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7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
Our third Crystal cruise did not disappoint. We went from Iceland to the fjord of Norway to Copenhagen, and I would highly recommend this route as it was spectacular in every way, and the Crystal Serenity was simply the best. Impeccable ... Read More
Our third Crystal cruise did not disappoint. We went from Iceland to the fjord of Norway to Copenhagen, and I would highly recommend this route as it was spectacular in every way, and the Crystal Serenity was simply the best. Impeccable service, cuisine, facilities, entertainment- there cannot be a better cruise line than this. I am a customer service expert, so I have high standards and Crystal surpassed every expectation. Every single item of cuisine at every single meal or snack was exceptional. They even had a wonderful variety of sugar-free and gluten-free treats which were most welcome for those of us with dietary restrictions. The staff handled all that with ease and a smile. Every single staff member from the gangplank to the crew to the waiters to the stewardesses were delightful and the best you will ever experience. Really marvelous service. The entertainment was way beyond what I was expecting, and there were informative lectures and movies, and so much more. They even had the astronaut who rescued the Hubble Space Telescope giving talks. Very impressive. They imported a number of special guests performers, and the in-house artists were all world class too. The excursions, while expensive, and extra, were ll top notch and absolutely beautiful. The fjords are astonishing and spectacular. The ship has been nicely refurbished and is spacious, bursting with every possible amenity, planet of space. There is so much to do, or not do, that every taste will be satisfied. The spa and fitness center were excellent and spacious. The cabin was ample and the double sink in its bathroom was a nice touch. the bathroom was sizable, and I could even stand up n the show and in 99% of the ship even though I am 6'-8"/203cm tall. We loved having a verandah and could have sat out there all day and never left and been very happy (thanks to the free and wonderful room service). Of course, there was some internet spottiness above the Arctic Circle and in the fjords, but it's still miraculous to even have internet on the high seas. It turned out to be a minor inconvenience, but was better than our last Crystal cruise on the Symphony, but that was before their remodel and internet upgrade. I would HIGHLY recommend Crystal Cruises for any route, and I would very much recommend Iceland and the Norwegian Fjords as destination- really exceptional and awesomely beautiful. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
This is our 4th Crystal cruise but first cruise post the 2018 changes made to the Serenity. The decor in the common areas and restaurants has been updated. We enjoyed the addition of the restaurants Silk and Chiaroscurra. The service ... Read More
This is our 4th Crystal cruise but first cruise post the 2018 changes made to the Serenity. The decor in the common areas and restaurants has been updated. We enjoyed the addition of the restaurants Silk and Chiaroscurra. The service in the Marketplace and Waterside remains good. We were always seated promptly at the Waterside. The food overall in the Waterside and the specialty restaurants was uniformly good. The entertainment was excellent and there was a good variety of entertainers with a combo of performers brought onto the ship and the on ship entertainment staff. The enrichment lecturers (3) were uniformly good speakers with interesting well organized presentations. We were traveling as a family and there were other multigenerational families on board. There was a smattering of younger couples. The ports were good although I do wish there was 2 days in Lisbon rather than 1. The Crystal excursions had excellent local tour guides and were well organized. We were on deck 8 midship with a verandah. The cabin is adequate in size with plenty of closet and draw space with a well appointed bathroom. The upgraded TV and entertainment system is an improvement. We enjoyed the cruise immensely and will travel on Crystal again. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We chose this cruise because we had not been on the Crystal for a few years and as it was a round trip return from and to Los Angeles it seemed to be very convenient. For years we have been trying to convince our friends to try the ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we had not been on the Crystal for a few years and as it was a round trip return from and to Los Angeles it seemed to be very convenient. For years we have been trying to convince our friends to try the Crystal and were finally able to get them to come with us only to find it was not as good as it used to be. The lunch buffet was so bad that we just gave up after a couple of days. We tried the dining room which turned out to be even worse The specialty restaurants were fabulous. The food, staff and atmosphere were exemplary. The ship did not appear to be as clean as it used to be. Our suite which had been refurbished seemed smaller due to the new configuration but the shower was incredibly worth the extra money.The toiletries were horrible, with artificial scent which I am highly allergic to. Entertainment was excellent. However, the casino rules were disgusting and no wonder it was always empty. Lastly - to have 6 ports on a 7 day cruise on the West Coast was a total loss. Aside from San Francisco and Cabo San Lucas (which was not on the itinerary) are the only 2 safe and exciting places to stop at. Most passengers complained they did not enjoy the quiet ocean experience when the ship is at sea. Crystal needs to recognize that plus the savings on Port Charges could benefit the pricing for passengers. 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
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
Beautiful ship. The rooms were just fine. Great entertainment. The song and dance troupe did a fabulous job. Terrific enrichment and seminar programs. Food was quite good, as well. The passengers were more lively than I had expected. I ... Read More
Beautiful ship. The rooms were just fine. Great entertainment. The song and dance troupe did a fabulous job. Terrific enrichment and seminar programs. Food was quite good, as well. The passengers were more lively than I had expected. I thought it would be a bit of a stuffy atmosphere. I was wrong. The itinerary was more than forgettable: Costa Maya, Cozumel, Belize, Key West and two days at sea. Costa Maya, sans excursion, must have had 75 tee shirt shops. The included one hour daily of wifi was welcomed, as well as the online PressReader which offered a free selection of magazines (how about the NYT and Wall St. Journal). However, the service just seemed to fall flat too often for a cruise line of this stature. Thus a loss of one rating level. Just my opinion. I'm far from a demanding individual, but did notice that the service level was better on another cruise line (Oceania). Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
Our family of 15 just got back from a Vancouver to Alaska cruise on the Crystal Serenity. We had a fantastic time. We have been on multiple cruises and cruise lines over the years and this was some of our first times on Crystal Cruise ... Read More
Our family of 15 just got back from a Vancouver to Alaska cruise on the Crystal Serenity. We had a fantastic time. We have been on multiple cruises and cruise lines over the years and this was some of our first times on Crystal Cruise Line. The ship was very clean and the food was excellent. We ate at all the specialty restaurants (Silk/Sushi, Prego, Tastes and the Vintage Room) which were fabulous however the main dining room was very good also. The chefs came out in a couple of the restaurants to see how everything was, which was a nice touch. If you did not like something, they would get you something different. The different wines and drinks were fun to try and the service staff and bartenders in the Crystal Cove always gave good recommendations. The entertainment was good and casino was larger than many smaller lines. We book a excursion through the ship and they sent a escort from the ship with us, which was nice. The staff was overall very friendly, and accommodating, but of course you always run across some bad apples. The gym was a good size and had classes, however sign up early the first day if you want to do cycling. Also if you want a massage on a sea day sign up early as they sell out fast. The only downside was the rooms are very small. We went on Silver Seas a couple months ago and the same type of room was bigger. However we did not spend much time in the room, other than when we were on the Veranda. Our room stewardess was great and always kept it tidy and clean. I would strongly urge anyone to try this cruise line and the Alaska itinerary. Read Less
20 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
This is long so get ready...... Just experienced our first Crystal cruise and will begin by saying we have been crystalized! We were celebrating my husband's 50th birthday and our travel agent recommended a few Alaskan cruises for ... Read More
This is long so get ready...... Just experienced our first Crystal cruise and will begin by saying we have been crystalized! We were celebrating my husband's 50th birthday and our travel agent recommended a few Alaskan cruises for us to take and told us that Crystal was ranked #1 for some years and was well known for their customer service and cuisine. We were traveling with multiple families and children with ages ranging from 7-75 years old. Our older travelers who had been on luxury cruise lines before including Seabourne, Silver Seas and Regent were wanting a smaller cruise ship due to their past experience. I did A LOT of research on the various cruise lines we could take (luxury and non). After MUCH research and suggestions from our travel agent, we chose Crystal and everyone was SO HAPPY we did. We took advantage of their Crystal Family Memories Program. When looking at luxury cruises while traveling with children this option was a great value! We all liked the all inclusive and gratuities included too. EMBARKATION We did a short trip to Banff before our trip so we flew in the morning of embarkment from Calgary and took a cab straight to the boat around 12:30. When we drove into the parking garage, we were immediately met by a crystal rep and baggage handler who gave us a big greeting, quickly took all our luggage, loaded them up and said "enjoy your cruise, your luggage will be in your room shortly". We then needed to go through customs before boarding. There was a short line for customs, but since we are global entry we were directed straight to a customs desk, stamp stamp and within 5 minutes we were boarding the ship. My sister in law said when she boarded the ship later that day that there wasn't a line whatsoever and went through just as quickly. As we boarded the Serenity on Deck 6 my teenagers immediately said "Wow, this is soooo cool" Check in and pictures on Deck 5 took a max of 5 minutes while being offered champagne and then we were off to the Lido deck for an embarkment lunch. They told us that our room would be ready by 3:00. We ate at Tastes and had the Chinoise Chicken Salad (literally the same as Wolf Gang Puck's salad - delicious), burgers and spaghetti bolognese. The waiters continuously making sure all glasses were full and that we were satisfied with our welcome meal. We took our drinks and proceeded to look around the boat from the pool, spa, kids room, everywhere. No space was unaccessible and there was someone to ask us if we had any questions regarding the boat at every turn. CABIN and ATTENDANTS One of the biggest perks we had was made possible by our travel agent, Stephanie. Two weeks before our embarkment, she informed me that we all were upgraded to Penthouses with Verandas. We originally booked A1 rooms. This bump was a HUGE luxury and it would have not happened had we not booked through Stephanie and she arranging it for all of us. I think it is due to her relationship with Crystal. It was very much the cherry on top of a wonderful trip! One of the negative comments I came across when reading about Crystal was the room size in comparison to other luxury lines. The room IS small in comparison, but the set up is well laid out and the decor is very modern and clean lined. The bathroom with bath and separate shower was large and my daughter enjoyed her daily bubble jacuzzi baths. The walk in closet was perfect for the three of us (our room was a third berth room). The room is high tech with lighting, housekeeping & do not disturb. It is smaller than other luxuries, but very efficient with it's space. We did move the small coffee table often for more walk space with three people in the room, but who hangs out in their room with such a beautiful ship and great verandah! Our butler, Jijo, immediately introduced himself and asked if there was anything we needed. A complimentary bottle of champagne and two bottles of wine were there when we arrived with chocolates. We asked him for Crown Royal, another bottle of Cabernet, club soda, limes and Coke Zero to start. We never had to ask again. We were well stocked the entire trip. They also have fresh fruit everyday in the room. Jijo noticed that all we ate were the grapes. A few days into the cruise we would return with an entire bowl of grapes. Jijo had been with the cruise line for 10 years and his professionalism was evident. When we spoke to him about his career with Crystal he said that one of Crystal's missions is that happy employees make happy customers which make a happy ship. Jijo is a true gem to the Serenity. Our housekeepers were Sandra and Kaylie. They gave us a tour of the room, numbers to call and informed us that they changed the sheets daily and set up the third berth every night. They asked if we wanted help unpacking but we declined. Every day our room was spotless and with a teenage girl in our room that is a major accomplishment. They were amazing. We used the free pressing service (penthouse benefit) once for black tie night - perfect. I used the self service laundry down the hall on our deck and it was straight forward and easy. It was nice to clean the clothes from our pre-cruise excursion. DINING One of the main reasons we chose Crystal was because of it's reputation for it's food. After reading reviews this was probably the #1 reason we booked so I felt a lot of pressure for the others traveling with us that this was the right decision. Crystal did not disappoint even our most seasoned cruisers. We chose Dining by Reservation and selected our preferred times for dinner through the PCPC system. I chose earlier times like 7, 7:30 because we were traveling with a 7 year old and because of the entertainment schedules. Since Alaska does not have sunset until 10:30pm, I wish I would have chosen the late dining and seen the earlier shows. We did not have lunch until late everyday while on the boat and we had canapés served in our room every day around 5 (another penthouse perk - crab claws, lobster and boiled shrimp) so a late dinner would have been preferable. One of the perks we had being upgraded to a penthouse was that we could order from any specialty restaurant or the dining room for room service. My kids are HUGE fans of Nobu (a special occasion restaurant for them) which is Silk Road on the boat. They ordered room service from Silk Road 5 out of 7 nights on the boat and thought they were in heaven. All of the families ordered from Silk Road our first night on the boat and knew we were in for a special trip. Jijo ordered perfectly for us and it was wonderful! TASTES We ate dinner at Tastes on our second night and one other night (kids did Silk Road room service) and it was a great choice! Items ordered were Ahi Tuna Poke, Chimichurri Steak California Street Tacos, Oven Roasted Cauliflower, Alsatian Tart, Alaskan King Crab Dip, Roasted Beet Salad and a special fish dish. All were WONDERFUL. Only two things I didn't care for were Butternut Squash Frisee Salad (felt like it was a game of find the butternut squash). The service the first night was off and that is the only issue we had the entire trip. The view was beautiful but our meal was taking way way too long. There was a miscommunication in the kitchen and it seemed to have a trickle effect for our food service. The food and service manager, Tayfun Aybar, quickly addressed the situation and sincerely apologized for the inconvenience. We were surprised when an extremely nice bottle of wine ($275 value) with a note of apology was in our room the next day. We ate at Tastes everyday for lunch on the boat when cruising and other than that one mishap, it was a wonderful experience! CRYSTAL DINING ROOM We enjoyed two dinners in the main dining room. One with all of the families and one with just a mother/daughter dinner. It was hard pulling my son away from Silk Road room service. Everything was wonderful from food to service. My daughter and I had a two topper by the window and both enjoyed the Braised Beef with Whipped Potatoes - Excellent. One of the better appetizers during the group dinner was the smoked Beef Carpaccio. Unfortunately we missed lobster night in the main dining because that was black tie night and we had reservations at Silk Road that evening. We never made it to the main dining room for breakfast or lunch because we were spoiled by the Lido breakfast selection and Tastes lunch menu (personal taste) SILK ROAD Wonderful as expected. We actually dined here rather than room service. Unfortunately we chose lobster night in the main dining to do it. We ordered everything! Sushi, Sashimi, Appetizers, Main dishes. Service, food and level of presentation were spot on. We ordered Crispy Rice Cake with Spicy Tuna Tartar, Miso Black Cod, Grilled Wagyu Beef, Maguro, Rock Shrimp, Lobster, Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño, Tuna Tataki, Chicken Teriyaki, California Rolls and a Bento Box! Superb PREGO This was our last night dining experience and we brought the wine we were given by Tayfun to celebrate the trip. We ordered the famous Mushroom Soup which I had read about in many reviews. It lived up to the hype. We ordered the Warm Lobster Poached in Sage Butter which in my opinion was the best lobster I ate during the entire trip which says a lot. My main course was not what I thought it would be (my bad) and our waiter quickly replaced it with the Roasted Rack of Baby Lamb. My mother in law had ordered this twice already in room service and chose it for a third round that night. I understand now why she did so. It was cooked perfectly. She said preferred this lamb to the one served in the main dining room the night we went. LIDO CAFE We ate breakfast here EVERY morning. I think because it was the early bird breakfast for most of us and had everything you could imagine for breakfast buffet style (omelet station, bacon, fresh fruit, oatmeal, made to order waffles, pancakes, etc.. Our omelet server had it down to an art. By day four he knew my order which included egg whites before I even ordered it - impressive. We had Tastes for lunch while on the boat but did mix and match the day they served their Asian buffet. A young girl walked by me with a smoothie that had whip cream on top and it looked to die for. When I asked her, where is that on the buffet? She said, "It's not". If you get the fruit you want (she had mango) take it to them and they will make a mango smoothie for you. That was some of the best advice! Everyone took advantage of that little info. So good THE BISTRO We did not get to take advantage of this particular spot. Did not even think about it until second to last day. We stopped in for afternoon cocktails, coffee and dessert. Next time I will definitely stop by more often. TRIDENT GRILL & SCOOPS The salmon burgers and hamburgers along with the sweet potato fries were a favorite among some of our family members. Everyone agreed that the person running the Trident Grill and grilling the burgers is amazing. He would take 6 peoples orders at once and quickly turned the orders around with no mistakes. He really knew what he was doing and the burgers were delicious. Lunch was quickly followed by Scoops which is pretty much Ben & Jerry's with any topping you like. If you like Ben & Jerry's and frozen yogurt then you will enjoy Scoops. We do and we did! AFTERNOON TEA We attended Mozart Tea in the Palm Court which was a lifesaver. All the servers were dressed in their beautiful costumes and the violin quartet was playing soothing classical music. It was so pretty. We did not have any of the buffet items which were finger sandwiches, cakes, tarts, etc. We actually just popped in to enjoy a different part of the boat. My husband unfortunately developed an allergy cold the day before and was so congested & miserable. Our waiter asked him what he would like and he said "Nothing, I can't breathe right now" He told him that he knew just what to get him to make him feel better. He returned with a hot toddy. He had never had one before and from that day on we went to the Palm Court for an afternoon hot toddy or asked Jijo if he could bring one to our room. My husband's breathing misery turned around overnight! Thank you!!! ENTERTAINMENT We attended all the productions except one which was due to us not reading the morning Reflections which said that there would be only one production that evening. They had a broadway show, comedian (hilarious and witty), light show (least favorite), Billy Joel performer and a ventriloquist which we missed and heard was wonderful. One evening we went to try out another part of the boat to get my husband's nightly hot toddy and came across PERRY GRANT in the Avenue Saloon. This ended up being a surprise find. Although, he does not sing our style of music, you become very engaged with his performance. His voice is amazing and that is coming from someone who does not listen to his genre. He is extremely entertaining in his custom bright and sometimes sparkling suits. We went back the next evening to show my mother and sister in law who quickly became a part of his show. It was hilarious and then we got to watch unknowingly other passengers become a part of his act. Definitely worth stopping by to enjoy. POOL/PADDLE TENNIS AREA The actual pool was nice. Nothing to write home about with two hot tubs. We sat by one afternoon for some relaxation in the sun and we always like to try every boat's pina colada. We were on an Alaskan cruise so the pool was not really a priority for us but it was very nice sitting by in the oversized chairs and getting pool service. The sitting areas around the pool and very spacious, but as I said on an Alaskan cruise there are not a lot of people taking advantage of the heated pool. Very quiet. Many people reading books or taking outside naps. My kids played paddle tennis on the upper deck and had a good time since it is covered from wind. GYM & SPA I never got a spa treatment but my sister in law got two and said it was a great massage. I did sign up for one of their spin classes (beginner) and even though it was obvious I was a beginner and there were some true professionals in the class, I think everyone got the workout they were looking for. The gym is not big, but it never seemed crowded. My daughter ran on one of their treadmills which looks out onto the ocean and fortunately for her, she got to see whales blowing their spouts and flipping their tails during her run. PORTS AND EXCURSIONS I quite liked all the ports we visited. I have told everyone to repeat our itinerary or do one that has one less day cruising (ex: Sitka vs. Glacier Bay). Looking at the cruises in 2017, I do like that they split up the two days of cruising on our itinerary. I think that was a better decision. When comparing Crystal to Regent, it was interesting in price differences. Although Crystal is a larger boat and our cruise was sold out, it NEVER felt like the boat was crowded. In fact, it felt like we were on an even smaller boat because none of the spaces seemed filled. We were told that there were 90 kids traveling on our trip and I'm not sure where they hid all of them because other than those traveling with us, I felt like we only saw 10 now and then. The Regent is priced much higher I'm guessing for a slightly smaller size and excursions included, but when I did the numbers, it did not make sense to pay so much more for excursions you may or may not do. We knew what we were doing and the cost was a fraction plus kids sail free on Crystal vs. $999 on Regent Ketchikan - We got a fishing guide outside of the cruise line at the recommendation of our friend prior to the cruise (we did not catch anything but rockfish while other cruisers on the boat caught 5 king salmon - that was a bummer) but we saw tons of eagles who swooped down and picked up our fish. Expensive eagle watching trip Juneau - Mendahall Glacier and Nugget Falls in the morning - Gorgeous and tour guide was hilarious and knowledgable. We did the HELICOPTER/DOGSLEDDING in the afternoon. This was an expensive excursion and WORTH EVERY PENNY. Every family member of all ages said that was their favorite thing we did the entire trip. It really is cool and we were fortunate to have clear skies and weather around 75 degrees Skagway - We did the White Pass & Yukon Railway which is followed by gold panning, musher camp demonstration, lunch and musher puppies excursion. The train was beautiful and relaxing and about an 1 1/2 hr up into the mountainside. Afterward you depart the train, you board a bus heading back into town with a stop off at the Klondike Gold Fields. Honestly, when we pulled into the Klondike Gold Fields I kind of felt like we were at Disney ride and thought it was going to be really really cheesy but it was included in the train excursion so nothing we could do. It ended up being really interesting learning how to pan gold from comical Sluice-box Charlie (enjoyed more than I thought I would) and what really made the excursion worth it was Matt Hiyashida explaining what it takes/took for him to do the Iditarod race. He is extremely entertaining and engaging especially with small kids. We got to meet his dogs & watch them run and actually hold 5 week old puppies. Kids loved it. Went back into town and walked around. We heard that the Red Onion Saloon Brothel Tour is interesting but didn't make it in time for their tour and not kid appropriate. Hubbard Glacier Bay - Amazing hearing the glacier calving. You could hear cracking and then soon after look for the sheets of ice that break off and as they fall you hear the ooh and ahhhs from fellow passengers. We watched from top deck where they were serving hot chocolate and rum and provided blankets and then we returned to our room and put on our robes and watched from our balcony which was so surreal. Gorgeous blue colors and many seals laying on the ice that had broken off. As you can read, I drank the Kool Aid and am sold on Crystal. I use to be a management consultant and we specialized in customer service and process streaming. Crystal has mastered both. Amazing trip, boat, service and all the above. And the food, oh my goodness the food! Highly recommend! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2012
We returned this week from our second cruise on the Serenity - about our 25th cruise overall. This was a 14 day itinerary from Miami to LA through the Panama Canal. Boarding was effortless. A nice buffet was ready for us to help kill ... Read More
We returned this week from our second cruise on the Serenity - about our 25th cruise overall. This was a 14 day itinerary from Miami to LA through the Panama Canal. Boarding was effortless. A nice buffet was ready for us to help kill time until our cabin was ready. Food - Overall the food was excellent with one notable exception. We requested a table for 2. We were assigned one but in a very poor location that could not be corrected for a couple of days. Apparently many more oele than expected requested early seating and this created seating issues. Eventually more and more people starting opting for room service and this opened up more tables in the dining room. My wife did get I'll afterveating in the Italian restaurant - not sure exactly what the culprit was but it took her a couple of days to recover. Food at the grill was very good. Room service was quick but the food could have been hotter. I thought the lunch buffet could have had more variety - roast chicken of one type or another every day. The 2 special buffets were excellent. Cabin - we had a deluxe stateroom with balcony. Nice size, comfortable bed, very nice towels in the bathroom. Our stewardess was fantastic. Major drawback was shortage of electrical outlets. Service - the room, pool, and bar staff were friendly, knowledgeable, and very good at their jobs. Atmosphere - I am 59 years old and felt very young, definitely in the youngest 20 percent of the guests. The ship seemed very empty except just before and after the early dinner seating. I'm not a fan of formal nights but most everyone on this ship loved it. No other options other than room service. Someone even complained because some people dared to walk around the ship not appropriately dressed up. Too snobby for my tastes and almost a deal killer if I consider Crystal again. Excursions - one of Crystal's strongpoints and excellent on this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
Recently, between 11 and 29 June 2009, my wife, 6½ year-old daughter, and I took an 18-day vacation to Europe. The vacation consisted of three main parts: 1) flying to and spending 3 pre-cruise days in Venice, 2) taking a 14-day ... Read More
Recently, between 11 and 29 June 2009, my wife, 6½ year-old daughter, and I took an 18-day vacation to Europe. The vacation consisted of three main parts: 1) flying to and spending 3 pre-cruise days in Venice, 2) taking a 14-day Mediterranean cruise from Venice to Barcelona onboard the Crystal Serenity, and 3) flying back to the US with a one-day post-cruise stopover in San Juan Puerto Rico. As we did all the planning for the vacation we knew that we wanted to see as much of Venice and the other ports of call (Dubrovnik, Corfu, Taormina, Sorrento/Amalfi Coast, Rome, Cinque Terra, Pisa/Florence, Monaco, St Tropez and Barcelona) as practical. But we also knew that we would have to do so within the constraints of the ship's shore time (normally 10 hours in each port - nominally from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM) and the touring abilities of our daughter - who is a good traveler and would be taking her 4th cruise. As we looked at the Crystal Serenity's shore excursions it became clear that they fell into main two categories, 60-person bus tours and special activities for small groups (e.g. touring the Lamborghini factory, taking a hot air balloon ride in Padua, etc.,). Neither of these options really fit what we needed. The bus tours offered no flexibility and conjured up visions of us at the back of the group with our daughter, unable to really see the sights or hear the guide. The special activities were clearly targeted at adults - so they were out too. The other thing that we took note of was the cost of the shore excursions which averaged $220/person (after excluding the most expensive excursions which cost between $1,500/person and $8,999/person). So armed with these constraints we began to look for alternatives that were available in the cities we were visiting, could be done in 10 hours, would be fun (or at least tolerable) for a 6½ year-old, and would cost around $700/day (~500 Euros/day). The obvious answer was to take the Crystal excursions where they made sense and to set up private tours at the other locations. But finding a reputable tour company that was not exorbitantly expensive proved to be challenging. My first step was to contact my travel agent who had taken the time to understand what we wanted from our vacation and had done a superb job recommending and setting up the cruise, hotels and other assorted details - Nancy Yale - the President of Cruise Resort & World Travel - http://www.bookavacation.com/ . Nancy contacted the tour provider that she normally uses in Italy - and, although reputable, they were more expensive than we were willing to pay - especially since we needed to setup between 6 and 10 tours which had the potential of adding another $5,000 - $10,000 to the total cost of the vacation. So while Nancy and Pat Raftery (her office manager who was going on a 10-day trip to Italy) checked other options I began an internet search. Of course, as many of us find on the internet, sometimes there is just too much information and it is hard to differentiate a reputable company from a fly-by-night operation. Luckily I stumbled across a post by Elizabeth Mandarino - the Senior VP of World Travel - http://corporate.worldtravelinc.com/ - that highly recommended a tour company owned by Marco Tavola named "Rome Connection". Although Nancy and Pat proposed some other alternatives that might have worked out fine, we decided to use Rome Connection based largely on Liz's strong recommendation and the details on Marco's website - http://www.romeconnection.com/. The recommendation and company turned out to be just what we were looking for, and the fact that Liz trusted Marco so much made me feel considerably better about the whole process. Especially since I knew that if the private tours flopped the entire vacation would probably be a disaster. After examining the tour options in detail we decided to take the Crystal excursions in Dubrovnik and Corfu, a Virtuoso (http://www.virtuoso.com/) excursion in Barcelona, and to "go it alone" in Monte Carlo and St Tropez. That meant that we needed Marco to setup drivers, guides and itineraries in Venice, Taormina, Sorrento/Amalfi Coast, Rome, Cinque Terra, Pisa, and Florence. Although Marco's company is based in Rome, he has a vetted network of other companies throughout Italy that he continually works with so he knows who they are and knows that they will meet his exacting standards. What this allowed us to do was to specify what we wanted to Marco and to then have him contact the appropriate people in each city to work the details. Using email made it all very easy. Marco drafted initial itineraries and costs for each city based on our broad guidelines and emailed them to us. We emailed back our comments and the specifics of the ship's port times. Marco then finalized the itineraries and costs (which averaged 540 Euros/day). Based on Marco's responsiveness, professionalism, and knowledge of the sights that fit within our travel constraints, I knew that we were on the right track from the initial response that I received from him. So how did it all work out? In a word - FABULOUS!! On 11 June we flew from Boston to Venice on Iberia. Thirteen hours after leaving Boston we were standing in Venice. Iberia was great and the only challenge of the entire trip was getting our daughter to hurry up on the long walk from the far end of the international terminal to the opposite far end of the domestic terminal in the Madrid airport. After arriving in Venice at 1:00 PM we collected our luggage and walked 5-10 minutes to the water taxi/bus stop located near the Marco Polo airport. We then took a water taxi to our hotel - Palazzo Sant'Angelo - http://www.sinahotels.com/eng/palazzosantangelo_home.htm . The Water taxi cost 100 Euros, but since it took us, and our 9 pieces of luggage, directly to the hotel's landing the price difference (58 Euros more than the water bus) was worth it. The Palazzo Sant'Angelo was recommended by Nancy and proved to be a great choice for the hotel. It is located on the Grand Canal within a 10 minute walk from the Rialto Bridge, Saint Marks' Square, the Accademia museum and almost every other sight we were interested in seeing during our stay in Venice. Since it only has 14 rooms it is also quiet which allowed us to quickly get over our jet lag. During our three days in Venice Marco had arranged for a guide, Elisabetta, to show us Venice for half the day on Saturday and half the day on Monday. Elisabetta met us promptly on Saturday morning and, after a brief discussion of what we wanted to see and what she recommended, Elisabetta took us on a tour of the city; to include the Basilica di San Marco, the Doge's Palace, the fish/fruit market and many other places that were off the beaten path. One of the nice things was that Elisabetta tried hard to engage our daughter and to make sure that she was involved in the tour - not just dragged along. Among other things, Elisabetta also knew just where to go to get our daughter a Venetian mask that she could actually wear instead of just use for decoration. Another souvenir crisis averted. At the last minute we were told that the ship would depart from Venice at 12:00 PM on Monday instead of 2:00 PM. This meant that we needed to adjust our plans since we had intended on touring with Elisabetta on Monday morning. As expected one of the advantages of setting up a private tour was that Elisabetta was able to adjust her schedule so that she could be with us on Sunday afternoon instead of Monday morning. So we changed plans, toured the area and Academia museum on Sunday afternoon (the fact that Elisabetta knew her Art History certainly enhanced the tour and the discussions) and then returned to the hotel, collected our luggage and took a water taxi from the Hotel's front door to the Crystal Serenity. After returning home we found out that Elisabetta was even recommended in Rick Steves' Venice 2009 book - we could see why. Ahh - the Crystal Serenity - what can I say about Crystal and their great product. We have been on 10 cruises ranging from a 7 day Caribbean cruises to a 21 day Bangkok to Sydney cruise. We have been on Crystal, Windstar, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Princess and NCL. Of all of them Crystal is our favorite. You get all of the large ship amenities without all of the large ship crowds. You get staff personnel that actually try to learn your names and preferences so that they can help you instead of just passing you along. You get casual elegance (you can be casual, the ship and staff are elegant). For our 14-day cruise we actually took two 7-day back-to-back cruises; the "Adriatic Adventure" and "Renaissance Rendezvous" (cruise #9312 from Venice to Rome and #9313 from Rome to Barcelona). As expected, the ship was wonderful, the staff was helpful, the ports of call were interesting, the food was ever present and delicious, the weather was perfect (during 18 days we only saw 30 minutes of rain in Rome), the entertainment was lively, the children's program was fun and we all had a great time. Although I have heard that some people with children shy away from Crystal since they do not have all of the allegedly "required" children's amenities (e.g. water slides, rock climbing walls, ice skating rinks, cannonball contests, etc.,) my daughter loved their program since it was focused on counselors doing activities with the kids; not just parking the kids by the pool. My daughter got to make crafts, play hide and seek, have a scavenger hunt, tour the bridge, tour the backstage with the dancers, have a pajama party, play music, decorate cookies, and do all sorts of other fun things. In fact she enjoyed the program so much that when we were in Monte Carlo she was upset that we did not go back to the ship for the Animal Mask making activity. To their credit one of the counselors sat with her one-on-one later that night so that she could make her animal masks. So what about all of the other the private tours that we had arranged? They were all perfect. In fact everything worked out better than we could have hoped. All of the driver/guides were personable, professional, flexible, interesting and knowledgeable about the area and sights. In all of the locations the driver was waiting for us with a recent-year Mercedes sedan as we came off the ship (or tender as applicable). From there they asked what we wanted to see so that we could flesh out the high-level itinerary, finalized the overall plan for the day, and then started the tour. With all of our drivers/guides as we drove we were able to talk about the area, living in Italy, Italy in general, and whatever other topics came up. This made even the travel time between the sights enjoyable and interesting. In Taormina we were met by Alessandro. We then drove up the mountain to see Castelmola. From there you could see the entire area to include Mount Etna and the coastlines. Since we had taken a car (which was faster than a bus) we were just finishing up when a bus from the ship arrived. So we got to see the small town of Castelmola when there were literally no other tourists around while they got to see it in a crowd that they brought with them. From there we drove to the even smaller town of Forza d'Agro to see the sights and the two beautiful churches there. Unfortunately, all of the winding roads gave our daughter a headache. But once again being on a private tour paid off since we were able to sit in the town square, have some bread and gelato and color while her headache cleared. Then we drove back to Taormina where Alessandro dropped us off in the town center; a place that a bus could never have reached since they have to park in the town's single designated parking area. From there we strolled through the shops, had lunch, and toured the outdoor Greco-Roman amphitheater until it was time to return to the ship. When we compared notes with other people on the ship it was clear that not only did we get to more locations, but we also had more time (to include quality time) at each of the locations. In Sorrento we were met by Fulvio as we got off the tender. From there we drove to Herculaneum (since my wife and I had previously been to Pompeii) and were met by Andrea - a guide set up by Marco and Fulvio who knew the details of Herculaneum. As with many cruise shore excursions the good news was that we were at Herculaneum, the bad news was that we had only allocated 2 hours and had a 6½ year old with us. But Andrea understood the situation and hit the highlights. For those who have not been to Herculaneum it is smaller, but much better preserved than Pompeii; well worth seeing. From there Fulvio drove us toward the Amalfi coast and Positano. Along the way we mentioned that our daughter was looking for a special souvenir. So Fulvio made a detour to an inlaid wood factory/showroom. There she found a musical jewelry box that did the trick. While we were at the showroom Fulvio inquired about what we would like to do for lunch and since we were looking for local fare he recommended a restaurant on the mountain overlooking Positano. It sounded good so he called ahead to set it up. Once there we had the local sampler lunch (antipasto, pasta, dessert - thank God no meat course since we would have been to full to eat it). Following lunch we drove to Positano where Fulvio dropped us off in the middle of the town. We then walked through the town until we hit the beach. The coastline view, the bougainvilleas and the houses perched on the cliffs were beautiful. Charming town - but I am not sure that I would want to live there since the only road only goes one way through the town, so if you have to drive somewhere you have to make a complete circle of the town's winding road. In Rome Marco himself met us dockside and was our guide for the day. When we woke up it was raining fairly hard, but by 8:00 AM when we left the ship the sky had cleared and the sun was out. Since the ship docked at Civitavecchia we had a 1 hour drive to Rome (~75 km). Once again taking a private tour paid off. We left the ship and were on the road before anyone else. Then, since we were in a car we traveled faster and in Rome were allowed to drive in lanes where private cars could not go. This allowed Marco to literally drive us up to the front door of every sight we wanted to see. First we stopped at the Basilica of Saint Paul. Just stunning. Then we headed to the Colosseum. Prior to arriving at the Colosseum Marco purchased the tickets for entry so that we did not have to stand in line at the Colosseum. In fact, since we were with Marco we parked directly across the street and were allowed to bypass the lines and enter immediately. What a timesaver. As we left the Colosseum my daughter needed two things - a bathroom and a gelato. Marco knew just where to go. Once again flexibility paid off. From there we saw the Circus Maximus, Aventin Hill, Trevi Fountain (where we got rained on for the only time in 18 days - at least the rain allowed me to get good pictures of the fountain since all of the sightseers were standing in stores or under awnings), Forum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps and Saint John Lateran Cathedral (another stunning church). As we were driving we discussed various things and somehow got on the topic of Leonardo da Vinci. Marco said that there was a small Leonardo da Vinci museum with working exhibits in Rome. Our daughter thought that this would be interesting so we asked Marco to take us there. It was a nice unplanned side visit since it had mechanical devices that you could actually try out. In between all the sightseeing Marco took us to the Hostaria Antica Roma http://www.anticaroma.it/ - on the Appian Way for lunch. The chef was very interesting and accommodating, the food was great and the location was unique since the restaurant's interior holds the centuries old "Augustus' Freedman Monument" which was commissioned by the Roman Emperor to honor slaves who had earned their freedom. Finally we had to leave Rome and head back to the ship, but on the way back my daughter needed a souvenir of Rome. It was now 6:00 Sunday evening, and there were not many stores open for shopping. But once again Marco knew where to go. He took us to a street with three souvenir shops next to each other and my daughter found two beautiful "Roma" scarves. I cannot emphasize enough how much more of the city sights we saw compared to the people that took the standard bus tours or tried to see Rome on their own. The fact that Marco knew exactly where to go, could park the car literally right outside the site we were stopping to see, knew how to gauge our (and our daughter's) level of interest, and had the ability to be flexible as the day progressed was invaluable to the tour and our enjoyment. In both Cinque Terra (Porto Venere) and Pisa/Florence (Livorno) Francesco was our guide. Francesco met us as we got off the tender in Porto Venere and off we went on the winding roads toward the five towns of Cinque Terra - http://www.lecinqueterre.org/eng/ . First we stopped at Riomaggiore. As with many European roads they got narrower as we drove away from the major cities. By the time we got to Riomaggiore it was clear that it would be hard, if not impossible, to even get there in a tour bus. In Riomaggiore Francesco parked the car that top of the town and then walked with us to the start of the Via dell'Amore, a paved walkway that hugs the coastline and connects the five towns of Cinque Terra. From there we continued walking to Manarola where we took in the sights and had some gelato. We then caught the local train, passed through Corniglia, and got off in Vernazza where Francesco was waiting with the car. As we walked through Vernazza we came across a playground which allowed our daughter to stop and play for awhile. We then drove to the last town, Monterosso. The road from Vernazza to Monterosso wound up and down the hillside and at times was barely wide enough for the Mercedes to make it through; a bus would never have made it. In Monterosso Francesco dropped us off at one end of the town then drove around to the other side to meet us after we were done strolling, sightseeing and having lunch. Having seen all the sights that time allowed we headed back to Porto Venere where we walked through the small town and climbed to Castello Doria, a 16th century castle overlooking the port. Once again the amount of sights that we had time to see, the amount of time we got to spend sightseeing instead of "working the logistics" and the trouble free nature of the day due to the private tour made everything so much more enjoyable. We had time to enjoy 4 of the 5 towns in Cinque Terra. Other people that we talked to only saw two of them and spent much more time just getting there and back. For our last day in Italy we had scheduled to see both Pisa and Florence. Although both Nancy and Marco had said the Pisa was beautiful, the also both recommended that we spend only 1 or 2 hours there. Consequently we decided to compress both Pisa and Florence into one day and spent the prior day solely in Cinque Terra. Luckily on this day the ship was in port from 8:00 AM until 9:00 PM. As with the day before, Francesco met us as we got off the ship. However this time he met us in Livorno instead of Porto Venere. From there we drove to Pisa. As expected it is beautiful, not just the tower, but the entire square. One can only imagine how majestically impressive it would have been to a farmer from the countryside eight hundred years ago when it was first built. As we were finishing up our sightseeing and preparing to leave I noticed that the number of people in the square was significantly increasing. When we had arrived there were hardly any other people around, now, as the tour busses arrived, it began to get harder to shoot a photo that did not have people in the field of view. Needless to say, we were glad that touring with Francesco had allowed us to get there first. From Pisa we drove to Florence. Once again, being in a private tour car allowed us to enter the city faster and to drive where busses were not allowed to go. Francesco drove us to the Palazzo Vecchio where we met Simone, our guide for the Uffizi museum. As Marco had done in Rome, Simone had already purchased the tickets for the Uffizi and we entered without any waiting in line. For the next two hours we toured the museum. Of course there is so much to see that we could have spent the entire day (or days), but we only had two hours in the schedule. From there we drove to the Accademia to see Michelangelo's David. Here people were standing in line for 3-4 hours to get tickets to enter. Once again Francesco and Simone had already purchased our tickets (tied to a specific entry time), so after a 10-15 minute wait we were allowed to enter. From here we went to the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo (outdoor market area) to sightsee and have lunch. Here there were artists reproducing artistic masterpieces on the street pavement; very interesting. Following lunch we drove up to the Piazzale Michelangelo which overlooks the entire city of Florence. From here you could really get a perspective of everything; this is really a must do in Florence. Next Francesco dropped us off on the Piazza de' Pitti so that we could walk across the Ponte Vecchio (the covered bridge) to the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte. After seeing the baptistery and all of the stunning mosaics, we met Francesco and headed back to the ship. As with Rome the ability of the private tour to focus on what we wanted to see and to easily go where we wanted to go significantly increased the number of sights that we got to see and the amount of quality time that we got to spend at the sights. On the 28th we finally left the Crystal Serenity and began our trip home. Due to the airplane schedule we flew Iberia from Barcelona to Madrid and then from Madrid to San Juan. Arriving at 7:00 PM we cleared customs and took a cab to the Ritz Carlton Hotel which had been recommended and booked by Nancy - http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/SanJuan/ . Again this proved to be a great suggestion. The hotel was a 10 minute cab ride from the airport, so we quickly got there and began to unwind from the day of traveling. While my wife went to sleep my daughter and I went to the hotel's beautiful swimming pool to relax and unwind. Then, after a few hours of sleep, we were all up and on the hotel's beach before anyone else had even gotten out of bed. But all good things must end - so on the 29th we boarded a American Airlines plane and flew home. Incidentally, the plane left San Juan two hours late due to weather in the Boston area. This was the only glitch on our entire 18 day trip- a fact that I ascribe to good planning, good recommendations from caring travel agents (Nancy, Liz and Marco), and good travel providers (Iberia, Crystal, Rome Connection, Palazzo Sant'Angelo, Ritz Carlton). Bottomline: Our 18 day European vacation/cruise was great and everything worked better than we could have hoped. The cruise, hotel and other travel arrangements suggested and made by Nancy Yale were wonderful. The Italian tour company highly recommended by Liz Mandarino could not have been better. The service provided by Marco Tavola's Rome Connection and his affiliates was exemplary, very cost effective and allowed us to see far more of each city than we would have been able to if we have taken the 60-person bus tours. Along with the airline travel and cruise arrangements I viewed the private tours as one of the three "make or break" components of the vacation; they surpassed our expectations. I cannot recommend Rome Connection highly enough. If you need a driver in Italy, do yourself a favor and call Marco - http://www.romeconnection.com/. The ship and hospitality provided by Crystal proved why they are always so highly recommended when compared to their competitors. So, if you are looking for a wonderful vacation, you might want to consider these travel agents and companies as part of your plan. They certainly helped us have an unforgettable vacation. Ciao, Read Less
Crystal Serenity Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 5.0 4.4
Entertainment 5.0 4.1
Public Rooms 5.0 4.6
Fitness Recreation 5.0 4.3
Family 4.0 4.3
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 5.0 4.2
Service 4.5 4.6
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 5.0 4.1

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