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I did not know whether to title this review “The Last Cruise” or “The $22,000 Colds.” As much as we like Crystal, in 2018 I had booked a cruise on Pro-Iceland for a 7-day cruise of just Iceland. But in April I was in hospital with heart problems and we cancelled the cruise and got all of our money refunded from our travel agent David Butterfield of All Cruise Travel in California. By late summer of 2018 I was feeling much better and we booked the Iceland-northern Norway cruise on the Crystal Serenity for 2019. Unfortunately by February I had more heart problems and was back in the hospital for 45 days and three operations. But, damn it; we were not canceling the 2019 vacation. It turned out I should have stayed at home, The cruise was Reykjavik to Copenhagen over 17 days. We had two prior cruises on the Crystal Symphony that were great. Getting There: We love Icelandair! It is the only airline we can afford to fly first class on (they call it Saga Class), but getting a flight from St. Louis to a city served by Icelandair can be a problem. You have to get your baggage after your domestic connecting flight and recheck it. We went through Chicago this year, which was a bit of a mistake. The International Terminal is nowhere close to any another terminal, requiring a bus ride across the airport complex. We were delayed two hours for a 45-minute flight because they had to replace a seat (apparently there was a human discharge.) Once in Chicago things were a little smoother, with one exception. I left an “Andy Carpenter” mystery novel by David Rosenfeld that I was in the middle of on a luggage cart stand. The flight to Reykjavik was great and in fact one of the flight attendants was on our Iceland Air flight in 2006. She did not appear to have changed a bit in 13 years. There was a free large bus from the airport to the dock. This is where I frist discovered I would be having problems. The long walk to the bus showed my heart was still having issues. I had to stop about every 100 feet to catch my breath caused by my heart beating too fast. I had left instructions that if I die on this vacation to give my body to a medical school in Reykjavik or Oslo and save the shipping costs back to the U.S. THE SHIP AND THE CRUISE: The unusual: There was a long line to get onto the ship. It was outside and there was a cold wind blowing with drizzle. This was unusual for us as past Crystal Cruise there were no lines. The Usual: Since Crystal is “an all inclusive” line I have referred to it as the “Cruise Line for Alcoholics.” Passengers were met at check-in by staffers holding trays of glasses of Champagne. Once on board check-in was very fast and efficient. The Stateroom: We got what we paid for even if it was about $7,500 a person for 17 days. The stateroom was small. The only chair in the room was a desk chair. The sofa was narrow and low to the ground with a vinyl covering. You had a tendency to slide off of it. Unlike the beds on the Symphony which had firm mattresses, the bed had a soft uncomfortable mattress and the cruise was for 17-days. If you are in colder climates dry hair is a must and there were two hairdryers, one in the bathroom and the other by the desk. Since our last Crystal cruise they added large screen TVs. There was no disk player in the TVs to play DVDs or music on CDs. However the new large screen TVs came with a selection of downloads that included 84 movies, TV shows and several hundred music selections. The bathroom was nice with a couple exceptions. There was not a walk-in shower but a high wall bath tub/shower combination. The tub was short. Since most people on Crystal are going to be older, this creates two problems. It is difficult for people with knee and hip problems stepping over the high wall of the bathtub. It also seems that the tub was so small it would be difficult to get in and out of it unless you are 5-foot-1 or smaller. A walk-in shower would still need a higher lip, since the drain is slow during peak hours of use, but it would better than the tub. The other areas of concern was that they could use another “grab bar” in the shower and one next to the toilet seat, which like all other seats on the ship is low. THE FOOD: As usual the Crystal food was better than I have had on any other cruise line. There was one exception. One night in the main dining room T-Bone steak was on the menu. My steak was so tough that you could not cut it with steak knife. This was not an isolated bad piece of meat. Diners at other table had the same problem. If you could cut off a piece you ran the risk of choking on it. WHAT? They did have Beef Stroganoff on the menu. I didn’t look closely to the menu since everyone knows Beef Stroganoff is served on noodles. Everyone knows that except the chef and cooks on the Serenity where it is served on rice. The Main Dining Room: It is named the Waterside. As usual there were no lines or long waits to be seated. Service was very efficient but not rushed. My wife had a favorite waiter and we sat in his section on most nights. This was good as I did not have to feel guilty about not leaving a dozen waiters a tip, I could simply leave one large tip at the end of the cruise on our ship’s account for one waiter. Beyond the call: All the desserts were good depending what you like. My wife asked a question if they ever had Strawberry/Rhubarb pie. They don’t, however a maitre told her to come back the next night as he would have one especially baked for her. They did and she said it was very good (I’m not eating rhubarb on a bet.). The same thing happened at the Palm Court bar on the 12th level. I was easy as I always wanted a Coke or a Dr. Pepper. But my wife enjoys mixed drinks. One night she ordered a “Bee’s Knees” cocktail. The staff was unfamiliar with the drink. But the bartender looked it up on the internet and the next afternoon she was served a Bee’s Knees. The specialty restaurants: These were all good, plus they had a few items on the menu that were not part of the specialty dishes for spouses who hated the normal specialty items. At the Silk, a Chinese restaurant I was disappointed they did not have my favorite “Lo Mein” on the menu, but I was well aware that “Lo Mein” is not really Chinese, but something sold at American Chinese restaurants. Bistro: We would often skip the traditional breakfast and go to the Bistro on Deck 6 for fresh fruit and muffins. At night we would often skip dessert in a dining room and go to the Bistro where they had a number of desserts for you to pick from including chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate truffles (I started with 3-truffles a night and by the end of the cruise was downing six.) plus desserts in cups such as Crème Boule. ENTERTAINMENT: Dan Davies in the Piano Bar, The American Saloon, isn’t American but is an Australian. He also was the best entertainment on the ship. He was funny and showed signs of being a very good jazz pianist. He won’t be selling any CDs of his vocals, but still he was worth several trips to his venue. The majority of the passengers got sick with colds and sore throats Dan was not an exception, but his piano work was so good on the nights he could not sing it was still very entertaining. The passengers’ requests were a problem. People should realize the piano bar guys hate playing the Piano Man and My Way. It didn’t stop the passengers from requesting them and Dan reluctantly playing them. There were two comics on this cruise, both British entertainers. One was very good and the other was barely “OK.” On July 4, a British female singer with a number of performances in shows in London’s West End was the featured entertainer. On the program it stated there would be patriotic 4th of July songs for the Americans. I thought it was odd that a Brit would be singing songs reference a war that King George III lost. My worries disappeared when the only song she sang was “When the Saints go Marching In” which has nothing to do with American Independence and is most associated with New Orleans which belonged to the French until 1804, The Crystal Quartet was a group of musicians from the Philippines. They performed music from the American Songbook and pop tunes through the 1980s. They usually played in the Palm Court on the 12th floor. This is also where the ships male dancers, the Ambassadors, who danced with single women or wives whose husbands could not dance, were found on most nights. You could detect a slight accent of the female singer, with one exception. When she would sing songs made famous in the 1950s by the “Singing Rage Patty Page” she sounded just like her. TORTURING OLD PEOPLE: Just like in the cabins, in the bars and lounges all the chairs were extremely low to the floor. In the Palm Court there were four high back chairs that were actually off the floor and they were always occupied. Older people getting up from all the other furniture sounded like a Rice Krispies commercial, “Snap, Crackle and Pop” coming from people’s knees. THE CON: One lecture on the ship was “The History of the Swiss Watch.” The lecture was not by a nice person from Switzerland but by a Brazilian, who happened the run the ship’s “Watch Shop.” He handed out raffle tickets to people attending, but the winner was not announced at the end of his talk in the movie theater. You had to follow him to the Watch Store where he would draw the winning ticket for a small gift certificate. I did not follow him to the store. I felt I was being scammed and walked in the opposite direction. THE DIRT COVE: On thing that really amazed me was that for a ship that was in dry dock for an allegedly complete interior overhaul, was how filthy the white chairs in the Crystal Cove. These were covered in dirt and it is hard to believe that staff was not aware of their condition. This is one of the higher priced cruise ships in the world. You would expect the furniture to be clean. HIGH MARKS: Chief Concierge Marco Juen from Germany went out in the rain and got us a taxi to standby when we simply asked if there were any cabs available while the ship was docked in Tromso, Norway. Juen told us to have a seat. We thought he was going to make a call. Instead he went off the ship and retuned in 10-minutes, wet and telling us there was a cab waiting for us. MOST POPULAR GUY: That would be the guy manning the Scoops Ice Cream bar from noon to 6pm on the 12th level next to the Trident Grill. This guy was serving up Ben and Jerry’s and soft serve for six hours straight, often getting unusual requests to mix the flavors in half or quarter scoops. Regardless how busy he was and how stupid the request was, he always had a smile on his face. FREE: This was the first time on a cruise ship where the computer/internet service was completely free. The ship had a computer room with at least 12 computers available for passengers. Several other computers had leading newspapers’ online editions at no charge. SYMPHONY VS SERENITY: While we found almost everything on the Serenity to be very nice, we preferred the Symphony. Everyone we spoke to who had been on both ships said the same thing. TOURS: My wife and I often differ on places to see. I like to see where people live and styles of houses. She likes to go to where the tour busses are going to famous locations. To handle this dilemma we try to find a taxi that will give us an hourly rate. On this cruise we found that the taxi was often cheaper than the ship’s tour bus trips. The only problem was in some smaller towns there were no taxis to hire. The last full day of the trip was in Copenhagen. The ship offered a free shuttle bus into downtown Copenhagen. It was about a 30-minute ride one-way. It was a rainy day and they rain increased when we got downtown. We just stayed on the shuttle bus and went back to the ship. We got a free 1-hour tour of Copenhagen, a city we had been to before and spent lots of time on a sunny day seeing the tourist sites. WEATHER: Iceland was relatively warm with temps around 54f. In the Norway towns north of the Arctic Circle there were July days where the temperature was near freezing with a combination of drizzle and snow. THE COUGH AND SNEEZE: By the end of this cruise at least half the passengers were coughing and sneezing. Both my wife and I went to the Ships Medical Center. We knew better than to rack up a big bill by seeing the doctor. Instead nurses gave us cold medicines that were very reasonably priced. My wife was in bed for three days on the ship and a week after our return. I was carrying a wash cloth to cough into while on the ship. Counting the cost of the cruise, airfare and other transportation, plus the dog sitter back home our total cost was around $22,000 and perhaps in years to come the biggest memory with be the cough and cold. DEPARTURE: My wife had signed up for the shuttle bus from the dock to the airport. On our last full day on the ship we learned that a taxi to the airport was the same price as the bus or cheaper. Marco Juen at the Concierge Desk had no problem cancelling the bus. We were then able to reserve a taxi with someone from Copenhagen’s Tourist Bureau who was on the ship. It turned out the taxi fare was cheaper than the bus.

THE LAST CRUISE AND THE $22,000 COLDS by Strode Wallace

Crystal Serenity Cruise Review by Strode Wallace

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: June 2019
  • Destination: Baltic Sea
  • Cabin Type: Deluxe Stateroom with Picture Window (slightly limited view)
I did not know whether to title this review “The Last Cruise” or “The $22,000 Colds.”

As much as we like Crystal, in 2018 I had booked a cruise on Pro-Iceland for a 7-day cruise of just Iceland. But in April I was in hospital with heart problems and we cancelled the cruise and got all of our money refunded from our travel agent David Butterfield of All Cruise Travel in California.

By late summer of 2018 I was feeling much better and we booked the Iceland-northern Norway cruise on the Crystal Serenity for 2019. Unfortunately by February I had more heart problems and was back in the hospital for 45 days and three operations. But, damn it; we were not canceling the 2019 vacation. It turned out I should have stayed at home,

The cruise was Reykjavik to Copenhagen over 17 days. We had two prior cruises on the Crystal Symphony that were great.

Getting There: We love Icelandair! It is the only airline we can afford to fly first class on (they call it Saga Class), but getting a flight from St. Louis to a city served by Icelandair can be a problem.

You have to get your baggage after your domestic connecting flight and recheck it. We went through Chicago this year, which was a bit of a mistake. The International Terminal is nowhere close to any another terminal, requiring a bus ride across the airport complex. We were delayed two hours for a 45-minute flight because they had to replace a seat (apparently there was a human discharge.) Once in Chicago things were a little smoother, with one exception. I left an “Andy Carpenter” mystery novel by David Rosenfeld that I was in the middle of on a luggage cart stand.

The flight to Reykjavik was great and in fact one of the flight attendants was on our Iceland Air flight in 2006. She did not appear to have changed a bit in 13 years.

There was a free large bus from the airport to the dock. This is where I frist discovered I would be having problems. The long walk to the bus showed my heart was still having issues. I had to stop about every 100 feet to catch my breath caused by my heart beating too fast. I had left instructions that if I die on this vacation to give my body to a medical school in Reykjavik or Oslo and save the shipping costs back to the U.S.

THE SHIP AND THE CRUISE:

The unusual: There was a long line to get onto the ship. It was outside and there was a cold wind blowing with drizzle. This was unusual for us as past Crystal Cruise there were no lines.

The Usual: Since Crystal is “an all inclusive” line I have referred to it as the “Cruise Line for Alcoholics.” Passengers were met at check-in by staffers holding trays of glasses of Champagne. Once on board check-in was very fast and efficient.

The Stateroom: We got what we paid for even if it was about $7,500 a person for 17 days. The stateroom was small. The only chair in the room was a desk chair. The sofa was narrow and low to the ground with a vinyl covering. You had a tendency to slide off of it.

Unlike the beds on the Symphony which had firm mattresses, the bed had a soft uncomfortable mattress and the cruise was for 17-days.

If you are in colder climates dry hair is a must and there were two hairdryers, one in the bathroom and the other by the desk.

Since our last Crystal cruise they added large screen TVs. There was no disk player in the TVs to play DVDs or music on CDs. However the new large screen TVs came with a selection of downloads that included 84 movies, TV shows and several hundred music selections.

The bathroom was nice with a couple exceptions. There was not a walk-in shower but a high wall bath tub/shower combination. The tub was short. Since most people on Crystal are going to be older, this creates two problems. It is difficult for people with knee and hip problems stepping over the high wall of the bathtub. It also seems that the tub was so small it would be difficult to get in and out of it unless you are 5-foot-1 or smaller. A walk-in shower would still need a higher lip, since the drain is slow during peak hours of use, but it would better than the tub.

The other areas of concern was that they could use another “grab bar” in the shower and one next to the toilet seat, which like all other seats on the ship is low.

THE FOOD: As usual the Crystal food was better than I have had on any other cruise line. There was one exception. One night in the main dining room T-Bone steak was on the menu. My steak was so tough that you could not cut it with steak knife. This was not an isolated bad piece of meat. Diners at other table had the same problem. If you could cut off a piece you ran the risk of choking on it.

WHAT? They did have Beef Stroganoff on the menu. I didn’t look closely to the menu since everyone knows Beef Stroganoff is served on noodles. Everyone knows that except the chef and cooks on the Serenity where it is served on rice.

The Main Dining Room: It is named the Waterside. As usual there were no lines or long waits to be seated. Service was very efficient but not rushed. My wife had a favorite waiter and we sat in his section on most nights. This was good as I did not have to feel guilty about not leaving a dozen waiters a tip, I could simply leave one large tip at the end of the cruise on our ship’s account for one waiter.

Beyond the call: All the desserts were good depending what you like. My wife asked a question if they ever had Strawberry/Rhubarb pie. They don’t, however a maitre told her to come back the next night as he would have one especially baked for her. They did and she said it was very good (I’m not eating rhubarb on a bet.).

The same thing happened at the Palm Court bar on the 12th level. I was easy as I always wanted a Coke or a Dr. Pepper. But my wife enjoys mixed drinks. One night she ordered a “Bee’s Knees” cocktail. The staff was unfamiliar with the drink. But the bartender looked it up on the internet and the next afternoon she was served a Bee’s Knees.

The specialty restaurants: These were all good, plus they had a few items on the menu that were not part of the specialty dishes for spouses who hated the normal specialty items. At the Silk, a Chinese restaurant I was disappointed they did not have my favorite “Lo Mein” on the menu, but I was well aware that “Lo Mein” is not really Chinese, but something sold at American Chinese restaurants.

Bistro: We would often skip the traditional breakfast and go to the Bistro on Deck 6 for fresh fruit and muffins. At night we would often skip dessert in a dining room and go to the Bistro where they had a number of desserts for you to pick from including chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate truffles (I started with 3-truffles a night and by the end of the cruise was downing six.) plus desserts in cups such as Crème Boule.

ENTERTAINMENT: Dan Davies in the Piano Bar, The American Saloon, isn’t American but is an Australian. He also was the best entertainment on the ship. He was funny and showed signs of being a very good jazz pianist. He won’t be selling any CDs of his vocals, but still he was worth several trips to his venue.

The majority of the passengers got sick with colds and sore throats Dan was not an exception, but his piano work was so good on the nights he could not sing it was still very entertaining. The passengers’ requests were a problem. People should realize the piano bar guys hate playing the Piano Man and My Way. It didn’t stop the passengers from requesting them and Dan reluctantly playing them.

There were two comics on this cruise, both British entertainers. One was very good and the other was barely “OK.”

On July 4, a British female singer with a number of performances in shows in London’s West End was the featured entertainer. On the program it stated there would be patriotic 4th of July songs for the Americans. I thought it was odd that a Brit would be singing songs reference a war that King George III lost. My worries disappeared when the only song she sang was “When the Saints go Marching In” which has nothing to do with American Independence and is most associated with New Orleans which belonged to the French until 1804,

The Crystal Quartet was a group of musicians from the Philippines. They performed music from the American Songbook and pop tunes through the 1980s. They usually played in the Palm Court on the 12th floor. This is also where the ships male dancers, the Ambassadors, who danced with single women or wives whose husbands could not dance, were found on most nights.

You could detect a slight accent of the female singer, with one exception. When she would sing songs made famous in the 1950s by the “Singing Rage Patty Page” she sounded just like her.

TORTURING OLD PEOPLE: Just like in the cabins, in the bars and lounges all the chairs were extremely low to the floor. In the Palm Court there were four high back chairs that were actually off the floor and they were always occupied. Older people getting up from all the other furniture sounded like a Rice Krispies commercial, “Snap, Crackle and Pop” coming from people’s knees.

THE CON: One lecture on the ship was “The History of the Swiss Watch.” The lecture was not by a nice person from Switzerland but by a Brazilian, who happened the run the ship’s “Watch Shop.” He handed out raffle tickets to people attending, but the winner was not announced at the end of his talk in the movie theater. You had to follow him to the Watch Store where he would draw the winning ticket for a small gift certificate. I did not follow him to the store. I felt I was being scammed and walked in the opposite direction.

THE DIRT COVE: On thing that really amazed me was that for a ship that was in dry dock for an allegedly complete interior overhaul, was how filthy the white chairs in the Crystal Cove. These were covered in dirt and it is hard to believe that staff was not aware of their condition. This is one of the higher priced cruise ships in the world. You would expect the furniture to be clean.

HIGH MARKS: Chief Concierge Marco Juen from Germany went out in the rain and got us a taxi to standby when we simply asked if there were any cabs available while the ship was docked in Tromso, Norway. Juen told us to have a seat. We thought he was going to make a call. Instead he went off the ship and retuned in 10-minutes, wet and telling us there was a cab waiting for us.

MOST POPULAR GUY: That would be the guy manning the Scoops Ice Cream bar from noon to 6pm on the 12th level next to the Trident Grill. This guy was serving up Ben and Jerry’s and soft serve for six hours straight, often getting unusual requests to mix the flavors in half or quarter scoops. Regardless how busy he was and how stupid the request was, he always had a smile on his face.

FREE: This was the first time on a cruise ship where the computer/internet service was completely free. The ship had a computer room with at least 12 computers available for passengers. Several other computers had leading newspapers’ online editions at no charge.

SYMPHONY VS SERENITY: While we found almost everything on the Serenity to be very nice, we preferred the Symphony. Everyone we spoke to who had been on both ships said the same thing.

TOURS: My wife and I often differ on places to see. I like to see where people live and styles of houses. She likes to go to where the tour busses are going to famous locations. To handle this dilemma we try to find a taxi that will give us an hourly rate. On this cruise we found that the taxi was often cheaper than the ship’s tour bus trips.

The only problem was in some smaller towns there were no taxis to hire.

The last full day of the trip was in Copenhagen. The ship offered a free shuttle bus into downtown Copenhagen. It was about a 30-minute ride one-way. It was a rainy day and they rain increased when we got downtown. We just stayed on the shuttle bus and went back to the ship. We got a free 1-hour tour of Copenhagen, a city we had been to before and spent lots of time on a sunny day seeing the tourist sites.

WEATHER: Iceland was relatively warm with temps around 54f. In the Norway towns north of the Arctic Circle there were July days where the temperature was near freezing with a combination of drizzle and snow.

THE COUGH AND SNEEZE: By the end of this cruise at least half the passengers were coughing and sneezing.

Both my wife and I went to the Ships Medical Center. We knew better than to rack up a big bill by seeing the doctor. Instead nurses gave us cold medicines that were very reasonably priced. My wife was in bed for three days on the ship and a week after our return. I was carrying a wash cloth to cough into while on the ship. Counting the cost of the cruise, airfare and other transportation, plus the dog sitter back home our total cost was around $22,000 and perhaps in years to come the biggest memory with be the cough and cold.

DEPARTURE: My wife had signed up for the shuttle bus from the dock to the airport. On our last full day on the ship we learned that a taxi to the airport was the same price as the bus or cheaper. Marco Juen at the Concierge Desk had no problem cancelling the bus. We were then able to reserve a taxi with someone from Copenhagen’s Tourist Bureau who was on the ship. It turned out the taxi fare was cheaper than the bus.
Strode Wallace’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
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Cabin Review

Deluxe Stateroom with Picture Window (slightly limited view)
Cabin C2
The Stateroom: We got what we paid for even if it was about $7,500 a person for 17 days. The stateroom was small. The only chair in the room was a desk chair. The sofa was narrow and low to the ground with a vinyl covering. You had a tendency to slide off of it.

Unlike the beds on the Symphony which had firm mattresses, the bed had a soft uncomfortable mattress and the cruise was for 17-days.

If you are in colder climates dry hair is a must and there were two hairdryers, one in the bathroom and the other by the desk.

Since our last Crystal cruise they added large screen TVs. There was no disk player in the TVs to play DVDs or music on CDs. However the new large screen TVs came with a selection of downloads that included 84 movies, TV shows and several hundred music selections.

The bathroom was nice with a couple exceptions. There was not a walk-in shower but a high wall bath tub/shower combination. The tub was short. Since most people on Crystal are going to be older, this creates two problems. It is difficult for people with knee and hip problems stepping over the high wall of the bathtub. It also seems that the tub was so small it would be difficult to get in and out of it unless you are 5-foot-1 or smaller. A walk-in shower would still need a higher lip, since the drain is slow during peak hours of use, but it would better than the tub.

The other areas of concern was that they could use another “grab bar” in the shower and one next to the toilet seat, which like all other seats on the ship is low.
Promenade Deck Outside Cabins