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13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We chose this cruise because we had not been on the Crystal for a few years and as it was a round trip return from and to Los Angeles it seemed to be very convenient. For years we have been trying to convince our friends to try the ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we had not been on the Crystal for a few years and as it was a round trip return from and to Los Angeles it seemed to be very convenient. For years we have been trying to convince our friends to try the Crystal and were finally able to get them to come with us only to find it was not as good as it used to be. The lunch buffet was so bad that we just gave up after a couple of days. We tried the dining room which turned out to be even worse The specialty restaurants were fabulous. The food, staff and atmosphere were exemplary. The ship did not appear to be as clean as it used to be. Our suite which had been refurbished seemed smaller due to the new configuration but the shower was incredibly worth the extra money.The toiletries were horrible, with artificial scent which I am highly allergic to. Entertainment was excellent. However, the casino rules were disgusting and no wonder it was always empty. Lastly - to have 6 ports on a 7 day cruise on the West Coast was a total loss. Aside from San Francisco and Cabo San Lucas (which was not on the itinerary) are the only 2 safe and exciting places to stop at. Most passengers complained they did not enjoy the quiet ocean experience when the ship is at sea. Crystal needs to recognize that plus the savings on Port Charges could benefit the pricing for passengers. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
We have sailed on Serenity several times before and love it: huge interior spaces for the number of passengers; outstanding service; delicious food; provocative speakers; exciting evening entertainment. But, the ship has shown its age ... Read More
We have sailed on Serenity several times before and love it: huge interior spaces for the number of passengers; outstanding service; delicious food; provocative speakers; exciting evening entertainment. But, the ship has shown its age and the formal, fixed seating dinners belong to a bygone age. Thus we were anxious to see the remodeled ship featuring new dining options. Smooth embarkation in Lisbon. The big changes, aside from decorative finishes throughout are revamping the formal dining room as Waterside--more like a suburban country club than a banquet hall--and creation of new deck 11 evening dining venues--one Asian and quite nice and the other a Brazilian style steak house that I find of limited appeal. Why? It really is not that much of a physical transformation for a part of the buffet area set aside for it but mostly because who wants that much food at night after being well fed all day. One of our preferences for Serenity over its very similar sister ship Symphony is the much larger Avenue Saloon where for years one was regaled by an outrageously bold piano player singer who had a devoted following. On this cruise his replacement was a bid disappointment. Serenity has a large physical fitness area and good classes there. We will sail both Crystal liners again particularly on the extended crossings. Read Less
22 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
HIGH EXPECTATIONS MET AGAIN It was going to be my 70th birthday as Crystal Serenity cruised up the Mississippi River to New Orleans. That seemed like the perfect combination, and it didn’t disappoint. We have taken 30 cruises, 12 on ... Read More
HIGH EXPECTATIONS MET AGAIN It was going to be my 70th birthday as Crystal Serenity cruised up the Mississippi River to New Orleans. That seemed like the perfect combination, and it didn’t disappoint. We have taken 30 cruises, 12 on Celebrity, and the rest on eight other lines (two defunct). This was our third Crystal cruise, second on Serenity. From embarkation to the minute we stepped off the ship, things ran so smoothly. Every place I looked, there was plenty of crew and staff, all cordial, all expert at their jobs. The crew and staff are appropriately professional and just friendly enough, as well as extremely well trained. It’s a well-oiled machine, almost always. I’m talking about the servers in all the dining venues, the staff at the computer lounge (no doubt answering the same questions, over and over and over again), the stewardess, the tender operators. Everybody! We usually eat breakfast and lunch at the Lido, and the variety is huge. Just as an example, there are at least four kinds of yogurt every morning, sometimes five or six. There are two hot cereals, a bouquet of cold in those little boxes, and then muesli and a few granola types. You like walnuts or pecans in your cereal, or dried fruit? Sure, there it is. Cut up fresh fruit continued to be available and delicious the entire 14 days. The gentlemen who make the eggs definitely know their job. My friend loves to have miso soup for breakfast. There it is, at its own station with all kinds of other things. Even the toast guy has his job mastered perfectly. That’s also true of the guys at Trident Grill, which really is a wonderful lunch option. Burgers, hot dogs, salmon burger, chicken burger, wrap of the day and soup! Oh, speaking of soup. In the Lido, there are always two kinds and served with the soup in the pot and the additions, separate, added per your request. The mushroom barley soup had the barley to be added separately, beautiful and tasty mushrooms to be added separately, and chopped chives. The albondigas soup had the little meatballs to be added separately and I can’t remember what else – perhaps cilantro? The matza ball soup had the broth separately, with the matza balls, the noodles and the shredded chicken all to be added separately. And that’s just the soup! So many other choices: always something being carved, always an Asian choice, always several other choices, always a sandwich of the day. On the cold bar, that’s where you’ll find herring (sometimes two kinds) and rare roast beef and all sorts of other goodies. And fruit, and cheese, and a big salad bar. Seriously, there really is pretty much everything. Oh, dessert? Sure, and again many choices plus many are mini desserts, to make it even easier. Dinners in the Crystal Dining Room were equally as pleasing. There are plenty of choices. Most nights there were two appetizers/soups/salads we wanted. One night our table mate had three! as well as her main entrée! I had the trifle dessert almost every night and they never disappointed. The Prego Italian specialty restaurant was better than last time (this time service was better and food was better) and the Silk Road Japanese specialty restaurant was definitely outstanding. Those are more intimate venues and specialized menus; every guest can have two complimentary specialty dinners/week. Unfortunately, you’ll always be missing a lovely menu in the Crystal Dining Room, to enjoy the specialties. From 9 am to midnight, there’s a snack buffet at the Bistro, where you can also get coffee drinks, and many tea options, plus wine. Cheese, fruit, deli items, desserts, and they’re all there in a lovely location with large windows to watch the waves or check out where you’re docked or anchored. Every day there’s afternoon tea, in Palm Court, which is high up and far forward, again with great windows to see what’s going on outside. There are a few telescopes, in case something interesting appears and you’d like a closer look. Ice cream is available until 6 pm (and then you can have ice cream for dessert at dinner, as well). It’s Ben & Jerry’s, hand dipped, about eight different flavors. Toppings, cookies, have a blast. You’re on vacation! Cabins are totally adequate and quite lovely. The bathrooms all have bathtubs and two sinks, with a good thing to hold onto, for stepping in and out. I know handicapped cabins exist, but I can’t report on them. Actually, there’s also something called a Pure cabin, for people who have allergies, I think. Basic veranda cabins are just like the picture window ones, but with a veranda, and then there are more expensive categories with much more space. On one of the at-sea days, there was one of each category open for inspection. The higher categories have walk-in closets. A few little touches that are really nice are the Port/Starboard annotations outside the elevators, so it’s easy to go in the right direction; the guest laundries, complimentary, with ironing boards for guest use; plus a lovely library, staffed for many hours every day and the place to pick up the daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, trivia questions and other puzzle choices, in addition to the tickets to a really enjoyable magic show for small groups of guests. Get your tickets early so you won’t be shut out! Entertainment (Galaxy Lounge) is almost always very enjoyable, and there’s a nice variety. Two different singers were extremely well received, and the production numbers are high energy and beautifully done. We had a famous organist, Hector Olivera, with his very special organ that stays on Serenity all year round for his performances. On our 14-day cruise, he performed on two different evenings (two shows per evening), with two completely different shows. Besides the main show, there’s often an additional show at 10:30, in a different venue (Stardust). A few times it was by the production team, and a few by guest entertainers. One guest entertainer needed to be rescued by Cruise Director, Gary Hunter, the ultimate professional host (and a great comedian and ventriloquist). Around the ship, there’s music for your listening pleasure and also for dancing. Palm Court, Crystal Cove and Avenue Saloon generally are all available – at the same time! – with popular tunes, classical music and show music. Crystal offers Dance Ambassadors to dance with the single guests, as well as a dance team to give complimentary dance lessons (no partner required). You want music before dinner? Sure. After dinner? Absolutely. Plenty of choices and all beautifully done. There are even three different times to see a movie in the Hollywood Theatre (or a sporting event on t.v. – or even election results, if the timing is right for you). In addition to the food, service and entertainment, how would you like to enjoy some enrichment on board? You can go to classes on computer skills (we learned about photo-shop, about Windows 10, about using Word, and about Excel), learn to knit, learn to play bridge (or play better), play in a sanctioned bridge game, take pilates or stretching or a cycle class. You can learn how to make iMovies. And the enrichment speakers just might boggle your mind. We enjoyed learning about the history of ocean liners from Bill Miller; we know perhaps more than we’d like, about terrorism, from Prof. Louis Rene Beres; and we were delighted by a trip down memory lane with two of the writers from Cheers, complete with clips of some of their favorite/best shows. I would go to all four of Cheri Steinkellner’s lectures, all over again. Actually, the same is true of Bill Miller and Prof. Beres, as well. If there’s a conflict, and you’d like to be taking dance lessons or out on deck 13 watching the Mississippi Delta or Puget Sound glide by, watch the lecture later on your t.v. Heck, if you don’t feel like getting dressed, watch the lecture, live, on your t.v.! Does Crystal try to cater to your every need, or what? Anyway, that’s my impression. Just for good measure, throw in the fact that embarkation was a cinch and debarkation was equally as smooth. Everything was amazingly on time, from the start of boarding, to all the shows on board, to arrival at various ports, to the time we got off the ship on the final day. It was a great cruise and I recommend Crystal to anybody who loves a refined experience full of food and fun. When you look at fares, remember that alcoholic beverages as well as specialty coffees, bottled water and canned soft drinks, plus gratuities to crew, are included. The level of the experience and the inclusions allow me to say this is a cruise vacation that is good value for my money. Read Less
39 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
We looked forward to a Crystal Big Band Transatlantic cruise with great anticipation. Never have we been so disappointed.. The standards have slipped so far and so fast , we were bitterly disappointed by the entire experience. The ... Read More
We looked forward to a Crystal Big Band Transatlantic cruise with great anticipation. Never have we been so disappointed.. The standards have slipped so far and so fast , we were bitterly disappointed by the entire experience. The cutbacks and cost snipping are getting a little too obvious under new ownership. The " Best cruise line in the world" is suffering from a severe case of self delusion. We have enjoyed several Big Band cruises with Crystal, finding them a special way of crossing the ocean. this was a pre Christmas cruise, so the ship was decorated throughout... With the same decorations we have seen several times, all beginning to look a little tired This was hardly a Big Band, merely a dull group who could not, and did not , give guests a Big Band experience. The house band offered a better quality of music. Entertainment was equally lack lustre, often seen, dull , dreary shows, despite the enthusiasm of the talented young singers and dancers. The daily dance tuition was equally tired , dull and delivered by the same old foursome we have seen too often. Crystal were introducing new dance talent from Australia and Ukraine, but cut backs are showing here too. Guest entertainers were similarly not of the quality we had expected, and previously enjoyed aboard Crystal ships. The highlight of the cruise, to our delight, were the fine guest speakers, including musical experts, an astronaut and a British retired RAF senior officer who delighted with his insights into current world situations. Dining aboard Crystal cruises was always a delight, but we were disappointed on this cruise, not by the service levels which remain superb , delivered by the ever dedicated staff. However, the dining room , wonderful " modern menu" is now so altered that there is little difference between it, and a classic menu. Similarly, we were disappointed by the charming Tastes menu, which is now heavy, over sauced and has little resemblance to a decent tapas menu. The tried, tested , very repetitive Prego menus desperately need a makeover, as the menu is heavy for modern tastes and badly needs some seasonal changes. We have always enjoyed the enrichment experiences on cruises, but art classes consisted of total lack of creativity, limited media choices and complete lack of inspiration. Luckily, the golf tuition was excellent making up for the paucity of other classes. Crystal are steadily raising the cost of cruises, but , in our opinion, delivering poorer value, and providing far from the luxury experience we had come to enjoy. Petty little cuts , which we assume they believe will go unnoticed, grated... The own brand toiletries, which look and smell cheap, the lack of a daily news sheet, the lower number of the always delightful tiny lunchtime desserts, the substitution of thin cheap balsamic vinegar for salads are surely some examples which irritated. Read Less
34 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
Cruise 5331 was an Atlantic crossing (Lisbon to Miami), with only two brief stops along the way (Tenerife and Key West). My wife and I took this cruise for its long string of sea days, not the port stops. We’ve taken the Crystal ... Read More
Cruise 5331 was an Atlantic crossing (Lisbon to Miami), with only two brief stops along the way (Tenerife and Key West). My wife and I took this cruise for its long string of sea days, not the port stops. We’ve taken the Crystal Serenity (1,000 passengers) over a dozen times in the past several years. We treat it as a comfortable boutique hotel where everyone knows your name. It’s consistently a nice getaway that lacks all that herding, hustling, and hollering for which cruises are stereotyped. Nevertheless, there are some real limits on what the Serenity offers all of us who don’t stay up there in those elite penthouses. Travel agents who want to book repeaters should use caution to avoid an expectation gap. Regardless of the fancy ads, this aging ship doesn’t meet the assumptions for unabashed “ultra luxury.” There are simply too many little “no’s” and missing touches for that. Overall, I rate this cruise as a “3” (on a scale of 5) when judged against Crystal’s asserted standards of “all exclusive” and “ultra luxury.” But there are definitely some pockets of real luxury on the Serenity, including some crew members who consistently offer a luxury level of service. Among the latter are the cruise director and the famous Lido waiters -- true masters of making you feel welcome. So we enjoy what’s there, and overlook what’s not. And we keep coming back. For customers that insist on absolute pampered perfection, travel agents should carefully brief them on the market’s offerings and realities. DINING: The quality of food on the Serenity was quite variable during this cruise. For my taste buds, the following hodgepodge was delicious and memorable: monkfish (a rare treat where we live); fishermen’s platter (perfectly breaded); salzburger nockerl (custom dessert from our Austrian head waiter); homemade corned beef hash (a breakfast treat); Ovaltine (a childhood memory); all that super-creamy ice cream (including arcane flavors like lychee and green tea). As in the past, the Lido Cafe’s steaks, hamburgers, and chimichurri beef were consistently delicious. And my wife had a good filet in the dining room. But the rest of the ship’s beef cuts lacked flavor at best, and were hard to eat at worst. (I actually pushed two servings aside.) One of the Serenity’s pasta offerings (spaghetti with meat sauce) was quite tasty. With that one exception, the ship’s pasta was disappointing. One serving lacked flavor and arrived lukewarm. Another serving arrived so cold that I reported it to the head waiter for replacement. The Serenity is a good choice if you like the treasure hunt of sampling the world’s cuisine. It may not be a good fit for those who passively expect meals of predictable perfection (that is, eaters with little tolerance for uncertainty and experimentation). On the other hand, the head waiters on the Serenity are outstanding and, with a day’s notice, will arrange just about any food you want (as close as we come to having a personal chef). And this option for customized, off-menu items is indeed a luxury. Last spring, Crystal’s president expressed her understandable need for “making sure every berth is full every sailing” (Wall Street Journal, 4-23-15). That apparently means marketing to more than us empty-nesters, as well as steps like deformalizing the dining room a bit for those who wear the “$400 jeans” (as she expressed it in an onboard video of a March 7 passenger briefing). The apparel debate has now been addressed in a 350-word “Dress Codes for Your Cruise,” which was distributed at the start of the voyage. After dissecting the document and looking at the diners’ attire, I concluded that the dreaded jeans are now permissible anywhere and anytime except the two formal nights. Once again, the key is for travel agents to openly cover this issue with their shoppers. If customers prefer more or less formality, they can vote with their checkbooks. But it’s not just about the ups and downs of the food (or even the tuxes). We much enjoy our table talk with some of the world’s most interesting people. All those people who do things we’ll never do ourselves. And those dining conversations are the real luxury for us. In fact, we often remember those chats in more detail than what we ate at a given feeding. MUSIC & LECTURES: This was a repositioning cruise with less than 1,000 passengers. But it was definitely the land of luxury for musicians and music lovers. The little ship was saturated with three bands, two pianists, nightly music shows, a Mozart tea, and a Russian string quartet. Three lecturers did a memorable series of 11 presentations about the “American Songbook.” And the Serenity provided free wireless access to 300+ videos of its past lectures. However, the ship’s online portal needs to label these videos by topic, rather than just by the name of the lecturer. STATEROOM & PUBLIC SPACES: Cruising need not mean crowding. Though a small ship, Serenity was somehow built with “endless” nooks and crannies in which one can limit contact with other humans to the desired degree. On this cruise, as before, we found the Serenity’s basic veranda stateroom to be adequate and comfortable. The housekeeper was thorough, attentive, pleasant, and dependable. However, the ship’s voicemail system was broken for most of the cruise. This frustrated messages from passengers and crew. Crystal’s daily newsletter acknowledged the problem on December 16, 20, and 21. But the failure to provide this basic service is not consistent with luxury cruising. The broken voicemail reminded us of our cruise last year, when the Serenity’s connection to the Internet was broken across much of the Pacific. Again, this is an aging little ship with limitations that travel agents should alert their customers to expect. PRE-CRUISE & POST-CRUISE: We’ve given up on using taxicabs due to various incidents over the years. A problem with a cab driver can be a real spoiler at the beginning of a trip. Thus, in Lisbon, we reserved a private driver to meet us at the airport. In setting the pickup time, be sure to make a pessimistic allowance for baggage claim and the passport line. Before the cruise, we built in a “cushion day” at the Sheraton Lisboa hotel. Great place to park for the day of waiting, but be sure to read your bill before paying. The Sheraton felt free to tack on an unrequested donation to a charity. They took it off when I spotted it. We used a private driver again for the ride down to the Serenity. At the end of the cruise (Miami), we rode Crystal’s bus from the ship to the airport. If Crystal offers a transfer bus, it’s a good deal and we take it. HEALTH & SAFETY: There’s a lot to like about the Serenity, but one concern is hard for customers to assess because it’s hard to see. At the start of this cruise, the Serenity’s daily newsletter asserted that “Crystal Cruises consistently receives the highest scores from the United States Public Health service after inspections of our culinary operations.” Crystal is referring to the inspections that cruise ships get from a federal health agency (Center for Disease Control) based in Fort Lauderdale. These inspections can occur when the ship docks at a U.S. port (the CDC Vessel Sanitation Program). CDC considers inspection scores from 86 to 100 to be in the passing range. I checked CDC’s website for the last inspection before our cruise. CDC gave the Serenity a score of 88 in its May 2015 inspection. This score is 3 points above CDC’s “not satisfactory” threshold of 85. CDC issued a 15-page report that detailed 62 deficiencies. Per CDC’s website (visited 12-29-15), the agency has conducted 230 inspections of cruise ships during 2015. Serenity’s score of 88 was among the 16 lowest scores, that is, in the bottom 7%. These inspection reports are publicly available (in all their technical tedium) at www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp. Travel agents can read for themselves and discuss any item of concern with their doctors that deal with travel health. Part of the “value added” by a travel agent can be a realistic assessment of the risks of an itinerary. Another option, which I’ve found quite helpful, is a pre-cruise consultation with a national chain of travel medicine clinics (see www.passporthealthusa.com). CDC hopefully did a re-inspection when this cruise ended in Miami. And the Serenity hopefully got a better score (which will ultimately be reported on CDC’s website). Crystal continues to boast that it caters to the “top 2% of the world’s wealthiest.” (See the marketing interviews on Fox News (12-14-15) www.youtube.com/watch?v=1--zYYGJukQ, and on CNBC (4-23-15) http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000373868 ) But an inspection score in the lowest 7% is not consistent with luxury cruising. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
I found the atmosphere on the Serenity to be intolerable by the end of the first few days. I will not go into much detail here but suffice it to say I was ignored by others when I as a solo traveler sat down and waited to play. As soon as ... Read More
I found the atmosphere on the Serenity to be intolerable by the end of the first few days. I will not go into much detail here but suffice it to say I was ignored by others when I as a solo traveler sat down and waited to play. As soon as a couple came along, the couple who had been playing addressed them and aid they would take them on. I was never acknowledged, greeted , etc nor did they consider rotating so we could all at least hit balls until someone from the fitness center came to run the morning session. Most of the time there was no one running the paddle tennis program, and that permitted more assertive guests to play as long as they wanted to and in at least one instance kept me from playing when I wanted to as there was no one for solo players to play with at times. I was harassed by someone at the Magic show, a mother in a wheelchair and her daughter, who took it upon themselves to be the seating police and said "She should move" not addressing me directly, when a couple entered the room and were making their way around the stool type seats in the second ro. The couple did not ask me to move and the women in question were not sailing with them. I would have gladly moved had the couple asked me to but this woman was way out of line to tell me to move. I was there first. Ultimately I left the show before it started. The Avenue Saloon piano player did not interact with guests and that surprised me-negatively as I am used to Mark Farris and the fun people have when he is on board. My room stewardess brought me mushy brown spotted bananas even after I told her what I wanted and had told her those were too ripe. It took a message to the home office to get the bananas to magically appear. (I had been told they were usually like that (?) and she didn't think there were any more since they had gotten them in Miami) One of the Ambassador hosts (his first time on Crystal) constantly held hands with an older guest and spent an inordinate amount of time outside the dance floor with her inappropriate behavior according to my gf on my trivia team. That wasn't so much of an issue to me personally, but his demeanor was not professional. he was so phony that it was laughable. The shore excursions were okay but we did have an incident in Lisbon which resulted in the 5 members of our Jeep receiving a full refund of the cost of the Jeep Safari. I did not like having to go through the Casino to get to the Bistro, shops or to head downstairs to the Crystal Cove. Many guests dressed like they were off to a State dinner on Crystal casual nights (what was left to wear on the formal nights, I wondered?) and more than occasionally people looked at me (and I am sure others) up and down like they were the dress code police,giving disapproving looks as if I was wearing rags! I have made my grievances known to the head office but there is nothing they can do about fellow passengers for the most part. Some of you will say I am making this up but believe me I compared notes to others on board and they experienced similar issues. I have nothing to gain by posting this and frankly am likely to be setting myself up for ridicule but I experienced all that I have written here and it was enough, frequently enough, such that you could not pay me to step foot on the Serenity again!!! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2015
Our first Crystal cruise; we began cruising in 1998 and have taken at least one a year since, 8 with Oceania. The Serenity is a beautiful ship, meticulously maintained and extremely comfortable. The sea days offered many activities, ... Read More
Our first Crystal cruise; we began cruising in 1998 and have taken at least one a year since, 8 with Oceania. The Serenity is a beautiful ship, meticulously maintained and extremely comfortable. The sea days offered many activities, great lecturers, current films etc. Our stateroom was compact and there was plenty of storage. The bathroom had a tub - risky getting in and out - and the two vanity sinks were convenient. The guests were friendly, active, well-traveled and easy to chat with. The crew and staff are exceptional, many are long time employees and their eagerness to help and their friendly nature added to our enjoyment. Our sole complaint is with the dining policy. We chose late sitting and a table for 4, thinking we would meet another couple. Another couple never joined us yet our table remained set for four. Our table was next to several large tables of 8 and the area was noisy. The serving staff seemed to rush around, were eager to finish their shift. This was not the leisurely dining we expected aboard a Crystal ship. After 3 dinners in the dining room, we dined at Tastes, the informal restaurant placed where the covered pool use to be. Tastes became our restaurant of choice. No additional fee is required but reservations are. Tastes offered us a limited and unique menu; leisurely dining, a quiet atmosphere and we were not rushed. We also dined at Prego 3 times, nothing exceptional; we also dined once at Silk Road, the Asian restaurant, and the smell of raw fish was upsetting. We could not understand why tables were empty in the specialty restaurants and the dining room was crowded and noisy. Guests could not just walk in at the last minute to dine in the specialty restaurants. No sharing of tables as offered on Oceania ships. Guests we spoke to who selected the dining by reservation also complained about being seated near a serving station or in a noisy area. We asked for a different table for 2 and were told none were available. Fortunately we had Tastes. We cancelled next year's cruise aboard the Symphony when we were told there is no Tastes restaurant on that ship. For us to return to Crystal and their new ship due out in 2018, the dining policy needs to be changed. Open seating and any time dining has to be implemented. The set dining time is out of date. We were told the galley can't handle the any time open seating concept. On a different note, formal attire for women need not be a long gown; many women were dressed in slacks with a "dressy" tunic. I wish I knew that before packing! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
This was our first Crystal cruise after over 30 cruises with Oceania, Celebrity, Princess, Viking, Costa, NCL, Carnival, etc.. Dining was excellent with many enticing choices for each meal. Service was outstanding in all dining venues, ... Read More
This was our first Crystal cruise after over 30 cruises with Oceania, Celebrity, Princess, Viking, Costa, NCL, Carnival, etc.. Dining was excellent with many enticing choices for each meal. Service was outstanding in all dining venues, various bars and directly to our cabin. We loved the bridge classes as the teacher was very professional and especially patient. Entertainment was the best we've ever encountered at sea. The complimentary wine list was very good but you need to ask for it. We had no need to go to the "extra fee" wine list. Our sommelier was great and he quickly figured out our taste buds and directed us to amazing Wine that were not listed on any menu. The cruise director (Rick Spath) was a real pro. Always very interesting, genuine and effective. All lecturers were outstanding in their field and delivered interesting presentations. We have already booked our next cruise with Crystal :-) Read Less
Sail Date: April 2013
As veterans of many Transatlantic cruises, on ships large and small, we had high expectations of the Crystal experience. Our expectations were exceeded well beyond our dreams. This was a cruise that fulfilled all our hopes, and with a ... Read More
As veterans of many Transatlantic cruises, on ships large and small, we had high expectations of the Crystal experience. Our expectations were exceeded well beyond our dreams. This was a cruise that fulfilled all our hopes, and with a Big Band theme, we really held very high hopes indeed. We organised our own flights to the embarkation port of Miami, arriving the day before and staying overnight at an airport hotel. Embarkation was simplicity itself, and we were soon on board this lovely vessel and enjoying a delicious champagne lunch as our cabin was readied. Our deck 8 cabin was an elegant delight,comfortably furnished with a soothing decor in shades of grey. Luggage was promptly delivered, and our charming cabin stewardess quickly arrived to introduce herself and ask for any preferences. We wandered the ship, strolled along the gorgeous uncluttered teak promenade deck and admire the beautiful pool deck with its generous pool and comfortable rattan loungers and pod-style sunbeams. Pleasant waiters offered drinks and quickly returned with orders, a task they completed with friendly efficiency throughout the cruise. Dining was a delightful experience in all venues. The main dining room served delightful menus with a wide choice and first class presentation,whilst the 2 specialist dining rooms, Prego and Silk Road offered fine dining in sophisticated ambience. Casual dining was our choice at lunchtime, in the Lido Cafe, which had daily themed dishes and delightful desserts on offer. Waiters carried plates to guest's chosen seating, and offered drinks to choice. For guests hungry during the day, the lovely bistro had delicious offerings, changing to suit the time of day, as well as a wide menu of coffees and teas. Room service was also excellent, and we enjoyed having breakfast served in or cabin each morning. Entertainment, was as we hoped, high quality, with lovely shows, cameo performances, and the most wonderful Big Band playing almost every evening in the beautiful Palm Court lounge, with glorious swing music to listen or dance to. Day time activities kept guests as busy as they cared to be, with high calibre lectures on offer, dance tuition for the more active, handicraft music and painting classes for the creative and a lovely library for the enthusiastic readers. There was so much on offer, it was difficult to fit in everything you wished to do! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
We so much liked the Fall 2012 T/A on Serenity that we didn't need much convincing to book this voyage as well. In both cases the chief attraction for Nancy was the ballroom dancing theme, with the opportunity to take private dance ... Read More
We so much liked the Fall 2012 T/A on Serenity that we didn't need much convincing to book this voyage as well. In both cases the chief attraction for Nancy was the ballroom dancing theme, with the opportunity to take private dance lessons from the on board professionals. As for me, I just like to be at sea. This voyage was more heavily booked than the previous one by about 15%. Wile the differences were perhaps not striking, this did show up in the quality of the service. While we could not recall a single complaint in the Fall, this time around there were three or four occasions on which we we failed to be noticed when we wanted to place an order in the bars and I had to go in search of a server. I understand this was a function of overcrowding of the facility for one reason or another and not a reflection on the extraordinary willingness of the staff to please, but it should be mentioned that, even on Crystal, at peak occupancy, there are glitches. Nancy was slightly disappointed, particularly as we had persuaded her mother and another lady to join us on the cruise, that this time the ladies were not escorted into the dining room at dinner by a member of the staff, certainly a courtly touch, but again, the passenger to crew ratio did not allow this. To make up for this however, the willingness of the Maitre d'Hotel to find us a good table at the early sitting each evening although, by the time we booked, this was theoretically sold out, went well beyond the call of duty. I like to eat well, and I certainly was not disappointed in this expectation. The quality of the food as well as the preparation in both the main dining room and in the Lido was absolutely first rate, I truly can't think of a single course in all of our meals there about which I could voice a complaint. I wish I could be equally enthusiastic about the specialty restaurants but, alas, this is not the case. Silk Road, while the food was uniformly superb, was distinguished by service of veritably glacial slowness, so that Nancy's Mom absolutely refused to return there and we cancelled our reservation for a second dinner in that venue. Prego, while once more producing flawless first and last courses, once again fell flat on its face with the main course. Having disliked their Osso Bucco in the Fall, I went for the saddle of lamb this time. One would think this would be all but impossible to ruin, but the chef at Prego managed the feat, the lamb was all but drowned in garlic. Garlic is a very good thing but, please, in measure! I realize that the Crystal Can Do No Wrong set will jump all over me for daring to make this criticism, but I will make it anyway. Also, although I'm not a great fan of after dinner entertainment, Nancy is and we thought it a pity that the shows were identical with the ones we had seen in the Fall. So much for quibbles. On a much more positive note Nancy was absolutely delighted with the quality of the dance instruction and with the expertise and grace of Rudy, Natalie and Beverly. The evident dedication and solicitousness with which the staff at the Lido cared for Nancy's mom, who had a tendency to get lost, was absolutely touching. Embarkation, in spite of warnings that the Miami Port Authority would throw up roadblocks, proceeded flawlessly, and when we informed the desk that we had a relatively early flight from Lisbon to Madrid, we were gotten off the ship in record time. If it wasn't the perfect cruise, it surely came close, and that's all that a reasonable man can ask. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2012
Transatlantic, December 2012, marketed by Crystal as Big Band and Ballroom theme. I have no interest in Big Band but chose the cruise because of the Ballroom theme. Having done Transatlantics on Costa and Cunard a year ago, I can compare ... Read More
Transatlantic, December 2012, marketed by Crystal as Big Band and Ballroom theme. I have no interest in Big Band but chose the cruise because of the Ballroom theme. Having done Transatlantics on Costa and Cunard a year ago, I can compare this trip with direct competitors. Although my dancing expertise is International style, I do travel with American groups and am not totally unfamiliar with American style. Food: Food in the MDR was usually excellent, although sometimes only good. Service was professional and efficient, although only really notable for high staff ratios. The MDR operates mostly with traditional fixed seating. I used "dining by reservation", not really open seating as reservations are required. I did not use the specialty restaurants. There is no midnight buffet, waiters bring trays of pizza and snacks to the lounges. Also no evening buffet, instead limited, fixed menu service using the patio furniture beside the pool. It operated 6:30 to 9 PM, but was closed sometimes, notably formal nights. I estimate a premium of $50/day over Costa and $20/day over Cunard is warranted. Cabins: All cabins are outside. AA, A, B and C categories are identical, except that C has a window. The cabins are attractive and well-furnished, but functionally similar to premium balconies on other ships. The bathroom is large enough for a second sink and a "full" (actually 48") tub. Closet space is average. The mattresses were unusually firm, more European-style. Ambiance: Several times, the ship was so quiet, I wondered if it would be literally possible to heart a pin drop. Dress Code: Mostly casual, tending towards "backyard scruffy" during the day. There were many tuxedos in evidence on formal evenings. GLBT: There was only one FOD meeting that I saw, and there did not seem to be many gay couples on the ship. Lecturers: Most interest lectures conflicted with other activities. The ones I was able to attend tended to be a summary of open-source material with little fresh insight- e.g. the Columbus lecture did not mention the controversies engendered by "1421" and "1434", and mentioned encomienda only briefly. Public Rooms: The Serenity has two large venues and was able to cope with having both Big Band and Ballroom themes simultaneously. Palm Court: Rectangular dance floor about 20' x 40' with four unfortunately placed pillars, about 4' in from the edge. The Big Band took about 1/3 the space, and although this was not a Christmas cruise (Hanukkah, actually) there were two trees on the dance floor taking a significant amount of space. They were not removed for several days. Stardust Lounge: Crescent shaped dance floor, usable rectangle about 18' x 36', total area about 25% larger with furniture removed. Avenue Saloon: No dance floor, but a pianist playing popular music; as many as 50 people as late as 1 AM. Crystal Cove: The lobby bar, with a pianist playing mostly "music to snooze by". Disco: Dance floor oval-shaped, about 15' x 12'. Most nights there was nobody there. Dancing: There were perhaps 50 people who seemed to be keen dancers. I do not know how many of them chose the cruise because of the Ballroom theme. The Good: Crystal hired a second dance couple, both couples were well-qualified (American style). Each couple taught one American-style beginner-level class per day. I noted that the rumba class appeared to use the Side Basic from the DVIDA syllabus. They frequently mentioned concepts such as frame, connection, LOD and floorcraft. They also experimented with advanced and International style classes, which were not very successful. There were only a few couples at this level. Although the dance floor in the Stardust lounge is an unfortunate shape, it was not bad for a cruise ship. The Palm Court is also large, but is on an upper deck. Both would be quite acceptable if properly organized. The Bad: Crystal had the professional couples perform a DWTS-type show in the theatre one night, so much time was taken by rehearsals. The house band was a Filipino quintet. They played mostly foxtrots, rumbas (American tempo) and waltzes (mostly too fast). Not bad as an ordinary lounge band, but not a dance band. They had no knowledge of dance tempos- when I asked for a waltz at 90 beats per minute, I was told "we don't know what you're talking about". I am told Filipino bands often learn to play by rote and don't really understand tempo. Crystal booked a 17-piece Big Band orchestra; I have no interest in Big Band. I noticed that the band was only popular for a couple of nights. The Stardust lounge was used as the dancing venue and attracted a steady crowd throughout the cruise. The Ugly: Students in the classes were expected to rotate partners, but did not segregate the women who were serious about learning and actually showed up wearing proper shoes (there were several), from the gawdawful creatures who just wanted to waddle around wiggling their fat butts. Hosts have to put up with that- I don't. I asked about recorded strict tempo music during band breaks, and was flat-out refused; "the Hosts have to take a break and the women will complain if they are not dancing". I was left with the impression there had been no thought of providing strict tempo music and the idea was an annoying imposition. Ambassador Hosts Six allegedly "accomplished ballroom dancers". Based on what I have seen with other groups, I was not impressed. Only one of them could even stand up straight ("frame" in American terminology). One was so bad as to be a horrible example- any woman who would tolerate him is not someone I would want to dance with. I was told that there are normally four hosts, and they usually sit around with nothing to do. Summary. Crystal provides a nice, but over-priced, product. The ambiance definitely tended towards "comatose" rather than "party". There are two lounges with decent dance floors. But if this was the best they can do on a ballroom theme cruise, I would not want to go on a regular cruise without some ironclad guarantees and big penalty clauses. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
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
Crystal Serenity Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 5.0 0.0
Entertainment 5.0 0.0
Public Rooms 5.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 5.0 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 5.0 0.0
Service 4.5 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 5.0 0.0

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