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160 Crystal Serenity Luxury Cruise Reviews

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
Since I began cruising in the late 90's I have heard and read things about Crystal Cruises which made me doubt it would ever be a cruise line I would like. The usual gist of the comments were "why pay more when it is nearly the ... Read More
Since I began cruising in the late 90's I have heard and read things about Crystal Cruises which made me doubt it would ever be a cruise line I would like. The usual gist of the comments were "why pay more when it is nearly the same as what you get on [fill in the blank]?" And too, there was always some allusion to the ratio of older passengers. In order to keep my comments brief, I will say only that none of this is true. What IS true in my mind is that Crystal Cruises is tailor made for the discerning traveler. I will leave the specific comparisons of food, entertainment and quality of service for others to comment on. They are all good to great, but they are not what sets Crystal apart in my mind. Let me explain: Cruising is about leaving cares and troubles behind for a time and enjoying life. This begins with embarkation. If you have to enter a terminal, figure out WHAT LINE YOU BELONG IN, or figure out which line is moving the fastest, then you are NOT on Crystal. My first Crystal experience taught me that one merely needs to walk onto the ship and pick up the room key. VOILA! If you are reminded everyday what benefits you get based on how many times you have cruised, you are not on Crystal. As first time cruisers we were given $100 shipboard credit each and an additional $200 each as part of our booking. Everyone I talked to received credit just for booking which one that gets to decide on how to use, e.g., internet, spa, stores, excursions, private dance instruction. This gets to the heart of what impressed me the most about Crystal. At no point did I detect or recognize the difference in passengers. Officers did not parade into the dining room with privileged guests, suite passengers received no special dining room or specialty restaurant booking privileges, there was no mention anywhere that if you are such and such you get such and such. No private parties for "special" groups. We did have a cruise critic party, but anyone could attend. If the cruise line does this sort of thing, it is discreet and that is really my point. They make it their business to treat everyone on board as a first class passenger. No difference is the difference! This is a brilliant business strategy in my way of thinking. The other key business strategy that puts Crystal at the very top is the public space to passenger ratio. Read: no crowds anywhere!!! No buffet lines, no chair hogs because there are so many wonderful choices, lots of dance floor. A WIDE WRAP AROUND PROMENADE for those who love to walk or run. Space, space, space. Another small example that speaks volumes: I learned Crystal has guest laundry services. HURRAY! I followed a sign, found it, and discovered, wow, no charge to use the machines. But alas, no machine for laundry soap. I thought, ah ha, this is where they will get you, they will charge $10 for soap! So I checked the stores and then asked at the desk with a rather wry look on my face. She looked at me quizzically and said, "madam, you simply push the button when you need soap". You mean bing, bang, boom, it is free? She laughed at me. Then, to top it off, I learned there is not one guest laundry, no, there is one ON EVERY FLOOR! A big example of how Crystal is out-thinking other cruise lines is their strategy of transatlantic big band dance cruises. If you are a dance lover, there is no better ship venue. The professional instructors (4) gave multiple group lessons every sea day, private instruction and they performed at various times with each other, crew and passengers. I count myself as a dance instruction snob and they outclassed the competition on land and sea by a mile. Seven dance ambassadors were onboard and were tireless in dancing with the ladies on-board. This has to be the best kept secret in the cruising industry but I think it is just starting to take off so if you are interested, act fast and book! Finally, let me say a word about the passengers. The first week I kept asking myself, "is it the passengers aboard who make this a more enjoyable experience, or is it the way Crystal does business that makes every happier and therefore the experience more enjoyable?" I have concluded that it must be both.On Crystal, you will see smiling octogenarians showing the middle aged folks how to have fun. Common etiquette is evident everywhere. If you are on a ship with whiners, complainers, "me too" or "me first" needy type folks, you are not on Crystal! Before I conclude, I will point out two areas that are good but could be better. The spa. It is disconnected in culture from the rest of the ship. To be brief, they should be more inviting and offer more amenities in the locker room, especially at those prices. Second, the regular production stage performers (not the professional ballroom instructors onboard) are good, not great. I might point to Azamara as a cruise line that excels in maximizing the potential of a small dance/vocal performer group. Crystal cruises are a class act all the way. The discerning cruiser will see it at every turn and it will be experienced as a warmth that melts ones cares away. The ships are large enough to provide a smooth ocean experience, but small enough to make friends and find your way around. It is, after all, the perfect all around luxury cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
I recently returned from a cruise on the Crystal Serenity. I have previously done 7 cruises, 5 Royal Caribbean, 1 Holland America and 1 Azamara. I couldn't believe I was actually going on a Crystal cruise and was so looking forward ... Read More
I recently returned from a cruise on the Crystal Serenity. I have previously done 7 cruises, 5 Royal Caribbean, 1 Holland America and 1 Azamara. I couldn't believe I was actually going on a Crystal cruise and was so looking forward to it. Every time you read about Crystal, reviews are generally excellent and the line themselves often quote how many awards they have won -- would the cruise live up to my high expectations? BOARDING -- I didn't realise it but I was joining a cruise in progress. I had booked 8 nights but the original cruise had started in Lisbon and was for 11 nights. I had previously read where you are offered Champagne on arrival and what a wonderful experience it is. I can say that the welcome onboard was lukewarm and a little half-hearted. No Champagne offered and felt like I was just being processed. A nice man led me to my stateroom and shortly afterwards the maid appeared and went through a few things. I had a veranda and was very happy with it. FOOD - I then went for lunch and that is when I started to see the Crystal difference. The Lido buffet was superb which such a choice. I casually asked if honey mustard dressing was available and it wasn't, but to my surprise they immediately made some for me, very impressed. I went to the Lido on several occasions and only once was it packed and that was on a sea day. The other times there was no problem getting a table. One strange thing is the opening hours for lunch, 12.00 -- 13.30. Such a short time and I thought lunch would have been served until 14.30. The food was excellent and I did enjoy the Crystal dining room, everything cooked to perfection. On one occasion the food wasn't hot but they rectified that. The menu was varied including on different nights, venison, pheasant, filet mignon etc, caviar was also available. I am not a dessert person but it all looked very good and beautifully presented. Branislav, Carmelo, Cristian and the sommelier always looked after us. I also ate in Tastes for a late breakfast and that was good as was the Trident Grill for a burger or hot dog etc. The bistro is highly recommended for sandwiches and cakes. I tried Silk Road and had the fortune to go with a Chinese American couple who talked me through the menu. There had been lots of hype about this restaurant and the problem is that rarely can places live up to the hype. It was very good but not what I was expecting i.e. meal of my life! I enjoyed the rock shrimp and the lobster spring roll but was a little disappointed in the Wagyu Beef -- maybe that is just my taste. Nothing was "to die for" as so many seem to say. Please don't misunderstand as I am not criticising, I really enjoyed it but it wasn't as good as I had been led to believe. I also went to Prego. The food here was superb and beautifully presented. I wished I had gone back there again. The service in Prego was perhaps the best I have ever received with a special mention to the Maitre and head waiter, both from Portugal and Jerrit -- a wonderful waiter. ENTERTAINMENT -- Personally I do not go on a cruise for the entertainment but I did go along to a couple of shows. On the first night the band did a Glenn Miller set which was superb and packed with people dancing and having a great time, Not sure why they didn't do it again. The dance classes were great and well attended, very entertaining teachers. There was dancing each evening and there were 4 male hosts to dance with unaccompanied ladies, brilliant. There were 2 sessions of bingo which were good fun and other activities to keep one occupied, all very well arranged. This is where people may disagree with me. I do not think having a dance troupe is warranted on a line like Crystal. The stage is too small and although I am sure they are well trained, at times it looked like they were a group of friends having a laugh putting on a show! I think a few solo singers and some jazz would be better, however that is just my opinion. I would not want to offend anyone and I thought Rick, the cruise director was wonderful, very approachable and friendly as was his assistant Shane. OTHER PASSENGERS -- I had been a little nervous as I thought everyone would be stuffy but that couldn't have been further from the truth. Everyone was so approachable and friendly and I met some wonderful people. This will sound snobbish but most passengers were of a certain class and you didn't have to worry about people turning up in track suits or football shirts. There was a woman on board from Glasgow who was the only one who stood out. I think she booked the wrong cruise! DRESS CODE -- Everyone was smartly dressed but not OTT. It was lovely to have a formal night and dress in a tux, other nights were mainly smart casual. ALL INCLUSIVE DRINKS -- This is NOT your typical all inclusive where people are queuing up to get their money's worth. All drinks were available including Hendricks Gin, Belvedere and Grey Goose Vodka etc. Champagne also freely available, not the best but we can't have everything! BARS -- My favourites were the Crystal Cove pre dinner and sometimes after dinner for a quiet drink. Mark, Jess and company always made you feel welcome. The Avenue Bar where people could have a drink and chat, and dance if they wished, with great service provided by Ana and Nicole and the others. Pulse disco was great and I must mention Paolo who was just perfect, an excellent barman who knew exactly how to run things, ably assisted by Daniela. CASINO -- Usual slots and games. The female cashier could be very brusque and I always felt as if she was telling me off! SHOPS -- A small selection with very pleasant staff always willing to help. Do not expect duty free spirits and tobacco but upmarket clothes shops and some perfumes. There was also a convenience type place which was handy to have for forgotten essentials. GYM -- Very modern and up to date and friendly staff. LIBRARY -- Very well stocked and all in order, the best I have seen at sea. INTERNET -- Same as all other lines but we were all given 20 minutes free use on the last day to print off boarding cards. I thought this was a nice gesture. LAUNDRY -- There are several self service laundrettes on the Serenity. Washers, dryers, ironing board etc. Very good and more ships should have them. SMOKING -- No problem at all. Apparently one can smoke in the cabins but you would never know it as there was no smell of smoke. Limited area in some bars which was fine. DISEMBARKING -- Could not have been easier. Walked off the ship, and no queues at all. Not much of a farewell but business is business. SERVICE -- EXCELLENT!!!!!!!!!!!! Staff was there whenever you needed them and most were very professional. Hotel officers could be seen walking around the ship and would always say hello. CRITISISMS -- Not much to criticise but if Crystal are going to add on "b" cruises they must make more of an effort. There were no welcome parties, single gatherings etc. The only party I went to was the Farewell party which strangely was held on the 5th night of the cruise. It didn't make much difference to me as it was so easy to meet people anyway but may be something to think about. Would I cruise with Crystal again -- YES! It may be expensive but you get what you pay for and I would rather have 1 cruise with Crystal than 2 with a different line. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
I just returned from my first Crystal Cruise and am in what I'm calling the 'Crystal haze' --a surreal place where one is treated like royalty, wined and dined and pampered beyond belief. I booked my Crystal cruise expecting ... Read More
I just returned from my first Crystal Cruise and am in what I'm calling the 'Crystal haze' --a surreal place where one is treated like royalty, wined and dined and pampered beyond belief. I booked my Crystal cruise expecting to receive the level of excellence they tout, but had no idea that they would meet and exceed me expectations in all categories. We sailed the Serenity on the Roman Empire Exploration from Istanbul to Barcelona. Ours was a port-intensive voyage, calling in many wonderful ports. And with three days at-sea, there was time to relax and enjoy the ship's offerings as well. My stateroom (PH) lacked nothing. With a walk-in closet complete with plenty of drawers, jacuzzi tub and glass shower, vanity, writing desk, sofa/table, ample balcony and VERY comfy queen bed, I enjoyed the time spent there. My friendly, professional and most anxious -to -please butler provided pressing/shoe shine services and brought canapes and champagne nightly at my request. Breakfast on my balcony was delivered in minutes after requesting...and always with a smile and kind word or two. It is obvious that Crystal selects their crew because of their love of people. And it is the crew and their stellar service that separates Crystal from all other cruise lines. Our stewardesses, waiters, servers, spa employees, concierge and front desk staff and even the librarian could not do enough for us --they greeted us with smiles and warm welcomes at every meeting. The artistically presented five star cuisine also differentiates Crystal as well. I can honestly say that nearly every morsel I ate in our 12 days aboard was excellent. From fresh squeezed juices every morning at breakfast to the bananas foster our head waiter Augusto made for us table side by request after dinner, the meals were memorable. I particularly appreciated the use of fresh ingredients, prime meats, not overly salty sauces, the most perfectly prepared risotto I've had anywhere, amazing soups, fresh made pastas and desserts that were as beautiful as they were delicious. Sommeliers in all dining venues were knowledgeable, upbeat and added greatly to the overall dining experiences. Specialty restaurants Prego and Nobu's Silk Road served up meals among the best I've eaten anywhere in my life. I could write an entire review about the Prego cuisine, presentation, ambiance and service!! We attended both optional formal nights in the Crystal dining room and found them to be a delightful change of pace. Another thing Crystal excels at is offering choices. From the pillow menu from which one chooses their preferred pillows, to the multiple dining options at each meal my every desire was met...and then some! The lime and ginger salt rub I experienced in the spa was one of the singular happiest hours of my life. It was so amazing in fact that I booked the same treatment later that day for a friend with whom I was traveling, and he agreed it was one of the very best experiences of his life as well. For those contemplating cruising.....I would very highly suggest Crystal. Contrary to most things I've experienced in life, with Crystal Cruises, you really can 'believe the hype.' I cannot wait to return to sea with them. Though this was my first Crystal voyage, most all passengers I met were on their 2nd, 10th or 15th Crystal Cruise. Now I 'get it.' Someone asked me last week if I could change one thing about our voyage or Crystal Cruises what would it be.......I'm still thinking. The only thing that comes to mind is that one or two of the chocolate desserts was too sweet for my taste. If that's the worst thing I can say about 12 days in heaven, that's pretty darn good. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
We selected this cruise because of the itinerary. We embarked in Istanbul and then went to four ports in Greece (Mykonos, Athens, Navplion and Corfu), then to Kotor, Montenegro and Zadar, Croatia with debarkation in Venice. We also had ... Read More
We selected this cruise because of the itinerary. We embarked in Istanbul and then went to four ports in Greece (Mykonos, Athens, Navplion and Corfu), then to Kotor, Montenegro and Zadar, Croatia with debarkation in Venice. We also had three days as sea filled with a variety of events and activities to participate in or to do nothing at all. This cruise also had overnight stays in our ports of embarkation and debarkation. While this may not be for everyone, we really liked to have the extra time in both ports! Our experience the second time on Crystal Serenity was as wonderful as the first. Embarkation -- This was a breeze and took less than 5 minutes. As we arrived on the ship we were greeted by several crew members. One quickly took our carry on bags and escorted us to the Crystal Plaza where reception was set up for registration. This was fast and efficient (less than 5 minutes). We were then escorted to our cabin and within 5 minutes our suitcases arrived. It truly could not have been easier! The Ship -- We were on Serenity shortly after the 2011 dry dock so had seen all the wonderful changes. It is still shining and we felt right at home immediately. The public areas and how much space there is for guests to enjoy is what stands out. You can be in the middle of the action if you want or can find a quiet place to read and relax. We spent very little time in our cabin other than some time enjoying our veranda late afternoon or early evening before getting ready for dinner. The Crew -- We can't say enough about the crew. It was nice to see many familiar faces from our cruise last year and to meet many new ones. They are friendly, efficient and will do anything for you. The Lido deck crew works so hard to make the experience wonderful. I get tired thinking about all the work the entire crew and staff do to help make our vacation the best! Dining -- We chose the Dining by Reservation option (as we did last year) and it works out perfectly for us. We made our reservations on PCPC and normally selected 7:15 as our dinner time. For us this time works out better than the set early or late seating. This time was also good to make the 8:45 shows. We dined in the MDR all but one night and the food was excellent. There is a good variety to choose from each night, portion sizes are very nice so you can have an appetizer and a soup or salad and try one of the night entrees. The dining room staff was also fantastic. With Open Dining you do not have the same waiters each night, however, you are seated in one general area so were able to have a pair of 2 or 3 waiters over the 12 nights. We enjoyed some breakfasts in the MDR an, some in the Lido; we also had lunch in either the MDR or Tastes on the Lido Deck. With breakfast and lunch it just depended on what we had planned for that day or arrival back on the ship after a tour. I cannot think of anything to truly complain about. Our Stateroom -- We selected a veranda cabin on Deck 8 this year (last year we had a similar cabin on Deck 9). The location was between mid and aft elevators and we liked the location. While the cabin is small, it is well appointed with plenty of storage between the large closet and drawers. The bathroom is also well appointed. We like to have the veranda to sit out late afternoon or early evening prior to dinner. The weather during this trip was wonderful so we were able to enjoy it pretty much every day. Also, our stewardess was very efficient and ensured we had our beverages of choice in the refrigerator. Debarkation -- This was also fairly painless. The information provided is excellent. It explains exactly what you need to do, where to be and at what time. It could not have been clearer. The only complaint we had was that when we arrived at the Venice airport we were unable to check in with our airline for another hour, so we needed to find a place to sit with our luggage. This minor issue was mentioned in our survey response to Crystal. Not a big deal, but the Venice airport is small and crowded. It would have been nice to have quickly checked our luggage with the airline and been able sit more comfortably in the airline lounge. I did notice this was the case for a couple of other passengers. We were just at the airport way too early. To close out I did want to share one story. One day we were having lunch @ Tastes after a tour and some shopping. After lunch, my husband wanted to go out to the Aft deck and take some pictures. While I was on the Aft Deck with him I realized I'd left a small bag under the table. I quickly ran back and there was no bag at the table and someone was just getting ready to sit down. A couple of tables nearby told me that one of the waiters was taking it to lost and found. I went down to Reception and told them I'd left a bag under the table in the Tastes ... they opened the drawer and gave me my bag which had a gift for my Mom inside. The time from when we left the table, me realizing I forgot it and getting down to Reception could not have been much more than 5 minutes! It was such a good feeling to have the gift safely returned. My only regret is I don't know what crew member was so quick to get the bag to L&F so that I could personally thank them. It's a silly story and not a big expensive gift but it was the efficiency and genuine concern that touched me. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
We are experienced cruisers, although our past experience had been limited to the major lines and the Caribbean. Although we always had a wonderful time there were always disappointments. Bad food, bad service, poor maintenance, etc. ... Read More
We are experienced cruisers, although our past experience had been limited to the major lines and the Caribbean. Although we always had a wonderful time there were always disappointments. Bad food, bad service, poor maintenance, etc. Nothing ever lived up to the romanticized image of cruising I always had. Then we took our first Crystal Cruise. Embarkation, to baggage handling, food, service, everything met or exceeded our expectations and past experiences. This was how I always thought cruising should be. From the start: Embarkation - We arrived at the port and immediately boarded a bus which took us right to the ship. We handed the driver our luggage and that was the last we saw of it until we went to our room. Simple and easy. No lines at check in. 3 groups checking in, 5 people to help them. Once we were checked in we were escorted onto the ship to have our pictures taken, key cards issued, and turned loose on the ship. From the time we got to the port until we were fully processed in was less than 15 minutes. Food - From the pool side grill to the Specialty Restaurants, the food was far above average if not excellent. Highly recommend the Blue Cheese burger with Sweet Potato Fries at the pool grill. Prego and Silk Road lived up to their reputations with good food. Mushroom soup at Prego and the Rocket Shrimp at Silk Road are highly recommended. We had the late seating for dinner and the main dining room food was of the same high quality. Drinks - I had heard there was some concern about the quality and quantity of alcohol now that Crystal has gone all inclusive. I was quite happy with the selection of rums, vodkas, gins, etc. More impressive was when I ordered a Strawberry Daiquiri and instead of watching him pour a mix into the blender, I actually saw him throw in strawberries. The Myers Rum floated on top of the Pina Colada was also a nice touch. The wines offered at dinner were also quite good. Service - We arrived at about 1:30, knowing cabins would not be ready until 3PM. Had a nice lunch, explored the ship, and cheated and snuck down to our room at 2:30. Not only was the room ready, our luggage was already there. No worries about having appropriate clothes for dinner the first night as I am more accustomed. Our stewardess Gloria was fantastic. Although she did have a complaint about us... She didn't feel she was doing enough for us. Room was always cleaned promptly and spotless. Refrigerator stocked as we asked. Dinner service was what you would expect in any fine restaurant, with many touches which appeared to be in response to comments made by our dining companions, including souffles which were not on the menu when someone had mentioned how much they loved them. Pool waiters and attendants were prompt and always around. No waiting for one to show up. Ship - We loved the smaller size. Very quickly found our way around, enjoyed all the usual amenities. Other than the day at sea, the pool was never crowded. Always plenty of places to sit, in or out of the sun. Really liked the quiet area at the aft end of each deck. A few chairs and lounges, very peaceful and a great view. Watched the dolphins follow us out of Sicily. Stateroom - Our cabin was well appointed. Not any larger than the usual balcony cabin, but certainly higher quality appointments, wood work and furniture. Aveda soaps and shampoo were very nice. Bed most have been comfortable, we slept great every night. Entertainment was OK. Have seen bigger better shows on ships, but no real complaints here. Lecturers were interesting, piano bar was fun, very happy they had a cigar lounge. Debarkation - Got off the boat even more easily then we got on. Walked off, found our luggage based on the color code and we were done. All in all, a great experience. We fully expect our next cruise to be on Crystal. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
Having sailed with a couple of other "luxury" cruise lines, we have found Crystal to be the most consistently enjoyable experience in cruising. This was our seventh Crystal cruise and our second TransAtlantic cruise on the ... Read More
Having sailed with a couple of other "luxury" cruise lines, we have found Crystal to be the most consistently enjoyable experience in cruising. This was our seventh Crystal cruise and our second TransAtlantic cruise on the Serenity. We've learned that each cruise is very different in terms of the people we meet, the crew, and the overall experience, but each Crystal cruise leaves us wanting another. Embarkation in New York was a breeze. It was only about twenty minutes from the time we stepped out of the taxi until we were through security and had our room cards in hand. Since we had an overnight on the ship in NYC, we flew in the day of embarkation. Otherwise, we always arrive in our departure city at least a day in advance. A flight delay meant we missed the lovely champagne lunch we had eagerly anticipated, and we arrived hungry in the middle of the afternoon. After leaving hand luggage in our room, we headed for the Trident Grill and the fabulous burgers served by the incredible Lido Team. We were offered champagne and happily made toasts to a great cruise. Although ice cream is always available on Lido Deck, I was in the mood for pastries and realized it was time for tea in the Palm Court. We were feeling relaxed and relieved to be onboard so we headed for the Palm Court which was almost deserted at tea time on embarkation day. We chose a table in the bow of the ship next to the large windows and gazed at the New York skyline as a parade of waiters visited our table with tea and a variety of pastries. We leaned back and enjoyed the scenery and agreed that "This is a great life." The great life on Crystal continued for sixteen days until we disembarked in Dover. Other reviewers have described the rooms. We were on Deck 8, our preferred deck. We have always found the rooms to be sufficiently large for our needs. The closet occasionally seems a bit small, but we manage. We enjoy the shower/tub combination and the ample storage in the bathroom. We've had many wonderful stewardesses on Crystal, but Indre was among the best. She was fast, efficient, friendly and happy to honor our requests. I typically ordered a pot of coffee each morning, sometimes with fruit and croissants. Indre always gave me an estimate of when it would arrive, and it was never a long wait. This was our first time for late dining. We had a window table for two and enjoyed the fine cuisine that is attractively presented and efficiently served on Crystal. We also enjoyed several meals in each of the speciality restaurants. We found that if we were flexible, we were able to make speciality restaurant reservations easily. Silk Road is simply one of the best restaurants on either land or sea, and we tried many of the sushi items and regular entrees while on this trip. The service is outstanding as well. Prego, the Italian restaurant, also has outstanding service and marvelous food. Eating there three times, we were able to enjoy our favorites like the mushroom soup and also try nightly specials like fresh fish cooked to perfection accompanied by grilled Italian vegetables. We have long been fans of the Crystal production shows. They aren't as flashy as similar shows on some cruise lines, but they are sophisticated, polished productions with excellent performers and beautiful costumes. We saw one of the first performances of the new Elton John musical and found it a lively welcome addition to the basic rotation of shows. The other entertainment was of high quality and included a vocalist and an organist. This was the first All Inclusive cruise on Serenity. As such, the bars and evening spots seemed more lively in the evening. We enjoyed several evenings listening to Colin Salter in the Avenue Saloon. He is a fine entertainer and a master at engaging the audience in song and dance. The ports included Newfoundland, Iceland, the Faeroe Islands, and three Norwegian ports. All were highly enjoyable, and Geiranger Fjord was stunning. Our evening sail out of Geiranger Fjord was made even more enjoyable by viewing it from the Palm Court and then from a window table at Tastes on Lido Deck where we enjoyed a mix of the new Chinese comfort food items and steak and chicken from the regular Tastes menu. Bravo to Crystal for offering these dining options, and bravo to the Lido crew who provide some of the best service on the ship, quickly learning and remembering guests' preferences. Disembarkation went smoothly, and the Concierge recognized us at luggage pickup in the terminal and came to tell us that our driver had arrived. It was yet another Crystal personal touch that contributed to a lovely experience. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Allow me to qualify the following by stating unequivocally that Crystal provides the best service, food and cruising experience one will ever have. After a personally challenging 2011, I was so ready for this cruise, I was packed a week in ... Read More
Allow me to qualify the following by stating unequivocally that Crystal provides the best service, food and cruising experience one will ever have. After a personally challenging 2011, I was so ready for this cruise, I was packed a week in advance. We left a few days early to explore Lisbon which was worthwhile, but finally Thursday afternoon arrived and we readied for the cruise. Embarkation was as easy as it gets. As we walked up the gangway, we were greeted with flutes of champagne & smiling faces. Our C-category cabin was perfect since we spend minimal time there. I was amazed at the the amount of storage, drawers and shelves, especially in the bathroom. The plan was very well thought out. The daily REFLECTIONS offered so many events, we were busy from 7:00 am and onward, starting at the gym, breakfast and then a continuum of talks, trivia, lessons and movies. OR you could just relax and watch the beautiful Crystal passengers sachay by. I must comment that the women dressed beautifully. St. John knits, Chico's and other designers were commonplace. Formal nights featured beautiful gowns and all the men looked so handsome in their tuxedos!!! The food was consistently very good to excellent. The waiters, asst. waiters and wine steward were very attentive & always behaved in a professional manner. I was very disappointed in PREGO. They tried too hard and the Italian food was nothing like I know. Lasagne made with bechamel sauce??? I ordered osso buco & it was so full of carrots & vegetables, I sent it back. Also, our waiter seemed rather rushed. I also heard same from our table companions. People were underwhelmed. The guest speakers were marvelous and very well versed in their individual subjects. Bill Miller spoke on the history of cruising. His presentations were excellent and to the point. I learned a lot. Bill Boggs dovetailed off his career as a talk show host and spoke about the celebrities he interviewed over the years. He concentrated on Frank Sinatra because Sinatra was his favorite. But my personal favorite was former FBI profiler, Clint Van Zandt. His talks attracted so many people, it was SRO. He was unbelievably interesting,approachable and his wife, Diane, was very sweet. I did not attend any of Dr. Ruth Westheimer's lectures although I heard from others they were also very good. Our cabin steward, Reema, was average to good. She tended to be a bit forgetful but she seemed overwhelmed. I found I had to ask her for things which automatically would've been provided by a more experienced steward. She was very polite and agreeable to any request. Comparing her to the woman we had on the Harmony, Reema needs more training in the small details perhaps. The nightly entertainment was good but not exceptional. A featured dancing/singing troupe entertained us with Broadway hits one night, Rodgers & Hammerstein the next and other dance numbers. An Irish flutist and a professional guitar player filled in. I realize that Crystal is not for everyone, but I can state that this is one of the few cruises in the world where you get what you pay for. From the moment you walk on board, it's all about YOU. I would rather go on one Crystal cruise than five of any other cruises. Crystal clients are refined, employees are always trying to please, the food is delicious and they even provided a rainbow for us to sail under one morning (see picture). Crystal thinks of everything!!! ADDITIONAL NOTE: CASABLANCA is a port not mentioned but one visited. We took a terrible tour led by a terrible little old man who did not let us enter any of the buildings or mosques he took us to nor did he offer explanations. The worst part was when he guided us aimlessly through the dangerous alleyways and sewage ridden streets of old Casablanca. I wouldn't risk anyone going through these paths filled with feral cats and ominous looking people. We felt like sacrificial lambs. As usual, after people lodged complaints, Crystal refunded half our money (so classy!). I have since written a letter to HQ recommending to remove Casablanca from their itinerary. I do not blame Crystal in this instance. I believe they were lied to and these excursions were a complete sham. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
As very experienced travelers, I tend to always look for the best value and usually book directly with airlines, hotels, etc. I found that the price of the cruise we booked was no cheaper booking online vs using a travel agent so we found ... Read More
As very experienced travelers, I tend to always look for the best value and usually book directly with airlines, hotels, etc. I found that the price of the cruise we booked was no cheaper booking online vs using a travel agent so we found an excellent local TA who had personally been to all of the ports we went to and had been on many cruises as well. We felt if you can get that level of expertise without additional expense it was the best way to go. Positives- The overall cruise lived up to our expectations and far exceeded them in some numerous areas. The entire ship was meticulously maintained with everything in excellent working order and virtually nothing showing any visible wear & tear including all public area seating, surfaces, flooring, windows, railings, etc. Cleanliness is apparently a top priority as well as there was no spills or dirt seen in any area including corners, nooks & crannies which commonly get overlooked. Our A-class cabin on Deck 9 was excellent with promised queen bed actually king bed width which was a pleasant surprise. Well designed storage and use of cabin space. Though the cabin is somewhat small, it was comfortable with a nicely appointed bath. Outstanding cabin service twice per day provided by very a cheerful stewardess from South Africa. Throughout the ship, crew members went out of their way to be polite and helpful. This was especially true on Deck 12 around the pool and in the casual dining areas where crew members were very attentive to customer needs, introducing themselves and checking continually to see if you needed anything. These crew members appeared to adopt passengers and greet you whenever you came into their area. The food on the ship was outstanding regardless if it was from the Lido or Bistro buffets, made-to-order pool area dining options, Crystal Dining Room or Prego. Prego & the Crystal Dining Room have an elegant design and an appealing look to them while Silk Road felt like a very stark large space with tables and little character. To me Prego is the superior restaurant on the ship while Silk Road was a disappointment. Areas that could be improved- The embarkation process in Venice was unsatisfactory. Many Crystal cruise passengers arrive at the cruise terminal via water taxi which has a scheduled arrival every 30-minutes and I expected someone to meet us along with other passengers on the dock and assist in some way like a larger less exclusive cruise ship at the same terminal who immediately took their passengers luggage on the dock. After searching for some sign of Crystal there was a young man with a sign standing up a ramp to the road who informed us that a shuttle bus would be by in 20-30 minutes or we could walk to the terminal(200-300 yards). About 20-passengers schlepped their luggage to the terminal which did not make a good 1st impression. As Open Dining by Reservation guests, It is a nice benefit to begin making dinner reservations once final payment was made however Crystal needs to advise guests which nights they are having theme dinners in the Crystal Dining Room. We had booked Prego & Silk Road on theme nights and had to reschedule once onboard but could only get acceptable times at the end of the cruise. Cocktail parties ie; Cruise Critic, Signature need to be communicated prior to the cruise. While Crystal offers the Open Dining by Reservation dinner reservation option you run the ship based on early & late dining. Announcements onboard as well as special activities in the evening refer to early & late seating. The #1 complaint I had with Crystal was the lack of information regarding confirmation of prepaid gratuities and shipboard credit. Since Crystal did not provide any of this important information prior to the cruise I ask my TA to confirm. He contacted Crystal and received confirmation from the various departments responsible for the credits and forwarded copies to me. In spite of his efforts, upon arrival Oct. 1 I found that I was missing shipboard credits that Crystal HQ had confirmed and it took 2 separate requests and 5-days to resolve the problem even though I presented them with written documentation. Crystals onboard activities are a star attraction with the Computer University equipped with the latest computers and a knowledgeable staff and special presenters who professionally help users and present classes. I expected the Taylor Made golf clinics to achieve the same high standards and the instructor lived up to those high standards however the groups were too large (30 or more people at each session) to provide any personal attention and none of the Taylor Made clubs were of current designs. In addition I expected a cruise line like Crystal to have golf simulators rather than nets with targets. We were really looking forward to the tours we had signed up for and although they all involved motor coach transportation we thought that Crystal would somehow take the group tour experience to a higher level. The tours were all very enjoyable with sights we truly enjoyed. Looking back on the tours, we had an unrealistic expectation as we realized that all cruise ship group tours use similar motor coaches, guides and visit the same places in the various ports. Our only suggestion involves grouping guests with good walking ability separately from guests who have limitations. This came to light on the Rome tour when at our 1st stop, the Coliseum the tour guide determined that the majority of the group was not able to climb the stairs to the upper levels and correctly modified the tour plans. She offered those of us with more stamina the opportunity to briefly explore the upper areas. We were accompanied by the Crystal tour helper but were unsuccessful in finding stairs that were open as none of the three of us knew where to go. When you have multiple groups for a given tour I suggest that Crystal make special provisions for those guest with limitations. A real tour frustration occurred in crowded venues like the Vatican. The tour guide continually stopped to count guests and on more than one occasion stalled the tours progress to locate guests who had separated from the group. While you dont want to lose anyone, reducing the experience of +25 other people seems inappropriate. A viable solution would be to provide an if you get separated meeting place & time plus on this tour there were two additional people assisting the tour guide so they could look for the missing guests while the tour proceeds. Friends who were part of another group said they had to wait 30-minutes at one point while missing guests were located. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Crystal is considered one of the best cruise lines. It is Japanese-owned, so I should not have been surprised that there were 370 (out of about 1000 passengers) Asians on the ship. The ship was full. The Serenity is a small ship by ... Read More
Crystal is considered one of the best cruise lines. It is Japanese-owned, so I should not have been surprised that there were 370 (out of about 1000 passengers) Asians on the ship. The ship was full. The Serenity is a small ship by today's standards, but the size was just right for me. Crystal is a premium cruise line with premium rates. The cruise line gave me a fantastic deal on this cruise, and they also upgraded me to a deluxe verandah cabin. This was my first verandah cabin, and I didn't use it very much but it was nice to have. I liked the ship, though as one of the passengers said, it doesn't have a "WOW factor" like Royal Caribbean's beautiful ships. The dEcor is understated, conservative and a bit dated. My cabin was a nice size, but not large. It had plenty of storage space. The bathroom had granite counter tops, double sinks, and a tub/shower combination. There were plenty of towels and quality bed linens. The only negative was that the lighting in the cabin wasn't good for reading. The food was very good. The menu changed daily in the dining room and was not repeated during the cruise. Service in the dining room was slow, but there was seven of us and generally the larger the table the slower the service on any ship. The staff accommodated all special requests for food. The only negative about the dining room is that the noise level was very high. The Lido was frequently so crowded one had to search for a table, but this was likely due to the ship being at capacity. The staff did clear the tables quickly. The mushroom soup that was served in a small bread bowl with a bread cover in Prego, the specialty Italian restaurant, was memorable as was the Grand Marnier soufflE in the main dining room. Crystal is similar to Holland America but without the pesky photographers, lines at elevators, and annoying public announcements about bingo. It has better food, better service, quality entertainment, and offers a good lecture series. Many things are included for which there is a charge on other cruise lines such as soft drinks, bottled water, and specialty coffees. There is also no additional charge for the specialty restaurants. I selected this cruise because of the itinerary and everything else was a bonus. This was an 11-night Grand Canary Classic Cruise beginning in Barcelona, Spain and ending in Lisbon, Portugal with stops at Malaga, Cadiz, Casablanca, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, and Madeira. This was a great itinerary and we had good weather for mid-November. All my shore excursions were booked through the ship. The ship provides a free shuttle into town at many ports. The only problem with the itinerary was that since Crystal couldn't get me flights out the day the cruise ended I was in a forced overnight situation in Lisbon. I'd been in Lisbon before and at the end of a cruise I just want to go home, but it worked out better than expected. They put me up at the Tiara Park Atlantic Hotel which is next to The Ritz. The Tiara Park Atlantic is a very nice hotel. Crystal had everything organized at the hotel and for the airport transfer the next day. If there is one area that Crystal excels over any other cruise line it is in organization. Disembarkation and transfers to hotels and the airport were carefully planned out and handled smoothly. There were many passengers on this cruise who were well-traveled and interesting conversationalists. My dinner companions were exceptional and contributed greatly to the overall cruise experience. Many of the passengers were repeaters and several said they would never cruise on any other line. This was my 29th cruise and the first cruise with Crystal. I would cruise with them again if the itinerary was what I wanted and the price was right. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
This was my first cruise aboard the Serenity, my third cruise with Crystal Lines, and perhaps my 12th plus cruise experience. From beginning to end, my expectations were almost always exceeded. The arrival experience at the Venice Airport ... Read More
This was my first cruise aboard the Serenity, my third cruise with Crystal Lines, and perhaps my 12th plus cruise experience. From beginning to end, my expectations were almost always exceeded. The arrival experience at the Venice Airport culminated in a hassle-free entry to the Monaco and Grand Canal Hotel via bus and water taxi. Despite the 10:00 AM arrival, our room was ready, and St. Mark's Plaza was about 2 blocks away. Local restaurant recommendations by the Crystal representative did not prove helpful, and a mediocre margarita pizza and overly icy gelato at a sidewalk cafe were quickly forgotten in the endless parade of interesting travelers. Boarding, the next morning, was efficient and our cabin was central to the library, the Silk Road and we scarcely missed the absence of a balcony. My wife has limited endurance for the more vigorous activities, so we participated in the panoramic excursions. In Venice, she loved Cooking with the Contessa, and I substituted the panoramic cruise for the cancelled visit to the Lamborghini factory. We did not get off the ship in Kantakolon or Nafplion, and an untimely sever upper respiratory infection kept me cabin-bound in Nessebur, Bulgaria. Room service provided the soup and nutrition, and the movie selections, DVD's, MSNBC, BBC all passed the cabin time with little wanting. My wife and I are sushi and sashimi fanatics, and the quality and availability, as well as the service, are simply the finest around....anywhere! We ate at the Silk Road 5 times out of 11 opportunities, in all, and found the experience to fulfill our highest expectations. Service, everywhere, from Lido Breakfasts, to sandwiches for lunch in the dining room, to our rotating table for eight, for dinner, all were enjoyable. The Black Sea ports were particularly interesting to someone with an interest in military history. Our tour guide recited the Charge of the Light Brigade from memory and took us down to the British redoubt for a view of what they would have seen before their date with destiny. The waterfront at Yalta mixed Lenin with McDonalds' and the tiny beaches were filled with the bikini clad vacationers dotting nearly every square inch of the gravel. Odessa, with its celebrated steps, seen from below and above, and a trip inside the Opera House, sweltering though it was, and followed by Ukrainian folk dancers and a satisfying lunch, was hosted by Virtuoso, and they, too, did not disappoint. There was not enough time in Istanbul, our departure city, and the shopping experience proved to be too energy consuming for my wife, but my experience in the streets was fascinating, and all too brief. The departure from Istanbul was marred by airport restrooms that were worse than untidy, and with uncaring attendants! (Lady's Restroom....bring your own paper!) Crystal arranged our air transport with Delta, Los Angeles to Atlanta to Venice (less than mediocre) and Lufthansa, Istanbul to Munich to Los Angeles, superb, even in tourist! The speakers aboard were excellent led by Howard Fineman, on Presidents he has known, the Media, and Barack Obama, in particular, and Jay Wolff, who makes history seem like cabaret entertainment. We looked forward to the days at sea. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
This is a review of our cruise on the Byzantine Odyssey cruise on the Crystal Serenity from June 25 - July 7 2010 with time spent pre-cruise in Venice and after disembarking in Athens. STATS AND STUFF We're a gay couple from San ... Read More
This is a review of our cruise on the Byzantine Odyssey cruise on the Crystal Serenity from June 25 - July 7 2010 with time spent pre-cruise in Venice and after disembarking in Athens. STATS AND STUFF We're a gay couple from San Francisco, ages 54 & 61. This was our first cruise on Crystal, but our 23rd cruise overall. We've cruised on most of the other cruise lines, but most frequently have enjoyed Cunard and HAL. Since this was our first Crystal cruise, this review will highlight "the Crystal difference" as well as give some advice for the various ports of call. THE SHIP The Crystal Serenity (68,870 GMT) was built in 2003 and holds only 1070 passengers (with a crew of 655). The ship is very comfortable, with no interior passenger cabins. Currently, the main dining room has two traditional seatings, but this is scheduled to change next year, with a more flexible dining concept. There are 2+ alternative restaurants: Prego for Italian food, and Silk Road for Asian items which also includes a sushi bar overseen by Nobu, the celebrity chef. Aside from tips, there is no extra charge for dining in these restaurants. Besides a well-designed buffet, there's a nice area called the Bistro for coffee and pastries as well as areas near the pool for ice cream, burgers and salads and such. Notably, the chefs in the dining room will happily accommodate special requests. Do you want a special dish, not on the menu? Ask the day before, and they'll prepare it if they can. There are three major public rooms, the single-deck Galaxy Showroom, the Stardust Lounge, for musical performances and dancing, and the Palm Court, the forward lookout bar, with a large dance floor and small stage. Additionally, there's the clubby Avenue Saloon, with dark wood paneling and leather, a disco, cigar lounge and casino. There are two pools (one with retractable dome) and a gym/spa. Additionally, the ship is equipped with a comfortable theatre, a large computer lab with separate classroom and the Studio, with electronic keyboards for music classes. On the same floor is the Vintage Room, where special dinners with tasting menus are served. Although the specific assortment of rooms might not be unusual for a ship this size, it's not the case of many competitors in the luxury market, which tend to use smaller more "boutiquey" ships. A unique feature of this ship is the location of the lifeboats. They're tucked beneath the promenade (outside the casino and theatre) Not only are there no obstructed view cabins - it avoids the common situation of cabins on the deck above the boats, where the views are horizon or lifeboats, but not the sea. Of course, this diminishes the revenue-generating space on the ship, but for passenger comfort, it can't be beat. THE PASSENGERS On this sailing, the ship was not full. There were 700+ passengers. As might be expected for a 12 night cruise of this type, there were a number in their 60s, 70s and above - but there were probably 50-100 (well-behaved) kids. Perhaps owing to the Japanese ownership of the line, there were a significant number of Asian passengers in the mix as well. THE CRYSTAL DIFFERENCE The passenger space and crew ratios are superb, as might be expected. One would expect a high level of service and that is certainly the case. There's another aspect to the warm, committed service that surprised me, and that was the attitude of the crew and staff to the company, itself. Time and again, in conversation, crew members volunteered how happy they were to be working for Crystal - and how well the company takes care of them. This attitude toward their employees clearly manifests itself in the attitude toward their jobs and to the passengers. Not only are the staff happy and service-oriented, they're extremely talented. Martin, the pianist in the Avenue Saloon, spent many years playing for the English Royal Family on their yacht, Britannia, and at Windsor Castle. The Berlitz Spanish instructor was responsible for all their programs in Central and South America. The list goes on. To a person, their credentials and knowledge are impressive. Continuing on this theme, I must note the production shows. They were excellent. Unlike shows we've seen on other lines, the entertainment was provided by the entertainers, not the stage or shtick. The company consists of two lead vocalists and an ensemble of eight singers and dancers. Yes, like Broadway, the chorus is multitalented - they sing too. There were a couple of other notable facets to the shows. One show, "My favorite Things" exclusively features the music of Rogers and Hammerstein. R&H Theatricals is notorious for keeping VERY tight control of the catalogue. (Think about it - have you EVER seen a R&H song in a showtune revue?). Finally, check the shoes! The two ladies in LA who create the shows for Crystal must like shoes. Unlike other lines, each of the many costume changes includes its own footwear. (This was pointed out during a backstage tour I attended) There were many other luxury touches included. Defying the fee-crazy trend of recent years, there is no charge for non-alcoholic beverages or ice cream (happily provided by the ever-available staff). In the well-designed cabins, there are full-size bottles of premium toiletries. The soft drinks, water and fresh fruit was replenished daily at no charge. Going ashore? Be sure to grab a complimentary bottle of water or beach towel inside the gangway. When you return, there's a chest of cold towels to refresh you. I must mention the seamstress. We noticed that a couple of buttons on our formal wear needed replacing. The solution? Five minutes after a call to the front desk, the ship's seamstress appeared at our cabin. A half hour later, the buttons were attached - no charge. Last, but certainly NOT least, I've got to mention my cruise critic posting and its aftermath. During the first dinner, things were a bit bumpy. No major problems, but the experience was not what I had been led to expect by the rave reviews and postings on Cruise Critic. (No significant issues at all - the experience would have been totally expected on a mainstream line) Unsure exactly how to calibrate my expectations, I posted a question on Cruise Critic before I decided if I should talk to the appropriate crew members. Talk about responsible service and going above-and-beyond! Hours later, on the next night, we had new dining room staff, and the maitre d' and dining room manager checked in repeatedly to ask if things were OK. (They were) Also the next day, I received a message from Victor, the Food and Beverage Manager, inviting me to discuss any concerns I might have. I sent him a note to thank him and reply that indeed, everything was wonderful. Later that day, a nice bottle of wine was delivered with a note from him. What had the potential for a small negative experience was quickly turned into an impressive display of proactive customer service and truly exceeding expectations. Again, I must mention a comment that illustrates how this attitude permeates the Crystal experience. A few nights later, during an amazing 4th of July deck party on our Istanbul overnight, I saw Victor, introduced myself, and complimented the great event put on by the people who work for him. He corrected me, crediting the people who work WITH him. PORTS AND EXCURSIONS I always recommend doing some research before leaving, in order to maximize the experience and help decide when it makes sense to spend extra for a ships tour or to do it on your own. One of the best starting places is always Cruise Critic (http://www.cruisecritic.com) Venice We departed from Venice. What can I say? We had heard Venice would be stinky (not true) crowded (not if you just walk a couple of blocks away from San Marco and the other tourists) and expensive (yeah, that one's accurate) -- but we were enchanted by this unique city of islands and canals. We stayed at the Hotel Al Codega. It's located on a little courtyard about midway between the Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge - yet surprisingly, there's only one little bridge to either destination. It was charming, quiet, and reasonably priced. We took a water taxi from the airport. Following 20+ hours of travel, this was money well spent. Standing up in the back of the luxurious boat as we sped across the lagoon to Venice was a spectacular experience. We didn't blow our money on a gondola ride - and we think this was a better use for those roughly 100 euros. (By the way, we DID ride in a gondola -- the next day we used a tronchetto to cross the Grand Canal for 1 euro) I mentioned that our hotel was located on a small courtyard. I was glad that I had checked it out using the street-view cams at Venice Connected, or I may have bypassed the little alley to the courtyard entirely. (http://www.veniceconnected.com) This site is a compendium of information and the best source for advance purchase of passes for museums and vaporetti (boats used for public transit) Venice Tours We took a number of tours - primarily not provided by the ship: Venice Backstreets Tour (http://www.theveniceexperience.com) - we took this walking tour an hour or two after arriving. Mike, the owner of the company took us around spots that most tourists would likely miss. Most importantly, he exposed us to the two key aspects to enjoying Venice. First - go down that little alley. Get lost. Be brave (there's no crime to speak of in the city) - if you think something interesting might be down that little street, go there! Second - take a break and have a spritz. Venetians' favorite cocktail, appropriate any time of day, a spritz, is a refreshing blend of prosecco, soda and Campari (bitter) or Aperol (orange) with a garnish of citrus and olive. All cafes serve them, and you'll get a knowing smile if you order one - especially with Campari. Another highly-recommended tour is the Secret Itineraries Tour of the Doge's Palace. This tour is only offered three times a day in English and must be booked in advance. (http://www.venice-museum.com). This tour takes you to the "secret floors" above the public areas of the palace, where the bureaucrats, and spies kept their records and reports - also prison cells and a torture chamber. It was absolutely fascinating. When you're online, you can also save a lot of time and avoid the LONG lines of tourists by pre-booking an entrance reservation to the don't-miss Basilica San Marco in advance (http://www.venetoinside.com/en/basilica_of_san_marco/) We usually enjoy taking boat tours of cities. From the rivers of St Petersburg to the canals of Amsterdam and Copenhagen, these tours inevitably give another perspective of the city, while allowing an hour or two to rest our tired feet. We found a tour in Venice. We were disappointed. Besides the cost (30 euro), they don't use specially designed river tourboats like in other cities. In Venice, these tours are done in water taxis - which are designed for many things (low bridge clearance, inside passenger luxury) but not for views from inside or audibility of the guide's comments. All-in-all, better to grab Rick Steve's guide and ride the vaporetto down the Grand Canal. Finally, on Saturday, we took a very special ship's excursion, called Venetian Artistry. Our first stop was the home of Bevilacqua, where we saw the looms which have been used for hundreds of years - still using the jacquard cards which store the patterns for their historic silk velvets. We then boarded our water taxi to Murano, to visit another historic producer of Venetian art - the Archimede Seguso factory, which is usually closed to the public. It was a spectacular, and very special, afternoon capped with a lunch catered by the top establishment in Venice - all of this was arranged and provided only by Crystal. Ravenna Closed on Sunday. We saw the beautiful mosaics and then returned to the ship. Not a highlight. Corfu Took the ships' excursion to the "sea caves" at Paleokastritsa with beach time and local snacks from a view spot. The sea caves were "sea niches" at best, but the boat time was pleasant, the beach was nice, the guide was interesting, the snacks were good - and the Greek beer we purchased was refreshing. The excursion was fine, but doing your own tour at this port would be OK too. Rhodes We downloaded a walking tour for this fascinating city. It was very well done. (http://www.discovery-walk.com) A highlight of our visit was the excellent Archeological Museum. It's much more extensive than it originally appears, with many garden areas. Bodrum We took a tour which had been offered by our travel agent. We visited the usual two sites: the old palace, now an excellent "underwater archeological museum" and the ruins of the mausoleum. It was a nice port. However, I'm told that the city is known as a major party town and to really experience Bodrum, one must be there in the evening. A number of passengers took an excursion to Ephesus - which is fascinating, but requires a loooong bus trip. Mykonos One of the highlights of the trip. We took a ship's excursion to the sacred island of Delos, which is just offshore of Mykonos. This island is uninhabited, but is completely a historic site. Only 20% has been excavated and that much is breathtaking. Our "Greek guidess" was wonderful and provided so much context for the many sights. While we did our trip as a ship excursion, tours are widely available, and the ferry to the island is public. After the tour,. We wandered the little city of Mykonos, climbing through the little white walkways and shops. We had a delightful lunch of seafood, lamb and more local beer in a little garden oasis. Fortunately, we were the only ship in port that day. There were five ships the day before, and I suspect the tiny town would have been overrun. Istanbul We loved Istanbul and look forward to returning. It's a fascinating city with so much to experience that our overnight stay just whetted our appetites - which considering the delicious Turkish food, is literally true. We arranged for a private tour with a gay tour guide -- specifically for the nightlife tour mentioned below. Although there's much that is exotic about Istanbul, it's quite approachable and a savvy cruiser could easily see the major sites on their own. As an alternative to large ship tours, there are a number of resources for small group and private tours besides the one we selected. In our two half-day tours, we saw the usual sights: Hagia Sophia (don't miss the views from the second story), Blue Mosque, the Cisterns (very cool!) and the Grand Bazaar and Topkapi Palace Museum. All were breathtaking, don't-miss experiences. However, we also ate a delicious lunch at one of the oldest restaurants in the city (it was more of a cafeteria, really). In our Istanbul Gay Nightlife tour, we visited six bars starting at 10:00 at night and returned to the ship before 3:00 (We could have stopped at more, but were pooped by the end). Our guide seemingly knew people at all the bars and on the streets. The venues ranged from a small cafe at the start of the evening (where a wedding party, including the bride in full white dress, arrived and started dancing to traditional Turkish music) to "atmospheric" bars up three dodgy flights of stairs, to a beautiful nightclub with a 10 piece band performing Turkish disco dance music - it's surprising how well a house beat matches Turkish music. (http://www.istanbulgay.com) If you have an overnight stop in Istanbul - do NOT stay on the ship all night. It's a short taxi ride to the Taksim district. This is where seemingly all of Istanbul goes in the evening to walk down the well-lit pedestrian street filled with shops, restaurants and bars. Athens We spent an extra three days in Athens after disembarking. This was a good choice. First, because it allowed us to see the major sites, secondly, because there was a general strike and some demonstrations on our second day - which allowed us to adjust our schedule to accommodate it. I wish I could add some advice to the usual suggestions, but I cannot. The Acropolis and Ancient Agora were breathtaking. The Parthenon Museum is exquisitely designed - with space set aside for those Elgin Marbles, should the British Museum ever return them. The National Museum is the other can't miss sight with an incomparable collection and superb signage and explanations to put it all in perspective. SUMMARY At this point, the usual question is "Will you do it again?" We most certainly will cruise Crystal again. As forewarned, indeed, we've been spoiled and found much to love about the Crystal experience. However, there's a wide world of cruising options and alternatives, so our future plans won't be exclusively with the line. For instance, our next cruises are likely to be a river cruise in Europe, what I'm calling a "big, dumb Caribbean cruise" on the Oasis/Allure of the seas and quite possibly another North Atlantic crossing - and none of these match the Crystal experience. It took about 25 years to try Crystal for our first time, but it'll be a small fraction of that before we sail on the line again. Will we revisit the ports? Yes, we will revisit Istanbul. We loved Venice and would enjoy seeing her again, but don't have the "unfulfilled" feeling about revisiting. Athens? Been there, done that. It was an amazing vacation. We adored the ship and many of the cities we visited. We learned a lot, had some amazing food, and drank a lot of local culture. Life is good! Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
I was finally able to take my mother on her first Crystal cruise (Serenity 01-04/10-01/11/10).After 30+ cruises on other lines (mostly Holland America and Royal Caribbean), Crystal made it a short and somewhat affordable cruise available. ... Read More
I was finally able to take my mother on her first Crystal cruise (Serenity 01-04/10-01/11/10).After 30+ cruises on other lines (mostly Holland America and Royal Caribbean), Crystal made it a short and somewhat affordable cruise available. Everything about the Serenity was as advertised. It's accommodations were luxurious and the service was spectacular. My mother wanted to go on the Serenity in order to take advantage of the Nobu sushi bar. After reading reviews on Cruisecritic.com I was a bit worried we might not be able to get into the first come first serve sushi bar. What a joy it was to find that it was not as popular with the cruisers on this trip. We were able to eat at Nobu 3 times and we were so awed by it we are planning our next cruise on Crystal. What we would have spent at Nobu's NYC restaurant would near $300. Three nights on the cruise almost paid for the trip itself. I would be hard pressed to find any flaws with the cruise. The only problem would be the lack of passenger activities made available to us.It seams that Crystal is targeting an audience of people who take shorter cruises.This would also be the first time I have never even made it to the "Lido" buffet as the dinners in the main dining room as well as the sushi bar made it unnecessary to bother with the buffet.One other thing about the cruise, of which Crystal had no control was the cold weather.It was overcast in the Turks & Caicos and Grand Cayman islands. But it was spooky cold (30 degrees F) in Key West. I hope to see more reviews about this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
I'm finding this review a little difficult to start since it's really hard to put into words why Crystal continues to garner awards such as the Conde' Nast Traveler best large-ship cruise line for 16 consecutive years and ... Read More
I'm finding this review a little difficult to start since it's really hard to put into words why Crystal continues to garner awards such as the Conde' Nast Traveler best large-ship cruise line for 16 consecutive years and the Travel + Leisure for 14 consecutive years. Until you sail the line, it's hard to say. CABIN - We were in a B Veranda cabin on deck eight, starboard side Aft in 8125. The cabin was smaller than our entry-level suite on the Regent Voyager, but it was certainly very nice. There was no curtain to separate the sitting area, but there was a comfortable loveseat, adjustable table and a chair along with a small desk. Although there was no walk-in closet (they have them in the Penthouse suites), the closet was large and automatically lighted with plenty of quality hangers. The TV was not flat and a bit too high for my liking but had good reception and plenty of channels (I like that every day they gave you a new list of the channels with what movies were playing). The bedding was very nice with great pillows and a pillow menu. The mini-refrigerator was stocked with sodas and mini-Perrier (you can also have beer if you are in a Penthouse or higher). The dEcor was a bit non-descript for my taste, but was fine. The deck chairs were not loungers but they did recline. The bathroom was smaller than the Voyager, but had a nice shower and double sink along with big bottles of Aveda amenities and plush large towels! FOOD - As I said in previous reviews, my husband and I travel a lot and love good food. We did come with high expectations of the Crystal dining and they were met! We were reluctant to go back to set seating but it worked out fine for us (especially since I was on the cruise for the last three nights by myself) (you can go the section on day-to-day for more on the why of that and how it worked out). We had interesting tablemates and so enjoyed our evenings. The food was very good in all venues of the ship including the main dining room, the Lido and the two specialty restaurants (for which there is no extra charge). Prego is a fine dining Italian experience and Silk Road, the creation of celebrity Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, is simply amazing (and it has a sushi bar). Since my husband is an oenophile, we had to try the special dinner at the Vintage Room. This is a private dining room on deck 7 that will hold 14, which you can reserve just for your group or just join other guests for an amazing dining experience of food paired with reserve wines, and all hosted by Head Sommelier Ales Machac. The menu with the wine pairings was really quite special. They also provided beautiful souvenir packages with our names, the menu, the wine descriptions and a list of the guests. The special lunch buffets (Asian and Mediterranean) around the Neptune Pool were beautifully presented and delicious and the Grand Gala Buffet on Deck Five was simply stunning (the cakes were too pretty to eat). Room service is available 24 hours a day and those in Penthouse and higher can even order from the Specialty restaurants. Although the breakfast food was good I would say that breakfast offered more interest and variety on Regent. STAFF/SERVICE - Here is where Crystal really shines! With Crystal's two ships, it's not about the hardware but the software and that is their crew and staff! It's what you don't see that creates a sensation. Truly amazing! Throughout the ship the service was impeccable and friendly and felt genuinely so. From the servers at the pool and Lido to the Cruise Director and Captain - it was truly a difference that is hard to beat. The Guest space ratio is 64, so it never feels crowded and the staff to guest ratio is 0.61 (655 crew for 1070 guests). Time and again other guests said the same thing - that the crew remembers your name (and your partner's) (I don't know how they do it even remembering several years later when guest return). It's really more than that as they somehow make you feel like welcome guests rather than paying customers. SHIP - I had recently toured the refurbished Crystal Symphony in New York so was anxious to compare the Serenity. The Serenity is larger (11,000 more tons) but only has 540 cabins (vs. 470 on the Symphony). There are no inside cabins (on either ship) and the ship is laid out very well with a lot of intimate public spaces. I loved that there is a true 360 degree Promenade for walking (wide teak with benches to sit and watch the ocean). I really like that the Aft section of the ship was not full of cabins so that decks 6 through 12 had space in the back for lounging or other activities sheltered from the wind (golf nets, shuffle board, and just tables and loungers). What is lost in a larger guest capacity (vs. Regent Voyager or the much smaller Seabourn triplets), is gained in some lovely indoor spaces like the real Movie Theatre, the Palm Court with it's Sunset bar and the many places for the onboard enrichment including a large room for the Yamaha keyboard classes and a large room for the Computer University@Sea classes. This ship still has its indoor pool (the roof can be opened but I think it is not done so frequently). The indoor pool on the Symphony was just removed, as this is the area used for the specialty buffet lunches. There is also golf nets at the back and full size paddle tennis. I did miss having a pool bar to relax and socialize and meet other guests but pool side service was more than amazing. But the Sunset Bar, Avenue Saloon (with talented pianist Colin Salter) and the Crystal Cove (with great pianist John Mentis) are all great places to enjoy a cocktail and meet other guests while enjoying good music. INTERNET - This ship is equipped for wireless Internet and we could use our laptop in the cabin (but it was faster in the public areas as our cabin was too far aft) but the Computer lent Ethernet cords to use in the cabins. There was nothing on their plan between 2 hours (too little) and ten so it was a little expensive but unavoidable. The computer center was staffed for extended hours with knowledgeable and friendly experts who would even help with iPhone, blackberries and other mobile devices. ENTERTAINMENT - Here is another area where Crystal is superior to other lines. Their onboard entertainment is very good and the Crystal Ensemble of Singers and Dancers are quite talented. We enjoyed all the production shows (and liked doing the backstage tour with the Line Leaders - we really got a sense of why the crew is so great since Crystal treats them so well) The Galaxy Orchestra is very good. The Headline entertainers brought on board for the sailing were also quite good - I especially enjoyed the Mind Reader Marc Paul and the singer Petrina Johnson from the West End of London One nice thing about the two set seating arrangement is that there are early and late shows so we got to see them (vs. the one show on an open seating ship that never seemed to work for our dinner times) The Ambassador Host program is very popular and the gentlemen are cultured and all good dancers. I thought it was an interesting statement about the line that they flew in cost two extra gentleman hosts at a considerable when the contingent of single women were visibly unhappy having to wait for a dancing partner! Although he may not be classified as "entertainment" I have to give kudos to the great cruise director, Rick Spath. ENRICHMENT - Crystal is known for the enrichment options on board and they are plentiful - everything from the Odyssey@Sea, Yamaha classes, Berlitz, Bridge and on every sailing a PGA golf pro offer so much to do and to learn and is wonderful for sea days. The guest lecturers were very good and well above the caliber offered on other lines. We had the privilege of having Dr. Jennie Congleton the destination lecturer at our table who was very knowledgeable and a great presenter. CASINO - Although I am not a gambler I thought the casino was well placed and had a lot to offer from the typical slots to blackjack and craps. My husband even entered and won the Blackjack tournament so that was nice! SHOPS - Unlike the typical shops on the larger Major cruise lines, Crystal's three shops had more interesting fare although I admit the price points were higher (they carried Hermes scarves, Joseph Ribkoff, and even Judith Leiber bags) (I bought a Crystal tee-shirt!) Facets, the upscale jewelry store, even had a special designer on board and we enjoyed her company one night for dinner. She is Rhonda Faber Green and her collections were beautiful. SPA/GYM - The gym is very nice with up to date equipment including individual TV's, a Kinesis wall workout system and a nice area for classes (with two Fitness Directors). Their array of optional classes such as spin, cardio, Pilates and yoga are all were complementary. And all the machines were working with TVs on the cardio and were constantly set up with water, towels and headphones. I also tried the Walk on Water and the Nordic fitness on the Promenade deck and enjoyed that. THEME - Crystal is also known for offering various Theme cruises throughout the year and I was excited that ours was Focus on Photography. This was probably the only disappointment of the cruise. I had thought (as others did) that there would be more substance to the theme. The one speaker was very good but there were only 3 short lectures and no classes. We did get to meet with her in the Palm Court in the afternoon and she offered suggestions on our cameras and answered questions. She even said she would have loved to have done a photography excursion. (The fact that there was another Master Portrait photographer onboard, Simon John, to take portraits was not for me a selling point) MISC - It's wonderful not to be disturbed with constant announcements. Although the demographics of the passengers can vary by dates and itineraries this one was interesting since Americans were the smallest group on board - (almost 1/3 of the ship were Asian and the rest European and South American.) The library was nice and well stocked with books, DVDs and CDS. I did like that the price on Regent included the gratuities as I don't enjoy the "stress" of the last day(s) trying to make sure the right staff are compensated properly. But it's not a negative about Crystal per se. I also thought that their daily bulletin, Reflections, was very good with maps, great information, write-ups on the guest speakers and entertainers and well organized. The first day it included a concise schedule of the itinerary but only the dress code, the evening program and the dining room dinner theme. Crystal also participates in the Five & Alive charity and publicizes it nicely to the guests who can donate easily with envelopes in the cabin. So far they have raised over $90,000 - Five & Alive information PORTS AND EXCURSIONS - This cruise was port intensive but it was also a great itinerary because of the three Sea days! We were not sure how the weather might be in November but we were lucky and it was mild and mostly sunny. The Canary Islands were warm as they are generally temperate year round. If you want more information you can go to the day by day section. The ports we thought were highlights were: Barcelona - We were just here on a port stop in September so it was nice not to take an excursion but just to walk the Ramblas and explore on our own. We really enjoy discovering the wonderful local Tapas restaurant. Malaga - We loved this port not for Malaga but for Granada for the Alhambra! Arrecife, Canary Islands - This volcanic island was quite interesting and we loved our camel ride. Funchal, Maderia, Portugal - A beautiful port with lots to do and enjoy and the memorable basket toboggan ride down the steep streets! EXCEEDED EXPECTATIONS: • Service and Staff - that's an understatement • Food - Consistently great in all venues and the specialty opportunities were quite memorable • ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT - gosh other than the Theme minor disappointment, there really isn't any. Crystal truly does everything to make their guests have an enjoyable cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Recently, between 11 and 29 June 2009, my wife, 6½ year-old daughter, and I took an 18-day vacation to Europe. The vacation consisted of three main parts: 1) flying to and spending 3 pre-cruise days in Venice, 2) taking a 14-day ... Read More
Recently, between 11 and 29 June 2009, my wife, 6½ year-old daughter, and I took an 18-day vacation to Europe. The vacation consisted of three main parts: 1) flying to and spending 3 pre-cruise days in Venice, 2) taking a 14-day Mediterranean cruise from Venice to Barcelona onboard the Crystal Serenity, and 3) flying back to the US with a one-day post-cruise stopover in San Juan Puerto Rico. As we did all the planning for the vacation we knew that we wanted to see as much of Venice and the other ports of call (Dubrovnik, Corfu, Taormina, Sorrento/Amalfi Coast, Rome, Cinque Terra, Pisa/Florence, Monaco, St Tropez and Barcelona) as practical. But we also knew that we would have to do so within the constraints of the ship's shore time (normally 10 hours in each port - nominally from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM) and the touring abilities of our daughter - who is a good traveler and would be taking her 4th cruise. As we looked at the Crystal Serenity's shore excursions it became clear that they fell into main two categories, 60-person bus tours and special activities for small groups (e.g. touring the Lamborghini factory, taking a hot air balloon ride in Padua, etc.,). Neither of these options really fit what we needed. The bus tours offered no flexibility and conjured up visions of us at the back of the group with our daughter, unable to really see the sights or hear the guide. The special activities were clearly targeted at adults - so they were out too. The other thing that we took note of was the cost of the shore excursions which averaged $220/person (after excluding the most expensive excursions which cost between $1,500/person and $8,999/person). So armed with these constraints we began to look for alternatives that were available in the cities we were visiting, could be done in 10 hours, would be fun (or at least tolerable) for a 6½ year-old, and would cost around $700/day (~500 Euros/day). The obvious answer was to take the Crystal excursions where they made sense and to set up private tours at the other locations. But finding a reputable tour company that was not exorbitantly expensive proved to be challenging. My first step was to contact my travel agent who had taken the time to understand what we wanted from our vacation and had done a superb job recommending and setting up the cruise, hotels and other assorted details - Nancy Yale - the President of Cruise Resort & World Travel - http://www.bookavacation.com/ . Nancy contacted the tour provider that she normally uses in Italy - and, although reputable, they were more expensive than we were willing to pay - especially since we needed to setup between 6 and 10 tours which had the potential of adding another $5,000 - $10,000 to the total cost of the vacation. So while Nancy and Pat Raftery (her office manager who was going on a 10-day trip to Italy) checked other options I began an internet search. Of course, as many of us find on the internet, sometimes there is just too much information and it is hard to differentiate a reputable company from a fly-by-night operation. Luckily I stumbled across a post by Elizabeth Mandarino - the Senior VP of World Travel - http://corporate.worldtravelinc.com/ - that highly recommended a tour company owned by Marco Tavola named "Rome Connection". Although Nancy and Pat proposed some other alternatives that might have worked out fine, we decided to use Rome Connection based largely on Liz's strong recommendation and the details on Marco's website - http://www.romeconnection.com/. The recommendation and company turned out to be just what we were looking for, and the fact that Liz trusted Marco so much made me feel considerably better about the whole process. Especially since I knew that if the private tours flopped the entire vacation would probably be a disaster. After examining the tour options in detail we decided to take the Crystal excursions in Dubrovnik and Corfu, a Virtuoso (http://www.virtuoso.com/) excursion in Barcelona, and to "go it alone" in Monte Carlo and St Tropez. That meant that we needed Marco to setup drivers, guides and itineraries in Venice, Taormina, Sorrento/Amalfi Coast, Rome, Cinque Terra, Pisa, and Florence. Although Marco's company is based in Rome, he has a vetted network of other companies throughout Italy that he continually works with so he knows who they are and knows that they will meet his exacting standards. What this allowed us to do was to specify what we wanted to Marco and to then have him contact the appropriate people in each city to work the details. Using email made it all very easy. Marco drafted initial itineraries and costs for each city based on our broad guidelines and emailed them to us. We emailed back our comments and the specifics of the ship's port times. Marco then finalized the itineraries and costs (which averaged 540 Euros/day). Based on Marco's responsiveness, professionalism, and knowledge of the sights that fit within our travel constraints, I knew that we were on the right track from the initial response that I received from him. So how did it all work out? In a word - FABULOUS!! On 11 June we flew from Boston to Venice on Iberia. Thirteen hours after leaving Boston we were standing in Venice. Iberia was great and the only challenge of the entire trip was getting our daughter to hurry up on the long walk from the far end of the international terminal to the opposite far end of the domestic terminal in the Madrid airport. After arriving in Venice at 1:00 PM we collected our luggage and walked 5-10 minutes to the water taxi/bus stop located near the Marco Polo airport. We then took a water taxi to our hotel - Palazzo Sant'Angelo - http://www.sinahotels.com/eng/palazzosantangelo_home.htm . The Water taxi cost 100 Euros, but since it took us, and our 9 pieces of luggage, directly to the hotel's landing the price difference (58 Euros more than the water bus) was worth it. The Palazzo Sant'Angelo was recommended by Nancy and proved to be a great choice for the hotel. It is located on the Grand Canal within a 10 minute walk from the Rialto Bridge, Saint Marks' Square, the Accademia museum and almost every other sight we were interested in seeing during our stay in Venice. Since it only has 14 rooms it is also quiet which allowed us to quickly get over our jet lag. During our three days in Venice Marco had arranged for a guide, Elisabetta, to show us Venice for half the day on Saturday and half the day on Monday. Elisabetta met us promptly on Saturday morning and, after a brief discussion of what we wanted to see and what she recommended, Elisabetta took us on a tour of the city; to include the Basilica di San Marco, the Doge's Palace, the fish/fruit market and many other places that were off the beaten path. One of the nice things was that Elisabetta tried hard to engage our daughter and to make sure that she was involved in the tour - not just dragged along. Among other things, Elisabetta also knew just where to go to get our daughter a Venetian mask that she could actually wear instead of just use for decoration. Another souvenir crisis averted. At the last minute we were told that the ship would depart from Venice at 12:00 PM on Monday instead of 2:00 PM. This meant that we needed to adjust our plans since we had intended on touring with Elisabetta on Monday morning. As expected one of the advantages of setting up a private tour was that Elisabetta was able to adjust her schedule so that she could be with us on Sunday afternoon instead of Monday morning. So we changed plans, toured the area and Academia museum on Sunday afternoon (the fact that Elisabetta knew her Art History certainly enhanced the tour and the discussions) and then returned to the hotel, collected our luggage and took a water taxi from the Hotel's front door to the Crystal Serenity. After returning home we found out that Elisabetta was even recommended in Rick Steves' Venice 2009 book - we could see why. Ahh - the Crystal Serenity - what can I say about Crystal and their great product. We have been on 10 cruises ranging from a 7 day Caribbean cruises to a 21 day Bangkok to Sydney cruise. We have been on Crystal, Windstar, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Princess and NCL. Of all of them Crystal is our favorite. You get all of the large ship amenities without all of the large ship crowds. You get staff personnel that actually try to learn your names and preferences so that they can help you instead of just passing you along. You get casual elegance (you can be casual, the ship and staff are elegant). For our 14-day cruise we actually took two 7-day back-to-back cruises; the "Adriatic Adventure" and "Renaissance Rendezvous" (cruise #9312 from Venice to Rome and #9313 from Rome to Barcelona). As expected, the ship was wonderful, the staff was helpful, the ports of call were interesting, the food was ever present and delicious, the weather was perfect (during 18 days we only saw 30 minutes of rain in Rome), the entertainment was lively, the children's program was fun and we all had a great time. Although I have heard that some people with children shy away from Crystal since they do not have all of the allegedly "required" children's amenities (e.g. water slides, rock climbing walls, ice skating rinks, cannonball contests, etc.,) my daughter loved their program since it was focused on counselors doing activities with the kids; not just parking the kids by the pool. My daughter got to make crafts, play hide and seek, have a scavenger hunt, tour the bridge, tour the backstage with the dancers, have a pajama party, play music, decorate cookies, and do all sorts of other fun things. In fact she enjoyed the program so much that when we were in Monte Carlo she was upset that we did not go back to the ship for the Animal Mask making activity. To their credit one of the counselors sat with her one-on-one later that night so that she could make her animal masks. So what about all of the other the private tours that we had arranged? They were all perfect. In fact everything worked out better than we could have hoped. All of the driver/guides were personable, professional, flexible, interesting and knowledgeable about the area and sights. In all of the locations the driver was waiting for us with a recent-year Mercedes sedan as we came off the ship (or tender as applicable). From there they asked what we wanted to see so that we could flesh out the high-level itinerary, finalized the overall plan for the day, and then started the tour. With all of our drivers/guides as we drove we were able to talk about the area, living in Italy, Italy in general, and whatever other topics came up. This made even the travel time between the sights enjoyable and interesting. In Taormina we were met by Alessandro. We then drove up the mountain to see Castelmola. From there you could see the entire area to include Mount Etna and the coastlines. Since we had taken a car (which was faster than a bus) we were just finishing up when a bus from the ship arrived. So we got to see the small town of Castelmola when there were literally no other tourists around while they got to see it in a crowd that they brought with them. From there we drove to the even smaller town of Forza d'Agro to see the sights and the two beautiful churches there. Unfortunately, all of the winding roads gave our daughter a headache. But once again being on a private tour paid off since we were able to sit in the town square, have some bread and gelato and color while her headache cleared. Then we drove back to Taormina where Alessandro dropped us off in the town center; a place that a bus could never have reached since they have to park in the town's single designated parking area. From there we strolled through the shops, had lunch, and toured the outdoor Greco-Roman amphitheater until it was time to return to the ship. When we compared notes with other people on the ship it was clear that not only did we get to more locations, but we also had more time (to include quality time) at each of the locations. In Sorrento we were met by Fulvio as we got off the tender. From there we drove to Herculaneum (since my wife and I had previously been to Pompeii) and were met by Andrea - a guide set up by Marco and Fulvio who knew the details of Herculaneum. As with many cruise shore excursions the good news was that we were at Herculaneum, the bad news was that we had only allocated 2 hours and had a 6½ year old with us. But Andrea understood the situation and hit the highlights. For those who have not been to Herculaneum it is smaller, but much better preserved than Pompeii; well worth seeing. From there Fulvio drove us toward the Amalfi coast and Positano. Along the way we mentioned that our daughter was looking for a special souvenir. So Fulvio made a detour to an inlaid wood factory/showroom. There she found a musical jewelry box that did the trick. While we were at the showroom Fulvio inquired about what we would like to do for lunch and since we were looking for local fare he recommended a restaurant on the mountain overlooking Positano. It sounded good so he called ahead to set it up. Once there we had the local sampler lunch (antipasto, pasta, dessert - thank God no meat course since we would have been to full to eat it). Following lunch we drove to Positano where Fulvio dropped us off in the middle of the town. We then walked through the town until we hit the beach. The coastline view, the bougainvilleas and the houses perched on the cliffs were beautiful. Charming town - but I am not sure that I would want to live there since the only road only goes one way through the town, so if you have to drive somewhere you have to make a complete circle of the town's winding road. In Rome Marco himself met us dockside and was our guide for the day. When we woke up it was raining fairly hard, but by 8:00 AM when we left the ship the sky had cleared and the sun was out. Since the ship docked at Civitavecchia we had a 1 hour drive to Rome (~75 km). Once again taking a private tour paid off. We left the ship and were on the road before anyone else. Then, since we were in a car we traveled faster and in Rome were allowed to drive in lanes where private cars could not go. This allowed Marco to literally drive us up to the front door of every sight we wanted to see. First we stopped at the Basilica of Saint Paul. Just stunning. Then we headed to the Colosseum. Prior to arriving at the Colosseum Marco purchased the tickets for entry so that we did not have to stand in line at the Colosseum. In fact, since we were with Marco we parked directly across the street and were allowed to bypass the lines and enter immediately. What a timesaver. As we left the Colosseum my daughter needed two things - a bathroom and a gelato. Marco knew just where to go. Once again flexibility paid off. From there we saw the Circus Maximus, Aventin Hill, Trevi Fountain (where we got rained on for the only time in 18 days - at least the rain allowed me to get good pictures of the fountain since all of the sightseers were standing in stores or under awnings), Forum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps and Saint John Lateran Cathedral (another stunning church). As we were driving we discussed various things and somehow got on the topic of Leonardo da Vinci. Marco said that there was a small Leonardo da Vinci museum with working exhibits in Rome. Our daughter thought that this would be interesting so we asked Marco to take us there. It was a nice unplanned side visit since it had mechanical devices that you could actually try out. In between all the sightseeing Marco took us to the Hostaria Antica Roma http://www.anticaroma.it/ - on the Appian Way for lunch. The chef was very interesting and accommodating, the food was great and the location was unique since the restaurant's interior holds the centuries old "Augustus' Freedman Monument" which was commissioned by the Roman Emperor to honor slaves who had earned their freedom. Finally we had to leave Rome and head back to the ship, but on the way back my daughter needed a souvenir of Rome. It was now 6:00 Sunday evening, and there were not many stores open for shopping. But once again Marco knew where to go. He took us to a street with three souvenir shops next to each other and my daughter found two beautiful "Roma" scarves. I cannot emphasize enough how much more of the city sights we saw compared to the people that took the standard bus tours or tried to see Rome on their own. The fact that Marco knew exactly where to go, could park the car literally right outside the site we were stopping to see, knew how to gauge our (and our daughter's) level of interest, and had the ability to be flexible as the day progressed was invaluable to the tour and our enjoyment. In both Cinque Terra (Porto Venere) and Pisa/Florence (Livorno) Francesco was our guide. Francesco met us as we got off the tender in Porto Venere and off we went on the winding roads toward the five towns of Cinque Terra - http://www.lecinqueterre.org/eng/ . First we stopped at Riomaggiore. As with many European roads they got narrower as we drove away from the major cities. By the time we got to Riomaggiore it was clear that it would be hard, if not impossible, to even get there in a tour bus. In Riomaggiore Francesco parked the car that top of the town and then walked with us to the start of the Via dell'Amore, a paved walkway that hugs the coastline and connects the five towns of Cinque Terra. From there we continued walking to Manarola where we took in the sights and had some gelato. We then caught the local train, passed through Corniglia, and got off in Vernazza where Francesco was waiting with the car. As we walked through Vernazza we came across a playground which allowed our daughter to stop and play for awhile. We then drove to the last town, Monterosso. The road from Vernazza to Monterosso wound up and down the hillside and at times was barely wide enough for the Mercedes to make it through; a bus would never have made it. In Monterosso Francesco dropped us off at one end of the town then drove around to the other side to meet us after we were done strolling, sightseeing and having lunch. Having seen all the sights that time allowed we headed back to Porto Venere where we walked through the small town and climbed to Castello Doria, a 16th century castle overlooking the port. Once again the amount of sights that we had time to see, the amount of time we got to spend sightseeing instead of "working the logistics" and the trouble free nature of the day due to the private tour made everything so much more enjoyable. We had time to enjoy 4 of the 5 towns in Cinque Terra. Other people that we talked to only saw two of them and spent much more time just getting there and back. For our last day in Italy we had scheduled to see both Pisa and Florence. Although both Nancy and Marco had said the Pisa was beautiful, the also both recommended that we spend only 1 or 2 hours there. Consequently we decided to compress both Pisa and Florence into one day and spent the prior day solely in Cinque Terra. Luckily on this day the ship was in port from 8:00 AM until 9:00 PM. As with the day before, Francesco met us as we got off the ship. However this time he met us in Livorno instead of Porto Venere. From there we drove to Pisa. As expected it is beautiful, not just the tower, but the entire square. One can only imagine how majestically impressive it would have been to a farmer from the countryside eight hundred years ago when it was first built. As we were finishing up our sightseeing and preparing to leave I noticed that the number of people in the square was significantly increasing. When we had arrived there were hardly any other people around, now, as the tour busses arrived, it began to get harder to shoot a photo that did not have people in the field of view. Needless to say, we were glad that touring with Francesco had allowed us to get there first. From Pisa we drove to Florence. Once again, being in a private tour car allowed us to enter the city faster and to drive where busses were not allowed to go. Francesco drove us to the Palazzo Vecchio where we met Simone, our guide for the Uffizi museum. As Marco had done in Rome, Simone had already purchased the tickets for the Uffizi and we entered without any waiting in line. For the next two hours we toured the museum. Of course there is so much to see that we could have spent the entire day (or days), but we only had two hours in the schedule. From there we drove to the Accademia to see Michelangelo's David. Here people were standing in line for 3-4 hours to get tickets to enter. Once again Francesco and Simone had already purchased our tickets (tied to a specific entry time), so after a 10-15 minute wait we were allowed to enter. From here we went to the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo (outdoor market area) to sightsee and have lunch. Here there were artists reproducing artistic masterpieces on the street pavement; very interesting. Following lunch we drove up to the Piazzale Michelangelo which overlooks the entire city of Florence. From here you could really get a perspective of everything; this is really a must do in Florence. Next Francesco dropped us off on the Piazza de' Pitti so that we could walk across the Ponte Vecchio (the covered bridge) to the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte. After seeing the baptistery and all of the stunning mosaics, we met Francesco and headed back to the ship. As with Rome the ability of the private tour to focus on what we wanted to see and to easily go where we wanted to go significantly increased the number of sights that we got to see and the amount of quality time that we got to spend at the sights. On the 28th we finally left the Crystal Serenity and began our trip home. Due to the airplane schedule we flew Iberia from Barcelona to Madrid and then from Madrid to San Juan. Arriving at 7:00 PM we cleared customs and took a cab to the Ritz Carlton Hotel which had been recommended and booked by Nancy - http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/SanJuan/ . Again this proved to be a great suggestion. The hotel was a 10 minute cab ride from the airport, so we quickly got there and began to unwind from the day of traveling. While my wife went to sleep my daughter and I went to the hotel's beautiful swimming pool to relax and unwind. Then, after a few hours of sleep, we were all up and on the hotel's beach before anyone else had even gotten out of bed. But all good things must end - so on the 29th we boarded a American Airlines plane and flew home. Incidentally, the plane left San Juan two hours late due to weather in the Boston area. This was the only glitch on our entire 18 day trip- a fact that I ascribe to good planning, good recommendations from caring travel agents (Nancy, Liz and Marco), and good travel providers (Iberia, Crystal, Rome Connection, Palazzo Sant'Angelo, Ritz Carlton). Bottomline: Our 18 day European vacation/cruise was great and everything worked better than we could have hoped. The cruise, hotel and other travel arrangements suggested and made by Nancy Yale were wonderful. The Italian tour company highly recommended by Liz Mandarino could not have been better. The service provided by Marco Tavola's Rome Connection and his affiliates was exemplary, very cost effective and allowed us to see far more of each city than we would have been able to if we have taken the 60-person bus tours. Along with the airline travel and cruise arrangements I viewed the private tours as one of the three "make or break" components of the vacation; they surpassed our expectations. I cannot recommend Rome Connection highly enough. If you need a driver in Italy, do yourself a favor and call Marco - http://www.romeconnection.com/. The ship and hospitality provided by Crystal proved why they are always so highly recommended when compared to their competitors. So, if you are looking for a wonderful vacation, you might want to consider these travel agents and companies as part of your plan. They certainly helped us have an unforgettable vacation. Ciao, Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
This was our first cruise with Crystal and our fourth different cruise line. We chose this leg of their world cruise in order to visit cities where we had lived and worked during our careers. The cruise was March 15 through 27, and its ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Crystal and our fourth different cruise line. We chose this leg of their world cruise in order to visit cities where we had lived and worked during our careers. The cruise was March 15 through 27, and its route was Hong Kong - Chan May (Hue) - Saigon (overnight) - Laem Chabang (Bangkok)(overnight) - Koh Samui - Singapore (overnight). Our travel to and from the cruise was independent; we spent several days in Hong Kong before the cruise, and we travelled further in the region after disembarking. Embarkation in Hong Kong: Boarding from the Marco Polo Hotel was painless. The bell boy just pulled our two suitcases from the hotel to the ship baggage area in Ocean Terminal. We were on board by 1230; our cabin would be available at 3. One piece of missing information for boarding for independent travellers is that you receive no instructions when and where to board. You also receive no contact instructions. My wife and I are well acquainted with Hong Kong, so we knew the ship would be at Ocean Terminal. We did not know the ship would be in port for two days; on its first day we just went to the ship security personnel at the gangplank and asked. They said that we could board any time after 12 noon the next day. Now, this information along with a contact phone number could easily have been added to the massive packet one receives from Crystal. Some statistics: The ship can carry 1,080 passengers; we are ca 900 on the leg Hong Kong - Singapore (remember this is a round the world cruise, Los Angeles - Southampton in 104 days). I don't know how many got off in HK, but ca 500 boarded; 380 got off in Singapore. There are only 167 Crystal first time passengers. Around 400 are doing the entire world cruise. The story is that around 125 book the world cruise every year (seems that Crystal alternates this cruise between its two ships). The staff of 650 is from 45 countries with no one nationality predominating. Our stewardess (not cabin boy) was from Croatia. Our head waiter was Austrian, senior from Turkey, and junior from India. Our cabin with verandah was smaller than Holland-America, but it still had lots of nooks and crannies for storage. Room under the bed for suitcases. Two sinks in the bathroom. The usual TV, safe, fridge, robes and slippers, and an impractical, too large, Crystal tote bag (however, useful for taking dirty clothes to the laundry). Fellow passengers: older and moneyed, and very international, although Americans were the majority. A guest list is published for each leg listing passenger and state or province (US or Canada), or country. I would categorize most of the men as either business or lawyers, with some medical persons. There were at least two retired generals. The passengers ranged from very pleasant and interesting to the very stupid and obnoxious, eg, Where is the capital of Viet Nam? Why do I have to use Baht in Thailand? On a large ship you don't necessarily have to be around the people you don't like. When you are only 900, the chances are better that you will meet them more than once. There were a few infants and children. While jewelry was not in short supply during the day, it really came out in the evenings. Formal nights also brought out elegant dresses and quite a variety of men's formal attire. The ship: As it's smaller, it was easier to negotiate. Decks 5 and 6 were the public areas. Decks 7 through 11 were cabins. Deck 7 was no verandahs, 8 and 9 were verandahs, and 10 and 11 were penthouses. There are no inside cabins. Deck 12 was the pool, Lido, and the like. There are only three shops - all upscale - on board: two jewelry and one clothing. The clothing shop has a couple shelves of sundries, and that is it. There is no liquor store; there are special order forms if you do want to buy liquor. Like other cruise lines, there is artwork on board for sale. No auctions; you see something you like, contact the sales person. Period. In fact, the best example of the sense of the Serenity is that there are no public announcements. No count down to bingo, no art auction, no t-shirt sale. The captain comes on once a day from the bridge, gives the ship's location, maybe a comment about the day's activity (his welcome party, for example), and a "thought for the day." And that is it. All you need to know is in the daily newsletter/activity page; if you have a question, go to the front desk or ask the concierge. Crystal Lines assumes the passenger is intelligent and literate; he does not need to be told what activities there are. The ship has a relaxed itinerary; it rarely moves at 18-20 knots. Sometimes it only does 12 knots. Dining: On this leg, dress was three formal, two informal, and the rest casual. Crystal Lines is no better than any other cruise line when it comes to handling your dinner request for table size and time; they will screw it up. We asked for a table for two, first sitting, and got no table, second sitting. We stood in line along with everyone else to talk to the maitre d' and got first sitting and a table for 8. Fortunately, our table mates were a most genial and friendly bunch, and we had a great time for the entire trip. The other three couples had also each asked for a table for two. With overnight tours and other dining choices, we were rarely the full complement at dinner. Two nights my wife and I were the only ones; I think at least four nights we were not present. The dining room dinners are excellent; just notch up whatever meals you know from your current cruise line. Service is, of course, what one expects. When you enter the dining room, the string quartet is playing, and the waiters are lined up to escort each lady to her table. Nice touch! Trouble is, most husbands don't know what to do when the waiter comes forward and offers his arm to the lady. The wine list is excellent and pricey (hey, this is Crystal), but you will have interesting choices. You definitely have to try a dinner at the Italian Prego restaurant and one at the Silk Road Chinese restaurant. No extra charge for the meal; just tip extra. Remember to make your reservations for these two restaurants on-line; do not wait until you board to make them. We did not try the sushi bar attached to the Chinese restaurant; it looked good, but we have enough sushi places at home. The Lido buffet compares roughly to that on any other line - the food is just better quality. And the service is better; a lady will have to fight to carry her own tray. And if a male looks even a bit wobbly or old, his tray will also be carried. An interesting touch that we at our dinner table all jumped on is the "Tastes" dining area at poolside. This is full-service dining with a menu almost the same as the dining room (limited because of the small kitchen). This is elegant casual dining every night with no time limits; and yes, there is a wine list and full bar. I think this became quite popular as people "discovered" it. There is also a respectable hamburger joint and ice cream stand at poolside. The Crystal touch: We celebrated my wife's birthday on board. I booked dinner in the Prego restaurant and requested some sort of chocolate dessert. My cruise agent said that Crystal acknowledged the request, but I should check with the Prego maitre d' after boarding. I did, and he said that they usually serve a chocolate cake for such an occasion. Fine. I also asked at the photo shop if a photographer could take some pictures. No problem. What happened at dinner was amazing: first there were a couple balloons at our table when we arrived. When it was time for dessert, the cake (with one candle) came simultaneously with the ship string quartet playing "Happy birthday." And the photographer was on hand for the whole show. Well done! Another touch was on our return to the ship from Bangkok. The timing was such that we could have missed lunch in Bangkok. We boarded the ship at 4PM. In our cabin were two large plates of sandwiches and other cold goodies with a sign, "welcome back from Bangkok." Activities on board are varied: lectures on a variety of subjects, music lessons, dance lessons, ikibana lessons, Spanish lessons (?), computer courses for college credit, etc, etc. The fitness center seemed to be active, the library, while small, was well stocked, the casino did not appear to be busy when we dropped in (possibly busier around midnight), and there were relatively current movies on in the theater. We only attended a couple shows, and they were quite good - a Broadway singer and a ventriloquist. We did not have the impression that there was a thundering herd heading for the theater after dinner as on other lines. The internet center seemed to be quite busy, probably because in part of all the people on board for the full 104 days. There are live cameras on board that broadcast on the internet. One fellow at our table coordinated with his son by cell phone when and where in the internet center he and his wife should stand so that the children could see them. Other people were also using the center to download photos from their cameras and send them on to friends and family. Shore excursions: We found, as with other lines, that it is better to book your shore excursions on-line long before you board. If you wait, you may not get what you want. For example, in Laem Chabang, Crystal offers an overnight in Bangkok at the famed Oriental Hotel. We booked and got the hotel. Others waited too long and while they got the trip to and from Bangkok, they had to overnight in other hotels, and not the Oriental. News is readily available. A small news compilation is delivered daily to your cabin. The cruise line version of the NY Times is available at the front desk. CNN and ESPN are on your cabin TV. A unique offer - at $6.50 a copy - is a daily copy of your complete hometown newspaper (minus ads). The selection of newspapers is amazingly large and international. The paper size is roughly tabloid size; the NY Times version was quite a thick package. Laundry: While there is the usual laundry service on board, there is also a free laundry room (four washers and dryers) on each deck. This facility is quite popular - at all hours - and some of the genteel civility onboard disappears once people enter the laundry room. Disembarkation: Given the location of Singapore, many flights leave at night. Thus, some people had to leave the ship at 3AM. Independent travellers were "invited" to leave by 10AM. The ship managed to make one final mess for us. When we boarded, the staff made the usual swipe of my credit card for the payment of the ship bill. Several days into the cruise I was notified to go to the front desk to make arrangements to settle my account. Many apologies, but apparently some of the card swiping at check-in did not get into the computer. They swiped my card again, had me sign a blank AMEXCO form, and all was done. At 8AM on debarkation day in Singapore, I was called by the audit staff to settle my account at the front office. I was not a happy camper, and the girl at the desk was scrambling to find my blank form, check my account in the computer, and in general try and figure out what happened. She finally did find my form and muttered something about my name having been misspelled in some entries. The account was settled, and we were on our way. It just showed that for all their highly touted efficiency and service, Crystal can - and does - screw up like any other line. Even with my grumbles, this was a fabulous cruise, and I would gladly sail with them again. Any questions, e-mail me at LTC519@satx.rr.com Fred Groth Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
I did not know whether to title this review “The Last Cruise” or “The $22,000 Colds.” As much as we like Crystal, in 2018 I had booked a cruise on Pro-Iceland for a 7-day cruise of just Iceland. But in April I was in hospital ... Read More
I did not know whether to title this review “The Last Cruise” or “The $22,000 Colds.” As much as we like Crystal, in 2018 I had booked a cruise on Pro-Iceland for a 7-day cruise of just Iceland. But in April I was in hospital with heart problems and we cancelled the cruise and got all of our money refunded from our travel agent David Butterfield of All Cruise Travel in California. By late summer of 2018 I was feeling much better and we booked the Iceland-northern Norway cruise on the Crystal Serenity for 2019. Unfortunately by February I had more heart problems and was back in the hospital for 45 days and three operations. But, damn it; we were not canceling the 2019 vacation. It turned out I should have stayed at home, The cruise was Reykjavik to Copenhagen over 17 days. We had two prior cruises on the Crystal Symphony that were great. Getting There: We love Icelandair! It is the only airline we can afford to fly first class on (they call it Saga Class), but getting a flight from St. Louis to a city served by Icelandair can be a problem. You have to get your baggage after your domestic connecting flight and recheck it. We went through Chicago this year, which was a bit of a mistake. The International Terminal is nowhere close to any another terminal, requiring a bus ride across the airport complex. We were delayed two hours for a 45-minute flight because they had to replace a seat (apparently there was a human discharge.) Once in Chicago things were a little smoother, with one exception. I left an “Andy Carpenter” mystery novel by David Rosenfeld that I was in the middle of on a luggage cart stand. The flight to Reykjavik was great and in fact one of the flight attendants was on our Iceland Air flight in 2006. She did not appear to have changed a bit in 13 years. There was a free large bus from the airport to the dock. This is where I frist discovered I would be having problems. The long walk to the bus showed my heart was still having issues. I had to stop about every 100 feet to catch my breath caused by my heart beating too fast. I had left instructions that if I die on this vacation to give my body to a medical school in Reykjavik or Oslo and save the shipping costs back to the U.S. THE SHIP AND THE CRUISE: The unusual: There was a long line to get onto the ship. It was outside and there was a cold wind blowing with drizzle. This was unusual for us as past Crystal Cruise there were no lines. The Usual: Since Crystal is “an all inclusive” line I have referred to it as the “Cruise Line for Alcoholics.” Passengers were met at check-in by staffers holding trays of glasses of Champagne. Once on board check-in was very fast and efficient. The Stateroom: We got what we paid for even if it was about $7,500 a person for 17 days. The stateroom was small. The only chair in the room was a desk chair. The sofa was narrow and low to the ground with a vinyl covering. You had a tendency to slide off of it. Unlike the beds on the Symphony which had firm mattresses, the bed had a soft uncomfortable mattress and the cruise was for 17-days. If you are in colder climates dry hair is a must and there were two hairdryers, one in the bathroom and the other by the desk. Since our last Crystal cruise they added large screen TVs. There was no disk player in the TVs to play DVDs or music on CDs. However the new large screen TVs came with a selection of downloads that included 84 movies, TV shows and several hundred music selections. The bathroom was nice with a couple exceptions. There was not a walk-in shower but a high wall bath tub/shower combination. The tub was short. Since most people on Crystal are going to be older, this creates two problems. It is difficult for people with knee and hip problems stepping over the high wall of the bathtub. It also seems that the tub was so small it would be difficult to get in and out of it unless you are 5-foot-1 or smaller. A walk-in shower would still need a higher lip, since the drain is slow during peak hours of use, but it would better than the tub. The other areas of concern was that they could use another “grab bar” in the shower and one next to the toilet seat, which like all other seats on the ship is low. THE FOOD: As usual the Crystal food was better than I have had on any other cruise line. There was one exception. One night in the main dining room T-Bone steak was on the menu. My steak was so tough that you could not cut it with steak knife. This was not an isolated bad piece of meat. Diners at other table had the same problem. If you could cut off a piece you ran the risk of choking on it. WHAT? They did have Beef Stroganoff on the menu. I didn’t look closely to the menu since everyone knows Beef Stroganoff is served on noodles. Everyone knows that except the chef and cooks on the Serenity where it is served on rice. The Main Dining Room: It is named the Waterside. As usual there were no lines or long waits to be seated. Service was very efficient but not rushed. My wife had a favorite waiter and we sat in his section on most nights. This was good as I did not have to feel guilty about not leaving a dozen waiters a tip, I could simply leave one large tip at the end of the cruise on our ship’s account for one waiter. Beyond the call: All the desserts were good depending what you like. My wife asked a question if they ever had Strawberry/Rhubarb pie. They don’t, however a maitre told her to come back the next night as he would have one especially baked for her. They did and she said it was very good (I’m not eating rhubarb on a bet.). The same thing happened at the Palm Court bar on the 12th level. I was easy as I always wanted a Coke or a Dr. Pepper. But my wife enjoys mixed drinks. One night she ordered a “Bee’s Knees” cocktail. The staff was unfamiliar with the drink. But the bartender looked it up on the internet and the next afternoon she was served a Bee’s Knees. The specialty restaurants: These were all good, plus they had a few items on the menu that were not part of the specialty dishes for spouses who hated the normal specialty items. At the Silk, a Chinese restaurant I was disappointed they did not have my favorite “Lo Mein” on the menu, but I was well aware that “Lo Mein” is not really Chinese, but something sold at American Chinese restaurants. Bistro: We would often skip the traditional breakfast and go to the Bistro on Deck 6 for fresh fruit and muffins. At night we would often skip dessert in a dining room and go to the Bistro where they had a number of desserts for you to pick from including chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate truffles (I started with 3-truffles a night and by the end of the cruise was downing six.) plus desserts in cups such as Crème Boule. ENTERTAINMENT: Dan Davies in the Piano Bar, The American Saloon, isn’t American but is an Australian. He also was the best entertainment on the ship. He was funny and showed signs of being a very good jazz pianist. He won’t be selling any CDs of his vocals, but still he was worth several trips to his venue. The majority of the passengers got sick with colds and sore throats Dan was not an exception, but his piano work was so good on the nights he could not sing it was still very entertaining. The passengers’ requests were a problem. People should realize the piano bar guys hate playing the Piano Man and My Way. It didn’t stop the passengers from requesting them and Dan reluctantly playing them. There were two comics on this cruise, both British entertainers. One was very good and the other was barely “OK.” On July 4, a British female singer with a number of performances in shows in London’s West End was the featured entertainer. On the program it stated there would be patriotic 4th of July songs for the Americans. I thought it was odd that a Brit would be singing songs reference a war that King George III lost. My worries disappeared when the only song she sang was “When the Saints go Marching In” which has nothing to do with American Independence and is most associated with New Orleans which belonged to the French until 1804, The Crystal Quartet was a group of musicians from the Philippines. They performed music from the American Songbook and pop tunes through the 1980s. They usually played in the Palm Court on the 12th floor. This is also where the ships male dancers, the Ambassadors, who danced with single women or wives whose husbands could not dance, were found on most nights. You could detect a slight accent of the female singer, with one exception. When she would sing songs made famous in the 1950s by the “Singing Rage Patty Page” she sounded just like her. TORTURING OLD PEOPLE: Just like in the cabins, in the bars and lounges all the chairs were extremely low to the floor. In the Palm Court there were four high back chairs that were actually off the floor and they were always occupied. Older people getting up from all the other furniture sounded like a Rice Krispies commercial, “Snap, Crackle and Pop” coming from people’s knees. THE CON: One lecture on the ship was “The History of the Swiss Watch.” The lecture was not by a nice person from Switzerland but by a Brazilian, who happened the run the ship’s “Watch Shop.” He handed out raffle tickets to people attending, but the winner was not announced at the end of his talk in the movie theater. You had to follow him to the Watch Store where he would draw the winning ticket for a small gift certificate. I did not follow him to the store. I felt I was being scammed and walked in the opposite direction. THE DIRT COVE: On thing that really amazed me was that for a ship that was in dry dock for an allegedly complete interior overhaul, was how filthy the white chairs in the Crystal Cove. These were covered in dirt and it is hard to believe that staff was not aware of their condition. This is one of the higher priced cruise ships in the world. You would expect the furniture to be clean. HIGH MARKS: Chief Concierge Marco Juen from Germany went out in the rain and got us a taxi to standby when we simply asked if there were any cabs available while the ship was docked in Tromso, Norway. Juen told us to have a seat. We thought he was going to make a call. Instead he went off the ship and retuned in 10-minutes, wet and telling us there was a cab waiting for us. MOST POPULAR GUY: That would be the guy manning the Scoops Ice Cream bar from noon to 6pm on the 12th level next to the Trident Grill. This guy was serving up Ben and Jerry’s and soft serve for six hours straight, often getting unusual requests to mix the flavors in half or quarter scoops. Regardless how busy he was and how stupid the request was, he always had a smile on his face. FREE: This was the first time on a cruise ship where the computer/internet service was completely free. The ship had a computer room with at least 12 computers available for passengers. Several other computers had leading newspapers’ online editions at no charge. SYMPHONY VS SERENITY: While we found almost everything on the Serenity to be very nice, we preferred the Symphony. Everyone we spoke to who had been on both ships said the same thing. TOURS: My wife and I often differ on places to see. I like to see where people live and styles of houses. She likes to go to where the tour busses are going to famous locations. To handle this dilemma we try to find a taxi that will give us an hourly rate. On this cruise we found that the taxi was often cheaper than the ship’s tour bus trips. The only problem was in some smaller towns there were no taxis to hire. The last full day of the trip was in Copenhagen. The ship offered a free shuttle bus into downtown Copenhagen. It was about a 30-minute ride one-way. It was a rainy day and they rain increased when we got downtown. We just stayed on the shuttle bus and went back to the ship. We got a free 1-hour tour of Copenhagen, a city we had been to before and spent lots of time on a sunny day seeing the tourist sites. WEATHER: Iceland was relatively warm with temps around 54f. In the Norway towns north of the Arctic Circle there were July days where the temperature was near freezing with a combination of drizzle and snow. THE COUGH AND SNEEZE: By the end of this cruise at least half the passengers were coughing and sneezing. Both my wife and I went to the Ships Medical Center. We knew better than to rack up a big bill by seeing the doctor. Instead nurses gave us cold medicines that were very reasonably priced. My wife was in bed for three days on the ship and a week after our return. I was carrying a wash cloth to cough into while on the ship. Counting the cost of the cruise, airfare and other transportation, plus the dog sitter back home our total cost was around $22,000 and perhaps in years to come the biggest memory with be the cough and cold. DEPARTURE: My wife had signed up for the shuttle bus from the dock to the airport. On our last full day on the ship we learned that a taxi to the airport was the same price as the bus or cheaper. Marco Juen at the Concierge Desk had no problem cancelling the bus. We were then able to reserve a taxi with someone from Copenhagen’s Tourist Bureau who was on the ship. It turned out the taxi fare was cheaper than the bus. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
We chose this itinerary to try out Crystal and because we are keen F1 fans and being at the Monaco Grand Prix was wonderful. Food and beverages were really good. Speciality restaurants at no additional charge were both fabulous. The ... Read More
We chose this itinerary to try out Crystal and because we are keen F1 fans and being at the Monaco Grand Prix was wonderful. Food and beverages were really good. Speciality restaurants at no additional charge were both fabulous. The staff were friendly and efficient. Serenity has an all day coffee shop for snacks and pastries which was very popular. We were on the promenade deck so had a large window. I think that this was the least expensive level and I would want a balcony cabin should we sail this ship again. The cabin was compact, the bed comfortable and there was plenty of storage. Entertainment was good. We particularly enjoyed post dinner drinks in the Avenue Bar where we listened to a very talented pano player until late in the evening. The cruise itinerary was good and although tendering in Monte Carlo was extremely scary. We enjoyed the cruise very much and would sail with Crystal again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
We’ve sailed with Seabourn and Hapag Lloyd before and were interested to try Crystal for a short six day cruise to see how life would be on a bigger ship. In some respects Serenity was excellent. The food in the MDR, Waterside, ... Read More
We’ve sailed with Seabourn and Hapag Lloyd before and were interested to try Crystal for a short six day cruise to see how life would be on a bigger ship. In some respects Serenity was excellent. The food in the MDR, Waterside, was varied and to a very high standard. Service was quicker than Seabourn and Barbara was a wonderful waitress. Service and dining in the speciality restaurants, Prego and Umi Uma, was absolutely first class. The decor is very old fashioned though. In the Italian Prego, that is almost forgivable as there is at least some soul to it. In Umi Uma the decor is dark, soulless and like a department store restaurant in the 1980s...it really could have done with something in the recent refit. Absolutely no problems with the wonderful cuisine and good quality included wines and spirits. We had a Penthouse Suite which, although only lightly refreshed on the recent refit, was very well appointed, with lots of space and well thought out. Our butler Richard was an absolute marvel...he deserves six stars for his positive can-do attitude and for serving meals in the cabin so well. Our stewardesses were completely wonderful and the cabin was kept pristine all through. The bathroom is good but old fashioned and the Etro toiletries are poor. Topped-up chocolates were unbelievably good. Enrichment was good. Entertainment was superb...better than Seabourn, with higher production values and a great theatre. The things that were missing were hard to put a finger on. Overall it was probably the ‘holiday’ feeling and warmth that you instantly get on Seabourn and Hapag Lloyd, the overall ship design and the ability to settle into that ship easily. Many of the staff and crew were excellent on Serenity, but many were also less than engaged and tired. The crew was invisible...however the entertainment director was fantastic. The ship doesn’t flow. It’s hard to find your way around. It feels old fashioned and it shows that the recent dry dock only refreshed certain areas. The fountain in the main atrium is a tacky shopping centre disgrace. The outside areas are poorly used: the back of the buffet area is too small and unshaded; there is no pool bar and no outside evening parties. Maybe it was just the time of year? Passengers from all over the world. Mainly US, China and Japan and many in groups. Ports were good, tendering OK but not as good as on Seabourn or Hapag Lloyd. Overall, maybe we are just used to a smaller ship? We’d still come back at the right price and itinerary though! Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
We selected the short May 4-11 cruise from Athens to Rome to have the opportunity of trying the Crystal experience. We have cruised in Silversea and Seabourn exclusively, and are happy with both lines. We found Serenity to be a solid ... Read More
We selected the short May 4-11 cruise from Athens to Rome to have the opportunity of trying the Crystal experience. We have cruised in Silversea and Seabourn exclusively, and are happy with both lines. We found Serenity to be a solid vessel...good bones, as is often said. We opted for a Penthouse with Verandah and were very pleased with its layout and features. I especially liked the back-to-back desk, one prepared to serve as a vanity. The lighting was very good in the suite and especially in the vanity area. The bathroom included two basins and a very comfortable shower enclosure. There was a jetted tub, which we did not use. I was pleased to see the many drawers, shelves and nooks to organize our belongings. However, the best feature of the suite was Rao, our wonderful butler, and the two housekeeping attendants. We are have had butler in Silversea (which provides butlers for any suite level) and they have been very good, but Rao was so pleasantly effective! The best of the lot. We were pleased with all dining venues, especially Waterside and Prego, except for The Marketplace. This venue acts as the breakfast and lunch buffet style cafeteria. The offerings were good, but not as good as in Colonnade and Trerraza (SB and SS respectively). We did not like it mainly for its layout. The table/chairs are set in a very narrow space, galley like, and most times the waiters' stations were almost besides us. We very much preferred Waterside. We had unusually cold weather and could not use the pool. However, we found the pool to be small, narrow and with less depth that those in SS and SB. Also, there is no food/bar service at the pool. Overall level of service was very good...except for one incident, reported and corrected. I rate the gym the best. I especially enjoyed the cardio-disco classes offered; they were a lot of fun and quite challenging. We never had any problems accessing the treadmills for our daily routines. Entertainment and daily activities offerings were so much better than in SS and SB!! The dance classes led by Beverly and Curtis were very popular, and all the participants enjoyed them very much. The shows were varied and included a comedian, as well as a magician from the well known Magic Castle in Los Angeles. In summary, we plan on booking Crystal in the future, especially longer trips, in order to enjoy all the daily offerings on sea days. However...if weather is very good, other pools may beckon us. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
We have recently disembarked from the Crystal Serenity where we enjoyed 14 nights going around the UK and also stopping in Amsterdam and in Zebbrugge before returning to our point of embarkation which also served as the port of ... Read More
We have recently disembarked from the Crystal Serenity where we enjoyed 14 nights going around the UK and also stopping in Amsterdam and in Zebbrugge before returning to our point of embarkation which also served as the port of disembarkation, namely Dover on the Irish Soliloquy cruise. We thought it would be helpful to post this review. We recognize in so doing that some of our comments will be of more value than others, with the ship heading to dry dock shortly. Embarkation was a breeze. It started punctually at noon for us and we were onboard and seated in the MDR for lunch by 12:45. All necessary formalities were handled in the lobby adjacent to the Crystal Cove. Our room was ready for us as soon as we checked in and thanks to our travel agent, our various special requests were dealt with and our room properly stocked and augmented with extra items we usually like to have before we even set foot inside. We were warmly greeted by all of the folks we came in contact with from the ship—some who we had seen in October and others who we had not seen in a few years. Called by name and warmly received and acknowledged, we were welcomed “home” and very much felt that way. We settled for our customary embarkation lunch which for me was THE COBB SALAD and a half order of the spaghetti Bolognese. One thing which was immediately noticeable was that the portion size of the Cobb was small—about the same size as it had been when we were last on in October 2017. It was not puny but the portion size was such that a person with a reasonably sized appetite would likely want more and as we all know, requesting additional portions or special orders was not a problem. Throughout the cruise we found the food portions to be appropriate portion sizes at least according to our personal registered dietician. The menu usually presented sufficient options to select from and only the final night's dinner was disappointing with food lacking in seasoning, overcooked, and poorly presented. The dessert options were, perhaps as a side benefit to our efforts to control our waistlines, reasonable in variety and portion size. And of course we availed ourselves on a couple of occasions to request special items which we enjoy like the wiener schnitzel and the sole meuniere. We found our luggage was in the room within a very short time after we finished lunch and well before 3. The condition of the room slowed wear and tear and while cleaned nicely, the ship is showing its age. A couple of items worthy of particular note: The shower controls have been replaced since we were last onboard and the new mixing apparatus does not get hot to the touch as the old one did which is a nice change. Also turning the shower on and off and adjusting the temperature is easier with the new handles and apparatus. It also appears, but I cannot be sure, that there is a prefilter on the apparatus or actually directly below it, so the water did not seem as harsh over long periods of use. The option of a Aramis (?) products as an option (since we are not fans of the musk scented skin care products) was lovely and helpful. The clock in out stateroom no longer sported a socket for an iPod which was no loss. The new clock had a nice easy to read face and easy adjusting instructions. Very helpful. The cushions on the veranda which had been a powder blue color are now a slate grey color which shows less dirt and may wear better. There is a new computer sign in regimen which was again revised about three days into our cruise with another interface which, like its immediate predecessor allowed us to sign up and login from our stateroom. Connectivity was sketchy in our stateroom and we were located fairly close to midship on the 10th floor, but connectivity from locations in the common area were excellent. Speed and bandwidth continue to be a problem which the company has stated that it intends to address during drydock. In the meanwhile my wife and I were each allowed to register two devices to be used at a time on the internet. But as Crystal is quick to point out and as we long ago understood and appreciate, download times are still much slower at sea than on land. There were several choices for entertainment nightly, many shows in the Galaxy being performed twice each evening for early and late seating passengers. Local shows were also brought on in Dublin and in Scotland and a delight as always. And some new acts were also well received as was the new production show Crystal In Motion. Post late seating dinner and late shows in the Galaxy, there were a few choices—dancing in Palm Court but attendance there in the later hours was sparse, a duo in the Crystal Cove on some evenings which again was sparsely attended and the wonderful piano playing of Scot Mitchel who is grossly under appreciated for his talents on the ship, and then there was the busiest spot —the Avenue Saloon where Perry Grant kept the room packed nightly and the nonstop laughs and music going most nights until after midnight (without taking a break from the start of his set at 9:45 until he ended his cabaret performance). Some evenings seating was problematic as that venue just cannot contain all who wish to see him. We continue to wish that Perry might be moved to the Stardust and that room set up in the evening as a sort of nightclub with tables and chairs on the dance floor and Perry at the piano on the stage. The Stardust was used 3-4 times during the trip for other shows and Perry played one night there to a SRO audience, but it is under utilized. The push and pull of competing expectations of the Avenue Saloon does contribute to some ill will among some passengers. During the late set which Perry does, which both Crystal and he typify rightfully as a cabaret, some of the more inebriated passengers at the bar disrupt the enjoyment of those who come to the cabaret to experience Perry Grant. The professional that he is, Perry soldiers on, but for guests it results in some harsh words and irritation which makes the evening less pleasant. The bar personnel continue to have difficulty cutting off people who have had too much to drink. When we were onboard in October we saw a gentleman fall not once but twice from a bar stool and it was only after he fell the second time that he was escorted out—but not before his conduct disrupted the performance. We opted to take only one shore excursion during the cruise as we had been to most of the ports before. Some like Dundee, only really offered golf enthusiast excursions which did not interest us. Others like Guernsey offered more variety but the nature of the port is such that options are limited and expensive. We showed private guides who we hired on our own the little pamphlets about each port made available the night before and on the day of various ports of call and at least one noted to us that the data was inaccurate and appreciably so. Those guides need to be updated for accuracy. The population count for Belfast alone was off by several hundred thousand people. We also heard from tablemates that in Bruges that leaflet gave incorrect information about the point of drop off and pick up for the shuttle. We enjoyed a sort of last hurrah at our late seating table of eight which was curated by Mario Gallo. We enjoyed sharing dinner every night with the same other fellow travelers, and while we did not discuss politics or religion we were still never at a loss for topics of conversation each night and often were among the last folks to leave the MDR. One subject which was discussed at length at our table, was the fact that the new post dry dock dining arrangement appeared to put the final nail in the coffin of being able to have a table for 8 of people put together by the maitre d’ to which one can return nightly to the same wait personnel and same dinner companions and we think that it be a grave miscalculation on Crystal’s part. In the past two cruises, we found that the folks who ask to be assigned to a table of 8 were very upset to hear of the elimination of that option. I discussed this item with both Mario Gallo and Leo Assmair. Neither seemed able to do other than toe the party line that we could put together a table of people and come to the maitre d each night with them in tow and see what he could do to arrange a table. The issue, as we tried to explain, is that the “matchmaking” was something we would need days to try to accomplish rather than the maitre d’ knowing the personalities of those of us who have cruised before, doing so. When I posited the notion of dedicating a small portion of the dining room at a given time, say 8:30 for people who wanted to eat at a travelers table every night to do so, it was summarily dismissed. Instead Crystal is determined that after the dry dock is done, there will be enough tables and seats in the dining room so that all 980 guests could all be seated in that room if they wished on the same date and at the same time...which will NEVER EVER happen. With multiple restaurants to choose from and the addition of the Brazilian dinner venue and the replacement of Tastes with Silk, coupled with the rebranding of the Nobu outlet as Umi Uma, the powers that be still want to load up the MDR with rows of tables upon rows of tables for 2 or 4. One look at the seating from the Symphony tells the story. Think school cafeteria seating, rows after rows of 2 and 4 tops, separated by about a foot from one another. Like a dining hall. Very sad. It is difficult to understand what Crystal has been up to of late. They are slicing 14 day cruises into two 7 day pieces to attract those who can’t afford a 14 day cruise, they are going to “as you wish” dining to attract the younger crowd of cruisers (the same ones who can’t afford more than a 6 or 7 day cruise or can’t be away from their obligations at work or at home for more than a week, while turning their corporate back on those of us with longevity of loyalty to the line ignoring requests to maintain some semblance of travelers table options (more than once a week or once a cruise), they had Perry Grant set for November and December and many folks signed up for that cruise because he was going to be onboard and has quite a following. They then cancel his engagement and several customers cancel their cruises. How is this helping the bottom line? We have spoken with employees onboard who have confided that they may not be returning preferring instead to move to the river boats closer to home, and others who say that what they have heard from passengers who have been on Symphony about the new dining arrangements is disturbing. We know of families who have opted to not sign up for more Crystal cruises until the dining room situation is made more palatable. As for us, we have opted to book two cruises with another line to explore our options. We acknowledge that these are first world problems and we need to recognize the need for change and give it a try and try it we will. We will be onboard in December and approach these things with an open mind. So time will tell and we will, ultimately allow the the power of the purse to show our determination about these changes. Indeed there are other options and while we would much prefer to stay with Crystal, we will need to see if the new way of doing things results in an equally pleasurable experience for us. That would be ideal but only time will tell. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
I choose this because it featured a seminar I wanted to participate in and because of its ports of call (especially Gibraltar). When we started planning our excursions about 3 months prior to departure, the expansive Gibraltar tour was ... Read More
I choose this because it featured a seminar I wanted to participate in and because of its ports of call (especially Gibraltar). When we started planning our excursions about 3 months prior to departure, the expansive Gibraltar tour was waitlisted and never re-opened. I find that to be unforgiveable and unforgettable. But we booked a private tour through Viator and it was the best tour of our trip, and less than half the cost of a lesser quality ship excursion. While many will like the food and dinner requirements (specific time reservations, more formal dressing and very formal on all sea days), we take cruises to experience the ports of call, not to have formal dining experience. So, for us, this is not a positive. Further, we thought the "Tastes" specialty restaurant was way over-rated: marginal food and served in a pool cabana setting which was not a very good atmosphere. Getting on and off were very good experiences. Same for access to excursions; and the free water bottles on the tour buses was very welcome and not standard with our cruises. So pick carefully....if you want to focus on dining, go for it; if you want to focus on ports of call, I would choose another, less expensive alternative. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
Love Crystal but see traditional items going by the wayside, eg: no more guest list. Very thankful for the complimentary laundromats onboard. B1 cabin is just the right size for the two of us. Plenty of closet space (I bring our own ... Read More
Love Crystal but see traditional items going by the wayside, eg: no more guest list. Very thankful for the complimentary laundromats onboard. B1 cabin is just the right size for the two of us. Plenty of closet space (I bring our own wire hangers to get more space here) and have never lacked for drawer space. MDR staff is outstanding. Varied shore excursions with endurance level, in depth or not so much, Front desk is not as sharp as they used to be. We asked when the Cruise Critic gathering was to be and front desk person looked 3 places and said there was not one on our cruise. Got back to the cabin and there was an invitation to the Cruise Critic gathering which we very much enjoyed. Very much enjoy Tastes, Prego, and Silk Road as alternatives to the MDR. Crew keeps us coming back to Crystal. They are great. I hope Home Office get the new system up and PURRING soon. It has been a struggle for anyone trying to use the PCPC. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
If you enjoy First Class Service and Going to the Club to be pampered, this is the cruise for you. We are younger and had our 16 yr old daughter with us, so we did not fit the normal clientele, but that was just fine. ... Read More
If you enjoy First Class Service and Going to the Club to be pampered, this is the cruise for you. We are younger and had our 16 yr old daughter with us, so we did not fit the normal clientele, but that was just fine. Embarkation/Disembarkation where so smooth, we got on and off according to posted schedule with no delays. We stayed in room 9018 which is a smaller room, but the beds where comfortable, including the pull-out couch. First Class room amenities and if you need anything additional, just ask and it was provided. Stocked fridge was nice, Shower was great, balcony was large enough for the 3 of us. Specialty dining was Five Star, we did all 3 Specialty venues (Silk Rose, Prego and Tastes) and went back to the Sushi bar for an additional night. (I recommend getting there before they open because Sushi bar is first come first serve) Our experience in the main dining room for 3 nights was just OK, the food was Excellent, but the service was lacking, we are not wine drinkers, so they showed little interest in even taking a drink order, one night, we got our appetizer before getting a drink...seemed like they catered to the larger "Clubby" tables and did not think much about the little family. The excursions went as planned, but nothing first class about these island excursions, but the price was great and we got what we expected. We spent most of our time on the pool deck at a shaded table playing games or shaded couch/chair relaxing. Pool deck Staff is the best, always eager to satisfy your drink and comfort needs. Tastes, Trident Grill, Ice Cream Stand and the Buffet are all just steps away from the pool for easy dining throughout the morning and daytime. We went to the shows every night, Billy Joel and the Ventriloquist were our favorites. Don't expect Broadway or Disney quality, but they were fun. Casino was nice, and i was surprised to see the $5 Craps, Blackjack, Roulette and other table games. (I was expecting $25 minimums) The Lobby Bar is elegant and has a great drink menu, afternoon and evening. Even thou the crowd was older, it was so easy to just sit down anywhere and meet someone, everyone was so nice. *****Five Stars***** Pool Deck Staff Cabin Stewardess (Linda) Specialty Dining Venues Ice Cream Man Pizza Man Serenity Staff for great Communications throughout the Cruise Had internet and phone service most of 24 hours a day Clean Ship with Great Venues I know they say tips are included, but they go above and beyond.....PLEASE DON'T BE CHEAP and TIP ACCORDINGLY. (They have a "Crew Fund" you can tip to, just go to guest services) Thanks to our Crystal Travel Agent Marian for some on-board credits and great service. My wife and I will cruise Crystal in the future when our daughter is gone to college. Thanks again Crystal Serenity Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
WE love Crystal. However, when it takes 45 minutes to get served in no man's land for their dining by reservation anytime dining program, it makes me wonder what is going on with this company. Is profit driving a wedge into what was ... Read More
WE love Crystal. However, when it takes 45 minutes to get served in no man's land for their dining by reservation anytime dining program, it makes me wonder what is going on with this company. Is profit driving a wedge into what was excellent service, fantastic food and beverage service at your fingertips? Heaven help you if you make a reservation for 7:45 for the main dining room. You are in between seatings and depending on where you are seated, service is dismal. We felt that not only was service lacking, but their servers didn't seem dialed in, more interested in just getting you something, the attentiveness wasn't there and many crew seemed new. There also seems to be less crew/servers, the servers to guest ratio seems less and service suffers. Getting a drink at the pool after 5:15pm or so is almost impossible and so I walked back to the Tastes bar to get my own in my bathing suit and cover up, but still dripping wet. I'm sure they didn't like seeing me there but I don't like not being served and to make it easier on the crew, since there seemed to be so few of them, I though I'd just go get a drink myself. Gone are the fresh berries. You have to know "who" ask for them at breakfast, and even then, they dole them out with a mere 5 berries at a time. No truffle honey, probably have to ask for that too. In general, the food just didn't seem to be what we fondly thought of as the Crystal difference. I think if you want the old Crystal experience you can still get it, you just have to ask and know "who" to ask when it comes to food and beverage service. . Having said all of this, yes of course we will still cruise Crystal, but there are changes and new guests may or may not notice. The lectures and guest speakers remain out of this world and I can't help but think I get to go back to college when I am onboard. Kudos to Crystal for having the best of the best in the world for cruise speakers. Both our embarkation and debarkation had issues and thank God we weren't in a hurry, otherwise we'd have missed our plane. Ft Lauderdale terminal was a nightmare for many for a variety of reasons. It was very inexcusable in many passengers opinions. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
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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