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First time Crystal Sept 2019 Serenity

First time Crystal Sept 2019 Serenity

Postby Camela » 14 Oct 2019 16:57

We booked this cruise as it included 4 new ports and would be a first on Crystal. Flew with Lufthansa via Frankfurt on way out and Munich on return. Efficient transit on both flights and will be happy to fly via Europe again - not a big fan of BA of late. Business class cheaper than BA and Alitalia and the cabin service and food served was good too. Stayed Hilton Garden Inn, Fiumicino Airport with free shuttle bus from Terminal. We didn't have dinner as we'd eaten well on flights but food looked good. In the morning enjoyed very good buffet breakfast, included in our hotel rate. Shuttle bus back to Airport station where we got a train to Trastevere and connected with another train to Civitavecchia. Cost of journey, 13 Euros pp. We like the challenge and cost effectiveness of using public transport but due to steps with large wheelie cases at Trastevere (lifts not in use) and Civitavecchia (no lifts) would not do this again. It was quite a walk to port entrance in blazing sun then shuttle bus to berth for check in.

Friendly staff, no queues, straight on board at 1345, welcomed with champagne and the formalities of photo ID. Informed of where we could get lunch before suites ready at 1500. We went for casual lunch to Silk (Chinese) and found the staff there very friendly and this continued throughout the cruise, they really engaged with guests. Staff throughout the ship are very international it must be said.

Our Veranda suite, aft on Deck 9 (upgraded from forward Deck 8) was smaller than on Regent and Silversea and felt a bit cramped also no walk-in wardrobe so less hanging space. Large, brightly coloured bottles of Etro toiletries which I liked, the scent was Musk but wasn't overpowering. We're lucky having no allergies so can use the products we find on board, no need to bring our own. Big bottles were good as generally once a small one is half empty cabin attendants add more and you end up with bottles everywhere! There were only soft drinks in fridge which was a surprise given that Crystal is all inclusive. I ordered Champagne from stewardess and it took a day to arrive along with our choice of San Pellegrino water. Mr P wondered if you had to be in a higher category suite to get it automatically. Slippers along with cotton kimonos and towelling robes are provided. Fresh fruit is only available on request which I think is a good idea to prevent waste. No chocolates on pillow, shame on them!

After unpacking we explored the ship as new to us. Very spacious and nice décor, it never felt crowded. Muster then sailaway but here was first difference to any ship we'd sailed on previously, no poolside bar!! We went to Sunset Bar which is indoors, low ceiling and rather dark, but there wasn't the same vibe as an outdoor sailaway. During the day drinks are served to you but at lunch there isn't food available directly poolside so have to eat inside. Plenty of loungers, comfy sofas and tables and chairs so could always get somewhere to sit. If you have been in the pool you have to go inside in wet swimwear as there are no loos by the pool. Nice touch though is Elemis shower gel and shampoo in poolside showers, one of my favourites!

Restaurants. SILK Chinese inspired menu - has to be pre-booked for dinner- only went once and liked it. UMI UMA Japanese fusion (pre-book) - menu by Michelin chef Nobu. Probably highlight of the cruise for evening dining. Waiters well-versed in the food and how everything is served. CHURRASCARIA - Brazilian barbecue. Starters from a buffet then waiters bring round assorted meats and fish on skewers, go feeling hungry, I couldn't even look at desserts! It was very good and we sat outside which added to the ambience, also chatting to fellow diners. PREGO (pre-book) - Italian which to my surprise I enjoyed. Not because I don't like Italian food but often find on ships that they don't live up to their billing. WATERSIDE is the MDR where we ate on other evenings. Varied menu though not as extensive as on Regent and there are daily specials. All food was high quality and well presented. Like all big dining rooms service could be a bit slow depending on when you went in. We tend to be late risers after enjoying entertainment and nightcaps so were impressed by the options for breakfast going on till late morning. Waterside and Marketplace provide the full works either waiter service or buffet. Trident Grill provides some hot options for a late breakfast or there is good Continental in the Bistro, an all day eaterie with a small cold buffet depending on time of day. After trips ashore, were often not back on board till 2 so light lunch was usually in Trident Grill (serving till 6)

Entertainment we rated as best we'd come across on small ships (under 1000 passengers). There was a good variety to appeal to all tastes and in the main Galaxy theatre they do 2 shows, 7.45 and 9.45. Not on days when there is a late departure. On other lines there may be a show we fancy but if we're in company may not have finished eating and we'll miss the one show. There was other entertainment in the Stardust Lounge too. Several bars to appeal to all moods. We like Observation lounges with pianists but on Serenity there was a guitarist who didn't have a very varied repertoire and wasn't able to improvise to accommodate requests.

SANTA MARGHERITA along the coast from Portofino. First visit so took a map and strolled around the town.
MONTE CARLO many visits here but never to the Old Town. Uphill walk via the Jardin Exotique and Fort Antoine, in hot sun but worth the effort. Enjoyed amazing iced coffees (6euros each!) in a bar opposite the Royal Palace.
ST TROPEZ another first. Visited Old Town and church, food market and open air market.
AJACCIO birthplace of Napoleon so plenty to see, it is a nice town.
LIVORNO I always think of it as a bit of a dump due to the port area and we've taken excursions on previous visits, this time visited the town - what a revelation. Long walk took in 'New Venice' Fort ramparts and park gardens, Duomo and old indoor market.
PORTO VENERE new port for us. A favourite of Lord Byron so walk to Byron's Grotto was a must then up to Chiesa San Pietro. Very pretty interior with a lot of black marble. Walk down to quayside through some lovely narrow streets - pedestrians and cats only.

Top marks to Crystal for delivering disembarkation information just two nights before docking and not stipulating a time to vacate the suite. Obviously you have to leave the ship at designated time or by 0900 but it didn't feel like you were being pushed off. We didn't get an end of cruise questionnaire, maybe just missed out but I never bothered to enquire. I'm short-sighted and the names on their badges were quite small so only had noted 3 names!! We shared a minibus to Airport, 60 euros for 2.

Crystal continually come top of small luxury cruise award categories and of course opinions are subjective and reflect an individual's wants and likes. I think the many eating and entertainment venues are in Crystal's favour but I felt a certain warmth was missing. Whilst they have a policy of virtually no announcements over the PA system, the Cruise Director was practically invisible and the Captain never seen by us about the ship throughout the seven days. Yes I'd cruise with them again but at present my preference is definitely Regent though looking forward to Silversea next year after over 4 years absence.
"Won't you let me take you on a sea cruise"
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First time Crystal Sept 2019 Serenity

Postby judgegeoff » 14 Oct 2019 17:39

Many thanks for taking the time to post a most interesting and comprehensive review Camela, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. :clap: :clap:
Geoff

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"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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First time Crystal Sept 2019 Serenity

Postby Dave » 14 Oct 2019 18:04

Thanks for the really interesting read Camela. :thumbup:

I've not cruised with Crystal (or any other top-end line for that matter!), but I did do a ship visit courtesy of Cruise Select back in 2014 and in my report I said that: "Crystal Serenity is easily the best ship I've seen yet - and probably the best I'll ever see. She oozes up-market class but with absolutely no pretensions."

Of course, we've done a few cruises with TUI since then... ;)
Dave

Booked cruise 2019: December - Caribbean on Marella Explorer 2
Remaining land-based holidays 2019: July - Peak District, August - Harris and Highlands, October - Brecon Beacons
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Re: First time Crystal Sept 2019 Serenity

Postby rdw123 » 15 Oct 2019 07:23

Thanks for your review. Interesting to hear about other lines. Personally I prefer sailing from u.k. as I don’t want the hassle of getting from a foreign airport to the port. Travelling solo I can’t manage a lot of luggage. Thanks
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First time Crystal Sept 2019 Serenity

Postby Gillzajoker » 15 Oct 2019 10:37

Really enjoyed your interesting and informative review, Camela. :D
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Re: First time Crystal Sept 2019 Serenity

Postby Camela » 15 Oct 2019 17:32

Thanks all. It goes on a bit and there's so much more I could have put in :o
"Won't you let me take you on a sea cruise"
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Re: First time Crystal Sept 2019 Serenity

Postby judgegeoff » 15 Oct 2019 18:53

Camela wrote:Thanks all. It goes on a bit and there's so much more I could have put in :o


It is never too long if it is interesting and factual Camela, we can all learn from other people's experiences. :)
Geoff

Booked cruise :-
"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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Re: First time Crystal Sept 2019 Serenity

Postby avidcruiser » 15 Oct 2019 22:40

What a fantastic itinerary. Santa Margerita is one of my favourite ever ports. Just for information you can take a small boat along the coast to very secluded coves, only accessible by sea. A wonderful way to spend your time there IF other cruise lines ever add it to their itinerary.

Great review too, thanks.
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Re: First time Crystal Sept 2019 Serenity

Postby Camela » 16 Oct 2019 17:13

By chance last week we saw a 2013 episode about Serenity on Mighty Ships series on Discovery Channel.
"Won't you let me take you on a sea cruise"
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First time Crystal Sept 2019 Serenity

Postby grannyM » 18 Oct 2019 08:16

Nice review Camela. Thank you for taking the time to post it. I enjoyed reading it this morning. :)
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