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Crystal Cruises: Crystal Serenity

Crystal Serenity Cruise Review

Insider Take

Best For People Who Want

Remarkably attentive, personable service in huge penthouse suites that come with their own butlers on a full-size luxury cruise ship; upbeat entertainment and a European style casino at night; lots of educational and other self-improvement options; Mozart with their afternoon tea; single women who enjoy the company of suave gentlemen dance hosts.

Onboard Experience

The focus on the ship is "the little things"; as in the details that make life just a little bit (or in some cases, a lot) more exquisite. The largest ultra-luxury vessel afloat, Serenity is 38% bigger than fleet mate Symphony, but carries only 15 percent more guests. The result is that there is simply no crowding, ever. Passengers savor more time at sea for lectures, educational programs, wine and food festivals. At night, there's lot of exceptional entertainment.

The extensive shipboard activity list comprises bingo, bridge, fashion shows, casino gaming lessons, and art auctions, but most passengers seem preoccupied with their Crystal Cruise Creative Learning Institute classes, on everything from wellness to business technology. Indeed, the spacious Creative Learning Institute may well be Crystal Serenity's principal advantage over Crystal Symphony. Several classrooms are located along an elegant wide corridor; one, dedicated to piano instruction, features Yamaha keyboards atop every table. The ship's Visions program provides expert speakers on topics as varied as current affairs and astronomy, wine and antiques.

Crystal no longer charges separately for alcoholic beverages - it now has a policy in line with other luxury cruise lines. It stocks its staterooms with complimentary bottles of water and wine, plus spirits you can select from a menu before setting sail. Soft drinks, bottled water, and specialty coffees are all also free, and the penthouse suites come with butler service.

Shorts are forbidden anywhere on the ship after 6 p.m. Passengers get very dressed up for the lavish Broadway-style shows -- and live performances by recording artists you've actually heard of. There are two piano bars. Suave gentleman hosts (and ship's officers on occasion) invite single women passengers to cut the rug with them to the accompaniment of the ship's own dance orchestra.

Public Rooms

One enters Serenity via the literally dazzling Crystal Plaza atrium, with its multiple levels of glass and chrome stairs and waterfall. Strangely, this lobby belies the absence of glitz elsewhere on the ship, which though elegant in what details are present, is surprisingly utilitarian.

Enjoy dancing and cabaret in the Stardust Club, cocktails and pianists in the Avenue Saloon, and cigars in the intimate, refined Connoisseur Club. Or savor breathtaking ocean views through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the tropical paradise Palm Court, where, at night, you can dance or attend classical recitals. The 10,410-square-foot Galaxy Lounge is Serenity's principal entertainment venue. It's worth noting that both the Galaxy Lounge and the ship's other main entertainment venue, Stardust Club, offer exemplary sight lines and comfortable theater- and table-style seating.

Twenty-four-hour Internet and email access are on offer in the Computer [email protected] and instruction lab, which also provide private workspaces and cubicles big enough to accommodate a single student and tutor. The Studio, unique to Serenity, offers an array of creative and informative hands-on instruction. There's a library with over 2000 books, videos, DVDs, and books-on-tape, and an art gallery in which purchasable artwork is displayed. The three shops on the 3692-square-foot Avenue of the Stars offer jewelry, clothing, and the inevitable specialty items at premium prices.

The Vintage Room, exclusive to Serenity, is a boardroom with its own wine cellar. Enjoy all manner of board and card games in the Bridge Lounge.


The excellent main dining room offers a palate-delighting array of classic European menus, along with regional specialties of the various ports at which you'll call. Two superb alternative restaurants, Nobu (Japanese) and Prego (Italian, as if we needed to tell you!) both require reservations. They're open from 6:30 until 10. There's no extra charge to dine in either of them.

The main dining room has changed from set dining times to open seating and dining anytime.

All of the food onboard is excellent - from room service to the alternative restaurants. They now also feature unlimited wine, beer and spirits onboard throughout the cruise and during meals.


Watch recently released blockbusters and higher-brow fare in the Hollywood Theatre, which tends to run out of popcorn, so arrive early! At 4123 square feet, Caesar's Palace at Sea is the biggest casinos on any luxury ship. There are nightly dancing venues, a disco, and a karaoke lounge, though the more genteel may opt for classical recitals. There are also lavish Broadway style production extravaganzas.

Daytime activities are many and constant. I have been on luxury ships where the only daytime options were one lecture or doing nothing. Not so on Crystal; you can take music or foreign language lessons, or computer lessons, each repeated throughout the day. Every cruise may feature as many as 10 different expert lecturers on a variety of topics.

There is an extensive DVD library with no charge to borrow as many movies as you want.


Serenity offers twice as many penthouse cabins as other Crystal ships. Moreover, 85 percent of Serenity's cabins have balconies, as opposed to Symphony's 65 percent. There are nine guest decks, with 548 staterooms on five of them, including four Crystal Penthouses with 1345-square foot verandahs. Thirty-two Penthouse Suites with 536-square foot verandahs, 64 Penthouses with 403-square foot verandahs, 82 (269-square-foot) Penthouse staterooms with verandahs, 286 (269-square-foot) Outside Deluxe Staterooms, and 80 (225-square-foot) Outside Deluxe Staterooms.

The Penthouse Staterooms, exclusive to Serenity, include a remarkable array of amenities, such as butler service, binoculars, slippers, Riedel glassware, personalized stationery, baggage tags for priority delivery, welcome champagne and an in-room bar that's fully stocked before embarkation, flat screen TV, walk-in closet, and full Jacuzzi bathtubs. The four largest penthouse suites also have guest bedrooms, butlers' pantries, libraries, private workout rooms, cordless phones, and surround sound.

The cabins have roomy sitting areas, big closets with shoe racks, safes, both showers and bathtubs, double sinks, and telephones in the bathroom, which has it own raft of amenities, including magnifying makeup mirrors, and bathrobes. TV remote control offers a choice between 14 channels. There's a data port for laptop computers (access to the Internet is charged separately). The telephone system offers private voicemail and automated wake up calls. Twin beds may be converted to queen-sized.

Children's Facilities

During the summer and school holidays, Crystal provides staff to coordinate activities for kids from three to 17. There's always a video arcade designed for the exclusive pleasure of older teenagers. Babysitters may be hired by the hour. Cribs are provided without charge.


By day, resort wear prevails. For evening, any one of three dress codes may be enforced. Formal dictates evening gowns for the ladies and tuxedos, dinner jackets or dark suits and ties for their gentlemen escorts. Informal allows evening or cocktail dresses or pantsuits for ladies and sport coats and slacks for gentlemen, with or without neckties. Casual calls for dresses and pantsuits for the ladies, sport shirts and slacks for gentlemen, who needn't worry about neckties and jackets.


One of the nicest luxury ships in the world - fantastic service and cuisine. Great day and nighttime activities.

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer

Port-a-day itineraries; 24-hour casual dress; having lots of kids around.


Understated elegance is the rule aboard Serenity. You'll drink wine from Riedel leaded crystal glasses, and sip tea from Wedgwood bone china. The dining tables are covered by Frette linen, and the handsome deck furniture is by Brown Jordan Mission Teak. The staterooms' wood accents and furniture tend to be dark, tastefully offsetting colorful curtains, wall coverings, upholstery, and bedcovers.


Enjoy wonderful views of the sea from the elegant 500-seat Crystal Dining Room. If the sun has set, revel in its murals and stained glass ceilings and murals. Ample aisles separate tables of a wide range of sizes. Assigned seating is the rule for main and late dinner; sit where you please for your full-service breakfast and lunch.

Renowned master chef Nobuyuki (Nobu) Matsuhisa oversees Nobu, which includes a sushi bar, while Prego, with its Roman decor and northern Italian menu, is a labor of love by the equally noted restaurateur Piero Selvaggio. Getting reservations in these two alternative dining venues can seem difficult for those unaware that they're nearly empty on formal dining nights, and that tables are often available for those who don't get too hungry for dinner at eight, and can actually wait until nine, or even later.

Want alternatives to those two alternatives? Enjoy casual evening dining and themed luncheon buffets at the indoor/outdoor poolside area. The Bistro, a coffee and wine bar with attractive wicker-like chairs, Guy Buffet-designed china, and a perfect light-fare buffet, is a pleasant place to make new friends. The country-club style Lido Cafe serves breakfast and lunch. The Trident Bar & Grill offers casual poolside lunches all afternoon. Scoops Ice Cream Bar dispenses complimentary frozen sweets and fresh-from-the-oven cookies for those who left their diets ashore, while the food counter Tastes, open for late breakfast and late lunch, offers such unusual options as peanut butter and jelly French toast.

Feeling peckish between lunch and dinner? Enjoy afternoon tea in the Palm Court. There's also 24-hour complimentary room service, with menu selections from the main dining room, in the cabins.


The mostly European hotel and dining room staves take palpable pride in their very high level of professionalism. They're tirelessly solicitous, but you never feel for even a moment that their commitment to your pleasure is anything other than genuine.


Gratuities are now included in the cruise fare (since 2012).


The 8,234 sq. ft. Crystal Spa, laid out according to feng shui principles, features cardiovascular exercise equipment, a weight room, an aerobics studio, treatment rooms, and two Wimbledon Courts for paddle tennis. The luxurious changing rooms offer lotions, shampoos, hair dryers, and bottles of water. You can enjoy marvelous views through picture windows while relaxing in the steam room. The Seahorse outdoor lap pool is flanked on both sides by outdoor Jacuzzis. The indoor/outdoor Neptune Pool can be covered by a retractable roof in inclement weather. There's a full wraparound teak promenade deck for walking and jogging on Deck 7, with no deck chairs to get in your way, and no lifeboats to compromise the view. The sports deck offers golf driving range, shuffleboard court and table tennis.

Ship Overview

From cruises in the Caribbean to the far-flung regions of South America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific, Crystal Serenity offers voyages that last from seven days to several months in length (for the annual World Cruise). Many itineraries can be booked back-to-back for a longer trip without repeating a port of call.

Crystal Serenity was introduced in 2003, the line's first new ship since 1995. Although more than a third larger than Crystal's earlier ships, it's similar in layout and follows the successful formula of creating intimate spaces in understated yet sophisticated surroundings. Stylish public rooms, uncrowded and uncluttered, are clubby in the tradition of elegantly proportioned drawing rooms (even the main show lounge is on a single level).

Muted colors and warm woods create a soft atmosphere conducive to socializing in the refined environment. The Palm Court could be mistaken for the kind of British colonial–era lounge you might have seen in Hong Kong or India in the 19th century. A thoughtful touch is an entirely separate room for scrutinizing the art pieces available for auction. The understatement even continues into the casino, although it contains plenty of slot machines and gaming tables.

Winner of accolades and too many hospitality industry awards to count, Crystal Cruises offers a taste of the grandeur of the past along with all the modern touches discerning passengers demand today. Founded in 1990 in Japan, Crystal has large ships, unlike other luxury vessels, that carry upward of 900 passengers. What makes them distinctive are superior service, a variety of dining options, spacious accommodations, and some of the highest ratios of space per passenger of any cruise ship.

Beginning with ship designs based on the principles of feng shui, the Eastern art of arranging your surroundings to attract positive energy, no detail is overlooked to provide passengers with the best imaginable experience. Just mention a preference for a certain food or beverage and your waiter will have it available whenever you request it.

Afternoon tea in the Palm Court is a delightful daily ritual. You're greeted by staff members in 18th-century Viennese brocade and velvet costumes for Mozart Tea; traditional scones and clotted cream are served during English Colonial Tea; and American Tea is a summertime classic created by Crystal culinary artists.

The line's Ambassador Host Program brings cultured gentlemen on each cruise to dine, socialize, and dance with unaccompanied ladies who wish to participate.

What You Should Know


  • Alternative restaurants are yours to enjoy at no additional cost
  • Every bathroom has a full-size tub
  • A wide teak promenade deck encircles the ship


  • Few staterooms have a third berth for families
  • Reservations for specialty restaurants can be hard to secure
  • The clubbiness of repeat passengers can be off-putting to people new to Crystal
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 655
  • Entered Service 2003
  • Gross Tons 68,000
  • Length 820 feet
  • Number of Cabins 544
  • Passenger Capacity 980
  • Width 106 feet

By mary_CR

  • New

Oct 15, 2010

italian coast

The cruise was nice Food was very good except for one night at Prego restaurant Very small. For the price of this ship/cruiseline it was about 100 sq feet smaller than the Regent Seven Seas! Very inconvenient. A very small old TV set. Very small bathroom. Very small closet space, again compared to the Regent. Not much. Who goes onboard to learn the piano? Too short a time in Florence and Rome. Could have had only

one day in Monaco and add a day to either one of those cities. Also, Elba was not too interesting, many others said the same thing. It was a very nice trip with the above exceptions. The rooms were very small, it made the daily time there unpleasant. After a day of sightseeing, you want to come to a comfortable pleasant room. The carpets were not so fresh and too cramed in.

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  • New

Jun 1, 2007


I am submitting this review because we made the decision about a cruise line from reading online reviews, and I want to help others make their decisions.  We only intended to take one cruise and wanted it to be the best we could find.  After reading numerous reviews, Crystal stood out as being a line that pleased everyone again and again.  Well, three cruises later (we're hooked), we have to agree. In June 07 we boarded the Serenity

in a smooth process with little waiting.  Onboard we were welcomed with a champagne lunch while our luggage was delivered to our room. As before, we felt we were among family as the fabulous crew greeted us with smiles and the famous Crystal service.  The ship never felt crowded.  Waits for elevators are brief.  The food is wonderful, and one can make special requests with no hesitancy.  Want two appetizers instead of an entree?  Want two entrees?  Want a half entree with no cheese?  Whatever you request will be happily granted. Entertainment was varied and excellent with the exception of a mediocre "magician."  The shows are rumored to be the best at sea.  They are truly wonderful, and good seats are always available. The computer university at sea does need to include more advanced lessons, and the American buffet is the weakest food offering during a cruise.  I think the European chefs just may not be able to handle American foods well.   However, these are tiny problems.  Crystal food is fabulous most of the time. We typically request a table for two at the early seating.  We enjoy getting to know our wait staff, highly trained professionals who know how to serve unobtrusively. We never have felt "nickled and dimed".  We pay for shore excursions and occasional wine.  We generally are invited to a cocktail party about 3 or 4 times during a cruise during which free drinks are served. Cabins are nicely designed and comfortable.  Cabins are as quiet as can be.  The bathrooms are quite large for a cruise ship, and Aveda toiletries are available.  The fridge is stocked with one's choice of soft drinks, cold water, and juice. Crystal is well managed and committed to making each passenger's experience a joy.  

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  • New

Jan 18, 2006


I read Tom Ogg's review of his cruise (which was was just before mine), and I must say that I agree with every word. For this reason I will try not to repeat his review, but rather add my own impressions, favorable and otherwise. What impressed my wife and me right from the moment we came to the dock, that we were treated like welcome guests, and not like just more bodies as some cruise lines have been doing lately. We also appreciated

the fact that so many things were included, and that we were not constantly two-bitted to death for every soft drink, scoop of ice cream or even bottled water to take on shore excursions. Frankly, I much rather pay for these little things "up-front". Even if all cruises tend to be cash-less processes, it turns me off if I have to grab my ship ID card every few steps in order to a news bulletin, a drink of water or such. Not on Crystal Serenity! We both felt that entertainment and cultural events were exquisite. The shows were on an adult level (and by "adult" I do not mean smutty!). Even though I am close to an expert in personal computing, I found that I could lean from the "University @Sea" (or something like that), and it was included. About the only thing I could find fault with was the shower facility near the ship's pools. All I found was a very un-private small shower to get the chlorine off. My wife and I solved this by simply covering each other from view. Not a big deal really, we could always get to our cabin with the state-of-the-art bathtub/shower combination, and our two sinks. There were places for groups to meet, something I have missed on most cruise ships. And there was plenty of space, we never had the feeling of being crowded, even at show time. No need to wolf down your dinner in order to occupy a seat for a show later -- there were always good seats to be had. We found the people at the business offices extremely helpful, whether it was getting a shore excursion, a news bulletin, money changed - whatever. Completely the opposite of what we had to experience with another cruise line (which shall remain nameless here) at a later date. Right now I am looking for a good excuse for taking another "Serenity" cruise -- provided that the itinerary fits our objectives. The good reviews that I have seen in my opinion are well deserved.    

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  • New

Jan 4, 2006


The Crystal Serenity Dock in Los Angeeles Crystal Cruises Crystal Serenity Cruise Review 6-Day Mexican Riviera Tom Ogg Age: Baby Boomer Occupation: Self Employed Number of Cruises: 100's Sailing Date: January 4th, 2006 The Setup: Joanie and I needed to get away for a vacation so we booked ourselves on a 6-night cruise down the Mexican Riviera. We have been trying to purchase a condo in Punta Mita (north of Puerto Vallarta) and

needed to go look at some new units that had come on the market. The Crystal cruise was priced right and I wanted to do a review of her, so off we went. Getting to the Ship: The San Pedro Harbor is a quick 75-minute drive from our front door, so after closing up our home, we drove directly to the ship and after a short 5-minute check-in process, were on board the Serenity ready to cruise. We parked right at the terminal and were within easy walking distance to the ship. The Ship: The Crystal Serenity was the third Crystal ship to enter Crystal’s fleet as a newbuild. Crystal sold the Crystal Harmony in 2005 leaving the Crystal Symphony and the Crystal Serenity in their fleet. Built and launched in 2003, the Serenity is 68,000 gross tons of luxury. She offers a space ratio of 63 and her spaciousness and appointments make for a very comfortable cruise. She is considered a large ship for the luxury market and is rated by Berliz as a 5-star experience. The first thing I noticed when boarding the ship was the understated elegance it portrayed. The first thing you see when you board the Serenity is the reception area and atrium. Compared to most ships it is quite underwhelming, yet very elegant. The use of bland colors, carpets, tiles and overall decor gives one a feeling of being in a fine hotel. There is absolutely no glitz anywhere. AA Cabin 10025 Our Cabin: Joanie and I booked an AA Deluxe Stateroom with Verandah (cabin 10025) that offered 269 square feet. The first thing one notices when entering the cabin is the extra room around the bedding and sitting area. The extra square footage makes the cabin seem so much more enjoyable. There is extensive use of dark hardwood cabinetry, wainscoting and trim giving the cabin a very luxurious ambiance. The Queen Sized Bed and Cabin Interior There was a queen-sized bed with excellent quality bedding (Joanie and I decided to buy a new bed when we got home because we slept so soundly on this ship). Both sides of the bed had a nightstand with three-drawers. A feature that is unique to Crystal is the offering of your choice of pillows. If your pillow is not comfortable, for whatever reason, you can request other types of pillows until you find the perfect one for you. There is a full closet adjacent to the bed that offers one full-length side and one half-length side with a 4-drawer chest for more storage. There is also a room safe in the closet, as well. The Entertainment Center The sitting area is quite generous and offers a full sized coffee table and a love seat sized sofa. The entertainment area across the cabin from the sitting area offers a television with DVD player, a mini refrigerator stocked with soft drinks and water (included in the price of the cruise) and 4 additional drawers below it. The main desk/make up area offers three mirrors, two lamps and two electrical outlets (on American 110v and one European 110V) Hint: Bring an extension cord if you are going to us more than one 110v electrical appliance at a time. The desk features a large desk drawer and another additional 4 drawers for storage. The left hand side of the entertainment center has 4 shelves for storage and then a concealed bar area complete with highball and wine glasses, wine opener, ice bucket and all the accessories that go with it. The verandah sports two chairs (not reclining or lounge chairs) and a large coffee table. The verandah is quite large enough to thoroughly enjoy morning coffee or a relaxing time reading in the sun. The doors sealed quite nicely so that no exterior noise entered the cabin when the door as shut and locked. The black out curtains also worked great. The Closet in Cabin 10025 The bathroom was a real treat. First of all, there was a full bathtub to enjoy that also had a very functional fully enclosed shower. Crystal provides a full array of Aveda bath products (shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and body scrub, so there is no need to bring your own unless you have a very special need for them. The water pressure and temperature control was outstanding. The towels and other linens are of the finest quality. The bathroom offers two separate sinks and storage areas so there is lots of room for each person. The mirrors are very generous and there is a built in hair dryer (however, it is the kind most people do not like) There is a second hair dryer (the kind that people do like) that is in the closet that can be plugged into the desk/make up area or used in the bathroom, as well so there is no need to bring one from home. The bathroom is very useable. The Fitness Center on the Serenity Exploring the Serenity Deck 13, The Sun Deck The best way to discover Serenity's various public facilities is simply to start at the top and move down deck by deck. If we go all the way aft and take the elevator to deck 13 we find the entrance to the Crystal Spa and Fitness Center. The Fitness Center Weight Machine Area The Fitness Center has a good number of treadmills, enough weight machines for a basic workout (biceps, triceps, lats, pecks, abs and back) and enough free weights to keep you in shape. One very nice feature of the Fitness Center is that it is kept in spotless condition by a full time attendant. When someone is done with a treadmill, it is cleaned thoroughly and re-equipped with a fresh bottle of water and clean towel. There is a television at each treadmill and one can watch movies all day long if they want. There is also a large aerobics room where the classes are held (yoga, pilates and such) The Entrance to the Crystal Spa The Crystal Spa offers a full list of spa services that include facials, massage, treatments, exercise and a complete spa menu. The Paddle Tennis Courts Moving forward outside we walk on the Sun Deck overlooking the pool area before we arrive at the two Paddle Tennis Courts. Basically, one can play at any time they wish. Simply go to the tennis court, grab a racquet and ball and have at it. No reservations are required, but it is first come, first served. Moving forward from the paddle tennis courts is the forward part of the sun deck that is set up for catching that perfect tan. The Palm Court Deck 12, Lido Deck By going down the stairwell we come to the entrance to the Palm Court. This is a huge area with a dance floor and many alcoves to sit in. It is where many of the ship's cocktail parties are held including the Captain's Welcome Aboard party and the repeater's party, as well. The Sunset Bar At the front of the Palm Court the Sunset Bar resides. This is a great bar with lots of seating and is obviously a great place to watch the sunsets and other port activities as they unfold. As you can see, there is an unlimited view forward from both the room itself and from the bar. The Main Pool Area (Seen From Deck 12) Just aft of the Palm Court is the Serenity's main pool area. This is a great pool venue. First, the lounge chairs are not crowded together. They feature soft mattresses and as many high quality pool towels as you want to use. The pool was heated to a very comfortable 82 degrees and the Jacuzzis were never crowded and were always a great temperature for relaxing. The ship serve the various cocktails and pool side drinks in glasses making them all that much more enjoyable. The pool attendants were always there to get you whatever you needed. There was never any charge for coffee, Perrier and other soft drinks. Another Look at the Serenity Pool Area While there was entertainment during a two-hour period for lunch time, there were never any pool games or other intrusions into one's relaxation. Even the piped in music one usually hears poolside was absent. It was a very enjoyable environment. The Trident Grill Moving aft from the pool area, we enter the enclosed pool/dining area that houses the Neptune Pool, a small enclosed pool that was rarely used by anyone because of its location and the fact that there was a large buffet set up around it on sea days. On the port side, the Trident Grill was located. This is the casual lunch venue for the pool, but it offers a much more substantial pool side menu. The are the usual hamburgers, fries and so on, but many specialty sandwiches were also offered. We enjoyed grilled tuna sandwiches on one day that were excellent here. Trident Bar The Trident Bar was located just aft of the Grill and offered a full service bar. This was also the bar that served the pool area. Scoops Scoops resided on the starboard side of the area and offered fresh ice cream, soft served ice cream and cookies all day long. They were easily eight different kinds of ice cream to select from each day. This place was a huge hit with the ice cream lovers. Tastes Tastes is actually a separate restaurant that operates independently from the rest on the ship. During the daytime it offers wonderful buffets during sea days and an excellent, yet eclectic menu during non-sea days. I enjoyed an excellent Oriental salad here and wanted to go back for more. During the dinner hours, Tastes offer casual dining for those that do not want to dress for dinner. While we did not get a chance to experience it, the menu and service looked to be excellent. The Lido Cafe's Al Fresco Dining Further aft was the Lido Cafe. The Lido Cafe was the main buffet venue for the ship and was open for breakfast and lunch daily. Breakfast found a great selection of fruit, hot breakfast meats and eggs, two omelet stations, full juice and drink selections and much more. While there were ample selections, the buffet was basically the same each day. Lunch presented a much more diverse number of selections that changed daily. I thoroughly enjoyed the salad bar and fresh steamed vegetables. There was always a fish entree along with the traditional, beef, pork and other excellent dishes. The feature of the Lido Cafe that I loved was the aft fantail tables. It was so pleasurable to take breakfast sitting in the open air while enjoying the ocean air. Decks 11, 10, 9 and 8 All four of these decks are made up of passenger cabins. Decks 11 and 10 are where the suites and penthouses are located, while decks 9 and 8 are lower category cabins. Deck 7, Promenade Deck If we take the elevator all the way down to deck 7 and go all the way aft, we are delivered to the alternative restaurants and some of the more interesting of the Serenity's public venues. Prego The first restaurant (on the starboard side) is Prego, the Serenity's Italian restaurant. Jaonie and I loved Prego. We dined there twice, but could have gone every night. I tried to get a sample menu, but could not accomplish it. Suffice it to say, if you like gourmet Italian food, you will love Prego. Here is a hint: GET THE MUSHROOM SOUP!!! It is simply to die for. The soup was so good that we ended up purchasing the Serenity's cookbook just to get the recipe. That is not to downplay the rest of the dining experience, as it is equally wonderful. Both Joanie and I select completely different meals during our second visit and had just as wonderful dining experience. Definitely dine at Prego as often as you can. Here is the menu for Prego. HINT: Make your reservations at Prego and Silk Road as soon as possible after you board. Both restaurants are extremely popular and if you wait, you might end up with less than desirable dining times. The Sushi Bar and Silk Road Restaurant Joanie and I did not get into the Silk Road Restaurant until the last evening and it is probably a good thing. Both Joanie and I are sushi and Asian dining aficionados and our dining experience in Silk Road was to die for. We simply couldn't have had a better meal and dining experience. We would have definitely dined in Silk Road every evening (even over Prego). It was that wonderful. Silk Road features the menu created by Nobu Matsuhisa, the famous Japanese chef that operates exclusive restaurants in some of the highest profile places in the world. We absolutely loved it and would cruise the Serenity again to exploit the opportunity to dine there every evening. Just to give you an example of the value of this restaurant, We loved the Nobu experience so mush that I invited my sister and her husband to join Joanie and I at Nobu Malibu for a dinner after a surf trip to Rincon (south of Santa Barbara after we returned from our cruise. We all loved the dining experience, but when we got the bill, it was almost $500.00. While I was surprised at the cost of the meal, the experience and food was well worth it. It was populated by surfers and other like minded people that were dressed casually and there was absolutely no snoot factor involved. So now, my sister owes me one. Here is the menu for Silk Road. If you simply want to drop into Silk Road, there is a little dining bar that serves primarily sushi that you can sit at (first come, first served). You can order fresh (I mean FRESH) sushi and also items from the Silk Road menu, as well. Note that it is crowded and you might have better luck also waiting for a table to clear because of a cancellation. Here is the Sushi Bar menu. If we move forward on the ship on the port side, we first pass the small suite, or meeting room that can be used for small one-on-one meetings. Vintage Room (Yes, that is a Wine cellar in the Background) Just past the meeting room (I believe it was called the Century Suite) we come to the private dining room known as the Vintage Room. The Vintage Room can be arranged for an evening with a special dining function for about $150.00 per person. This would include a personalized menu, 5 different wines and a service staff of almost 1 server for every 2 guests. It is an exceptional bargain given that you could treat your guests to a gourmet dining experience based on your menu and a wine tasting experience that is simply wonderful. Joanie and I did not get to experience this exclusive amenity on the Serenity, but thought that if we ever took a group on this ship, we would host one. It would be a perfect venue for a family celebrating a reunion, anniversary or some other occasion. It would also be perfect for a business dinner where one could thoroughly impress someone with elements normally outside of most folk's lives. The Serenity's Library The Serenity had a great library that served the guests on the cruise. Beside books, the library had an extensive collection of DVD's for in-cabin viewing and CDs that could be listened to in the library itself using the headsets provided for that purpose. The library had extended hours so folks did not have to worry about making into the library to take out or return books, CDs or DVDs. The Studio Have you ever wanted to learn how to play a keyboard, piano or organ? The Studio was built just for you. The Serenity offers classes on basic and more advanced keyboarding skills that you can participate in and these classes were very popular. Book them well in advance! The Card Room Right on the other side of Prego was the Card Room. I was surprised at how large the Card Room was. It could easily hold a bridge or poker tournament and it was very popular with the older crowd that wanted to play cards on the days at sea. The Internet Cafe Forward of the card room is the Internet Cafe and Computer University @ Sea. I didn't use the Internet Cafe, as I purchased in-room Internet access for the entire cruise for $150.00. The connection was fast and reliable and I would give Crystal high marks for providing hard wired access. Those that did use the Internet Cafe took advantage of packages that lowered the cost of access. I did not hear any complaints about the rate of access. Computer University @ Sea offered numerous computer classes for everyone. Everything from beginning computing classes to reasonably sophisticated classes were available and were held in a separate classroom from the Internet Cafe. The Promenade Deck Surrounding all of deck 7 is the exterior promenade. The promenade is unique on the Serenity as the life boats are tucked in openings on the deck below. This allows for the promenade to be exposed to the sun while still offering protection from the elements because of the ceiling that extends over much of the promenade. This also serves as the ship's jogging/walking track for those seeking some exercise. There are also shuffleboard courts for those wanting to play. The balance of deck 7 forward is all passenger cabins. Deck 6, Tiffany Deck The Stardust Club All of the way aft on deck 6, one finds the intimate Stardust Club. This is the scene of some of the ship's smaller entertainment and dance events. It is open in the evening for dancing and cocktails. The Avenue Saloon Joanie and I loved the Avenue Saloon and found ourselves here before every dinner. They offer a wonderful martini menu and various wines by the glass. There is a piano bar that is non-invasive offering excellent background mood music. The service is impeccable. The waiter and bar tender remembered our names and cabin number after the first night and always asked if we wanted our usual drinks or wanted to try something new. This is a great bar! They also serve small appetizers each evening in addition to mixed nuts and other bar crunchies. The Connoisseur Club Right next to the Avenue Saloon on the starboard side moving forward is the Connoisseur Club. This is the cigar club and as you can see was extremely elegant. Since I don't smoke cigars nor do I like to be around people who are smoking them, I didn't spend much time here. However, thee room was wonderfully inviting. The Pulse Disco On the port side of deck 6 resides the Pulse Disco. We didn't make it into the disco at all, but heard that it was used by some folks late in the evening. It is quite intimate, as you can see. The Hollywood Theater With the entrance on the starboard side just forward of the Connoisseur Club, the Hollywood Theater is a huge cinema for a cruise ship. First run movies are shown all day long and into the evening. The is even popcorn available for those that want it. The theater was quite popular during sea days and also in the evening. The Bistro The Bistro was also one of our favorite places. In the morning it offered specialty coffee drinks (free of charge) and a small buffet of fruit, breads, yogurt and the like for a continental breakfast. Specialty coffee drinks were available all day and lunch found the continental breakfast buffet converted to an assortment of cheeses, delicatessen meats, breads and such for a light lunch. In the afternoon, cookies and other desserts took over. It was a great place to meet. Just one of the Shops on Serenity The Serenity offered several shops. Facets was a large and well stocked jewelry store. Apropos Apropos, the Serenity's clothing store was huge. One of the things that Joanie loved about this store is that they changed their window displays daily. She would walk by every day and enjoy looking at the new dresses that were on display. Captain's Choice Captain's choice is the Serenity's general store and logo shop and offers tons of collectibles and the necessities should you have forgotten to pack anything. Caesar's Palace at Sea Forward of the Bistro and shops is the Serenity's casino, Caesar's Palace at Sea. It is operated by Caesar's Palace of Las Vegas fame and was very popular. We spoke with one gentleman who had won a substantial amount of money and swore it was the best casino on any ship that he had ever sailed on. You can see the casino bar in the background. The Main Hallway on Deck 6 You can see that just walking from one venue to the next is a wonderful experience. This is the main hallway leading to the center atrium on deck six. The casino is one the right hand side. The Galaxy Lounge The Galaxy Lounge is the main showroom for each evening's entertainment. It featured 2 shows each evening and several production shows were also performed. While the theater was very intimate the sightline from some of the seats was obstructed by taller folks sitting in front. I would advise getting to the show early to get the prime seats. Deck 5, the Crystal Deck The Reception Desk and Crystal Plaza Crystal Plaza is located in the center of the ship and is also the ship's atrium area. It is the very first thing that you see when first boarding the Serenity and it is a very pleasant experience. The very center of Crystal Plaza is the Registration Desk (seen here in the middle of the photo). The folks manning the registration desk were always attentive and friendly. There was never a long line to obtain help and it was a wonderful experience every time Joanie or I visited the registration desk. The Crystal Plaza Atrium Here is a look at the atrium area taken from deck 6 looking aft from above the registration desk. You can easily see the simple elegance of the ship's interior from here. The Crystal Cove Since our room was not ready when we boarded, the first thing that Joanie and I did was visit the Crystal Cove. Crystal Cove was a wonderful lounge situated by Crystal Plaza and offered a sophisticated, yet fun environment. It is also a great place to meet people prior to dinner. The Business End of Crystal Plaza The Concierge, the Shore Excursion Desk, the Cruise Sales Consultant and the Crystal Society Hostess were all located within the Crystal Plaza. One could make an appointment or simply walk into the area and wait for the appropriate person they wanted to meet with. The Medical Facility was also located forward on deck 5. Fortunately we did not need to visit it. Leaving San Pedro With Catalina In the Sunset Our Cruise Travelogue Since this was mostly a relaxing cruise with only visits to Cabo San Lucas (where we did not get off the ship) and Puerto Vallarta (where we spent the day looking at condo units in Punta Mita) I will forgo a lengthy travelogue and simply mention some of the highlights of the cruise experience. However, I will say that leaving San Pedro in a Santa Ana wind condition (the wind is blowing from the east) is breathtaking. Above is a shot of the Serenity leaving San Pedro during a Santa Ana wind condition with the island of Catalina in the background. Magical. The Dining The dining experience on the Serenity is strictly 6-star. It doesn't matter whether you dine in the main restaurant, one of the alternative restaurant, casual dining or in-cabin, you are going to have a great experience. This is what luxury cruising is all about. Many folks feel that because Crystal features 2 seatings per evening, that it is not the same experience as some of the other luxury lines. Here is the truth. Most of the other luxury lines have one main restaurant and one alternative restaurant. While you can dine in the main restaurant whenever you want (open seating) on Crystal you can dine whenever you want at 4 different alternative dining venues (Prego, Silk Road, the Sushi Bar and Tastes) while still having the opportunity to dine with your assigned table. Crystal offers more choices than most luxury lines and you only dine at your assigned seating if YOU choose to do so. The Entertainment If you read my reviews at all, you know that I am not much on entertainment. However, I really enjoyed attending the shows on the Serenity because of the intimacy of the shows. They are more like attending a performance in someone's living room than on a ship's showroom. The entertainment was awesome and I never regretted attending a show. This is another area where luxury cruising pays off. The Pool Experience I know, I know. But, for me the experience around the pool is very important. Both Joanie and I are sun aficionados and know how to rate the pool experience. I would give the Serenity an A+ and here is why. Great Cushions on the Lounge Chairs Plenty of Space Between the Lounge Chairs Plenty of Small Tables to Put Your Stuff On No Pool Games or Other Invasive Events As Many Towels as You Wanted Non-Invasive, but friendly Bar Attendants Free Drinks (coffee, tea, water and other soft drinks) Served With a Smile. Lunch Music From a Great Band Without the "Come on, Let's Dance" Invasiveness. No Piped in Music. Basically, Everything an Adult Would Want. The Ship Itself The Serenity is a very easy ship to cruise. Everyone found their preferred spots early in the cruise and had a great time. Some did crafts, some gambled, some took music lessons, some learned new computer programs, some went to enrichment lectures, some laid out by the pool and some just wondered around enjoying the ship itself. No one was grumbling about nothing to do. The Serenity's space ratio offers passengers and opportunity to have their own personal cruise, as they saw fit. There is no way that any one person could do everything that is offered and everyone found their ideal cruise. Crystal is wonderful.

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Nov 30, -0001

My name is Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. I am a retired city attorney and Edith is a homemaker and retired health services provider. We live in Phoenix, Arizona and this would be our 17th cruise. Our first cruise in 1999 was on Carnival’s Elation down the Mexican Riviera. This was followed by an 11-day Caribbean trip on the now defunct Commodore Line’s Enchanted Isle. Then came our first Celebrity on Galaxy, a 7 day Caribbean jaunt

followed by the marvelous cruise on Celebrity’s Mercury from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires. We made an Alaska cruise/tour on Sun Princess in May 2002, and our only NCL to date on Norwegian Sun to the Caribbean again. In November 2002 we did a Panama Canal transit on Celebrity’s Infinity, followed by a summer trip in 2003 to the Mediterranean on that line’s Millennium. In August we did a another cruise/tour with Princess, spending 6 days in Europe and then sailing on Regal Princess for its Baltic tour. We returned to the Infinity in November for a Hawaiian cruise. In March 2004 we did our first HAL cruise in the Caribbean on Veendam, and later sailed on Galaxy once more, this time across the Atlantic. We then did another Caribbean on HAL’s Zaandam and a second Mexican Riviera on Diamond Princess. We enjoyed a unique cruise on Oceania’s Insignia down the Amazon River in March 2005. In May we took a 6 day West Coast repositioning cruise on Radiance of the Seas, our first Royal Caribbean trip. All but the first two of these trips have extensive reviews on and the last two are also on and WHY THIS CRUISE? This was a ten day cruise with 3 sea days and stops at Key West, Grand Turk, St. Barts, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Nassau, Bahamas. We wanted to sail on Crystal to see if it lived up to its reputation for spoiling its passengers. We also had, despite our 5 prior Caribbean cruises, visited only one of the ports, St. Thomas, on this itinerary, and though a few of them might be interesting. We were correct in both of our estimates. PLANNING THE CRUISE - INSURANCE This cruise did not involve a huge planning effort. Crystal informs everyone fairly early on concerning its cruise dress code, so we knew there were three formal, two informal and five casual nights. We deviated from our usual habit of booking land excursions on our own through the internet in advance. The most unique excursion was the St. Maarten 12 metre America’s Cup yacht race; and we were told by the company that it only accepted bookings through cruise lines. The snorkel offering on Grand Turk by Crystal seemed better than wandering around looking for a snorkel tour on my own, and the same seemed true for our St. John Eco Hike during the St. Thomas stop. Crystal’s prices for all these tours was very reasonable, and their handling excellent. So the only real concern was making sure we were under the 50 pound per bag air carrier limit, and we are getting well experienced at that. While we do not always buy insurance, we did purchase a policy with fairly low limits. There was not much chance of Crystal canceling or going bankrupt (it is a small division of the largest shipping line in the world), so the main reason is to provide for emergency medical care, including airlifting if necessary. You get the same amount of medical insurance no matter what the dollar amount you list; at least with Travelguard, the company we chose. DEPARTURE We always try to fly to the East Coast the day before sailing, just in case; and this was especially true since we were leaving the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale at about 5:00 on Friday and went to the Best Western Oceanside Inn. It probably rates two and a half stars, but was convenient, and did provide a fairly solid breakfast for its $125.00 rate. The city still shows signs of damage from Wilma. The hotel was filled with people sailing on various cruises, and we went out to dinner with a pleasant California couple sailing on Princess the next day. There were 5 other ships docked in Port Everglades the next day. They included Crystal Symphony, Zuiderdam, Enchantment of the Seas. Carnival Liberty and the Princess vessel whose name I did not see. Our shuttle arrived at the pier at about 1:00. We went quickly through security to a second floor waiting area where a Crystal worker gave us a card with a number. There were perhaps 175-200 people waiting as no one had boarded yet. We were not initially told we had to check in then, but when the first 20 staterooms were called to board we realized we had to go to the check in counter. There were a number of stations and it only took about 5 minutes. Our number was called in about another 10 minutes or so, and we were on board after a short wait in line at 1:35. Crystal did not swipe our credit card at the check-in. We were told to go to Guest Relations any time after we boarded to accomplish this. Our room cards were good for all charges immediately upon boarding. We expected to be led to our cabin, but instead were escorted to the main dining room for lunch. We like to be seated with other people so we joined a young couple from Wisconsin who told us that this was their first cruise! Talk about starting at the top! The menu was somewhat limited in options, but certainly sufficient. Since I prefer light lunches I settled for an appetizer, soup and dessert. The meal and service were excellent. OUR STATEROOM Our stateroom was 8106, a standard B class verandah cabin. The A class cabins were on Deck 9. It is 269 square feet including a verandah, so it was a decent size, although a little cramped at the closet area with its sliding doors opening out into the cabin next to the bed. The wood trim and cabinetry was medium dark stained to resemble mahogany. The walls were cream colored and with a pleasant smooth textured surface. A two seat, fully upholstered love seat faced the desk, cabinet, and television unit, which had an upholstered arm chair. The refrigerator contained complimentary bottled water and soft drinks. The TV set had a VCR unit combined. There was a mirror, almost full length, on the wall opposite the space between the bed and the closet. This mirror had a small ledge about a foot from the floor, and there was a night light shining down from beneath this ledge which was controlled by a switch on the bedside table. Edith though this was a really nice touch. There was the usual framed print above the bed and two more on the wall opposite the bed. The door to the verandah had both a light gauzy curtain and heavy drapes. The verandah furniture consisted of two plastic, but solid, and adjustable chairs with padded seats which were removed every night by the room steward and brought inside. There was a small square white plastic table also. The deck was teak. The verandah dividers did not go up to the ceiling, but left about a two foot gap. However the verandah light was at floor level so your neighbor’s light did not shine into your verandah as on some other ships. In front of the couch was a small table. One of the room literature items said it was adjustable, and when I pressed a lever on the shaft, it came up about twelve inches. I never found out how to lower it (you have to lean on it heavily) until the last day, but we thought the raised height was more convenient anyway. The closet had some drawers and a shelf. It also was stocked with a long handled shoe horn, shoe bags, laundry bags and a clothes brush. It had well made, nice wooden hangers, but not quite enough of them since I hang up all my shirts, including short sleeve sport shirts. We obtained extra hangars very quickly in response to our call. The bathroom was very attractive for a standard cabin, all in marble and tile, with a nice marble double sink, a small, but serviceable tub shower, and a full supply of Aveda toiletries. Both thick bath towels and long bath sheets were provided. There was a shelf above the sink which was very useful in holding things, and with side cabinets and cabinets beneath the sink, more than enough room. Both a built in bathroom hair drier and plug in hand held hair drier were supplied. All the fixtures were top notch and the toilet was the quietest we had ever experienced. There was only one electric outlet in the bathroom, and that was part of the hair drier set-up; not the most convenient arrangement. The thermostat was clear in its directions and actually changed temperature. A thermos ice bucket was provided along with minimal stationary and pen. Wine and beer glasses were also provided, and fortunately we had brought our own wine bottle opener for Edith’s bottle of wine. There was no clock provided other than on the phone, and we had, for the first time, forgotten to bring our little travel clock and alarm. The bed was made up into a king size format. Two pillows each were provided, along with a note that there were five different types of pillows available. The bed covering was a very nice duvet. All in all the sleeping arrangements were fine and the room very nicely done and a pleasant place for living. As usual, the ship’s architects had done their excellent job of providing more than enough closet and drawer space in a limited area. Shortly after we arrived we met Milica from Slovakia, our cabin stewardess. She had just joined the ship that day on her second Crystal contract. We chatted a little about Serenity’s 108 day world cruise from Los Angeles across the Pacific to Africa, the Suez and finally Rome commencing in January. She said she had been told that about 35% of the cabins had been sold for the entire trip. Three of our four pieces of luggage were in the cabin when we first arrived after lunch and the fourth showed up in a couple of hours, so unpacking and storing everything went smoothly. THE SHIP As usual, at least when time has allowed it, we went exploring as soon as possible. Serenity is a good sized vessel, 68,000 gross tons, making it only slightly smaller than Mercury & Galaxy, almost the exact size of Elation and larger than either Veendam or Zaandam. But its total capacity is only 1080 passengers, so there is a space ratio of almost 63; a huge amount of room for each passenger. Since Crystal distributes a list of passengers showing names, U.S. state, Canadian province or country; and the total I counted was 821 people, we really had a lot of room on board. Proceeding from top to bottom and fore to aft, the layout is as follows. The Sun Deck, 13, is open forward which really gives you a great view and a strong breeze. Proceeding aft along a walkway above and past the open pool area you come to the paddle tennis courts, which actually did some business. The aft section housed the well stocked gym, aerobics studio, fitness center, spa and salon. Deck 12 forward contains the Palm Court and Sunset Bar with excellent views. There is a decent size dance floor and dance stand also. This area was used daily for tea and also for the Captains Receptions as well as other activities. Edith’s yoga classes were conducted on the dance floor for example. Aft of this were a couple of small rooms, Fantasia for children and Waves for teen-agers with the obligatory video games. Since there were only a few children, mostly of pre-school age, and no teenagers that we saw; these rooms did not get much action. Midships held the open air pool with its deck chairs and two hot tubs. The deck chairs were plastic with rubber strapping and fairly thick and comfortable pads. There was never any crowding at any time that I saw. Aft of the pool there were two small food stands, one on each side. One was Scoops, the ice cream bar, which served all its offerings without charge. The other side was the Trident Bar and Grill, which was a hamburger/hot dog type facility. Aft of these was the Neptune Pool area which had a sliding glass roof that was never opened. This is a very small pool, and while it also had nice rattan seats and couches, I never saw anyone in the Neptune pool. Aft of this was the Lido Buffet area. At the entrance to this area on the starboard side is another grill called Tastes. The Lido buffet has two serving lines port and starboard and a further service area connecting them aft. It also has another serving station off to one side for pasta at lunch and omelets at breakfast. There is a small open deck area for eating aft of the main Lido seating area. Decks 11,10,9 and 8 are all passenger cabin decks; except for the bridge and officers’ quarters forward on Deck 11. Each of these decks has corridors which open at the aft end to small covered seating areas. These are out of the wind and have nice views and deck chairs. They can also be reached by stairs up and down from decks 12 to 6. Decks 8 and 9 also allow access to a forward viewing area. Deck 7 is the Promenade deck which has a true teak promenade around the entire vessel. It is a wide walkway with no deck chairs intruding, and it seemed to get a lot of use from dedicated deck walkers and participants in the Walk on Water WALKVEST® program. Deck 7 has cabins without verandahs of course, since they face out to the promenade, from forward to midships. Aft of that there are two special venues, the Computer University at Sea, followed by a large bridge or card room and a small studio room on the starboard side, and the Yamaha electronic piano studio, followed by the Library and the Vintage room and Century Suite portside. The Vintage room is set up as a private dining room with wine serving facilities. If you wish, and care to spend about $1400.00, you can order a multi-course multiple vintage dinner for yourself and fourteen friends. I did not see it in use. The other rooms were small meeting rooms. Aft of these rooms were the specialty restaurants, The Japanese Silk Road with its Sushi Bar on one side and the Italian Prego Restaurant on the other. Deck 6 was the main activity area. The show venue, the Galaxy Lounge is forward. This is a one story theater seating about 500, although it was never full because each show went on twice each night, once for regular and once for late seating diners. Aft of this is Caesar’s Palace at Sea, the casino. This is a relatively small venue with about 100+ slot machines, one roulette table, one craps table and five blackjack, baccarat or poker tables. Proceeding towards the rear there is a small art gallery. And then one arrives at the shop next to the atrium. There is one jewelry store, Facets, one small general supply store, Captain’s Choice, and Apropos, a fairly good sized clothing store. Across from the clothing store is the Bistro, my favorite spot on board. Here, between 10:00 and 6:00 one can be served coffee, cappuccino, latte, tea, snacks and pastries, sitting in comfortable chairs, looking out to sea, all at no charge. Aft of this is the movie theater, holding about 250 people. It was used extensively for lectures as well as a good run of movies. Then came the photo shop and photo gallery down the starboard side, and past that is the “night life area”. This has four separate venues. First there is the Connoisseur Club, a small place with a tiny bar and a few sofas and deep leather chairs, all quite dark, with brass lamps and dark wood, supposedly to be used as a men’s cigar hideaway. Aft of this is the Avenue Saloon, which also runs to dark wood and brass fixtures, with a larger bar and a piano. This had a pianist playing every evening, and I greatly enjoyed him the one time I attended. Opposite this is the Pulse Lounge with a small dance floor and a disco set-up, also used every night. Behind both of them are the main lounge, the Stardust Club with small tables, and a dance floor with its band stand. The dance floor area was quite small, and two of our dinner table companion couples complained that tables and ramps leading on to the floor made dancing difficult. The aft deck of Deck 6 held the golf nets (2), a small putting green and table tennis facilities. Deck 5 had cabins forward, which I found out were occupied either by officers, or entertainers/lecturers. This area also housed the Medical Center. Midships was the lower level of the Crystal Atrium, containing the Reception Desk and Excursion Desk. There also was an area for the future cruise consultant, the Crystal Society concierge and a pleasant bar, called the Crystal Cove with a piano and its own musician, Joe Fos. Aft of this area is the Crystal Dining Room, the main dining room. The gangway opened off Deck 5, but access to the tenders was on Deck 4. There are three elevator bank/ stairwell bay areas, which make getting around the ship relatively convenient. The forward and midships banks have three elevators and the aft area two. The general décor is minimalist and decorative rather than heavily artistic in the vein of the HAL or Celebrity ships. Everything physical about the ship is beautifully finished and very attractive however, and the art works displayed are nicely done and appropriate. The furniture is first class. The tables and chairs in the buffet area are good wood for the tables with full arms on the chairs and comfortable seats. The library was very attractive, had a good selection of books and music with disc players. It also had Jackie Sanchez, the only full time librarian other than Erin on Celebrity that we have ever seen. She was very pleasant and helpful. The Galaxy showroom had a nice mixture of armchairs and small sofas, and every seat had a good sight line. The theater seats were also comfortable. Serenity is as elegant as Insignia, but more spacious, and very easy to navigate, although it is not a small ship. In my review of Insignia I said; “It is . . . as pleasant a venue for 14 days as can be imagined.” This is equally true of Serenity. PASSENGER SERVICES Flatly and simply, Crystal is ahead of everyone else in this facet, and it is hard to imagine how any cruise line could surpass it. They truly put the passenger’s care, comfort and convenience ahead of everything. From the ease of booking excursions on line, to the confirmation of every detail, to the truly pleasant attitude of every crew member, dealing with this company is a pleasure. The only problem we ever had was occasional difficulty of reaching the wake-up call service. The excursion service was great. When, as the result of a change of anchorage for our tender service at Grand Turk, we had a minor change in the snorkel sites, the excursion desk called to apologize, and gave us a half off rebate. When the winds at St. Maartens’s were light for the 12 metre America’s Cup Regatta, they called prior to departure to tell us and offer a full refund it we wanted to cancel. The excursion director was always available at the disembarkation point, and every excursion was accompanied by a crew member to make sure things went right. This member filled out a report on each excursion. Typical crew members assigned were the Guest Hosts, Casino staff etc. The front desk answered all questions with a smile and greeting. The balance of the crew always was pleasant and friendly. When I went to make reservations for the specialty restaurants, the maitre’d could not have been nicer, even though the night I first requested was “sold out”. We had the New York Times newsletter, about six or eight page 8”x11” document, delivered to our cabin every day. Reflections, the regular information flyer, had very complete information, and good information columns without much advertising. When we left the dining room on the last day, we were presented with a folder that contained all the dinner menus for the cruise! I mentioned the booklet that had the passengers’ names, but it also contained the names of the crew members who were either senior officers, entertainers, lecturers and teachers/trainers or people who had frequent passenger contact. Port information was complete and accurate. In short, Crystal does everything right, and with the right attitude. To be fair, I did not use any e-mail; and there were some remarks that it was highly priced; but by comparison, the shore excursions were reasonably priced. FOOD AND FOOD SERVICE The food and service in all areas ranged from excellent to superb. Our dining room waitress was Julia from Heidelberg, assisted by Zoltan from Hungary. He was pleased when I said I could always remember his name because of Zoltan Kodaly, a great Hungarian 20th century composer. At our initial seating on embarkation day we were joined by Jill and Tony from Nottingham, England, JoEllen and Ken from a Maryland suburb of Washington and Steve and Linda from Naples, Florida. Steve and Linda found friends from another cruise, so we were six for the rest of the cruise. The table next to us had five, so our wait staff had only eleven people to serve. Other tables seemed to be arranged so that the maximum number of people for service team was no more than 14, and usually less. This created a quiet, well paced and attentive milieu for each meal; a definite improvement over most lines. To give Celebrity credit, they also manage the number of patrons to be served by each team so that there is the same pleasant atmosphere. In addition to our two servers our assistant maitre’d was always around to assist when needed, and the wine steward was attentive. I like non-alcoholic wine and beer. Crystal’s policy is that all non-alcoholic drinks are free. So the wine steward faithfully inquired whether I wanted a glass of white or red Ariel at every meal. The standard dinner menu had four appetizers, three to five soup and salad offerings, a pasta dish, a salad “entrée”, a main entrée with four choices, including at least one fish and usually one fowl choice, the option to order a steak or salmon dish at every meal, and a range of vegetables. The dessert menu offered six choices normally, with at least one sugar free, an ice cream, frozen yogurt or sherbet selection, a cheese trolley, and coffee, latte, espresso, cappuccino and tea. A vegetarian offering was also available. The main selections had no duplication during the cruise, and a good deal of imagination. I heard no complaints from anyone, and did not expect any based on my own observation. The seafood, including oysters, lobster and crab, was very fresh; the meat moist and tender, the vegetables nicely done, and the sauces excellent without being overbearing. The portions were small, as they should be with so much food being offered. The pastries, both at dinner and everywhere else, were the best I have ever had on board ship, or indeed almost any other place except Vienna. This was not surprising since the head baker was Austrian, and no one does pastry better than the Austrians and Germans. The table settings were particularly nice, with a selection of Villeroy and Boch charger plates. Our dining table was towards the aft end of the room, thus out of the way and fairly quiet, so we had no way to judge the complaints contained in some books that the main dining room is noisy. We ate at each specialty restaurant once. Our first such experience was at the Silk Road, with the Japanese menu created by Nobu Matsuhisa. I had a single spring roll, a clear mushroom soup served in a small iron Japanese tea pot, lobster and crème brulee. The roll and soup were delicious, but hardly preparation for the fantastic lobster. I am not given to hyperbole, but this was a unique and true gourmet experience. Of equal merit were the three small crème brulees, one ginger, one mango and one passion fruit. Altogether, this was one of the finest meals I have ever had. Our experience at Prego was also of an excellent, if relatively standard, Italian meal. Both restaurants have a “suggested” $6.00 per person gratuity charge, and the service at both was excellent, personable and friendly. We also enjoyed the Lido Buffet for both breakfast and lunch. We were “adopted” by Jun Sai, a waiter for breakfasts; and he carried our trays, brought coffee, and made sure we had refills. The buffet setup was for trays with plates, and the cutlery was provided with the trays. There were no crowds except at the specialty lunches, of which there were three on the sea days. One was oriental, one Nuevo Latino Buffet which included South American as well as Mexican food; and one described as the Grand Gala buffet, which ran to a lot of good seafood. The first two were set up around the pool, but the Grand Gala Buffet was served in the Crystal Atrium on deck 5. This is a pleasant venue, but with fewer seats, requiring some people to carry their trays to the main Dining Room. The other daily lunch buffets had a very good selection, although I typically eat only a small portion of a main entrée, always of course saving room for dessert. Edith could find good salads and vegetables all the time. We ate once at the Sushi Bar, after a show, but were not able to persuade our smiling sushi makers that we only wanted one or two pieces, not the many delicious and fresh items they gave to us. Instead of a snack, it became a late meal which sat a little heavily as we went to bed. We noticed at every buffet that the maitre’ds from the two specialty restaurants were supervising this operation and were very quick to step in to help and make sure everything was running smoothly. We went to the afternoon tea on many occasions with the usual “problem” of fending off the diligent white gloved servers who were determined to stuff us two hours before dinner. As I noted, the pastries were excellent, and we were able to get very good tea. Like the tea time on Insignia, this break in the day is very relaxing and civilized; and we quite understand the British love of tea time. On one occasion the servers were dressed in 18th century attire for a “Mozart” tea. We also noted that the waiters assisting at the specialty buffet lunches all had attire appropriate to that lunch. These little touches mark Crystal’s efforts to provide a special experience. Although Celebrity on our six cruises, and Oceania on our sole cruise to date with them, both do a very fine job with food and service, Crystal is the best in this important area of cruising that we have ever experienced. SHORE EXCURSIONS Crystal provided fairly detailed information on both its website and via a cruise specific booklet sent out after we made our final payment. I had contacted the company that runs the 12 metre America’s Cup Regatta Race on St. Maarten directly and had been advised that they book only through cruise lines. The other excursions we booked were a snorkel one in Grand Turk for me (Edith does not snorkel) and an “eco hike” for both of us on St. John at our St. Thomas stop. All three were reasonably priced, and as noted above, very well run by Crystal. There were four boats in the race excursion, which had two races of two boats each. Out boat had ten of us from Serenity, including the crew member who was a Casino employee. We had one ringer from a Princess. We won our race. The eco hike had about fourteen of us and our snorkel trip about the same number, so we were never crowded or rushed. I should note that at every port there was at least one other cruise ship present from the Radisson Seven Seas Voyager at Key West, to a Sea Dream Yacht at St. Barts to the 3500+ passenger Mariner of the Seas in St. Maarten. On Key West we simply strolled around town. It is a place to see once. The Truman Southern White House and Hemingway House, which is set in a small, but attractive park setting, are both worth a visit, but we will not rush to return. Edith walked around Grand Turk in the morning, and I did also in the afternoon after my snorkel tour. It is not an impressive place. Unless you are heavily into scuba or snorkel diving, there is no reason to go there. It was the butt of several well appreciated jokes by the comedian. St. Barts is definitely French. Not only is that the language, with the Euro as the currency, but most of the locals we saw were European French. We rented a car for the reasonable rate of €45 plus €5 for gas. It was a small, but nice Japanese car with an automatic transmission and air conditioning if we needed it. We obtained a good map of this small island and by the time we returned, had seen most of it. It is hilly, but attractive, with a lot of upscale housing and very little that was not at least middle range in pricing and appearance. We stopped at a small hotel called Le Toiny, which, in a typical Caribbean construction, had an open entrance with a restaurant behind it looking out over a pool to the sea beyond; in this case, down a hill. The art instructor from the ship was there also, and we joined him in the office to one side, There a very attractive young French Girl told us in response to my question of how many rooms were in the hotel that there were no rooms, only 15 suites, each with its individual pool. She handed us a brochure. This is a Relais & Chateaux establishment; which means ultra-ultra luxury, priced to match. The small Villa Suites ran from €775 per day in the off season from late April to October 31; €800 in the “Inter Season”; November to mid December; €1550 in the high season from January to April, and €1700 in the Festive Season, from December 20 to January 4. For the larger 2 or 3 bedroom suites, the same seasonal rates were €1450, €1450; €2600 and €3000. For those rates you also got breakfast in addition to your room, and transportation from the airport. But she was a charming young lady and it was a striking and beautiful place. She also recommended a local beach for swimming, which I took advantage of. St Barts is quite small as I noted, but very nice; a place you might want to visit for a few days – with a large suitcase filled with money. Actually, we had a lunch at a truly local restaurant which provided quite nice traditional provincial French food for a reasonable price. We had been to St. Thomas twice before, on Galaxy and Zaandam, both cruises being reviewed on this ( site. We opted for the St. John Eco-Tour, which consisted of a half-hour ferry ride from Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas to Cruz Bay on St. John, a hike up and over a hill down into Caneel Bay. Here we went swimming on Honeymoon Beach, which has extremely fine white sand. This is just around a bend from the hotel at Caneel Bay, and we walked out through its grounds to a taxi. The hotel occupies about 120 acres carved out by Laurance Rockefeller from his original 5000 acre gift to the National Park Service in 1956. More land was donated later so that now over 2/3 of the island is National Park land. We had a local guide who was fairly well informed about local flora (there is not much by way of fauna). We had a good deal of rain upon arrival in Cruz Bay and everyone took advantage of the visitor center’s rain ponchos for sale. Despite the weather, it was a very pleasant and relatively easy hike and good swim. I even persuaded Edith to go in the water, and she liked it. Our final stop was Nassau, Bahamas. Here we went out on our own, first stopping to buy an emerald pendant and then walking about a mile and a half out of town to a combination zoo and botanical garden called Ardestra Gardens. Here the feature was a group of very pink flamingos who had been taught to “march” on command, turn, stop and start again. This was quite a sight. In addition to this there were about forty or fifty bird and animal exhibits, including a marvelous family of father, mother and two small serval cubs along with a jaguar and caracal. This was a nice break and a pleasant venue. Nassau itself was crowded with three other large and one small cruise ships at dock. ENTERTAINMENT The Cruise Director was Rick Spath from the United States. I told him I appreciated the fact that he did not attempt to be a comedian or entertainer, and he said he was pleased to hear my reaction. He was present at all of the main shows of course, but also at many of the other events during the day. He made a point of saying that he could be contacted after each show for suggestions on how to improve things, and some people took him up on it, with varying degrees of success of course. He was generally quite visible around the ship, and in short, was the best, hardest working and most effective cruise director we have seen. The formal evening entertainment laid huge emphasis on the singer/dancer shows. There were five of these on a ten night cruise; not counting the sailing night abbreviated show but including the final night variety show which was a combination including some of the earlier acts. Apart from these shows there was one night with a singer, one with the comedian and one with a harpist. This meant that there was a lot of singing and dancing. As in many of these cruise shows, the ensemble consists of four men and four women who are primarily dancers, and a lead male and lead female vocalist who do some simple dance routines. This group was among the more highly talented we have seen, and the costumes were amazing. The Galaxy Lounge is nowhere nearly as high tech or versatile as the theaters on larger ships, but this does not detract from the enjoyment of talented young people. Edith actually enjoyed the comedian; Mike Goddard. His humor depends on his acting as much as the actual verbal content, and he is a talented actor. In the final show he played a maid with a strong Norwegian accent – obviously a take off of our Captain Edvardsen with his strong accent, and this really had everyone rolling in the aisles. The singer was British, with a stage background, but we did not enjoy her as much as we had appreciated Lindsey Hamilton, also a British stage performer, on Mercury. We felt that this lady, Petrina Johnson, was a little too loud and strident for our best enjoyment. Edith loves harp music, but the harpist played with an electronically amplified instrument that sounded far too metallic and harsh for our taste. There also was a dance duo that was quite good. A classical pianist performed once, but it was between our dinner and our normal show, so we never did get to hear him. I believe he should have been presented at a time (or at times) when everyone would have had a chance to enjoy this music. The entertainment also included the ship’s orchestra, which backed up all the Galaxy Lounge performers, providing live music instead of the prerecorded variety now common for some of the stage presentations in larger showrooms on board the mega-ships. The crystal sextet played mostly dance music, either in the Stardust Lounge on Deck 6 or the Palm Court on Deck 12. The Wind and Strings trio, which was composed of violin, guitar and flute, played mostly in the Crystal Cove and also wandered around playing requests at dinner in the main dining room. A pianist named Joe Fos played mostly in the Crystal Cove while Daniel Davies did the same in the Avenue Saloon. Both were excellent and very knowledgeable. However, on one occasion when we wanted to sit and listen to Joe Fos after a show, he was interrupted by a passenger who proceeded to have a lengthy private conversation with him, stopping him from playing, and depriving us of our entertainment. A better plan would have been for Joe to gently remind this person that he was there to play for all passengers. Movies were shown in the theater every day, and the movies available on closed circuit TV were both very extensive and varied. A TV program for each day was provided. On a typical day there were four movie channels with four movies each. The channels were: “Movie Laughs & Romance”; “Action Drama and Suspense”; “Silver Screen Classics” and “The Destination Channel.” For example, one day’s offering on the Silver Screen channel gave you: “A Man For All Seasons”; Singin’ in the Rain”; Gone With The Wind” and “Sunset Boulevard”. On the same day the Destination Channel showed “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”; “The Italian Job”; Man of La Mancha” and “Notting Hill.” This is quite a line-up as anyone would agree. In addition we could see the Discovery Channel, and depending on the ship’s location, up to 4 news channels. The usual, but more than ordinarily thorough port and ship information channels also were available. GUEST EDUCATION AND RECREATION EVENTS I have made this a separate section because the offerings in this area were so extensive, particularly on the 3 sea days. This was labeled as a “Fitness” cruise. Every day there was at least one fitness walk in a “Walk on Water” WALKVESt® program with an instructor trained in that program; one or two fitness classes and perhaps a yoga class. Edith attended each yoga session, which was run by a husband and wife team who own a yoga studio, and do this for a living. This was obviously much better that the typical cruise yoga session run by one of the gym instructors. The Computer University at Sea had three separate sessions, repeated during the cruise. I took the one on getting your digital photos edited and transmitted. I discussed the Yamaha electronic keyboard studio in my description of the ship. Edith attended one or two of the classes offered and had a fine time. She also attended an art class with prizes. There was an arts and crafts class and I attended three golf instruction sessions offered by Bruce Murray, a Canadian Golf Professional with a Masters Professional status awarded by the PGA in 1981. This was typical of the caliber of people hired by Crystal. Spanish lessons were also offered, along with bridge instruction by a couple, both of whom are Silver Life Masters with the American Contract Bridge League. The credentials of the other instructors are equally impressive. There was no charge for any of these activities. Crystal also has a “Cleveland Clinic Health Talk” program as part of its overall Life Style offerings, and on this cruise it featured a MD Dermatologist. The “Enrichment” series of educational talks was so extensive and varied that I can only give a short overview. The cruise had members of PBS people known as the PTV at Sea group, including many business analyst types such as the Chief Investment Strategist at Standard and Poor; the founder and CEO of Riley Asset Management and Paul Kangas, co-anchor of the PBS “Nightly Business Report.” There were many other presenters, and one could not possibly attend them all. Edith enjoyed a doctor speaking mainly on nutrition and diet, and I enjoyed a talk given by Aimee Mullins. This very beautiful young lady lost both her legs to amputation below the knee at 8 months of age. Despite this, while attending Georgetown University (my alma mater also) she competed in and won several NCAA Division 1 track events, including world records in the long jump, 100 and 200 meter dashes. She since has gone on to a modeling career. Perhaps typical of her marvelous attitude was her closing remark after mentioning that she has several different prosthetic legs for different purposes. “I can be any height I want to.” I also greatly enjoyed a joint presentation on politics for the 2006 and 2008 given by Charlie Cook, a widely known political writer and TV analyst, and Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of Washington Week on PBS, and a regular senior correspondent and moderation on The NewsHour with Jim Leher. We had enjoyed the Enrichment offerings on Celebrity on sea days and the lectures on Oceania; but the Crystal programs go way beyond those. There was no excuse for anyone to have had a moment’s boredom on this cruise. THE CRYSTAL CREW AND OUR FELLOW PASSENGERS The “sailors”, meaning the Bridge and Engine Room officers were mostly Norwegian with a sprinkling of Japanese. The hotel and food service managers were either German or Austrian, with a supporting cast from other European countries as well. The staff in the main dining room was European, and they also served tea each day in the Palm Court. The buffet staff was largely Filipino. The room stewards seemed to mostly female and from Europe. Their hallmark and motto was “Service – service and better service.” While most cruise lines make extended efforts in providing good service, and many succeed at a fairly high level; we have experienced nothing as good as Crystal. We do not make special requests of the dining room staff, but some did at an adjoining table, and their requests were apparently cheerfully supplied. The front desk was always a pleasure to deal with on the few occasions I went there. I have mentioned the excursion staff’s dedication. The Captain and senior officers were often seen around the boat. The entertainers and lecturers were also visible and willing to chat with passengers. Every request of our room stewardess was promptly met if we dialed her number, she was paged, and replied in every case in a minute or two. In short, we were thoroughly spoiled. Our fellow passengers were also a pleasure. Our dinner companions were extremely nice, and we had a very pleasant and at times hilarious level of conversation. Most on board were American, with 27 British couples according to Tony and Jill, the usual sprinkling of Canadians, a group of 30 from Bermuda, a few Europeans and a number of Japanese from Japan, Hawaii and California. CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS Just in case you missed the message; we loved this ship, its on board offerings and the cruise company. We enjoyed the places we visited, but after all, the Caribbean is still the Caribbean with a lovely climate, good swimming, shopping if you want it, but not the most exotic or exiting spot in the world the sixth or seventh time around. On the level of professionalism, customer attention, service, attitude and the overall product supplied to its passengers including the ship’s appearance, ambience and convenience, Crystal Serenity was the finest we have ever experienced. There have been some entertainment on Celebrity we thought was better, and some cozy aspects of Insignia that delighted us just as much in a slightly different way; but the total value of what Serenity provided was the highest. Of course you pay for this, even though this was a “Value” cruise at a rate approximately 55% of the normal fare. This was still almost twice the cost of a comparable Celebrity cruise. Whether or not this high level of service is worth either the discounted or the full price, I leave to each individual, but we certainly felt we got our money’s worth. Would we sail again on Serenity? In a heartbeat – if the price was right and the itinerary appealing. Unfortunately it is not possible to get discount prices on Crystal’s more exotic itineraries, as I expect that they will book them fully. But if Serenity sails again at a time and place convenient and desirable, we would sure love to be her pampered guests again. Bon Voyage!

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