1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Crystal Cruises
  4. Crystal Serenity Review
  5. Crystal Serenity Cruise Reviews
Sail Date: December 2018
The ship is truly showing its age ,even after a major drydock. We stayed in a new seabreeze penthouse. Sofa was so hard that it felt as if we were on a park bench. No bed ruffle to hide our luggage. Ship is all cut up and just not ... Read More
The ship is truly showing its age ,even after a major drydock. We stayed in a new seabreeze penthouse. Sofa was so hard that it felt as if we were on a park bench. No bed ruffle to hide our luggage. Ship is all cut up and just not graceful. Not many public spaces. Mozart tea was served and i was brought tea without a cover and the cakes tasted as if they had freezer burn. Too many smoking areas on the ship. No introduction to the officer staff.or medical staff. The palm court is no longer a comfortable place to sit and watch the ocean. They chopped up the room with a huge bar and halving the size of the dance floor. The spa is showing its age.. so, so ,small. One more thing.. i was surprised by the lack of the handwashing reminders! Many times when i put my hands to get the hand cleaners at the restaurant I found they were empty or not working. The food was very good though. We travel alot and frankly the ship and Crystal just disappointed me. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I was disappointed in many ways with Crystal ... the food, entertainment, lack of activities, the invisibility of officers, etc. Don’t know what the CD does to earn his keep. Saw the ... Read More
Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I was disappointed in many ways with Crystal ... the food, entertainment, lack of activities, the invisibility of officers, etc. Don’t know what the CD does to earn his keep. Saw the captain only once in 14 days. Long-time Crystal cruisers were not welcoming to newcomers. Food was hit and miss ... usually a miss. Not at all the gourmet cuisine I expected on Crystal. Entertainment was, at least in the Galaxy Lounge, far too loud and not geared toward us older folk. Trivia was held only four times in fourteen days! I’m used to Trivia four times a day! Not a friendly ship. Will not sail on Crystal again. Apart from the Christmas decirations, there was no ‘merry’ atmosphere and very little (if any) Christmas music ... not even piped. No carol singing or Christmas show. The two bartenders in Crystal Cove bar, Themyo snd Marja, were great. And, single malt scotches were available on the all-inclusive drinks menu. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
My family and I had sailed several times on the Serenity, and we were looking forward to seeing the extent of the recent renovations. We were very pleased with the new look of the ship and the renovations done to the public areas. The food ... Read More
My family and I had sailed several times on the Serenity, and we were looking forward to seeing the extent of the recent renovations. We were very pleased with the new look of the ship and the renovations done to the public areas. The food and service are as memorable and perfectly executed as we remembered them to be, and some events, such as the Vintage Room and the supper club very much exceeded expectations. The new all-inclusive service is very comfortable, and we never felt pressured to order upgrades to the very fine list of wines, spirits and beers on board, although we did treat ourselves to some outstanding labels under the guidance of our amazing sommelier, Tilmar Pfefferkorn! The service aboard ship is outstanding. Not only are your every needs met swiftly and with grace, but staff quickly gets to know your preferences and often seems to anticipate your next request. Special services are also outstanding. We had a member of our party that required medical attention due to a pre-existing condition, and the medical staff did an outstanding job of successfully dealing with the problem in a caring manner. We will definitely be returning to crystal Serenity or Crystal Symphony for our next cruise experience! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
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
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
My wife and I chose this cruise to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We had been to both Spain and Portugal previously and had a great time. The ports of call of the Iberian Sojourn were exactly what we were looking for. We spent ... Read More
My wife and I chose this cruise to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We had been to both Spain and Portugal previously and had a great time. The ports of call of the Iberian Sojourn were exactly what we were looking for. We spent 3 nights in Barcelona before we left and had a blast. The embarkation was smooth and the staff was excellent throughout. Our room with a veranda was larger than our hotel room in Barcelona. The first morning in Valencia they would not let "independents" off the ship until those who had made Crystal excursion reservations were allowed to leave. So we could have walked to our tour but because they would not let us leave so we had to race for a cab with other "independents." That was the only morning where leaving the ship was a problem. What needs to be added is that the Crystal excursions were priced way over the top-2 to 3 times as much as privately booked tours. I guess if you can afford it and you value seeming security then you might pay for the Crystal excursions but I did not see any extras booking that way since they were the same tours. For the most part people who write reviews have something very negative to say. I want to laud the staff and crew for wonderful service at every level. That being said, it is still hard to justify the amount of money that was spent for the cruise. All of our table mates raved about the food throughout every meal-perhaps leading to impossible expectations. At the main Crystal dining room the food was very good for cruise food, but it wasn't nearly as fresh or flavorful as the food we ate in each port city. At the end of the day, it was cruise ship food. The exception would be the Silk Road restaurant. We had a wonderful meal there but the Prego restaurant was only so-so. The breakfast buffet was good and the sit down cafe Tastes had excellent breakfasts also. For a ship this size the entertainment was good. There were many activities for people that did not want to leave the ship at each port but the are definitely geared to an older clientele. This is not a cruise for young couples or children. The cruisers were mostly affluent, white Americans who liked the America-centric aspect of an international cruise. Why you would travel 7000 miles to have the same experiences that you get in the USA is baffling to me. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
When I embarked on Crystal Serenity in Barcelona on Sunday October 7, I recalled that my last cruise on this ship was well over almost 4 years, yet I was pleasantly amazed (but not surprised) that many restaurant staff, under the direction ... Read More
When I embarked on Crystal Serenity in Barcelona on Sunday October 7, I recalled that my last cruise on this ship was well over almost 4 years, yet I was pleasantly amazed (but not surprised) that many restaurant staff, under the direction of Leo, to me the master of all cruiseship Maitre D’s, could still greet me in name. Such is the hospitality level of Crystal cruises that many Crystal Society members return to the ship. The embarkation took no time, even the ship was practically full. Embarkation began at noon though in theory rooms are available from 3pm, but in a PH cabin mine was ready. There was a special luggage storage that takes care of hand luggages so that any guest can enjoy a leisurely lunch. Such is the hospitality with full attention to detail that makes what Crystal is, particular with direct comparison to the two cruises that I just had disembarked (I took 3 consecutive cruises in 30 days). This cruise, trade named Iberian Sojourn, a standard 7-day trip ending in Lisbon, has an ideal itinerary in that travel distance is short so that it is all port days and passengers have ample time in each port. The Spanish ports are, to me, more interesting than the Mediterranean ports in Italy that practically every cruiser has visited. In each port Crystal of course provides free shuttle so that one enjoys free and easy visits. Because of all-port, there was no formal night and the well-loved Mozart tea was not served. I have had many Crystal Cruises (my first was on Crystal Harmony, before Serenity was built), and as an old timers I can see good changes under new ownership of Genting Hong Kong. The ship was renovated only about 4 years ago, and on embarkation I learned that after this trip the ship will undergo dry docking for a whole month for another important renovation, probably the most important because the ship will re-emerge in November offering open sitting dining (Crystal Symphony had completed that process). Hitherto if Crystal was to be faulted as a luxury ship it was the two sitting system that requires one to eat either too early or too late. No more, and then my only regret is that, if I had this knowledge, I would have chosen to cruise after the renovation. A luxury cruise differs from a standard one mainly in space per passenger and crew to passenger ratio, and of course in service and food. Crystal offers best service second only to SeaDream (but the latter carries only 100 passengers with similar number of staff). Crew members here do not change ships, though there can be re-deployment as since the Genting takeover, Crystal has added two yachts and five river boats (not to mention even a luxury air operation). Great that virtually same staff members serve so that the important ‘recognition scenes’ are in place. But it is the delicate improvement of food standard that makes the ship remarkable, at a time when cutback is seen in the whole trade (including Silversea which serves packaged orange juice unless you ask for the fresh). I agree with the latest Berlitz guide as it now rates Crystal above competitors Silversea, Seabourn and Regent. The Crystal food is truly enjoyable, now that the restaurant offers two menus, one modern and one traditional, therefore many choices. On this visit I tend to conclude that the ‘modern’ menu has improved much, with artful presentation and good taste (it had been a bit ‘funny’ in the beginning as I tasted it on Symphony two years ago). There are three alternative dining choices in addition to the main restaurant, all offering good quality of food (rather than quantity in the number of available restaurants). All guests can dine twice in an alternative restaurant free (otherwise it is a mere cover charge of $35). Dining on Crystal Serenity is a real pleasure even for gourmets, and among the best at sea. Entertainment is never a strong area for Crystal. Ship size and mature passengers not really keen on shows do not justify lavish productions such as on sister company Dream Cruises, but the quality is good, and even more than on a big ship, there are always also alternative local shows in port in addition to the production show. Of these I watched one of the best acrobatic show at sea (or indeed on land) in the Balskat Duo which had performed with Circuit de Soleil. But I see the very same production shows that are old fashioned. The singers try to make more noises to lure the young, but I see few youngish passengers. The cruise director, Gary Hunter is a master of his trade, however. It is the most port intensive cruise that calls on a port very day, and all ports are interesting except for me, Gibraltar, which is however a convenient stop on route. The last night we stayed overnight in Lisbon. Valencia was the first port of call and the free shuttle takes passengers directly to the old town. It was a great visit, walking old streets and seeing various historic landmarks. Next port is Alicante and we arrived on a Spanish holiday that most shops are closed, but the town is beautiful and even with some initial rain it still makes a day of pleasant stroll. The weather was cool and pleasant. Malaga is next, and alas there was no sunshine on the Costa del Sol on our arrival. Some rains in the morning and I wonder if those who took excursion to Seville fared better. Malaga itself is interesting and it is gateway to many interesting points. As a frequent visitor to this region, I did not rush to any places, having seen them many times, and to me the ship is the destination Particularly the ship is Crystal, no matter rain or shine. Pouring rain in Gibraltar in the morning but it cleared up in the afternoon. I always think it is funny to see UK chain stores in town and here one dispenses the British pound. But Cadiz is interesting, as we had the full day I went out on my own in the afternoon my way while I have time to take an excursion in the morning. As if by bad luck it falls on another Spanish holiday, though many shops open for tourists. The morning excursion was good in that I visited sights slightly out of town that I had not seen out of my two previous visits. There was ample time to return to Cadiz proper for a stroll in its old streets in the afternoon. The trip ends in Lisbon and we stayed overnight here. It was good as there is much to see in Lisbon but a very strong wind arrived at dinner time so that the terminal was closed for the night. This is strange; though I am sure no one will opt to go ashore in such windy condition anyway. I took Crystal’s transfer to the airport early in the morning and the trip was perfectly organized, with many helpers that virtually take your luggage from ship to your check-in counter. This ends my very pleasant trip and I look forward to returning to Crystal Serenity when it operates the Open Sitting Dining. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
I wanted to begin by saying that in life nothing is absolutely perfect all of the time. The same applies to a cruise. With that said overall these cruises exceeded our expectations. We knew going into this that the down-side would be ... Read More
I wanted to begin by saying that in life nothing is absolutely perfect all of the time. The same applies to a cruise. With that said overall these cruises exceeded our expectations. We knew going into this that the down-side would be all ports and no sea days other than a planned arrival to one port at Noon which still isn't a sea day. As a result we knew less enrichment, less time to get to know fellow guests not staying on and that with full cruises that specialty restaurant venues would be busy. We knew that we would have to move one time. This is a review of our sailing on board Crystal Serenity between September 23, 2018 and October 14, 2018. OVERVIEW ========= Three seven day cruises comprised this back-to-back sailing . We visited 19 Mediterranean ports-of-call with no sea days over twenty-one days. Overall, we had an outstanding time between the on-board experience and the ports of call we visited. Although Serenity was going into dry-dock the day we disembarked one would never get the sense of this. The crew was focused on the present cruise, providing an outstanding experience to the guests. Almost all food items were available and the end of the cruise ended on a high note. There was not attempt to push guests off the ship on disembarkation day. THE SHIP ======= Crystal Serenity is now fifteen years old, and the ship continues to be in excellent shape. It is well maintained. Yes, there are some areas that need a makeover and also some areas needing to be detailed. Areas that have gone through makeover since the inaugural voyage include all staterooms and suites, the lido deck, the shops, portions of the casino area , the children's area, the Crystal Cove lounge and a few other areas. The upcoming dry dock will bring several changes including open seating and the conversion of the Crystal dining room to Waterside, the change from Tastes to a Silk Asian restaurant, the makeover of the Palm Court and Stardust Lounges, the addition of a nighttime restaurant on the Lido Deck, the conversion of some staterooms to suites, new flat screen televisions in all rooms and a few unannounced enhancements. The makeover of Stardust which I mentioned will provide lots of new possibilities for that room. We continue to enjoy the layout of the ship, the wrap-around promenade deck and the space to passenger ratio. When we boarded Serenity in 2005, we realized this ship was a perfect size for us; not too large and not too small. It was on that cruise that we decided to book a World Cruise. Those areas that I think will benefit the most from the dry dock will be addressed; Palm Court and Stardust. I hope that the Crystal Cove can be updated in a future dry-dock. CUISINE ======= We thoroughly enjoyed the dining experience. We dined at most of the venues with the exception of The Trident Grill and The Bistro. This is not to say that each and every item was perfect but if something was not to our liking this was an exception. Most items were very much to our liking. We enjoyed the selection of food items including its diversity. Something that is very important to us is the ease of being able to change something out whether that is how an item is cooked to ingredients in a salad. We enjoyed the wait staff in all dining venues. We have had the same Senior Waiter in the past including when our family was on board last year and on Northwest Passage. Our waiter was wonderful as well. We didn't know him from prior cruises but he was truly a gem. Our Head Waiter was wonderful. We dined at Silk Road one time and chose to eat the other two times in our room. There is no question on seven day cruises with high occupancy the specialty restaurants get very busy and IMHO work better on longer cruises with less people visiting them each evening. With that said, while very busy the waitstaff team was able to keep up with it by working as a "team". Often various dishes were served by several different waiters and this made things work. Many of the waiters have been working there since we first sailed in 2005 and have been there since 2003. Head Waiter Mario from Prego was filling in as Head Waiter on these voyages and demonstrated team work himself. We dined at Prego three times. Its busiest times were during the last part of our meals and later at night. The overall experience was wonderful and what we have come to expect from Prego; great food, cuisine, service and a wonderful dining experience. On two of the three visits I had the addition (they don't call them specials) and on the last visit the item I had for an entree didn't work for me. So I can say that twenty of twenty one dinner entrees were wonderful and one was not. That is a good statistic. We dined at Tastes two time for dinner. Both were very enjoyable. Between the two nights we tried most of the items and loved the majority of them. We keep breakfast simple. I chose not to have the birthday breakfast. We enjoyed lunch in the dining room two times. Actually if time permitted I would go each day because we love the service but with me playing paddle tennis we go to the Lido Cafe. That is the one meal that we don't linger like we do with other meals. The variety of food offered at the Lido Cafe was terrific. Since these were seven day cruises they didn't have any themed buffets. As this was a port intensive cruise and with touring many times it was not busy when we dined there other than the day that we arrived to port at Noon and it opened at 11:30 AM. We had the Vintage Room dinner and the food was terrific as was the wine and the overall experience. The difference between Symphony and Serenity is the location of the galley to each room so the food on Symphony arrives hotter than Serenity. BEVERAGES ========== We continue to enjoy the inclusive wine. It is diverse and we find it better than we have had on other cruise lines offering inclusive wine. Since inclusive rolled out a few years ago the number of spirit brands has greatly increased, as has the beer selection. As noted below Crystal has also rolled out a new drink menu. We had three different sommeliers during our sailing as they rotate each voyage. All three were very knowledgeable and two of the three I thought were excellent with one very good. The bar staff is superb. We primarily went to the Crystal Cove. One night we went to the Palm Court. One of the bartenders was a bar server in January of 2007 and when we were on Northwest Passage the year before. She hadn't seen us since then. She not only remembered our name but where we sat in the Avenue Saloon. Amazing. ENTERTAINMENT ============== The cruises featured individual artists as well as Crystal’s own team of entertainers who in our opinion are the best in the cruise industry. Since these were short cruises unlike longer cruises there were not as many shows offered at night. We didn't go to much of the evening entertainment for a couple of reasons. My only suggestion is that given the number of in-transit guests (250 continued from cruise one to cruise 2 and around 125 from cruise two to cruise three it would have been better to have varied the production shows a bit more from cruise to cruise to minimize repeat performances. There certainly are other shows that could have been performed. I understand the first show being repeated and one other one but would have avoided any other repeats. As has been the case the past couple of years we enjoyed having more than one musician in the Crystal Cove before dinner as was the case with Irina on Violin and Richard on the Piano. They are wonderful performers individually and as a duet they have amazing chemistry and just added to the overall experience when we had pre-dinner drinks. THE LOUNGES =========== We changed things up on this cruise often sitting at the bar and mainly in the Crystal Cove. In the past we rarely have sat at the bar and really enjoyed this. It provided an opportunity to speak with the various bartenders, to watch them perform their magic, to learn about all sorts of drinks, and it had the added benefit of allowing us to converse with lots of guests and many we have never sailed with. Recently Crystal rolled out a new special drink menu, which includes a focus on drinks made with gin served in Sangria Glasses. This is in vogue in some selected places on land. For me this was something new, and I enjoyed many of the drinks instead of having wine before dinner. I feel that I have a much better appreciation of differences in gin and an array of drinks. I would not have tried this if not for a few folks on this board sharing their experiences from recent cruises. THE CREW & SERVICE ================= The crew is amazing and reflects the culture we have seen since we first stepped onto our first Crystal Cruise in 2002 on the former Crystal Harmony. The crew is professional but also is very human and very welcoming and we adore them. It is that human side and feeling of family that I have not experienced on other lines. Yes, the more you sail with the crew the more you get to know them but I am reminded on that very first Crystal Cruise how in very short order I realized they were seeing us as people rather than just a number or just a suit. They truly have become our extended family. They work hard to make the experience theybest they can. We met some crew members for the very first time and in a matter of a day or two we felt the same chemistry with them as we have with so many other members of Team Serenity. INTERNET ======== This was our second cruise since full complimentary internet was rolled out. Overall we had a similar experience between this cruise and our one on Symphony in May. The overall Internet ranged from excellent to very good. Yes, there were a few times when the Internet slowed or when it was not available but this was the exception. and far better than a few years ago. With this said experiences can vary by person. Early on the first voyage a friend on-board from Cruise Critic said her Internet was poor while at that point in time ours was terrific. It could be that her room is located in an area of the ship where the connectivity is less strong as ours. Another factor can be where in the room one is using it and other factors include type of advice used and even the internet browser. I do post a lot of photos and when I post them on my blog I go with lower pixels and that allows for easy uploading of photos. Since we are not printing those photos uploading with lower pixels does not change the view of the photo on a blog on cruise critic, etc. We also experienced excellent quality when placing phone calls using a Wi-Fi connection on board the ship, using apps such as WhatsApp for phone calls, texting and even video calls. THE PORTS ========= This was a port intensive cruise as we visited 19 ports over 21 days. We enjoyed the vast majority of ports and the time spent in port. We were able to revisit ports and see many for the very first time. In short, these three cruise was a fantastic opportunity to experience a nice range of ports. We love the Mediterranean and prefer visiting this area in September/October or April/May. SHORE EXCURSIONS ================ We did one Crystal Tour, which we arranged through the Los Angeles Office, which was a tour of Florence. The tour exceeded our expectations. Our tour guide had a solid background in art so she could lead us through the artwork in the places we visited and explain what we were seeing in a way that was easy to understand. The driver was courteous and drove safely to and from and inside Florence. This is a tour we will remember for the rest of our lives. EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION ============================ The process of getting on and off the ship was terrific. We would have to say this was one of or the most organized disembarkations we have ever experienced. We used a Crystal private transfer. We met the Concierge at the designated time, which is 15 minutes prior to the transfer time. The vehicle was already there. The concierge took us down to the port shuttle, which took guests between the ship and the building where the luggage was being held. When we entered the building the Chief Concierge greeted us, took us to the section where are luggage was located, and one of the many porters who were all in suits took our bags and put them on a trolley. After saying our goodbyes to the Chief Concierge a Crystal representative escorted us to the vehicle waiting for us. She went over the details with the driver. When we arrived to the airport another Crystal representative who escorted us inside and verified where we would go for check-in met us. CHANGE ======= In the eighteen plus years we have been sailing Crystal and close to thirty years of cruising we have seen a lot of change. Then again the same applies to all our life experiences. Change in today's environment is coming at a faster pace than ever before. Today most of us use smart phones. Those didn't exist back in the day nor did the ability to use your own personal computers when we first sailed. On our first Crystal cruise sodas and bottled water were not included. Many of the changes have been driven by three things; Innovation by Crystal Cruises. The competitive environment. Changes demanded by people of all cruise lines. Most of us are resistant to change. We are creatures of habit. I found that at work and with people we know and see it when we cruise. Yes there are a few items we miss from those earlier days of cruising but they have been driven mainly by the three areas I mentioned. At the same time we appreciate many of the changes. I remember when inclusive was rolling out the vast majority of Crystal Society Members who we know said this would be the end. Crew would leave. How would the bar staff know your names? The service would be poor. Etc., Etc., Etc. Like most new things there were some startup issues. Slow pouring of wine. Insufficient choices of wine, beer and spirits. In time, IMHO all of this was worked out and just like other luxury lines new guests would think this is the way it has always been. On of the things I like best about inclusive is that it has made the lounges so much more social and vibrant. I also like that if you invite someone to join you there is not the issue of who pays for the drink. I also like not signing for each drink. The change to open dining is the most current of the changes. Just like inclusive this will be tweaked, and tweaked, and tweaked until Crystal gets it as good as they can. I am reminded that the ships were not built with open dining in mind or for that matter the new evening dining venues. The reality though is both ships have been evolving to open dining the past couple of years. On our recent cruises many people were showing up at hours that we not the time for main or late dining and the Maitre d' was being creative to get them seated. I believe that each of us has changes that we like, some that we are indifferent and some we don't care for. That's the way changes work, but some of them that one person doesn't like another one does and again some of these are driven by people. An example of that is evening dining attire. FINAL COMMENTS =============== We have another Crystal cruise on Serenity scheduled for late December and look forward to seeing the "changes" that are being implemented in the dry-dock. We have already experienced open dining on Symphony but even this on Serenity could look slightly different based on experience gained on Symphony such as the set up of the tables at the new Serenity Waterside. After sailing this ship so many times and with Crystal Cruises frequently these back-to- back cruises still exceeded our expectations. I can't tell you how much my wife and I enjoyed these cruises. When you arrive back to the ship from port each day they say welcome home. For us that is the way we think of Crystal. Until next time. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
Israel has recently become a popular destination for cruise ships. Some ships stop 3 days in Haifa, some stop 1 day in Ashdod followed by 2 more days in Haifa. I and my wife have tried both ways, and I am now reporting on the ... Read More
Israel has recently become a popular destination for cruise ships. Some ships stop 3 days in Haifa, some stop 1 day in Ashdod followed by 2 more days in Haifa. I and my wife have tried both ways, and I am now reporting on the differences. In 2017, we were on the Oceania Marina that started in Athens and ended in Athens, with 3 days in Haifa. That was fairly good, but was tiring and we felt we did not see enough from the big 50-seater coaches. This year we went again, but on the Crystal Serenity, that started in Civitavecchia and ended in Civitavecchia. It first stopped in Ashdod for 1 night, followed by 2 more nights in Haifa. This time we used a private minibus, was more relaxed, and we saw much more. On the Oceania trip, we took group tours on a coach arranged by the ship. We visited Jerusalem on the first day, Masada on the second day, Nazareth and the Galilee on the third day. This was basically satisfactory, but the coach was a 50-seater, and could not go through the narrow old streets to get close to some historical sights. So, we had to view some sights from a distance or from the mountain top. Also, the trips from Haifa to Jerusalem and Masada were separate trips, and each took 4 hours each way, so that was somewhat tiring. On the Crystal trip, we fortunately were with a group of 10 friends. So, we pre-hired a Mini-bus, from the internet, with a professional English-speaking guide, and a qualified driver, for about US $100 per person, per day, which was much cheaper than the ship’s price. This turned out much better, as we were more relaxed, and able to get to many more sights than with the larger coach. This is how we did it. About 4 months before the cruise, we hired a local Israeli touring company from the internet, www.GuidedToursIsrael.com , which proved to be very satisfactory. In the morning and early afternoon of the first day, we visited Jerusalem. In the late afternoon, we visited the northern part of the Dead Sea. The only disadvantage was we had to walk down many steps to get to the water front. In Jerusalem, we saw many sights including: The Western Wall, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, The Temple Mount with the golden dome, The Dome of the Rock, The Golden Tomb, Tower of David Museum, Garden of Gethsethmane, Jaffa Gate, City of David, King David’s Tomb, and the narrow, cobbled shopping streets of old Jerusalem. On the second day, from Haifa, we visited northern Israel, including Nazareth and the Sea of Galillee. Nazareth is mostly a Muslim city. We were able to go inside the Basilica of the Annunciation, which is a must, and the St. Joseph’s catholic church. We also went to the baptismal site in the Jordan river. On the third day, we went to Tel Aviv, saw the center of the city, the many hotels, government buildings, and also the location where Yitzak Rabin was assassinated, as well as the beaches on the Mediterranean coast, including ancient Roman amphitheater. My advice is, if possible, try to visit Israel on a minibus with a small private group. Peter Fan. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
I chose this cruise as it is the only one that Crystal do to Israel. Billed as a Holy Lands cruise, it was two weeks of luxury on-board and fascinating tours ashore. This was my 15th cruise on Crystal and, even though none of them have ... Read More
I chose this cruise as it is the only one that Crystal do to Israel. Billed as a Holy Lands cruise, it was two weeks of luxury on-board and fascinating tours ashore. This was my 15th cruise on Crystal and, even though none of them have been perfect, they have all been consistently excellent. There was a lot of negative talk on-board about the upcoming refurbishment in relation to the move from assigned dinner seatings to open dining. I enjoyed a travellers table for eight and we had a variety of interesting "visitors" each night. As a solo cruiser I really hope Crystal will figure out a way to keep this going. I sailed on Symphony in February (not solo) after their dry dock and most of the larger tables had been replaced with tables of two and four - great if you are a couple but not for the many solo travellers or those who like to join a larger table. That aside, the service in the MDR was superb, it always amazes me how they get to know you and your preferences on the first night - another aspect which will I think deteriorate with open seating. I do think that the menus aren't quite what they used to be, there were a few nights where nothing really appealed (and I don't think I am a fussy eater) I really enjoyed Tastes restaurant on the open deck, great for a late breakfast or late lunch. The lectures and most of the evening entertainment was first rate, an aspect I think Crystal have made great improvements to over the years. I also enjoyed the casino, friendly dealers but the new small denomination blackjack rules really favour the house - it was hard to win!! As always, it's the elegance of the ship, the attention and friendliness of staff and the never crowded public spaces which keep me coming back. I have two cruises booked for next May, am looking forward to the dry dock changes and hopefully they will sort out solo travellers for the MDR. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
First, since Crystal Serenity goes to dry dock next month (October 2018), some of the comments may not be applicable. My wife and I took a Crystal river cruise last year (Danube) and were so impressed with the level of service and the ... Read More
First, since Crystal Serenity goes to dry dock next month (October 2018), some of the comments may not be applicable. My wife and I took a Crystal river cruise last year (Danube) and were so impressed with the level of service and the shore excursions that we booked the Italian/Greece cruise on Serenity. While we enjoyed the cruise, the level of service did not even compare to that of the river cruise. In talking to long-time Crystal cruisers (some over 10 trips), they say the quality has gone down since Crystal was sold and the bean counters took over. That is our opinion also—with just a few differences, we saw little to distinguish Crystal above other cruise lines. Pre-trip support was not that great. It was like pulling teeth to get transfer information (bot pre and post cruise). The only option I got was IF I booked their hotel, with pricing about 2 to 3 times what you can get online. I was given no transfer options post-cruise, yet found out once onboard they do offer transportation from the port (Civitacecchia) to the airport, but we had already arranged our own since we were not informed of that option beforehand. It does not show up in the list of excursions at the beginning or end of the cruise. This is completely different than the river cruise where you could easily select transportation before and after the cruise. While the Serenity might be an older ship, we found everything in good condition. The carpeting is very worn, particularly in the rooms, but it was not a problem. Everything else was in great shape which shows the continual maintenance. We had no issues at all anywhere on the ship where things were broken or didn’t work properly. Being older, some of the modern features found on other ships (interactive menu on the tv, real time billing information, electronic key fobs, et al) are obviously absent. But again, it did not detract from the cruise in any manner. The cruise was excellent. Upon boarding we found that one of the ports was changed (Zakynthos, Greece changed to Katakolon). Perhaps because it was an older ship, the tv information was never updated with this change, showing the original port and information and never the new port, even while docked. The shore excursion options were much more limited. Many of the ports selected required tendering, including this change. Crystal tends to fill the tenders to the maximum before they depart, so it gets stuffy and crowded. Return wasn’t as much of a problem as it becomes more staggered. Crystal ocean cruises do not offer any free excursions, as does the river cruise. Excursions are expensive, often 2-3 times what you can get online (TripAdvisor) or arrange on your own when in port. Like all ship excursions, they are convenient. We took some of the ship excursions, but arranged a couple on our own. Doing it on your own can result in a much smaller group (4-6 people), plus you can do several things vice the ship’s offering on usually just one major event (because of so many people). Food was excellent. If you want to dine at the specialty restaurants, you really need to book them before the cruise. We booked one before and tried to book one when we boarded, but they were full for the entire cruise. The buffet dining is open for breakfast and lunch, but not dinner. So if an excursion brings you back after your assigned dining period, you don’t have a lot of options (room service works). We had a very enjoyable time in the main dining room, and had great table companions. Service was excellent. The one major disappointment in dining is that Crystal has moved to a more common menu (among all the ships) and thus you will get no cuisine from the areas you are visiting. At several ports, there were some great specialty foods that they were known for (pastries, main dishes, appetizers, or even wine and beer). None of these were ever available on board the ship. Because the ship excursions are so time-condensed, you don’t even have time to sample them on the excursion. So you miss out on great local food. For the long-time Crystal cruisers, they said that Crystal used to offer local specialties but no longer do that, and instead board the entire cruise food at the embarkation point (controlled by headquarters in Los Angeles). So I guess every ship gets the exact same menu option on any given day. I think this is the biggest disappointment in the cruise as we would have liked to have tried more regional foods. We ended up canceling some shore excursions just so we could go into the city and try new foods (like a true Italian pizza margherita). Forget the weather forecast the ship provides. At one port they ship said it would be 69F and rainy. In actuality it was 86F and clear and sunny. The ship’s forecasts were never close. Use your own app to get the real weather. Internet is free, but it is extremely slow (think slower than dial up). There will be times when you can’t even check email because it is so slow. Finally, the entertainment was good, but focuses primarily on the ship’s dance team and singers. I think they only brought in outside entertainment twice. Other cruises we’ve been on they’ve brought in comedians, magicians, aerial acrobats, and many other different forms of entertainment. While the ship’s dance crew is good, it would have been nice to have something else to see. This may be why the lounge was rarely full, so it is easy to find a seat. Overall the cruise was very enjoyable. We were just disappointed somewhat in Crystal as we expected more based upon our river cruise experience. I guess they are two completely different cruises as the river cruise offered pre and post cruise transportation, free excursions, local foods, and more. For a ship of 1200, that may not have been practical from a bean counter perspective. The point is that the Crystal ocean cruise seems to be the same as any other major cruise line (Holland, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, MSC). Read Less
Crystal Serenity Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 5.0 4.4
Entertainment 5.0 4.1
Public Rooms 5.0 4.6
Fitness Recreation 5.0 4.3
Family 4.0 4.3
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 5.0 4.2
Service 4.5 4.5
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 5.0 4.1

Find a Crystal Serenity Cruise