HIGH EXPECTATIONS MET AGAIN
It was going to be my 70th birthday as Crystal Serenity cruised up the Mississippi River to New Orleans. That seemed like the perfect combination, and it didn’t disappoint. We have taken 30 cruises, 12 on ... Read More
HIGH EXPECTATIONS MET AGAIN
It was going to be my 70th birthday as Crystal Serenity cruised up the Mississippi River to New Orleans. That seemed like the perfect combination, and it didn’t disappoint. We have taken 30 cruises, 12 on Celebrity, and the rest on eight other lines (two defunct). This was our third Crystal cruise, second on Serenity.
From embarkation to the minute we stepped off the ship, things ran so smoothly. Every place I looked, there was plenty of crew and staff, all cordial, all expert at their jobs. The crew and staff are appropriately professional and just friendly enough, as well as extremely well trained. It’s a well-oiled machine, almost always. I’m talking about the servers in all the dining venues, the staff at the computer lounge (no doubt answering the same questions, over and over and over again), the stewardess, the tender operators. Everybody!
We usually eat breakfast and lunch at the Lido, and the variety is huge. Just as an example, there are at least four kinds of yogurt every morning, sometimes five or six. There are two hot cereals, a bouquet of cold in those little boxes, and then muesli and a few granola types. You like walnuts or pecans in your cereal, or dried fruit? Sure, there it is. Cut up fresh fruit continued to be available and delicious the entire 14 days. The gentlemen who make the eggs definitely know their job. My friend loves to have miso soup for breakfast. There it is, at its own station with all kinds of other things. Even the toast guy has his job mastered perfectly.
That’s also true of the guys at Trident Grill, which really is a wonderful lunch option. Burgers, hot dogs, salmon burger, chicken burger, wrap of the day and soup! Oh, speaking of soup. In the Lido, there are always two kinds and served with the soup in the pot and the additions, separate, added per your request. The mushroom barley soup had the barley to be added separately, beautiful and tasty mushrooms to be added separately, and chopped chives. The albondigas soup had the little meatballs to be added separately and I can’t remember what else – perhaps cilantro? The matza ball soup had the broth separately, with the matza balls, the noodles and the shredded chicken all to be added separately. And that’s just the soup! So many other choices: always something being carved, always an Asian choice, always several other choices, always a sandwich of the day. On the cold bar, that’s where you’ll find herring (sometimes two kinds) and rare roast beef and all sorts of other goodies. And fruit, and cheese, and a big salad bar. Seriously, there really is pretty much everything. Oh, dessert? Sure, and again many choices plus many are mini desserts, to make it even easier.
Dinners in the Crystal Dining Room were equally as pleasing. There are plenty of choices. Most nights there were two appetizers/soups/salads we wanted. One night our table mate had three! as well as her main entrée! I had the trifle dessert almost every night and they never disappointed. The Prego Italian specialty restaurant was better than last time (this time service was better and food was better) and the Silk Road Japanese specialty restaurant was definitely outstanding. Those are more intimate venues and specialized menus; every guest can have two complimentary specialty dinners/week. Unfortunately, you’ll always be missing a lovely menu in the Crystal Dining Room, to enjoy the specialties.
From 9 am to midnight, there’s a snack buffet at the Bistro, where you can also get coffee drinks, and many tea options, plus wine. Cheese, fruit, deli items, desserts, and they’re all there in a lovely location with large windows to watch the waves or check out where you’re docked or anchored. Every day there’s afternoon tea, in Palm Court, which is high up and far forward, again with great windows to see what’s going on outside. There are a few telescopes, in case something interesting appears and you’d like a closer look. Ice cream is available until 6 pm (and then you can have ice cream for dessert at dinner, as well). It’s Ben & Jerry’s, hand dipped, about eight different flavors. Toppings, cookies, have a blast. You’re on vacation!
Cabins are totally adequate and quite lovely. The bathrooms all have bathtubs and two sinks, with a good thing to hold onto, for stepping in and out. I know handicapped cabins exist, but I can’t report on them. Actually, there’s also something called a Pure cabin, for people who have allergies, I think. Basic veranda cabins are just like the picture window ones, but with a veranda, and then there are more expensive categories with much more space. On one of the at-sea days, there was one of each category open for inspection. The higher categories have walk-in closets.
A few little touches that are really nice are the Port/Starboard annotations outside the elevators, so it’s easy to go in the right direction; the guest laundries, complimentary, with ironing boards for guest use; plus a lovely library, staffed for many hours every day and the place to pick up the daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, trivia questions and other puzzle choices, in addition to the tickets to a really enjoyable magic show for small groups of guests. Get your tickets early so you won’t be shut out!
Entertainment (Galaxy Lounge) is almost always very enjoyable, and there’s a nice variety. Two different singers were extremely well received, and the production numbers are high energy and beautifully done. We had a famous organist, Hector Olivera, with his very special organ that stays on Serenity all year round for his performances. On our 14-day cruise, he performed on two different evenings (two shows per evening), with two completely different shows. Besides the main show, there’s often an additional show at 10:30, in a different venue (Stardust). A few times it was by the production team, and a few by guest entertainers. One guest entertainer needed to be rescued by Cruise Director, Gary Hunter, the ultimate professional host (and a great comedian and ventriloquist). Around the ship, there’s music for your listening pleasure and also for dancing. Palm Court, Crystal Cove and Avenue Saloon generally are all available – at the same time! – with popular tunes, classical music and show music. Crystal offers Dance Ambassadors to dance with the single guests, as well as a dance team to give complimentary dance lessons (no partner required). You want music before dinner? Sure. After dinner? Absolutely. Plenty of choices and all beautifully done. There are even three different times to see a movie in the Hollywood Theatre (or a sporting event on t.v. – or even election results, if the timing is right for you).
In addition to the food, service and entertainment, how would you like to enjoy some enrichment on board? You can go to classes on computer skills (we learned about photo-shop, about Windows 10, about using Word, and about Excel), learn to knit, learn to play bridge (or play better), play in a sanctioned bridge game, take pilates or stretching or a cycle class. You can learn how to make iMovies. And the enrichment speakers just might boggle your mind. We enjoyed learning about the history of ocean liners from Bill Miller; we know perhaps more than we’d like, about terrorism, from Prof. Louis Rene Beres; and we were delighted by a trip down memory lane with two of the writers from Cheers, complete with clips of some of their favorite/best shows. I would go to all four of Cheri Steinkellner’s lectures, all over again. Actually, the same is true of Bill Miller and Prof. Beres, as well. If there’s a conflict, and you’d like to be taking dance lessons or out on deck 13 watching the Mississippi Delta or Puget Sound glide by, watch the lecture later on your t.v. Heck, if you don’t feel like getting dressed, watch the lecture, live, on your t.v.! Does Crystal try to cater to your every need, or what? Anyway, that’s my impression.
Just for good measure, throw in the fact that embarkation was a cinch and debarkation was equally as smooth. Everything was amazingly on time, from the start of boarding, to all the shows on board, to arrival at various ports, to the time we got off the ship on the final day. It was a great cruise and I recommend Crystal to anybody who loves a refined experience full of food and fun.
When you look at fares, remember that alcoholic beverages as well as specialty coffees, bottled water and canned soft drinks, plus gratuities to crew, are included. The level of the experience and the inclusions allow me to say this is a cruise vacation that is good value for my money. Read Less