Crystal Serenity Cruise Review by tv24
- Sail Date: March 2015
- Destination: Africa
Service: Truly excellent without any bowing or scraping. I often noticed how the Crystal staff made all situations, no matter how complicated or demanding, very smooth and easy.
Embarkation and Disembarkation: The simplest and smoothest we have every experienced. One minor problem in a port, but again, ridiculously quick and smooth.
Ship: In very good condition. Many well-designed public spaces. The only time we felt crowded was when folks were waited outside the dining room for dinner. See below for my cabin review.
Enrichment Program: The absolute best we have ever experienced. We loved the lecture series with many talks at a very high level. Our attention spans never failed and we were often challenged by the thought-provoking content. Destination lectures provided very good information and preparation.
Internet: Of course it is slow and you will have trouble up-loading your photos or doing anything that requires band width. But this is exactly the same as on every other cruise line. The big benefit on Crystal is that Crystal Society members (you join automatically after your first Crystal cruise) are given one free hour for each day on board. This was a major benefit for us, allowing us to avoid any internet costs, and making the Crystal experience more all-inclusive.
Beverages: Excellent, from the fresh juices, to the specialty coffees, to all the booze and wine, all-inclusive. So bottoms up!
Food: Since we are foodies from the San Francisco area, this is a make-or-break area for us, and we were generally pleased. The stand-out for us was Tastes, the small plates venue on the Lido deck which features world cuisine. Our only complaint was that they don't vary the menu, so after 2 visits, we had sampled all the small plates. Dinner and lunch in the main dining room were always quite good, with lots of variety and even some ethnic dishes, which we appreciated. We did have a special meal with some friends, a series of Indian curries, which was lackluster. Breakfast and lunch buffets in the Lido were good enough with lots of variety, but a few things to avoid, such as the super-greasy bacon.
The specialty restos were a big disappointment. Silk Road lacked any wow factor; I just don't understand the rave reviews. But poor, poor Prego is desperately in need of a make-over. The interior design looks like a New Jersey suburban Italian resto that Tony Soprano might frequent. The Prego food quality was sadly just a step above the Olive Garden. Come on, Crystal, you can do better than that!
Entertainment: There was an excellent concert pianist, and we enjoyed Ms. Calvert's Patsy Cline show. And one night in the Cove we were brought to tears by a smooth jazz jam that included a floating bunch of the best musicians on board, a transcending experience. Otherwise the entertainment was same old, same old cruise ship material. Does Belinda King book the acts and script the shows, like she does for other lines? Here is where we do not fit the typical cruise ship demographic, and where I will probably get a lot of push back from others. But we search for something more modern, more edgy, maybe a bit younger. The nadir was a salute to British rock from the 60s where the troupe did an endless group sing of 20-second bits from dozens and dozens of songs, very much like the dull introductions to "American Idol" episodes. I almost lost it during the dumbed-down medley of Rolling Stones' songs, which was like a "Saturday Night Live" parody of what one would expect on a cruise ship. At one time that music stood for something. Where did we go wrong?
The Big Issue: We boarded the 4th segment of a 6-segment World Cruise, joining hundreds and hundreds of folks who were on for the full 100 days. Many of these passengers had taken many Crystal world cruises before. They had bonded, knew each other, and seemed to stay within their own groups of friends. Very natural, of course, but this was hard for us, and try as we might, we found it very hard to meet people. Believe me, this did not ruin our experience, but we very, very often felt left out. We did meet a few people and had a few good conversations, but over the course of 21 days, we were pretty much on our own. It was more than a bit alienating. I would caution others who are considering one or two segments midway through a Crystal world cruise. You might have a bit of trouble connecting with others.
So would I cruise Crystal again? Certainly for the right itinerary, and we would definitely consider an Atlantic crossing. But I think I would avoid a segment of a world cruise. In fact, we have made a deposit on the 2016 World Cruise mainly because of the incredible itinerary and because we got a very good deal. But we are now about 95% sure that we will cancel and spend our travel dollars elsewhere. I don't think I could make it through 102 days of struggling to connect with the closed group of frequent world cruisers.
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