Cruising on the Crystal Serenity

Just a quick bit of history. After twenty plus years Crystal went out of business. With a court ordered auction, their 2 ocean ships went to the former owner of Silversea, while their Expedition ship went to Silversea Cruises.

The same owner of Crystal now also owns tour operator A&K, which is a new cruise dynamic. After a major investment in a massive refit that include making the Serenity a 740 passenger ship from 1,000, and the Symphony to a 606 passenger ship from 960. With a crew to passenger ratio of nearly 1 to 1 on both ships these were major, major rebuilds and refits.

I can honestly tell you that the resulting décor is the best of both old and new worlds and is a warm welcoming feeling. I had heard that a tremendous number of former crew had returned to the ship. Finding that a bit hard to believe after 2 years of being out of business or in the shipyards, I invited Bruce Setloff, former head of C&I at the old Crystal, to join me.

First impressions are always important! From the outside the ship looked like new. Showing our passports in the elegant “make shift” terminal in Barbados was the first step, and then you wait for the tram to take you to gangway, was step number one. Next was the actual check in which takes place in the former casino and then you are taken to you suite or stateroom by butler with a glass of champagne in hand. What stood out the most is how many of the guests checking in knew the crew.

It was like a family reunion. Impressive! This was the same with my cruise buddy Bruce. Walking to your suite you can’t help but see all the great changes. Very nice. Our suites are the new ones created in the refit – taking 2 staterooms and making them into one Suite with 430 sq ft of living space with separate bedroom and living room, and a 107 sq ft balcony. Of particular note, should be the master bath and shower which are palatial. I should point out that you also have much bigger suites, regular balcony staterooms and single cabins – all of which have been totally redone.

None of which would you turn down. Who doesn’t like attentive Butler service and your favorite beverage on your balcony at sunset? Next thing you will notice is how much space this ship has. No waiting in lines or just plain waiting for anything. Going past rooms that seem to have tons of space between tables and other guests.

The number of public rooms that are available is incredible for this size ship. So what does that mean for you? If you have a group or full ship charter you have ample meeting space and break-outs. There is the evening Supper Club and Stardust lounge for private dinners and private cocktails, with full stage capabilities, that are available to you. Food and Service are immpecable. First of all fleet wide, 80% of the employees on the ships are from the old Crystal, remarkable.

Food in all of the venues is really top notch with some real special spots such Umi Uma from Nobu. The Italian restaurant Osteria D’Ovidio, is over seen by the owner and a standout. I understand that one venue is already being changed to standout – European Steak house. The Buffet, Main Dining Room (Waterside Restaurant), the Bistro, Pool Grill and Vintage Room (a private dining experience) and 24 hour room service round out the dining options.

There are of course, numerous lounges on the ship, some of which offer nightly entertainment. Again the ship offers many venues such as the Cove which is like your lobby bar, Avenue Saloon and adjoining Connoisseur Club are your old world bar and smoking lounge, Pulse Night Club, the show lounge at the Galaxy Lounge and Hollywood Theatre and the Palm Court – all keep you busy night and day.

In a word this is a great ship for groups and charters and reasonably priced for a luxury ship. Steve Bloss