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36 Crystal Serenity Cruise Reviews

Our previous positive cruising experience on another all-inclusive line led us to book this trip. Neither of us had been to Hawaii before for pleasure; Gerry had been there on business. We had experienced several sea days in a previous ... Read More
Our previous positive cruising experience on another all-inclusive line led us to book this trip. Neither of us had been to Hawaii before for pleasure; Gerry had been there on business. We had experienced several sea days in a previous cruise, so we were prepared for the down time Embarkation was smooth and professional. Using the website to book our shore excursions and to complete all data requirements saved a great deal of time and travail. All in all, we only spent about twenty-minutes from the announcement of boarding to sitting down for lunch. Baggage was delivered without incident and we were in our stateroom (as insistently named by Crystal) by 3:10 PM. The cabin (10097) was quite small; we could not both pass by the foot of the bed concurrently. The closet was adequate, but below the standard set by other lines. The carpet was faded and a bit worn, while the drapes were consistently off-track. The balcony worked quite well. No on-line library of current movies exists on the Serenity, so when the satellite TV reception was spotty (as it often was), reading or drinking seemed to be the only alternative. Dining was a hit and miss affair. The specialty restaurants lacked flair and the food was inconsistent. The buffet (the Lido) provided fresh, well-prepared food in very limited variety. Both breakfast and lunch were okay; no casual dinner service is offered on the Serenity -- a genuine mistake. Dinner at the Crystal Dining Room displayed excellent service, mediocre wines and average cuisine. The usual lobster and lamb entrees appeared as well as lots of fish. The soups were universally excellent. A note about the "Modern" items isolated to one side of the menu: they should be isolated to the moon. No mass feeder can bring off the delicate foams and molecular gastronomy promised by these items. The wines in the all-inclusive program were mid-level supermarket brands, available at my grocer for about $10 - $12 a bottle (the in-house "C" pinot noir was excellent, however). Enrichment activities ranged from world-class to galaxy-class. The sea-day lectures were meticulously researched, eloquently presented and rich with content. Most were quite well-attended. The lecturers succeeded in bringing an immediacy to topics ranging from an historical series on populating the islands through a set of eco-lectures on topics including the California Condor and the Easter Monarch butterfly. All in all, the lectures and lecturers were the finest in our memory. Entertainment, on the other hand, was cruise ship standard...which is to say very mediocre indeed. Everyone we met on the crew and staff were personable, quite articulate and often anticipated our requests. They were also stressed and tired. The thin veneer of effortless service cracked regularly. However, our stateroom was regularly re-stocked with goodies and housekeeping was excellent. Should we cruise with Crystal in the future, we will not avail ourselves of the proffered excursions. While of reasonable value, the variety lacked range. Port choice was limited by our destination and the size of the Serenity. Hilo was our favorite. Reading other reviews of the Serenity and its cruises, it seems to us that what we found is typical of the experience. While our expectations remained unmet, the cruise still lingers in a rosy glow in our memory. We cruise primarily by destination, not cruise line, so we may sail on Crystal again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
We recently returned from Crystal Cruises Serenity Vancouver BC to San Francisco cruise from 5/22 till 5/28. We took this cruise because we wanted a short break. We hoped to go in early June, but could not find a cruise that met our ... Read More
We recently returned from Crystal Cruises Serenity Vancouver BC to San Francisco cruise from 5/22 till 5/28. We took this cruise because we wanted a short break. We hoped to go in early June, but could not find a cruise that met our requirements: Less than a week and easy access to and from the ship. Convenient flights were available on both ends of the cruise and we have been to all the ports, so we planned not to get off the ship until the end of the cruise. We just wanted to be idle, comfortable, and extremely well fed and wined. Unfortunately, idle was the only thing that lived up to our expectations. We were very disappointed in the food. Veal chop and lobster were the only good dinners. I had veal scallopini which I sent back and the replacement was just as dry, but it was hotter than my original serving. Two nights I ordered different cuts of Angus steaks and both were overcooked and very dry. The fish was very fishy and/or dry. Breakfast on Lido deck was quite good. We had lunches in the main dining room and on Lido. They were okay, but not as good as we expected. The wines included in the cruise price seemed to vary depending on where we ordered them. We tried chardonnay twice and did not like either one. So we changed to Sauvignon Blanc that was sometimes very good and sometimes only so-so. The one Cabernet we had was good and the Pinot Noir was another iffy wine. Our cabin was the smallest we’ve ever had on a cruise and it was called deluxe! I did like the buttons for door access ‘do not disturb’, ‘clean up’ and ‘ring’. The organization of the cruise and dissemination of information were poor. I was told the only choice for the main dining room was early or late seating and there were no tables for two. When we received our cruise documents, I learned that the ship offered ‘dinner by reservation’. But by then, I could not get that choice. And when we went to the dining room the first night, we discovered there were many tables for two. The first information I got about transfers on embarkation was that, for no cost, we would be taken to a hotel near the port where a ballroom was reserved for the afternoon because we could not board the ship until 6pm. Then I was called and told that this plan was only for people who booked directly with Crystal. So, I called our travel agent, who contacted Crystal and was told the room was for all passengers, but we would have to pay for the transfer. We were finally on board about 7:30pm. For disembarkation, Crystal’s original schedule was that its transfers to the airport would only be available for flights departing after noon. Our flight was at 11:55am, so I arranged a private transfer. Then 2 days or so before disembarkation, we were notified that we could use the Crystal transfer, first bus would leave about 8:20am, and because of the embarkation confusion, Crystal was giving us a shipboard credit that we could use for the transfer. Fortunately, I was able to cancel the private transfer. I like detailed plans (with no surprises), so the multiple changes and conflicting information were annoying. The weather was good and the sea calm so cruising was pleasant, and the staff was courteous and helpful, but the overall experience was dominated by the unsatisfactory food & wine service, so that this was the least pleasant of some 16 cruises plus 3 river cruises. This was the first time we reserved a cruise so late that we got the "fill the ship" price. But it was still a bit much for our experience. This was our first and most likely will be our only Crystal cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
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
Sail Date December 2015
Background - have previously cruised the inside passage in Alaska with Holland America, Caribbean islands with Princess, Crystal was equivalent but a smaller ship (for better and worse) The food and service were excellent. Especially ... Read More
Background - have previously cruised the inside passage in Alaska with Holland America, Caribbean islands with Princess, Crystal was equivalent but a smaller ship (for better and worse) The food and service were excellent. Especially Verner Petrovic as our waiter in the main dining room. Prego and Silk Road specialty restaurants were very nice. Lido buffet and Trident grill excellent Free liquor is a mixed blessing, one tends to overdo and not be as energetic for the excursions. One show (Billy joel imitator) was excellent, rest were adequate. Uncrowded but dead nightlife, glad I wasn't a single. Older crowd 7th deck room with a view but no veranda was nice and equivalent to previous experiences, Crystal overall organizational skills were OK except the interface with excursions and when something went wrong Unfortunately we got hit by pickpockets in Barcelona, the 5th floor office staff were generally of no help and actually gave us misinformation while acting like she knew what she talking about. Then Thursday or so the final bill from Crystal was to be settled, all the sudden we could make free international collect calls from their desk instead going onshore to the police stations, or aural facetiming on iphone using wifi to relatives in states. DEFINITELY NOT a luxury touch when stressed, and when WiFi is 55 euro/120 minutes with spotty SLOW reception even when docked. AND NO ATM on board. Also they didn't email us in advance what pier to arrive at in Barcelona, there's 6 km of piers for the taxi in traffic to navigate BCN 3 days, lots to see, PICKPOCKETS, beaches a subway ride, Crystal's Gaudi tour was excellent Ibiza interesting for 1 day, snorkeling excursion for 4 hrs was only 45 minutes in the water each for >150 euro each, some fish and grasses, warm salty water, bring your own mask Cartagena interesting for 1 day, excursion was OK Gibraltar interesting for 1 day, the park is huge and hilly - take a taxi Casablanca interesting for 1 day, I wont go back, tour guide not what he seemed to be, flim-flam attempts were laughable Algarve Tivoli hotel in Carvoeiro or all of Lagos was very nice, finally a good excursion guide, I might go back if I wanted a beach vacation almost rivaling Cinque Terra in Italy, LIS 3 days, enough sights for 3 days no days at sea so we did excursions rather than dance or art etc on board, gym was ok If the itinerary fits I'd do Crystal again, but prefer Holland America and Princess Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
While the ship is very beautiful, having taken various cruise on the Symphony, the Serenty specifically with regard to the main dining room cuisine was rather poor. Most of the dishes lacked taste, and on one evening in particulate when ... Read More
While the ship is very beautiful, having taken various cruise on the Symphony, the Serenty specifically with regard to the main dining room cuisine was rather poor. Most of the dishes lacked taste, and on one evening in particulate when lobster was served, the lobster meat was limp, soggy and had no taste whatsoever. What also bothered me about the main dining room was the lack of attention paid to a specific request to prepare my food according to certain dietary restrictions . At the very least the waiter who was aware of my needs did not consistently check the food before serving it to me.These requests were made well in advance of the sailing. I had also made my concerns known to the restaurant head manager who also did not do proper follow up, and I got the distinct impression that he did not care. Service In the Lido cafe was not always up to par, with some tables conversing at length with a waiter thereby neglecting other tables which required service. In general I am disappointed with Crystal. It needs to re earn its former reputation from my point of view. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
This cruise was our second crystal cruise. Last year we sailed from Venice to Rome and had an amazing time! The shore excursions were top notch and the service was amazing. The ship was quiet and there was a wonderful lack of children. We ... Read More
This cruise was our second crystal cruise. Last year we sailed from Venice to Rome and had an amazing time! The shore excursions were top notch and the service was amazing. The ship was quiet and there was a wonderful lack of children. We raved about Crystal for a year to everyone that would listen. We couldn't wait to get back on board. This trip, from Lisbon to Barcelona, was our honeymoon. It was a terrible experience, crowded with children and it did not justify the high costs. Because of the immense frustration level felt almost on a daily basis, we will not be going back onboard any time soon with Crystal. Dining--- First of all, we had requested a nice table for 2 by the windows ( which we were able to get) at the late dining time for romantic evenings. To my shock, we were next to 2 large tables, both of which had children ( one of which was in a highchair playing with an electronic game that dinged and played repetitive music the entire time.). The waiters, while extremely friendly and polite, just were overwhelmed with the large parties and our service lacked. Food mediocre. We attempted to eat in the main dining room one other night but due to the noise from the surrounding tables we left before ordering and headed up to Prego. One of the large groups were dancers and actors from one of the shows. They were very boisterous oblivious to the disturbance they were causing. We never bothered to go back to the main dining room, instead, we ate the rest of our meals at the speciality restaurants or room service. What a shame. Two of the nights we went to Nobu. Food is amazing and one of the reasons we went back. (After our cruise last year we have flown to Dallas twice just to eat at the Nobu restaurant there). Service on board this year was okay, but not 5 stars. Again, I was shocked to see small children in the highchairs during our late night dining. Food at Prego was really good, but service was so-so. One of the nights we were seated by a noisy service station and endured quite colorful conversations. It lacked an attention to detail, as we often had to continually ask for things. We headed up to Tastes one evening and our experience was so awful that it was THE tipping point for us in realizing Crystal service had dropped to sub par. We were ignored while waiting to be seated, treated rudely, and had to ask continually for obvious things such as refills to napkins. No one was removing our empty glasses so we made a game of stacking them on the ledge next to us in order to get them off of the small table. Our "waitress" spent almost the entire time talking to the table next to us with her back turned. When we showed displeasure at the lack of service she became defensive and blamed it on another girl, saying that refills and removing dishes were "not her department." When she tried to offer dessert we politely said that we were finished and stood up to leave, she followed us out and continued to argue with us that she, being our waitress was not responsible for service standards. It was really shameful and even worse because the manager or head waiter was standing right there watching the entire thing. I say that it is all a shame because the food we did have was really really good! Our last night on board we waited until late and ate at the Sushi bar in Nobu. It was an amazing experience. The Sushi chefs were entertaining and spoiled us rotten the entire time we were there. The bistro cafe was one of our favorite places. We spent a lot of time in there. Cheeses and pastries were decadent. You could piano trickling up from Crystal Cove below which just added to the relaxation. Activities---- Shore Excursions were top notch on our last sailing, but this time very disorganized and overcrowded. They varied in quality wildly. Kids. Kids. Kids. I wish that we had arranged excursions on our own as it would have made such a difference in our experience of these remarkable cities. Spa- tried to book the couples massage, but the room was unavailable. My husband and I chose to have separate massages at the same time. Very relaxing and pleasant experience from check-in to massage. We loved our massages. However, I was displeased when at the end of my massage and about to get dressed, she presented with a slip to sign if I wanted to give her an extra tip (on top of the automatic gratuity amount) and a sales pitch to buy anti-cellulite products. Sorry, but no. Cabin We booked a verandah cabin 9009. Very comfortable bed and cozy room. Roomy bathroom with double sinks and a generous sized shower tub combo. Plenty of space to spread out and relax. I usually love to keep my door open to listen to the water, but not able to do so as my neighbor had their tv on quite loud and it would drift into our cabin. This also made breakfast on the verandah sometimes difficult as I was forced to listen to their tv if I wanted to sit outside. The housekeeper was very nice. Friendly and always smiling. The Aveda products are not replenished throughout the trip. We never had a fresh fruit bowl despite asking on the first day. The sodas and waters in the minibar were never restocked unless we called room service and asked for it to be done. Room service- top notch service. No matter what time I picked up that phone and asked for something, and no matter what I asked for, it was always delivered quickly and with a friendly smiling face. Bernie was our steward most of the time and he's truly dedicated and hard working. I cannot say enough about these hard working crew members. Of all the extra gratuities we paid at the end of the cruise, a large majority went to the room service crew. My morning breakfast was always delivered punctually and made the start of the day wonderful. With such awful service elsewhere on the ship you can really see the Crystal standards upheld by them. I give room service a standing ovation. This brings me to another point. The front desk customer service. One day after coming back from 6 hours of hell on a shore excursion, I attempted to take an afternoon nap. A horrible banging sound started up and continued to escalate. It was metal upon metal. When a second hammer joined in, I called the front desk. The guy who answered the phone said that he would "look in to it." After 20 minutes and there was no abatement to the noise I called again. A female answered the phone and said that she would look into it. Another 20 minutes and the racket is intolerable. I get dressed and go downstairs to the promenade deck and notice immediately the workers on ladders banging metal hammers on the metal ship beneath our cabin. I proceed to the front desk where I told them exactly what was causing the noise. Finally, over an hour after it started the noise was stopped. Why could these things not be done while guests are off the boat for the majority of the day? There was no apology or concern over my visible displeasure. My husband, who does not have the same exacting standards that I do, was quite disappointed overall. He would be more open to going back on Crystal at some point ( for Nobu), however we will be definitely be sailing on alternative luxury cruise lines first. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
We believed the PR about Crystal's ultra luxury image, and were expecting to be wowed. Well, whilst overall we enjoyed our cruise, we were somewhat underwhelmed. We were surprised at how dull and dated many areas of the ship were ... Read More
We believed the PR about Crystal's ultra luxury image, and were expecting to be wowed. Well, whilst overall we enjoyed our cruise, we were somewhat underwhelmed. We were surprised at how dull and dated many areas of the ship were (we struggled to identify what the much heralded refit had done - not having seen the ship before), and had a real issue with the antiquated and permissive smoking policies operated on this ship, which meant we were often unable to find a location for a drink or indeed a sunbed that was not smoke affected. The small amount of sun we did experience on deck always seemed to be in the smoking area! And the nicest bars /lounges were smallish areas which did not enable satisfactory separation of smokers and non-smokers. Perhaps we have been spoilt by recent cruises on newer smarter ships (notably Riviera) - but investment appeared lacking to maintain what we were expecting to be a top end premium product. Christmas decorations were overpowering and tacky beyond belief. Not all bad news though. Food, and the evening dining experience was mostly very good - and very good indeed in Prego. Staff were mostly lovely and service very good. Caberet style entertainment was enjoyable. The pool deck was comfy, apart from the smoking issues. The room was comfy, although the bed could have been better. All inclusive worked well for us too, and offered some super cocktails. Think the competition is overtaking this somewhat dated product. Needs some serious investment in the fabric of the ship, and some proper interior design - and most importantly a smoking policy appropriate to the 21st century. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
Having been on both five and six star lines, I have a pretty good idea of how a star rating should translate into the level of food, service, and accommodations on a ship. Despite my best efforts to truly appreciate Crystal, a few aspects ... Read More
Having been on both five and six star lines, I have a pretty good idea of how a star rating should translate into the level of food, service, and accommodations on a ship. Despite my best efforts to truly appreciate Crystal, a few aspects of the above criteria were disappointing. We (my wife and I) took this twelve day cruise in the Med mostly because of the great itinerary, which included half of every city in Europe we had ever hoped to see, and because the other lines rarely offer a Venice to Barcelona itinerary. Initially we were very impressed, both by the staterooms, which are about 20% larger than what we're used to, and the friendliness of he staff, who try to get to know you rather than just saying "hello" as you pass by. In these two points, Crystal is great. The food, while very good, was actually no better than Royal Caribbean, despite the fact that Crystal costs about three times as much as Royal. Yes, Crystal is all inclusive (other than excursions, more on that in a moment,) which justifiably accounts for about a 25% bump in the cost of a cruise, but at the end of your meal, you won't put down your fork and think, "Wow, that really was worth three times more." Which brings us to shore excursions. If you've ever been appalled by the 200% mark-up on most cruise lines' excursions, but bit the bullet anyway because you wanted to make sure the cruise ship would wait for you, you haven't seen "nuthin" yet. The best I could figure, Crystal's mark up is probably in the neighborhood of 350%, and even that may be conservative. For this reason alone, if you're trying to decide between six star lines, go with Regent Seven Seas, which, for about the same price or a few dollars more, includes all excursions as well. If you're interested in the best value for your money, period, go with Royal Caribbean (or sister line Celebrity). Would I sail with Crystal again? Yes, but only if they follow Regent's lead and include excursions. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
We anticipated our Crystal Serenity cruise for many months if not years before finally having the time and affordability of a Mediterranean Cruise. My husband and I and a single friend began our journey in the States and flew to Rome via ... Read More
We anticipated our Crystal Serenity cruise for many months if not years before finally having the time and affordability of a Mediterranean Cruise. My husband and I and a single friend began our journey in the States and flew to Rome via London on British Airways (fabulous airlines). We stayed for 2 days prior to cruising at the St. Regis, Rome. Our stay could not have been any better! The service and the accommodations were excellent as was the location. We boarded the Serenity at Civitavecchia. No smile greeted us as we arrived at 4:00pm and not much help with bags, etc. First of many disappointments along the journey. We entered the ship and were immediately whisked away to our accommodations; my husband and I stayed in Suite 11040; Penthouse Suite and our friend was a few doors down opting to pay the single supplement for a Penthouse Suite as well. Our room was on the small side compared to other ships we have sailed on but very well appointed. There was more than adequate space for clothing, etc. The bathroom was beautiful and the bathtub was an added bonus. The new furnishings were beautiful and the veranda chairs were very comfortable. We met our two stewardesses; two very young girls who were quite efficient at keeping our rooms well cleaned during the 7 days. Our butler never showed up to greet us until many hours later. He was running (most every time we saw him)and hurriedly told us if we needed ANYTHING he could get it for us. The first of many untruths for our experience. We asked for appetizers to be delivered and he did so without haste; so much so that the dining table along with the living room table was full to overflowing! We thought this was indicative of the manner to which we would be accustomed on our cruise. Sadly, this was not so. We had trouble getting back dry cleaned items from Sami's (our butler) closet. We ordered appetizers on several more occasions only to be told that they "were out of" that particular item. We asked for waters to be delivered one evening so we could pack them for our excursion the next morning and they never showed up. When we asked where they were Sami said they were waiting for their delivery of water and he only had 4 bottles he could give us because someone else wanted water also. Not exactly the kind of treatment we had expected on Crystal. Another area where we had trouble was with the front desk. We had trouble with my name on the entire cruise. I was known as Mary Beth (my name is Nina) the entire trip; this was my friend's name. The computer somehow made an error in my information being confused with our friend's and everything I received came in my friend's name. I could not correct this even after speaking to the front desk 3 times.Even our waiter in Prego tried to help us out. They also did not cancel a tour we had originally booked and left the amount on our final bill; another hour and a half of speaking to the front desk and proving that we had cancelled it before the cruise even began. We also had to request that the Share The Experience Credits be appropriately added to our cabin and also had to prove with an email that we had signed up for this. We were late to our formal night dinner because of the time it took to finally fix all the problems. Our meals were all stupendous; a great relief after the disappointing butler experience! The main dining room served exquisite meals meticulously presented by our servers. The wine steward was a delight to work with; he knew exactly which wines we would like with each course of our meal. We could not have been more excited about our meals. The specialty restaurants, Prego and Silk Road were the most decadent meals we have ever had. The Black Cod signature dish of Nobu is not to be missed as well as the mushroom soup in Prego and the Limoncello souffle. All meals were beyond our expectations. While eating up in the Lido deck buffet style the food was once again elevated to a level well above any other cruise line we had experienced. What was not elevated was the service once again. We could not find anyone to serve us and we were not allowed to serve ourselves in a portion of the buffet. When we finally asked a head waiter why we would have so much trouble he let loose with his complaints that the cruise line added more 7 day cruises along with the "all inclusive" nature and the crew was just too overloaded to keep up with everyone. He told us that the crew was not happy with the all inclusive decision. He was not the only one who told us this during our cruise. The excursions we took were just amazing; the tour guides were completely knowledgeable and the vehicles were clean and new. The Taormina Wine Tasting Tour was incredible; it was over 100degrees that day and they kept us comfortable in the bus as well as at the winery; tasting appetizers of bruschetta and local cheeses and sampling wines from the winery under a beautiful canopy of trees. We even bought a bottle to take home with us. Our only other tour we reserved was on Dubrovnik; we took the Olive Mill and Noble House tour. What a completely wonderful time we had. We were treated to personally grown tomatoes and cheeses and sampled olive oil made by a gentleman and his family; his family owned the land for generations. The second part of the tour took us to a house owned by a Noble family from Dubrovnik. A beautiful 2 story house made of rock overlooking the beautiful waters of the bay. We became immersed in the two diverse ends of cultures in Croatia. We came away from that tour with a full heart. We must say we made some very nice friends on board despite all of our negative experiences (did I forget to mention my luggage was not delivered until 10:00pm that night because it was held up in security - I attended dinner in my crop pants and flip flops!Quite embarrassing) including the Assistant Cruise Director whom we had dinner with one evening. When I told him how I always eat the same thing every morning; shredded wheat with yogurt and blueberries and was not able to get them on the ship; he so very kindly sent them up to my room that next morning. Our last port Venice was an exciting experience like no other. What a fantastic time we had in this port. However, once again, Crystal was not on the ball when it came to our transportation. We had to wait over an hour at the designated place for our next water shuttle to arrive. We were told that there would be shuttles every 1/2 hour but there was something wrong and we had to wait over an hour in the 103 degree weather. We were quite worried for the elderly people waiting along with us. The gals holding up the signs for Crystal were quite flustered as well. As much as we disliked embarkation our disembarkation went quite smoothly with Crystal. They took us from our meeting space on the ship without much waiting at all and delivered us to a hotel not 5 minutes from the airport. We had refreshments waiting for us and of course had lovely bathrooms to use as well. When it was time for us to head to the airport we boarded the same bus and all went smoothly. My summation for this cruise; we did not receive what Crystal promises, a care-free receive anything you request cruise because of the nature of 7 day cruises as well as the feelings of employees regarding the all inclusive decision. We will not try Crystal Cruises again even though a dear friend is the Cruise Director on the Symphony. We will stay with Holland America or possibly try Silversea or Seabourn next time. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
Overall it was an okay cruise. I don't know if it was the region of the cruise (the Baltic) or what, but the crowd was dead. We were at the late seating for dinner and there was no one in the bar before dinner. I'm not ... Read More
Overall it was an okay cruise. I don't know if it was the region of the cruise (the Baltic) or what, but the crowd was dead. We were at the late seating for dinner and there was no one in the bar before dinner. I'm not exaggerating....NO ONE. I don't know if these 800 passengers had all given up drinking or if they are all cheap because you have to pay for drinks. Regardless, it made for a boring cruise. The food is good, but I detest the cafeteria style breakfast restaurant. No one to take your tray and find you a table. Not enough tables, either. I would go to the dining room, if I were to go on Crystal again. I found the times of the dinner seatings were too early or too late. Although for an introduction to President Jackson, you could eat in the alternate dining rooms as often as you like. I think the staterooms are small. The Penthouse with Veranda is efficient, but crowded. The butler is great, but a stewardess or room service do the same thing on Silversea or Seabourn. I love the view from the gym, but found the equipment lacking. Spin bikes, please...not those old fashioned recumbent bikes. I found the shore tours to be just okay. We did better on our own, sometimes hiring a private car and guide with another couple. This was my third and probably last Crystal Cruise. I've done five or six Silversea before this last Crystal and they don't compare. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
This was our second cruise with Crystal. Having ended our cruise on the Symphony last summer in Stockholm and wanting to go back to Stockholm, we decided to try the Serenity out of Stockholm this summer. We booked our own air and stayed at ... Read More
This was our second cruise with Crystal. Having ended our cruise on the Symphony last summer in Stockholm and wanting to go back to Stockholm, we decided to try the Serenity out of Stockholm this summer. We booked our own air and stayed at the Hilton. Embarkation was extremely quick and easy and we were led directly to our rooms, by a pleasant woman who worked in the Spa, but did not really know her away around the ship too well. Our cabins were on Deck 10 - a PH with a connecting AA for our children (ages 11 & 13), who had also sailed with us last summer. The PH was extremely comfortable for two people and very efficiently laid out - much better than the standard cabins which we had last year and found rather tight. While Crystal provides you with much larger than average bathrooms, you lose the space in the cabin and we found the placement of the closet very inconvenient and difficult to maneuver. So, it was very nice to have a PH on this trip along with a wonderful stateroom attendant and a decent butler, even though we did not really need the extra butler services. While this cruise was okay, we found it disappointing compared to what we had experienced last year with Crystal and had been expecting based on that experience. Several times we asked ourselves if it was really the same cruise line - that's how different the two experiences were. The Scandinavian ports were repeats for us, but pleasant to go back to. We then went on to Edinburgh, where we did a ship sponsored excursion that was not bad, but fairly mediocre. While the Excursion staff was cordial enough, we found them sorely lacking in any real knowledge of the ports we were visiting. They rarely knew anything beyond the same printed information which we were provided with and could offer no additional insight into the ports or the excursions. Our tour in Amsterdam was very well done and we had a nice day in Antwerp before finally ending our cruise in Dover, where disembarkation was very easy. We had a good ride/tour up to London before ending at our hotel, which we had booked independently. We did not particularly like the decor of the Serenity. The Avenue Saloon was nice, but most of the other public rooms felt fairly cold and sterile. There was often a smell of cleaning fluids, which when combined with Serenity's heavy use of florescent lighting, many times made me feel like I was in a hospital. The Promenade deck is probably the nicest we have seen at sea - great for running and walking. The deck stewards on the Lido Deck were exceptional and right away got to know us and were very attentive throughout the cruise. Through the rest of the ship, however, we never felt quite welcome. One of Crystal's strong points, is definitely their food. But, we found the staff in the dining room just barely efficient. They took our orders and delivered our food and that was it. Forget if you ever needed anything once they served you. Whether on a cruise or in a restaurant, it's pretty standard that they come back in a few minutes to make sure everything is okay - that never happened. On every cruise we have taken, one of the waiters has always pointed out if the next day's "routine" was going to be different - we were never advised of any changes, even though there were two additional open seating nights with different times. And it's a very noisy, cramped feeling dining room. Even though the food may be good, the atmosphere just does not lend itself to a "fine dining" experience. We also missed the fact that there is no casual alternative dining option at night, other than room service. Most other lines have something you can do in the evening, if you don't feel like eating in a dining room. Especially on a long port-intensive cruise, it's nice to have the option of not having to rush to get to dinner or sit through a long drawn out dinner if you are tired. Crystal's entertainment is pretty dated. The comedian and pianist were talented and enjoyable to watch, but the production numbers really show their age. There was also much less of the enrichment and other types of entertainment on this cruise than last year's. The destination lecturer on this cruise was an Art History professor who spoke well on Germany and the Scandinavian ports on our first sea day, an interesting presentation on Edinburgh the second sea day, and we assumed that on the third day he would be speaking about Amsterdam and Belgium, esp. timely in this year of Rembrandt's birthday celebrations and all the art in Belgium. Well, they cut him on the third day saying there was not enough time, when they scheduled a doctor for the third time speaking about various skin conditions. He may be good and interesting for some people, but I'd like to think that on a cruise like this more people would have been interested in the ports we were visiting. Finally, many of the passengers on this cruise were not especially nice. While I have no problems with people who like to keep to themselves, this was an older crowd who seemed to have a sense of entitlement that no one should get in their way. We were constantly cut off in lines, people refusing to move in elevators, etc. They'd even slowly walk in front of the photographer during formal pictures without a care in the world - and this happened many times by many, many people. This must be Crystal's mainstay because even in the face of this kind of rudeness, the crew and staff seemed to cater to these people which left the others of us wondering what we were doing there. Frankly, we left this cruise feeling like the company could care less if we ever returned. Overall, we did not have a bad trip. But, having cruised several other cruise lines, after this experience, I cannot say that Crystal is worth the extra $$s it charges over the other lines. It is really not a true luxury line. I like the hotel comparisons I see on these boards so often, and we stay at many Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton's and the Crystal experience does not come anywhere near that. It's "nice" and "pleasant enough" but if you can afford a nice cabin/suite on another mass market line, you can do much better for your money. While the food may be better, it's not worth that much more. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006

Top Crystal Serenity Itineraries

Crystal Serenity Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 5.0 4.4
Entertainment 5.0 4.1
Public Rooms 5.0 4.6
Fitness Recreation 5.0 4.3
Family 4.0 4.3
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 5.0 4.2
Service 4.5 4.6
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 5.0 4.1

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