At the end of last year Crystal Serenity emerged from the Lloyd Werft shipyard in Bremerhaven following the most extensive redesign the ship has ever undergone. As a result of the makeover, the ship’s capacity was reduced from 1,070 guests to 980 guests, while the number of crew remains the same. This underscores Crystal Cruises’ hallmark of having one of the highest space and service ratios in the industry.
Launched in 2003 to immediate acclaim, Crystal Serenity has received a host of awards from prestigious magazines and cruise guides. Apart from being a torchbearer in the all-inclusive stakes, Crystal Cruises’ onboard luxury is more nuanced than many of its competitors.
This quality manifests itself in the intuitive service from the crew; impeccable cuisine in a variety of restaurants; as well as supremely comfortable accommodations. Not only does Crystal Serenity look better than ever after her transformation, the scope of the redesign has ensured the uncompromising standards for which the ship is renowned have attained new heights.
Where to eat
The concept of open-seating dining made its debut aboard Crystal Serenity following the refurbishment allowing guests to dine where, when and with whom they choose. It’s a proud claim of the company that their ships do not have a main dining room, a relic of the past that has no place on Crystal Cruises’ contemporary ships.
With its cosy vibe and plenty of tables for two and four, the epicurean treasure-trove that is the Waterside restaurant has inspirational menus boasting classic dishes as well as tasty modern cuisine.
Umi Uma serves the Japanese-Peruvian specialities of Nobu Matsuhisa by his personally-trained chefs and remains the only Nobu restaurant at sea.
Revelling in elegance and featuring Northern Italian cuisine at its finest, Prego is perennially popular.
With a backdrop of ‘living walls’ the Asian-inspired Silk Kitchen serves traditional Chinese comfort-food in an alfresco atmosphere.
The open-kitchen Marketplace offers an expansive menu of buffet-style breakfast and lunch options then transforms into the Churrascaria in the evening where gauchos take meats directly from the grill to carve them tableside from sword-like skewers.
Other highlights include the Vintage Room; Bistro; Trident Grill and afternoon tea in the Palm Court.
Where to sleep
The upgrade to Crystal Serenity saw 36 new Seabreeze Penthouses and two Seabreeze Penthouse Suites (367 sq ft and 491 sq ft respectively) created on Deck 10.
This new accommodation grade offers butler service, walk-in wardrobes and bathrooms with power-showers. Customised, contemporary design and décor are featured throughout, with gemstone-coloured velvets, natural materials and brushed brass touches with marble details.
There is no such thing as a bad cabin on Crystal Serenity – indeed there are no inside cabins. The lowest grade – 226 sq ft Outside Staterooms – come complete with a five-foot picture window; but the majority of the ship’s accommodation are Deluxe Staterooms which boast a 20 sq ft veranda. Wardrobe space is generous and the marble bathrooms are a masterstroke in design, with twin sinks and shower; some come with a bathtub. All staterooms have a lounge area where room-service meals can be enjoyed in private. Top-of-the-range Penthouses range from 403 sq ft to 1,345 sq ft and are about the finest money can buy on the ocean waves.
What to do
Production shows are some of the best choreographed and most lavishly costumed entertainment at sea. In the Galaxy Lounge there’s the ‘Icons in Concert’ show; plus a new Broadway-style revue called ‘Crystal on Broadway, The Show’ which features songs from the hit musicals: Something Rotten!; West Side Story; and Rent.
There’s also the Stardust Club for comedians and cabaret. On formal nights during longer cruises, this turns into a brand-new dining experience reminiscent of the era of the Rat Pack. There are also recently-released movies in the Hollywood Theatre; a large casino; and sublime Connoisseurs Club.
By day, one of the most popular diversions is the Computer University @ Sea; another part of Crystal Cruises’ ‘Creative Learning Institute’ is the chance to learn a host of foreign languages. Designed in accordance with the principles of Feng Shui, the Crystal Spa high above the ocean on Deck 13 offers a serene environment for a range of therapeutic treatments. The Seahorse Pool is one of the largest at sea and is surrounded by ‘pod beds’ and padded sun-loungers; there’s also two Jacuzzis.
What I loved
Reminiscent of a colonial gentleman’s club, the Avenue Saloon proved a popular watering hole after dinner when pianist Dan Davies entertained the crowd. Another focal hub in the evening is Crystal Cove where there’s a variety of entertainment. Many guests fill the open decks at sailaway when the emotive Louis Armstrong song ‘What a Wonderful World’ reaffirms the joy of cruising.
Don’t miss ‘Mozart Tea Time’, an extravaganza held once per cruise in the Palm Court. This elegant room is also the place to head to in the evening for ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ fans as Crystal Cruises have Ambassador Hosts and professional dancers to partner guests as they sashay across the floor.