This is long so get ready......
Just experienced our first Crystal cruise and will begin by saying we have been crystalized! We were celebrating my husband's 50th birthday and our travel agent recommended a few Alaskan cruises for ... Read More
This is long so get ready......
Just experienced our first Crystal cruise and will begin by saying we have been crystalized! We were celebrating my husband's 50th birthday and our travel agent recommended a few Alaskan cruises for us to take and told us that Crystal was ranked #1 for some years and was well known for their customer service and cuisine. We were traveling with multiple families and children with ages ranging from 7-75 years old. Our older travelers who had been on luxury cruise lines before including Seabourne, Silver Seas and Regent were wanting a smaller cruise ship due to their past experience. I did A LOT of research on the various cruise lines we could take (luxury and non). After MUCH research and suggestions from our travel agent, we chose Crystal and everyone was SO HAPPY we did. We took advantage of their Crystal Family Memories Program. When looking at luxury cruises while traveling with children this option was a great value! We all liked the all inclusive and gratuities included too.
We did a short trip to Banff before our trip so we flew in the morning of embarkment from Calgary and took a cab straight to the boat around 12:30. When we drove into the parking garage, we were immediately met by a crystal rep and baggage handler who gave us a big greeting, quickly took all our luggage, loaded them up and said "enjoy your cruise, your luggage will be in your room shortly". We then needed to go through customs before boarding. There was a short line for customs, but since we are global entry we were directed straight to a customs desk, stamp stamp and within 5 minutes we were boarding the ship. My sister in law said when she boarded the ship later that day that there wasn't a line whatsoever and went through just as quickly.
As we boarded the Serenity on Deck 6 my teenagers immediately said "Wow, this is soooo cool" Check in and pictures on Deck 5 took a max of 5 minutes while being offered champagne and then we were off to the Lido deck for an embarkment lunch. They told us that our room would be ready by 3:00. We ate at Tastes and had the Chinoise Chicken Salad (literally the same as Wolf Gang Puck's salad - delicious), burgers and spaghetti bolognese. The waiters continuously making sure all glasses were full and that we were satisfied with our welcome meal. We took our drinks and proceeded to look around the boat from the pool, spa, kids room, everywhere. No space was unaccessible and there was someone to ask us if we had any questions regarding the boat at every turn.
CABIN and ATTENDANTS
One of the biggest perks we had was made possible by our travel agent, Stephanie. Two weeks before our embarkment, she informed me that we all were upgraded to Penthouses with Verandas. We originally booked A1 rooms. This bump was a HUGE luxury and it would have not happened had we not booked through Stephanie and she arranging it for all of us. I think it is due to her relationship with Crystal. It was very much the cherry on top of a wonderful trip! One of the negative comments I came across when reading about Crystal was the room size in comparison to other luxury lines. The room IS small in comparison, but the set up is well laid out and the decor is very modern and clean lined. The bathroom with bath and separate shower was large and my daughter enjoyed her daily bubble jacuzzi baths. The walk in closet was perfect for the three of us (our room was a third berth room). The room is high tech with lighting, housekeeping & do not disturb. It is smaller than other luxuries, but very efficient with it's space. We did move the small coffee table often for more walk space with three people in the room, but who hangs out in their room with such a beautiful ship and great verandah!
Our butler, Jijo, immediately introduced himself and asked if there was anything we needed. A complimentary bottle of champagne and two bottles of wine were there when we arrived with chocolates. We asked him for Crown Royal, another bottle of Cabernet, club soda, limes and Coke Zero to start. We never had to ask again. We were well stocked the entire trip. They also have fresh fruit everyday in the room. Jijo noticed that all we ate were the grapes. A few days into the cruise we would return with an entire bowl of grapes. Jijo had been with the cruise line for 10 years and his professionalism was evident. When we spoke to him about his career with Crystal he said that one of Crystal's missions is that happy employees make happy customers which make a happy ship. Jijo is a true gem to the Serenity. Our housekeepers were Sandra and Kaylie. They gave us a tour of the room, numbers to call and informed us that they changed the sheets daily and set up the third berth every night. They asked if we wanted help unpacking but we declined. Every day our room was spotless and with a teenage girl in our room that is a major accomplishment. They were amazing. We used the free pressing service (penthouse benefit) once for black tie night - perfect. I used the self service laundry down the hall on our deck and it was straight forward and easy. It was nice to clean the clothes from our pre-cruise excursion.
One of the main reasons we chose Crystal was because of it's reputation for it's food. After reading reviews this was probably the #1 reason we booked so I felt a lot of pressure for the others traveling with us that this was the right decision. Crystal did not disappoint even our most seasoned cruisers.
We chose Dining by Reservation and selected our preferred times for dinner through the PCPC system. I chose earlier times like 7, 7:30 because we were traveling with a 7 year old and because of the entertainment schedules. Since Alaska does not have sunset until 10:30pm, I wish I would have chosen the late dining and seen the earlier shows. We did not have lunch until late everyday while on the boat and we had canapés served in our room every day around 5 (another penthouse perk - crab claws, lobster and boiled shrimp) so a late dinner would have been preferable. One of the perks we had being upgraded to a penthouse was that we could order from any specialty restaurant or the dining room for room service. My kids are HUGE fans of Nobu (a special occasion restaurant for them) which is Silk Road on the boat. They ordered room service from Silk Road 5 out of 7 nights on the boat and thought they were in heaven. All of the families ordered from Silk Road our first night on the boat and knew we were in for a special trip. Jijo ordered perfectly for us and it was wonderful!
We ate dinner at Tastes on our second night and one other night (kids did Silk Road room service) and it was a great choice! Items ordered were Ahi Tuna Poke, Chimichurri Steak California Street Tacos, Oven Roasted Cauliflower, Alsatian Tart, Alaskan King Crab Dip, Roasted Beet Salad and a special fish dish. All were WONDERFUL. Only two things I didn't care for were Butternut Squash Frisee Salad (felt like it was a game of find the butternut squash). The service the first night was off and that is the only issue we had the entire trip. The view was beautiful but our meal was taking way way too long. There was a miscommunication in the kitchen and it seemed to have a trickle effect for our food service. The food and service manager, Tayfun Aybar, quickly addressed the situation and sincerely apologized for the inconvenience. We were surprised when an extremely nice bottle of wine ($275 value) with a note of apology was in our room the next day. We ate at Tastes everyday for lunch on the boat when cruising and other than that one mishap, it was a wonderful experience!
CRYSTAL DINING ROOM
We enjoyed two dinners in the main dining room. One with all of the families and one with just a mother/daughter dinner. It was hard pulling my son away from Silk Road room service. Everything was wonderful from food to service. My daughter and I had a two topper by the window and both enjoyed the Braised Beef with Whipped Potatoes - Excellent. One of the better appetizers during the group dinner was the smoked Beef Carpaccio. Unfortunately we missed lobster night in the main dining because that was black tie night and we had reservations at Silk Road that evening. We never made it to the main dining room for breakfast or lunch because we were spoiled by the Lido breakfast selection and Tastes lunch menu (personal taste)
Wonderful as expected. We actually dined here rather than room service. Unfortunately we chose lobster night in the main dining to do it. We ordered everything! Sushi, Sashimi, Appetizers, Main dishes. Service, food and level of presentation were spot on. We ordered Crispy Rice Cake with Spicy Tuna Tartar, Miso Black Cod, Grilled Wagyu Beef, Maguro, Rock Shrimp, Lobster, Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño, Tuna Tataki, Chicken Teriyaki, California Rolls and a Bento Box! Superb
This was our last night dining experience and we brought the wine we were given by Tayfun to celebrate the trip. We ordered the famous Mushroom Soup which I had read about in many reviews. It lived up to the hype. We ordered the Warm Lobster Poached in Sage Butter which in my opinion was the best lobster I ate during the entire trip which says a lot. My main course was not what I thought it would be (my bad) and our waiter quickly replaced it with the Roasted Rack of Baby Lamb. My mother in law had ordered this twice already in room service and chose it for a third round that night. I understand now why she did so. It was cooked perfectly. She said preferred this lamb to the one served in the main dining room the night we went.
We ate breakfast here EVERY morning. I think because it was the early bird breakfast for most of us and had everything you could imagine for breakfast buffet style (omelet station, bacon, fresh fruit, oatmeal, made to order waffles, pancakes, etc.. Our omelet server had it down to an art. By day four he knew my order which included egg whites before I even ordered it - impressive. We had Tastes for lunch while on the boat but did mix and match the day they served their Asian buffet. A young girl walked by me with a smoothie that had whip cream on top and it looked to die for. When I asked her, where is that on the buffet? She said, "It's not". If you get the fruit you want (she had mango) take it to them and they will make a mango smoothie for you. That was some of the best advice! Everyone took advantage of that little info. So good
We did not get to take advantage of this particular spot. Did not even think about it until second to last day. We stopped in for afternoon cocktails, coffee and dessert. Next time I will definitely stop by more often.
TRIDENT GRILL & SCOOPS
The salmon burgers and hamburgers along with the sweet potato fries were a favorite among some of our family members. Everyone agreed that the person running the Trident Grill and grilling the burgers is amazing. He would take 6 peoples orders at once and quickly turned the orders around with no mistakes. He really knew what he was doing and the burgers were delicious. Lunch was quickly followed by Scoops which is pretty much Ben & Jerry's with any topping you like. If you like Ben & Jerry's and frozen yogurt then you will enjoy Scoops. We do and we did!
We attended Mozart Tea in the Palm Court which was a lifesaver. All the servers were dressed in their beautiful costumes and the violin quartet was playing soothing classical music. It was so pretty. We did not have any of the buffet items which were finger sandwiches, cakes, tarts, etc. We actually just popped in to enjoy a different part of the boat. My husband unfortunately developed an allergy cold the day before and was so congested & miserable. Our waiter asked him what he would like and he said "Nothing, I can't breathe right now" He told him that he knew just what to get him to make him feel better. He returned with a hot toddy. He had never had one before and from that day on we went to the Palm Court for an afternoon hot toddy or asked Jijo if he could bring one to our room. My husband's breathing misery turned around overnight! Thank you!!!
We attended all the productions except one which was due to us not reading the morning Reflections which said that there would be only one production that evening. They had a broadway show, comedian (hilarious and witty), light show (least favorite), Billy Joel performer and a ventriloquist which we missed and heard was wonderful.
One evening we went to try out another part of the boat to get my husband's nightly hot toddy and came across PERRY GRANT in the Avenue Saloon. This ended up being a surprise find. Although, he does not sing our style of music, you become very engaged with his performance. His voice is amazing and that is coming from someone who does not listen to his genre. He is extremely entertaining in his custom bright and sometimes sparkling suits. We went back the next evening to show my mother and sister in law who quickly became a part of his show. It was hilarious and then we got to watch unknowingly other passengers become a part of his act. Definitely worth stopping by to enjoy.
POOL/PADDLE TENNIS AREA
The actual pool was nice. Nothing to write home about with two hot tubs. We sat by one afternoon for some relaxation in the sun and we always like to try every boat's pina colada. We were on an Alaskan cruise so the pool was not really a priority for us but it was very nice sitting by in the oversized chairs and getting pool service. The sitting areas around the pool and very spacious, but as I said on an Alaskan cruise there are not a lot of people taking advantage of the heated pool. Very quiet. Many people reading books or taking outside naps. My kids played paddle tennis on the upper deck and had a good time since it is covered from wind.
GYM & SPA
I never got a spa treatment but my sister in law got two and said it was a great massage. I did sign up for one of their spin classes (beginner) and even though it was obvious I was a beginner and there were some true professionals in the class, I think everyone got the workout they were looking for. The gym is not big, but it never seemed crowded. My daughter ran on one of their treadmills which looks out onto the ocean and fortunately for her, she got to see whales blowing their spouts and flipping their tails during her run.
PORTS AND EXCURSIONS
I quite liked all the ports we visited. I have told everyone to repeat our itinerary or do one that has one less day cruising (ex: Sitka vs. Glacier Bay). Looking at the cruises in 2017, I do like that they split up the two days of cruising on our itinerary. I think that was a better decision. When comparing Crystal to Regent, it was interesting in price differences. Although Crystal is a larger boat and our cruise was sold out, it NEVER felt like the boat was crowded. In fact, it felt like we were on an even smaller boat because none of the spaces seemed filled. We were told that there were 90 kids traveling on our trip and I'm not sure where they hid all of them because other than those traveling with us, I felt like we only saw 10 now and then. The Regent is priced much higher I'm guessing for a slightly smaller size and excursions included, but when I did the numbers, it did not make sense to pay so much more for excursions you may or may not do. We knew what we were doing and the cost was a fraction plus kids sail free on Crystal vs. $999 on Regent
Ketchikan - We got a fishing guide outside of the cruise line at the recommendation of our friend prior to the cruise (we did not catch anything but rockfish while other cruisers on the boat caught 5 king salmon - that was a bummer) but we saw tons of eagles who swooped down and picked up our fish. Expensive eagle watching trip
Juneau - Mendahall Glacier and Nugget Falls in the morning - Gorgeous and tour guide was hilarious and knowledgable. We did the HELICOPTER/DOGSLEDDING in the afternoon. This was an expensive excursion and WORTH EVERY PENNY. Every family member of all ages said that was their favorite thing we did the entire trip. It really is cool and we were fortunate to have clear skies and weather around 75 degrees
Skagway - We did the White Pass & Yukon Railway which is followed by gold panning, musher camp demonstration, lunch and musher puppies excursion. The train was beautiful and relaxing and about an 1 1/2 hr up into the mountainside. Afterward you depart the train, you board a bus heading back into town with a stop off at the Klondike Gold Fields. Honestly, when we pulled into the Klondike Gold Fields I kind of felt like we were at Disney ride and thought it was going to be really really cheesy but it was included in the train excursion so nothing we could do. It ended up being really interesting learning how to pan gold from comical Sluice-box Charlie (enjoyed more than I thought I would) and what really made the excursion worth it was Matt Hiyashida explaining what it takes/took for him to do the Iditarod race. He is extremely entertaining and engaging especially with small kids. We got to meet his dogs & watch them run and actually hold 5 week old puppies. Kids loved it. Went back into town and walked around. We heard that the Red Onion Saloon Brothel Tour is interesting but didn't make it in time for their tour and not kid appropriate.
Hubbard Glacier Bay - Amazing hearing the glacier calving. You could hear cracking and then soon after look for the sheets of ice that break off and as they fall you hear the ooh and ahhhs from fellow passengers. We watched from top deck where they were serving hot chocolate and rum and provided blankets and then we returned to our room and put on our robes and watched from our balcony which was so surreal. Gorgeous blue colors and many seals laying on the ice that had broken off.
As you can read, I drank the Kool Aid and am sold on Crystal. I use to be a management consultant and we specialized in customer service and process streaming. Crystal has mastered both. Amazing trip, boat, service and all the above. And the food, oh my goodness the food! Highly recommend! Read Less