Review of the Crystal Serenity


 Review for Crystal Serenity

RestaurantAt 68,000 tons and 1,080 passengers, Crystal Serenity is Crystal Cruises’ largest ship to date. The nearest contender is running mate Crystal Symphony, which measures 51,044 tons and takes 940 passengers. The line has uniquely positioned itself by operating the largest ships in the top end of the market, yet are not mega-massive by today’s standards.

Completed in 2003 at Chantiers de l’Atlantique, the Serenity is an evolutionary ship for the line, designed to offer the Crystal product within a newer, larger and roomier version. The 635 crew members are 40% European, 40% Asian and 20% North American. The captain is Norwegian, and the top officers are Scandinavian and Japanese.

Crystal Cruises is owned by the huge Japanese container shipping firm NYK.

Crystal’s passengers look for food and service on par with the other top lines, Seabourn, Silversea and Regency, while also desiring big-ship choices such as amenities, activities and entertainment. They tend to be North Americans 55 and older, with some European passengers. Some families are now booking during the holidays, so Crystal has established children’s programs for two age groups and has added some third-cabin berths. Tipping the dining and cabin staff individually is the custom here.

The Serenity spends the summer and fall in the Mediterranean to be based at Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Civitavecchia (Rome), Venice and Athens for a program of 7- to 12-day cruises, and late fall and early winter in the Caribbean and on Panama Canal transits. She then undertakes a partial world cruise in early January, leaving from Miami for the East Coast of South America then across the South Atlantic to South Africa, and into the India Ocean calling at ports in East Africa, the Seychelles and India. Then she heads to the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and through Suez to the Mediterranean and Black Seas, ending up in Southampton, England.

Spain’s history, art, architecture and cuisine share the spotlight on the new Mediterranean itinerary in October 2010. Serenity sails a new route from Rome, calling in Barcelona; Valencia; Malaga, birthplace of Pablo Picasso; and Almeria, known for its beaches. Late-night and overnight calls enable guests to enjoy Spain’s cultural treasures, outdoor adventures and nightlife.

The line is always coming up with new types of shore activities such as for the Mediterranean, paragliding, hiking, rafting and windsurfing.

Crystal is well-known Bar/Loungefor its enrichment programs and special themed sailings such as classical music, film, theater and golf, sometimes hosted by well-known celebrities.

Spaciousness is evident throughout in the public room corridors, under heightened ceilings, in the oval atrium and out on the widest open promenade at sea, a veritable boulevard in teak. The roominess is further confirmed by a passenger space ratio of 63 compared to 53 for the Symphony.

The Palm Court, on Deck 12, is an expansive blue-gray room with natural light flooding in through 270-degree floor-to-ceiling windows and six hexagonal skylights. The rattan furnishings arranged in cozy groupings on two levels define the observation room setting for the captain’s welcome party, dancing after dark, and one of the best-served afternoon teas afloat. The dozen selections of teas are followed by a procession of stewards bringing hors d’oeuvres, sandwiches and pastries.

In the Galaxy Show Lounge, every seat has good sightlines for the major big-ship productions. Other entertainment venues are the Stardust Club for cabaret acts and dancing; Pulse, the late-night disco; Hollywood Theater for films and lectures; and Caesars Palace at Sea casino. The ship’s 16 computers allow one to keep in touch via e-mail, at a price, and all cabins are wired for personal laptops. The innovative Crystal Learning Institute offers more than a dozen sign-up courses such as Yamaha piano instruction, drawing workshops, Spanish lessons, Cleveland Clinic health talks, and tai-chi.

The 8,500-sq-ft spa and fitness centers, located high up and aft, are much larger than aboard the two previous ships and are arranged with separate entrances. For sports, two paddle tennis courts sit side-by-side on Sun Deck 13, and aft down on Tiffany Deck 6, there is a cluster consisting of two golf nets, a putting green and two Ping-Pong tables in a quiet wind-protected setting with a view of the wake. The staffed library of books and DVDs has three cozy bays for curling up in a chair with foot stool, and the Bridge Lounge has 16 well-patronized tables and instruction by guest lecturers.

For drinks, besides the Palm Court, the Avenue Saloon, a Crystal trademark, offers a pianist in a clubby paneled setting, and cigar smokers and after-dinner imbibers retire next door to the Connoisseur Club. For an open setting, the Crystal Cove off the Atrium, topped with a colored glass oval dome, has a live pianist or player-piano renditions. The Atrium’s mezzanine houses two high-end shops selling clothing, jewelry, china, glass and souvenirs.

The Bistro has a sit-up bar and table seating for enjoying the all-day snack buffet. Evening Outside Cabindining choices include the traditional Crystal Dining Room with two sittings, unique to such a high-end ship. The room buzzes with activity but is never noisy. Starting with its January 2011 sailings, Crystal Cruises will allow open seating in the main dining room for dinner. Open seating will be available every night of the cruise, enabling diners to make a reservation from 6:15 pm to 9:15 pm, subject to availability.

Prego, the Italian specialty restaurant, is different in style on this ship. It is a long room located aft on the starboard side, executed in white and gold with decorative panels showing Florentine scenes. On this ship, the Asian restaurant, Silk Road, has Nobuyuki Matsuhisa as the consultant for a pan-Asian menu that offers such signature dishes as lobster with truffle yuzu sauce. None of these alternative restaurants carries a surcharge, although, with the exception of the Sushi Bar, reservations are required.

For casual poolside dinners, Tastes has attractive table settings next to the Trident Pool and under the Magrodome. Lunchtime lido buffets have themed menus plus serving stations that offer grilled lunches, salads, desserts and ice cream. There is ample seating outside, under the Magrodome, inside and aft under cover. Queues are not a part of Crystal’s lido dining. Service is tops everywhere.

Most cabin accommodations are larger aboard the Serenity than aboard the Symphony, with the 286 A and B categories measuring 269 sq ft vs. 246 sq ft for the earlier pair. A new category AA, 82 penthouse staterooms with veranda, also 269 sq ft, offers butler service plus a complimentary wine and spirit selection upon embarkation. All cabins are outside, as they are on the Symphony. Of the 548 cabins, 85% have private verandas, and no cabin has a lifeboat-obstructed view as these are stowed below cabin levels.

The 64 penthouses with veranda measure 403 sq ft and have an entertainment center housed in a built-in mahogany cabinet with flat-screen TV and DVD player. The bath is equipped with a whirlpool tub, separate shower and twin sinks. The walk-in closet has a deep safe and plenty of space.

The teak deck verandas are furnished with a white plastic table and chairs with cushions. In the penthouse accommodations, one can order a full meal from any of the restaurants during dinner hours. The other cabin categories can order from the Crystal Dining Room and from a 24-hour room service menu.

The Crystal Serenity is designed for luxury seekers who want a bigger ship than Regent or Silversea provide.

Courtesy of STAR Service Online

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