Itinerary: Lisbon, Portimao•, Gibraltar, At Sea, Barcelona, Palamos, Marseille, St. Tropez•, Monte Carlo, Livorno, Civitavecchia (Rome) read cruise blog
At lot has happened at Crystal Cruises since our last sailing in 2013. The company was acquired by Genting Hong Kong from NYK in March 2015. And, just prior to our sailing, Crystal announced plans for a new luxury yacht (Crystal Esprit), a luxury airliner, a new luxury river cruise brand and three new luxury cruise liners. That is pretty aggressive expansion for a company that has been clinging to only two luxury cruise ships for the past several years. Apparently, Genting is not satisfied with simply being one of the best luxury travel brands, they also want to be the most diversified. Among Crystal's loyal cadre of supporters, one question stands above all others: will Crystal be able to retain the level of service and quality amid this expansion and ownership change?
Crystal is celebrating its 25th anniversary
We thought it would be worthwhile to revisit Crystal Serenity to see if we could detect any changes in service levels (better or worse) under new ownership. So, throughout this review we will try to draw comparisons to what we experienced in 2013. Granted, it may be too soon to notice any major changes, especially since the fleet expansion has not materialized yet. Nevertheless, we did note some differences from our 2013 sailing that were noteworthy. As to whether or not these differences were the result of an ownership change, or just natural maturation of a cruise line, is impossible for us to determine.
Unlike our previous sailing on Crystal (a Transatlantic in 2013), with a decidedly older clientele, on this sailing we saw a much broader range of age groups. There were several families on board, and even some with babies in strollers! That is not something we expected to see on a luxury cruise. With the exception of a few families and kids running around, the "average" age is still in the 50s-60s range with some even older passengers.
Crystal Serenity is one of two very similar Crystal ships. She is the larger of the two ships and carries 1070 guests with a crew complement of 655 and a crew-to-guest ratio of 1.65:1, one of the highest in the industry. The ship has 13 decks with guest accommodations on decks 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. Decks 10 and 11 are Penthouse Decks which offer butler service to the Penthouse-and-above categories.
Crystal Serenity docked in Palamos
We saw no changes to the public spaces on Crystal Serenity since 2013 (at least from our notes, photos and memory). There were some carpeted areas that look to be near the end of their life cycle, but the ship is spotlessly maintained. We saw no exterior signs of rust. The ship sparkles.
Crystal Serenity (and her sister, Symphony) are perfectly proportioned to offer all of the amenities of a large ship while still delivering a more intimate feeling. It is not quite "small-ship" intimate, but it is not overwhelmingly large either. You can get from any stateroom to the theater or restaurants in under five minutes. There are three elevator/stairway lobbies (forward, midship, aft) that allow guests to traverse from Deck 5 to Deck 12 (aft elevators only go down to Deck 6). All elevators worked well and speed was acceptable.
The Neptune Pool is as nice as you will find on any ship, and nicer than most. A nice feature is a lot of shaded seating areas for those of us trying to avoid future visits to the dermatologist.
Plenty of large, comfortable loungers in the shade
The pool itself is large enough for guests to enjoy a healthy swim and poolside sun loungers are outfitted each morning with towels for guest use. Two hot tubs are a popular spot for a comforting soak. On Deck 13, there is a very nice AstroTurf walking track.
For traditionalists who insist on a wrap-around Promenade, Crystal Serenity has one of the nicest and most spacious you will find anywhere. The Promenade Deck (7) is the perfect spot for a brisk morning walk, or an early evening sunset stroll. The wide teak deck is unencumbered by lounge chairs.
As for ride quality and comfort, Crystal Serenity sails through the water like a hot knife through butter. The dual Azipod propulsion units do an admirable job of keeping vibration to a minimum. Even with the ship at speed, you can enjoy lunch in the Lido Cafe (aft) without glasses rattling on the table. Crystal Serenity (and her sister Symphony) is one of the smoothest and quietest ships you will find. HVAC systems throughout the ship worked perfectly keeping guests cool and comfortable.
There were two ports of call on this itinerary requiring the use of the ship's tenders to go ashore (Portimao and St. Tropez). Guests board the tender boats on Deck 4 midship and the entire operation is extremely efficient. The Captain deployed three or four tenders during peak periods to minimize the wait for a tender. Ashore, Crystal set up a nice "comfort station" tent with drinks and shade to ease the wait for a tender to arrive. A nice touch.
Tender 'comfort station' in Portimao
We arranged a private car transfer from Hotel Altis Avenida and arrived at the Lisbon Port around 2:00pm (3:00pm was the indicated embarkation time). Embarkation was much smoother and quicker than what we experienced in Barcelona in 2013. There were no lines (we suspect many had boarded earlier.) We literally zipped through security and were on board the ship within five minutes after arriving. Check-in takes place at a long table set up in the "Crystal Plaza" on Deck 5. It took less than three minutes to surrender our passports, have our security photos taken and be issued our room keys. We were informed that, even though embarkation was officially 3pm, our stateroom was ready for us (part of Crystal's VIP embarkation for Penthouse guests, I presume.) We were also informed that lunch was still being served on Deck 12 in the Lido and at Trident Grill. When we reached the end of the check-in desk, a waiter was holding a tray with glasses of champagne.
Check-in on Deck 5 is fast and efficient
Our Penthouse with Veranda on Deck 11 aft (#11052) was virtually identical to the one we occupied in 2013 (on Deck 10 forward). These staterooms reflect a level of attention to detail you rarely find on a cruise ship. This stateroom was our Editors' Choice for BEST Accommodations in 2013, and we see no reason to change that designation. Every one of the 403 sq. ft. (including veranda) has been utilized to maximize guest comfort. It starts with the clever electronic Do Not Disturb/Clean Room switch by the front door. No need to fumble with paper signs hanging from the door knob, which by the way, always end up falling on the hallway floor. A classy doorbell alerts you that a visitor has arrived. And most likely, that person ringing the doorbell will be your personal butler. Well, maybe not "personal" since your butler will be taking care of several other guests, too. Nevertheless, your butler is on call 24 hours a day, and will provide you with any or all of the following services:
- Unpacking and packing upon request
- Confirming dining and spa reservations
- Crystal Adventures shore excursion reservations
- In-suite afternoon tea service
- In-suite pre-dinner cocktail and gourmet canapé service
- In-suite dining, including menus from Silk Road and Prego, served by course
- Garment pressing and shoeshine upon request
Our butler, Daniel, was always available whenever we needed anything. He greeted us soon after we arrived in our stateroom and asked us if we had any special requests. Our stateroom attendant, Puii, also greeted us soon after arrival and immediately fulfilled Rickee's standing request for more clothes hangers. Each afternoon around 4:30pm, Daniel would show up with canapés. Rickee mentioned early on that she liked shrimp cocktail and that I liked hummus. So every day thereafter, a plate of cocktail shrimp and another with hummus was waiting for us on our coffee table! The butler service is just one of the great perks you enjoy when you occupy a Penthouse w/Veranda stateroom.
Queen bed in Penthouse w/Veranda
The large walk-in closet can hold enough clothes for a world cruise. There are shelves and drawers on both sides of the closet and three rods for hanging clothes. Frette bathrobes, kimonos and slippers are waiting in the closet upon embarkation for guest use during the cruise. We never use the bathrobes, so we had them removed to give us extra hanging space in the closet.
Large sofa and coffee table opposite the bed
A full-sized sofa faces the queen-sized bed and a nice-sized oval glass-topped coffee table sits between the bed and the sofa. A large and comfortable chair is placed to one side of the coffee table. The coffee table serves a dual purpose as it can be raised to dining height for in-suite dining. One big improvement over our 2013 sailing was the mattress. Having a saggy mattress was one of our biggest complaints on our previous cruise. This mattress appeared to be new (relatively) and very comfortable. The pillows were still too soft for our liking, but a pillow menu offers a variety of firmness and materials and we soon had pillows delivered to our stateroom that were perfect.
Entertainment center and desk with tons of storage
A marble desk at one end of the entertainment center is large enough for my laptop. Walk around the corner from the desk and you will find Rickee's favorite feature of this stateroom: an equally large marble vanity with lighted magnifying makeup mirror. The desk and the vanity are separated by a mirrored wall.
Double sinks are a great feature on Crystal
The bathroom, too, is very well laid out with a large shower stall, Jacuzzi bathtub, dual sinks and tons of storage. A large shelf runs above the entire length of the vanity. There are multiple shelves above the toilet and large drawers under and on each side of the vanity. The dual sinks make it possible for two people to occupy the bathroom at the same time. There is a speaker in the bathroom connected to the TV and you can hear television programming while in the bathroom. There is also a telephone on one wall. The Aveda brand shampoo, conditioner, soap, body lotion and bath salts were still present, even though we had read that they would be replaced with ETRO amenities on this sailing. We asked Puii if we could try the ETRO products and she was able to procure some for us to try (apparently pre-production test samples). I would say that the ETRO amenities are comparable, if not a slight upgrade, from the Aveda products.
ETRO bath amenities will soon appear on Crystal ships
And, on the subject of storage, the stateroom has drawers and shelves everywhere you look. There is a multi-drawer dresser beneath the television and a cabinet with shelves above the TV. To the left of the TV, there are more cabinets with shelves. If that's not enough, there are two large drawers in each of the nightstands, and even an end table with two large drawers! This is all in addition to the drawers and shelves in the walk-in closet. We couldn't begin to fill up all the drawers and cabinets.
For in-suite entertainment, the large High-Definition flat-screen television offers a variety of closed-circuit channels with video feeds from the bridge, a channel replaying the days' lectures, a couple of movie channels, and popular news channels (FOX News, SKY News, CNN, etc.). The glitches we experienced on our transatlantic sailing have apparently been addressed and the television worked flawlessly throughout the cruise. The television is connected to a Blu-ray DVD/CD player capable of playing your own DVDs or any from the large selection available from the ship's library. The operation of the DVD player and television was seamless with a single remote control.
Our butler, Daniel (yes, the one on the left!)
Crystal Serenity offers guests WiFi throughout the ship. Unfortunately, the Internet access was not as reliable as I remembered on our last cruise. Even though I could connect most times from our stateroom (there was a WiFi transmitter very near our room in the hallway), there were several times where the connection was either dropped or painfully slow. Crystal also offers a selection of movies "on demand" which can be watched on an iPad or laptop. Interestingly, these movies cannot be viewed on the stateroom television. At this time, there is also no way to check your onboard account through the ship's intranet.
A clever night-light switch produced a slight glow underneath the vanity/desk to provide just enough light to see your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
A mini-fridge is located underneath the desk and is stocked with soft drinks, beer, white wine, or whatever you request. Of course, all are complimentary and replenished daily. Our fridge did not get very cold, even at the coldest setting. A fresh fruit basket on the desk was replenished daily.
Large balcony with excellent furnishings
Serenity balcony furnishings are among the nicest we have seen on any ship. Large wicker chairs with foot stools were outfitted with padded cushions.
In spite of carpeting that is beginning to look worn and near the end of its life, the Penthouse w/Veranda stateroom on Crystal Serenity gets a 5-out-of-5 rating from us. It is still one of the most comfortable staterooms/suites of any ship on which we have sailed to date.
FOOD AND DINING
Food is an important part of any vacation, and even more so on a cruise. We found the dining experience on Crystal Serenity in 2013 to be very good and we would have to say that the same is true in 2015.
Crystal Dining Room
The Crystal Dining Room is the "traditional" restaurant on board Serenity. Guests can enjoy the traditional "early" or "late" seating options, or flexible "by reservation" dining is available. The Crystal Dining Room offers a lot of two-top tables for intimate dining. However, many of the two-top tables are placed in close proximity to each other, so it is almost like dining with the couple next to you. We also noticed this table arrangement in the Lido Cafe and Tastes. There are a few two-top tables that are located away from other tables for a more intimate experience. We prefer the table located in the far back corner of the dining room (#42). It is sort of hidden back in a little cove and it is much quieter and away from the traffic of the dining room. The Crystal Dining Room can get a bit noisy during peak dining periods.
We score a great window table for two in Crystal Dining Room
The food quality in the Crystal Dining Room was better and more consistent on this sailing that what we noted in 2013. With so many port calls on this sailing, the dining room was closed for lunch most days, so our experience was limited to dinner time. All of the meals we had here were superb --- even better than we remembered from our previous Crystal sailings. Service was excellent.
The Crystal Dining Room is usually open for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. On our voyage, it was closed for lunch on most days in port.
The Lido Cafe is Serenity's buffet dining venue located on Deck 12 aft and serves breakfast and lunch each day. The Lido Cafe offers mostly two-top tables and there is ample outdoor seating aft for al fresco dining. The layout is arranged in such a way that long waiting lines for the buffet are rare.
Food quality in the Lido Cafe was very good considering it is a buffet. We were again disappointed that there were no "theme" buffets like we had experienced on Crystal Symphony in 2011.
The excellent cocktail shrimp was available on most days
Something new that I have never seen before on a breakfast buffet was fried rice! Perhaps it was offered because of an influx of Asian guests? Regardless of why, I love it! There is an excellent selection of fresh fruit, amazing freshly-baked pastries and breads, and cereals. Freshly-squeezed orange juice and coffee are delivered to the table by Lido wait staff. I only tried the coffee one time and quickly was reminded of why I travel with my own French press and fresh ground coffee. We found the service in the Lido Cafe to be excellent. For some reason, our preferred Riesling wine that was available in the dining room was not available in the Lido Cafe at lunch, or any dining venue on Deck 12.
As on previous Crystal sailings, I would use the Lido Cafe each morning as my coffee and blogging station. However, on this sailing, families with babies would arrive early and the screams of the kids forced me to seek refuge in Tastes (forward of Lido Cafe). On my last Crystal sailing, one of the Lido wait staff (Osvaldo) would offer to clean my French press for me each morning. I received no such offer on this sailing.
The Bistro is a casual dining venue on Deck 5. Each morning, the Bistro offers a continental breakfast. In the afternoon, the Bistro offers charcuterie, international cheeses and freshly-baked desserts. From 6-8pm you will find cured meats, prosciutto, international cheeses, all served with premium wines and champagne. The snacking continues from 8-11pm with artisanal cheeses accompanied with chutneys, honey, plus an assortment of fresh fruit and desserts. Late night munchies, served from 11pm to 12am, include mini-sandwiches, pizzas, tandoori chicken and beef sliders. There is also a bar in the Bistro to provide your favorite beverages.
Trident Bar & Grill
The Trident Grill remains as one of our "go to" spots for a casual lunch. The Trident Grill opens earlier than other venues (11:30am) and offers a nice selection of burgers, wraps, fries, onion rings and the like. The Grilled Minute Sirloin Steak is one of my favorites.
The menu at Trident
A well-stocked relish bar offers mustard, mayo, ketchup, relish, cole slaw and even chips and salsa. Fresh fruit is also available.
We only visited Prego once during our 10-night sailing and everything was as we remembered from our 2013 Serenity cruise. My Caesar salad was delicious as was Rickee's Carpaccio of Black Angus Beef. No meal at Prego is complete without their signature mushroom soup served in a crusty bread bowl. The rich, creamy soup is infused with a variety of mushrooms. This is one of the best cream of mushroom soups you will find anywhere. My Roasted Rack of Baby Lamb was perfectly cooked. And, even though the portion was filling, there were only two chops served this year instead of the three chops I was served in 2013.
Reservations are required to dine in Prego. We recommend making those reservations before your cruise embarks by using Crystal's website. Crystal has implemented a new policy regarding dining in Prego (and Silk Road). Guests are invited to dine once per cruise on a complimentary basis (in each restaurant). Guests making subsequent visits to Prego will be charged a $30 cover charge. Of course, there are some exceptions to this policy depending on the length of the cruise, the number of cruises you've had with Crystal, your stateroom category, etc.
Rack of Baby Lamb was cooked perfectly and was delicious
Adjacent to Prego on Deck 7 aft is Crystal's Nobu-inspired Asian restaurant, Silk Road. As with Prego, reservations are needed to dine in Silk Road. However, Silk Road does offer one little secret. There is a sushi bar at Silk Road that seats ten guests. No reservations are required to dine at the sushi bar and the full Silk Road menu is available. The one "free" visit per cruise policy kept us from just popping into the sushi bar for a late night snack, and yes, the one free visit policy applies to the sushi bar as well as the Silk Road restaurant.
All sushi, like my Spicy Tuna Roll, is made fresh to order
The main restaurant at Silk Road is classy and the menu is upscale Asian cuisine inspired by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa. The menu at Silk Road includes Nobu classics such as Wagyu Beef with a choice of dipping sauces (my personal favorite). The fork-tender slices of Wagyu are so delicious that the accompanying sauces are not even needed. Rickee and I both agree that the Black Cod with Miso Glaze is perhaps the best seafood dish on the planet, and it was her choice yet again. If you are not sure what to try, order the Nobu Box which gives you a chance to try the Wagyu beef, Black Cod and Shrimp. All dishes are accompanied by a bowl of delicious Jasmine rice, just sticky enough to eat with chopsticks.
As with Prego, guests are invited to dine in Silk Road once per cruise on a complimentary basis. If you wish to return to Silk Road, there will be a $30 fee per person assessed.
CruiseReport Tip: Do you love the mushroom soup at Prego or the Spicy Tuna Roll in Silk Road? As a Penthouse guest, you can enjoy the menus of these great restaurants in your stateroom and avoid the $30 cover charge.
Tastes is Crystal Serenity's newest dining experience. An open-kitchen venue occupies the starboard side of Deck 12 midship, just forward of the Lido Cafe. Its Global Cuisine comfort food menu was created in partnership with Sapphire Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California, where acclaimed chef, Azmin Ghahreman, offers cuisine with accents from around the globe. Tastes is open for late breakfast and for lunch. I understand the timing of the late-riser breakfast service from 10:00am to 11:00am, but the 1:00pm lunch service leaves me scratching my head. Perhaps Crystal feels that the later start time will thin out the crowd at Tastes?
On this sailing, we did try the pot stickers from Tastes for lunch one day. They were good. Our evening meal at Tastes however, left us less impressed. The menu is a bit confusing and implies that the dishes are going to be small "tastes" or tapas, but in reality, the portions are fairly significant. Rickee and I ordered four items from the menu, and it was way too much food for two people. The Alsatian tart (basically, a flatbread pizza) was the best dish we had. It was served hot and was delicious. The "starter" Caesar salad kabob, sort of a deconstructed Caesar salad, was also good. The other two items we ordered missed the mark. The lamb kibbeh was served room temperature and had no flavor. The Chimichurri steak was tender and the Chimichurri sauce was good, but it, too, was served cold and there was very little of the Chimichurri sauce to enjoy. Sadly, Tastes was our least favorite dining venue on Crystal Serenity. And, this is the second time we have left Tastes with this impression.
The Alsatian Tart (flat bread) is worth the visit to Tastes
What Tastes does have going for it is atmosphere. It is a very romantic, dimly-lit setting that is comforting and casual. And honestly, if we had only ordered the Caesar kabob and Alsatian tart, we would have enjoyed it quite a bit. Service was also very slow with long wait times between "courses," which are not really courses at all. Dishes arrive at the table in no certain order, they just come out "whenever." Tastes is a great concept, but we found the execution to be lacking.
Crystal offers a nice 24-hour room service menu. Of course, the most popular meal for room service is breakfast. Breakfast order cards can be placed on your stateroom door before retiring and breakfast will be delivered to your stateroom the next morning at the desired time. And, there are times when you may not want to get dressed for dinner. Penthouse guests can order dinner from the evening menu at Crystal Dining Room, Prego or Silk Road in addition to the standard room service menu.
One evening we decided to stay in our beautiful stateroom and watch a DVD movie from the ship's library. We called Daniel, our butler, and mentioned we were interested in sushi. Daniel brought us Silk Road menus so we could decide what we wanted. We ordered a selection of sushi from the Silk Road menu and, within 30 minutes, Daniel was ringing our doorbell with our order. Everything arrived perfectly prepared and delicious. In our opinion, the ability to order from the main restaurant and the specialty restaurants puts Crystal's room service at the top of the industry (at least the Penthouse-level room service.) The only thing that would make room service better would be if the restaurant menus were available through the television, or at least through the intranet via an iPad or laptop.
The Palm Court on Deck 12 forward becomes the perfect setting for an Afternoon Tea each day from 3:30pm to 4:30pm. Tables are covered in linen and wait staff are dressed in tuxedos with white gloves for the service. A choice of teas are offered along with finger sandwiches, scones, cookies and other treats.
Scoops Ice Cream Bar
Scoops ice cream bar is located in the Trident Bar and Grill on Deck 12, where Crystal guests are treated to a variety of popular flavors, and the ice cream is complimentary! Even though the flavors offered appear to be the same as in 2013, the Ben & Jerry's name is nowhere to be found. Nevertheless, the ice cream was as good as we remembered. The Triple Caramel Crunch is hands down our favorite flavor. We felt that it was necessary to try the ice cream each day, just for journalistic integrity, of course. The ice cream can be served in a cone or a cup and a large variety of toppings are available to complete the treat. You can also get a cookie or two to complement your ice cream choice.
Rickee gets her daily dose of Triple Caramel Crunch at Scoops
We found the bar service throughout the ship to be excellent. Our favorite spot for pre-dinner drinks was Avenue Saloon (Deck 6 aft). We would usually show up around 5:30pm and the place would be empty. The bar staff made Rickee's Mojito to perfection, which is not an easy task. I would typically order Dewar's on the rocks and would always receive a generous pour. In the early evenings, bar staff will circulate the lounges offering a selection of canapes.
Gary Hunter has been a cruise director for 40 years, so he knows how to put together an entertainment program. Each night the Galaxy Theater would come alive with a different show. The Crystal Ensemble of Singers and Dancers delivered energetic production shows while guest entertainers, ranging from singers to musicians to a mind reader, took the stage several evenings.
The Inspiration Strings also performed daily in the Crystal Cove. Nightly shows in the Galaxy Theater were usually held twice: the first show for those eating a late dinner and a second show for those who dined earlier.
One of the local entertainment performances that really caught our attention was Los Mulero, a group of dancers and musicians from Barcelona. The Flamenco dance performances were exceptional.
All of the shows we attended were very entertaining and as good as you will find on any cruise ship, especially a ship with only 1,000 guests. The best show of the cruise, hands down, was Gary Hunter's ventriloquist performance. Gary has been entertaining professionally for decades and he is quite an accomplished ventriloquist.
Gary Hunter and Mrs. Tweed
BARS & LOUNGES
On Crystal Serenity, you will never have to search too far for a spot to enjoy your favorite beverage.
Crystal Cove (Deck 5) - Crystal Cove is a popular meeting place for guests having dinner in Crystal Dining Room (Deck 5). Seating is comfortable and conducive to mingling with other guests. There is also seating at the bar.
The Bistro (Deck 6 midship) - There is a full-service bar located in the Bistro on Deck 6. However, The Bistro has more of a cafe feel than that of a lounge making it less appealing for enjoying a cocktail. This is a space that we would like to see re-invented into a "wine bar" concept with a warmer atmosphere while still keeping the buffet. It would be the perfect place for early-evening snacks and a glass of wine, or even a light meal of canapes.
Avenue Saloon (Deck 6 aft) - Our new favorite watering hole on Crystal Serenity is Avenue Saloon. I am not sure how we missed it on our last sailing. This place really comes alive in the evenings with piano music, but is a quiet, intimate space before dinner. We love it!
Palm Court (Deck 12 forward) - Palm Court is the largest lounge on Crystal Serenity and is also the primary place to enjoy after-dinner dancing. Located on Deck 12 forward, Palm Court has the best view in the house with large windows wrapping 180-degrees around the space. If you are looking for a lounge with a view, this is it!
Palm Court, Crystal Serenity
Trident Bar (Deck 12 midship) - The Trident Bar is the perfect spot for enjoying a drink poolside, or under the sunroof during the day. In the evenings, access to the bar is cumbersome as the space turns into the Tastes restaurant.
Starlight Club (Deck 6 aft) - This lounge is a venue for smaller shows, bingo and other events. However, it can easily be used to enjoy a cocktail.
Galaxy Lounge (Deck 6 forward) - The main theater for Crystal Serenity, Galaxy Lounge offers full bar service before the performances begin.
Pulse Night Club (Deck 6 aft) - This late-night disco was also the location for the Magic Castle At Sea performances.
ACTIVITIES AND ENRICHMENT
With so many port days on this sailing (only one day 'at sea'), the main form of activity was exploring the ports-of-call. However, there was still plenty to do each day on board Crystal Serenity. Because of the itinerary, the Computer University @ Sea (CU@Sea) classes were limited to only two days. We signed up for the USC Digital Filmmaking Course, "iMovie on the iPad," which was a series of classes conducted by Tony Mark, an Emmy Award winning director. This course focused on using an iPad to film and edit movies. The classes were great fun and Tony did an excellent job instructing us.
Internet Access Pricing
Crystal now provides each Crystal Society Member (repeat Crystal guest) 60 minutes of free WiFi/Internet per day. That is a huge value for those of us who like to stay 'connected' while we are away from home. Crystal's Computer University@Sea offers guests several Internet plans (below) with per minute costs that decrease with the more minutes you purchase. The prices are competitive with what other cruise lines charge for comparable services. Other than the 'Pay As You Go' plan at 74 cents per minute, all other plans are slightly more expensive than they were in 2013, perhaps to compensate for the "free" Internet offered to Crystal Society members?
Here is an update from the Crystal Cruises website:
Effective August 30, 2015 on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity all Crystal guests will receive free Wi-Fi/internet for the duration of their cruise! Offering at least 60 minutes per person, per day of internet and Wi-Fi connectivity (depending on stateroom/suite category*), this enhanced benefit will ensure you are able to connect and share your cherished Crystal experiences to friends and family back home. Certain restrictions apply. Click the link below for more information
| Cost Per Minute
|Pay As You Go
Hollywood Theater Movies - The Hollywood Theater on Deck 6 is one of our favorite venues. Each day, a different movie is shown here. The 210-person theater offers very comfortable seating, a large screen, great sound, and popcorn! What more could you want?
Lecture Series - Even though there was only one day at sea on this sailing, Crystal still offered a selection of interesting and enlightening lectures. All lectures are taped and broadcast over the ship's closed-circuit television system, so you never have to miss a lecture! On our voyage, we were treated to presentations by destination lecturer, Captain Richard Hayman, who provided lots of information about the history of the ports we were visiting. World Affairs lecturer, Professor Louis Beres, spoke about past military conflicts and foreign policy as it applies to our world situation today.
Professor Louis Beres, World Affairs lecturer
Exercise Classes - For those who want to continue their fitness routines while on board the ship, Crystal provides many ways to accomplish this. There are a variety of fitness classes offered each day, including the "Walk on Water" program using the WALKVEST and the Nordic Walking Program. Pilates and yoga classes are offered. Stretching sessions, stationary bicycle classes, Body Sculpt boot camp were offered and informational seminars were offered on such topics as flattening your abs, relieving back pain, detoxing and the benefits of acupuncture. Crystal Serenity also has a nicely-equipped Fitness Center on Deck 13.
Various other activities were offered each day including:
- Ballroom dance lessons
- Art lessons using Watercolor
- Napkin folding
- Oragami lessons
- Golf clinics and golf simulator
- Table tennis and Paddle tennis tournaments
- Casino gaming lessons and slot tournaments
- Needlepoint and knitting sessions
There were four male Ambassador Hosts on this cruise for ladies traveling along and looking for a dance partner.
SPA AND SALON
The Crystal Spa & Salon, located on Deck 13 aft, is now operated by ETRO and can be reached by using the aft elevators/staircase. The spa offers several types of massage and facial services. Each day, a spa "special" was offered with a discount on a combination of services. The salon offers hair cuts, color services, styling. manicures, pedicures and much more.
Across from the spa and salon on Deck 13 you will find a very nicely-equipped Fitness Center. The only way (that we could figure out) to get to the Spa and Fitness Center is to take the aft staircase/elevator to Deck 13. There is no outside access to the Fitness Center, even though you can exit to the outer deck from the Fitness Center.
The Fitness Center has a variety of modern treadmills and other cardio equipment as well as free weights and weight machines. A small yoga exercise room can be used for stretching or one of the many fitness classes conducted by the fitness staff.
Fitness Center is well-equipped
PORTS OF CALL
On our 10-night sailing, we visited nine different ports in six different countries, making it one of the most diverse itineraries we have ever done on an ocean cruise. Highlights, in our opinion, were Lisbon, Barcelona, Florence (Livorno) and St. Tropez, but all ports we visited were interesting. For a day-by-day account, check out our Cruise Blog: click here
It is important to note that Crystal provided complimentary shuttle service in most ports on this itinerary (where local laws allowed). This service often goes unmentioned, but is a huge benefit to guests and is part of the "all-inclusive" nature of Crystal Cruises.
Complimentary shuttle in Barcelona
STAFF AND CREW
As you might expect on a 5-star cruise line, the staff and crew on Crystal Serenity were friendly, helpful and engaging. We were impressed at how many of the crew would call us by name. That is an impressive feat on a ship this size.
THE UPS AND DOWNS
- All-inclusive policy continues to be a hit
- New smoking (or non-smoking) policy
- Best staterooms of any cruise line
- Excellent 5-star service
- Great dining options
- Free Internet for return guests
Daily menus and activity schedule should be displayed on stateroom TV or intranet
- Carpeting in some areas needs replacing
- Tastes could benefit from some tweaking
One of the main objectives of this sailing was for us to determine if Crystal, under new ownership, was going to maintain (or exceed, if possible) the standards of excellence that has earned it so many awards over the years. With an aggressive expansion program already underway, it will be very interesting to see if Crystal can maintain its reputation, or perhaps, even surpass it. The next challenge will be for Crystal to extend the luxury experience to the 62-guest Crystal Esprit which is set to begin operations in December 2015. There were several areas where we noticed an improvement over our 2013 sailing, and only a couple we felt were lacking by comparison (none of which were significant). This can be normal from any single cruise to the next and cannot be attributed to any change in policy from new ownership.
As for now, it appears that Crystal intends to continue to lavish its guests with the service and luxury to which they have become accustomed. The Crystal faithful can look forward to this level of luxury in a variety of new formats including a yacht, river cruising, new ship builds and air travel. Exciting? Indeed!
• tender ports
|It is common in the travel industry for journalists to be provided with complimentary cruise accommodations, and in some cases, hotel accommodations, for the purpose of a review. While it has not influenced this review, CruiseReport.com adheres to a strict policy of full disclosure to all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, please refer to our Ethics Guidelines|