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9 Crystal Serenity Cruise Reviews for Luxury Cruises to Europe - Eastern Mediterranean

This was my first cruise and first trip to Europe. With very few exceptions, the all-inclusive fare covers everything, including tips. The crew truly embodies the definition of service. It was top notch and always with a smile. They go ... Read More
This was my first cruise and first trip to Europe. With very few exceptions, the all-inclusive fare covers everything, including tips. The crew truly embodies the definition of service. It was top notch and always with a smile. They go to great lengths to make sure you wont for nothing. After a couple days onboard, the crew members knew us and addressed us by name. The ship is luxurious. There is something going on all day long and never a shortage of things to do. They provide a daily newsletter with a complete list of activities on board. Educational lectures are well done and provide information about the ports along the way. If you miss them, they are rebroadcast on one of the channels on TV. There is a library on board with a nice selection of books and DVDs that you can check out to watch in your room. We also took a tour of the galley for the main dining room. If you're a foodie, check it out. How they prepare and serve a gourmet dinner menu for 600 every night is fascinating. The fitness room is a bit small, but well equipped. The yoga class was popular and could have used more space. There is also a spa and casino on board. We did not use them. If you are really into wine, they have a wine tasting and pairing dinner. It is in a private dining room adjacent to the library and can be booked for an extra charge. There is also dancing every night. A string quartet and piano soloist play at various times of the day. You can send laundry out for a charge, but each floor had a self-service laundry that included detergent and ironing boards. I went home with clean clothes. We took excursions arranged by Crystal in every port. As we are both history buffs, they were the archaeological/historical tours. Tour operators were professional and Crystal staff accompanied us. They packed a lot into the time allotted for the tours. There are tours that are not strenuous and some that are. If you have mobility issues, do not book tours that state they are strenuous and require a lot of walking. They are not kidding. This was a Mediterranean cruise and all ports were very interesting. Noteworthy excursions: Gozo and Valletta Malta, Oia Village in Santorini and the Lindos Acropolis in Greece, Ephysis Ruins in Kusadasi Turkey, Herculaneum and Pompeii at the Naples Port, Taormina, Italy and of course, Istanbul. We saw a few of the shows (some nights we were too tired after exploring the ports) and the entertainment is excellent. The singers and dancers put on a variety of shows, so there is something for everyone. Gary, the Cruise Director is funny and you can tell he loves his job. In addition to the main dining room, there are many dining options aboard and room service any time you wish. The menu in the main dining room is diverse with four courses each night (appetizer, soup and salad, entree and dessert - several options for each on the menu and you can order as many as you want) and a sommelier keeps the wine flowing. Ice cream bar serves Ben and Jerry's from noon until 6PM. On this particular cruise, there were 2 formal nights. The winner of the 2015 Bocuse D'Or chef completion prepared dinner on the second formal night. He also did a cooking demonstration earlier in the day. Highly recommend Silk Road and Prego, the Asian and Italian restaurants aboard. All food was fresh and well presented. High tea is served every afternoon. There is also a bistro that serves tea, coffee and light hors d'oeurves in the afternoon. We ate breakfast at the buffet on the lido deck. It's huge. Anything you could want is there. Loved the fresh mango and fresh squeezed orange juice. Caution: the food is so good, book excursions that make you walk it off! The ship is spotless as it was remodeled in 2013 and all of the furnishings are updated. We also booked our airline and travel from disembarkation through Crystal and found it to be just as reasonable as booking ourselves, without the hassle. I think the only thing that needs improvement is the Wi-Fi aboard. Passengers are given one our of free Wi-Fi for each day aboard. It is pretty slow so it takes quite a bit of time to send emails. If you use more, there is a charge and it's expensive. At slow speeds, it doesn't take long to eat up the allotted free time. Many of the passengers are older and may not use internet, but those that do, might find it a bit challenging. I did have to attend to some work on board, so I needed the internet. Maybe it's their plan - keep you off your devices so you can enjoy your vacation-work can wait :-) All in all, it was a wonderful cruise. It is likely I'll be aboard the Crystal Serenity again someday. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
This was our fifth Crystal cruise and our third onboard the Crystal Serenity and, as it had recently undergone a multi-million pound refit, we were looking forward to seeing the changes. As our flight to Venice did not arrive until quite ... Read More
This was our fifth Crystal cruise and our third onboard the Crystal Serenity and, as it had recently undergone a multi-million pound refit, we were looking forward to seeing the changes. As our flight to Venice did not arrive until quite late in the evening ,we spent one night in a hotel near the airport prior to joining the ship the next morning. After a welcome night’s sleep and a good breakfast it was only a short private coach transfer, organised by our hotel, to the port. We would always recommend staying at least one night prior to the cruise either in, or near to, the embarkation port. Embarkation Day When we arrived at the port the embarkation desks were just about to open so we were soon processed and onboard the ship where the formal check in took place in the main lobby area and, as usual, this was done very quickly and efficiently. We were then free to have lunch in the Trident grill, which we washed down with a very welcome glass of champagne, and felt that our holiday had really begun. During lunch we were delighted to meet up again with some familiar and friendly faces, namely crew members whom we had met on previous cruises. This made us feel very welcome and as if we had come home again. By the time we had finished lunch, our stateroom was ready and we were able to unpack and relax in the sun by the pool. Our verandah stateroom was located on Deck 8, towards the bow of the ship. The Ship Thankfully the layout of the ship had not been changed as a result of the refit so we already were familiar with all the public areas. In view of the recent refit we had expected to find some dramatic changes , however, these seem to have been confined mostly to the refurbishment of the staterooms and the creation of the new ‘Tastes’ restaurant in the area around the former Trident pool. The staterooms looked very smart and well kept, however, the biggest improvement was the removal of the old Trident pool and the creation of the ‘Tastes’ restaurant. The old Trident pool was previously a bit of a dead space and the revamp (including screens, plants and new furniture) is a great innovation. As usual all the public areas throughout the ship were spotlessly clean and it never ceases to amaze us that this is all done without guests even being aware that it is happening. We did hear some negative comments about large rust marks at the bottom of the Seahorse pool which guests thought would have been addressed during the refit. Our Stateroom Stewardess looked after us very well and kept us well supplied with towels and ice. Food and drinks The standard of the food on board was excellent in all the eating venues as usual. We usually had breakfast outside at the excellent ‘Lido’ buffet where we could sit and view the port we were visiting that day. For lunch we varied between the ‘Lido’ buffet and the ‘Tastes’ restaurant and, when at the latter, always ensuring to get dessert from the extensive selection at the ‘Lido’. It is hard to single out any particular member of crew for praise, however, Bruno from Portugal was a delight with attentive service and always time for a chat. We had dinner every evening in the Main Dining Room, apart from three nights when we ate in the ‘Prego’ , ‘Silk Road’ and ‘Tastes’ restaurants. The menu choice and standard food in the main Dining Room was excellent and the experience was enhanced by our very efficient and jovial Head Waiter Zoltan – we loved his sense of humour. Our Spanish Sommelier was very attentive the standard of the wines served was first class. We went to ‘Prego’ once during the cruise in the company of two new- found friends and everyone thoroughly enjoyed both the food and the calm ambience. On another night we went to ‘Silk Road’ and were tempted to try dishes which we would not normally choose and it turned out to be a wonderful experience. We decided to try the less formal ‘Tastes’ restaurant on another evening, however, we found the menu a bit confusing and would not have rushed back again. We were told that the evening menu did not change from day to day and think that this may deter guests making a second visit. We indulged ourselves with afternoon tea in the Palm Court on a few occasions; however, our big vice was afternoon tea and cakes in ‘The Bistro’. We were aware that the Bistro was now open later in the evenings, however, by that stage we had usually eaten too much already so we did not make it there. It was clearly popular with guests who wanted to sit and relax with a cup of tea or coffee after dinner so the longer opening hours are definitely a welcome innovation. Our favourite bars were ‘Crystal Cove’ and ‘the Avenue Saloon’, mainly due to the great staff working there. We always had pre-dinner drinks in ‘Crystal Cove’ and had great craic with the bar staff, Afzal and Alex, who were not only very good at their job but they made us feel like old friends. We would invariably meet the same guests there every night as they also loved the relaxed, friendly atmosphere fostered by all the staff. We liked to go to the ‘Avenue Saloon’ after dinner as it was a very comfortable place to relax, chat with fellow guests and sing along to the piano. We also enjoyed a few late nights in the ‘Pulse’ nightclub, especially on the karaoke nights hosted by the lovely Hayley from the Reception desk. The Ports of Call All our previous Crystal cruises had been around the Mediterranean and we were looking forward to this particular cruise because it was visiting some ports new to us. Venice – We decided not to brave the crowds this time and just relax onboard, enjoying the peace and quiet while all the other guests went off sightseeing. A former Captain of the Crystal Serenity once said that ‘the ship can be your holiday destination in itself’ and we heartily agree with that sentiment. Kotor , Montenegro – We had been told that this was a very beautiful part of the world and they were correct. Sailing slowly between spectacular wooded landscapes was really magical and you could sense the excitement of the crew who hailed from the region. We docked just a stone’s throw from Kotor and it was a very picturesque place. Taormina, Sicily – We booked the Crystal transfer into the town and it was well worth the ride. A beautiful place with lots of character, cafes, bars and shops, including some very upmarket designer ones. Recommended viewing. Sorrento – We had been here several times before with Crystal, however, it was nice to get off the ship for a short while just to stretch the legs and have a little retail therapy. Civitavecchia, Italy- We did not want to visit Rome on this occasion so we opted for a post-breakfast stroll around Civitavecchia and a coffee before heading back to the ship for lunch. It is a much larger town than we had remembered but a few hours was enough time there. Monte Carlo/ Monaco – It was purely by accident that we found ourselves on this cruise which coincided with the Monte Carlo rally and there were lots of ‘petrol heads’ onboard who had booked this cruise especially to be there. Even though we were not race enthusiasts there was a growing sense of anticipation when we arrived in Monte Carlo on the day of the race. Unfortunately we were not moored in Monte Carlo bay, as on previous occasions, but just round the headland so we did not have the usual spectacular view of Monte Carlo, however, we were certainly made well aware of all the build up to the race. From early morning there was a constant shuttle of private helicopters overhead, undoubtedly carrying the rich and famous to their stretch limos and onto the race. It was fascinating to watch and the mind boggled at what it must all be costing! The following day we ventured into Monte Carlo hoping the place would have returned to normality and perhaps engage in a bit of star spotting, however, many areas were still sealed off and barriers were still being removed. Sorry to report no sightings of George Clooney or Nicole Scherzinger – maybe next time? Livorno – Unless you are heading to Florence, Livorno is not a pretty place to spend too much time in. Barcelona – Having visited the city many times before we used our last day of the cruise to have a wander around and enjoy some sangria and tapas with two fellow guests who had by now become firm friends. A lovely way to end to a very happy cruise. Entertainment It is a pity that the live band does not play every afternoon on the Lido deck at sail away, however, they did play on the ‘sea day’ and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it- even the crew working on deck got into the spirit and were dancing in the aisles! The Crew The crew, as ever, made the whole cruise special and, although we have mentioned by name those with whom we probably had the most contact, we must praise all crew for their efficiency, friendliness and patience. . They are Crystal’s biggest asset. Overall cruise experience This was a very relaxing and enjoyable cruise and we loved every minute. We met some great fellow passengers with whom we are still in contact and we look forward to planning our next Crystal cruise in 2015 when a certain someone will be celebrating a milestone birthday – and I do not mean a 21st. It is Crystal clear to see that this cruise line keeps up the excellent work!   Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
HI don’t take vacations Why? I never leave my home and it’s hard to get Paris to visit ME. So when I do take a vacation it’s a big deal. The big deal started seven months ago when I decided to take another cruise. Are you ready? DAY ... Read More
HI don’t take vacations Why? I never leave my home and it’s hard to get Paris to visit ME. So when I do take a vacation it’s a big deal. The big deal started seven months ago when I decided to take another cruise. Are you ready? DAY ONE: GUERNSEY We take a walking tour of Guernsey led by Mary Poppins. The nicest, sweetest lady you’d ever meet who is stunningly handsome at about 75. One of the members of he group is late, let’s call her Helen Gurley Brown. However, two members of the group a husband and wife… let’s call them Donald Trump and Ivana… are not happy. ''"We are on time, why do we have to wait?” The woman whose expression has not changed since she arrived on the ship pipes in, ''"I’m not waiting.” And she takes off. OH. The expression…it’s like she’s constantly smelling poo. I get through the day. Tomorrow is a day at sea. I wonder what it will hold. That night on the ship they play THE IMPOSSIBLE, the story of a family that goes on vacation and is hit by a Tsunami. THIS is the movie they play on the first night out… I go down to the lobby and a violin trio is playing… I SWEAR TO YOU… ''"Closer to God are Thee” the tune they played as the Titanic went down. As a comic I see the comedy in the situation as a passenger I want to run to my room and leave my life vest on…forever. DAY TWO: AT SEA. I’ve always wanted to see whales. I just didn’t think I’d see them in bathing suits. There should be a law… if the flap of skin on your back folds over and touches your hip, you cannot wear a thong. The men are no better. I saw one guy walking down the hallway. He was so wide he was knocking paintings off the walls on both sides as he made his way to his cabin. Oh and day two is the first night of Rosh Hashanah. The last time I was in Temple Eisenhower was in office but I thought it would be fun to be in France and celebrate the New Year in another country. The service is at five p.m…. I go down there at five. We have crossed a time line and clocks were set a hour ahead one hour. It was actually six p.m. and I missed the service. DAY THREE: BORDEAUX, FRANCE So next morning I’m up at six a.m. and I’m ready to go to services. I walk into the room and one lady is sitting with a shawl. On the pulpit is a priest with vestments, behind him is a huge cross with Jesus. She says, ''"Come in… join us.” I say, ''"I haven’t been in Temple in about 40 years but I don’t think this is a Rosh Hashanah service.” The woman laughs so loud the priest stops spraying the incense. Ok, so I come back in half an hour and there are the Jews… all ten of them. I have found them in this sea of WASP wonderland-ness. We get to talking and suddenly I realize I have found the rarest of rare… REPUBLICAN JEWS… a living oxymoron. It’s like it’s when I found out fish eat their young… I was horrified. The service lasts exactly 12 minutes. Why? The Rabbi has to take a tour of the Bordeaux countryside. This is the Jewish Holiday I have wished for my entire life. So we board our bus to the wine country. We have a French guide… a woman with a voice just short of grinding silverware down the garbage disposal. She spoke in such a thick accent no one could understand her and when we asked her to repeat whatever she said she got furious. ''"Vat is Wong wit you peoples” I thought I was going to have to stay after the tour in detention. Six of us started a support group for survivors of the tour which we are now calling the Death March on Bataan. That night we went to the theater for the entertainment. Sit down… you’re gonna love this. REBECCA AND DONNOVAN. Picture Arnold Schwartnegger singing like Mario Lanza while his wife hung from silk ropes. That’s what this act was. I actually sat through twenty minutes of it until my ears began to bleed and I fled from the theater like The Von Trapp Family. DAY FOUR: AT SEA They have provided us with many interesting things to do on this ship. Interesting if you live in assisted living and have a motorized wheelchair. One of my favorites activities is SCARF TYING. I kid you not… learn how to tie a scarf…followed by NAPKIN FOLDING. (Readers: this is not a joke.) These are actual classes. They also have courses you could use like how to shoot video on an ipad, how to play the piano, how to play bridge… each one of THOSE classes was anemically empty. But SCARF TYING was a slam-dunk. Standing room only! Then there was the lecture series… who do they have as a guest speaker…some show biz celebrity… some sports hero… a political figure? NO! Clint Van Zant… an FBI Serial Murderer Profiler. STANDING ROOM ONLY? They were seated on the floor. These Republicans like a good mass murder. I went to the lecture in which I learned one of the killers liked to shove stones up the vaginal cavity of his victims. (beat) FOR THIS I PAID FOURTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS INCLUDING AIR FARE???? I was once on a Princess Cruise and their entertainment was a ''"Hairiest man on the ship” contest… a Persian woman won. Ok so tonight is formal night on the ship or as I call it, The Geriatric Prom. Tonight I will see things no man is supposed to see… moo moos and tuxedos… walkers and sequins… ladies wearing things only teenagers should wear… and all to stand in a buffet line and eat things pushed through a pastry tube. I truly do love this experience… it’s a comedy writer’s dream come true. One cruise on the Atlantic and I will be writing about it for the next six years. DAY FIVE: Lisbon, Portugal I’ve figured out what taking a cruise is all about… it’s a series of meals interrupted by Europe. My God, I have never eaten so much in my life. They are feeding us like we’re Foie Gras Geese. They just keep shoving food down our throats… my liver is the size of Connecticut. Any moment I expect the chef to cut it out and force-feed it back to me. Lisbon, Portugal. Well, I can die happy now. I’ve seen the tomb of Vasco D’Gama. This is the highlight of Lisbon, that and protecting your wallets from pickpockets. I have never seen anything like it in my life, you’re standing alone waiting for the shuttle… suddenly, out of no where, 500 Gypsies surround you trying to sell you shawls. So the entire trip your holding your wallet, your camera, your keys, your passport, your gold incisor… anything you’re afraid they could get their hands on. OH! It appears Lisbon is the thimble capital of the world. Everywhere you go they are hocking thimbles… and coasters. Thimbles and coasters…coasters and thimbles… big ones, black ones, cork ones, blue ones, coasters with Lisbon on them, thimbles with Vasco D’ Gama on them… granite thimbles.( I guess they were from the stone age) It appears the Europeans think that all we Americans do is sew and cook. There is one funny note in Lisbon. There appears to be a large contingent of Lesbians on the ship, packs of them dressed in tool belts and wearing Berkinstocks.. It would give me great joy to say over and over… We’re in Lisbon with the Lesbians…. Lisbon with the Lesbians… Lisbon with the Lesbians. Has a nice ring, no? I must say I was disappointed in Lisbon. It’s dirty. It’s crowded. It’s covered in graffiti. It’s New York City with thimbles. I was picturing this quaint little village like it says in the brochure… lovely multi colored homes like a Disney movie. Instead I got the parking lot of an architectural salvage yard. The whole city is a big BEFORE photo. It’s a D.I.Y. project waiting to happen. One interesting side note about tour guides. How do you get them to shut up? They get you on that bus and don’t stop talking until the ship is pulling away from the dock. They tell you dates and names and countries and kings and queens and all you want to know is, ''"Where is the toilet?” About twenty minutes into the tour her voice begins to sound like nails on a blackboard. Everything she says you take exception to. ''"Oh really… Portugal has wonderful weather… really?” You can’t wait to get off the bus and flee for your life but she’s behind you with a bull horn.” DON’T FORGET TO STOP IN THE TRINKET SHOP BEFORE YOU LEAVE.” DAY SIX: SEVILLE, SPAIN-WATCH YOUR VALUABLES!!!! By this day you have gotten to know your traveling companions and they seem to fall into three categories: a. People you want be friends with. b. People you want to be friends with but just can’t. c. People you want to kill with the bottle opener provided in your room. Under ''"a” comes people your own age, people with the same political views and anyone with all their original body parts. Under ''"b” comes anyone with equipment. This includes oxygen bottles, canes, walkers, electric wheel chairs and a leg made out from composite materials. Under ''"c” comes Republicans. There are also sub categories. People with language barriers like Russians and people who stick to themselves, like Asians. These are all nice people but when ''"Isn’t Lisbon a dumpy city. ” takes 20 minutes, flash cards and a signal flare, a lasting friendship is out of the question. On today’s trip I found two things. 1. Seville is the most beautiful city I’ve ever been in and 2. There are other Democrats on board. Today at lunch I sat with a lovely couple from Connecticut. Out of the blue she turns to me and says ''"Did you ever see a bigger bunch of in your life. Republicans…all of them” I heard angels sing. From that moment on the trip took on a new air. She told us of other Democrats on board. I suddenly knew what the French underground felt like during World War II. We had secret handshakes and secret meeting places. ''"We’re under the stairs in the main ball room” IT’S A WHOLE NEW TRIP!!!! DAY SEVEN: AT SEA Last night we were supposed to see The Rock of Gibraltar… we passed it at midnight so that’s one thing that won’t be crossed off my bucket list. DAY EIGHT: BARCEL…. Ohhhhhhhh who cares! I have seen more churches than the Pope. I am so touristed out I can’t begin to tell you. I’ve seen parks. I’ve seen monuments. I’ve seen the birthplace of people I never knew existed. This isn’t a vacation it’s credits for my Masters. The good news is I have finally found the fun people. All four of them. They are under 70, they are Democrats, they laugh… I’ve got four new friends. Worth the whole trip. DAY NINE; TO THE AIRPORT. My pick up is at ten… at ten thirty he still is not there. I have prepaid for this ride and suddenly the cruise ship who did everything but has thrown me to the wind. ''"Oh, you didn’t buy OUR transportation… pity.” So I grab a taxi to the airport with tip and with the money I have already paid to the other limo company this trip has cost me 16 thousand dollars. I could have flown around the world twice for what this cab ride has cost me. And here’s the bottom line. I DON’T CARE. I have had one of the best times I have ever had in my life. I came home with nothing. No key chains, no iPhones covers from Spain. No, snowballs with cathedrals in them. All I have is my memories… 486 photos and four new friends. Hey! Could have been a lot worse… and I didn’t even tell you about the Israeli on the plane home who kept pushing my seat forward because I was ''"Invading his space.” I wanted to club him with my thimble collection. Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
As a lover of luxury cruises I was really hoping to add another cruise line like Crystal to my list of favourites. However, the reality is that,as hard as this line tries to market itself to the all inclusive cruiser, it does not match ... Read More
As a lover of luxury cruises I was really hoping to add another cruise line like Crystal to my list of favourites. However, the reality is that,as hard as this line tries to market itself to the all inclusive cruiser, it does not match this marketing with its delivery. Embarkation in Rome was easy and quick, but it was certainly the first time I have not been greeted with a welcome or a glass of champagne. The atrium of the Serenity was very tasteful and the public areas to begin with appeared in good order. We were shown straight to our veranda stateroom, which was again not furnished with any kind of welcome drinks etc. the room was also very small, and we had to take in in turns to get dressed in the evening as there was so little space. The bathroom was fairly well appointed, although we had to call housekeeping on several occasions to ask for amenities to be replenished, even after asking the stewardess. Upon putting our cases under the bed I found someone else's dirty slippers there,which led to further in depth scrutiny of our small cabin, which was by no means cleaned to the levels we have been used to on Seabourn or Silversea. I called at reception and met with the head of housekeeping who inspected the room and found it to be unsatisfactory on a number of levels, from dusty side units to a dirty carpet. This should not have been left to us to deal with!!! Our broken fridge never got repaired and we gave up reporting it! The pool area was pleasant but there were far too many sunbeds around and people were crammed in like sardines,there were a few attendants who we had to chase around on several occasions in order to get a drink, not good. The lido buffet was ok, but after seeing the same old salad after thre or four days, things go repetitive and very boring. On the whole lido was pretty uninspiring and there was never anyone around to get drinks orders in breakfast or lunch. The main dining room, was pretty awful in general, and on the two occasions we ate there they didnt seem to know how not to cremate any meat or fish they cooked, so we didn't bother. The silk road and Prego were the only decent dining venues on board, food here was outstanding and served with finesse. Service wise, not what we are used to and no one seemed happy to serve, things were all too much for the majority of crystals staff, I came to the conclusion that the all inclusive set up had put many noses out of joint and they were all sulking at the lack of tips they were no longer getting. Drinks service was pretty non existent, and I have never overheard so many saying this was a self service ship. Other service or staff encountered,especially officers, who we are used to speaking to on Seabourn, would not speak and could only ethier be found at the ice cream parlour or in large groups drinking cocktails in the bars, not mixing with clientelle I add. This happened on sooo many occasions, we felt it was wholly inappropriate considering recent cruising disasters. Officers would also take up three of four tables in speciality restaurants, which was unfair as fellow cruisers couldn't get into these venues! Other staff we're unnecessarilly rude to passengers and we witnessed several really bad episodes with fellow passengers. O ne particular day, a passenger beside me in the lift could not get it to go to the lido level, so got out the lift and asked politely if the lift could be fixed, as it had been not working properly for a few days. Member of staff replied, well why don't you just walk there!! A typical crystal reply,far from 6 star!! Afternoon tea, especially the Mozart tea, was revered by Crystal, so we were looking forward to attending, at 3.30. We arrived, at 3.27 and I asked the staff member if I could have some tea and a scone, there was no one else in the room and he said no, we are not open until 3.30! Everything was laid out and he was stood waiting to serve, it was just inappropriate use of language every step of the way,with a lot of the crew. Just so pedantic, no need for it. Oh,and the scones were appalling, I love afternoon tea and didn't bother even going again,it was so poor. And finally, the smoking, oh dear, the nice bars were unusable in the evenings,as the smoke was so overpowering, I know this is changing, but it is at far too overdue. As you can probably tell, we were really disappointed with Crystal and we cannot understand why it receives all of the accolades it does. Fellow well travelled cruisers rated most lines including, Seabourn,Silversea and Oceania above crystal, and we all felt very let down by the line. Those who really liked it seemed to have tried nothing else or had come from Carnival, so it would obviously be an improvement! I am glad we tried Crystal, because we can now comment on it, but I really think they are going to struggle to keep up with the Genuine six star lines, as service and personality are lacking in bucket loads. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We 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 anticipated our Crystal Serenity cruise for many months if not years before finally having the time and affordability of a Mediterranean Cruise. My husband and I and a single friend began our journey in the States and flew to Rome via ... Read More
We anticipated our Crystal Serenity cruise for many months if not years before finally having the time and affordability of a Mediterranean Cruise. My husband and I and a single friend began our journey in the States and flew to Rome via London on British Airways (fabulous airlines). We stayed for 2 days prior to cruising at the St. Regis, Rome. Our stay could not have been any better! The service and the accommodations were excellent as was the location. We boarded the Serenity at Civitavecchia. No smile greeted us as we arrived at 4:00pm and not much help with bags, etc. First of many disappointments along the journey. We entered the ship and were immediately whisked away to our accommodations; my husband and I stayed in Suite 11040; Penthouse Suite and our friend was a few doors down opting to pay the single supplement for a Penthouse Suite as well. Our room was on the small side compared to other ships we have sailed on but very well appointed. There was more than adequate space for clothing, etc. The bathroom was beautiful and the bathtub was an added bonus. The new furnishings were beautiful and the veranda chairs were very comfortable. We met our two stewardesses; two very young girls who were quite efficient at keeping our rooms well cleaned during the 7 days. Our butler never showed up to greet us until many hours later. He was running (most every time we saw him)and hurriedly told us if we needed ANYTHING he could get it for us. The first of many untruths for our experience. We asked for appetizers to be delivered and he did so without haste; so much so that the dining table along with the living room table was full to overflowing! We thought this was indicative of the manner to which we would be accustomed on our cruise. Sadly, this was not so. We had trouble getting back dry cleaned items from Sami's (our butler) closet. We ordered appetizers on several more occasions only to be told that they "were out of" that particular item. We asked for waters to be delivered one evening so we could pack them for our excursion the next morning and they never showed up. When we asked where they were Sami said they were waiting for their delivery of water and he only had 4 bottles he could give us because someone else wanted water also. Not exactly the kind of treatment we had expected on Crystal. Another area where we had trouble was with the front desk. We had trouble with my name on the entire cruise. I was known as Mary Beth (my name is Nina) the entire trip; this was my friend's name. The computer somehow made an error in my information being confused with our friend's and everything I received came in my friend's name. I could not correct this even after speaking to the front desk 3 times.Even our waiter in Prego tried to help us out. They also did not cancel a tour we had originally booked and left the amount on our final bill; another hour and a half of speaking to the front desk and proving that we had cancelled it before the cruise even began. We also had to request that the Share The Experience Credits be appropriately added to our cabin and also had to prove with an email that we had signed up for this. We were late to our formal night dinner because of the time it took to finally fix all the problems. Our meals were all stupendous; a great relief after the disappointing butler experience! The main dining room served exquisite meals meticulously presented by our servers. The wine steward was a delight to work with; he knew exactly which wines we would like with each course of our meal. We could not have been more excited about our meals. The specialty restaurants, Prego and Silk Road were the most decadent meals we have ever had. The Black Cod signature dish of Nobu is not to be missed as well as the mushroom soup in Prego and the Limoncello souffle. All meals were beyond our expectations. While eating up in the Lido deck buffet style the food was once again elevated to a level well above any other cruise line we had experienced. What was not elevated was the service once again. We could not find anyone to serve us and we were not allowed to serve ourselves in a portion of the buffet. When we finally asked a head waiter why we would have so much trouble he let loose with his complaints that the cruise line added more 7 day cruises along with the "all inclusive" nature and the crew was just too overloaded to keep up with everyone. He told us that the crew was not happy with the all inclusive decision. He was not the only one who told us this during our cruise. The excursions we took were just amazing; the tour guides were completely knowledgeable and the vehicles were clean and new. The Taormina Wine Tasting Tour was incredible; it was over 100degrees that day and they kept us comfortable in the bus as well as at the winery; tasting appetizers of bruschetta and local cheeses and sampling wines from the winery under a beautiful canopy of trees. We even bought a bottle to take home with us. Our only other tour we reserved was on Dubrovnik; we took the Olive Mill and Noble House tour. What a completely wonderful time we had. We were treated to personally grown tomatoes and cheeses and sampled olive oil made by a gentleman and his family; his family owned the land for generations. The second part of the tour took us to a house owned by a Noble family from Dubrovnik. A beautiful 2 story house made of rock overlooking the beautiful waters of the bay. We became immersed in the two diverse ends of cultures in Croatia. We came away from that tour with a full heart. We must say we made some very nice friends on board despite all of our negative experiences (did I forget to mention my luggage was not delivered until 10:00pm that night because it was held up in security - I attended dinner in my crop pants and flip flops!Quite embarrassing) including the Assistant Cruise Director whom we had dinner with one evening. When I told him how I always eat the same thing every morning; shredded wheat with yogurt and blueberries and was not able to get them on the ship; he so very kindly sent them up to my room that next morning. Our last port Venice was an exciting experience like no other. What a fantastic time we had in this port. However, once again, Crystal was not on the ball when it came to our transportation. We had to wait over an hour at the designated place for our next water shuttle to arrive. We were told that there would be shuttles every 1/2 hour but there was something wrong and we had to wait over an hour in the 103 degree weather. We were quite worried for the elderly people waiting along with us. The gals holding up the signs for Crystal were quite flustered as well. As much as we disliked embarkation our disembarkation went quite smoothly with Crystal. They took us from our meeting space on the ship without much waiting at all and delivered us to a hotel not 5 minutes from the airport. We had refreshments waiting for us and of course had lovely bathrooms to use as well. When it was time for us to head to the airport we boarded the same bus and all went smoothly. My summation for this cruise; we did not receive what Crystal promises, a care-free receive anything you request cruise because of the nature of 7 day cruises as well as the feelings of employees regarding the all inclusive decision. We will not try Crystal Cruises again even though a dear friend is the Cruise Director on the Symphony. We will stay with Holland America or possibly try Silversea or Seabourn next time. Read Less
Sail Date August 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
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
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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