Calm cruising onboard ‘The Serenity’ c/o Crystal Cruises

August 12, 2015

What can one say about the Crystal Cruise experience?

We feel very privileged to have the opportunity to write this review and it is with pleasure that we are able to express in words the excellence of Crystal Cruises.

From the moment we were met at Fiumicino Airport Rome by the Crystal representatives and the efficient transition to the transfer coaches, with the thoughtful complimentary bottles of water that were provided, we knew that the experience was going to be good, but nothing had quite prepared us for just how great this was going to be.

We were then driven to the port of Civitavecchia, where the Crystal Serenity was berthed.  There were other cruise ships present, but these were outshone by the good-looking Serenity.

After checking in on board we were directed to our stateroom, where our luggage had already been delivered.  The whole process was smooth and reassuringly efficient.  A bottle of Champagne in an ice bucket, a luxurious box of chocolates and fresh fruit was laid out ready for our arrival.

The whole package is first class in all respects and it is hard to conceive of any other cruise line that would come close to the quality of a Crystal Cruise.

We will attempt to address just some of the other numerous elements that go into making a Crystal Cruise such an amazing experience.

The safety of their guests is of paramount importance with a thorough boat drill provided before departure from the commencing port.  This is also broadcast on the Crystal TV channel along with other useful information.

A unique brief daily newspaper was delivered with titles relevant to the nationality of the guests.

Crystal Cruises are clearly committed to maintaining a high level of hygiene and care for the environment. Each and every restaurant has a hand hygiene system at the entry point. The public restrooms have treated paper tissues for using door handles.

Even the food waste is fed through a special pulping machine and recycled to provide energy on board.

The state rooms are all with sea views; there are no internal cabins.  They range from state rooms with large picture window, up to the Crystal penthouse with verandah, a sumptuous suite with its own dining room.  There are only four of these on Serenity.

Our accommodation was in a penthouse with a verandah.  This was very well appointed with all fittings and furnishings of top quality.  They have a lighting system that enables guests to choose between four levels of ambient lighting.

Our penthouse comprised:

A large bedroom and sitting room with a most comfortable queen sized bed with Egyptian cotton linens.

On the other side of the bedroom was a dressing table and chair, walk in wardrobe with drawers and shelves together with an ample supply of hanging rails and hangers.

The bathroom was a delight with twin basins, a large shower cubicle and a full size Jacuzzi bath, complete with Aveda lotions and potions.

There were numerous conveniences that went with the penthouse, even including thoughtfully provided binoculars, not to mention an on call 24 hours a day personal butler service.  The amenities, which are dependent upon the category of state room are too numerous to go into in detail in this review and you are recommended to visit the Crystal Cruise website for further information in respect of these

The standard of cuisine and service in all of the dining venues was consistently of the highest order, offering great variety.  The Crystal Dining Room, which is the main dining area has been most attractively designed and laid out.  This can hold up to about five hundred people at each of the regular two sittings.  Despite these numbers and the extensiveness of the a la carte menu no one ever had to wait for service.  The whole process was smoothly, efficiently and courteously handled, with each course freshly prepared to order.  We would have to rate this as at least 6 star.

The entertainment venues are designed to pamper guests with their comfortable and relaxing seating arrangements.  For example the Galaxy Lounge has a unique mix of swivel armchairs and two, three and four seater sofas.  These have tables in front to receive the beverages served during the shows.  The Hollywood Theatre has very comfortable seating and even has complimentary popcorn on the ready for the recent release film shows.

The entertainment too was simply superb, with acts that the like of which are unlikely to be bettered on Broadway or London’s West End. Outstanding and our compliments to Rick Spath the Cruise Director for his sourcing of these.  His passion for his role and the understanding of what his guests enjoy is wonderful.

A varied selection of excursions was available at each port of call.  Our favourite was the visit to la Grada Familia in Barcelona and the private mass held in its crypt by Father Michael, Serenity’s resident priest.

Complimentary shuttle coaches were also provided for those guests who wished to explore in their own way. Like everything else they were well organised and on a regular half hour basis.

There was no shortage of physical activities provided by way of a good size swimming pool with Jacuzzi tubs, fitness suite, two full size paddle tennis courts, golf driving nets and putting green, with daily coaching.

We particularly enjoyed the deck shuffleboard and walking the Teak promenade deck that runs all round the ship.  In our view this deck is an enormous asset and is a strong differentiator with other cruise lines where a promenade deck has been sacrificed for the sake of additional cabins.

There was also the Crystal Spa and Salon also conforming to the Crystal protocols of good service.

The Serenity is blessed with a host of amenities that provide guests with mental stimulus: A well stocked library of books, magazines, board games, dvd’s and cd’s.  The Crystal Visions Enrichment Programme and Crystal Cruises Creative Learning Institute.  A dedicated bridge lounge for daily ACBL instruction and play.  A very good computer suite with a large number of Apple I-Mac’s for use by the guests.  Professional help was always at hand with lectures also available.

Crystal hosts were available as dancing partners for those ladies travelling alone who wished to dance.  These hosts were mature well-educated gentlemen with dancing skills.

Serenity can accommodate up to 1070 guests with a crew of 665.  Allowing for the complement required to ‘drive’ the vessel, this provided for a high crew service to guest ratio.  This was evidenced by the fact that there was always someone at hand eager to assist and be of service.  A very smooth well thought out operation indeed.

At no time, even when at sea with everyone aboard did Serenity, aptly named by the way, feel the slightest bit crowded, due no doubt to its layout and all the activities available.

It would be remiss to leave out mentioning the smooth efficient running of the vessel by Captain Vorland, his officers and crew.  Every departure and arrival went according to schedule and all was well organised and controlled.  The docking was so skillfully executed that we were scarcely aware of what was happening until the realisation that the ship was no longer moving.

On the last night a lady not only marked the celebration of her 100th birthday, and lived the last three years on Serenity, but had also booked for a further three years.  There were also other ladies who lived on board on a virtually permanent basis, due no doubt among everything else to the sense of security and satisfaction that they must have felt.

Finally the disembarkation at Southampton.  The crew and guests had become so like one huge family that numerous fond farewells took place.

We cannot speak highly enough of the quality of the accommodation, housekeeping, service, catering, entertainment and all the other elements of the cruise.  Not only was this exemplary, but the high standard maintained was also consistent and never once disappointed.  The cheerful willingness to please and can do style of all the Crystal people is a shining example of how customer services should be.

What more can we say?  If you want the cruising experience of a lifetime with first class amenities, cuisine, entertainment and outstanding service, then Crystal Cruises is the one.  We would liken our experience to twelve nights at a 6 star hotel, but with far better variety, particularly the entertainment, and the opportunity to visit foreign lands.  Try as we may, we are at a loss to come up with any ideas or pointers that would improve the experience.  We suppose that we may at some point, but suspect that this is highly unlikely.

Thank you Crystal Cruises for a most enjoyable memorable experience.

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