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13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We chose this cruise because we had not been on the Crystal for a few years and as it was a round trip return from and to Los Angeles it seemed to be very convenient. For years we have been trying to convince our friends to try the ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we had not been on the Crystal for a few years and as it was a round trip return from and to Los Angeles it seemed to be very convenient. For years we have been trying to convince our friends to try the Crystal and were finally able to get them to come with us only to find it was not as good as it used to be. The lunch buffet was so bad that we just gave up after a couple of days. We tried the dining room which turned out to be even worse The specialty restaurants were fabulous. The food, staff and atmosphere were exemplary. The ship did not appear to be as clean as it used to be. Our suite which had been refurbished seemed smaller due to the new configuration but the shower was incredibly worth the extra money.The toiletries were horrible, with artificial scent which I am highly allergic to. Entertainment was excellent. However, the casino rules were disgusting and no wonder it was always empty. Lastly - to have 6 ports on a 7 day cruise on the West Coast was a total loss. Aside from San Francisco and Cabo San Lucas (which was not on the itinerary) are the only 2 safe and exciting places to stop at. Most passengers complained they did not enjoy the quiet ocean experience when the ship is at sea. Crystal needs to recognize that plus the savings on Port Charges could benefit the pricing for passengers. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Having sailed on Crystal before, I was looking forward to this Coastal cruise. While I was hesitant because the weather in January is iffy, I decided to book it anyway. This was the first mistake as out of 12 cruises I've sailed on, ... Read More
Having sailed on Crystal before, I was looking forward to this Coastal cruise. While I was hesitant because the weather in January is iffy, I decided to book it anyway. This was the first mistake as out of 12 cruises I've sailed on, the weather was the worst on this voyage. Crystal was not at fault for the lousy weather. Luckily, the service and food on board were excellent as were all the personnel on board. Everyone had a "can do" attitude and could seem to do enough to please. So why the poor review? My wife and I caught the NOROVIRUS! Although I had it worse than my wife. How could two healthy individuals board a SHIP and become violently ill just 3 days in. We specifically chose Crystal due to its service that we have experienced firsthand (what I thought was 5 star all the way) and for the smaller passenger count (only 900 passengers). After feeling better on the last 2 days, I spoke to at least 20 different people who were sick or knew of others who got sick on this 7 day voyage. Couple this with a full Medical waiting room and nurses buzzing about patients who were in quarantine and it was not hard to see that we were on our way to an epidemic onboard. A quick search on the internet and we got to the CDC website (I had plenty of time in my stateroom as I was quarantined for 1 day and chose to stay in for feeling too ill to move about the day prior). We typed in norovirus on cruise ships and there was the history. I was shocked at how many cruises were listed in increasing numbers since 2000. I was also shocked to see that Crystal Cruises joined the ranks a few years ago. Sadly, most cruise lines are on this list, BUT THERE ARE A FEW THAT ARE NOT. It should be noted that so far, this cruise did not make the CDC list as a certain percentage must report being ill before the cruise line has to report it to the CDC. Nevertheless, at least 25 - 30 people (maybe more) had it and that was just who I was able to confirm! When we shared our dismay of this cruise with Crystal (most likely due to lax standards this ship had on cleaning surfaces, public restrooms, not to mention elevators and buffets), Crystal only offered us a $1000 voucher for a future cruise we would have to take in the next year. I don't know that I will ever sail again let alone in the next year! We asked them to not give us an expiration date on this voucher and they declined. We can see how seriously they are taking this growing problem. We did appreciate the fine dining and service but this event left such a sour taste in our mouth (literally) that unless there is a preventative medicine for norovirus, I doubt I will ever step foot on a cruise again, on any cruise line. It is hard to comment on the entertainment and activities or many of the ports as I only went to one show and one event the entire cruise. I didn't leave the ship in Ensenada, San Diego or Catalina. (Not by choice). Beyond my sickness issues, The Crystal Serenity was a disappointment, as was the recent renovation of the ship. The ship has no special rooms on board, they all look and feel the same. Low ceilings and no sense of grandeur. The renovation was like putting lipstick on a pig. They need to retire these vessels and design something entirely new and special. As for me going on a 13th cruise, I will wait until there is preventative medicine for getting any sort of stomach virus on board a cruise ship. Until then, land based vacations. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Over the past 32 years I have been on over 40 cruises on about 20 cruise lines. I always remembered our 1993 cruise on "Crystal Harmony" as the best of them all, but it was very expensive. Eventually I decided to try Crystal ... Read More
Over the past 32 years I have been on over 40 cruises on about 20 cruise lines. I always remembered our 1993 cruise on "Crystal Harmony" as the best of them all, but it was very expensive. Eventually I decided to try Crystal again, as their prices were comparatively more affordable than in the 90's. I read some pretty negative comments on Cruise Critic and was dubious, but it turned out to be a fabulous cruise. The ship is beautiful and super-spacious and from the outside has beautiful lines reminiscent of the old ocean liners. There was never a wait anywhere (except getting on the tenders). The service was impeccable and the food and entertainment fabulous. I loved some of the special touches in the stateroom not found on other ships. I went as a single and never felt uncomfortable, ignored, or crowded out and though I didn't dance I appreciated the presence of the dance hosts. The entertainment was much better than on other ships despite being on a smaller one-story stage. There was never a problem finding a seat in the showroom, unlike other cruises where you had to show up an hour ahead to even get a seat. And the shows were a full 45 minutes and 3 production shows on this cruise versus 30 minutes on Princess and only one production show. I loved the ballroom dance quartet that performed in the Galaxy lounge twice on our cruise. Tea in the Palm Court was wonderful. The Brazilian BBQ at Churrascaria was unbelievably good as was the food and service in Uma Uni Japanese restaurant. I did not try Prego. It was really nice to not have to deal with paying for alcohol, soda, etc., tips and Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi speed was excellent. I had a few nit-picky complaints about the stateroom design, embarkation in L.A. was awkward and confusing, and the tendering operation was not very efficient. An added bonus, since I am now cruising single, is they are single-friendly, with single supplements from 30% to 75% depending on the cruise and how early you book. I am switching my allegiance from Princess to Crystal now! Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
The ship is truly showing its age ,even after a major drydock. We stayed in a new seabreeze penthouse. Sofa was so hard that it felt as if we were on a park bench. No bed ruffle to hide our luggage. Ship is all cut up and just not ... Read More
The ship is truly showing its age ,even after a major drydock. We stayed in a new seabreeze penthouse. Sofa was so hard that it felt as if we were on a park bench. No bed ruffle to hide our luggage. Ship is all cut up and just not graceful. Not many public spaces. Mozart tea was served and i was brought tea without a cover and the cakes tasted as if they had freezer burn. Too many smoking areas on the ship. No introduction to the officer staff.or medical staff. The palm court is no longer a comfortable place to sit and watch the ocean. They chopped up the room with a huge bar and halving the size of the dance floor. The spa is showing its age.. so, so ,small. One more thing.. i was surprised by the lack of the handwashing reminders! Many times when i put my hands to get the hand cleaners at the restaurant I found they were empty or not working. The food was very good though. We travel alot and frankly the ship and Crystal just disappointed me. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I was disappointed in many ways with Crystal ... the food, entertainment, lack of activities, the invisibility of officers, etc. Don’t know what the CD does to earn his keep. Saw the captain ... Read More
Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I was disappointed in many ways with Crystal ... the food, entertainment, lack of activities, the invisibility of officers, etc. Don’t know what the CD does to earn his keep. Saw the captain only once in 14 days. Long-time Crystal cruisers were not welcoming to newcomers. Food was hit and miss ... usually a miss. Not at all the gourmet cuisine I expected on Crystal. Entertainment was, at least in the Galaxy Lounge, far too loud and not geared toward us older folk. Trivia was held only four times in fourteen days! I’m used to Trivia four times a day! Not a friendly ship. Will not sail on Crystal again. Apart from the Christmas decirations, there was no ‘merry’ atmosphere and very little (if any) Christmas music ... not even piped. No carol singing or Christmas show. The two bartenders in Crystal Cove bar, Themyo snd Marja, were great. And, single malt scotches were available on the all-inclusive drinks menu. Read Less
20 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
My family and I had sailed several times on the Serenity, and we were looking forward to seeing the extent of the recent renovations. We were very pleased with the new look of the ship and the renovations done to the public areas. The food ... Read More
My family and I had sailed several times on the Serenity, and we were looking forward to seeing the extent of the recent renovations. We were very pleased with the new look of the ship and the renovations done to the public areas. The food and service are as memorable and perfectly executed as we remembered them to be, and some events, such as the Vintage Room and the supper club very much exceeded expectations. The new all-inclusive service is very comfortable, and we never felt pressured to order upgrades to the very fine list of wines, spirits and beers on board, although we did treat ourselves to some outstanding labels under the guidance of our amazing sommelier, Tilmar Pfefferkorn! The service aboard ship is outstanding. Not only are your every needs met swiftly and with grace, but staff quickly gets to know your preferences and often seems to anticipate your next request. Special services are also outstanding. We had a member of our party that required medical attention due to a pre-existing condition, and the medical staff did an outstanding job of successfully dealing with the problem in a caring manner. We will definitely be returning to crystal Serenity or Crystal Symphony for our next cruise experience! Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
We have sailed on Serenity several times before and love it: huge interior spaces for the number of passengers; outstanding service; delicious food; provocative speakers; exciting evening entertainment. But, the ship has shown its age ... Read More
We have sailed on Serenity several times before and love it: huge interior spaces for the number of passengers; outstanding service; delicious food; provocative speakers; exciting evening entertainment. But, the ship has shown its age and the formal, fixed seating dinners belong to a bygone age. Thus we were anxious to see the remodeled ship featuring new dining options. Smooth embarkation in Lisbon. The big changes, aside from decorative finishes throughout are revamping the formal dining room as Waterside--more like a suburban country club than a banquet hall--and creation of new deck 11 evening dining venues--one Asian and quite nice and the other a Brazilian style steak house that I find of limited appeal. Why? It really is not that much of a physical transformation for a part of the buffet area set aside for it but mostly because who wants that much food at night after being well fed all day. One of our preferences for Serenity over its very similar sister ship Symphony is the much larger Avenue Saloon where for years one was regaled by an outrageously bold piano player singer who had a devoted following. On this cruise his replacement was a bid disappointment. Serenity has a large physical fitness area and good classes there. We will sail both Crystal liners again particularly on the extended crossings. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
In November 2018, my wife and I took Crystal’s 11-day cruise across the Atlantic aboard the Serenity (voyage OCY181110). For some time, we’ve taken two to three cruises a year on Crystal. This is one of two ships in Crystal’s ... Read More
In November 2018, my wife and I took Crystal’s 11-day cruise across the Atlantic aboard the Serenity (voyage OCY181110). For some time, we’ve taken two to three cruises a year on Crystal. This is one of two ships in Crystal’s tiny ocean fleet. Each carries around 900 passengers. The two ships are pretty much a matched set that rotates crew, routes, and entertainment. ROUTE: This type of cruise is for those who enjoy the boat ride itself. It started in Lisbon and ended in Fort Lauderdale. The only enroute stop was at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, which placed us back in the U.S. It was Sunday, and the onboard border clearance was quick and painless -- took only five minutes from leaving our room to returning. OVERALL RATING (5 OUT OF 5): I rate this cruise as excellent (an overall “5” on a scale of 5). My score is based on the high quality of (1) live music in the small venues, (2) food offerings (truly perfect), and (3) service in the food and entertainment areas (still the most attentive service anywhere on land or sea). However, we’ve never found the Serenity to be perfect “ultra luxury” in every way. We keep coming back year after year because it’s like a comfortable old hotel, where the predictable pleasures outweigh the problems of an aging ship. In fact, the cruise’s most memorable lecturer was a writer for the old “Cheers” television comedy (Cheri Steinkellner). She gave you the juicy backstory of that neighborhood bar where “the troubles are all the same” and “everyone knows your name.” If you’re looking for a low-key, relaxing, good old-fashioned voyage across the Atlantic, this is your ship. Luxury measured by what’s not there. No stateroom announcements. No pressure to buy anything or do anything. No gaming to get your keycard for just one more charge (Crystal’s price is all inclusive). For cruisers who’ve tired of harried herding on the mass-market lines, the absence of certain nuisances on Crystal may be worth an overall “5” in itself. ENTERTAINMENT: When it comes to entertainment, what get’s the perfect “5” from me is the live jazz and show tunes performed in the ship’s small venues (the “Great American Songbook” from the 1940s and 50s). Crystal calls this its “supper club” and “cabaret” entertainment. I found these talented performances every bit as enjoyable as a night clubbing in Seattle or New Orleans. But no cover charges, taxi fares, exorbitant parking, or pestering to buy another drink. Crystal’s musical offerings continued right up to the end, with five shows on the final night of the cruise. The last of these shows ended at 11 pm, just as luggage was due outside the staterooms. Pretty impressive for a cruise with less than 900 passengers. There are lots of amazing musicians out there who never do albums or arenas. Crystal finds them; some stay for a cruise, others stay for years. But if live music isn’t your niche, think of the Serenity as your floating senior center. One with lots of pampering (they even have a “valet service” that parks the scooters and wheelchairs to keep the halls clear after bedtime). And the ship’s veteran waiters are saints of the sea when it comes to their patience and respect toward the older crowd that frequents Crystal. Yup, you’ll find all the day-to-day activities that you’d expect in a well-appointed senior center: bingo, bridge, needlepoint, knitting, shuffleboard, slots, puzzles, trivia, liars club, name-that-tune, karaoke, parlor magic, tribute shows, afternoon tea, and dance hosts for the ladies. (About a fourth of the passengers on this cruise were involved in a bridge tournament.) Music and comedy shows are focused on the tastes and memories of the “extra generation” of seniors blessed with extended retirements. There was even the screening of a new film about finding late-life romance in a nursing home (yes, including sex). The filmmaker (Neil Leifer) was onboard and understandably pegged the Crystal crowd as a sympathetic test audience. But I’ll say it again: travel agents should use caution in sending children under age 50 on this ship. Though Crystal’s current president came over from Disney, absolutely none of the following “advancements” in onboard entertainment are found on this ship (thankfully): water slide; climbing wall; zipline; go-carts; carousel; laser tag; bungee trampoline; bumper cars; surfing simulator; trapeze training; skydiving wind tunnel. After all, this ship is called the Serenity -- a synonym for quiet peacefulness. There is, however, a golf net, a little swimming pool, and a “shopping mall” of three stores (including one that sells the Chico’s line). While there are no midnight buffets, there is 24-hour room service for those who can’t wait until the next meal at 6 am. Not surprisingly, the youngest on board are usually the employees. No teen gangs here. And nature seems to impose its own curfew, with the halls largely empty after midnight. DINING: We dined in all of the ship’s venues with the exception of its Italian restaurant (Prego). When it comes to dining, I give this cruise a perfect “5” simply because I found it perfect in every respect. Taste, variety, presentation, novelty, service, and overall enjoyability were all consistent with luxury cruising. It’s not just about the food, though. You get to leisurely visit with some of the world’s most interesting people. Table topics go far beyond the common senior focus on kids’ foibles, grandkids’ achievements, and perpetual medical procedures. While this is indeed God’s waiting room, people here aren’t in a hurry to keep their appointment with Him. In fact, the more they cruise, the less they rush to get to the next onboard activity. Crystal has definitely reinvented the experience of its main dining room. We much appreciated Crystal’s new walk-in flexibility (open dining) for time, table location, and the number of diners joining us. With little fanfare, you can now bring along your onboard friends, old and new. Or dine in a quiet secluded corner and share secrets. Gone are those days when disappointed cruisers went up to a hearing room for an audience before the maitre d’. There you lined up and pled your case for the dining dispensation of a better table or feeding time. Never quite seemed consistent with Berlitz’s definition of luxury cruising as “the kind of stylish ships aboard which the word ‘no’ is virtually unheard.” STATEROOM: We stay in ordinary staterooms on Crystal (no opulent party suites for us). Though Crystal had just remodeled this ship’s “penthouse” class of rooms, the only change we found in the standard stateroom was a bigger TV screen. But we frankly don’t come here for the rooms. We keep returning to this ship because it’s like a comfortable old hotel, where seasoned employees year after year provide the most attentive service anywhere. And an expected part of a comfortable old hotel (ship) is old rooms with problems that we just get fixed as they arise. This time it was slow drains, faucets without cold water, no clock, no shower curtain, and a stuck sliding door that kept us from using the veranda. All eventually fixed after a little intervention from an officer. Onboard television was limited to a few generic international channels. Those who live for American reality shows or Monday night football may need to schedule their cruise during the annual rerun doldrums. On the other hand, the Lido Deck’s sound system was unintelligible, and a channel on our television was a good alternative for hearing the captain’s daily announcement on weather conditions and routing adjustments. Travel agents should alert customers that, even on a cruise billed as ultra luxury, an aging ship’s staterooms may be in less than perfect condition. INTERNET ACCESS: You really don’t come here for the Internet. A few months before our trip, Cruise Critic published its article, “6 Cruise Lines With Great WiFi.” Crystal didn’t make the list. Those tethered to the rituals of social media may consider it more of a forced silent retreat than a vacation. Internet connectivity varied greatly throughout the cruise, with regular display of the dreaded message, “Internet access is currently not available” (even when approaching Florida). Passengers grabbed it while they could. And ocean crossings like this one obviously lack port stops where an Internet cafe could come to the rescue. For some primitive, less-connected retirees like ourselves, a vacation with sporadic Internet is no deal-breaker. And there’s something to be said for the attitude of a past Crystal president that cruisers should “turn off the Internet and just enjoy the moment.” (Virtuoso Life, May-June 2015, p. 99) However, travel agents should caution their customers that this ship may not be a good fit if they must stay in uninterrupted email contact with a business or relative back home. Nor should passengers count on Internet availability to make enroute arrangements for port stops or post-cruise travel. Or for online bill paying or holiday shopping at the last minute. SHIP’S MUSEUM: The lore of cruising traditionally has the rich & famous dining at the captain’s table. But Crystal has something just as good for the rest of us. Captain Vorland periodically opens up the ship’s museum and serves as its docent and resident storyteller -- sort of a Norwegian cross between Sully Sullenberger, Garrison Keillor, and your favorite humanities professor. This guy really has been everywhere, man (he even took a break as a Crystal vice president). The museum, in a restricted area, has a couple hundred commemorative plaques. They reflect the Serenity’s visits to the world’s ports, both famous and obscure. While some of the plaques are simple pieces of wood, the more elaborate ones feature local art, crafts, and materials. Tell the cruise director or Crystal Society host if you’d like to be included when a group does this. Like the free kitchen tours, backstage tours, magic shows, and guided stargazing, Crystal doesn’t charge for this onboard activity. I’ve always been impressed by Captain Vorland’s daily explanation of the sea conditions and resulting navigation adjustments. Reminds me of the aviation saying that “a superior pilot uses his superior judgment to avoid situations which require the use of his superior skill.” Or success is measured by all the potentially bad days that cruisers never know they have been spared. Captain Vorland may in fact be eligible for the honor of the Explorers Club, given his work in advancing passenger cruising through the Northwest Passage (like another Norwegian who pioneered polar air routes back in the 1950s). Crystal recorded the many lectures that experts gave during the Serenity’s treks through the Northwest Passage. I’ve watched around 40 of these videos, and the collection should be sent to the Vancouver Maritime Museum (rather than just forgotten, lost, or erased). FEDERAL INSPECTION SCORES: Federal agencies in both the United States and Canada conduct health inspections of cruise ships. The inspection scores are posted on the agencies’ public websites. See www.cdc.gov and www.canada.ca. For the U.S. inspections (CDC), cruisers can read the full reports online in all their technical detail (as well as Crystal’s side of the story). For the Canadian inspections, you’d need to email a request to see the report behind a score. Unlike your grades back in school, a passing score (both countries) is set a bit higher at 86 out of 100. And a score of 100 means no significant deficiencies, not perfection. The Serenity’s most recent U.S. inspection occurred in December 2018 (about three weeks after the end of our cruise). Score was 95. The inspection report listed 43 violations around the ship, none of which would deter me from booking the ship again. (Gluttony at that Churrascaria dessert bar was a health risk for me, though.) A few months passed before CDC published the results of this inspection. Perhaps due to the famous shutdown of some federal agencies for about a month. The Serenity’s most recent Canadian inspection was in June 2017. Score was 99. However, even well-inspected luxury liners can face that noro nastiness (vomiting, diarrhea). There’s a limit to what cruise lines and governments can do to protect passengers from their own health habits. While we were crossing the ocean, Crystal’s other ship (the Symphony) had a norovirus outbreak on the Amazon. No secret, though. It was publicly reported on CDC’s home page, in Cruise Critic’s passenger chat room, and in USA Today. The Symphony’s doctor made daily reports to CDC, sought CDC’s assistance, and was able to contain the illness (less than 5 percent of the passengers reported symptoms). While passengers in a Cruise Critic chat room are not a statistical sampling, their online thread on the Symphony didn’t signal any cruise-spoiling panic. They made passing references to onboard norovirus in the midst of much more vigorous exchanges over the ethics of petting sloths and the merits of selling the Chico’s brand in the ship’s clothing store (true story). Per these stats and chats, it’s not inevitable that most people on board will get sick if there’s a norovirus outbreak (defined by CDC as 3% of passengers). A clinic that specializes in travel medicine can give you a thorough briefing on how to handle this contingency, including what remedies to take along. Here are two lists of doctors with this type of practice: (1) the International Society of Travel Medicine (www.istm.org) and (2) the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (www.astmh.org). Measles has made quite the comeback across the U.S., and is highly contagious. CDC presumes that travelers born in the U.S. before 1957 have childhood immunity. If you were born later and have had the shots, you may want to take along proof in case there’s a quarantine in your travels. (See www.cdc.gov/measles/travelers.html) EVOLVING AMBIENCE: Crystal’s customer core is retired “comfortable couples” from the American mainstream. Some have been retired for decades -- now in their eighties and beyond. Crystal continues to preserve traditions from a prior era of travel. There are still formal nights (“black tie optional” and some tuxedos), daily afternoon tea, a dress code after 6 pm, and an ornate hideaway for smoking cigars. We continue to feel safe from onboard crime. Guests occasionally die from getting old, but not from assaults, drunken parties, or jumping overboard. You’ll have to cruise elsewhere for those experiences. But Crystal is not an isolation ward, and travel agents may need to prepare some customers to expect subtle changes in the ship’s atmosphere. For instance, the music. The Russian string quartet has been replaced by a solo performer with an electronic violin. Crystal has invested heavily in computerized neon costumes for performers to dance in the dark. The young jazz crooner that faithfully replicates the 1940s may wear his hair in a modern man bun. (But just be glad that yet another generation is striving to perpetuate the old favorites from before it was born.) The crew members who give you super service may sport a few tattoos. (We’re talking pretty young ladies here, not muscled male deckhands.) And you’ll see cruisers who whip out their smartphones whenever there’s a lull in table talk. (We’re talking seniors here, not millennials.) And you might even see a dog on board these days. Folks on this cruise reported dog sightings at the buffet line, ice cream bar, clothing store, Lido Deck dining, Japanese restaurant, and ledge around the hot tub. The tiny hound that I saw didn’t make a sound, didn’t bother anyone, and was even wearing a dress at one point. And the affection from crew members suggested that they might be missing their pets back home. Or perhaps their parents just raised them to be kind to animals (and seniors). Social media polarizes this sort of thing in a rhetoric of rights. But it’s not really a legal matter until a foreign ship (here the Serenity) departing from a foreign port (here Lisbon) finally reaches an American port (here the Virgin Islands). (49 CFR 39.5(b)) Until we reached the Virgin Islands, it was just a customer relations call as to which species Crystal wished to accommodate in the price of a ticket. Regardless of a dog’s purpose, the practical problems for “pet parents” make it unlikely that cruises will ever really go to the dogs (become truly “pet friendly”). There are issues like dog-sitting during port stops, local health regs, security screenings, and distinctive nasties from nature. Things like fleas with plague, cute little snakes, and big birds that really do eat small mammals. Nature is indifferent to the rhetoric of rights. In the event of a canine unthinkable, it can be a long wait until the next port stop with a veterinarian. And I have no idea whether Crystal’s onboard physician would agree to treat a suffering non-human. If you insist on bringing Fido or Fifi, a competitor’s megaship will be more likely than tiny Crystal to include a vacationing veterinarian among its passengers. Of course, you never know what travel entrepreneurs will develop for an unmet need. While we were docked in the Virgin Islands, the humane society was having a dog-washing fundraiser at the yacht marina. Proceeds of $10 a dog went to “fly homeless pets to stateside rescues and better lives.” Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
My wife and I chose this cruise to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We had been to both Spain and Portugal previously and had a great time. The ports of call of the Iberian Sojourn were exactly what we were looking for. We spent ... Read More
My wife and I chose this cruise to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We had been to both Spain and Portugal previously and had a great time. The ports of call of the Iberian Sojourn were exactly what we were looking for. We spent 3 nights in Barcelona before we left and had a blast. The embarkation was smooth and the staff was excellent throughout. Our room with a veranda was larger than our hotel room in Barcelona. The first morning in Valencia they would not let "independents" off the ship until those who had made Crystal excursion reservations were allowed to leave. So we could have walked to our tour but because they would not let us leave so we had to race for a cab with other "independents." That was the only morning where leaving the ship was a problem. What needs to be added is that the Crystal excursions were priced way over the top-2 to 3 times as much as privately booked tours. I guess if you can afford it and you value seeming security then you might pay for the Crystal excursions but I did not see any extras booking that way since they were the same tours. For the most part people who write reviews have something very negative to say. I want to laud the staff and crew for wonderful service at every level. That being said, it is still hard to justify the amount of money that was spent for the cruise. All of our table mates raved about the food throughout every meal-perhaps leading to impossible expectations. At the main Crystal dining room the food was very good for cruise food, but it wasn't nearly as fresh or flavorful as the food we ate in each port city. At the end of the day, it was cruise ship food. The exception would be the Silk Road restaurant. We had a wonderful meal there but the Prego restaurant was only so-so. The breakfast buffet was good and the sit down cafe Tastes had excellent breakfasts also. For a ship this size the entertainment was good. There were many activities for people that did not want to leave the ship at each port but the are definitely geared to an older clientele. This is not a cruise for young couples or children. The cruisers were mostly affluent, white Americans who liked the America-centric aspect of an international cruise. Why you would travel 7000 miles to have the same experiences that you get in the USA is baffling to me. Read Less
22 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
When I embarked on Crystal Serenity in Barcelona on Sunday October 7, I recalled that my last cruise on this ship was well over almost 4 years, yet I was pleasantly amazed (but not surprised) that many restaurant staff, under the direction ... Read More
When I embarked on Crystal Serenity in Barcelona on Sunday October 7, I recalled that my last cruise on this ship was well over almost 4 years, yet I was pleasantly amazed (but not surprised) that many restaurant staff, under the direction of Leo, to me the master of all cruiseship Maitre D’s, could still greet me in name. Such is the hospitality level of Crystal cruises that many Crystal Society members return to the ship. The embarkation took no time, even the ship was practically full. Embarkation began at noon though in theory rooms are available from 3pm, but in a PH cabin mine was ready. There was a special luggage storage that takes care of hand luggages so that any guest can enjoy a leisurely lunch. Such is the hospitality with full attention to detail that makes what Crystal is, particular with direct comparison to the two cruises that I just had disembarked (I took 3 consecutive cruises in 30 days). This cruise, trade named Iberian Sojourn, a standard 7-day trip ending in Lisbon, has an ideal itinerary in that travel distance is short so that it is all port days and passengers have ample time in each port. The Spanish ports are, to me, more interesting than the Mediterranean ports in Italy that practically every cruiser has visited. In each port Crystal of course provides free shuttle so that one enjoys free and easy visits. Because of all-port, there was no formal night and the well-loved Mozart tea was not served. I have had many Crystal Cruises (my first was on Crystal Harmony, before Serenity was built), and as an old timers I can see good changes under new ownership of Genting Hong Kong. The ship was renovated only about 4 years ago, and on embarkation I learned that after this trip the ship will undergo dry docking for a whole month for another important renovation, probably the most important because the ship will re-emerge in November offering open sitting dining (Crystal Symphony had completed that process). Hitherto if Crystal was to be faulted as a luxury ship it was the two sitting system that requires one to eat either too early or too late. No more, and then my only regret is that, if I had this knowledge, I would have chosen to cruise after the renovation. A luxury cruise differs from a standard one mainly in space per passenger and crew to passenger ratio, and of course in service and food. Crystal offers best service second only to SeaDream (but the latter carries only 100 passengers with similar number of staff). Crew members here do not change ships, though there can be re-deployment as since the Genting takeover, Crystal has added two yachts and five river boats (not to mention even a luxury air operation). Great that virtually same staff members serve so that the important ‘recognition scenes’ are in place. But it is the delicate improvement of food standard that makes the ship remarkable, at a time when cutback is seen in the whole trade (including Silversea which serves packaged orange juice unless you ask for the fresh). I agree with the latest Berlitz guide as it now rates Crystal above competitors Silversea, Seabourn and Regent. The Crystal food is truly enjoyable, now that the restaurant offers two menus, one modern and one traditional, therefore many choices. On this visit I tend to conclude that the ‘modern’ menu has improved much, with artful presentation and good taste (it had been a bit ‘funny’ in the beginning as I tasted it on Symphony two years ago). There are three alternative dining choices in addition to the main restaurant, all offering good quality of food (rather than quantity in the number of available restaurants). All guests can dine twice in an alternative restaurant free (otherwise it is a mere cover charge of $35). Dining on Crystal Serenity is a real pleasure even for gourmets, and among the best at sea. Entertainment is never a strong area for Crystal. Ship size and mature passengers not really keen on shows do not justify lavish productions such as on sister company Dream Cruises, but the quality is good, and even more than on a big ship, there are always also alternative local shows in port in addition to the production show. Of these I watched one of the best acrobatic show at sea (or indeed on land) in the Balskat Duo which had performed with Circuit de Soleil. But I see the very same production shows that are old fashioned. The singers try to make more noises to lure the young, but I see few youngish passengers. The cruise director, Gary Hunter is a master of his trade, however. It is the most port intensive cruise that calls on a port very day, and all ports are interesting except for me, Gibraltar, which is however a convenient stop on route. The last night we stayed overnight in Lisbon. Valencia was the first port of call and the free shuttle takes passengers directly to the old town. It was a great visit, walking old streets and seeing various historic landmarks. Next port is Alicante and we arrived on a Spanish holiday that most shops are closed, but the town is beautiful and even with some initial rain it still makes a day of pleasant stroll. The weather was cool and pleasant. Malaga is next, and alas there was no sunshine on the Costa del Sol on our arrival. Some rains in the morning and I wonder if those who took excursion to Seville fared better. Malaga itself is interesting and it is gateway to many interesting points. As a frequent visitor to this region, I did not rush to any places, having seen them many times, and to me the ship is the destination Particularly the ship is Crystal, no matter rain or shine. Pouring rain in Gibraltar in the morning but it cleared up in the afternoon. I always think it is funny to see UK chain stores in town and here one dispenses the British pound. But Cadiz is interesting, as we had the full day I went out on my own in the afternoon my way while I have time to take an excursion in the morning. As if by bad luck it falls on another Spanish holiday, though many shops open for tourists. The morning excursion was good in that I visited sights slightly out of town that I had not seen out of my two previous visits. There was ample time to return to Cadiz proper for a stroll in its old streets in the afternoon. The trip ends in Lisbon and we stayed overnight here. It was good as there is much to see in Lisbon but a very strong wind arrived at dinner time so that the terminal was closed for the night. This is strange; though I am sure no one will opt to go ashore in such windy condition anyway. I took Crystal’s transfer to the airport early in the morning and the trip was perfectly organized, with many helpers that virtually take your luggage from ship to your check-in counter. This ends my very pleasant trip and I look forward to returning to Crystal Serenity when it operates the Open Sitting Dining. Read Less
Crystal Serenity Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 5.0 0.0
Entertainment 5.0 0.0
Public Rooms 5.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 5.0 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 5.0 0.0
Service 4.5 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 5.0 0.0

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