Crystal Cruises

Crystal Serenity

Fodor’s Expert Review

Ship Overview

Crystal Cruises
Cruise StyleLuxury
Ship SizeMidsize
Sails To Caribbean|Europe
Caribbean|Europe

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.Read More

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.

Cuisine

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.

Entertainment

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.

Cabins

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.

Attire

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.

Overview

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.

Decor

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.

Restaurants

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.

Service

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.

Tipping

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

Fitness/Spa

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.

  • 9 passenger decks
  • 2 specialty restaurants, dining room, buffet, ice cream parlor
  • Wi-Fi, safe, refrigerator, DVD
  • 2 pools (1 indoor)
  • fitness classes, gym, hot tubs, sauna, spa
  • steam room
  • 6 bars, casino, 2 dance clubs, library, show room, video game room
  • children’s programs
  • dry cleaning, laundry facilities, laundry service
  • Internet terminal
  • no kids under 6 months

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

Pros
Cons
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

What to expect on board

Staterooms & Cabins

Cabins
Amenities
Accessibility

Crystal Serenity has no inside cabins. Although suites are generous in size, lesser categories are somewhat smaller than industry standard at this level. All accommodations are designed with ample closet and drawer/shelf storage, as well as bathroom shelves and twin sinks. An impressive 85% of all cabins have private balconies furnished with chairs and tables. Most suites and penthouses have walk-in closets. Crystal Penthouse suites have private workout areas, pantries, and guest powder rooms. There are 50 connecting staterooms and 134 staterooms with a third berth for families.

All cabins have a refrigerator with complimentary water and soft drinks, a personal safe, two hair dryers, broadband connection, a flat-screen TV with a DVD player, Aveda bath products, slippers, Frette bathrobes, and an umbrella. A seating area with sofa, chair, and table are typical standard features of all cabins. Most suites and penthouses also have CD players; all have butler service, personalized stationery, and a complimentary fully stocked minibar upon embarkation.

Eight staterooms are designed for wheelchair accessibility.

Food & Drink

Food

The formal restaurant serves open seating breakfast and lunch and offers international cuisine in two traditional early and late assigned dinner seatings; Open Dining by Reservation is also available. There’s no additional charge for the intimate Asian- and Italian-specialty restaurants, but reservations are required. Theme luncheons and dinners are sometimes held poolside; special wine dinners are held in the Vintage Room. Tastes, a casual café, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner; the Lido buffet has breakfast and lunch; a poolside grill serves casual lunch and snacks; The Bistro, a specialty coffee and wine bar, also offers snacks; and there’s an ice cream bar. Afternoon tea is served in the Palm Court. Room service is available 24 hours, and during dinner hours selections can be delivered from the formal restaurant menu. Suite passengers also have the option of ordering dinner from the specialty restaurants, to be served by their butlers.

Entertainment

With the open-bar policy setting a convivial tone, Crystal’s lounges are the ships’ social centers. Every lounge has a different atmosphere, ranging from the signature cocktail and piano bar known for its intimate “clubby” feel to the cigar lounge that is ideal for after-dinner drinks and conversation. After a production show or concert in the main show room, dance aficionados can find musical styles that range from big band to contemporary.

Spa & Fitness

Inspired by the principles of feng shui, the Crystal Spa is a tranquil haven where such services as aroma stone therapy, a Japanese silk booster facial, and well-being massage are offered. A private, canopied relaxation area on the spa’s aft deck is available before or after a treatment. Facilities for men and women include saunas and changing areas featuring showers with multiple head and side body jets, fiber-optic lighting, and a selection of rain and mist functions.

QUICK FACTS

SHIP STATS
Entered Service
2003
Number of Cabins
544
Passenger Capacity
980
Crew Members
655
Passengers to Crew Ratio
1.50
Gross Tons
68000
Width
106 feet
Length
820 feet
CRUISE LINE INFO
888/799–4625 or 310/785–9300

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