give them any information unless you're buying. The SWANK app for movies did not work on cellphone or I-pads while we were on board. I went to the computer room & they said it was a problem with the vendor. If you wanted to watch a movie, you had to have a laptop. The Serenity library was fully supplied with bestsellers and very recent books. Awesome! Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
We selected this cruise for its destination. We have sailed frequently on Crystal and other lines over the years and always thought highly of Crystal Cruises. There were many problems on this trip. Embarkation was only the ... Read More
We selected this cruise for its destination. We have sailed frequently on Crystal and other lines over the years and always thought highly of Crystal Cruises. There were many problems on this trip. Embarkation was only the beginning. The most serious was the flu-like illness that many, many passengers and crew suffered. While we accept that illness can always occur on a cruise, we were very disappointed not to see more proactive actions taken by Crystal to contain it. For example, never once did we see any sterilization of handrails, etc. Tables received cursory wipes but chairs, which people touched after coughing into their hands, were not wiped. People continued to come to dinner after being told by the medical staff that they had a virus. Despite all our efforts, it was impossible to avoid contacting the virus. This spoiled the cruise for us and many others. Many of the public venues, such as the Crystal Dining Room and the Crystal Cove were unpleasantly cold. Everyone had to wear shawls, sweaters or coats. Perhaps this was an attempt to contain the virus, but it succeeded only in making us feel worse. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
WE love Crystal. However, when it takes 45 minutes to get served in no man's land for their dining by reservation anytime dining program, it makes me wonder what is going on with this company. Is profit driving a wedge into what was ... Read More
WE love Crystal. However, when it takes 45 minutes to get served in no man's land for their dining by reservation anytime dining program, it makes me wonder what is going on with this company. Is profit driving a wedge into what was excellent service, fantastic food and beverage service at your fingertips? Heaven help you if you make a reservation for 7:45 for the main dining room. You are in between seatings and depending on where you are seated, service is dismal. We felt that not only was service lacking, but their servers didn't seem dialed in, more interested in just getting you something, the attentiveness wasn't there and many crew seemed new. There also seems to be less crew/servers, the servers to guest ratio seems less and service suffers. Getting a drink at the pool after 5:15pm or so is almost impossible and so I walked back to the Tastes bar to get my own in my bathing suit and cover up, but still dripping wet. I'm sure they didn't like seeing me there but I don't like not being served and to make it easier on the crew, since there seemed to be so few of them, I though I'd just go get a drink myself. Gone are the fresh berries. You have to know "who" ask for them at breakfast, and even then, they dole them out with a mere 5 berries at a time. No truffle honey, probably have to ask for that too. In general, the food just didn't seem to be what we fondly thought of as the Crystal difference. I think if you want the old Crystal experience you can still get it, you just have to ask and know "who" to ask when it comes to food and beverage service. . Having said all of this, yes of course we will still cruise Crystal, but there are changes and new guests may or may not notice. The lectures and guest speakers remain out of this world and I can't help but think I get to go back to college when I am onboard. Kudos to Crystal for having the best of the best in the world for cruise speakers. Both our embarkation and debarkation had issues and thank God we weren't in a hurry, otherwise we'd have missed our plane. Ft Lauderdale terminal was a nightmare for many for a variety of reasons. It was very inexcusable in many passengers opinions. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
Cruise to the Amazon. Two ports changed as a result of hurricane damage. Food equal to any 5 star restaurant and no request considered a problem. Ask for something special today and it is available at tomorrow's meal. Included wine ... Read More
Cruise to the Amazon. Two ports changed as a result of hurricane damage. Food equal to any 5 star restaurant and no request considered a problem. Ask for something special today and it is available at tomorrow's meal. Included wine was reasonable quality- not "two buck chuck". We even delayed departure to await a shipment of fresh seafood and raspberries which required increased speed (translate more fuel) to arrive at the next port on time. Fantastic entertainment and the best lecturers I have ever experienced. Topics to interest everyone with entertaining as well as educational delivery. ACBL bridge every day- including port days.After a day or two, the waiters and bar staff knew everyone's standard request. The pool could not have been refilled with Amazon water (too muddy), but they were able to keep the water clean and pure for the entire duration on the river. We are already booked on more cruises on Crystal and can't wait. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
We love Crystal and were interested in exploring the Amazon River. For us, this is a once in a lifetime destination both because it is so exotic and because once was great but enough. The Amazon is very hot and humid, and the blast of ... Read More
We love Crystal and were interested in exploring the Amazon River. For us, this is a once in a lifetime destination both because it is so exotic and because once was great but enough. The Amazon is very hot and humid, and the blast of air conditioning was a welcome relief each time we returned to the ship. There is not a whole lot to see from the ship itself, because the river is so wide that we were close to shore only in ports. But the ports were interesting. The jungle hikes were billed as "strenuous" and we were probably more timid than necessary about them. The two "strenuous" activities we did were really not so bad, and we should have done more. They were the most interesting of our excursions -- the Rubber Museum and native village in Manaus and the Jungle Trek in Santarem. Crystal, as usual, did a fantastic job of providing a lot of interesting lectures and on board activities, especially on the sea days. And the food was outstanding. This was a Food and Wine theme cruise, so they added some cooking demonstrations and wine tastings, which were very nice. Crystal really shines in the service department. The crew were very attentive, and quickly learn the names and preferences of the passengers. When my husband walked into his favorite bar, his favorite drink would appear before him by magic. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
It seems that the Crystal crew seems to always anticipate your needs. They keep the ship spotless. I see them late at night cleaning hall baseboards while on their knees. Food in the regular restaurant is awesome. You don't ... Read More
It seems that the Crystal crew seems to always anticipate your needs. They keep the ship spotless. I see them late at night cleaning hall baseboards while on their knees. Food in the regular restaurant is awesome. You don't normally see JUMBO shrimp, lobster, filet mignon, caviar, crab over and over again on the menu. Nobo's menu in Silk Road specialty restaurant was great as was the menu in Prego's. All those at no extra charge. Drinks and gratuities were included and the drinks were not the normal bar type alcohol. Example for vodka Grey Goose was an option. High quality single malt scotches were also available at no extra charge. If I need to make one constructive comment to them it would be for them to cut down on the salt in soups and sauces and let us add what we need. But then that comment needs to be told to ALL cruise lines. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
First time Crystal Cruise...”Amazon Escape” Oct. 27 - Nov. 20, 2017 (24 Days) The Embarkation Process was disorganized & confusing...it took nearly 3 hours...Wasn’t a good start...apparently, the Crystal Cruises Headquarters ... Read More
First time Crystal Cruise...”Amazon Escape” Oct. 27 - Nov. 20, 2017 (24 Days) The Embarkation Process was disorganized & confusing...it took nearly 3 hours...Wasn’t a good start...apparently, the Crystal Cruises Headquarters decided to drastically reduce prices to fill the ship...this cruise required a Brazilian Visa and a Yellow Fever Inoculation...Which meant, several hundreds of guests, unable to meet the aforementioned requirements slowed the process for those who booked and paid a much higher price to have to wait...this could have been handled more efficiently and professionally... Once onboard, our Penthouse w/ verandah (PS Cat.) was very well appointed...we had fabulous room attendants (Anna-Marie and Raylene)...superior service was provided all around the entire ship... The Entertainment was just as billed...”Broadway” quality...so many talented individuals! From Irina, Richard, Boytan & Charlie James to the flown in Entertainment of Billie Joel Musician James Fox...the female vocalist, Helen, (supposedly operatic trained...???destroyed Julie Andrews’ “Sound of Music” lyrics...the Crystal Dance & Music Troupe were Awesome!! Shore Excursions were a “hit or miss”...could have done without the “Boca de Valeria” port of call...?? Indigenous People with satellites and pandering chained animals from the rainforest for money...poor taste for such a high-end ship... Found this cruise to have a high minimum age; 70’s...one English fellow described the cruise as “The recently resurrected...” Thought some of the Excursions were a little dangerous; as many were having trouble walking. Most guests were cheerful & friendly; some need to take classes in Courteousness...very rude to others and crew members. The ship is still outdated in some areas...however, the Amazing, enthusiastic crew made upfor any of the other failings... Leo, Igor, Charlton & Dining Room Team are all a Class Act! The food! The Cuisine was Incredible...I did not have one bad meal the entire river adventure... Edwin in the Tastes & Trident Grill area always, always had a beautiful smile and extremely polite! Erica & Okan (hope I am not butchering his name) & Kaustius Awesome Service! Truly, for just over 3 weeks, we found the Captain’s Mid-day History lessons very enlightening; as well as all the Keynote Speakers; Jean-Michel Cousteau, Dr. Jay Wulff, and others extremely knowledgeable in their respective fields of interest... Our stateroom was on the Penthouse House Deck 11...walk in closet finished in gorgeous walnut stain...the modern decor refreshing color palette of creams, grays & plum... Our State Room Butler Engin was superlative! So elegant and professional... We really enjoyed Tilmar (Head Sommelier) in the Vintage Room...very passionate & a delight Needs some tweaking in the Emarkation & Disembarkation for a more organized and smooth transition...this is after all a leader in the luxury industry... So, over all; we enjoyed our river adventure so much, I am booking the upcoming “World Cruise 2018” from LA to Rome... Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2016
We have cruised with Seabourn many times, but have sometimes been disappointed at the limited opportunities to ballroom dance. Crystal has much more dancing so we decided to try a short cruise. In general, we found the level of service ... Read More
We have cruised with Seabourn many times, but have sometimes been disappointed at the limited opportunities to ballroom dance. Crystal has much more dancing so we decided to try a short cruise. In general, we found the level of service from servers and cabin crew to be comparable to Seabourn's. Facilities were also comparable. However,the increased size of the ship (Seabourn has less than 500 passengers and Crystal has over 1000) may have been partly responsible for a major difference which was the interaction between upper level personnel and guests. On Seabourn, every staff member seems to have the mission of providing every guest he encounters with an additional reason to be enjoying the cruise. Whether it's just a warm hello or an intervention to solve a problem, on Seabourn, every staff member, from the cabin stewardess to the captain, is "dialed into" the guest's pleasure. Not so on Crystal. The officers and administrative staff appear are likely to pass a passenger without even giving eye contact. It was obvious to both my husband and me that staff regularly turned away, rather than acknowledge either of us. Another difference was the issue of gratuities. Although we do give gratuities on Seabourn, most passengers do not and staff do not expect it. On Crystal, gratuities are very much expected and food servers, in particular, go out of their way to form a relationship with you which tightens as the cruise is ending. The gratuity was almost expected. Without question, a Crystal cruise is far better than most of the other cruise lines offer. But Seabourn is even better. In our opinion, anyone who has cruised Seabourn would find Crystal lacking. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2016
My wife and I took this cruise (Ft. Laudedale to New Orleans via several Caribbean islands) through a university alumni association group offer. We thought the cruise would be a great opportunity to experience the company before taking ... Read More
My wife and I took this cruise (Ft. Laudedale to New Orleans via several Caribbean islands) through a university alumni association group offer. We thought the cruise would be a great opportunity to experience the company before taking another planned cruise from Mauritius to Cape Town next year on Crystal's sister ship, Symphony. While I had been on one brief cruise (Princess), my wife had never experienced the process, and she immediately appreciated the convenience and luxury of the experience. The "all exclusive" marketing message lived up to reality -- excellent food in the dining room, plus four free meals in speciality restaurants, and several room service meals. We asked for some wine with our dinner in the room once. The steward brought a full bottle unopened -- without the hint of a bar tab. I enjoyed the ship's library (some truly good and recent books) and its full fitness centre, not fully used -- in part because the cruise demographic is old, very old. (Symbolically, perhaps, as we joined the early deborders to catch our flight, paramedics were boarding with a stretcher, presumably for a passenger who could not make it out on two legs.) We had read less-than-enthusiastic reviews about the excursions, and so only took one, on Bonnaire. It was fine but not great. So we visited the towns and in one case, rented a car for a bit of island exploration. The free shuttles to town helped keep costs down. Since everything is included, and shuttle/tender service were frequent, there was a temptation not to eat anything on shore and instead head back to the boat for more of its excellent food. I found the staff were truly attentive and competent; and they seemed to be enjoying their work. The cabin was spacious, well-maintained and the two-sink bathroom certainly helped. As we enjoyed the cruise, I checked the price on the cruise I had booked for Dec. 2017, thinking we might extend it. I noticed the price currently was lower than we had committed to pay (though the deposit is fully refundable until 3 months before the cruise.) I questioned the ship's sales consultant and she said I would need to check with the travel agent, which I did, using some of my free internet time. Then I discovered more strange things. There was a special offer on for higher categories in the planned cruise, but for some reason the listed rates were LOWER than we had agreed to pay for our mid-range cabin. These included $999 business class airfare (not insignificant when you are flying to places like Mauritius and Cape Town from North America) and additional savings -- plus a fare base 25 per cent lower than we had confirmed. More emails to the travel agent -- and within hours Crystal confirmed we would indeed be getting much more for much less. This money-savings experience brightened my mood as the ship headed up the Mississippi River to New Orleans on the final day -- a truly amazing experience and certainly a great place to end a cruise. Two days home, and we are already looking forward with anticipation to our next Crystal adventure Read Less
22 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
HIGH EXPECTATIONS MET AGAIN It was going to be my 70th birthday as Crystal Serenity cruised up the Mississippi River to New Orleans. That seemed like the perfect combination, and it didn’t disappoint. We have taken 30 cruises, 12 on ... Read More
HIGH EXPECTATIONS MET AGAIN It was going to be my 70th birthday as Crystal Serenity cruised up the Mississippi River to New Orleans. That seemed like the perfect combination, and it didn’t disappoint. We have taken 30 cruises, 12 on Celebrity, and the rest on eight other lines (two defunct). This was our third Crystal cruise, second on Serenity. From embarkation to the minute we stepped off the ship, things ran so smoothly. Every place I looked, there was plenty of crew and staff, all cordial, all expert at their jobs. The crew and staff are appropriately professional and just friendly enough, as well as extremely well trained. It’s a well-oiled machine, almost always. I’m talking about the servers in all the dining venues, the staff at the computer lounge (no doubt answering the same questions, over and over and over again), the stewardess, the tender operators. Everybody! We usually eat breakfast and lunch at the Lido, and the variety is huge. Just as an example, there are at least four kinds of yogurt every morning, sometimes five or six. There are two hot cereals, a bouquet of cold in those little boxes, and then muesli and a few granola types. You like walnuts or pecans in your cereal, or dried fruit? Sure, there it is. Cut up fresh fruit continued to be available and delicious the entire 14 days. The gentlemen who make the eggs definitely know their job. My friend loves to have miso soup for breakfast. There it is, at its own station with all kinds of other things. Even the toast guy has his job mastered perfectly. That’s also true of the guys at Trident Grill, which really is a wonderful lunch option. Burgers, hot dogs, salmon burger, chicken burger, wrap of the day and soup! Oh, speaking of soup. In the Lido, there are always two kinds and served with the soup in the pot and the additions, separate, added per your request. The mushroom barley soup had the barley to be added separately, beautiful and tasty mushrooms to be added separately, and chopped chives. The albondigas soup had the little meatballs to be added separately and I can’t remember what else – perhaps cilantro? The matza ball soup had the broth separately, with the matza balls, the noodles and the shredded chicken all to be added separately. And that’s just the soup! So many other choices: always something being carved, always an Asian choice, always several other choices, always a sandwich of the day. On the cold bar, that’s where you’ll find herring (sometimes two kinds) and rare roast beef and all sorts of other goodies. And fruit, and cheese, and a big salad bar. Seriously, there really is pretty much everything. Oh, dessert? Sure, and again many choices plus many are mini desserts, to make it even easier. Dinners in the Crystal Dining Room were equally as pleasing. There are plenty of choices. Most nights there were two appetizers/soups/salads we wanted. One night our table mate had three! as well as her main entrée! I had the trifle dessert almost every night and they never disappointed. The Prego Italian specialty restaurant was better than last time (this time service was better and food was better) and the Silk Road Japanese specialty restaurant was definitely outstanding. Those are more intimate venues and specialized menus; every guest can have two complimentary specialty dinners/week. Unfortunately, you’ll always be missing a lovely menu in the Crystal Dining Room, to enjoy the specialties. From 9 am to midnight, there’s a snack buffet at the Bistro, where you can also get coffee drinks, and many tea options, plus wine. Cheese, fruit, deli items, desserts, and they’re all there in a lovely location with large windows to watch the waves or check out where you’re docked or anchored. Every day there’s afternoon tea, in Palm Court, which is high up and far forward, again with great windows to see what’s going on outside. There are a few telescopes, in case something interesting appears and you’d like a closer look. Ice cream is available until 6 pm (and then you can have ice cream for dessert at dinner, as well). It’s Ben & Jerry’s, hand dipped, about eight different flavors. Toppings, cookies, have a blast. You’re on vacation! Cabins are totally adequate and quite lovely. The bathrooms all have bathtubs and two sinks, with a good thing to hold onto, for stepping in and out. I know handicapped cabins exist, but I can’t report on them. Actually, there’s also something called a Pure cabin, for people who have allergies, I think. Basic veranda cabins are just like the picture window ones, but with a veranda, and then there are more expensive categories with much more space. On one of the at-sea days, there was one of each category open for inspection. The higher categories have walk-in closets. A few little touches that are really nice are the Port/Starboard annotations outside the elevators, so it’s easy to go in the right direction; the guest laundries, complimentary, with ironing boards for guest use; plus a lovely library, staffed for many hours every day and the place to pick up the daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, trivia questions and other puzzle choices, in addition to the tickets to a really enjoyable magic show for small groups of guests. Get your tickets early so you won’t be shut out! Entertainment (Galaxy Lounge) is almost always very enjoyable, and there’s a nice variety. Two different singers were extremely well received, and the production numbers are high energy and beautifully done. We had a famous organist, Hector Olivera, with his very special organ that stays on Serenity all year round for his performances. On our 14-day cruise, he performed on two different evenings (two shows per evening), with two completely different shows. Besides the main show, there’s often an additional show at 10:30, in a different venue (Stardust). A few times it was by the production team, and a few by guest entertainers. One guest entertainer needed to be rescued by Cruise Director, Gary Hunter, the ultimate professional host (and a great comedian and ventriloquist). Around the ship, there’s music for your listening pleasure and also for dancing. Palm Court, Crystal Cove and Avenue Saloon generally are all available – at the same time! – with popular tunes, classical music and show music. Crystal offers Dance Ambassadors to dance with the single guests, as well as a dance team to give complimentary dance lessons (no partner required). You want music before dinner? Sure. After dinner? Absolutely. Plenty of choices and all beautifully done. There are even three different times to see a movie in the Hollywood Theatre (or a sporting event on t.v. – or even election results, if the timing is right for you). In addition to the food, service and entertainment, how would you like to enjoy some enrichment on board? You can go to classes on computer skills (we learned about photo-shop, about Windows 10, about using Word, and about Excel), learn to knit, learn to play bridge (or play better), play in a sanctioned bridge game, take pilates or stretching or a cycle class. You can learn how to make iMovies. And the enrichment speakers just might boggle your mind. We enjoyed learning about the history of ocean liners from Bill Miller; we know perhaps more than we’d like, about terrorism, from Prof. Louis Rene Beres; and we were delighted by a trip down memory lane with two of the writers from Cheers, complete with clips of some of their favorite/best shows. I would go to all four of Cheri Steinkellner’s lectures, all over again. Actually, the same is true of Bill Miller and Prof. Beres, as well. If there’s a conflict, and you’d like to be taking dance lessons or out on deck 13 watching the Mississippi Delta or Puget Sound glide by, watch the lecture later on your t.v. Heck, if you don’t feel like getting dressed, watch the lecture, live, on your t.v.! Does Crystal try to cater to your every need, or what? Anyway, that’s my impression. Just for good measure, throw in the fact that embarkation was a cinch and debarkation was equally as smooth. Everything was amazingly on time, from the start of boarding, to all the shows on board, to arrival at various ports, to the time we got off the ship on the final day. It was a great cruise and I recommend Crystal to anybody who loves a refined experience full of food and fun. When you look at fares, remember that alcoholic beverages as well as specialty coffees, bottled water and canned soft drinks, plus gratuities to crew, are included. The level of the experience and the inclusions allow me to say this is a cruise vacation that is good value for my money. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
I have cruised on Crystal Serenity a few times before, when boarding as a repeat guest thoughts flash through the mind, will it be as good as before, have there been any cutbacks and will I recognise any of the staff who have previously ... Read More
I have cruised on Crystal Serenity a few times before, when boarding as a repeat guest thoughts flash through the mind, will it be as good as before, have there been any cutbacks and will I recognise any of the staff who have previously looked after me so professionally and attentively on previous cruises. The cruise line has undergone a change in ownership about two years ago and we all know that change is not always for the best in the Cruise Industry.  Did I need to worry? I will answer that question at the end of this review.  Fort Lauderdale was the embarkation port; Crystal have recently used Port of Miami almost exclusively when sailing from Florida some future sailings are also scheduled to go out of Fort Lauderdale. It was good to have the opportunity to stay in Fort Lauderdale for a couple of nights’ pre-cruise. It was a change from being in Miami despite being busy in early November due to the Boat Show, hotel prices hiked for that event, I spent a very enjoyable time exploring the area both on foot and by the inexpensive tourist tram. The usual tourist water taxi route was cancelled in order to ferry people to the Boat Show venues.  Embarkation from the Port Everglades went very smoothly and boarding started shortly before the usual 12:00pm.  Crystal always put on a very enjoyable relaxing embarkation day lunch in The Main Dining Room, Champagne flowed freely and the wait staff performed their usual professional and friendly service, at this stage a contented feeling overtook me, Wow, I'm home on a Crystal Ship and I'm here for the next fourteen days, how perfect can that be?  In this review, I am not going to mention any of the ports we visited in The Caribbean, tendering was needed for a number of the smaller islands, the tendering operation was always smooth, no need to collect tender tickets, it was open tendering from the start and the boats were not packed with people. When docked, Crystal provided shuttle buses without charge if the dock was a small distance from the main town.  I requested a table for eight late sitting at 8:30pm which was confirmed by a notification in my stateroom. Crystal is perhaps the only luxury line to operate two sitting dining, I prefer this arrangement as it gives the opportunity to bond with other guests on the table as well as the wait staff, Crystal also operate a dining by reservation system for those who wish to vary their dining time, reservations are made pre-cruise or on board with the maître di, an area of the dining room is set aside for these guests. Crystal have recently announced plans to go to full Open Dining in the near future which fits in with the industry standard on other luxury cruise lines, however my personal opinion is the present system helps to promote a friendly atmosphere, often Crystal guests who meet at a table become lifelong friends and often take future cruises together. It will be interesting to learn how Crystal will set about making the changes necessary to accommodate full open dining and whether it will change the general comradery around the ships. One also has to bear in mind that the timing of the evening entertainment may make certain specific times popular to enter the dining room.  Speciality dining in Prego for Italian and Silk Road for Nobu inspired Asian were both superb, Tastes on the Lido deck offers an evening menu of interesting Tapas style dishes, reservations are needed for each of these dining venues.  Crystal excels in providing enrichment talks and classes, sea days provide a host of things to do ranging from Berlitz language classes, current affair talks and instruction in various aspects of up to date computing. It is truly amazing on a smallish ship for around 1040 guests how many experts are brought on-board to impart their respective knowledge and experiences, I am sure every person will be able to find something to interest them and allow them to leave the ship with an added skill or a topic gleaned from a speaker which promoted further personal research.  Crystal have always been happy to accommodate Cruise Critic meet and mingle get togethers, on this particular cruise on embarkation day we were very fortunate and surprised to be given invitations to meet Andy Geller the new Crystal Media Ambassador and CEO Edie Rodriguez as well as a number of other Crystal executives. Edie outlined future company plans and then held an informal Q&A session. The meeting was a most interesting and an unexpected way to start a cruise for CC members who signed up for the meet & mingle.  As well as the enrichment program evening entertainment was plentiful and varied, on some evenings there were two different entertainment shows, one at 7:45 for both sittings and a different show or guest artist repeated twice one for early sitting and one for those eating late. The two main bars had pianists and often they were replaced with a jazz band or classical quartet or pop duo. There was certainly plenty of variation, it was very often difficult to fit everything in. I think this great variety is possible to the ship being larger than other luxury cruise ships with more guests on board, Crystal entertainment department seem to work hard to cater for all tastes in entertainment, there is a lot of activity around the ship in the evening especially in the bars, I have been on other upscale ships where most of the guests are tucked up in bed by 11:00pm!  Coming back to my original question, have there been changes or cutbacks? The answer in my mind is a distinct no, food and service was well up to expectation included wines and drinks were generously dispensed and of high quality, the ship was in immaculate condition, and as previously stated enrichment and entertainment could not have been any better. Were there any staff I knew and who recognised me? Definitely yes, from the great lido staff who seem to have been on the ship forever, one of the marvellous bartenders who even remembered my drink preference from a previous cruise and several officers, continuity is one of the great things on their ships.  Crystal are a class outfit but slip ups do happen, before boarding I booked a tour in New Orleans using their planning website, without sending me an email or other notification the tour was cancelled due to a timing issue, I only found out about this change by checking the tour page of the pre-booking website.reat; I look forward to sailing with them again in the not too distant future. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2005
Third Crystal cruise, first on the Serenity, 34th cruise overall. I will not go over the stops and excursions because you can find this information on most reviews, and this is Caribbean and Mexico stops which means beach. The ports were ... Read More
Third Crystal cruise, first on the Serenity, 34th cruise overall. I will not go over the stops and excursions because you can find this information on most reviews, and this is Caribbean and Mexico stops which means beach. The ports were Key West, Aruba, Puntaneras, Huatulco, Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas. Pros: Service - 611 passengers, 640 crew 'nuff said. No bingo, Dance Hosts, Lecturers, Dance Instructor -Natalia Lind, Internet in-room - expensive, I paid $420 for the cruise. Shows - full production, although not as well done as the mega-ships. Berlitz language course - just sign up and learn. Yamaha music course - same full gym and spa - included in price. Tea time! Bridge. lounge No kids!!!! Ok, a few.. No drunk teens. Clean, one more time clean. Activities aplenty - just too many. Bistro Cafe - coffee from whole bean All soft drinks, Perrier Water, bottled water included in price. Sushi bar has toro! Ultra expensive underbelly of tuna. Silk road and Prego restaurants - just pay tip. Cons: Ran out of blueberries. Ran out of Cherry Ice Cream. Ran out of mangos. Too much service - like being asked if I wanted another ice tea when I had a full glass in front of me. Sticking food in my face constantly. Having to say thank you over 100 times a day. Tipping too many individuals for outstanding service. You can see that I thought this ship outstanding. Yes, in almost every way. I booked two more on the ship. If you want the absolute best then you can't go wrong here. Oh yes, Ziplining - awesome!!! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2005
EASTERN CARIBBEAN CRUISE CRYSTAL SERENITY NOVEMBER 26  DECEMBER 6 , 2005 My name is Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. I am a retired city attorney and Edith is a homemaker and retired health services provider. We live in ... Read More
EASTERN CARIBBEAN CRUISE CRYSTAL SERENITY NOVEMBER 26  DECEMBER 6 , 2005 My name is Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. I am a retired city attorney and Edith is a homemaker and retired health services provider. We live in Phoenix, Arizona and this would be our 17th cruise. Our first cruise in 1999 was on Carnivals Elation down the Mexican Riviera. This was followed by an 11 day Caribbean trip on the now defunct Commodore Lines Enchanted Isle. Then came our first Celebrity on Galaxy, a 7 day Caribbean jaunt followed by the marvelous cruise on Celebritys Mercury from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires. We made an Alaska cruise/tour on Sun Princess in May 2002, and our only NCL to date on Norwegian Sun to the Caribbean again. In November 2002 we did a Panama Canal transit on Celebritys Infinity, followed by a summer trip in 2003 to the Mediterranean on that lines Millennium. In August we did a another cruise/tour with Princess, spending 6 days in Europe and then sailing on Regal Princess for its Baltic tour. We returned to the Infinity in November for a Hawaiian cruise. In March 2004 we did our first HAL cruise in the Caribbean on Veendam, and later sailed on Galaxy once more, this time across the Atlantic. We then did another Caribbean on HALs Zaandam and a second Mexican Riviera on Diamond Princess. We enjoyed a unique cruise on Oceanias Insignia down the Amazon River in March 2005. In May we took a 6 day West Coast repositioning cruise on Radiance of the Seas, our first Royal Caribbean trip. WHY THIS CRUISE? This was a ten day cruise with 3 sea days and stops at Key West, Grand Turk, St. Barts, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Nassau, Bahamas. We wanted to sail on Crystal to see if it lived up to its reputation for spoiling its passengers. We also had, despite our 5 prior Caribbean cruises, visited only one of the ports, St. Thomas, on this itinerary, and though a few of them might be interesting. We were correct in both of our estimates. PLANNING THE CRUISE - INSURANCE This cruise did not involve a huge planning effort. Crystal informs everyone fairly early on concerning its cruise dress code, so we knew there were three formal, two informal and five casual nights. We deviated from our usual habit of booking land excursions on our own through the internet in advance. The most unique excursion was the St. Maarten 12 metre Americas Cup yacht race; and we were told by the company that it only accepted bookings through cruise lines. The snorkel offering on Grand Turk by Crystal seemed better than wandering around looking for a snorkel tour on my own, and the same seemed true for our St. John Eco Hike during the St. Thomas stop. Crystals prices for all these tours was very reasonable, and their handling excellent. So the only real concern was making sure we were under the 50 pound per bag air carrier limit, and we are getting well experienced at that. While we do not always buy insurance, we did purchase a policy with fairly low limits. There was not much chance of Crystal canceling or going bankrupt (it is a small division of the largest shipping line in the world), so the main reason is to provide for emergency medical care, including airlifting if necessary. You get the same amount of medical insurance no matter what the dollar amount you list; at least with Travelguard, the company we chose. DEPARTURE We always try to fly to the East Coast the day before sailing, just in case; and this was especially true since we were leaving the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale at about 5:00 on Friday and went to the Best Western Oceanside Inn. It probably rates two and a half stars, but was convenient, and did provide a fairly solid breakfast for its $125.00 rate. The city still shows signs of damage from Wilma. The hotel was filled with people sailing on various cruises, and we went out to dinner with a pleasant California couple sailing on Princess the next day. There were 5 other ships docked in Port Everglades the next day. They included Crystal Symphony, Zuiderdam, Enchantment of the Seas. Carnival Liberty and the Princess vessel whose name I did not see. Our shuttle arrived at the pier at about 1:00. We went quickly through security to a second floor waiting area where a Crystal worker gave us a card with a number. There were perhaps 175-200 people waiting as no one had boarded yet. We were not initially told we had to check in then, but when the first 20 staterooms were called to board we realized we had to go to the check in counter. There were a number of stations and it only took about 5 minutes. Our number was called in about another 10 minutes or so, and we were on board after a short wait in line at 1:35. Crystal did not swipe our credit card at the check-in. We were told to go to Guest Relations any time after we boarded to accomplish this. Our room cards were good for all charges immediately upon boarding. We expected to be led to our cabin, but instead were escorted to the main dining room for lunch. We like to be seated with other people so we joined a young couple from Wisconsin who told us that this was their first cruise! Talk about starting at the top! The menu was somewhat limited in options, but certainly sufficient. Since I prefer light lunches I settled for an appetizer, soup and dessert. The meal and service were excellent. OUR STATEROOM Our stateroom was 8106, a standard B class verandah cabin. The A class cabins were on Deck 9. It is 269 square feet including a verandah, so it was a decent size, although a little cramped at the closet area with its sliding doors opening out into the cabin next to the bed. The wood trim and cabinetry was medium dark stained to resemble mahogany. The walls were cream colored and with a pleasant smooth textured surface. A two seat, fully upholstered love seat faced the desk, cabinet, and television unit, which had an upholstered arm chair. The refrigerator contained complimentary bottled water and soft drinks. The TV set had a VCR unit combined. There was a mirror, almost full length, on the wall opposite the space between the bed and the closet. This mirror had a small ledge about a foot from the floor, and there was a night light shining down from beneath this ledge which was controlled by a switch on the bedside table. Edith thought this was a really nice touch. There was the usual framed print above the bed and two more on the wall opposite the bed. The door to the verandah had both a light gauzy curtain and heavy drapes. The verandah furniture consisted of two plastic, but solid, and adjustable chairs with padded seats which were removed every night by the room steward and brought inside. There was a small square white plastic table also. The deck was teak. The verandah dividers did not go up to the ceiling, but left about a two foot gap. However the verandah light was at floor level so your neighbors light did not shine into your verandah as on some other ships. In front of the couch was a small table. One of the room literature items said it was adjustable, and when I pressed a lever on the shaft, it came up about twelve inches. I never found out how to lower it (you have to lean on it heavily) until the last day, but we thought the raised height was more convenient anyway. The closet had some drawers and a shelf. It also was stocked with a long handled shoe horn, shoe bags, laundry bags and a clothes brush. It had well made, nice wooden hangers, but not quite enough of them since I hang up all my shirts, including short sleeve sport shirts. We obtained extra hangars very quickly in response to our call. The bathroom was very attractive for a standard cabin, all in marble and tile with a nice marble double sink, a small, but serviceable tub shower, and a full supply of Aveda toiletries. Both thick bath towels and long bath sheets were provided. There was a shelf above the sink which was very useful in holding things, and with side cabinets and cabinets beneath the sink, more than enough room. Both a built in bathroom hair drier and plug in hand held hair drier were supplied. All the fixtures were top notch and the toilet was the quietest we had ever experienced. There was only one electric outlet in the bathroom, and that was part of the hair drier set-up; not the most convenient arrangement. The thermostat was clear in its directions and actually changed temperature. A thermos ice bucket was provided along with minimal stationary and pen. Wine and beer glasses were also provided, and fortunately we had brought our own wine bottle opener for Ediths bottle of wine. There was no clock provided other than on the phone, and we had, for the first time, forgotten to bring our little travel clock and alarm. The bed was made up into a king size format. Two pillows each were provided, along with a note that there were five different types of pillows available. The bed covering was a very nice duvet. All in all the sleeping arrangements were fine and the room very nicely done and a pleasant place for living. As usual, the ships architects had done their excellent job of providing more than enough closet and drawer space in a limited area. Shortly after we arrived we met Milica from Slovakia, our cabin stewardess. She had just joined the ship that day on her second Crystal contract. We chatted a little about Serenitys 108 day world cruise from Los Angeles across the Pacific to Africa, the Suez and finally Rome commencing in January. She said she had been told that about 35% of the cabins had been sold for the entire trip. Three of our four pieces of luggage were in the cabin when we first arrived after lunch and the fourth showed up in a couple of hours, so unpacking and storing everything went smoothly. THE SHIP As usual, at least when time has allowed it, we went exploring as soon as possible. Serenity is a good sized vessel, 68,000 gross tons, making it only slightly smaller than Mercury & Galaxy, almost the exact size of Elation and larger than either Veendam or Zaandam. But its total capacity is only 1080 passengers, so there is a space ratio of almost 63; a huge amount of room for each passenger. Since Crystal distributes a list of passengers showing names, U.S. state, Canadian province or country; and the total I counted was 821 people, we really had a lot of room on board. Proceeding from top to bottom and fore to aft, the layout is as follows. The Sun Deck, 13, is open forward which really gives you a great view and a strong breeze. Proceeding aft along a walkway above and past the open pool area you come to the paddle tennis courts, which actually did some business. The aft section housed the well stocked gym, aerobics studio, fitness center, spa and salon. Deck 12 forward contains the Palm Court and Sunset Bar with excellent views. There is a decent size dance floor and dance stand also. This area was used daily for tea and also for the Captains Receptions as well as other activities. Ediths yoga classes were conducted on the dance floor for example. Aft of this were a couple of small rooms, Fantasia for children and Waves for teenagers with the obligatory video games. Since there were only a few children, mostly of pre-school age, and no teenagers that we saw; these rooms did not get much action. Midships held the open air pool with its deck chairs and two hot tubs. The deck chairs were plastic with rubber strapping and fairly thick and comfortable pads. There was never any crowding at any time that I saw. Aft of the pool there were two small food stands, one on each side. One was Scoops, the ice cream bar, which served all its offerings without charge. The other side was the Trident Bar and Grill, which was a hamburger/hot dog type facility. Aft of these was the Neptune Pool area which had a sliding glass roof that was never opened. This is a very small pool, and while it also had nice rattan seats and couches, I never saw anyone in the Neptune pool. Aft of this was the Lido Buffet area. At the entrance to this area on the starboard side is another grill called Tastes. The Lido buffet has two serving lines port and starboard and a further service area connecting them aft. It also has another serving station off to one side for pasta at lunch and omelets at breakfast. There is a small open deck area for eating aft of the main Lido seating area. Decks 11, 10, 9 and 8 are all passenger cabin decks; except for the bridge and officers quarters forward on Deck 11. Each of these decks has corridors which open at the aft end to small covered seating areas. These are out of the wind and have nice views and deck chairs. They can also be reached by stairs up and down from decks 12 to 6. Decks 8 and 9 also allow access to a forward viewing area. Deck 7 is the Promenade deck which has a true teak promenade around the entire vessel. It is a wide walkway with no deck chairs intruding, and it seemed to get a lot of use from dedicated deck walkers and participants in the Walk on Water WALKVEST® program. Deck 7 has cabins without verandahs of course, since they face out to the Promenade, from forward to midships. Aft of that there are two special venues, the Computer University at Sea, followed by a large bridge or card room and a small studio room on the starboard side, and the Yamaha electronic piano studio, followed by the Library and the Vintage room and Century Suite portside. The Vintage room is set up as a private dining room with wine serving facilities. If you wish, and care to spend about $1400.00, you can order a multi-course multiple vintage dinner for yourself and fourteen friends. I did not see it in use. The other rooms were small meeting rooms. Aft of these rooms were the specialty restaurants, The Japanese Silk Road with its Sushi Bar on one side and the Italian Prego Restaurant on the other. Deck 6 was the main activity area. The show venue, the Galaxy Lounge is forward. This is a one story theater seating about 500, although it was never full because each show went on twice each night, once for regular and once for late seating diners. Aft of this is Caesars Palace at Sea, the casino. This is a relatively small venue with about 100+ slot machines, one roulette table, one craps table and five blackjack, baccarat or poker tables. Proceeding towards the rear there is a small art gallery. And then one arrives at the shop next to the atrium. There is one jewelry store, Facets, one small general supply store, Captains Choice, and Apropos, a fairly good sized clothing store. Across from the clothing store is the Bistro, my favorite spot on board. Here, between 10:00 and 6:00 one can be served coffee, cappuccino, latte, tea, snacks and pastries, sitting in comfortable chairs, looking out to sea, all at no charge. Aft of this is the movie theater, holding about 250 people. It was used extensively for lectures as well as a good run of movies. Then came the photo shop and photo gallery down the starboard side, and past that is the night life area. This has four separate venues. First there is the Connoisseur Club, a small place with a tiny bar and a few sofas and deep leather chairs, all quite dark, with brass lamps and dark wood, supposedly to be used as a mens cigar hideaway. Aft of this is the Avenue Saloon, which also runs to dark wood and brass fixtures, with a larger bar and a piano. This had a pianist playing every evening, and I greatly enjoyed him the one time I attended. Opposite this is the Pulse Lounge with a small dance floor and a disco set-up, also used every night. Behind both of them are the main lounge, the Stardust Club with small tables, and a dance floor with its band stand. The dance floor area was quite small, and two of our dinner table companion couples complained that tables and ramps leading on to the floor made dancing difficult. The aft deck of Deck 6 held the golf nets (2), a small putting green and table tennis facilities. Deck 5 had cabins forward, which I found out were occupied either by officers, or entertainers/lecturers. This area also housed the Medical Center. Midships was the lower level of the Crystal Atrium, containing the Reception Desk and Excursion Desk. There also was an area for the future cruise consultant, the Crystal Society concierge and a pleasant bar, called the Crystal Cove with a piano and its own musician, Joe Fos. Aft of this area is the Crystal Dining Room, the main dining room. The gangway opened off Deck 5, but access to the tenders was on Deck 4. There are three elevator bank/ stairwell bay areas, which make getting around the ship relatively convenient. The forward and midships banks have three elevators and the aft area two. The general dEcor is minimalist and decorative rather than heavily artistic in the vein of the HAL or Celebrity ships. Everything physical about the ship is beautifully finished and very attractive however, and the art works displayed are nicely done and appropriate. The furniture is first class. The tables and chairs in the buffet area are good wood for the tables with full arms on the chairs and comfortable seats. The library was very attractive, had a good selection of books and music with disc players. It also had Jackie Sanchez, the only full time librarian other than Erin on Celebrity that we have ever seen. She was very pleasant and helpful. The Galaxy showroom had a nice mixture of armchairs and small sofas, and every seat had a good sight line. The theater seats were also comfortable. Serenity is as elegant as Insignia, but more spacious, and very easy to navigate, although it is not a small ship. In my review of Insignia I said; It is . . . as pleasant a venue for 14 days as can be imagined. This is equally true of Serenity. PASSENGER SERVICES Flatly and simply, Crystal is ahead of everyone else in this facet, and it is hard to imagine how any cruise line could surpass it. They truly put the passengers care, comfort and convenience ahead of everything. From the ease of booking excursions on line, to the confirmation of every detail, to the truly pleasant attitude of every crew member, dealing with this company is a pleasure. The only problem we ever had was occasional difficulty of reaching the wake-up call service. The excursion service was great. When, as the result of a change of anchorage for our tender service at Grand Turk, we had a minor change in the snorkel sites, the excursion desk called to apologize, and gave us a half off rebate. When the winds at St. Maartens were light for the 12 metre Americas Cup Regatta, they called prior to departure to tell us and offer a full refund it we wanted to cancel. The excursion director was always available at the disembarkation point, and every excursion was accompanied by a crew member to make sure things went right. This member filled out a report on each excursion. Typical crew members assigned were the Guest Hosts, Casino staff etc. The front desk answered all questions with a smile and greeting. The balance of the crew always was pleasant and friendly. When I went to make reservations for the specialty restaurants, the maitred could not have been nicer, even though the night I first requested was sold out. We had the New York Times newsletter, about six or eight page 8x11 document, delivered to our cabin every day. Reflections, the regular information flyer, had very complete information, and good information columns without much advertising. When we left the dining room on the last day, we were presented with a folder that contained all the dinner menus for the cruise! I mentioned the booklet that had the passengers names, but it also contained the names of the crew members who were either senior officers, entertainers, lecturers and teachers/trainers or people who had frequent passenger contact. Port information was complete and accurate. In short, Crystal does everything right, and with the right attitude. To be fair, I did not use any e-mail; and there were some remarks that it was highly priced; but by comparison, the shore excursions were reasonably priced. FOOD AND FOOD SERVICE The food and service in all areas ranged from excellent to superb. Our dining room waitress was Julia from Heidelberg, assisted by Zoltan from Hungary. He was pleased when I said I could always remember his name because of Zoltan Kodaly, a great Hungarian 20th century composer. At our initial seating on embarkation day we were joined by Jill and Tony from Nottingham, England, JoEllen and Ken from a Maryland suburb of Washington and Steve and Linda from Naples, Florida. Steve and Linda found friends from another cruise, so we were six for the rest of the cruise. The table next to us had five, so our wait staff had only eleven people to serve. Other tables seemed to be arranged so that the maximum number of people for service team was no more than 14, and usually less. This created a quiet, well paced and attentive milieu for each meal; a definite improvement over most lines. To give Celebrity credit, they also manage the number of patrons to be served by each team so that there is the same pleasant atmosphere. In addition to our two servers our assistant maitred was always around to assist when needed, and the wine steward was attentive. I like non-alcoholic wine and beer. Crystals policy is that all non-alcoholic drinks are free. So the wine steward faithfully inquired whether I wanted a glass of white or red Ariel at every meal. The standard dinner menu had four appetizers, three to five soup and salad offerings, a pasta dish, a salad entrEe, a main entrEe with four choices, including at least one fish and usually one fowl choice, the option to order a steak or salmon dish at every meal, and a range of vegetables. The dessert menu offered six choices normally, with at least one sugar free, an ice cream, frozen yogurt or sherbet selection, a cheese trolley, and coffee, latte, espresso, cappuccino and tea. A vegetarian offering was also available. The main selections had no duplication during the cruise, and a good deal of imagination. I heard no complaints from anyone, and did not expect any based on my own observation. The seafood, including oysters, lobster and crab, was very fresh; the meat moist and tender, the vegetables nicely done, and the sauces excellent without being overbearing. The portions were small, as they should be with so much food being offered. The pastries, both at dinner and everywhere else, were the best I have ever had on board ship, or indeed almost any other place except Vienna. This was not surprising since the head baker was Austrian, and no one does pastry better than the Austrians and Germans. The table settings were particularly nice, with a selection of Villeroy and Boch charger plates. Our dining table was towards the aft end of the room, thus out of the way and fairly quiet, so we had no way to judge the complaints contained in some books that the main dining room is noisy. We ate at each specialty restaurant once. Our first such experience was at the Silk Road, with the Japanese menu created by Nobu Matsuhisa. I had a single spring roll, a clear mushroom soup served in a small iron Japanese tea pot, lobster and crème brulee. The roll and soup were delicious, but hardly preparation for the fantastic lobster. I am not given to hyperbole, but this was a unique and true gourmet experience. Of equal merit were the three small crème brulees, one ginger, one mango and one passion fruit. Altogether, this was one of the finest meals I have ever had. Our experience at Prego was also of an excellent, if relatively standard, Italian meal. Both restaurants have a suggested $6.00 per person gratuity charge, and the service at both was excellent, personable and friendly. We also enjoyed the Lido Buffet for both breakfast and lunch. We were adopted by Jun Sai, a waiter for breakfasts; and he carried our trays, brought coffee, and made sure we had refills. The buffet setup was for trays with plates, and the cutlery was provided with the trays. There were no crowds except at the specialty lunches, of which there were three on the sea days. One was oriental, one Nuevo Latino Buffet which included South American as well as Mexican food; and one described as the Grand Gala buffet, which ran to a lot of good seafood. The first two were set up around the pool, but the Grand Gala Buffet was served in the Crystal Atrium on deck 5. This is a pleasant venue, but with fewer seats, requiring some people to carry their trays to the main Dining Room. The other daily lunch buffets had a very good selection, although I typically eat only a small portion of a main entrEe, always of course saving room for dessert. Edith could find good salads and vegetables all the time. We ate once at the Sushi Bar, after a show, but were not able to persuade our smiling sushi makers that we only wanted one or two pieces, not the many delicious and fresh items they gave to us. Instead of a snack, it became a late meal which sat a little heavily as we went to bed. We noticed at every buffet that the maitreds from the two specialty restaurants were supervising this operation and were very quick to step in to help and make sure everything was running smoothly. We went to the afternoon tea on many occasions with the usual problem of fending off the diligent white gloved servers who were determined to stuff us two hours before dinner. As I noted, the pastries were excellent, and we were able to get very good tea. Like the tea time on Insignia, this break in the day is very relaxing and civilized; and we quite understand the British love of tea time. On one occasion the servers were dressed in 18th century attire for a Mozart tea. We also noted that the waiters assisting at the specialty buffet lunches all had attire appropriate to that lunch. These little touches mark Crystals efforts to provide a special experience. Although Celebrity on our six cruises, and Oceania on our sole cruise to date with them, both do a very fine job with food and service, Crystal is the best in this important area of cruising that we have ever experienced. SHORE EXCURSIONS Crystal provided fairly detailed information on both its website and via a cruise specific booklet sent out after we made our final payment. I had contacted the company that runs the 12 metre Americas Cup Regatta Race on St. Maarten directly and had been advised that they book only through cruise lines. The other excursions we booked were a snorkel one in Grand Turk for me (Edith does not snorkel) and an eco hike for both of us on St. John at our St. Thomas stop. All three were reasonably priced, and as noted above, very well run by Crystal. There were four boats in the race excursion, which had two races of two boats each. Out boat had ten of us from Serenity, including the crew member who was a Casino employee. We had one ringer from a Princess. We won our race. The eco hike had about fourteen of us and our snorkel trip about the same number, so we were never crowded or rushed. I should note that at every port there was at least one other cruise ship present from the Radisson Seven Seas Voyager at Key West, to a Sea Dream Yacht at St. Barts to the 3500+ passenger Mariner of the Seas in St. Maarten. On Key West we simply strolled around town. It is a place to see once. The Truman Southern White House and Hemingway House, which is set in a small, but attractive park setting, are both worth a visit, but we will not rush to return. Edith walked around Grand Turk in the morning, and I did also in the afternoon after my snorkel tour. It is not an impressive place. Unless you are heavily into scuba or snorkel diving, there is no reason to go there. It was the butt of several well appreciated jokes by the comedian. St. Barts is definitely French. Not only is that the language, with the Euro as the currency, but most of the locals we saw were European French. We rented a car for the reasonable rate of ¬45 plus ¬5 for gas. It was a small, but nice Japanese car with an automatic transmission and air conditioning if we needed it. We obtained a good map of this small island and by the time we returned, had seen most of it. It is hilly, but attractive, with a lot of upscale housing and very little that was not at least middle range in pricing and appearance. We stopped at a small hotel called Le Toiny, which, in a typical Caribbean construction, had an open entrance with a restaurant behind it looking out over a pool to the sea beyond; in this case, down a hill. The art instructor from the ship was there also, and we joined him in the office to one side, There a very attractive young French Girl told us in response to my question of how many rooms were in the hotel that there were no rooms, only 15 suites, each with its individual pool. She handed us a brochure. This is a Relais & Chateaux establishment; which means ultra-ultra luxury, priced to match. The small Villa Suites ran from ¬775 per day in the off season from late April to October 31; ¬800 in the Inter Season; November to mid December; ¬1550 in the high season from January to April, and ¬1700 in the Festive Season, from December 20 to January 4. For the larger 2 or 3 bedroom suites, the same seasonal rates were ¬1450, ¬1450; ¬2600 and ¬3000. For those rates you also got breakfast in addition to your room, and transportation from the airport. But she was a charming young lady and it was a striking and beautiful place. She also recommended a local beach for swimming, which I took advantage of. St Barts is quite small as I noted, but very nice; a place you might want to visit for a few days  with a large suitcase filled with money. Actually, we had a lunch at a truly local restaurant which provided quite nice traditional provincial French food for a reasonable price. We had been to St. Thomas twice before, on Galaxy and Zaandam, both cruises being reviewed on this (www.cruisereviews.com) site. We opted for the St. John Eco-Tour, which consisted of a half-hour ferry ride from Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas to Cruz Bay on St. John, a hike up and over a hill down into Caneel Bay. Here we went swimming on Honeymoon Beach, which has extremely fine white sand. This is just around a bend from the hotel at Caneel Bay, and we walked out through its grounds to a taxi. The hotel occupies about 120 acres carved out by Laurance Rockefeller from his original 5000 acre gift to the National Park Service in 1956. More land was donated later so that now over 2/3 of the island is National Park land. We had a local guide who was fairly well informed about local flora (there is not much by way of fauna). We had a good deal of rain upon arrival in Cruz Bay and everyone took advantage of the visitor centers rain ponchos for sale. Despite the weather, it was a very pleasant and relatively easy hike and good swim. I even persuaded Edith to go in the water, and she liked it. Our final stop was Nassau, Bahamas. Here we went out on our own, first stopping to buy an emerald pendant and then walking about a mile and a half out of town to a combination zoo and botanical garden called Ardestra Gardens. Here the feature was a group of very pink flamingos who had been taught to march on command, turn, stop and start again. This was quite a sight. In addition to this there were about forty or fifty bird and animal exhibits, including a marvelous family of father, mother and two small serval cubs along with a jaguar and caracal. This was a nice break and a pleasant venue. Nassau itself was crowded with three other large and one small cruise ships at dock. ENTERTAINMENT The Cruise Director was Rick Spath from the United States. I told him I appreciated the fact that he did not attempt to be a comedian or entertainer, and he said he was pleased to hear my reaction. He was present at all of the main shows of course, but also at many of the other events during the day. He made a point of saying that he could be contacted after each show for suggestions on how to improve things, and some people took him up on it, with varying degrees of success of course. He was generally quite visible around the ship, and in short, was the best, hardest working and most effective cruise director we have seen. The formal evening entertainment laid huge emphasis on the singer/dancer shows. There were five of these on a ten night cruise; not counting the sailing night abbreviated show but including the final night variety show which was a combination including some of the earlier acts. Apart from these shows there was one night with a singer, one with the comedian and one with a harpist. This meant that there was a lot of singing and dancing. As in many of these cruise shows, the ensemble consists of four men and four women who are primarily dancers, and a lead male and lead female vocalist who do some simple dance routines. This group was among the more highly talented we have seen, and the costumes were amazing. The Galaxy Lounge is nowhere nearly as high tech or versatile as the theaters on larger ships, but this does not detract from the enjoyment of talented young people. Edith actually enjoyed the comedian; Mike Goddard. His humor depends on his acting as much as the actual verbal content, and he is a talented actor. In the final show he played a maid with a strong Norwegian accent  obviously a take off of our Captain Edvardsen with his strong accent, and this really had everyone rolling in the aisles. The singer was British, with a stage background, but we did not enjoy her as much as we had appreciated Lindsey Hamilton, also a British stage performer, on Mercury. We felt that this lady, Petrina Johnson, was a little too loud and strident for our best enjoyment. Edith loves harp music, but the harpist played with an electronically amplified instrument that sounded far too metallic and harsh for our taste. There also was a dance duo that was quite good. A classical pianist performed once, but it was between our dinner and our normal show, so we never did get to hear him. I believe he should have been presented at a time (or at times) when everyone would have had a chance to enjoy this music. The entertainment also included the ships orchestra, which backed up all the Galaxy Lounge performers, providing live music instead of the prerecorded variety now common for some of the stage presentations in larger showrooms on board the mega-ships. The crystal sextet played mostly dance music, either in the Stardust Lounge on Deck 6 or the Palm Court on Deck 12. The Wind and Strings trio, which was composed of violin, guitar and flute, played mostly in the Crystal Cove and also wandered around playing requests at dinner in the main dining room. A pianist named Joe Fos played mostly in the Crystal Cove while Daniel Davies did the same in the Avenue Saloon. Both were excellent and very knowledgeable. However, on one occasion when we wanted to sit and listen to Joe Fos after a show, he was interrupted by a passenger who proceeded to have a lengthy private conversation with him, stopping him from playing, and depriving us of our entertainment. A better plan would have been for Joe to gently remind this person that he was there to play for all passengers. Movies were shown in the theater every day, and the movies available on closed circuit TV were both very extensive and varied. A TV program for each day was provided. On a typical day there were four movie channels with four movies each. The channels were: Movie Laughs & Romance; Action Drama and Suspense; Silver Screen Classics and The Destination Channel. For example, one days offering on the Silver Screen channel gave you: A Man For All Seasons; Singin in the Rain; Gone With The Wind and Sunset Boulevard. On the same day the Destination Channel showed Captain Corellis Mandolin; The Italian Job; Man of La Mancha and Notting Hill. This is quite a line-up as anyone would agree. In addition we could see the Discovery Channel, and depending on the ships location, up to 4 news channels. The usual, but more than ordinarily thorough port and ship information channels also were available. GUEST EDUCATION AND RECREATION EVENTS I have made this a separate section because the offerings in this area were so extensive, particularly on the 3 sea days. This was labeled as a Fitness cruise. Every day there was at least one fitness walk in a Walk on Water WALKVESt® program with an instructor trained in that program; one or two fitness classes and perhaps a yoga class. Edith attended each yoga session, which was run by a husband and wife team who own a yoga studio, and do this for a living. This was obviously much better that the typical cruise yoga session run by one of the gym instructors. The Computer University at Sea had three separate sessions, repeated during the cruise. I took the one on getting your digital photos edited and transmitted. I discussed the Yamaha electronic keyboard studio in my description of the ship. Edith attended one or two of the classes offered and had a fine time. She also attended an art class with prizes. There was an arts and crafts class and I attended three golf instruction sessions offered by Bruce Murray, a Canadian Golf Professional with a Masters Professional status awarded by the PGA in 1981. This was typical of the caliber of people hired by Crystal. Spanish lessons were also offered, along with bridge instruction by a couple, both of whom are Silver Life Masters with the American Contract Bridge League. The credentials of the other instructors are equally impressive. There was no charge for any of these activities. Crystal also has a Cleveland Clinic Health Talk program as part of its overall Life Style offerings, and on this cruise it featured a MD Dermatologist. The Enrichment series of educational talks was so extensive and varied that I can only give a short overview. The cruise had members of PBS people known as the PTV at Sea group, including many business analyst types such as the Chief Investment Strategist at Standard and Poor; the founder and CEO of Riley Asset Management and Paul Kangas, co-anchor of the PBS Nightly Business Report. There were many other presenters, and one could not possibly attend them all. Edith enjoyed a doctor speaking mainly on nutrition and diet, and I enjoyed a talk given by Aimee Mullins. This very beautiful young lady lost both her legs to amputation below the knee at 8 months of age. Despite this, while attending Georgetown University (my alma mater also) she competed in and won several NCAA Division 1 track events, including world records in the long jump, 100 and 200 meter dashes. She since has gone on to a modeling career. Perhaps typical of her marvelous attitude was her closing remark after mentioning that she has several different prosthetic legs for different purposes. I can be any height I want to. I also greatly enjoyed a joint presentation on politics for the 2006 and 2008 given by Charlie Cook, a widely known political writer and TV analyst, and Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of Washington Week on PBS, and a regular senior correspondent and moderation on The NewsHour with Jim Leher. We had enjoyed the Enrichment offerings on Celebrity on sea days and the lectures on Oceania; but the Crystal programs go way beyond those. There was no excuse for anyone to have had a moments boredom on this cruise. THE CRYSTAL CREW AND OUR FELLOW PASSENGERS The sailors, meaning the Bridge and Engine Room officers were mostly Norwegian with a sprinkling of Japanese. The hotel and food service managers were either German or Austrian, with a supporting cast from other European countries as well. The staff in the main dining room was European, and they also served tea each day in the Palm Court. The buffet staff was largely Filipino. The room stewards seemed to mostly female and from Europe. Their hallmark and motto was Service  service and better service. While most cruise lines make extended efforts in providing good service, and many succeed at a fairly high level; we have experienced nothing as good as Crystal. We do not make special requests of the dining room staff, but some did at an adjoining table, and their requests were apparently cheerfully supplied. The front desk was always a pleasure to deal with on the few occasions I went there. I have mentioned the excursion staffs dedication. The Captain and senior officers were often seen around the boat. The entertainers and lecturers were also visible and willing to chat with passengers. Every request of our room stewardess was promptly met if we dialed her number, she was paged, and replied in every case in a minute or two. In short, we were thoroughly spoiled. Our fellow passengers were also a pleasure. Our dinner companions were extremely nice, and we had a very pleasant and at times hilarious level of conversation. Most on board were American, with 27 British couples according to Tony and Jill, the usual sprinkling of Canadians, a group of 30 from Bermuda, a few Europeans and a number of Japanese from Japan, Hawaii and California. CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS Just in case you missed the message; we loved this ship, its on board offerings and the cruise company. We enjoyed the places we visited, but after all, the Caribbean is still the Caribbean with a lovely climate, good swimming, shopping if you want it, but not the most exotic or exiting spot in the world the sixth or seventh time around. On the level of professionalism, customer attention, service, attitude and the overall product supplied to its passengers including the ships appearance, ambience and convenience, Crystal Serenity was the finest we have ever experienced. There have been some entertainment on Celebrity we thought was better, and some cozy aspects of Insignia that delighted us just as much in a slightly different way; but the total value of what Serenity provided was the highest. Of course you pay for this, even though this was a Value cruise at a rate approximately 55% of the normal fare. This was still almost twice the cost of a comparable Celebrity cruise. Whether or not this high level of service is worth either the discounted or the full price, I leave to each individual, but we certainly felt we got our moneys worth. Would we sail again on Serenity? In a heartbeat  if the price was right and the itinerary appealing. Unfortunately it is not possible to get discount prices on Crystals more exotic itineraries, as I expect that they will book them fully. But if Serenity sails again at a time and place convenient and desirable, we would sure love to be her pampered guests again. Bon Voyage! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2005
Crystal Cruises Crystal Serenity Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Phil Haggerty Age: 73 Occupation: Retired Number of Cruises: 17 Sailing Date: November 26th, 2005 My name is Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. I am a retired city ... Read More
Crystal Cruises Crystal Serenity Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Phil Haggerty Age: 73 Occupation: Retired Number of Cruises: 17 Sailing Date: November 26th, 2005 My name is Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. I am a retired city attorney and Edith is a homemaker and retired health services provider. We live in Phoenix, Arizona and this would be our 17th cruise. Our first cruise in 1999 was on Carnivals Elation down the Mexican Riviera. This was followed by an 11-day Caribbean trip on the now defunct Commodore Lines Enchanted Isle. Then came our first Celebrity on Galaxy, a 7 day Caribbean jaunt followed by the marvelous cruise on Celebritys Mercury from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires. We made an Alaska cruise/tour on Sun Princess in May 2002, and our only NCL to date on Norwegian Sun to the Caribbean again. In November 2002 we did a Panama Canal transit on Celebritys Infinity, followed by a summer trip in 2003 to the Mediterranean on that lines Millennium. In August we did a another cruise/tour with Princess, spending 6 days in Europe and then sailing on Regal Princess for its Baltic tour. We returned to the Infinity in November for a Hawaiian cruise. In March 2004 we did our first HAL cruise in the Caribbean on Veendam, and later sailed on Galaxy once more, this time across the Atlantic. We then did another Caribbean on HALs Zaandam and a second Mexican Riviera on Diamond Princess. We enjoyed a unique cruise on Oceanias Insignia down the Amazon River in March 2005. In May we took a 6 day West Coast repositioning cruise on Radiance of the Seas, our first Royal Caribbean trip. WHY THIS CRUISE? This was a ten day cruise with 3 sea days and stops at Key West, Grand Turk, St. Barts, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Nassau, Bahamas. We wanted to sail on Crystal to see if it lived up to its reputation for spoiling its passengers. We also had, despite our 5 prior Caribbean cruises, visited only one of the ports, St. Thomas, on this itinerary, and though a few of them might be interesting. We were correct in both of our estimates. PLANNING THE CRUISE - INSURANCE This cruise did not involve a huge planning effort. Crystal informs everyone fairly early on concerning its cruise dress code, so we knew there were three formal, two informal and five casual nights. We deviated from our usual habit of booking land excursions on our own through the internet in advance. The most unique excursion was the St. Maarten 12 metre Americas Cup yacht race; and we were told by the company that it only accepted bookings through cruise lines. The snorkel offering on Grand Turk by Crystal seemed better than wandering around looking for a snorkel tour on my own, and the same seemed true for our St. John Eco Hike during the St. Thomas stop. Crystals prices for all these tours was very reasonable, and their handling excellent. So the only real concern was making sure we were under the 50 pound per bag air carrier limit, and we are getting well experienced at that. While we do not always buy insurance, we did purchase a policy with fairly low limits. There was not much chance of Crystal canceling or going bankrupt (it is a small division of the largest shipping line in the world), so the main reason is to provide for emergency medical care, including airlifting if necessary. You get the same amount of medical insurance no matter what the dollar amount you list; at least with Travelguard, the company we chose. DEPARTURE We always try to fly to the East Coast the day before sailing, just in case; and this was especially true since we were leaving the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale at about 5:00 on Friday and went to the Best Western Oceanside Inn. It probably rates two and a half stars, but was convenient, and did provide a fairly solid breakfast for its $125.00 rate. The city still shows signs of damage from Wilma. The hotel was filled with people sailing on various cruises, and we went out to dinner with a pleasant California couple sailing on Princess the next day. There were 5 other ships docked in Port Everglades the next day. They included Crystal Symphony, Zuiderdam, Enchantment of the Seas. Carnival Liberty and the Princess vessel whose name I did not see. Our shuttle arrived at the pier at about 1:00. We went quickly through security to a second floor waiting area where a Crystal worker gave us a card with a number. There were perhaps 175-200 people waiting as no one had boarded yet. We were not initially told we had to check in then, but when the first 20 staterooms were called to board we realized we had to go to the check in counter. There were a number of stations and it only took about 5 minutes. Our number was called in about another 10 minutes or so, and we were on board after a short wait in line at 1:35. Crystal did not swipe our credit card at the check-in. We were told to go to Guest Relations any time after we boarded to accomplish this. Our room cards were good for all charges immediately upon boarding. We expected to be led to our cabin, but instead were escorted to the main dining room for lunch. We like to be seated with other people so we joined a young couple from Wisconsin who told us that this was their first cruise! Talk about starting at the top! The menu was somewhat limited in options, but certainly sufficient. Since I prefer light lunches I settled for an appetizer, soup and dessert. The meal and service were excellent. OUR STATEROOM Our stateroom was 8106, a standard B class verandah cabin. The A class cabins were on Deck 9. It is 269 square feet including a verandah, so it was a decent size, although a little cramped at the closet area with its sliding doors opening out into the cabin next to the bed. The wood trim and cabinetry was medium dark stained to resemble mahogany. The walls were cream colored and with a pleasant smooth textured surface. A two seat, fully upholstered love seat faced the desk, cabinet, and television unit, which had an upholstered arm chair. The refrigerator contained complimentary bottled water and soft drinks. The TV set had a VCR unit combined. There was a mirror, almost full length, on the wall opposite the space between the bed and the closet. This mirror had a small ledge about a foot from the floor, and there was a night light shining down from beneath this ledge which was controlled by a switch on the bedside table. Edith though this was a really nice touch. There was the usual framed print above the bed and two more on the wall opposite the bed. The door to the verandah had both a light gauzy curtain and heavy drapes. The verandah furniture consisted of two plastic, but solid, and adjustable chairs with padded seats which were removed every night by the room steward and brought inside. There was a small square white plastic table also. The deck was teak. The verandah dividers did not go up to the ceiling, but left about a two foot gap. However the verandah light was at floor level so your neighbors light did not shine into your verandah as on some other ships. In front of the couch was a small table. One of the room literature items said it was adjustable, and when I pressed a lever on the shaft, it came up about twelve inches. I never found out how to lower it (you have to lean on it heavily) until the last day, but we thought the raised height was more convenient anyway. The closet had some drawers and a shelf. It also was stocked with a long handled shoe horn, shoe bags, laundry bags and a clothes brush. It had well made, nice wooden hangers, but not quite enough of them since I hang up all my shirts, including short sleeve sport shirts. We obtained extra hangars very quickly in response to our call. The bathroom was very attractive for a standard cabin, all in marble and tile, with a nice marble double sink, a small, but serviceable tub shower, and a full supply of Aveda toiletries. Both thick bath towels and long bath sheets were provided. There was a shelf above the sink which was very useful in holding things, and with side cabinets and cabinets beneath the sink, more than enough room. Both a built in bathroom hair drier and plug in hand held hair drier were supplied. All the fixtures were top notch and the toilet was the quietest we had ever experienced. There was only one electric outlet in the bathroom, and that was part of the hair drier set-up; not the most convenient arrangement. The thermostat was clear in its directions and actually changed temperature. A thermos ice bucket was provided along with minimal stationary and pen. Wine and beer glasses were also provided, and fortunately we had brought our own wine bottle opener for Ediths bottle of wine. There was no clock provided other than on the phone, and we had, for the first time, forgotten to bring our little travel clock and alarm. The bed was made up into a king size format. Two pillows each were provided, along with a note that there were five different types of pillows available. The bed covering was a very nice duvet. All in all the sleeping arrangements were fine and the room very nicely done and a pleasant place for living. As usual, the ships architects had done their excellent job of providing more than enough closet and drawer space in a limited area. Shortly after we arrived we met Milica from Slovakia, our cabin stewardess. She had just joined the ship that day on her second Crystal contract. We chatted a little about Serenitys 108 day world cruise from Los Angeles across the Pacific to Africa, the Suez and finally Rome commencing in January. She said she had been told that about 35% of the cabins had been sold for the entire trip. Three of our four pieces of luggage were in the cabin when we first arrived after lunch and the fourth showed up in a couple of hours, so unpacking and storing everything went smoothly. THE SHIP As usual, at least when time has allowed it, we went exploring as soon as possible. Serenity is a good sized vessel, 68,000 gross tons, making it only slightly smaller than Mercury & Galaxy, almost the exact size of Elation and larger than either Veendam or Zaandam. But its total capacity is only 1080 passengers, so there is a space ratio of almost 63; a huge amount of room for each passenger. Since Crystal distributes a list of passengers showing names, U.S. state, Canadian province or country; and the total I counted was 821 people, we really had a lot of room on board. Proceeding from top to bottom and fore to aft, the layout is as follows. The Sun Deck, 13, is open forward which really gives you a great view and a strong breeze. Proceeding aft along a walkway above and past the open pool area you come to the paddle tennis courts, which actually did some business. The aft section housed the well stocked gym, aerobics studio, fitness center, spa and salon. Deck 12 forward contains the Palm Court and Sunset Bar with excellent views. There is a decent size dance floor and dance stand also. This area was used daily for tea and also for the Captains Receptions as well as other activities. Ediths yoga classes were conducted on the dance floor for example. Aft of this were a couple of small rooms, Fantasia for children and Waves for teen-agers with the obligatory video games. Since there were only a few children, mostly of pre-school age, and no teenagers that we saw; these rooms did not get much action. Midships held the open air pool with its deck chairs and two hot tubs. The deck chairs were plastic with rubber strapping and fairly thick and comfortable pads. There was never any crowding at any time that I saw. Aft of the pool there were two small food stands, one on each side. One was Scoops, the ice cream bar, which served all its offerings without charge. The other side was the Trident Bar and Grill, which was a hamburger/hot dog type facility. Aft of these was the Neptune Pool area which had a sliding glass roof that was never opened. This is a very small pool, and while it also had nice rattan seats and couches, I never saw anyone in the Neptune pool. Aft of this was the Lido Buffet area. At the entrance to this area on the starboard side is another grill called Tastes. The Lido buffet has two serving lines port and starboard and a further service area connecting them aft. It also has another serving station off to one side for pasta at lunch and omelets at breakfast. There is a small open deck area for eating aft of the main Lido seating area. Decks 11,10,9 and 8 are all passenger cabin decks; except for the bridge and officers quarters forward on Deck 11. Each of these decks has corridors which open at the aft end to small covered seating areas. These are out of the wind and have nice views and deck chairs. They can also be reached by stairs up and down from decks 12 to 6. Decks 8 and 9 also allow access to a forward viewing area. Deck 7 is the Promenade deck which has a true teak promenade around the entire vessel. It is a wide walkway with no deck chairs intruding, and it seemed to get a lot of use from dedicated deck walkers and participants in the Walk on Water WALKVEST® program. Deck 7 has cabins without verandahs of course, since they face out to the promenade, from forward to midships. Aft of that there are two special venues, the Computer University at Sea, followed by a large bridge or card room and a small studio room on the starboard side, and the Yamaha electronic piano studio, followed by the Library and the Vintage room and Century Suite portside. The Vintage room is set up as a private dining room with wine serving facilities. If you wish, and care to spend about $1400.00, you can order a multi-course multiple vintage dinner for yourself and fourteen friends. I did not see it in use. The other rooms were small meeting rooms. Aft of these rooms were the specialty restaurants, The Japanese Silk Road with its Sushi Bar on one side and the Italian Prego Restaurant on the other. Deck 6 was the main activity area. The show venue, the Galaxy Lounge is forward. This is a one story theater seating about 500, although it was never full because each show went on twice each night, once for regular and once for late seating diners. Aft of this is Caesars Palace at Sea, the casino. This is a relatively small venue with about 100+ slot machines, one roulette table, one craps table and five blackjack, baccarat or poker tables. Proceeding towards the rear there is a small art gallery. And then one arrives at the shop next to the atrium. There is one jewelry store, Facets, one small general supply store, Captains Choice, and Apropos, a fairly good sized clothing store. Across from the clothing store is the Bistro, my favorite spot on board. Here, between 10:00 and 6:00 one can be served coffee, cappuccino, latte, tea, snacks and pastries, sitting in comfortable chairs, looking out to sea, all at no charge. Aft of this is the movie theater, holding about 250 people. It was used extensively for lectures as well as a good run of movies. Then came the photo shop and photo gallery down the starboard side, and past that is the night life area. This has four separate venues. First there is the Connoisseur Club, a small place with a tiny bar and a few sofas and deep leather chairs, all quite dark, with brass lamps and dark wood, supposedly to be used as a mens cigar hideaway. Aft of this is the Avenue Saloon, which also runs to dark wood and brass fixtures, with a larger bar and a piano. This had a pianist playing every evening, and I greatly enjoyed him the one time I attended. Opposite this is the Pulse Lounge with a small dance floor and a disco set-up, also used every night. Behind both of them are the main lounge, the Stardust Club with small tables, and a dance floor with its band stand. The dance floor area was quite small, and two of our dinner table companion couples complained that tables and ramps leading on to the floor made dancing difficult. The aft deck of Deck 6 held the golf nets (2), a small putting green and table tennis facilities. Deck 5 had cabins forward, which I found out were occupied either by officers, or entertainers/lecturers. This area also housed the Medical Center. Midships was the lower level of the Crystal Atrium, containing the Reception Desk and Excursion Desk. There also was an area for the future cruise consultant, the Crystal Society concierge and a pleasant bar, called the Crystal Cove with a piano and its own musician, Joe Fos. Aft of this area is the Crystal Dining Room, the main dining room. The gangway opened off Deck 5, but access to the tenders was on Deck 4. There are three elevator bank/ stairwell bay areas, which make getting around the ship relatively convenient. The forward and midships banks have three elevators and the aft area two. The general dEcor is minimalist and decorative rather than heavily artistic in the vein of the HAL or Celebrity ships. Everything physical about the ship is beautifully finished and very attractive however, and the art works displayed are nicely done and appropriate. The furniture is first class. The tables and chairs in the buffet area are good wood for the tables with full arms on the chairs and comfortable seats. The library was very attractive, had a good selection of books and music with disc players. It also had Jackie Sanchez, the only full time librarian other than Erin on Celebrity that we have ever seen. She was very pleasant and helpful. The Galaxy showroom had a nice mixture of armchairs and small sofas, and every seat had a good sight line. The theater seats were also comfortable. Serenity is as elegant as Insignia, but more spacious, and very easy to navigate, although it is not a small ship. In my review of Insignia I said; It is . . . as pleasant a venue for 14 days as can be imagined. This is equally true of Serenity. PASSENGER SERVICES Flatly and simply, Crystal is ahead of everyone else in this facet, and it is hard to imagine how any cruise line could surpass it. They truly put the passengers care, comfort and convenience ahead of everything. From the ease of booking excursions on line, to the confirmation of every detail, to the truly pleasant attitude of every crew member, dealing with this company is a pleasure. The only problem we ever had was occasional difficulty of reaching the wake-up call service. The excursion service was great. When, as the result of a change of anchorage for our tender service at Grand Turk, we had a minor change in the snorkel sites, the excursion desk called to apologize, and gave us a half off rebate. When the winds at St. Maartenss were light for the 12 metre Americas Cup Regatta, they called prior to departure to tell us and offer a full refund it we wanted to cancel. The excursion director was always available at the disembarkation point, and every excursion was accompanied by a crew member to make sure things went right. This member filled out a report on each excursion. Typical crew members assigned were the Guest Hosts, Casino staff etc. The front desk answered all questions with a smile and greeting. The balance of the crew always was pleasant and friendly. When I went to make reservations for the specialty restaurants, the maitred could not have been nicer, even though the night I first requested was sold out. We had the New York Times newsletter, about six or eight page 8x11 document, delivered to our cabin every day. Reflections, the regular information flyer, had very complete information, and good information columns without much advertising. When we left the dining room on the last day, we were presented with a folder that contained all the dinner menus for the cruise! I mentioned the booklet that had the passengers names, but it also contained the names of the crew members who were either senior officers, entertainers, lecturers and teachers/trainers or people who had frequent passenger contact. Port information was complete and accurate. In short, Crystal does everything right, and with the right attitude. To be fair, I did not use any e-mail; and there were some remarks that it was highly priced; but by comparison, the shore excursions were reasonably priced. FOOD AND FOOD SERVICE The food and service in all areas ranged from excellent to superb. Our dining room waitress was Julia from Heidelberg, assisted by Zoltan from Hungary. He was pleased when I said I could always remember his name because of Zoltan Kodaly, a great Hungarian 20th century composer. At our initial seating on embarkation day we were joined by Jill and Tony from Nottingham, England, JoEllen and Ken from a Maryland suburb of Washington and Steve and Linda from Naples, Florida. Steve and Linda found friends from another cruise, so we were six for the rest of the cruise. The table next to us had five, so our wait staff had only eleven people to serve. Other tables seemed to be arranged so that the maximum number of people for service team was no more than 14, and usually less. This created a quiet, well paced and attentive milieu for each meal; a definite improvement over most lines. To give Celebrity credit, they also manage the number of patrons to be served by each team so that there is the same pleasant atmosphere. In addition to our two servers our assistant maitred was always around to assist when needed, and the wine steward was attentive. I like non-alcoholic wine and beer. Crystals policy is that all non-alcoholic drinks are free. So the wine steward faithfully inquired whether I wanted a glass of white or red Ariel at every meal. The standard dinner menu had four appetizers, three to five soup and salad offerings, a pasta dish, a salad entrEe, a main entrEe with four choices, including at least one fish and usually one fowl choice, the option to order a steak or salmon dish at every meal, and a range of vegetables. The dessert menu offered six choices normally, with at least one sugar free, an ice cream, frozen yogurt or sherbet selection, a cheese trolley, and coffee, latte, espresso, cappuccino and tea. A vegetarian offering was also available. The main selections had no duplication during the cruise, and a good deal of imagination. I heard no complaints from anyone, and did not expect any based on my own observation. The seafood, including oysters, lobster and crab, was very fresh; the meat moist and tender, the vegetables nicely done, and the sauces excellent without being overbearing. The portions were small, as they should be with so much food being offered. The pastries, both at dinner and everywhere else, were the best I have ever had on board ship, or indeed almost any other place except Vienna. This was not surprising since the head baker was Austrian, and no one does pastry better than the Austrians and Germans. The table settings were particularly nice, with a selection of Villeroy and Boch charger plates. Our dining table was towards the aft end of the room, thus out of the way and fairly quiet, so we had no way to judge the complaints contained in some books that the main dining room is noisy. We ate at each specialty restaurant once. Our first such experience was at the Silk Road, with the Japanese menu created by Nobu Matsuhisa. I had a single spring roll, a clear mushroom soup served in a small iron Japanese tea pot, lobster and crème brulee. The roll and soup were delicious, but hardly preparation for the fantastic lobster. I am not given to hyperbole, but this was a unique and true gourmet experience. Of equal merit were the three small crème brulees, one ginger, one mango and one passion fruit. Altogether, this was one of the finest meals I have ever had. Our experience at Prego was also of an excellent, if relatively standard, Italian meal. Both restaurants have a suggested $6.00 per person gratuity charge, and the service at both was excellent, personable and friendly. We also enjoyed the Lido Buffet for both breakfast and lunch. We were adopted by Jun Sai, a waiter for breakfasts; and he carried our trays, brought coffee, and made sure we had refills. The buffet setup was for trays with plates, and the cutlery was provided with the trays. There were no crowds except at the specialty lunches, of which there were three on the sea days. One was oriental, one Nuevo Latino Buffet which included South American as well as Mexican food; and one described as the Grand Gala buffet, which ran to a lot of good seafood. The first two were set up around the pool, but the Grand Gala Buffet was served in the Crystal Atrium on deck 5. This is a pleasant venue, but with fewer seats, requiring some people to carry their trays to the main Dining Room. The other daily lunch buffets had a very good selection, although I typically eat only a small portion of a main entrEe, always of course saving room for dessert. Edith could find good salads and vegetables all the time. We ate once at the Sushi Bar, after a show, but were not able to persuade our smiling sushi makers that we only wanted one or two pieces, not the many delicious and fresh items they gave to us. Instead of a snack, it became a late meal which sat a little heavily as we went to bed. We noticed at every buffet that the maitreds from the two specialty restaurants were supervising this operation and were very quick to step in to help and make sure everything was running smoothly. We went to the afternoon tea on many occasions with the usual problem of fending off the diligent white gloved servers who were determined to stuff us two hours before dinner. As I noted, the pastries were excellent, and we were able to get very good tea. Like the tea time on Insignia, this break in the day is very relaxing and civilized; and we quite understand the British love of tea time. On one occasion the servers were dressed in 18th century attire for a Mozart tea. We also noted that the waiters assisting at the specialty buffet lunches all had attire appropriate to that lunch. These little touches mark Crystals efforts to provide a special experience. Although Celebrity on our six cruises, and Oceania on our sole cruise to date with them, both do a very fine job with food and service, Crystal is the best in this important area of cruising that we have ever experienced. SHORE EXCURSIONS Crystal provided fairly detailed information on both its website and via a cruise specific booklet sent out after we made our final payment. I had contacted the company that runs the 12 metre Americas Cup Regatta Race on St. Maarten directly and had been advised that they book only through cruise lines. The other excursions we booked were a snorkel one in Grand Turk for me (Edith does not snorkel) and an eco hike for both of us on St. John at our St. Thomas stop. All three were reasonably priced, and as noted above, very well run by Crystal. There were four boats in the race excursion, which had two races of two boats each. Out boat had ten of us from Serenity, including the crew member who was a Casino employee. We had one ringer from a Princess. We won our race. The eco hike had about fourteen of us and our snorkel trip about the same number, so we were never crowded or rushed. I should note that at every port there was at least one other cruise ship present from the Radisson Seven Seas Voyager at Key West, to a Sea Dream Yacht at St. Barts to the 3500+ passenger Mariner of the Seas in St. Maarten. On Key West we simply strolled around town. It is a place to see once. The Truman Southern White House and Hemingway House, which is set in a small, but attractive park setting, are both worth a visit, but we will not rush to return. Edith walked around Grand Turk in the morning, and I did also in the afternoon after my snorkel tour. It is not an impressive place. Unless you are heavily into scuba or snorkel diving, there is no reason to go there. It was the butt of several well appreciated jokes by the comedian. St. Barts is definitely French. Not only is that the language, with the Euro as the currency, but most of the locals we saw were European French. We rented a car for the reasonable rate of ¬45 plus ¬5 for gas. It was a small, but nice Japanese car with an automatic transmission and air conditioning if we needed it. We obtained a good map of this small island and by the time we returned, had seen most of it. It is hilly, but attractive, with a lot of upscale housing and very little that was not at least middle range in pricing and appearance. We stopped at a small hotel called Le Toiny, which, in a typical Caribbean construction, had an open entrance with a restaurant behind it looking out over a pool to the sea beyond; in this case, down a hill. The art instructor from the ship was there also, and we joined him in the office to one side, There a very attractive young French Girl told us in response to my question of how many rooms were in the hotel that there were no rooms, only 15 suites, each with its individual pool. She handed us a brochure. This is a Relais & Chateaux establishment; which means ultra-ultra luxury, priced to match. The small Villa Suites ran from ¬775 per day in the off season from late April to October 31; ¬800 in the Inter Season; November to mid December; ¬1550 in the high season from January to April, and ¬1700 in the Festive Season, from December 20 to January 4. For the larger 2 or 3 bedroom suites, the same seasonal rates were ¬1450, ¬1450; ¬2600 and ¬3000. For those rates you also got breakfast in addition to your room, and transportation from the airport. But she was a charming young lady and it was a striking and beautiful place. She also recommended a local beach for swimming, which I took advantage of. St Barts is quite small as I noted, but very nice; a place you might want to visit for a few days  with a large suitcase filled with money. Actually, we had a lunch at a truly local restaurant which provided quite nice traditional provincial French food for a reasonable price. We had been to St. Thomas twice before, on Galaxy and Zaandam, both cruises being reviewed on this (www.cruisereviews.com) site. We opted for the St. John Eco-Tour, which consisted of a half-hour ferry ride from Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas to Cruz Bay on St. John, a hike up and over a hill down into Caneel Bay. Here we went swimming on Honeymoon Beach, which has extremely fine white sand. This is just around a bend from the hotel at Caneel Bay, and we walked out through its grounds to a taxi. The hotel occupies about 120 acres carved out by Laurance Rockefeller from his original 5000 acre gift to the National Park Service in 1956. More land was donated later so that now over 2/3 of the island is National Park land. We had a local guide who was fairly well informed about local flora (there is not much by way of fauna). We had a good deal of rain upon arrival in Cruz Bay and everyone took advantage of the visitor centers rain ponchos for sale. Despite the weather, it was a very pleasant and relatively easy hike and good swim. I even persuaded Edith to go in the water, and she liked it. Our final stop was Nassau, Bahamas. Here we went out on our own, first stopping to buy an emerald pendant and then walking about a mile and a half out of town to a combination zoo and botanical garden called Ardestra Gardens. Here the feature was a group of very pink flamingos who had been taught to march on command, turn, stop and start again. This was quite a sight. In addition to this there were about forty or fifty bird and animal exhibits, including a marvelous family of father, mother and two small serval cubs along with a jaguar and caracal. This was a nice break and a pleasant venue. Nassau itself was crowded with three other large and one small cruise ships at dock. ENTERTAINMENT The Cruise Director was Rick Spath from the United States. I told him I appreciated the fact that he did not attempt to be a comedian or entertainer, and he said he was pleased to hear my reaction. He was present at all of the main shows of course, but also at many of the other events during the day. He made a point of saying that he could be contacted after each show for suggestions on how to improve things, and some people took him up on it, with varying degrees of success of course. He was generally quite visible around the ship, and in short, was the best, hardest working and most effective cruise director we have seen. The formal evening entertainment laid huge emphasis on the singer/dancer shows. There were five of these on a ten night cruise; not counting the sailing night abbreviated show but including the final night variety show which was a combination including some of the earlier acts. Apart from these shows there was one night with a singer, one with the comedian and one with a harpist. This meant that there was a lot of singing and dancing. As in many of these cruise shows, the ensemble consists of four men and four women who are primarily dancers, and a lead male and lead female vocalist who do some simple dance routines. This group was among the more highly talented we have seen, and the costumes were amazing. The Galaxy Lounge is nowhere nearly as high tech or versatile as the theaters on larger ships, but this does not detract from the enjoyment of talented young people. Edith actually enjoyed the comedian; Mike Goddard. His humor depends on his acting as much as the actual verbal content, and he is a talented actor. In the final show he played a maid with a strong Norwegian accent  obviously a take off of our Captain Edvardsen with his strong accent, and this really had everyone rolling in the aisles. The singer was British, with a stage background, but we did not enjoy her as much as we had appreciated Lindsey Hamilton, also a British stage performer, on Mercury. We felt that this lady, Petrina Johnson, was a little too loud and strident for our best enjoyment. Edith loves harp music, but the harpist played with an electronically amplified instrument that sounded far too metallic and harsh for our taste. There also was a dance duo that was quite good. A classical pianist performed once, but it was between our dinner and our normal show, so we never did get to hear him. I believe he should have been presented at a time (or at times) when everyone would have had a chance to enjoy this music. The entertainment also included the ships orchestra, which backed up all the Galaxy Lounge performers, providing live music instead of the prerecorded variety now common for some of the stage presentations in larger showrooms on board the mega-ships. The crystal sextet played mostly dance music, either in the Stardust Lounge on Deck 6 or the Palm Court on Deck 12. The Wind and Strings trio, which was composed of violin, guitar and flute, played mostly in the Crystal Cove and also wandered around playing requests at dinner in the main dining room. A pianist named Joe Fos played mostly in the Crystal Cove while Daniel Davies did the same in the Avenue Saloon. Both were excellent and very knowledgeable. However, on one occasion when we wanted to sit and listen to Joe Fos after a show, he was interrupted by a passenger who proceeded to have a lengthy private conversation with him, stopping him from playing, and depriving us of our entertainment. A better plan would have been for Joe to gently remind this person that he was there to play for all passengers. Movies were shown in the theater every day, and the movies available on closed circuit TV were both very extensive and varied. A TV program for each day was provided. On a typical day there were four movie channels with four movies each. The channels were: Movie Laughs & Romance; Action Drama and Suspense; Silver Screen Classics and The Destination Channel. For example, one days offering on the Silver Screen channel gave you: A Man For All Seasons; Singin in the Rain; Gone With The Wind and Sunset Boulevard. On the same day the Destination Channel showed Captain Corellis Mandolin; The Italian Job; Man of La Mancha and Notting Hill. This is quite a line-up as anyone would agree. In addition we could see the Discovery Channel, and depending on the ships location, up to 4 news channels. The usual, but more than ordinarily thorough port and ship information channels also were available. GUEST EDUCATION AND RECREATION EVENTS I have made this a separate section because the offerings in this area were so extensive, particularly on the 3 sea days. This was labeled as a Fitness cruise. Every day there was at least one fitness walk in a Walk on Water WALKVESt® program with an instructor trained in that program; one or two fitness classes and perhaps a yoga class. Edith attended each yoga session, which was run by a husband and wife team who own a yoga studio, and do this for a living. This was obviously much better that the typical cruise yoga session run by one of the gym instructors. The Computer University at Sea had three separate sessions, repeated during the cruise. I took the one on getting your digital photos edited and transmitted. I discussed the Yamaha electronic keyboard studio in my description of the ship. Edith attended one or two of the classes offered and had a fine time. She also attended an art class with prizes. There was an arts and crafts class and I attended three golf instruction sessions offered by Bruce Murray, a Canadian Golf Professional with a Masters Professional status awarded by the PGA in 1981. This was typical of the caliber of people hired by Crystal. Spanish lessons were also offered, along with bridge instruction by a couple, both of whom are Silver Life Masters with the American Contract Bridge League. The credentials of the other instructors are equally impressive. There was no charge for any of these activities. Crystal also has a Cleveland Clinic Health Talk program as part of its overall Life Style offerings, and on this cruise it featured a MD Dermatologist. The Enrichment series of educational talks was so extensive and varied that I can only give a short overview. The cruise had members of PBS people known as the PTV at Sea group, including many business analyst types such as the Chief Investment Strategist at Standard and Poor; the founder and CEO of Riley Asset Management and Paul Kangas, co-anchor of the PBS Nightly Business Report. There were many other presenters, and one could not possibly attend them all. Edith enjoyed a doctor speaking mainly on nutrition and diet, and I enjoyed a talk given by Aimee Mullins. This very beautiful young lady lost both her legs to amputation below the knee at 8 months of age. Despite this, while attending Georgetown University (my alma mater also) she competed in and won several NCAA Division 1 track events, including world records in the long jump, 100 and 200 meter dashes. She since has gone on to a modeling career. Perhaps typical of her marvelous attitude was her closing remark after mentioning that she has several different prosthetic legs for different purposes. I can be any height I want to. I also greatly enjoyed a joint presentation on politics for the 2006 and 2008 given by Charlie Cook, a widely known political writer and TV analyst, and Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of Washington Week on PBS, and a regular senior correspondent and moderation on The NewsHour with Jim Leher. We had enjoyed the Enrichment offerings on Celebrity on sea days and the lectures on Oceania; but the Crystal programs go way beyond those. There was no excuse for anyone to have had a moments boredom on this cruise. THE CRYSTAL CREW AND OUR FELLOW PASSENGERS The sailors, meaning the Bridge and Engine Room officers were mostly Norwegian with a sprinkling of Japanese. The hotel and food service managers were either German or Austrian, with a supporting cast from other European countries as well. The staff in the main dining room was European, and they also served tea each day in the Palm Court. The buffet staff was largely Filipino. The room stewards seemed to mostly female and from Europe. Their hallmark and motto was Service  service and better service. While most cruise lines make extended efforts in providing good service, and many succeed at a fairly high level; we have experienced nothing as good as Crystal. We do not make special requests of the dining room staff, but some did at an adjoining table, and their requests were apparently cheerfully supplied. The front desk was always a pleasure to deal with on the few occasions I went there. I have mentioned the excursion staffs dedication. The Captain and senior officers were often seen around the boat. The entertainers and lecturers were also visible and willing to chat with passengers. Every request of our room stewardess was promptly met if we dialed her number, she was paged, and replied in every case in a minute or two. In short, we were thoroughly spoiled. Our fellow passengers were also a pleasure. Our dinner companions were extremely nice, and we had a very pleasant and at times hilarious level of conversation. Most on board were American, with 27 British couples according to Tony and Jill, the usual sprinkling of Canadians, a group of 30 from Bermuda, a few Europeans and a number of Japanese from Japan, Hawaii and California. CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS Just in case you missed the message; we loved this ship, its on board offerings and the cruise company. We enjoyed the places we visited, but after all, the Caribbean is still the Caribbean with a lovely climate, good swimming, shopping if you want it, but not the most exotic or exiting spot in the world the sixth or seventh time around. On the level of professionalism, customer attention, service, attitude and the overall product supplied to its passengers including the ships appearance, ambience and convenience, Crystal Serenity was the finest we have ever experienced. There have been some entertainment on Celebrity we thought was better, and some cozy aspects of Insignia that delighted us just as much in a slightly different way; but the total value of what Serenity provided was the highest. Of course you pay for this, even though this was a Value cruise at a rate approximately 55% of the normal fare. This was still almost twice the cost of a comparable Celebrity cruise. Whether or not this high level of service is worth either the discounted or the full price, I leave to each individual, but we certainly felt we got our moneys worth. Would we sail again on Serenity? In a heartbeat  if the price was right and the itinerary appealing. Unfortunately it is not possible to get discount prices on Crystals more exotic itineraries, as I expect that they will book them fully. But if Serenity sails again at a time and place convenient and desirable, we would sure love to be her pampered guests again. Bon Voyage! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
Here is Tim's review of the Crystal Symphony. 3-17-05 to 3-24-05 Since this my first cruise with Crystal (11th overall)I relied on alot of tips from Judith02 since the Crystal Symphony is her favorite ship. By the way, this was the ... Read More
Here is Tim's review of the Crystal Symphony. 3-17-05 to 3-24-05 Since this my first cruise with Crystal (11th overall)I relied on alot of tips from Judith02 since the Crystal Symphony is her favorite ship. By the way, this was the best cruise ever. We arrived at 1pm to board the ship and there were 3 people in the 5 lines to board the ship. The time it took to board the ship was 5 minutes. Since I have cruised on Celebrity, Princess and Carnival this indicated to me that Crystal would be different. On top of the easy check in they did not demand a draft of my credit card, in fact they stated to go to the Reception area at my convenience within the next four days. (This was weird because every other cruise company immediately takes a draft of your credit card) Upon boarding they took our picture and advised us that lunch was being served on the Lido Deck, they further offered to take our carry-on luggage and place it in our room so we could immediately explore the ship. (A very nice touch) Furthermore, one of the cruise staff gave us a guided tour of the ship. Judith stated to verify our table seating with Remi and of course we did get our table for two. (Yes) When I inquired if there is availability to move to a different table for two, he advised me that 60 people are on the waiting list for a table for two. So I was very pleased that my TA requested the table in advance. So far the service was amazing and the food was fantastic and this was only the first day. My companion Doug commented that even the Lido food was better than the main Dining rooms on Princess, to which I totally agreed with him. Food thought the ship was excellent. We did five of our breakfasts in the Dining Room. I always ordered the same thing, waffles with Strawberrys and whipped cream. The Strawberrys were always big and juicy and the whipped cream was freshly made. Even their Decaf coffee was good and strong, a usual complaint on cruises. Lunches were also mostly in the dining room, though we did have two occasions to eat at the Lido Deck Buffet. Nice Waffles (but not as good as the dining room) and an egg station. We never ate in the alternative restaurants because Doug is a real meat and potatoes kind of guy and did not find either Menu that interesting. I was happy with the dining room for dinner and when I ordered Filet Mignon that was not on the menu they made if for me cooked exactly the way I like it. The highlight of my cruise was having the Assistant waiter asking me what I wanted for my Birthday Meal. So I asked for Steak Diane, Mashed Potatoes and veggies. For dessert I asked for a Strawberry Shortcake (Cake). I figured they would have giving me a nice mini cake instead it was a full 9 inch cake. Made with a light yellow cake with vanilla cream another layer of cake, more vanilla cream and strawberry puree toped with more cake and a strawberry Glaze. The outside parts of the cake there was toasted and shredded coconut. It was absolutely Amazing. I shared it with our Waiter, assistant waiter, Remi and some new friends I made on the cruise. Itinerary: To me this really was not that important, im not a fan of Jamaica nor Grand Cayman but did enjoy Cozumel and Key West. For me a cruise is about the spa and total relaxation. And the spa treatments were great as was my haircut and facial. Typical Steiner prices but coming from the San Francisco Bay Area not to bad price wise. This ship was beautifully maintained and I had coffee with Rolf the Captain and Cato the Vice Captain twice in the Bistro. (Excellent Mochas and free too) They were so friendly and personable. We were joking and having a great time. This is also a new experience as every other cruise I have taken I saw the Captain only during the welcome and goodbye Galas. All of the employees were professional and nice. It was like seeing family on the ship. Always friendly. The Captain said they take very good care of their employees and it shows. The employees have a party every night and all of the wait staff I spoke too loves Crystal as they only have them work 10 hour days, unlike the 12 & 14 hour days the other cruise companies have them work. I enjoyed our stateroom, with two sinks in the bathroom and a tub. (That was a first for me) Our Stewardess made sure our mini fridge always had, Coke, Sprite and Bottled water per our request. She was sweet and unobtrusive. I also enjoyed the fact that any bar you went to you could always order complementary Sodas or water. The Ice Cream Bar serves Edys which is Dryers here in California and its free. They have really good Coffee Ice Cream shakes and Cookies. The bad stuff: The only down side to the cruise is that we couldn't continue with the 10 day cruise following this one. I really did not want to leave. Now I have been Crystallized, it would be extremely difficult to go back to Celebrity. (Since all drinks including water and sodas cost extra and the food really blew Celebrity away) Wow was this experience awesome and I cannot wait to take my next Crystal Cruise. I hope this review helped anyone out there considering a Crystal Cruise. Take Care, Tim Read Less
Already Booked?

Get to know who you’ll be sailing with

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise