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90 Crystal Serenity Luxury Cruise Reviews

We chose this itinerary because it was the golf theme (my husband's passion) and he did have a wonderful experience golfing at 3 great courses. We spent 5 days in Oxford and 2 in London before we embarked. Oxford was fantastic. ... Read More
We chose this itinerary because it was the golf theme (my husband's passion) and he did have a wonderful experience golfing at 3 great courses. We spent 5 days in Oxford and 2 in London before we embarked. Oxford was fantastic. Would return in a heartbeat. We loved the cruise ship very much and especially all the other passengers. All were fun and interesting. Unfortunately because of weather we were unable to dock in 4 scheduled ports and spent many more days at sea than we were supposed to. This has its good and bad points. We stayed in a veranda cabin on the 8th deck close to the elevator and laundry room. Loved our cabin and the location. Absolutely adored all meals. The food was simply unbelievable and I am very picky. Our meals at Silk Road were unforgettable. Service is outstanding everywhere at all venues. We also had many meals at Tastes, the outdoor dining area located near the Trident Grill. I asked to be able to accompany my husband on his golf outing at Glen Eagles and because of a cancellation, I got go along, take photos and was charged absolutely nothing. What an amazing perk. All in all, I'd say Crystal is very classy without being stuffy and intimidating. Can't wait for our next adventure. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
This was our fourth time sailing on the Serenity. She is a well appointed ship. The staff stay the same from year to year. They go out of their way to accommodate the passenger. Our every request is granted with a smile. This is one of the ... Read More
This was our fourth time sailing on the Serenity. She is a well appointed ship. The staff stay the same from year to year. They go out of their way to accommodate the passenger. Our every request is granted with a smile. This is one of the reasons we love Crystal. Another thing we love about Crystal is that they overnight in in some ports. On this cruise we had overnights in three ports. This allowed us to use the boat as a hotel,and really get the flavor of the port. The ship docked for two nights on the Garonne river, right in the heart of Bordeaux. We loved it! We could sit on our port side balcony and soak up the atmosphere. While in Bordeaux,we took a shore excursion with wine expert , Dewey Markham Jr. He is wonderful,and the tour was a highlight of our trip. We spent a great deal of money for a shore excursion billed as a " rare wine tasting" which was unwelming. We expected to be tasting rare grand cru classe wines, and that was not the case. Don't waste your money on this one. Overall, the actual shore excursions are no better than Princess although the offerings are more interesting. I have found excursions themselves to be average which should not be the case for a line as upscale as Crystal. Our deck 8 balcony stateroom was very adequate for our needs. I room was always clean. The bathroom has a bathtub and two sinks. The line supplies you with bathrobes and an umbrella ( which we needed). The food on Crystal is wonderful. We had second seating in the main dining room. Dragon, our waiter was excellent. He anticipated our every need. We also like to eat in the main dining room for breakfast and lunch. "Tastes" and the buffet are also good. All food and drink is included, so you can have anything you want( expect to come home with an expanded waistline-lol) The only thing I did not like was our stop in Brest. In my opinion ( and the feeling of other passengers at the time)this should have been a sea day. On Sunday nothing is open in Brest. Several people we spoke to said that they road around on the Crystal shuttle just for something to do. We went to the maritime museum which was one of the few things that was open. To make matters worse, it was pouring. At least if we had been at sea there would have been activities. There was nothing on the ship for us- no lectures, classes,bingo, casino-nothing! At night we often went to the piano bar. We had fun with the other "regulars". We also saw some good shows. There are other venues on the ship, but we did not visit them. Getting on and off the Serenity is simple. They are very organized. We always get on for lunch, and off after breakfast. We did not take a Crystal transfer this time. My husband and I both get seasick, so we do not sail on small ships. We have been on Oceania, Princess and Celebrity but Crystal is our favorite. The service,food,and multiple overnight ports make this line standout. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
First time on Crystal cruises. Had high expectations, and found that they were exceeded. Yes Crystal is not cheap, but since tips and drinks are included, they are comparable to others in price. What makes Crystal different is the ... Read More
First time on Crystal cruises. Had high expectations, and found that they were exceeded. Yes Crystal is not cheap, but since tips and drinks are included, they are comparable to others in price. What makes Crystal different is the attitude of ever member of the crew. Everyone greets you every time you see them. Waiters started greeting us by name. President - Edie was very open to input from passengers and she is focused on making Crystal even better. Food in main dining room was outstanding. Waiter was very attentive. Wine steward never let glass be empty. Ship docked in the middle of Bordeaux so very convenient. At all ports that needed it, a free shuttle was provided to take us to the center of each town. We started in Barcelona, then Ibiza, Cartgenta, Casa Blanca, then serveal ports in Portugal finally all though western France and the channel island of Guernsey. Recommend the Optional Oyster Farm tour. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
As avid independent travelers, my wife and I never thought we were cruise people. In fact we steadfastly resisted any suggestion of a cruise. Then the flyer arrived in the mail - we simply could not resist. Our experience on the Crystal ... Read More
As avid independent travelers, my wife and I never thought we were cruise people. In fact we steadfastly resisted any suggestion of a cruise. Then the flyer arrived in the mail - we simply could not resist. Our experience on the Crystal Serenity was absolutely impeccably perfect. All staff was extremely helpful and friendly - we felt like they were members of our family by the time we disembarked. A few highlights: - The dual dining choices in the main dining room (modern and classic) were perfect. We often mixed and matched, but in general the appetizers and deserts on the modern side were highlights. - Tastes is really so much more than "casual dining". The variety and quality of the tapas style dishes were exquisite and the service perfect and attentive. - Prego's lasagna is the best we've ever had. Yes I would have blushed to say I was ordering lasagna at such an exquisite Italian restaurant - but it was absolutely mouth wateringly good. - Silk Road has terrific, imaginative Asian fare. We were glad to have gone, but as we were more wine themed, we didn't repeat. - Crystal Cove is the perfect hide away very late at night - friendly staff, beautiful, quiet atmosphere. The ship itself is very clean and well maintained - everything is well thought out. Can't think of a thing we would change. We mostly took part in private shore excursions, but the one that we took from Crystal (Malta's Pre-historic Sites) was well organized with a fantastic local guide. Truly a terrific experience as the site we visited is extremely hard to book in advance. Frosch's wine theme was so special. We were lucky enough to have both Heitz and Kapcsandy on board pouring their magnificent wines. This added an extra dimension to dinner that is hard to overestimate. Also, the fellow wine enthusiasts were terrific to get to know. Disembarkation was orderly, easy - only problem is that it was so sad to leave. We loved the experience so much on Crystal Serenity that we are tempted to go somewhere that we are *less* interested in so we can spend more time on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
Crossing the Atlantic Solo! Miami to Lisbon May 4 - 17, 2015 Background Information: I have cruised extensively on Princess, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean and always enjoyed these vacations immensely. When I became a widow I ... Read More
Crossing the Atlantic Solo! Miami to Lisbon May 4 - 17, 2015 Background Information: I have cruised extensively on Princess, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean and always enjoyed these vacations immensely. When I became a widow I wanted to continue to travel so once again tried Royal Caribbean and Holland America and found these lines didn't really encourage solo travellers starting with 200% solo fares and an indifferent onboard experience. I was first encouraged to try Crystal due to some favourable solo pricing and I have now completed three Crystal cruises within a year! I chose the Classic Atlantic Crossing so I would have more time onboard to enjoy the Crystal Experience! Embarkation and Disembarkation: Crystal is noted for its efficient onboard check-in but this option was not available on this cruise due to the fact that over 600 passengers would be departing the Serenity after being on board for 108 days, many crew were leaving for vacation with replacements arriving, and there was also a health inspection being conducted. Crystal had been proactive in informing travel agents and passengers individually that embarkation would be much later than normal, after 2:00 PM. However many guests had early morning arrival times and a major accident caused the tunnel to the port to be closed so taxis had to reroute. As a result, many passengers arrived early to the port, expecting a long wait. However, in true Crystal style, a champagne reception with sandwiches, fruit, and pastries was set up in the terminal. Multiple agents completed the terminal check-in, boarding numbers were assigned, and a festive atmosphere prevailed. In fact, this solo traveller met many others and the first connections were made! I was onboard by 1:30! Disembarkation is also seamless. Crystal sends small groups ashore, luggage is easy to identify, porters are there to assist, and you tend to be off the ship a bit earlier than scheduled. Crystal transfers to the Lisbon airport were efficient and agents are also there to ensure everyone makes it to the correct airline check-in. Entertainment and Enrichment: With a dual theme of Film and Theatre, Experiences of Discovery, and 25th Anniversary Captain's Cruise hosted by former Captain Glenn Edvardsen, Crystal presented a dizzying array of entertainers, lecturers including an Asian film historian, Hollywood stylist, producers, directors, and choreographers, tribute artists, as well as film screenings. In honour of Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday, many interesting lectures complete with music and movie clips, a tribute artist, and even a birthday tea were featured. These guest lecturers were extremely personable and willing to interact with passengers and were true ambassadors for their craft. As always the Crystal Ensemble performed outstanding production shows including 6/8 Cafe, Across the Pond, and Curtain Call. The Music of Billy Joel, performed by James Fox, was a definite highlight. Individual vocalists, a guitarist, pianists in the Cove and Avenue and the Astoria Strings provided ongoing entertainment in various areas around the ship. The Avenue Saloon, with pianist Brian Johnson, was packed every evening till closing, another great venue for solos to gather. World Affairs Lecturer Ronald Marks and Destination Lecturer Ken Rees offered a variety of interesting and informative lectures. Computer University at Sea provided excellent instruction on a variety of topics including Digital Filmmaking on the IPad, Photoshop, and Wordprocessing. Crystal is noted for its Ambassador Host program, where hosts are available to dance with solo ladies each evening. On previous cruises this was an excellent way to be introduced to others, partake in some dancing, and be greeted around the ship and ashore. Although there were six hosts on this segment, at least half were inexperienced, lacking in interpersonal skills, and even when escorting a shore excursion had little or no interaction with guests. This was my only disappointment on this cruise and in sharp contrast to what I had experienced on two previous cruises. Art classes, Needlepoint, Knitting, Bridge, Dance Lessons, Fitness Classes, Stretch, Yoga, Golf, Paddle Tennis are also available. First run movies, Magic Castle at Sea, and a well stocked library are also available. On a sea day, over 50 activities will be listed in the program, so there is something for everyone. Dining: I choose first seating dinner even though it is a bit early, but seems to mesh well with all the entertainment options provided. Seated at a solo table for eight, my tablemates were well travelled, sociable, and enjoyable to be with. Outstanding service, two menu options including modern and classic were available each night. It was no problem to order smaller portions or have something special preordered in advance. Our table had the wonderful Salzburger Knockerl served table side to celebrate a birthday. The specialty restaurants Prego and Nobu are outstanding, service impeccable, and offer a leisurely dining experience. Although I did not join this group, a no-host Table for Eight is offered for solo cruisers. The dining experience in Tastes is a wonderful casual, relaxing affair, and is more enjoyable if you invite others. A few more people, a few more tantalizing tapas to taste! It is also a lovely venue for late risers breakfast or lunch. The incredible deck stewards with their warm, contagious smiles, not only remember your name and your beverage, they work nonstop! The Lido, Bistro, and Room Service also provide alternate dining options. The presentation of the delicacies at the Mozart Tea and the Gala Buffet is appealing and impressive. Service: In this area Crystal not only sparkles and shines, it dazzles! The highlight is the high level of name recognition onboard, their ability to remember you from one cruise to the next, and the warm, personable service provided. "It's my pleasure" is their attitude and they oblige many challenging requests with a smile. Not once did I ever detect a "roll of the eyes" when some things I heard had me rolling mine! When you are greeted with "Welcome home" you truly feel it is your home away from home. My stewardess was outstanding. My room was made up promptly each morning and evening, and whenever I passed her in the hallway she never failed to ask if there was anything I needed. I have already mentioned the incredible Deck Stewards, but they deserve another mention because their warmth, sincerity, and hospitality is the true backbone of Team Crystal. Kudos for a job well done! With the wonderful Crystal family, one never feels alone! Conclusion: The interesting, friendly guests, the welcoming atmosphere, and the wonderful Crystal officers and staff make being onboard the Serenity a memorable experience. I have met many new friends, made some magical memories, and never felt alone. In fact, on other cruises I would often retreat to my stateroom for peace and quiet--on Serenity the large public areas and no announcement policy make for a calm, serene environment. 3,774 nautical miles, 8 days at sea, Miami, Bermuda, The Azores, Lisbon--would I do it again? In a heartbeat! It is a great way to "Begin a New Story"! Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
We have sailed on 30 Crystal cruises, the longest cruise prior to the World Cruise was 21 days. This was our first World Cruise. Transfers The included Carey Limo SUV transfers from home-airport-ship-airport-home were seamless. ... Read More
We have sailed on 30 Crystal cruises, the longest cruise prior to the World Cruise was 21 days. This was our first World Cruise. Transfers The included Carey Limo SUV transfers from home-airport-ship-airport-home were seamless. Drivers there to meet us on time, assistance at the luggage carousels in FL and back in Houston, and strong enough to hoist all the luggage into the SUV. So nice to see a friendly, smiling face in the midst of airport and port commotion. Ports We sailed to 44 ports (47 ports if we count the missed/sail-by ports of Rarotonga, Port Elizabeth and Alter do Chao). Best ports: Cape Town, Wellington, Napier, Tauranga, Auckland, Dunedin, Akaroa, Milford Sound. Ports we can say we’ve been to, and don’t need to return: Maputo, Manta Most unique and exotic ports: Easter Island and both ports in Madagascar Onboard Observations Dining: Main dinner sitting in the dining room was full capacity during all segments. We always opt for the late dinner sitting, and the dining room was never more than 2/3 full, often it was ½ full or less at the 8:30pm sitting. Service was unrushed, extraordinarily attentive, and the ambient noise level of the room very quiet. The menu choices, between the Modern Cuisine selections, the Crystal Classic selections, and our occasional off-menu special requests, were varied to suit everyone’s palate. Many appetizer and entrée selections did repeat during each segment, but we always found at least two courses (and often more) every evening. We were generally pleased with the all-inclusive wine selections; however, as we were sailing through some of the world’s best wine regions, we did purchase wines while ashore in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa and thoroughly enjoyed them onboard during several dinners. (Whenever we chose to enjoy our own wines, I would bring the bottle to our sommelier in the dining room about 6:00pm, and it was then already decanted and on our table when we came to dinner at 8:30pm). Specialty Restaurants: Since so many guests chose to dine early, with the exception of the last segment, it was never a problem to eat at Silk Road, Prego or Tastes after 8:00pm. Especially for a table for 2. We often made reservations the same afternoon for dining that evening. And even during the last segment of the WC, Antonio and the specialty restaurants’ staff made every effort to accommodate everyone who wanted to dine. Again, reservations for smaller tables (i.e. 2-4 people) were much easier to reserve than tables for the larger 6+ groups. Cabin Comfort: We have sailed Crystal before, so we are very familiar with the amenities and idiosyncrasies of the standard verandah staterooms onboard. All of our luggage nested within each other and fit under the beds with no problem. We used the space under the sofa for storage of snorkeling gear and new purchases from ashore. We brought 25 extra hangers (the dry-cleaning type) which were very handy, supplemented the ship’s hangers and took up less space in the closet than the wood hangers. The cabinets under the bathroom sinks easily absorbed 4 months’ worth of toiletries. We brought a collapsible mesh clothes hamper from the Dollar Store, which was stored under the desk; we knew when it was time to do laundry when the mesh hamper was full! We raised the cocktail/dining table to its highest position and it stayed at that height for the entire cruise. Since most of the desk surface was occupied with electronics (PC, I-phones, Kindle, camera), the table became the only multi-purpose “flat space” in the room. We needed more magnets! The walls are metal and become a giant bulletin board. There are so many pieces of paper to keep track of! (Invitations, shore excursion tickets, restaurant reservations, WC newsletter, etc.). Entertainment and Special Events: We were wowed and our expectations exceeded the minute we arrived onboard. We were welcomed by name on the gangway by both Crystal CEO Edie Rodriguez and Captain Giske. Our checked luggage was delivered to the stateroom within an hour. The onboard gala (dinner, bands, and entertainment) just blew us away. And it only got better during the next 108 days. We have sailed many Crystal repositioning transatlantic voyages because we enjoy the multiple sea days with all the activities. Well, the World Cruise was like a transatlantic crossing on steroids. With the exception of the Billy Joel “My Life” production show which was repeated on all segments (and we attended all 6 performances, btw), the variety of guest entertainers and large production shows were incredible. There were a few “misses”, but overall, the entertainment was truly world class. The lecture series offered so many options and so many differing views, there was something to suit most everyone’s interest. On some sea days there were 4 speakers scheduled: 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. The World Cruise special event in New Zealand at Hobbiton was jaw dropping. The laser light show, followed by the fireworks was an amazing production. And to be served and entertained by an entire village of costumed Hobbits, was something very special. The special event at the private estancia in Montevideo was a miracle of logistics. The weather more than cooperated, and it was like a massive, huge, gigantic picnic with about 550 of your best friends, with wine, beer, food and lots of entertainment. Lessons Learned: We brought about 1/3 too many toiletries; better to bring too much rather than too little, but we won’t haul as much the next time. We brought too many clothes, especially casualwear and underwear. The self-service laundries are so convenient, and the ship’s laundry & dry cleaning so efficient, we did laundry more often than we had anticipated and will cut down the amount for future long cruises. We will take an extra suitcase with us, even if it is under-filled on the outbound. Based on how much we bought during port calls, as well as the bulkiness on the special WC segment gifts, we could have used the extra space for the return home. We ate smart, exercised often, rarely used the ship’s elevators, and “only” gained 10 lbs. I got on the scale this morning and I’m “only” 4 lbs. heavier than when we left. We are so fortunate, lucky and blessed to be able to have experienced such a journey. So few people on the planet can even imagine an adventure such as this, especially after seeing places like Madagascar, Mozambique, and the less affluent areas of South America. Every day I look at the Crystal brochures and our upcoming booked adventures with a great sigh. I still tear up describing this adventure to people. This was not a cruise. It was a life changing experience. We are so glad we were there. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
Please note that we were on board for 162 days but the number of nights we could show in the summary has a maximum of 100 days. We sailed Crystal Cruises and remained on board the same ship for 162 consecutive days. We boarded ... Read More
Please note that we were on board for 162 days but the number of nights we could show in the summary has a maximum of 100 days. We sailed Crystal Cruises and remained on board the same ship for 162 consecutive days. We boarded Crystal Serenity on 12/21/14, remaining on board until 05/31/15, representing our longest cruise ever. Our first voyage began with a Holiday Cruise, continued with a Caribbean cruise, until the start of the 2015 World Cruise in mid-January of 2015. At the conclusion of the World Cruise, in Miami on May 4, we stayed on-board for two final voyages; Miami to Lisbon and Lisbon to Rome. Summary ======== We had an amazing time. Highlights included the places we visited and circumnavigating the Globe on World Cruise 2015, the cuisine, service, enrichment, entertainment and some very special shore excursions, most notably a Safari Overland in South Africa and attending the Grand Prix in Monte Carlo. In the end, it was the people who made it most special for us including the extraordinary crew and so many nice people we sailed with. This was our seventh full and overall eighth World Cruise and for us it was wonderful. One of the main reasons we keep returning year after year is the people including the crew and the guests who in many ways have become our extended family. On this year’s World Cruise we not only sailed with friends from previous cruises but made many new ones several of whom were on their first World Cruise. The World Cruise on board events, which were created exclusively for the 2015 World Cruise, was the best yet in my opinion. To me this says a lot since the challenge was having 600+ full World Cruisers on board instead of an average year which is about half of that number, making logistics the more challenging and planning even more important. Some highlights included the on board World Cruise Gala which was the best yet and much nicer than what can be done at a Hotel, and then all of the on board shows created just for the World Cruise and the two themed on board dinners. I want to note that there were more on board shows created and performed on board Crystal Serenity just for the World Cruise than ever before on a World Cruise.. We also enjoyed a good deal of the other entertainment such as the Beatles Celebration Group. With very few exceptions, most of the events were for everyone whether on the full world cruise or one or more segments which we applaud. We appreciated the added diversity of food offerings in the Crystal Dining Room, which is a hallmark for the World Cruise given the overall duration and time spent on board by those taking the full World Cruise. The Modern Cuisine menus, which rolled out in May of 2014, added more choices than ever before. We were unable to attend the first of the two Shore-Side Events due to an illness, but heard that it was a lot of fun. We thoroughly enjoyed the second event held in Montevideo, Uruguay. The events were more challenging given that they were attended by close to 600 people. Crystal was very wise to make most of the on board events available for everyone even if they were not booked on the full world cruise including those who remained on for the start of the World Cruise from the previous voyage and attended the Gala, to the various themed dinners and on board shows created just for the World Cruise. I used a one to five * rating with five being the highest and one the lowest for my ratings and a plus sign (+) to go above the rating. Overall Experience ***** =============== Itinerary ****+ ======= The World Cruise itinerary was the first time a Crystal Cruises World Cruise has ever circumnavigated the globe, which we thought was extraordinary. We especially enjoyed visiting Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and the diversity of ports on this World Cruise. The reason I didn’t give the itinerary five stars is because of the timing of some of the ports which had Noon or later arrival times for some ports that only had a one day visit as well as a few ports which had overnights, but the arrival time the first day was around noon. I thought this limited the time in port and the selection of shore excursions and think that even if it means skipping a few ports it is better to arrive in the early morning than midday. I realize that sometimes timing has to do with issues such as the tides and how to put an entire itinerary together but if it was possible to eliminate a few ports to have created more full days in ports to me that would have been desirable. Post World Cruise we enjoyed Bermuda and especially the Mediterranean. Cuisine ****** ====== Recognizing that two thirds of the passengers for the world cruise would be on board for at least 108 days, the Crystal Dining Room menu continually offered new items in addition to those that one would expect when coming on board for one voyage. The Modern Cuisine Menu introduced on Serenity last year coupled with the Traditional Menu offers more options than ever before. In addition, menus in Tastes and Prego were changed from time-to-time and the menu in Silk Road was changed once. Although we don’t eat at the Grand Gala and other Special Buffets, we were very impressed with their offerings and they were offered one time on each World Cruise segment and on a couple of other voyages. Entertainment ***** ============ We were very pleased with the diversity of the entertainment knowing that we all have different tastes when it comes to this area. There was a wide range of offerings and something for everyone. Show times were adjusted based on where we were sailing. On the World Cruise there were more special performances than ever before, which were created just for one night that were absolutely amazing. As was the case with last year’s World Cruise, the on board entertainment team was augmented with two vocalists who performed in all of the shows created on board the ship and performed from time to time in other venues. The talent of the Entertainment Team is amazing and I am reminded of all of the hard work that they must put into creating these special one-time shows for all of us to enjoy. The preparation is more challenging that people realize. Other items related to entertainment-included movies, the pre-dinner magician shows along with the Strings Quartet and the Pianists. We thought that the movies that were available this year for viewing in the Crystal Cinema were quite diversified and included many highly rated movies. On the two voyages we were on before the start of the World Cruise we had the opportunity to see Pianist Mark Farris perform. Mark is one of the pianists who regularly perform on the Crystal Symphony and we thought he was amazing. Our only disappointment was the departure of pianists John Mentis and Colin Salter during the World Cruise. I also wanted to note that the crossing had terrific entertainment with no only the evening shows but some performances held before main dining. Enrichment ***** ========= Crystal offers more enrichment than any cruise line we have ever sailed and on the World Cruise this is augmented several-fold. There are so many programs offered on sea days that each day represents several days of activities. My wife participated regularly in the Odyssey at Sea Knitting Class and the Gentle Yoga Class, and I participated regularly in the Indoor Cycling Classes. We enjoyed many of the lectures with three lectures or more available on each and every sea day. We wish we had time for Memoir Writing and the Apple Computer Classes and hope to do this on a future World Cruise. Fifty+ enrichment programs are offered each and every sea day. I would say that 50% of the lecturers were exceptional, 40% strong, and about 10% weak. The ones that I rated weak are ones that either essentially read word for word from slides or from a prepared speech sounding more like a college professor from one of those introduction courses or ones where I simply had no takeaways from the talk or left without learning anything new. Because on a World Cruise, Crystal makes an extra effort to bring on first time lecturers you will see some being weak but to me that is fine because by bringing on new people you often find outstanding lectures who are asked to return on future voyages with some becoming part of the Crystal Family. I especially enjoyed Ocean Views, which is a panel discussion, and was hosted by Ken Rees and allows audience participation via hand held electronic devices. There were actually more activities offered during the World Cruise than ever before with additional courses offered on devices such as the iPad, a Book Club and a Zumba class offered on many sea days in addition to so many activities that have become a hallmark of World Cruises such as the College Computer Class, Memoir Writing, Language, and Piano Classes just to name a few of the programs. Similar to the entertainment, there was a tremendous amount of entertainment on the themed Miami to Lisbon Cruise, which followed the World Cruise. Shore Excursions/Land Programs ***** ========================== The Shore Excursion and Overland Programs offered not only increase in volume each and every year but also with the addition of many unique program offerings. Some of the start times were adjusted to later in the morning for those who are late risers. For us the highlights were private cars arranged through the land program department for some selected places including Bermuda, Colombia and Peru and attending the Grand Prix and also the three-night four-day overland program at the Phinda Private Reserve in South Africa. I also wanted to note that to me each year the on-board Shore Excursion Department gets stronger and stronger in terms of the personnel. We find them to be very knowledgeable and helpful and they do their utmost best to deal with any problems that come up and they were terrific in adjusting shore excursions when we missed a couple of ports and when our arrival was delayed to a couple of ports. Internet *** ======= Overall, the Internet was more reliable and faster than in 2014, which is positive given that overall occupancy was quite high with some voyages sold out and the one-hour per day of complimentary Internet for all guests who have previously sailed with Crystal Cruises. There were a couple of issues. One occurred on one of the World Cruise Segments when there was an equipment failure while we were sailing several days at sea which could not be rectified until we were in port. The other one happened on a couple of other crossings when there were times when we were moving from one satellite to another and encountered very slow connections or dropped connections and some outages. The latter is part of the challenge when sailing on a World Cruise or on a crossing. The bottom line is that there were days when the internet was very reliable and rather fast given the limitations of satellite technology, other days when speed was average, and other days when the internet was either down or very slow. As I mentioned, one of the challenges of the Internet this time around unlike in prior years that we sailed was that one hour of complimentary internet per day is now offered to each guest who has previously sailed with Crystal Cruises. This was even more challenging given that most of the voyages we were on were at full occupancy and the fact that more people come on board with more devices than ever before. Overall, the internet was the best we have ever experienced on board either Crystal Ship. The enhancements made not only in infrastructure, and augmented Satellite bandwidth but in the area of monitoring and control has really added to improved service. With that said, the speed and reliability of the Internet will never be the same as at home. The challenges include a sailing like the World Cruise where you are sailing in areas where access to a satellite is difficult and where you go from one satellite to another requiring manual intervention. On top of this there is the potential for equipment failures, interference caused in port or when sailing near land and the fact that Satellite technology in no way compares to fiber optics. There were a few times with durations lasting a few days at a time when the Internet was very slow or even not available. Because the Internet experience is just not going to always be the same depending on where one is sailing or if there is an equipment or some other issues, this is why depending on where or when you are sailing that you may have different experiences with one person saying how wonderful the internet is and another person saying it was not good. We also appreciated that FaceTime was often available which was not our experience in 2014. The investments made in 2013 to upgrade the internet infrastructure, the fine tuning that was made in 2014 before the rollout of the complimentary 1 hour per day of Internet for Crystal Society Members along with some other changes that were made did pay off in my opinion. Finally, the device one uses can make a big difference. For example, I find that the MacBook will provide a better experience than say an iPad. Even the type of Internet Browser that one might use can make a difference Finally, other techniques that one might use such as reducing the number of pixels in a photo before attaching it to an e-mail or including it in a blog will make a world of a difference in speed. Planning *****+ =========== I touched on this earlier but wanted to give the Crystal Cruises Senior Executives and the Senior Officers of Crystal Serenity excellent marks for all of the effort that went into planning the 2015 World Cruise. Changes were required based on the record number of full World Cruisers on board and the overall occupancy rate when most segments were 100 full. A wide range of items had to be addressed including: WORLD CRUISE GALA. Unlike in previous years when the kickoff to the World Cruise was held at a hotel on land, this was not possible given the significant number of World Cruisers. As a result the voyage began one day in advance and the Gala was held on Serenity. The Serenity was transformed for this as the Crystal Plaza was made over with lots of cocktail like tables with table cloths and lights providing a wonderful spot for the kickoff and the welcome by President and COO of Crystal Cruises Edie Rodriquez, a cocktail party and a balloon drop all in one. Following this, we enjoyed a sit down dinner in one of three dining venues with an assigned table and seating. There was lots of entertainment and by far this was the best World Cruise Gala we ever attended. All of the planning and coordination of this event was truly amazing. MEDICAL NEEDS. With so many full World Cruisers a very wise decision was made to have more than one physician on board for the World Cruise. As it turned out there were three Physicians as when the second person was hired he asked if his spouse who is also a Physician could share his contract and that is exactly what happened. All of this was a very wise decision because in addition to a couple of months of various upper respiratory viruses going around the ship, there were more major medical issues given the number of World Cruisers on board Serenity and the ages of some of the guests. DIVERSITY AND QUANITY OF ENTERTAINERS. Getting entertainers on and off the ship to make way for other entertainers and towards the end of the cruise getting additional land based musicians onto the ship when sailing full for the Crystal Serenity Pops Concert was amazing. SAFETY DEMONSTRATIONS. With two-thirds of the guests on board for the entire World Cruise Captain Giske thought it would be a great idea to offer a safety demonstration that gave passengers an opportunity to gain a more detailed insight into safety on board Crystal Serenity. This program was repeated twice during the World Cruise and provided us with a lot of information relate to safety. This included seeing a safety movie that was developed for each crew member, seeing one of the crew rafts which was deployed in the outdoor pool, seeing a life boat with all of the equipment that is on the life boat, seeing one of the fire fighter teams and also walking up a smoke filled corridor (smoke was simulated) when the safety lights were on. We thought it was superb and provided us with a wealth of information related to safety. The crew was on hand at each location to answer questions. WORLD CRIUSE SHORE SIDE EVENTS. Creating shore-side events that would work for 600 World Cruisers plus the Crystal escorts. This is no easy task and congratulations to the vice President of Crystal Land Programs and Port Operations, the on board team and the respective tour operators from the two ports of call for all of the efforts that went into these events. Service *****++ ====== I’ve listed service last so that we could save the best for last. For us service is one of the main reasons that we sail on Crystal Cruises. We find that the Service is the finest of any other cruise line we have sailed and any place we have dined or stayed at on land. The on-board crew is absolutely amazing. They have become our extended Crystal Family. There are many members of the crew that we have known since we first started sailing with Crystal Cruises as well as other members of the crew whom we have known for one or more years who just make each of our voyages the best it can be. On top of this even members of the crew who are on their first contracts quickly learned the Crystal Culture which stresses a high service level. The key for us is that the high level of service can be provided in not only a professional manner but in a manner that is highly personal. Rather than walking around like robots if you will, as they do on some cruise lines, the crew performs their responsibilities with caring and warmth for the guests they take care of. This culture is evident at all levels both on board each ship but also at the Crystal Headquarters. In the end, it is my belief that any successful enterprise is successful because of the people. You could take the most modern ship afloat and with the wrong people it will be a disaster. Crystal has mastered this area and it continued to be evident throughout the time we were sailing on board Serenity. There were certainly different ways to provide feedback on issues and that included comment cards that were provided to the full World Cruisers on two different occasions which could be filled out and submitted to the Hotel Director, and/or using the on-line form to submit comments to President of Crystal Cruises President, Edie Rodriquez, a conversation with a Senior Officer, or a conversation when Edie Rodriquez and Senior Vice President, Thomas Mazloum were on board. At the same time on the other voyages, there was a letter sent to the room from the Hotel Director providing his phone number in the event that there was some issue that needed to be resolved. While resolution cannot be realized for each and every comment I can point to numerous examples of items that were identified by people we know that were resolved expeditiously. In the end, this is my experience. At times I have used the word “we” rather than "I" as my wife also felt the same way that I did. I realize that we all have different opinions and see things in different ways. What one person enjoys another person might not and what one person does not care for, someone else might like. If we all saw things in the same manner, this would be a boring world. As I have said often, the only experience that matters the most is our very own. I am grateful that my wife and I had the opportunity to sail on Serenity for this extended period of time and have been humbled by all that we experienced on and off the ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
My wife and I took a cruise on Crystal Serenity Nov. 30 – Dec. 11, 2014, from the west coast of Costa Rica, through the Panama Canal, up the east coast of Central America and Mexico, ending in Miami, FL, USA. We're not members (yet) ... Read More
My wife and I took a cruise on Crystal Serenity Nov. 30 – Dec. 11, 2014, from the west coast of Costa Rica, through the Panama Canal, up the east coast of Central America and Mexico, ending in Miami, FL, USA. We're not members (yet) of the cruiser subculture. Our only prior cruise was on the Crystal Harmony in 1996, so we have nothing with which to compare Crystal. That having been said, our overall experience was excellent. Crystal is on the pricey side, but you get pretty much what you pay for. Crystal's marketing hype is over the top, so we came in with very high expectations. Mostly our expectations were met, one was more than met, and a couple not quite. Still, for the price we think it's a good value and would consider taking a cruise on Crystal again if the time and place were right. The passenger crowd is mature. I'm in my early 70s and may have been slightly on the younger side of the average age of all passengers. There were no children that we saw on the cruise, and the ship is not geared at all toward children. The rooms are small (ours was 8116) but well laid out and furnished – quite adequate – as was the small bathroom. The common areas are very nice, close to over the top, but not over the top. The Serenity holds about 1070 passengers, I recall, and we had about 950 on our cruise. Except for breakfast rush in the Lido cafeteria (only one of the many breakfast options, including room service and the main dining room), the boat never felt crowded, or empty. The cruise was "all inclusive" – no gratuities asked for or expected. Notwithstanding, the service was mostly excellent. At the worst service was workmanlike, and at the best very attentive and friendly. Only once in the dining room did we have to ask for wine at the beginning of our meal. Speaking of wine, good wines are included in "all inclusive." What they like to do is offer one red and one white each night. You can ask for a small "all inclusive wine list," or a list of premium wines for an extra charge. However, in our first night's experience we learned that it was extra trouble for the staff to go beyond the standard basic offerings, so thereafter we went that way and were quite satisfied. All of the food was very good to excellent. The optional Prego and Silk Road restaurants, and Taste, were very good, but no better than the main dining room. What they offer is welcome variety. What I particularly liked was that the portions were relatively small. If you wanted more, you could have it, but you weren't presented with a ton of food you felt like to had to eat rather than let it go to waste. There are three nice lounges (not counting the cigar lounge), all of which we enjoyed. The entertainment was very good, too, as were the educational speakers – we heard three out of four of the latter. Production shows were an hour or less, not so much as to wear you out. The main house (small) orchestra was very, very good, and the house lounge musicians just fine. On the downside, our cruise was advertised as a "jazz theme" cruise. We did not take it for that reason, and did enjoy some of the jazz performances. However, it turned out that the jazz program was run by a separate tour company, and the passengers who booked through them got the full deal. According to the Crystal Society Hostess on board, they "let other passengers hear some of their programs." We asked the rep on board for some more information, but it was made clear that we weren't part of their group. So, here's the lesson. If you want to take a Crystal cruise and the "theme," if there is one, is important to you, make sure you know exactly what you'll be entitled to. Will you be a first class passenger, or as we were on our cruise, second class passengers. The ship also has what struck me as a fairly large gambling room. We're not gamblers, so I can't say anything about its quality, it's right next to the main showroom and yet never seemed very busy to me. I'm not an expert, but it looked like most of the offerings were electric slot or other gambling machines. Finally, we booked the complete travel package with air. All was very smooth. The disembarkation was excellent, much better than our Crystal Harmony experience in 1996. The only negative was that by the time we got our flight information and went in to make seat reservations, we had to pay about $120 extra so my wife and I could sit together on the 4 hr. flight from Atlanta to San, Jose, CR.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
I just returned from a 5-day taste of the Crystal Serenity. It really wasn't enough time to truly get to know the ship, particularly as bad weather caused them to have to make some itinerary adjustments, and pull some things together ... Read More
I just returned from a 5-day taste of the Crystal Serenity. It really wasn't enough time to truly get to know the ship, particularly as bad weather caused them to have to make some itinerary adjustments, and pull some things together on the fly. But it was enough time to get a feel for it. I'll get to the bottom line first: I highly recommend this ship. Now, some details. I don't mean this as one of those "cruise line X vs. cruise line Y" rundowns, but since Regent is my primary frame of reference, I think it might be easier to give an idea of the ship by using Regent as a comparison on some points, for those who have been on their ships. I realize that some of my nitpicks will make me sound like a spoiled brat. I do tend to stick to the luxury lines, so I guess I more or less am said spoiled brat. PUBLIC SPACES and ENTERTAINMENT The interior of this ship is beautiful. Simply stunning. The centerpiece of the ship is its two-story atrium with a colored glass ceiling. The reception and excursion desks, the cruise consultant desk, and a lobby bar (the Crystal Cove) surround it. At center is a nice sculpture. In the evenings, a string quartet might play, or a band plays and people can dance, etc. It's the heart of the ship, and is used as a center of activity. And, oh yes, the Crystal Cove was my favorite bar, although seating can get a little tight just before the two main dinner seatings, as it is near the main dining room. There is a center staircase that leads to a "street" of shops overlooking the atrium. I didn't go into any except the one that sells the logo wear (which had a paltry and overpriced selection), so can't report on them. Other public spaces, in no particular order: the Palm Cove, on deck 12. It's essentially the observation lounge. It is lovely and comfortable. On my cruise, it was sparsely used except for the sailaway out of Boston. I couldn't tell you why--it is a great venue. It has a large dance floor, and after dinner a few brave souls could be found fox trotting and waltzing the evening away. The pool deck. The weather was not conducive to its use (cold rain, snow, high winds--you name it), but it is clearly a nice setup, with really nice and comfortable seating arrangements. On the rare moments of sun, it was clear that there is a good bit of seating in the shade in addition to in the sun. The pool itself is not huge, but not small. Certainly larger than on the Regent ships. It has two jacuzzis, which we did use one chilly day. They were very nice. (Oh, and a nice touch--the info displayed on one of the ship's TV channels includes the hot tub water temperature). There is also the saloon for a drinking venue--a dark, pub-like space that is actually quite nice. There's a piano player there in the evening. The ship has two theaters for live performance, as well as a good-sized movie theater. We went to a couple of the performances, which were done well. One was put on by the song and dance troupe, who are quite good, and one was a variety show--a pair of dancers, a comedian who was pretty funny, and the cruise director doing a ventriloquist act that, much to my surprise, was hilarious and well-done. There was supposed to be what is considered an innovative show using lighted costumes, but was cancelled due to high seas on one particularly rocky and rolly night. They have a good-sized library that has a nice selection of books and DVDs, but it seemed to be rarely open. There are other spaces as well--a big computer room, a learning center, and a large games room (apparently bridge is big on Crystal). They also have lectures during the day, but I never managed to make it to any. But one thing that's quite noticeable on their webpage showing their various lecturers: where are the women and people of color? There's only a couple of women, and no one of color. As I've seen on other cruise lines, people other than white males do have interesting things to say. DINING Yum! Best food I've had on a cruise ship, and tight competition with some of the better restaurants on land. Dining venues are: Lido Cafe (for breakfast and lunch--all buffet); Trident Grill (for late breakfast and for lunch; also has an ice cream shop); Tastes (a small plates venue offering a variety of world cuisines); Bistro (a coffee shop with snacks); Prego (Italian, dinner only); Silk Road (Japanese/Asian/sushi; dinner only); and the main dining room (all meals). The food in the Lido Cafe is good. There is an omelet station, but you have to wait around for it--there is no one to bring it to your table. The coffee is decent, and specialty coffees are available. A nice touch--"to go" cups, so you can grab a cup and go elsewhere with it, or pop down from your room a grab a cup to take back without worrying about it cooling or spilling. The grill is nothing special--standard pool grill fare. But the setting is wonderful: there used to be a second swimming pool here with a glass ceiling above. But they covered over the pool and put in tables, chairs, and other relaxing seating vignettes, so that it is a nice outdoor-feeling spot but out of the weather. It was quite welcomed during the nasty weather of this cruise, and was a nice spot to hang when it wasn't meal time. The other half of that space is Tastes. We had a great meal there, though some plates were better than others. The fish dishes were particularly good here. Bistro was a nice spot for a cup of tea or coffee, and was good for a late light lunch after a return from shore. The dishes here match a painting on the wall--sounds hokey, but actually was very pretty. We were pleasantly surprised by Prego. Cruise ship italian restaurants are often mediocre. Not so here: the mushroom soup is fantastic, and the rack of lamb yummy. Silk Road. Wow. The black cod knocked my socks off. Great sushi too. A real hit. Main Dining Room. We only had a couple of chances to try it, and so the jury is still out on the dining system. There are two set seatings, with assigned table mates--one at 6:00 and another at 8:30. The alternative is Dining by Reservation. You can more or less name your own time, but must make a reservation, and must name your table mates. We opted for this. Fortunately, it appears that there is flexibility in the system. Within an hour of boarding, we were delighted to run into some friends from a couple of Regent cruises, and so made arrangements to have dinner together the next night. No problem with dumping our time and joining them at theirs. But I don't know what would have happened if they hadn't also been Reservation diners. The second time in the MDR was the final night, when we joined by a guest from on shore. We were tucked into a quiet corner (apparently they'd heard about us), and had a lovely meal. The food in the MDR was good, and just enough selections to please any palate. But here was the only real sour moment we had on the CS. One afternoon in Boston, some friends who live there visited us on the ship and joined us in the MDR for lunch. Of course, Crystal had a charge for that, and we were fine with it, expecting to see it on our account at the end. To my surprise, they brought a check to the table at the end of the lunch, and presented it to our guest! I found it awkward and embarrassing. First, why do the check at all? Why not just put it on our account? Second, who gives the check to the guest? The only thing I can think of is that the only man at the table was one of the guests, and they're caught up in the old thinking that of course the man gets the check. No restauranteur on shore would dare do that anymore--I can't think why Crystal would. BTW, there is no charge for the first dine at each of the alternative restaurants during a cruise, but a $30 charge for subsequent visits. Because our cruise was only 5 days, we didn't run into this, and we did manage to sample them all. EXCURSIONS I had been signed up for two ship's excursions during the cruise--one in Bar Harbor and one in Newport--mostly because I wanted to see how Crystal handled them. Overcrowding an excursion is a pet peeve of mine. While there were plenty of people on the Bar Harbor excursion, the buses were not overcrowded, nor were the sites. Of course, the weather was so nasty that very little was visible, but the guide was engaging and knowledgeable, and the excursion pleasant. It wasn't Crystal's fault that the weather was awful. Alas, that was to be my only ship's excursion, as the weather caused them to cancel the Newport stop in favor of a day at sea, and we'd made our own arrangements for Boston and New York. FITNESS FACILITIES The gym on the top deck seems well-equipped, with lots of treadmills, a couple of stationary bikes, a couple of recumbent bikes, several elipticals, a lone stairmaster, and any number of weight machines. There's also a nice yoga/pilates/zumba/barre area. Also, deck 7 goes all the way around the ship: no dodging deck chairs, no dead ends. Just nice walking space. 3-1/3 turns=1 mile. That's something that's always been wanting on Regent. The pool is big enough for short laps, or water aerobics. Of course, the weather precluded actually trying it out. CABINS The cabin decor is pretty much standard issue cruise line, luxury division, looking very much like Regent or Silversea, just with a different color palette. The standard cabins are smaller than they are on Regent, but do not feel more cramped. Your "moving about" space is about the same. Instead, the size difference is felt in what's not there. There is only a love seat and a desk chair for seating in the sitting area--no additional chair, and the love seat is shorter than a Regent sofa. But it is more comfortable. There is no dressing table. There is no curtain to separate the sleeping area from the sitting area. This is probably the most missed, as the later to bed or earlier to rise person of a pair in the room does not have a place to have a light on without risking disturbing the others. I understand the penthouses have such a curtain, but not the standard window or verandah cabins. The size difference is also felt in the closet. We'd become spoiled by the walk-in closets of Regent. On the Crystal ships, there is just a wall closet with a sliding door. While it is more spacious than it looks at first glance, that extra space comes from a hard-to-get-to area. And, it is right next to the bed. So the person who has the bed (or side of the bed) away from the closet risks waking up the other to get into the closet. This is particularly so because the closet has a light that comes on every time the door is opened. And it seems to shine right at the pillow of that nearby bed. Plus, the area between the bed and the closet is pretty tight. We had heard that the drawer space is generous on Crystal, and indeed between the dresser in the closet and the many drawers in the desk, there are quite a few drawers. But the drawers are actually all a bit on the small size. Overall, the drawer space is probably about equal to what Regent offers. Certainly none of that was a big deal--or even relevant--for a 5-day cruise, but is something to think about for longer cruises. BATHROOMS The bathrooms have the very nice feature of a double sink. There's quite a bit of shelf space in the bathroom. But there's also a quirk: next to the sink with the makeup mirror, the shelves have been taken out and one of those weak installed hair dryers mounted in their place, leaving just one tiny shelf way up high. While there's plenty of shelf space on the other side, it still is funny that you can't keep your makeup next to the makeup mirror. And that, for couples, the person who'd most want the makeup mirror has to jam the makeup on the little shelf in front or keep it on the other side from the mirror. Just one of those clues that no woman had a say in the design. Bathing is a bathtub/shower combo. The tub has a high side, and no ledge, but there are very well-placed hand bars that make getting in and out quite easy. Water pressure is great, and there's plenty of hot water, even at the prime shower times. Note, however, that the ship was not full--it was carrying about 700 but has capacity for a bit over 1,000. However, if the water was good at 700, I expect it will be at full capacity. They provide both bath sheets and standard towels, which is a nice plus. Two robes per person are provided: a terrycloth one and a cotton kimono-style. Also a nice touch. THE CABIN DOOR SYSTEM The cabin doors have gone high tech. They have an electronic screen at which you can touch "do not disturb" or "clean room", and this shows up on a screen in the hall to tell the stewardess whether to come in or not. If you touch neither, it shows in the hall as "bell", and touching that option in the hall rings the doorbell. It works quite well except for one quirk that we discovered by accident. My roommate had left the cabin, and I decided to take a shower and so hit "do not disturb" to keep the stewardess from coming in during the shower. Beth tried to return, but her key didn't work, and I was in the shower and so didn't hear the doorbell. Well, it turns out that, if 'do not disturb' is on, no one's keys can open the door--including the other occupant of the cabin! Fortunately the stewardess was in the hall, and she can use an override key, so it wasn't much of a problem then. But I can see some circumstances in which that quirk could create problems.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
What better way to celebrate an upcoming 93rd birthday than with a trip! For the past few years Mother and I have gone to New York for some theater time for her birthday trips, but this year decided to try a Fall leaf viewing cruise. We ... Read More
What better way to celebrate an upcoming 93rd birthday than with a trip! For the past few years Mother and I have gone to New York for some theater time for her birthday trips, but this year decided to try a Fall leaf viewing cruise. We had a rough start to the planning when Mother broke both arms in May so cancelled the Crystal Cruise we had booked for October. However, by Labor Day we decided to re-book it, since we still had plane and theater tickets. Two weeks out we have no cabin assignment or dining time, but we do have Mother's hair appointment scheduled for half way though, so the important item is booked :-). I don't have much cruising experience, but Katie and I did learn a few things on our Holland America Zaandam Cruise "Around the Horn" which has helped me prepare a bit for this one. Do some research on Cruise Critic about the ports we will visit. Book a few ship excursions - more expensive but easier logistically. Avoid the early morning excursions, because Mother won't make them, at least not with a smile on her face. Pair food tours with sight seeing - discovered I love these. Pack lighter. Hope for at leisure dining to avoid sitting with the same people the whole trip. Forget the iPhone SIM, as it is too complicated to find a phone store near the port. I'll pay the exorbitant ship WiFi charge for Canada and hope ATT has some New England coverage. Try not to eat like a pig. My friends Margie and Don are in Nova Scotia this week so are giving us a great preview. 10/6/14 Left Athens at 5 AM via very prompt Bulldog Limo, but was shocked at the amount of traffic on 316 at that time. It was literally bumper to bumper to the airport all the way from Athens. Had a near bad experience in security. Someone took my basket while I was putting on my shoes. It simply disappeared. We looked everywhere and asked the TSA to help. Of course it contained my handbag with passports, money, cards, etc. After five minutes, back came the basket. Someone who was being searched in a private room said my basket was hers so the TSA whisked it away with her. Mother and I had aisle seats across from each other on the flight to JFK, and, of course, the biggest man you have ever seen was in the middle seat next to her. She did not have the armrest down, so he took his seat and half of hers. I insisted she swap with me, since I'm pushy enough to claim my space, which I did. He stood up to get something and down went the armrest. He squeezed back in, but just barely. As we began flying low for our final approach to the QC airport, we were treated to a spectacular palette of color all over the countryside. I believe we have hit the leaves perfectly for Quebec, for sure. Had a lovely welcome to Quebec at customs when the officer pronounced Galland in the French manner and asked is I had French Canadian relatives. Who knew Quebec had Gallands? Settled into our room which has a beautiful view of Hotel Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world. I added another to the count right away. Met our Crystal Cruise Critic “sponsors” in the bar for a get acquainted drink. This is a fun program where someone who sees you are a first time Crystal Cruiser can ask to be your pre-trip guide. The benefit, other than some great ship tips, was $100 ship credit for each of us. We did not have a set dinner planned due to our stand by status, so we were added to six at the early seating. Very interesting couples with mostly experienced cruisers. In fact we met a couple on their 39th Crystal Cruise. Yow! Show featured songs from A Chorus Line, one of Mother’s and my favorites. 10/7/ Quebec City Had room service breakfast after a pretty good night’s sleep. Rainy weather today, unfortunately, since QC is a beautiful city, filled with “firsts” such as first permanent settlement, only walled city north of Mexico in NA, first hospital in NA, first boys’ school, first girls’ school, and many others. Relived my 5th grade social studies class with Samuel D. Champlain and Jacque Cartier. I will definitely return to QC with Bob in the future. Beautiful narrow streets, old churches, walkable walls, and more restaurants than any city in Canada. Got to peek in the Hotel Fondelac to see what $2000 a night gets you. Part of QC town history wall mural Lower Old Quebec And the rain begins! Had a lazy afternoon exploring the ship, eating a two hour lunch, and watching ladies dance with the paid gentlemen dancers on board. What a hoot. Mother will be dancing before the week is out, I’m betting. Fancy high tea then happy hour at the top front of the ship watching the beautiful Quebec countryside go by. We had dinner at Tastes, a little boutique restaurant with small portions based on international street food. We ate Peruvian tuna (raw) with lots of wonderful spices, California tacos like no taco I’ve ever eaten, some sort of steak on a skewer and tempura shrimp. The chocolate dessert was to die for, so I hope never to see it again. I could not resist. Ended the day with a fabulous selection of singing and dancing for 10 different Broadway shows. We met the parents of one of the dancers who is from Wales, and loved sharing the fun with them. Steve, the dancing and singing son, joined the cast two years ago right out of college and is just fabulous, as are all the entertainers. His parents are on their third cruise on our ship to get to see him perform. Of course, Steve has aspirations for Broadway or West End, but life working for Crystal is evidently very good. Some performers stay for 20 years! 10/8 Sept Iles Sailed all night on smooth river water but was surprised to discover this morning that I could see neither shore. We must be getting into the St. Lawrence delta area which is quite wide and merges into the Atlanta with a series of island all around. Left Mother sleeping while I frantically took care of work business, using lots of my very expensive satellite Internet. Glad I did not both searching for a Canadian SIM in QC because we are far from any sort of cell tower. Mother enjoyed room service while I had a working breakfast to catch up with things from last night. The wonderful thing about my job is I can travel more due to the salary and can work from anywhere in the world. The ship satellite Internet is hideously expensive but worth every penny when I means I can sit with my laptop in a beautiful restaurant enjoying the St. Lawrence Seaway and a fabulous breakfast. Our morning is at sea so lots of activities have been schedule. I opted for a Canadian history lecture, followed by pedicures for Mother and me in the ship’s spa. Returned to Tastes for another foodie lunch. Lounged around the ship all afternoon, moving from one beautiful space to another with our books and my laptop. Managed to complete several big work tasks with great Internet since there were no trees to get in our way. Mother debated dancing during the afternoon tea dance with the hired male dancers but decided her arms were not up to dancing with a partner. After watching a few minutes, I had to reluctantly agree. Mother and I were among the smart ones on the ship who elected not to go into Sept Isles. The rain came down in buckets, umbrellas flipped inside out, and one of the school bus tour buses got stuck in the sand on a beach and had to be towed out. We had a late dinner reservation tonight, the result of our standy-by last minute booking, so went to the evening performance before dinner. This was a classical pianist who promptly put most of the audience to sleep. Dinner was again delicious! 10/9 Iles de la Madeleine Woke up with the room service steward knocked on the door at 9. Guess the rock and rolling of the ship all night put us both into a deep slumber. At noon we left the ship for our Magdalen Islands shore excursion, “Flavors of Magdalen Islands.” We were met at the dock by a school bus, but inside was a fabulous Swiss guides who had moved here permanently after an 18 year career with Cirque du Soleil. She started a circus training school in the islands which now has 500 students ages 2 - 55. Her pride is having one currently performing with Cirque du Soleil. Our prize was having a wonderful guide who spoke perfect English. The ten Madgelen Islands are in the middle of the St. Lawrence River delta about 100 km West of Newfoundland and the same distance from Nova Scotia and mainland Quebec. The only way on or off is via a five hour ferry ride or a flight from Quebec City or Montreal. Eight of the islands are French speaking and two are English speaking. This is the heart of Acadia where the French were forced out by the English in the 18th century. Many went to Louisiana and the Caribbean while others went to Sept Isles. The ones left in the Madgalen Island either returned or never left. We first visited a cheese factory. About 90 years ago, an agronomist from Toronto persuaded a beef farmer to change to daily cows to produce a cheese similar to the type made in Normanday and Brittany. They sold their beef cows and imported 62 daily cows from the mainland and never looked back. The three cheeses we tasted here were all divine. Next stop the only remainly fish smoke house on the islands. There were once 72 of these, but then the herring population disappeared in the 70’s due to overfishing, all of the others were closed. In the early 90’s the herring reappeared only to be decimated due to climate warming, overfishing again, and the abundance of seals. This was the most interesting part for me. I remember seeing the films of the adorable baby grey seals being clubbed to death and responding with outrage. Unfortunately, this meant Europe, the US and most of the world prohibited seal skin and meat import, resulting in the 1 million seal population turning into 7 million today. These seals have no enemies and eat all the fish in the area. No more herring for the smoke houses today. Their natural enemies were polar bears, which lived farther north but are also disappearing and orcas while only live further to the west. Now China has prohibited seal product import, so the seal population will continue to expand. It certainly made me rethink the whole baby seal slaughter videos we saw 30 years ago. Maybe if they would shoot seals instead of clubbing the babies, we’d feel better about this. The only animals on these 10 islands are foxes, coyotes, and rabbits. The island homes are all painted bright colors. This tradition began so fishermen could find their homes by color to head to the right destination coming home. The tradition has continued. There is so much wind that there are very few trees on the islands, so lumber is now imported for new homes. About 13,000 people liver here full time with the population rising to over 30,000 during the summer due to the large number of relatively private beach areas. The many lighthouses are no longer in use but one can purchase a lighthouse for $1 if they agree to keep them painted, etc. for the tourists. At the herring smokehouse we sampled smoked herring (tasted like a Slim Jim) and marinated herring - aka Kippers in the US. I thought they were delicious. Mother did not even taste :-). Visited several beautiful beaches and lighthouses and ended our tour at the island’s micro brewery where everyone wolfed down potato chips and lots of beer. Most of us had not eaten lunch thinking we would eat a lot on this tour - not. Mother and I were happy to missing an additional 10,000 calories but did really enjoy our dinner at Tastes again. Evening entertainment was a Native American magician - odd but pretty funny. Later found a great small piano bar with a wonderful piano player and singer. Lots of fun then off to bed to be rocked to sleep again. Am loving that rock and roll. 10/10 - Friday Cruising the Cabot Strait Slept in for our day at sea, but my internal alarm is on Eastern time, not Atlantic time as we are now, so woke up too early. I must be the worst person in the world for time zone changing, because I cannot even make a one hour change work. When we go back to Eastern time in two days, I’ll probably be settled in on Atlantic. As Katie and I discovered on our South America cruise, sea days are packed with activities on the ship, so many that it is frustrating not to be able to do everything. Of course the weather was bright and sunny, but cold, making us wish we were in a port to enjoy walking outside. Outside on the ship was cold and blustery. My minimum outside boating temperature is 80 and we were at about 55 all day. Started the morning with breakfast in the Lido, because we were too late for the dining room. Next Mother decided to relax with her book in our stateroom so I ran from a lecture about the history of Nova Scotia and Maine, to a talk about iPad tips and tricks, to a lecture about militant Islamists, to a class on Photoshop Elements 12, quite different from version 3 I last owned. After learning how to remove wrinkles from faces on photos, I decided to go home and buy this one :-). Lunch in our favorite restaurant, Tastes. Beauty parlor time for Mother at 2 for a hair transformation. Mozart themed high tea followed with all wait staff dressed in period costumes and the string quartet playing all Mozart selections. Dinner at 6 with two delightful couples, production show about the British music invasion of the 60’s which was again amazingly fabulous, then a nightcap in the piano bar. I say today was mostly about eating and drinking. The all inclusive nature of this ship seems to encourage lots of both. 10/11 Halifax Woke up this morning to the sound of bagpipes as we pulling into the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia. This was our most risky day of the cruise, as we had booked a private taxi tour we found on Trip Advisor with Lucinda at www.halifaxcruiseshiptaxitours.com. I shared the information on Cruise Critic in our cruise area and another couple from San Francisco, Laurel and Steve, and a single from Sydney, AU decided to join us. We needed five to make the price reasonable, and it ended up being about $50 a person, far less than the ship excursions. Our guide Terry met us right outside of the ship so little walking was required of Mother. We hopped into his van and began a wonderful day in Nova Scotia. Our day begin with a walk through the large Halifax city park and a tour of beautiful historic neighborhoods in the city. Our stop at the citadel on the hill gave Terry time to tell us about the huge explosion of 1917, the largest explosion ever recorded prior to the Atomic Bomb. Next toured the Fairview Cemetery, home to the graves of 121 victims of the Titanic. Since most of us know quite a bit about the Titanic from the movie, Broadway play and recent discovery and underwater exploration, this was especially interesting. One of the executives of the White Star line was on the ship and evidently bribed his way onto a lifeboat being guarded at gunpoint to keep only women and children onboard. He promised to take care of the seaman’s family in exchange for a seat, and did. He also gave the seaman a nice headstone. Of course, he lived a miserable life afterwards trying to explain why he had gotten on a lifeboat reserved for women and children. James Cameron used names in the movie Titanic based on the real names on tombstones. Most interesting to me was a tombstone of an unknown two year old. Rescuers who recovered the bodied felt so bad for this one they chipped in to pay for a larger tombstone. A few years ago DNA testing revealed the child’s actual name. Our group decided to ship lunch to give us more touring time so we detoured through beautiful waterfront areas on our way to Peggy’s Cove. Nova Scotia has over 1000 km of shoreline and the areas that had not previously been developed as villages are now being developed as multi-million dollar neighborhoods. These homes actually reminded me of the Lake Burton mac-mansions. Peggy’s Cove, a very famous photo stop south of Halifax, was a surprise. I’d expected a big tourist village with lots of people. We saw a total of about 20. There were about a dozen shops, lots of fishing boats and lobster traps, and many granite rocks scraped clean by glaciers thousands of years ago. The famous lighthouse was about half the height of our SSI one, which seems to be the norm for Nova Scotia and most of Eastern Canada. It was quite lovely and proved not to be a problem for Mother walking. We did not bother with the walker, and used me instead. Back to the port, ship, just in time for a quick tea time with sandwiches. We acted like we were starving, but I’m sure we were not as my dinner the night before was enough to last forever. I zipped off to an iPhoto class where I learned many new tricks for me. Well worth the 45 minutes. The ship has two Mac labs with 30 inch monitors on 25 computers each - quite impressive! Had dinner tonight in the specialty Italian restaurant on the ship, Prego. Crystal does not charge extra for the special restaurants on board but does limit you to two evenings at their top two, Prego and Silk Road, their Asian restaurant. Service and food were both delicious, and we agreed with our travel agent that the mushroom soup was a must have. 10/12 Bar Harbor Early start this morning with breakfast in the dining room then immigration back to the USA. This was, by far, the easiest entry into the US I’ve ever had. One immigration officer looked at our passports and that was it. He, of course, mentioned he had been at FLETC many years ago. I suggested he must either be very senior or very good to get cruise ship duty. Lucky guy! Boarded our tender for a spectacular early morning arrival into the best Fall colors of the trip in Bar Harbor. I have visited Bar Harbor and the National Park here twice before but have never taken a tour so really enjoyed our National Park Service school bus tour of Acadia National Park and the town of Bar Harbor. Our guide, Heather, was one of those worth writing home about for sure. She had just the right amount of humor and exuberance without getting in the way of her extensive knowledge. She has been giving these tours for the park service concessionaire for over 20 years. A few interesting tidbits: Though there were three ships in the port today and the town was a bit crowded, Bar Harbor never lets tourism outweigh their charm. Only 6000 cruise ship passengers total are every allowed off the ships, and ships can only visit during September and October after the summer residents have left. Bar Harbor seems to be where most of the Jekyll Island Club group spent their summers after wintering on Jekyll. Beautiful homes line the harbor representing many of the rich and famous such as Martha Stewart, John Trivolta, and, of ocurse, the Rockefellers. The Rocks first came to Bar Harbor when Mrs. Rockefeller was pregnant with Nelson, former VP with Gerald Ford. She has two previous children and wanted the same doctor to deliver Nelson. He told her she would have to spend the summer in Bar Harbor if she wanted him to deliver the baby, so she did and the decendents have returned every summer from that point forward. John D. Jr. donated much of the land which is now Acadia National park. The viewpoint of the park if the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the Eastern seaboard. Leaf color was at its peek, and the air was crisp and cold providing beautiful clear views. A major fire in 1947 burned much of the park's cedar forests, making was for Norwegian maples, Red maples, birch, oak and many other colorful hardwoods. We could not leave Bar Harbor without a lobster roll which Mother had never previously experienced. Instead of one of regular restaurant on Main Street, we headed to the gorgeous Bar Harbor Inn for our lunch hanging out over the harbor in a beautiful glass dining room. The lobster roll was a few dollars more expensive but the view was well worth it. Lobster season is year around in Maine but most fishermen stop during the coldest months. In fact, most stores in the town close and the owners become snowbirds, flocking to Florida, Arizona, and the Golden Isles. Maine has over 3000 offshore islands, the most of any Atlantic Coast state, and Bar Harbor is certainly one of the most lovely. We reluctantly returned to the ship at 3. Mother took a quick nap while I listened to the last history lecture of the trip about Boston. 5 PM was tea dance time, but Mother was still a watcher concerned about lifting her arms to participate. Very weird production company show tonight with all characters dressed in lights. It required lots of effort in both costuming and performing, and we decided it was not worth it. Half the audience was asleep, as the show was done in total darkness except for the lighted costumes. 10/13 Boston Fantastic morning in Boston today on a ship shore excursion to Boston and Cambridge with our local guide David. David is about my age and is decended from Beacon Hill Bostonians. His grandparents created and donated the Constitution Museum by Old Ironsides, and he graduated from Harvard. I did not have the nerve to ask why he was leading tours so just enjoyed his wonderful personality and vast knowledge. Our stop at Old Ironsides showed us the ship covered in flags and bunting ready for the Secretary of the Navy to arrive later this week for the ships final sail before going into two years of dry dock. I'm always proud this ship was made from SSI live oaks, and, of course, had to share that. Then the guide told me he was writing a novel set in Georgia in Enota (sp) and Jekyll Island. Can't wait to read this one. Bob and I visited Boston two years ago and toured thoroughly except for Cambridge which we just road through. This trip took us on a 45 minute walk around the Harvard campus, a real treat since our guide had been a student there. Harvard Yard was not at all what I expected - much smaller than the North Campus yard of UGA and not as pretty. Our guide was a bit opinionated and got into an argument with a German guide about which group would get to enter the church first, her three German tour buses or our small group. Both guides pitched hissy fits but the German won because our Crystal rep told David to back off. We had an outdoor visit with an excellent telling of the start of the American Revolution, lanterns in the church tower, battle details, etc. Found out two liquor merchants funded the brick Freedom Trail to celebrate the bi-centenial in 1976. Their only stipulation was that the trail pass both of their stores, even though they were a bit out of the way. The National Park Service agreed and both merchants have gotten their investments back many times over with all the passing tourists. Other fascinating detail on this tour was no restroom stop on a four hour tour. Some got desperate and used the bus bathroom, only to get stuck in there because the door handle didn't work properly. We crossed our legs and ran into the restroom as soon as we boarded the ship. Spent afternoon catching up on work and resting though Quincy Market was tempting. Another lovely Italian dinner at Prego tonight. Am getting addicted to the lobster on this ship, I’m afraid. Skipped the piano concert and opted for a movie, Le Chef, which someone had mentioned was sort of like the 100 Foot Journey. It was in French with subtitles, but was still wonderful. Mother went right to sleep and had a lovely nap along with most of the people in the theater. The subtitles were a bit much for most, as there was lots of dialogue. 10/14 Newport Mother slept in while I worked this morning which was a great decision for both of us. We decided last night to see if the ship excursion to Newport at noon had any seats available, and a great decision it was. We tendered into beautiful Newport and joined our 90 minute trolley tour. Weather was perfect, and our guide was outstanding. According to him, he is the only resident of the city who is a direct descendant of Rhode Island’s founder, Roger Williams. A few tidbits to remember: Newport was one of the five largest cities in the US at the time of the American Revolution - others were Boston, Charleston, Philadelphia and New York. Newport has more pre-revolutionary homes than any other city in the country, thanks to the preservation efforts of Doris Duke, the tobacco heiress. Nice to see something good came from smoking. People came to Rhode Island for freedom of religion so the city had a more diverse population than other colonial cities. First Episcopal church, first Jewish synagog, and lots of other firsts. The rich started coming to Newport when a planter from Savannah visited and decided it would be the perfect summer retreat. His friends followed but all abandoned the city when the Civil War broke out and none returned. After the war Northern millionaires of the Gilded Age began summering in Newport and building huge mansions along the coast. The age ended with income tax legislation but huge mansions remain as do many wealthy people. Most elite were the group of 400. Mrs. Astor started this and had two requirements. 1. Must have at least 4 million dollars and must have 2 million set aside for each of your children. 2. Must not have earned your money by working for at least three generations. There is still a beach club in Newport set aside for the group of 400. Donald Trump tried to join this a few years ago but was rejected due to rule #2. Did not realize Anderson Cooper of CNN fame was the daughter of Gloria Vanderbilt, part of the wealthy Vanderbilt clan. We saw the “cottage” where he vacations in the summer. I decided I’ll never give another cent to my alma mater, because the Vanderbilts can afford to keep it running without me. Newport has more yachts than any harbor in the world. Most were spectacular! Had a great show back on the ship with the production company then a lovely dinner with six people we had not previously met. One had dined with one of the four ladies who live on the ship and discovered she had been on 355 Crystal Cruises so far over a 30 year period. 10/15 New York The captain announced during his one PA announcement of the day yesterday (ship only has this one announcement - no dinner bells, no activity alerts, etc) that we'd be arrived in NYC about 6:30 AM. I wanted to see this so kept waking up all night looking out the doors for lights. Did finally see them about 6:30 as we were sailing past Brooklyn. The early morning light scene was so spectacular that I insisted Mother get up and join me on the balcony. Took some nice photos of the new World Trade Center and the Empire State building. What a surprise to be docked right next door to the Intrepid Museum. Our New York City day was celebrated with perfect center section aisle tickets to the Carole King biographical play, Beautiful. I had read about this when it opened so ordered tickets six months ago. In June the lead won the Tony for best actress, and wow was that deserved. She was a better Carole King than Carole King herself! 10/16 New York Uneventful trip home expect for a little delay taking off from LaGuardia due to fog. All wheeled chairs were ready and waiting as was our old faithful Bulldog Limo. A few comments about Crystal Cruise line. The ship was very quiet. No announcements, not bells, tiptoeing staff Though the ship was full, everything seems somewhat empty. Please of space to move around with Mother's walker, which was a god send. Really enjoyed not having to pay, sign, tip, etc. Crystal is all inclusive - just ask and it is yours. Did not realize how much effort it was to decide who was paying for the wine at dinner or how much to tip at the end.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
This was my first Crystal Cruise and I may never go back to any other cruise line. Their single supplement is the most generous by far and enables me to cruise alone or even have my own stateroom when cruising with friends. The ... Read More
This was my first Crystal Cruise and I may never go back to any other cruise line. Their single supplement is the most generous by far and enables me to cruise alone or even have my own stateroom when cruising with friends. The entertainment was wonderful every night, even the ventriloquist that I was reluctant to go see. He was hilarious. I loved the stateroom, more luxurious than most of the ships I have been on. It was by far my most pleasant cruise experience. We never had to wait. No lines to get on, just walked onboard and up to the check-in desk (again, no line). It took two minutes and then we were taken into the dining room for lunch. It was such a pleasure not to be continually harassed to buy a wine or soda package or get the bottled water before going on shore. There were no gold chains by the yard or tee shirts for sale in the lobby each evening and no announcements in the stateroom. I didn't try any of the specialty dining rooms on this cruise but I will on the next as I hear they are wonderful. The food was excellent but no quite up to Regent's Alaska cruise where they had fresh shrimp, crab and seafood aplenty. Still, the food was great and there was a place to eat open during all waking hours. I can't say too much about the ports as I didn't go for the ports but for the cruise itself. It was cold and rainy and I didn't even get off the ship in several places. Quebec City was beautiful and easy to get around. Thank you Crystal, I will be back. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
We just completed our first Crystal Cruise, the 7-day Maritime Explorer out of Quebec City, with planned stops at Sept Iles, the Magdalene Islands and Saint Pierre and Miquelon returning to Quebec City. My wife and I are experienced ... Read More
We just completed our first Crystal Cruise, the 7-day Maritime Explorer out of Quebec City, with planned stops at Sept Iles, the Magdalene Islands and Saint Pierre and Miquelon returning to Quebec City. My wife and I are experienced cruises, having Elite status on Celebrity Cruises and have also cruised a number of times on Holland America as well as Princess and Cunard. If there is a theme for this review it’s to try and answer the question “for us, was the extra cost of Crystal worth it?” To come to a conclusion, here are our thoughts on various aspects of the cruise. EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION The smoothest and fastest we’ve ever experienced. In fact, we were off the ship and into a cab almost a half hour before our scheduled time of disembarkation (living in Canada, we came by car so were not subject to airline or bus timetables). One factor that may have contributed to the rapid disembarkation was that despite our six hours in French Saint Pierre, we didn’t have to clear customs upon leaving the ship. STATEROOM We had a B2 cabin on deck 8 with a partly obstructed view (the onboard gangway was stowed directly below our veranda, preventing us from looking directly down onto the promenade deck or seeing anything in the water that might be close to the ship). Not an annoyance for most passengers. The cabin itself was no different in size or furnishings than any veranda cabin on any mass market cruise ship however with upscale touches as as leather upholstery on the loveseat rather than fabric. The sheets were upscale, the mattress definitely was not! Holland America, with its Euro-top mattresses, wins this one hands down! The bathroom does feature two sinks and tub with shower. At prime showering times (mornings and before dinner) the water was lukewarm no matter how high you turned the knob. Nice toiletries and towels, though. We had the impression that our cabin attendant spent her day trying to keep up with the work load. On at least half of the days, the cabin wasn’t made up until mid-afternoon, which made catching an after lunch nap problematic at best. However, when the job was done it was done well. We appreciated the free self-serve laundry on our deck and the environmental concern in not providing fresh towels when not needed or desired. FOOD Dinner in the main dining room was certainly a few notches above the mass market lines, but there were glitches. The steak we ordered one night was on the tough side, but everything was beautifully presented and arrived hot. The soups were especially good, as were the desserts. And you had the luxury of ordering off the menu for the following day if you so desired. Prego, the Italian restaurant was superb – as good or better than any Italian restaurants I’ve enjoyed in Canada or the US. We didn’t try Silk Roads, the Oriental/Sushi restaurant. Tastes, a sort of informal global tapas restaurant, was excellent in the evening incarnation The Lido buffet was ordinary – no different than the buffet on any mainstream line. On our cruise there were two “theme” lunches; the oriental which was quite nice and the American which was ho-hum. A high price for southern fried chicken kept warm under a heat lamp! There were enough staff to keep your coffee cup filled and to carry your plate to your table if you so desired. At breakfast, other than the fresh-squeezed orange jucie, your could have been eating breakfast in the buffet on any mass market cruise ship. The included wine selections for meals were excellent and we never felt the need to try the extra cost wine list. EXCURSIONS We only took one (the Magdalene islands stop was cancelled due to rough seas which made tendering impossible) but the one we took in Sept Iles was well organized and competitively priced. We had to cancel a second excursion and our charge was refunded with no questions asked, even if it was slightly after the deadline printed on the ticket. ENTERTAINMENT We’re not big on the production shows, but the one we attended was excellent as were the bands, string quartet and piano bar type entertainment. We didn’t attend any of the cultural lectures but we heard from others that they were very well done and informative. I did take a computer course on a day at sea and the instructors were excellent as was the instructor for the one workshop attended by my wife. The ship also has an excellent well-stocked library which includes, in addition to books, a huge selection o f CDs and DVDs (Now if only I had been able to figure out how to work the DVD player in the cabin – absolutely no instructions were provided). I gave up after a half hour. SUMMING IT UP It’s wonderful to be able to have a second (or even third) single malt without worrying about the bill at the end of the cruise. Also the lack of nickel and diming for every soft drink, cappuccino, etc. The food options are great. And there was no subtle “I’d appreciate a nice tip for the service I’m providing” from any of the staff. All of the crew were warm friendly and made an effort to remember your name. But is the cost/benefit there? I’m still not sure, but I think I’d do Crystal again if the itinerary and timing are right – and our budget permits.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: I have cruised 42 times on multiple different cruise lines. I travel solo and can’t get enough of cruising – I love being on the ocean. This cruise was in celebration of a milestone birthday. I’m an ... Read More
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: I have cruised 42 times on multiple different cruise lines. I travel solo and can’t get enough of cruising – I love being on the ocean. This cruise was in celebration of a milestone birthday. I’m an adventurous “mature” adult who views every trip and cruise as a unique chance to experience the world and its people. TRAVEL TO EMBARKATION: Limo service from my rural northeast home to Montreal, Quebec. Really excellent train ride from Montreal to Quebec City on VIA Rail Canada, first class, with beautiful restored “Renaissance” class car with a row of single seats and a row of double seats, very good lunch, beverage service, and wines included. Quiet, clean, and wonderful way to begin a cruise, plus great scenery. Once in Quebec City, a 10-minute cab ride from my hotel to the cruise terminal was very inexpensive, in a clean, upscale vehicle with a courteous English-speaking driver. HOTELS: In Montreal, I stayed at the Hilton Montreal Bonaventure, where I’ve had good stays before. In Quebec City, I stayed at the legendary historic landmark Chateau de Frontenac, high atop the cliffs of the city. It was like being in a French chateau in a past century, beautifully restored and preserved, and absolutely gorgeous and full of luxuries. Reasonable prices to begin with, and I received a complimentary upgrade to the high-floor executive level. Great view, plus access to the executive lounge with its lovely service, beverages, and foods. At the end of the cruise, I once again stayed at the Hilton Montreal Bonaventure, who really exceeded all expectations and upgraded me to what appeared to be their presidential suite at the originally booked standard room rate, on my birthday. SHIP: The “Crystal Serenity” appeared clean, perfectly maintained and beautiful outside. The inside was indeed “serene”, with subdued colors, tasteful furnishings, and luxury feel everywhere - decorated with lovely marble, fabrics, style. Even the air smelled luxurious, and everything appeared brand new and/or so well maintained it appeared this 11 year old vessel had just been launched. The ship is 68,870 tons, with a length of 820 feet, beam of 106 feet. Top speed is 22 knots. There are nine passenger decks. A crew of 655 cares superbly for a maximum passenger compliment of 1,070. On my cruise, however, there were approximately 800 people on board. The ship is painted white overall, with beautiful yacht-like lines. There is a marvelous wood-decked completely circular one-level promenade deck, great for walking or jogging. The lifeboats are recessed within the hull. I wondered if the ship were soundproofed throughout, as it was unusually quiet no matter where I was within the ship. This ship does not have the glitzy multilevel atrium many cruise ships feature, but rather a two-level atrium at the ship’s center, with comfortable seating scattered throughout, plenty of windows with cushioned window seats, the reception/concierge desk, future cruise desk, Crystal Society desk, a small bar, a unique clear-crystal piano, and a beautiful two-story wall made of what appeared to be Murano glass of various colors, with a small cascading water fountain. There is a bronze statue of a woman playing a harp, with beautiful detail. A curving staircase descends from the upper level of the atrium down to the marble floor first level, perfect for formal night grand entrances. It is luxurious, serene and peaceful in the atrium, and this feeling was enhanced by a string quartet playing classical music there at various times. It reminded me of a grand foyer entrance to a stately home. Subdued colors are found throughout the ship, very tasteful and rich. There is none of the bright, sparkly, flashing, neon glitz seen over so much of the industry’s shipping afloat today. EMBARKATION: Pure pleasure. Courteous porters took my bag at the curb when I arrived by cab. Next, a quick walk through the small cruise terminal in Quebec City, right on the St. Lawrence River. The usual security screening was done quickly and courteously. Entry to the ship was through an enclosed walkway, which was especially appreciated as the day of embarkation had cold, raw, windy weather with rain. The actual “check-in” process was carried out in the lovely atrium of the ship. There must have been at least 40 agents sitting at tables with linen tablecloths, so there were no lines and no waiting. The agent took my papers, took a photo, gave me the cabin key card and some welcome-aboard information, and that was it – less than five minutes in a very gracious and relaxed setting. Cabin access was not until approximately 3 PM, and as boarding began at 1 PM, I had some time before going to my cabin. The string quartet was playing, the bar was open, waiters circulated with champagne on silver trays, the receptionists were patiently answering questions, lots of material was available to read about future cruises and the current cruise, old friends from previous trips were meeting, and the feeling was more like old friends gathering at a luxury estate for a vacation together than the usual hassles with embarkation many cruise lines seem to have. The wait went quickly with the sociable guests and crew. For those not wishing to haul their hand baggage with them, a secure check-in station had been established, and crew took the bags to the passenger staterooms to await the arrival of the passengers in their cabins later on. CABIN: I had a deck 8 midship deluxe verandah stateroom. It seemed about 30% larger than the usual balcony cabin. Luxury fabrics and quiet colors, subdued and peaceful. Queen-size bed with luxury linens and lots of pillows, but with a slightly tired and soft mattress. Pillow menu made getting just the right pillow very easy – just ask the stewardess and they were brought. Small leather sofa near the balcony glass wall. Desk/vanity and TV above a small refrigerator. Lots of lovely dark wood cabinetry and closet sliding doors. Plenty of mirrors. Closet had substantial and plentiful wood hangers, a safe with touch-pad entry, shoehorn, robe, slippers, huge umbrella, shoe care kit, clothes brush. Rack for shoes on closet floor, and shelves and drawers. There was a phone near the bed but not on the desk. Only one electric outlet at the desk, which could have used more outlets in this day of so many devices requiring charging. Lighting was plentiful, but could have been brighter, especially at the desk area. Nice clean carpet in very good condition for a cruise ship, as were all the furnishings in the room. Refrigerator had complimentary variety of soft drinks, waters, beer. Anything the passenger wishes can be brought quickly to stock or replenish the refrigerator. The verandah wall is all glass with a sliding door. There are sheer drapes against the glass, and then heavier light-blocking drapes which can be pulled over the sheers – the regular drapes are tied back neatly during the day. There were two chairs and a small table on the fairly large verandah, but due to mainly cold and windy and damp weather, I did not get nearly enough use out of this really nice balcony. Good TV channel selection with better than average reception, plus a bow camera view and ships statistics channel. TV had a DVD player built in. The bathroom was incredible, probably three times as large as the usual cruise ship bathroom. There was a gorgeous double-sink granite sink top in warm rust/gold/earth tones. Big mirrored wall above the sink, with shelf. Good bright lighting. Lots of separate shelves on either side of the mirror – lots of good storage space. There was a full-size bathtub with a hand-held shower setup inside a glass and shower-curtain enclosure. Even the toilet was a surprise, as it was a nearly full-size facility compared to the tiny ones on regular ships. Nicely placed towel racks. The towels were luxury thick, fluffy, soft, and looked brand new. You do not see thin, ragged, scratchy towels on this ship! Towels are replaced twice daily if you wish, but the usual eco-friendly practices abound on this ship – hang up the towel and reuse if you wish. Aveda bath products provided in the bathroom. There were shower caps, Q-tips, cotton balls, good-quality bath tissue and Kleenex provided. There was a soft small rug on the bathroom floor – nice touch for bare feet, but it could be very slippery so beware. Everything in the bathroom appeared spotlessly clean. There were several coat hooks on the wall near the door, very convenient. There were cloth laundry and shoe bags in the closet, again an eco-friendly effort, as well as the enormous cloth logo totebag. A large adjustable table was near the sofa for meals in the room. A full-length mirror was on the wall near the hall to the door. There was a small touch-pad system replacing the usual door-hanger signs – one of the best systems I’ve ever seen – to either announce the do not disturb status or request for cabin cleanup and service. One touch of the pad inside the cabin near the door lights the appropriate signal sign on a small pad outside the door. Touch again and the sign light goes out. There is also a real doorbell touch pad on the corridor-side pad so housekeeping can ring the bell rather than barge in and disturb the occupants, or guests can ring the bell when they visit. Very good climate-control system with heating and air conditioning adjustable individually for each cabin – just touch the indicator pad on the small control on the wall. A small bedside alarm clock was provided. I believe the cabin walls were soundproofed, as I never heard the people on either side of me. The cabin was so luxurious and comfortable it was a destination itself, as was the ship. ACTIVITIES: There were activities to suit all ages and interest levels. There is a “University at Sea”, offering computer classes, camera classes, personal enrichment topics, and other learning opportunities. World-class lecturers spoke each day on pertinent and interesting topics, with lectures in the very comfortable small theater on the ship. Fitness fans could work with a personal trainer for a fee, or use the huge array of new equipment and free weights in the fitness center. Joggers, runners, and walkers had plenty of space to do laps around the promenade deck. It is obvious that personal wellness is a popular topic on this ship, and plenty of opportunities are there to stay fit and well. My only wish in this area was for a Zumba class. Small groups met for diverse activities such as bridge, knitting, needlepoint, crafts, and reading. There was a small, elegant and apparently smoke-free casino with the usual games of chance and slots, including penny slots machines. There were plenty of photo opportunities and a nice photo gallery. Many people simply enjoyed socializing and looking out the windows at the ever-changing sea, or strolled with friends within the ship. Activities on this luxury-level ship are aimed at an older, mature passenger demographic for the most part. You will not find the raucous, carnival-type games and noise here. The passengers on my cruise appeared to be on average at least over 60, mostly couples, but plenty of singles (this cruise line offers some very nice price breaks for solo travelers). The passengers on this cruise were mainly from the USA and Canada, but there were other nationalities nicely mixed in as well. Most of the passengers I spoke to were devoted fans of Crystal Cruise Line and belonged to the Crystal Society of past passengers at some astoundingly high cruise number levels. There were a lot of professional people, very well-to-do, as well as ordinary Mr. and Mrs. Anywhere USA couples and singles. Everyone was very quiet, courteous, and interesting to socialize with. I love ballroom dancing, and this ship offers Ambassador Hosts, a small group of gentlemen who are available to dance with single ladies, or attend meals and tours with those wishing company while traveling solo. I danced every night almost until midnight with these courteous, well-traveled and well-spoken gentlemen from various countries, who were all outstanding dancers. It was one of the highlights of the cruise for me, and there was a small live orchestra for dancing in the beautiful lounge with a proper wood dance floor. A small bar is in the lounge area for those wishing drinks. There were just two sea days on this cruise, and I know there were more activities than I’ve listed here. The daily “Reflections” newsletter delivered each night to the staterooms was full of listings for dining, fun, relaxation, etc. There is a very nice spa at the top of the ship, and I splurged with a manicure, pedicure, and massage to get my birthday body some really nice pampering the last day of the cruise. Various societies represented on the ship offered some type of social gathering or cocktail party nearly every day of the cruise at various times. The future cruise consultant was a genial multilingual gentleman who always had somebody at his desk and a few people waiting. Apparently the loyalty to this brand keeps people booking the next cruise right on the ship, with good extras available if you do so. Another unique feature of this ship were four ladies who live on it. I met one of them who had been on the ship for six years straight. Talking to her was incredibly interesting, especially learning about the logistics of extreme downsizing with possessions and property, plus how to deal with the daily temptations of rich cruise ship food. The knitting and needlepoint groups were as much fun for the talk and shipboard gossip as they were for the small complimentary projects available, and often the groups met in the same lounge area where the elegant and elaborate themed traditional high tea events were held, with the classical string quartet playing. The high tea events featured servers in tuxedos, magnificent English and German elaborate china and silver, and very tempting and beautiful food items. There were just a few shops, all of which offered goods at the luxury level. There was a clothing ship, a “logo” articles and clothing shop with a very small selection of necessities and ship souvenirs, a perfume and cosmetics boutique which smelled so divine I wish they could make a perfume from the fragrance inside and sell it with the name “Cruise Ship”, and a very elegant high-end jewelry boutique with some of the most magnificent jeweled creations I’ve seen outside of a museum or world-class jewelry establishment. Everything on sale was tasteful and appeared carefully selected, and displays changed frequently. There weren’t any of the “sidewalk sales” other cruise ships offer. In a sensible change of procedure, the captain and officers do not shake hands at the meet and greet functions, very smart in these times of lots of nasty diseases in closed populations. I saw the Norwegian captain just once while walking through the ship, and he was a big man who appeared very serious and dedicated, but also polite when I said good morning to him as he went about his rounds with his staff. Safety was his priority, and after all, that is his main job. A popular activity on one of the sea days was an “open house” of the various types of staterooms available on the ship. It was a marvelous, clever selling tool for those not familiar with the ship or the actual cabins, as a photo can only demonstrate so much in a flat dimension. The penthouse suites were incredible to actually visit in person, and all categories of staterooms were lovely. Even the lowest-category outside cabins with a big picture window were extremely spacious and had the same nice bathroom as the other categories outside the suites and penthouses. The bottom ledge of the picture window was cushioned, and would make a great place to sit and watch the seas roll by, or just enjoy a cup of tea while reading, assuming one is agile enough to climb up the short distance to settle on the ledge. SERVICE: The best I’ve ever seen on any cruise ship, ever. Nothing was too much to ask for, and anything requested was taken care of incredibly fast. There were no excuses about why something could not be done – it was just quietly and efficiently made to happen, “with our compliments” – “it’s our pleasure”, etc. The staff always remained professional, cool, gracious, polite, composed, and willingly helpful. It felt like being royalty and treated accordingly. As this ship is all-inclusive, tips were included generously, and there were none of the sly, subtle little games played by the crew to get more tips. All the crew apparently had to speak English to work on this ship, and all were multilingual. Very international crew who had some great stories to share, and it was a good chance to meet and interact with people from other cultures. This crew seemed far better educated and sociable than on other ships. Cabin service appeared to be mainly female stewardesses, although I did see male waiters for room service and some room cleaners. I had a lovely lady from India caring for my stateroom, and she was genuinely dedicated to good service and being helpful. A huge plus was not finding service carts blocking the walkways first thing in the morning. The early-morning hallways were silent, clean, and uncluttered. Cabin service was at the guest’s choice of time, but appeared to usually being around midmorning to allow people to breakfast in their cabins undisturbed, or perhaps sleep late without being disturbed. The cabin service took longer than usual, but appeared more thorough as well. Service was complete twice a day, morning and evening turn-down. No pillow chocolates or towel animals on this cruise line, but that’s something I can easily do without. Eve the white orchids in a silver vase which I found on embarkation in my cabin, as well as the flower bouquet in my cabin delivered later on embarkation day from my travel agent were watered regularly by my cabin stewardess! Any shipboard mail, notices, invitations, etc. were placed in a “mail box” type rack just outside the cabin door, and there was a lot of printed information every day to keep passengers well informed without disturbing them. No annoying loud announcements were ever heard, as the ship has a “no-announcements’ policy unless it related to an emergency or port visit status. The captain makes a daily noon broadcast of items of interest, weather, position, etc. and this is heard ship-wide and on the decks. Anything related to safety or disembarkation at ports is also broadcast in the corridors as well as a designated shipboard TV channel in the staterooms. What a relief not to hear some braying carnival-barker style announcements constantly for art auctions while trying to take a guilt-free nap on a cruise! Items like time-change notices appear in printed notices and the daily newsletter. The crew was always willing to take photographs for passengers requesting this, which is a huge improvement for solo travelers trying to get a decent “selfie”. Everybody smiled most of the time, said hello quietly, and were one of the most contented crews I’ve ever encountered. Nobody complained about being tired, and nobody kept talking about how many months, days, weeks, hours they still had to work before their contract ran out. Good teamwork and mutual respect was apparent among the crew members. Dining room service was at the level of what the royals of the world probably receive. Nothing was too much to ask for, and everything was done with grace, style, smiles, courtesy, quiet professional efficiency, and warm concern that the guest was enjoying everything as much as possible. My table had a very compatible and expert team of two male waiters – one from Hungary and one from Croatia. Every night’s entrance into the dining room began with the head waiters and maitre’d at their podium, beaming at the guests, as well as a side line of 10 waiters smiling and offering to escort guests to their tables. Table service was the best I’ve seen in many years of cruising. Service at breakfast and lunch in the buffet restaurant also was extraordinarily good most of the time, with far more than average staffing. There were no trays in the buffet restaurant, but an observant waiter or waitress immediately approaches and offers to hold one’s plates as you progress through the lines, and they patiently wait with you while you choose your meal items, and then take all your plates and bowls or whatever to your table and then proceed to bring the beverage(s) of your choice. They will check up on you during the meal as well and bring seconds of anything and more beverages. The buffet crews feed you love along with your food. It is obvious that this crew knows they are on the ship to cater to very discerning passengers who pay a lot and expect the best for their cruise experience, and service is truly amazing in every department. DINING: Besides the main dining room, there are two pay-per-visit specialty restaurants – Silk Road and Prego. I did not take the opportunity to enjoy Prego, but did eat twice at Silk Road, with the feeling being that I can get Italian cuisine easily where I live, but not Japanese food. Silk Road is small and elegant, with superb service by its staff. There are flexible seating arrangements from a table for one or two, up to groups. There is also a sushi bar. An intricate and very unique menu offers a good variety of Japanese cuisine with some very different combinations of ingredients and seasonings. Chopsticks are provided as well as the usual utensils. Portions are small but adequate, and arranged like works of art. If you desire more of something, you will have it delivered to your table most graciously. There is chicken, seafood, fish, noodle type items, and many other choices. Deserts are wonderful as well. Appropriate complimentary beverages as well as for-pay menu are available to compliment any main entrée. The usual cruise ship buffet restaurants and little places around the lido deck offered grilled items and ice cream, too. I had expected true gourmet and Continental cuisine, with the rich sauces and complex recipes, in the dining room menus, but was rather disappointed to discover American home-cooking and “comfort food” items among the other and often somewhat peculiar food items offered. Salmon seemed to be offered at least twice a day in some form as well. Seeing liver and onions, fried chicken and roast turkey on such an elegant ship just didn’t really fit in with the luxury cruise ambience. Considering the majority of passengers were from the USA, however, perhaps it is the cruise line’s intention to feed these people what they want and get at home. When I cruise, it’s a chance to get away from dull, “healthy”, and boring food at home and enjoy the world’s cuisine and lots of good deserts guilt-free on vacation. The fish items were among bottom-feeder and bait varieties, for the most part, and the one time lobster was served, it was tasteless and mushy. Salad dressings on the buffet line were watery and poor quality. There certainly were enough items in all food groups to create something good, however, and it just took some time and practice. International food theme days were a feature on the buffet food lines, but some items weren’t really that good. There was a huge overabundance of using kernel corn and red and green bell peppers and onions as fillers in too many dishes. Dining room menu desserts had little variety, and seemed to be mainly made of fruit ingredients, with a lot of ice cream served. There were a lot of sugar-free and flourless items, but most were rather dry and tasteless. “Modern” cuisine was on the menu for lunch and dinner, but it appeared to be an overabundance of someone’s ideas of creative food blendings and preparation – different, and usually tasty, but a bit too exotic for my personal taste. Complimentary red and white wines which were very good were available at lunch and dinner, with premium other alcoholic beverages available for purchase. A big problem was the buffet line, where many items had obviously been prepared far ahead of serving times, and were held under ineffective heat lamps which did nothing to keep the items warm. Repeatedly, waffles and pancakes and other hot items were lukewarm or cold, and often dry and stiff. Same for the breakfast pastries first thing in the morning, as they had apparently been sitting out far too long and had become dry and stale. Some of the dining room food was also served below proper temperature for hot items, and not chilled properly for cold items. This was mentioned to the proper authorities several times, but I did not see much improvement in the seven days of this cruise. This situation is not unique to Crystal, however, as I’ve seen it on all 42 cruises I’ve enjoyed. Buffet items all had their little individual tags in front of them, identifying what each item was. Beverage selection was outstanding all over the ship, be it in the bars, dining rooms, or buffet restaurant. It was nice to have a whole can of soda brought to the table to enjoy, and many varieties of bottled water were also there for those wishing it. Sometimes cold beverages arrived without ice, which seemed to be the norm in Quebec restaurants and in Europe, too, but it was simple to remember to just ask for ice, please, and it was provided. The buffet restaurant tables were nicely set with china and silver, but a small plastic place mat was on the tables, and I did not see it cleaned between diners – and silverware was placed unwrapped on this plastic mat. This seems to be a serious breach of good health practices, as other diners put their used utensils on the mat during the meal. This was a rather tacky procedure in an otherwise beautifully set table. The dining room tables were masterpieces of flower arrangements and magnificent china, silver and glassware. The line uses Villeroy and Boch china, and has a series of four unique old-world map design charger plates on the tables. These plates were designed specifically for the cruise line, and I bought one of them for a souvenir of the trip. There were two seatings in the main dining room – main and late, as well as dining by reservation, and the buffet offered walk-in convenient service all during the day for the appropriate meals. A handy and appreciated electronic, large menu display is on the wall just outside both buffet entrances, and it changes screens to show all the food items available at each meal. I was delightfully surprised by the maitre’d and his staff when they brought a lovely chocolate birthday cake with candle to my table in the dining room – a very nice way to celebrate my milestone birthday and to be able to share it with the two very nice couples at my table that evening. Room service had a good menu available 24 hours a day, and although I did not try it, apparently the menu in the dining rooms is also available for service in the staterooms, with more items available to the elite penthouse accommodation passengers. PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS: The ship provides a printed information sheet on each place visited. This cruise departed from Quebec City in Canada, and sailed up the St. Lawrence River, making a scenic cruise for a few hours in the Saguenay River fjord. Lots of beautiful fall foliage was visible, as well as quaint tiny villages along the riverbanks. There was a respectful and peaceful short stop below the beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary high on a cliff above the Saguenay River. The first port visited was Sept Isles, a small town on the St. Lawrence River. There were organized tours, but I chose to explore and walk on my own. An old historic trading post has been restored and preserved, and was an interesting place to see at the edge of town. There is an Innu Native “reserve” as part of the town, and a new marina with a scenic walkway along the riverfront. There were bus tours offered on local school buses, but I believe I saw most of what they did during my hours-long walk. The main highway at the inland edge of town leads to Quebec City, 10 hours away. There are the usual big-box stores and fast-food places along the highway. Effort has been put into upgrading the town, roads, cruise terminal (which had lively local music, foods, crafts on sale and nice helpful tourism people). The people I met while walking were helpful and friendly, and some did speak enough English to get directions and just interact sociably. The next port was the Isle de Madeleine, but due to very high winds and rough seas the tender shuttle service was not possible safely. A short stop in view of the scenic cliffs was about all we were able to do. The tiny islands of St. Pierre et Miquelon were next for the cruise, with tender shuttle service to the town pier. There were still very high winds and rough seas, and the tender ride was very rough. The local tourism board had a welcome committee bravely standing in the cold wind to greet the ship’s tenders as they arrived, and the music and smiles were lovely. This island is a territory of France, located just south of Newfoundland, with the French language and flag and traditions. Narrow hilly streets with cobblestones, stone architecture, lace curtains in windows, a few flowers still visible in window boxes. Some stores were open, but not many, and the bakery displays of French pastries looked wonderful. I did not tour in this port with the ship tours, but again chose to walk and explore on my own. There is small old stone cathedral in the center of town, and many historic monuments. The waterfront is full of various types of businesses, souvenir shops, tourism office, and different kinds of boats. It reminded me a lot of San Francisco. After a few hours exploring on foot, the icy wind and dampness convinced me to return to the ship for lunch, after seeing all I could of importance. The tender ride back to the ship was just as rough as the one to the land, with an additional 45 minutes of waiting for conditions safe enough to be able to actually dock the tender at the ship and escape the rough ride. The ship left that afternoon to return to Quebec, sailing back through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with beluga whale sightings to everyone’s delight, and then into the large, peaceful St. Lawrence River once again. The ship arrived in the morning at Quebec City, where it remained overnight to allow maximum touring of this beautiful old historic city. There were multiple city tours offered by vehicles, horse carriage, and on foot, as well as dining tours and explorations of the local area outside the city. I’ve been to Quebec numerous times, and chose to explore again on foot, this time visiting the huge Citadel high atop the cliffs next to the old walled city. I did not have enough time to enter and explore all the Citadel, but did enjoy walking the scenic grounds with the fall foliage and wonderful views of new Quebec as well as the old city below. The boardwalk on the top of the cliffs is worth walking just to people-watch and enjoy the music played by local musicians. Some of the views along the boardwalk of the buildings and people come right from French impressionist paintings. The French language of Quebec is heard everywhere. There are numerous restaurants offering all kinds of good food in Quebec, as well as multiple shopping opportunities and art exhibits. No matter how many times I’ve visited Quebec, there is always something new to find, eat, explore, see, or just enjoy by visiting with the local people and trying to improve my amateur French-speaking ability. The last night of the cruise was spent enjoying the many amenities of the beautiful ship, and getting a good night’s sleep before heading home. The night view of the old city from my verandah was spectacular. ENTERTAINMENT: There was the usual variety of cruise-ship entertainment on this cruise. Several very professionally-produced production shows were performed in a comfortable theater-type lounge with plenty of seating for everybody at two separate times. A really good live orchestra enhanced each performance. The dancers and singers seemed far more professional and skilled than average compared to other cruise lines. Costumes were spectacular, especially in one show which highlighted Broadway hit shows. The ship’s cruise director (from the USA) was a clever ventriloquist who performed one evening. There was a professional ballroom dance duo, and wonderful singers – something for everybody and every taste. There were also lounge singers in several venues throughout the ship in the evening. A favorite was the classical string quartet of European ladies who played at various places and times during the cruise. There was also a very skilled and entertaining magician aboard. Movies were offered in a real movie theater onboard throughout the cruise. If all this was not enough, there was a good selection of DVDs available for checkout from the library for private viewing in the staterooms. Many people seemed to be entertained quite nicely just by reading books, working on personal IT devices, small craft projects, attending the various lectures and educational offerings aboard ship, shopping, socializing, and enjoying the shuffleboard and other deck sports available despite the weather being somewhat inclement at times. CHILDREN: I only saw one small child and several teens on board. I observed a small room which was a playroom of some sort, but overall, this is a cruise line catering to adults. With the obvious service and quality of this cruise line, however, I’m sure if a large number of children were onboard, they would enjoy themselves as much as the adults while being well cared for. DISEMBARKATION: Extremely quiet, organized, and convenient. The ship was in port from the day before the end of the cruise, and this allowed people who had extremely early flights to disembark as early as 2:30 or 3:00 AM. Luggage was set out and collected silently during the night at the passenger’s convenience, most of it by 11 PM. There was the usual colored tag system indicating when disembarkation would take place. If one had an early flight or needed special arrangements, it was quick and easy to arrange an appropriate time. If an assigned time wasn’t convenient, a simple call to guest services provided a convenient time and a new tag. A really nice feature of disembarkation was allowing passengers to stay in their cabins much later than usual on other cruise lines. No cabin service people barged in and started tearing the cabin apart and cleaning while the guests were enjoying privacy to the last minute. I never heard a sound from the baggage collectors or early departing passengers. No announcements were made, as very detailed instructions about how to leave the ship, where to meet, what to do with final details, etc. were given to guests well in advance of the actual day of disembarkation. I had a late train from Quebec back to Montreal, and was able to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, do final packing in my carry-on bag, and leave the ship at my convenience without any noticeable crowds or confusion. The ship was so organized that I was able to leave the ship 45 minutes earlier than my requested time. The cruise terminal at the pier in Quebec City is small but well organized, and my bag was waiting for me in a clean, neat area. Plentiful inexpensive cabs were right outside the terminal, and I rode comfortably to the train station after leaving the ship with plenty of leisure time and no stress. SUMMARY: Crystal Cruise Lines is nearly perfect, or at least this cruise was. It is a product which appears to be aimed mainly at mature adults. Most of the people I interacted with among the passengers were sociable, well-traveled, and well-to-do people who lived to cruise and loved to cruise. Many had the means and time to take multiple back to back cruises, and as one passenger commented to me, “This is what we do – this is our lifestyle”. Another remark overheard was “The passengers on this cruise line who take the world cruises repeatedly are a cult. There is nothing like it with any other cruise line”. Being well-traveled and sociable, but certainly not “well-to-do” compared to my fellow passengers, I considered this birthday celebration cruise a privilege and a splurge, and really appreciated it. I can’t imagine taking this level of luxury and quality for granted as some people seemed to do on the ship. Most of the passengers appeared to be traveling as couples, or family members together in small groups, with a preponderance of single older women. One large group of travelers was from Asia, and other international countries were represented. This definitely was a more sociable passenger contingent than I’ve noted on multiple other cruise lines. Many people knew other travelers from prior cruises, and the Crystal Society members were very numerous and enjoyed reconnection with people they had met on other cruises. A premium company representing quality travel agencies had a representative on board as well, and there were social gatherings and on-board perks for passengers who had used a travel agency belonging to this company. There is enough to do without ever feeling bored or ignored on this gracious ship. It all depends on what your interests are and your desired level of involvement. Premium shore excursions are available if you have the desire and means to purchase something out of the ordinary. Pre- and post-cruise quality packages of hotels and private or group transfers begin the luxury experience well before the cruise ever begins for those who choose to purchase them. Service is exceptional overall, absolutely the best I’ve ever experienced. No wish is impossible, and everything is done with courtesy, class and amazing speed. Dining was a bit of a disappointment in some areas, and apparently satisfied the majority of diners - but this cruise line apparently has achieved the impossible by taking calories out of the food. I lost two pounds while eating five or six desserts per day – and I normally come home from even a short cruise with several extra pounds as unwanted souvenirs of enthusiastic dining. Nobody can starve on this ship, even if the cuisine offered is at times a bit unique or unusual. With the two specialty restaurants offering complimentary dining for one time in each, be sure to give them a try. Despite some rather exotic food offerings, it was all mostly very good and a great chance to experiment and try things most of us never get at home. Activities offered were age-appropriate and had something for every interest, fitness level, or age. There were very popular offerings involving computers on this particular cruise, as well as photography. Had the weather been better, I’m sure more people would have enjoyed the wide, wrap-around promenade deck for walks and whale-watching, as well as the lovely pool deck area with its inviting large lounge chairs and clamshell “cuddle couches”. A daily newsletter is well-written and full of useful and interesting facts about each day of the cruise. Weather and the daily dress code are included in detail. One does not need to wear formal attire every night, either, despite the elegance of the cruise – nice resort casual clothing is the norm most of the time, and there was just one truly formal night on my 7 night cruise – and this had a nice showing of tuxedos and formal gowns, but also dressy tops and pants for women and suits for men. People dressed appropriately for the weather, ports and onboard ambience, but with a welcome lack of the usual torn shorts, undershirts, tired flip-flops, and worn-out baseball caps seen on the more casual cruises no matter what the dress code. Fares for Crystal run a bit higher than average, but you get what you pay for. There are specials, “deals”, early booking rates, Crystal Society discounts, early full-payment discounts, and very enticing solo traveler fares. It’s worth every penny, considering the quality of service, beautifully maintained and designed vessel, far above average cabins and interior appointments in the cabins and baths, and attention to detail in every aspect of the cruise experience. Crystal travels the world with its two lovely medium-sized ships, with varying lengths of itineraries, and offers the usual pre- and post-cruise services of airline flights, transfers, land tours, and hotels, all at a higher level of luxury than ordinary cruise lines. While the cruises can be booked online, I was assigned a travel agent when first contacting the cruise line by phone for information, and the agency admirably handled all the details for me to my complete satisfaction plus treating me to flowers on board and two generous on-board credit packages. I usually do my own cruise bookings, but was glad for the professional assistance with this Crystal booking. If you want extraordinary service on a meticulously run and elegant medium-sized cruise ship, with multiple dining and activity options, plus a passenger contingent of sociable, mature, well-traveled adults, Crystal offers cruises which will far exceed your expectations all over the world. This is not a “stuffy” or “snob” cruise line, but rather a nearly-perfect cruise experience on two ships which travel the world. Such is the popularity of its cruises and dedication of loyal repeat passengers that some 2016 cruises are already nearly fully booked, and the historic Northwest Passage month-long cruise in 2016 is already sold out with hundreds on a waiting list. I had expected my trip to be a one-time splurge, but it was so wonderful that I’m booked on the “Crystal Symphony” in the future. Having experienced this level of quality in cruising, it will be very difficult to go back to the usual and ordinary cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
My wife and I checked in to stateroom 7069 on 13th July in Barcelona. There is a lot to say, so let me break it down into sections: Stateroom: This was beautifully appointed for sure, but a few things annoyed me. I am a little over 6ft 3, ... Read More
My wife and I checked in to stateroom 7069 on 13th July in Barcelona. There is a lot to say, so let me break it down into sections: Stateroom: This was beautifully appointed for sure, but a few things annoyed me. I am a little over 6ft 3, and I found the bed a little short. The TV was in the far right hand corner above the vanity and quite difficult to look at from the bed area. The sofa was covered in very fancy cushions making it impossible to sit there unless you threw them all on the floor. For 226 sq feet, it felt smaller, because there was so much furniture and decoration everywhere, but very attractive. By the way, no chocolate on the pillow at night. The bathroom had 2 sinks, was all marble and glass, with a decent sized bath for a cabin this size. The best bathroom I have ever had on a cruise ship. Pool deck: Rearranged with a more contemporary country club feel, this was well organized and various seating options as well as plentiful beds for sunbathing. It was too hot for us, so we stayed in the shade. The saltwater pool and surrounding Jacuzzis were delightful. Crystal Dining Room: Wonderful standard of food and presentation. Best steaks I have eaten anywhere, wonderful deserts. Some of the staff were undertrained by 6 star standards and did not know how to attend to people at this level with some embarrassing results. The head waiters were always buzzing around to make sure everything was taken care of. No deserts prepared tableside as we were expecting which was a little disappointing. The 6.15 seating is much too early for dinner in the med in July, but we were with older relatives so we had no choice. Bistro: Oh boy - this is where I easily put away a bonus 1000 calories a day on scones, smoked salmon, cheese and cappuccinos. How can you resist? One of the best places on the ship with superb service. Lido/Tastes: Again, wonderful food, but the service stations are all the place, and if you want to get some butter to go with your roll and soup, good luck in finding it. I did not care very much for the layout. Tastes is where you are served in a wonderful atrium setting under an umbrella. The food was great and lovely window views. Bars: The drinks flow as you like, but the lack of quality canapés was a shock. Sometimes there would just be one offering and if you did not like it, too bad, there was nothing else - why? was I still hungry! Also, the pianists seem to finish just as I sat down, and I never caught more than 15 minutes of their playing. Gym and Spa: For a small ship this was fine. Dumbbells up to 60lbs and good resistance machines and nice treadmills. No lat pulldown machine for back, which I thought was strange. Small locker rooms with beautiful sauna and steam and great showers. I used this as my personal spa in the evening and this was one of the highlights for me. For a seven night cruise, the steam room was out of order for 2 of them. Evening entertainment: This was very limited to only a 45 min performance here and there. Found myself wandering around at 9.30pm in search of something to do that was not the casino. The song and dance routines were not great and some of the song selections from the musicals were very obscure. They had cut the entertainment budget to pay for the drinks, and it showed. Casino: Not like it used to be. Any Vegas or cruise ship casino, gone was the glamour, the cream leather and staff walking around with drinks and canapés. Also, I lost a bundle! Palm Court: A very nice area for tea with the string quartet playing in the background. The Mozart tea was fabulous, the other tea times were pretty bland. For all the culinary awards they do not know how to make tea sandwiches. Plus they come round and offer you everything all at once, which is not how it is done. Cinema: This is another highlight for me. What a wonderful room. I watched Noah with Russell Crowe and Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays. Really nice venue and not busy. Summary: In a 1973 film called La Grande Bouffe, 4 friends decide to eat themselves to death. On day 5 of my cruise, at about 6.30pm I thought I was having a heart attack. I spent the whole evening with the most terrible indigestion and heartburn, which was gone by the time I fell asleep. I missed Wiener Schnitzel night, my favorite as well! There is an enormous amount of high quality cuisine and alcohol on this ship. Because we only had 7 days, I treated it like an endless buffet and my body reacted badly. After day 2, I couldn't drink anymore booze despite the wonderful wines they were offering with dinner. I couldn't even finish a pre-dinner cocktail. If you are going to put Filet Mignon, Rack of Lamb, Roast Turkey etc on the menu, I am going to eat like the last supper. Unless you are extremely restrained on your consumption, this can be difficult to manage. As my emphasis is more on training and spa and diet on these cruises, I am not sure the Crystal experience makes any sense for me, and I am sure my Doctor would agree. But if you are going to Grande Bouffe, what a way to do it! Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
This was our fifth Crystal cruise and our third onboard the Crystal Serenity and, as it had recently undergone a multi-million pound refit, we were looking forward to seeing the changes. As our flight to Venice did not arrive until quite ... Read More
This was our fifth Crystal cruise and our third onboard the Crystal Serenity and, as it had recently undergone a multi-million pound refit, we were looking forward to seeing the changes. As our flight to Venice did not arrive until quite late in the evening ,we spent one night in a hotel near the airport prior to joining the ship the next morning. After a welcome night’s sleep and a good breakfast it was only a short private coach transfer, organised by our hotel, to the port. We would always recommend staying at least one night prior to the cruise either in, or near to, the embarkation port. Embarkation Day When we arrived at the port the embarkation desks were just about to open so we were soon processed and onboard the ship where the formal check in took place in the main lobby area and, as usual, this was done very quickly and efficiently. We were then free to have lunch in the Trident grill, which we washed down with a very welcome glass of champagne, and felt that our holiday had really begun. During lunch we were delighted to meet up again with some familiar and friendly faces, namely crew members whom we had met on previous cruises. This made us feel very welcome and as if we had come home again. By the time we had finished lunch, our stateroom was ready and we were able to unpack and relax in the sun by the pool. Our verandah stateroom was located on Deck 8, towards the bow of the ship. The Ship Thankfully the layout of the ship had not been changed as a result of the refit so we already were familiar with all the public areas. In view of the recent refit we had expected to find some dramatic changes , however, these seem to have been confined mostly to the refurbishment of the staterooms and the creation of the new ‘Tastes’ restaurant in the area around the former Trident pool. The staterooms looked very smart and well kept, however, the biggest improvement was the removal of the old Trident pool and the creation of the ‘Tastes’ restaurant. The old Trident pool was previously a bit of a dead space and the revamp (including screens, plants and new furniture) is a great innovation. As usual all the public areas throughout the ship were spotlessly clean and it never ceases to amaze us that this is all done without guests even being aware that it is happening. We did hear some negative comments about large rust marks at the bottom of the Seahorse pool which guests thought would have been addressed during the refit. Our Stateroom Stewardess looked after us very well and kept us well supplied with towels and ice. Food and drinks The standard of the food on board was excellent in all the eating venues as usual. We usually had breakfast outside at the excellent ‘Lido’ buffet where we could sit and view the port we were visiting that day. For lunch we varied between the ‘Lido’ buffet and the ‘Tastes’ restaurant and, when at the latter, always ensuring to get dessert from the extensive selection at the ‘Lido’. It is hard to single out any particular member of crew for praise, however, Bruno from Portugal was a delight with attentive service and always time for a chat. We had dinner every evening in the Main Dining Room, apart from three nights when we ate in the ‘Prego’ , ‘Silk Road’ and ‘Tastes’ restaurants. The menu choice and standard food in the main Dining Room was excellent and the experience was enhanced by our very efficient and jovial Head Waiter Zoltan – we loved his sense of humour. Our Spanish Sommelier was very attentive the standard of the wines served was first class. We went to ‘Prego’ once during the cruise in the company of two new- found friends and everyone thoroughly enjoyed both the food and the calm ambience. On another night we went to ‘Silk Road’ and were tempted to try dishes which we would not normally choose and it turned out to be a wonderful experience. We decided to try the less formal ‘Tastes’ restaurant on another evening, however, we found the menu a bit confusing and would not have rushed back again. We were told that the evening menu did not change from day to day and think that this may deter guests making a second visit. We indulged ourselves with afternoon tea in the Palm Court on a few occasions; however, our big vice was afternoon tea and cakes in ‘The Bistro’. We were aware that the Bistro was now open later in the evenings, however, by that stage we had usually eaten too much already so we did not make it there. It was clearly popular with guests who wanted to sit and relax with a cup of tea or coffee after dinner so the longer opening hours are definitely a welcome innovation. Our favourite bars were ‘Crystal Cove’ and ‘the Avenue Saloon’, mainly due to the great staff working there. We always had pre-dinner drinks in ‘Crystal Cove’ and had great craic with the bar staff, Afzal and Alex, who were not only very good at their job but they made us feel like old friends. We would invariably meet the same guests there every night as they also loved the relaxed, friendly atmosphere fostered by all the staff. We liked to go to the ‘Avenue Saloon’ after dinner as it was a very comfortable place to relax, chat with fellow guests and sing along to the piano. We also enjoyed a few late nights in the ‘Pulse’ nightclub, especially on the karaoke nights hosted by the lovely Hayley from the Reception desk. The Ports of Call All our previous Crystal cruises had been around the Mediterranean and we were looking forward to this particular cruise because it was visiting some ports new to us. Venice – We decided not to brave the crowds this time and just relax onboard, enjoying the peace and quiet while all the other guests went off sightseeing. A former Captain of the Crystal Serenity once said that ‘the ship can be your holiday destination in itself’ and we heartily agree with that sentiment. Kotor , Montenegro – We had been told that this was a very beautiful part of the world and they were correct. Sailing slowly between spectacular wooded landscapes was really magical and you could sense the excitement of the crew who hailed from the region. We docked just a stone’s throw from Kotor and it was a very picturesque place. Taormina, Sicily – We booked the Crystal transfer into the town and it was well worth the ride. A beautiful place with lots of character, cafes, bars and shops, including some very upmarket designer ones. Recommended viewing. Sorrento – We had been here several times before with Crystal, however, it was nice to get off the ship for a short while just to stretch the legs and have a little retail therapy. Civitavecchia, Italy- We did not want to visit Rome on this occasion so we opted for a post-breakfast stroll around Civitavecchia and a coffee before heading back to the ship for lunch. It is a much larger town than we had remembered but a few hours was enough time there. Monte Carlo/ Monaco – It was purely by accident that we found ourselves on this cruise which coincided with the Monte Carlo rally and there were lots of ‘petrol heads’ onboard who had booked this cruise especially to be there. Even though we were not race enthusiasts there was a growing sense of anticipation when we arrived in Monte Carlo on the day of the race. Unfortunately we were not moored in Monte Carlo bay, as on previous occasions, but just round the headland so we did not have the usual spectacular view of Monte Carlo, however, we were certainly made well aware of all the build up to the race. From early morning there was a constant shuttle of private helicopters overhead, undoubtedly carrying the rich and famous to their stretch limos and onto the race. It was fascinating to watch and the mind boggled at what it must all be costing! The following day we ventured into Monte Carlo hoping the place would have returned to normality and perhaps engage in a bit of star spotting, however, many areas were still sealed off and barriers were still being removed. Sorry to report no sightings of George Clooney or Nicole Scherzinger – maybe next time? Livorno – Unless you are heading to Florence, Livorno is not a pretty place to spend too much time in. Barcelona – Having visited the city many times before we used our last day of the cruise to have a wander around and enjoy some sangria and tapas with two fellow guests who had by now become firm friends. A lovely way to end to a very happy cruise. Entertainment It is a pity that the live band does not play every afternoon on the Lido deck at sail away, however, they did play on the ‘sea day’ and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it- even the crew working on deck got into the spirit and were dancing in the aisles! The Crew The crew, as ever, made the whole cruise special and, although we have mentioned by name those with whom we probably had the most contact, we must praise all crew for their efficiency, friendliness and patience. . They are Crystal’s biggest asset. Overall cruise experience This was a very relaxing and enjoyable cruise and we loved every minute. We met some great fellow passengers with whom we are still in contact and we look forward to planning our next Crystal cruise in 2015 when a certain someone will be celebrating a milestone birthday – and I do not mean a 21st. It is Crystal clear to see that this cruise line keeps up the excellent work!   Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
Truly an exceptional experience in terms of being taken care of, feeling safe and completely content. The food is spectacular (not easily said since I am a gourmet home chef) . The staff go out of their way to make you feel welcome and ... Read More
Truly an exceptional experience in terms of being taken care of, feeling safe and completely content. The food is spectacular (not easily said since I am a gourmet home chef) . The staff go out of their way to make you feel welcome and at-home. The toughest part of a Crystal Cruise is the depressed feeling you get when you return to normal living and suddenly discover all that exceptional service has disappeared in Crystal's wake! We were very impressed with the way that Crystal seems to approach virtually any task. Whatever they do, they do it with class, excellent organization and customer safety in mind. If it is a Crystal event or excursion, you can be certain it is worth the price. We also greatly enjoyed having all gratuities and alcohol included in the booking fare. One other thing to mention: all of the people we met onboard were affable, well-mannered and educated. This is not the cruise line for frat parties, spoiled kids or noisy drunks.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
We decided that a Crystal Getaway would make the perfect Easter break, especially as Serenity would be visiting a favourite city, Bordeaux. This newly renovated ship is a favourite, and the latest makeover is truly elegant and stylish. ... Read More
We decided that a Crystal Getaway would make the perfect Easter break, especially as Serenity would be visiting a favourite city, Bordeaux. This newly renovated ship is a favourite, and the latest makeover is truly elegant and stylish. We embarked in Southampton, an easy train ride from our Midlands home, and were speedily whisked through embarkation, our luggage all taken care of, and ambled to the Pool deck to enjoy a freshly cooked meal, and celebrate with nicely chilled champagne. Naturally the toast was " to the good life" Soon after we had enjoyed a leisurely lunch, our cabin was ready, a pleasant , comfortable Deck 8 balcony cabin, with delightful neutral furnishings, quality bedding and cosy robes . Luggage had already been delivered, and our friendly efficient stewardess appeared to ask for any pillow preferences or special requests. She made sure that our order for champagne and fruit basket would be delivered later.m The spacious teak decks were then perfect for strolling in the Southampton sunshine, and later we enjoyed a swim in the warm pool. Now that there are few smoking areas, we were able to enjoy sitting in Cove bar as a pianist played and pre dinner drinks can be sipped in a smoke free atmosphere. As the sun began to sink, we enjoyed sitting in the gorgeous Palm court, looking out to sea as the ship slipped quietly out of port to the strains of " Wonderful World" sung by Louis Armstrong, Crystal's sailaway signature tune, and again , raised our glasses in a toast to Crystal cruises. Dining is of course, a major event on any cruise ship, but Crystal elevate it to high levels, wherever one chooses to dine. The brand new Modern menu in the Crystal dining room provided the most amazing menus we have enjoyed anywhere. Light, delicious, innovative and prepared beautifully. The sauces were amazing, the dishes creative , utterly appetising and yet did not leave you feeling over full. Naturally, the sommeliers assisted in suggesting delightful, quality wines to accompany such delights. We dined once in the speciality Prego, with attentive service,offering tried and tested Italian favourites, beautifully presented and so delicious. Since we were in port overnight , in Bordeaux, we opted for the more casual Tastes one evening, enjoying the tapas style menus, sharing dishes whilst seated under a lovely olive tree. As always, Crystal excel in the quality of entertainment and enrichment, with daily programmes of superb lectures, lessons and activities, but it is equally pleasant to sit by the pool, or on a sofa in a quiet spot, enjoying a book for the superb , well stocked library. More active passengers participated in sports, Nordic walking and golf lessons, and a large group enjoyed the excellent dance lessons on board, many practising their newly learned steps as the band played each evening. The evening entertainment highlight for us this short cruise was a one- off show, Serenity Pops, with a big band assembled from every musician on board, the orchestra, a Philharmonic sextet, soloists, and the delightful violin quartet who usually play genteel melodies for afternoon tea. It was a wonderful show, with musicians clearly enjoying demonstrating their considerable talents. As we drew into Lisbon, we felt a real wrench that we had to leave after such a short cruise,but are fortunate in knowing that we would be back soon.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
If you want a REAL vacation it would be on the Crystal. I have been on both the Crystal Symphony and the Crystal Serenity. My last cruise was on the Serenity and it sure sticks to its name. My vacation WAS really serene! Every staff member ... Read More
If you want a REAL vacation it would be on the Crystal. I have been on both the Crystal Symphony and the Crystal Serenity. My last cruise was on the Serenity and it sure sticks to its name. My vacation WAS really serene! Every staff member is so very well trained in how to deal with the passengers that you feel like you have died and gone to heaven. The food is 1st class and very elegantly presented. The embarkation process is very easy and no lining up. The cabin was spotlessly clean and maintained at that level the whole time we were on the ship. The most impressive part is when you leave your cabin to go home the housekeeping staff comes in and removes EVERYTHING to get it washed. This includes the curtains, duvets, all the covers including the throw pillow covers. Wish other cruise lines would do that. I cruise about 6 or 7 times a year on different cruise lines and have only seen this kind of cleanliness on Crystal. Entertainment - 1st class. Disembarkation -very well organized so there are no lines when going through customs. The ship has more staff than passengers so everyone is very well taken care of. The cruise director is a fine gentleman - well spoken and also a great entertainer. The jazz band was also terrific! Highly recommend this line. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
We joined Crystal Serenity in beautiful Barcelona, for a favourite cruise, the leaisurely Transatlantic to Miami. We embarked with Crystal's minimum fuss or delay, after luggage was whisked away, and once on board, were quickly helped ... Read More
We joined Crystal Serenity in beautiful Barcelona, for a favourite cruise, the leaisurely Transatlantic to Miami. We embarked with Crystal's minimum fuss or delay, after luggage was whisked away, and once on board, were quickly helped with our hand luggage and enjoying a delightful al fresco lunch and chilled champagne. We admired the elegant makeover of the Lido casual cafe, and the charming green living wall and large olive trees decorating the Tastes grill area, now the venue for Tapas style evening dining, under the lit up olives trees, Our Deck 8 cabin was ready by 2pm, som wen quickly unpacked, met our charming stewardess and enjoyed the city views from the balcony. Cabins on Serenity are fairly small, but with a well planned layout, comfortably furnished in serene taupe and grey shades , have ample storage space and a lovely marble bathroom . Our small dislikes are the medicinal scented Aveda toiletries, and wardrobe alongside the bed. We looked over the featured programme for this Big Band themed cruise, and were delighted to discover that the band was to play 2 sets each night, and an excellent show programme and featured artists were going to be on board to entertain guests each evening. We particularly enjoyed the terrific Elton John tribute show, and the guest classical musicians. It was a. delight to see so many dance hosts , happy to dance with ladies who cared to dance, and also the Crystal initiative in having dance hostesses to partner gentlemen. On repositioning cruises, Crystal offer an excellent programme of dance tuition, delivered at 2 skill levels by well qualified and enthusiastic teachers. Additionally, we were to have excellent lectures and creative activities to keep us entertained and as busy as we cared to be. We both thoroughly enjoyed the quality art and golf tuition, delivered with charm and skill by featured tutors. Crystal Serenity has a superb library with a wide book selection for those quiet moments enjoying the sun, on the comfortable sun deck loungers. Serenity dining was superb each evening, whether in the lovely main dining room , with its varied menus, beautifully presented food and attentive service, or n the 2 speciality restaurants, Mediterranean Prefo and oriental Silk Road, a Nobu dining experience, with added sushi bar, whose chef prepared fresh delights as diners watched. Both the speciality restaurants require reservation and guests are limited as to the number of times they may dine there, so that all can enjoy these excellent . We did not try dining in Tastes , but it looked charming , intimate and fun. Daily lunch for us was always in the outdoor area of the lovely Lido, with a superb daily choice and delightful mini desserts to tempt. Waiters quickly offered drinks and were happy to bring preferred wines , even if they were not the daily selection. In fact, we found the wine service to be the best we have had on any cruise line, with knowledgeable sommeliers, helpful waiters, and a superb selection on offer. A lovely treat on Crystal Serenity was a gorgeous Mozart aftenoon tea, with costumes servers, a string quartet playing , and a fantastic pastry and cake display that would break any diet resolutions! As we prefer to breakfast in cabin, we enjoyed the full breakfast service available, served hot and promptly by cheerful room service staff. When we finally reached Miami, after 2 port stops in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and busy St Maarten, we were sad to leave such a lovely ship, and return to reality after such a superb pampering, sybaritic experience. We feel that a Crystal ship provides a wonderful quality cruise , in elegant , stylish surroundings with superb service levels , provided by well trained, motivated and charming staff. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
This was our fourth/fifth Crystal Cruise (this was a back to back cruise) sailing from and back to Dover, so no flying. Do wish that Crystal would sail south from the UK without flying. Embarkation at Dover was very smooth. Once onboard ... Read More
This was our fourth/fifth Crystal Cruise (this was a back to back cruise) sailing from and back to Dover, so no flying. Do wish that Crystal would sail south from the UK without flying. Embarkation at Dover was very smooth. Once onboard our picture was taken and we were issued with our cabin cards. We then went up to the Bistro, on of our favourite places, for champagne and a light lunch. Our stateroom was available early afternoon and it was just as expected, with everything one could want. We were familiar with the ship so knew our way around. It is very well maintained. I read some reviews saying since Crystal had gone all inclusive that service had deteriorated, well, we didn't experience any drop in service in any department. The service in the restaurant was superb as was the food, and the choice of wine was more than adequate. Prego was wonderful too. We never experienced a lowering of service anywhere. We were always greeted with a smile and welcome from all of the crew - officers included! There were two things which disappointed us. The first was the evening entertainment. We always look forward to, and go to, the shows. It is obvious to us (and many others) that Crystal is trying to attract a younger guest. We didn't enjoy any of the production shows as we didn't recognise hardly any of the songs - what happened to Cole, Million Dollar Musicals etc, all shows with numbers we are familiar with. Perhaps the content of the shows will be more suitable in ten years time when the younger guest Crystal is hoping for would have grown up with them. Also we don't like the show to be before dinner - who wants to go to bed on a full stomach! We were blessed with good weather for the entire cruise with just a little drizzle first thing in the morning on a couple of days. The shore excursions, although a bit pricey, were well organised. Disembarkation was very well organised and we were very sad to be leaving the ship. If it wasn't for the entertainment it would be 5+ all the way. Will we be booking another - you bet! Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
HI don’t take vacations Why? I never leave my home and it’s hard to get Paris to visit ME. So when I do take a vacation it’s a big deal. The big deal started seven months ago when I decided to take another cruise. Are you ready? DAY ... Read More
HI don’t take vacations Why? I never leave my home and it’s hard to get Paris to visit ME. So when I do take a vacation it’s a big deal. The big deal started seven months ago when I decided to take another cruise. Are you ready? DAY ONE: GUERNSEY We take a walking tour of Guernsey led by Mary Poppins. The nicest, sweetest lady you’d ever meet who is stunningly handsome at about 75. One of the members of he group is late, let’s call her Helen Gurley Brown. However, two members of the group a husband and wife… let’s call them Donald Trump and Ivana… are not happy. ''"We are on time, why do we have to wait?” The woman whose expression has not changed since she arrived on the ship pipes in, ''"I’m not waiting.” And she takes off. OH. The expression…it’s like she’s constantly smelling poo. I get through the day. Tomorrow is a day at sea. I wonder what it will hold. That night on the ship they play THE IMPOSSIBLE, the story of a family that goes on vacation and is hit by a Tsunami. THIS is the movie they play on the first night out… I go down to the lobby and a violin trio is playing… I SWEAR TO YOU… ''"Closer to God are Thee” the tune they played as the Titanic went down. As a comic I see the comedy in the situation as a passenger I want to run to my room and leave my life vest on…forever. DAY TWO: AT SEA. I’ve always wanted to see whales. I just didn’t think I’d see them in bathing suits. There should be a law… if the flap of skin on your back folds over and touches your hip, you cannot wear a thong. The men are no better. I saw one guy walking down the hallway. He was so wide he was knocking paintings off the walls on both sides as he made his way to his cabin. Oh and day two is the first night of Rosh Hashanah. The last time I was in Temple Eisenhower was in office but I thought it would be fun to be in France and celebrate the New Year in another country. The service is at five p.m…. I go down there at five. We have crossed a time line and clocks were set a hour ahead one hour. It was actually six p.m. and I missed the service. DAY THREE: BORDEAUX, FRANCE So next morning I’m up at six a.m. and I’m ready to go to services. I walk into the room and one lady is sitting with a shawl. On the pulpit is a priest with vestments, behind him is a huge cross with Jesus. She says, ''"Come in… join us.” I say, ''"I haven’t been in Temple in about 40 years but I don’t think this is a Rosh Hashanah service.” The woman laughs so loud the priest stops spraying the incense. Ok, so I come back in half an hour and there are the Jews… all ten of them. I have found them in this sea of WASP wonderland-ness. We get to talking and suddenly I realize I have found the rarest of rare… REPUBLICAN JEWS… a living oxymoron. It’s like it’s when I found out fish eat their young… I was horrified. The service lasts exactly 12 minutes. Why? The Rabbi has to take a tour of the Bordeaux countryside. This is the Jewish Holiday I have wished for my entire life. So we board our bus to the wine country. We have a French guide… a woman with a voice just short of grinding silverware down the garbage disposal. She spoke in such a thick accent no one could understand her and when we asked her to repeat whatever she said she got furious. ''"Vat is Wong wit you peoples” I thought I was going to have to stay after the tour in detention. Six of us started a support group for survivors of the tour which we are now calling the Death March on Bataan. That night we went to the theater for the entertainment. Sit down… you’re gonna love this. REBECCA AND DONNOVAN. Picture Arnold Schwartnegger singing like Mario Lanza while his wife hung from silk ropes. That’s what this act was. I actually sat through twenty minutes of it until my ears began to bleed and I fled from the theater like The Von Trapp Family. DAY FOUR: AT SEA They have provided us with many interesting things to do on this ship. Interesting if you live in assisted living and have a motorized wheelchair. One of my favorites activities is SCARF TYING. I kid you not… learn how to tie a scarf…followed by NAPKIN FOLDING. (Readers: this is not a joke.) These are actual classes. They also have courses you could use like how to shoot video on an ipad, how to play the piano, how to play bridge… each one of THOSE classes was anemically empty. But SCARF TYING was a slam-dunk. Standing room only! Then there was the lecture series… who do they have as a guest speaker…some show biz celebrity… some sports hero… a political figure? NO! Clint Van Zant… an FBI Serial Murderer Profiler. STANDING ROOM ONLY? They were seated on the floor. These Republicans like a good mass murder. I went to the lecture in which I learned one of the killers liked to shove stones up the vaginal cavity of his victims. (beat) FOR THIS I PAID FOURTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS INCLUDING AIR FARE???? I was once on a Princess Cruise and their entertainment was a ''"Hairiest man on the ship” contest… a Persian woman won. Ok so tonight is formal night on the ship or as I call it, The Geriatric Prom. Tonight I will see things no man is supposed to see… moo moos and tuxedos… walkers and sequins… ladies wearing things only teenagers should wear… and all to stand in a buffet line and eat things pushed through a pastry tube. I truly do love this experience… it’s a comedy writer’s dream come true. One cruise on the Atlantic and I will be writing about it for the next six years. DAY FIVE: Lisbon, Portugal I’ve figured out what taking a cruise is all about… it’s a series of meals interrupted by Europe. My God, I have never eaten so much in my life. They are feeding us like we’re Foie Gras Geese. They just keep shoving food down our throats… my liver is the size of Connecticut. Any moment I expect the chef to cut it out and force-feed it back to me. Lisbon, Portugal. Well, I can die happy now. I’ve seen the tomb of Vasco D’Gama. This is the highlight of Lisbon, that and protecting your wallets from pickpockets. I have never seen anything like it in my life, you’re standing alone waiting for the shuttle… suddenly, out of no where, 500 Gypsies surround you trying to sell you shawls. So the entire trip your holding your wallet, your camera, your keys, your passport, your gold incisor… anything you’re afraid they could get their hands on. OH! It appears Lisbon is the thimble capital of the world. Everywhere you go they are hocking thimbles… and coasters. Thimbles and coasters…coasters and thimbles… big ones, black ones, cork ones, blue ones, coasters with Lisbon on them, thimbles with Vasco D’ Gama on them… granite thimbles.( I guess they were from the stone age) It appears the Europeans think that all we Americans do is sew and cook. There is one funny note in Lisbon. There appears to be a large contingent of Lesbians on the ship, packs of them dressed in tool belts and wearing Berkinstocks.. It would give me great joy to say over and over… We’re in Lisbon with the Lesbians…. Lisbon with the Lesbians… Lisbon with the Lesbians. Has a nice ring, no? I must say I was disappointed in Lisbon. It’s dirty. It’s crowded. It’s covered in graffiti. It’s New York City with thimbles. I was picturing this quaint little village like it says in the brochure… lovely multi colored homes like a Disney movie. Instead I got the parking lot of an architectural salvage yard. The whole city is a big BEFORE photo. It’s a D.I.Y. project waiting to happen. One interesting side note about tour guides. How do you get them to shut up? They get you on that bus and don’t stop talking until the ship is pulling away from the dock. They tell you dates and names and countries and kings and queens and all you want to know is, ''"Where is the toilet?” About twenty minutes into the tour her voice begins to sound like nails on a blackboard. Everything she says you take exception to. ''"Oh really… Portugal has wonderful weather… really?” You can’t wait to get off the bus and flee for your life but she’s behind you with a bull horn.” DON’T FORGET TO STOP IN THE TRINKET SHOP BEFORE YOU LEAVE.” DAY SIX: SEVILLE, SPAIN-WATCH YOUR VALUABLES!!!! By this day you have gotten to know your traveling companions and they seem to fall into three categories: a. People you want be friends with. b. People you want to be friends with but just can’t. c. People you want to kill with the bottle opener provided in your room. Under ''"a” comes people your own age, people with the same political views and anyone with all their original body parts. Under ''"b” comes anyone with equipment. This includes oxygen bottles, canes, walkers, electric wheel chairs and a leg made out from composite materials. Under ''"c” comes Republicans. There are also sub categories. People with language barriers like Russians and people who stick to themselves, like Asians. These are all nice people but when ''"Isn’t Lisbon a dumpy city. ” takes 20 minutes, flash cards and a signal flare, a lasting friendship is out of the question. On today’s trip I found two things. 1. Seville is the most beautiful city I’ve ever been in and 2. There are other Democrats on board. Today at lunch I sat with a lovely couple from Connecticut. Out of the blue she turns to me and says ''"Did you ever see a bigger bunch of in your life. Republicans…all of them” I heard angels sing. From that moment on the trip took on a new air. She told us of other Democrats on board. I suddenly knew what the French underground felt like during World War II. We had secret handshakes and secret meeting places. ''"We’re under the stairs in the main ball room” IT’S A WHOLE NEW TRIP!!!! DAY SEVEN: AT SEA Last night we were supposed to see The Rock of Gibraltar… we passed it at midnight so that’s one thing that won’t be crossed off my bucket list. DAY EIGHT: BARCEL…. Ohhhhhhhh who cares! I have seen more churches than the Pope. I am so touristed out I can’t begin to tell you. I’ve seen parks. I’ve seen monuments. I’ve seen the birthplace of people I never knew existed. This isn’t a vacation it’s credits for my Masters. The good news is I have finally found the fun people. All four of them. They are under 70, they are Democrats, they laugh… I’ve got four new friends. Worth the whole trip. DAY NINE; TO THE AIRPORT. My pick up is at ten… at ten thirty he still is not there. I have prepaid for this ride and suddenly the cruise ship who did everything but has thrown me to the wind. ''"Oh, you didn’t buy OUR transportation… pity.” So I grab a taxi to the airport with tip and with the money I have already paid to the other limo company this trip has cost me 16 thousand dollars. I could have flown around the world twice for what this cab ride has cost me. And here’s the bottom line. I DON’T CARE. I have had one of the best times I have ever had in my life. I came home with nothing. No key chains, no iPhones covers from Spain. No, snowballs with cathedrals in them. All I have is my memories… 486 photos and four new friends. Hey! Could have been a lot worse… and I didn’t even tell you about the Israeli on the plane home who kept pushing my seat forward because I was ''"Invading his space.” I wanted to club him with my thimble collection. Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
My wife and I had never been on a cruise before as it just didn't seem like our kind of thing. Nevertheless, we signed up for this cruise, Crystal Cruise 3309, which went from Venice to Rome with 5 stops in between. Since it's ... Read More
My wife and I had never been on a cruise before as it just didn't seem like our kind of thing. Nevertheless, we signed up for this cruise, Crystal Cruise 3309, which went from Venice to Rome with 5 stops in between. Since it's a long way from California to Italy, we added time before and after in Italy to justify the long airline flight. We started off with 3 nights in Venice before boarding the ship. The embarkation process went very smoothly and we quickly lost first time cruiser angst. We had a cabin with veranda on deck 10. The room was very nice and more than adequate for our needs. The veranda is very comfortable and was larger than I expected. The bathroom was laid out very well and did not feel at all cramped, but rather seemed like an efficient use of the space. The beds were extremely comfortable, perhaps a bit hard for some but perfect for our tastes. Everything in the room worked well. The flat screen TV was well positioned for easy viewing from the sofa or bed. The first night, the ship stayed berthed in Venice and some tours were offered the next day. Since we had been three days in Venice, we elected to stay on board and checked out all the ships facilities. Our room was close to the forward stairwell/elevators, so we could get anywhere on the ship quite quickly. The ship seemed in immaculate condition. Scoped out the steam room and sauna on the top deck. It turns out, these are accessible 24 hours and became one of our favorite spots. Both the steam room and sauna were under utilized so I often had them to myself. The sauna in particular has a window to the outside so sitting there, sweating, watching the world go by was a enlightening experience. The first night, we booked in one of the specialty restaurants, Prego. It was very nice and we were a bit regretting that we could only pre-book one night. After that we ate in the main dining room (MDR) every night and were not at all disappointed. The menu was varied and always very good, some evenings downright delicious. Our desire to try to rebook at Prego waned as the MDR was terrific. Our waiters, Zoran and Angela were very attentive. Crystal does not seem to scrimp on staff. Our 2 waiters had only two (8 person) tables to tend to and got help from busboys and others. We had breakfast each morning in the LIDO buffet. There was never a wait except if one wanted a cooked to order omelet. The selection was very good for either American or European tastes... Bacon, Sausage, scrambled eggs, cold cuts, cheeses, breads, fruit, and fresh squeezed OJ. Our diner waiter, Zoran, recognized us and after the second morning knew our preference for cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso and had it for us without asking. Overall, the food quality and food service was much better than I had imagined possible. BTW, this cruise was all inclusive, so there was no extra charge for wine or cocktails or an after dinner port. The wife developed a taste for lemoncello. One could order special drinks that did cost, but we never found the wines and drinks offered to be at all wanting. We didn't go to any stage shows but did take in a couple of movies. The theater is small (may 100-150 seats) but more than adequate and was never more than 1/2 full. We did take in a special up close magic act. It was pretty lame, and seemed more like a promotion for the Magic Castle in LA. The ports of call were all pretty interesting. We did book one tour through the ship, Pompeii, during our call to Sorrento and it was wonderful with a very animated and informative guide. For all the other destinations, we just took the cruise line supplied shuttle to town and walked around the towns. Dubrovnik, Kotor, Corfu, and Taormina each are charming and interesting. It was easy to burn 4 or 5 hours just walking around, looking in windows, drinking the local beer, and finding a free WIFI to catch up on the world. So what the bottom line..... The cruise was terrific. Crystal did a great job. Everyone was friendly and helpful. The concierge was very helpful the few times we needed something. The tour desk was also really informative. Our waiter was a jewel.... he even had some suggestions about what to see in the various ports. The condition of the ship was more or less perfect. There were no lines. The food was great. The all inclusive package is the way to go. The only minor quibble is I would prefer more non-smoking areas, though once we identified the areas that allowed smoking they were pretty easy to avoid. I can only hope this doesn't spoil me. We're looking into a Princess cruise and some of the reviews of the Grand Princess are getting me a bit nervous. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
As a lover of luxury cruises I was really hoping to add another cruise line like Crystal to my list of favourites. However, the reality is that,as hard as this line tries to market itself to the all inclusive cruiser, it does not match ... Read More
As a lover of luxury cruises I was really hoping to add another cruise line like Crystal to my list of favourites. However, the reality is that,as hard as this line tries to market itself to the all inclusive cruiser, it does not match this marketing with its delivery. Embarkation in Rome was easy and quick, but it was certainly the first time I have not been greeted with a welcome or a glass of champagne. The atrium of the Serenity was very tasteful and the public areas to begin with appeared in good order. We were shown straight to our veranda stateroom, which was again not furnished with any kind of welcome drinks etc. the room was also very small, and we had to take in in turns to get dressed in the evening as there was so little space. The bathroom was fairly well appointed, although we had to call housekeeping on several occasions to ask for amenities to be replenished, even after asking the stewardess. Upon putting our cases under the bed I found someone else's dirty slippers there,which led to further in depth scrutiny of our small cabin, which was by no means cleaned to the levels we have been used to on Seabourn or Silversea. I called at reception and met with the head of housekeeping who inspected the room and found it to be unsatisfactory on a number of levels, from dusty side units to a dirty carpet. This should not have been left to us to deal with!!! Our broken fridge never got repaired and we gave up reporting it! The pool area was pleasant but there were far too many sunbeds around and people were crammed in like sardines,there were a few attendants who we had to chase around on several occasions in order to get a drink, not good. The lido buffet was ok, but after seeing the same old salad after thre or four days, things go repetitive and very boring. On the whole lido was pretty uninspiring and there was never anyone around to get drinks orders in breakfast or lunch. The main dining room, was pretty awful in general, and on the two occasions we ate there they didnt seem to know how not to cremate any meat or fish they cooked, so we didn't bother. The silk road and Prego were the only decent dining venues on board, food here was outstanding and served with finesse. Service wise, not what we are used to and no one seemed happy to serve, things were all too much for the majority of crystals staff, I came to the conclusion that the all inclusive set up had put many noses out of joint and they were all sulking at the lack of tips they were no longer getting. Drinks service was pretty non existent, and I have never overheard so many saying this was a self service ship. Other service or staff encountered,especially officers, who we are used to speaking to on Seabourn, would not speak and could only ethier be found at the ice cream parlour or in large groups drinking cocktails in the bars, not mixing with clientelle I add. This happened on sooo many occasions, we felt it was wholly inappropriate considering recent cruising disasters. Officers would also take up three of four tables in speciality restaurants, which was unfair as fellow cruisers couldn't get into these venues! Other staff we're unnecessarilly rude to passengers and we witnessed several really bad episodes with fellow passengers. O ne particular day, a passenger beside me in the lift could not get it to go to the lido level, so got out the lift and asked politely if the lift could be fixed, as it had been not working properly for a few days. Member of staff replied, well why don't you just walk there!! A typical crystal reply,far from 6 star!! Afternoon tea, especially the Mozart tea, was revered by Crystal, so we were looking forward to attending, at 3.30. We arrived, at 3.27 and I asked the staff member if I could have some tea and a scone, there was no one else in the room and he said no, we are not open until 3.30! Everything was laid out and he was stood waiting to serve, it was just inappropriate use of language every step of the way,with a lot of the crew. Just so pedantic, no need for it. Oh,and the scones were appalling, I love afternoon tea and didn't bother even going again,it was so poor. And finally, the smoking, oh dear, the nice bars were unusable in the evenings,as the smoke was so overpowering, I know this is changing, but it is at far too overdue. As you can probably tell, we were really disappointed with Crystal and we cannot understand why it receives all of the accolades it does. Fellow well travelled cruisers rated most lines including, Seabourn,Silversea and Oceania above crystal, and we all felt very let down by the line. Those who really liked it seemed to have tried nothing else or had come from Carnival, so it would obviously be an improvement! I am glad we tried Crystal, because we can now comment on it, but I really think they are going to struggle to keep up with the Genuine six star lines, as service and personality are lacking in bucket loads. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We so much liked the Fall 2012 T/A on Serenity that we didn't need much convincing to book this voyage as well. In both cases the chief attraction for Nancy was the ballroom dancing theme, with the opportunity to take private dance ... Read More
We so much liked the Fall 2012 T/A on Serenity that we didn't need much convincing to book this voyage as well. In both cases the chief attraction for Nancy was the ballroom dancing theme, with the opportunity to take private dance lessons from the on board professionals. As for me, I just like to be at sea. This voyage was more heavily booked than the previous one by about 15%. Wile the differences were perhaps not striking, this did show up in the quality of the service. While we could not recall a single complaint in the Fall, this time around there were three or four occasions on which we we failed to be noticed when we wanted to place an order in the bars and I had to go in search of a server. I understand this was a function of overcrowding of the facility for one reason or another and not a reflection on the extraordinary willingness of the staff to please, but it should be mentioned that, even on Crystal, at peak occupancy, there are glitches. Nancy was slightly disappointed, particularly as we had persuaded her mother and another lady to join us on the cruise, that this time the ladies were not escorted into the dining room at dinner by a member of the staff, certainly a courtly touch, but again, the passenger to crew ratio did not allow this. To make up for this however, the willingness of the Maitre d'Hotel to find us a good table at the early sitting each evening although, by the time we booked, this was theoretically sold out, went well beyond the call of duty. I like to eat well, and I certainly was not disappointed in this expectation. The quality of the food as well as the preparation in both the main dining room and in the Lido was absolutely first rate, I truly can't think of a single course in all of our meals there about which I could voice a complaint. I wish I could be equally enthusiastic about the specialty restaurants but, alas, this is not the case. Silk Road, while the food was uniformly superb, was distinguished by service of veritably glacial slowness, so that Nancy's Mom absolutely refused to return there and we cancelled our reservation for a second dinner in that venue. Prego, while once more producing flawless first and last courses, once again fell flat on its face with the main course. Having disliked their Osso Bucco in the Fall, I went for the saddle of lamb this time. One would think this would be all but impossible to ruin, but the chef at Prego managed the feat, the lamb was all but drowned in garlic. Garlic is a very good thing but, please, in measure! I realize that the Crystal Can Do No Wrong set will jump all over me for daring to make this criticism, but I will make it anyway. Also, although I'm not a great fan of after dinner entertainment, Nancy is and we thought it a pity that the shows were identical with the ones we had seen in the Fall. So much for quibbles. On a much more positive note Nancy was absolutely delighted with the quality of the dance instruction and with the expertise and grace of Rudy, Natalie and Beverly. The evident dedication and solicitousness with which the staff at the Lido cared for Nancy's mom, who had a tendency to get lost, was absolutely touching. Embarkation, in spite of warnings that the Miami Port Authority would throw up roadblocks, proceeded flawlessly, and when we informed the desk that we had a relatively early flight from Lisbon to Madrid, we were gotten off the ship in record time. If it wasn't the perfect cruise, it surely came close, and that's all that a reasonable man can ask. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
Let me preface my post by saying we had a WONDERFUL time on this cruise! Great friends, new friends, excellent food, service, and entertainment! I am still going through Crystal withdrawals 5 days later. Embarkation: The ship was ... Read More
Let me preface my post by saying we had a WONDERFUL time on this cruise! Great friends, new friends, excellent food, service, and entertainment! I am still going through Crystal withdrawals 5 days later. Embarkation: The ship was full, but the only time we felt that was on embarkation day. We boarded at about 1:30. There was about a 10 minute wait in the terminal until our number was called, and then we waited on line outside the casino for about 15 minutes until we were rapidly checked in by a casino employee (that knew us from Symphony). Since we missed lunch in the MDR, we went up to Lido Deck, grabbed a table and called our friends already on board. DH volunteered to get us some lunch from the Trident, and waited on line over 30 minutes to be served. There was a very long line, and only so many Trident employees. Our friends joined me at the table and waited until DH arrived with our lunch. Our cabin was ready before 3 pm, and we went down to unpack. Our cabin: We used our 10th cruise upgrade that we had banked for several years and paid for a C and were upgraded to an A, 9080. It was a great midship location. The cabin is a bit larger than those on Symphony, with larger drawers for storage. Great new reading light! Everything else appeared to be about the same, and the layout was essentially the same. The veranda may be slightly larger than on Symphony. Our stewardess, Sonia, was pleasant and extremely efficient. She did an excellent job! Our only complaint about the cabin, and our only major complaint about the ship, is the bed. It is like sleeping on a bag of cement, and we like a firm mattress. I know that Crystal replaces the mattresses frequently, but it may be time to switch mattress manufacturers. Please, someone from Crystal should sail Oceania and try their wonderful beds. Even Holland America has more comfortable beds than the ones on Crystal. IMO, the beds are the only thing that is not 6 star on Crystal! Service: We received excellent service in every venue! Because this was our first time on Serenity, there was not the immediate familiarity with crew we knew from Symphony, but within two days, they knew our names and we felt at home. Special mention goes to Liezl, the Librarian and Urara, the wonderful Activity Hostess, who are the quintessential representatives for Crystal! Our waitstaff Zoltan and Ana were great, as was our sommelier, Jiri and our Headwaiter, Peter. Thank you to Ziggy and Albert in Silk Road who took wonderful care of us and Antonio and Mario in Prego. Benjamin from Lido is a star, and thanks to Darko and Walson from Tastes. There was no decrease in service from the switch to All Inclusive, it was as superb as it always is on a Crystal ship! Food: Better than ever!! We tried every dining venue except room service and felt the food and service was exemplary in each. I am still longing for the yellowtail tartare in Silk Road! I think it is my favorite dish on the ship. I think the variety and amount of food in the Bistro was more than I have seen before. It is such a popular meeting place, thank you Crystal! We were at the Ship Doctor's table in the MDR and had a very congenial tablemates. There were a red and a white wine offered nightly with dinner, but additional options were also available on request. We were satisfied with the spirits available in the lounges, at no time did we feel we were getting "second best," in terms of our personal requests. Entertainment: Rave reviews for the shows Rocketman and Across the Pond! It is difficult to believe that the performers on Broadway could be anymore talented than the singers and dancers on Crystal. The costumes deserve special mention! Our lecturers: Dr. Anthony Aveni, who was the destination lecturer, was very entertaining, as was Joan Salge Blake, who spoke on nutrition with humor and energy. Prof. Louis Rene Beres was our other lecturer, who spoke on the Middle East and threat of nuclear war, was obviously very bright and well-informed, but his topics were so grim, perhaps too grim for a vacation. Thomas Daniels, the Cove Pianist and Marcie Castro, the Avenue Saloon Pianists were both terrific! Unfortunately, the smoking in The Cove made it difficult to sit and enjoy Thomas for very long. Thank you, Crystal, for making the Avenue smoke-free! It made such a difference! Marcie had a full house every night and really got everyone rocking! Special mention to Rick Spath, the Cruise Director, who is so upbeat, friendly, personable and accessible! It was such fun to visit with our dear friend from Symphony, Scott Mitchell, who is the Asst. Cruise Director on Serenity. We had a great Trivia team and came in 2nd twice and won the last game after 3 tie breaker questions. Ports: Swimming with the dolphins in Tortola was amazing! Although we have done it before in Cabo, it is still such an incredible feeling to be up close and personal with those bright creatures. We had a great assortment of islands on this cruise and beautiful weather! About Serenity: All of our cruises on Crystal have been on Harmony (I still miss her) and Symphony. So this was our first time on Serenity except for visiting friends last year for the day in Miami. It is like Symphony, except different! By that I mean, in addition to being larger, many things look similar, but are in different spots on the ship, so I would find myself leaving Bistro and expecting to cross the Deck 6 to the library, only to remember that it is on 7, etc. It is larger over-all, and each ship has some specific stars among its public rooms. The ship is sparkling clean and well maintained. The norovirus which had been present on the previous cruise was contained and almost non-existent on our cruise due to the vigilance of Crystal staff and crew. We also noticed an outside contractor sanitation crew on board, too. Crystal did an outstanding job insuring the presence of the virus did not linger on the ship. Again, the only sign of a full ship was on embarkation day on the Lido deck. Even on sea days, plenty of seating was available around the pool. Disembarkation was smooth, we simply walked off the ship at our assigned time and found our luggage and a porter. We had a great time, ate too much, stayed up too late with friends, laughed and talked and got to know so many new people and enjoyed the special old friends on board and new friends. It was wonderful! Thank you, Crystal, from the staff in Los Angeles to the crew, staff and officers on board, we always leave wanting to stay longer. You make our vacations so memorable and enjoyable! We can't wait to come home again! p.s. We appreciate the ship's carpenter who did a super job replacing the handle on one suitcase that came off during delivery. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
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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