Age: Baby Boomer
Number of Cruises: 100
Cruise Line: Crystal
Ship: Crystal Serenity
Sailing Date: January 4th, 2006
The Crystal Serenity Dock in Los Angeeles
Crystal Serenity Cruise Review
6-Day Mexican Riviera
Age: Baby Boomer
Occupation: Self Employed
Number of Cruises: 100's
Sailing Date: January 4th, 2006
Joanie and I needed to get away for a vacation so we booked ourselves on a 6-night cruise down the Mexican Riviera. We have been trying to purchase a condo in Punta Mita (north of Puerto Vallarta) and needed to go look at some new units that had come on the market. The Crystal cruise was priced right and I wanted to do a review of her, so off we went.
The San Pedro Harbor is a quick 75-minute drive from our front door, so after closing up our home, we drove directly to the ship and after a short 5-minute check-in process, were on board the Serenity ready to cruise. We parked right at the terminal and were within easy walking distance to the ship.
The Crystal Serenity was the third Crystal ship to enter Crystal’s fleet as a newbuild. Crystal sold the Crystal Harmony in 2005 leaving the Crystal Symphony and the Crystal Serenity in their fleet. Built and launched in 2003, the Serenity is 68,000 gross tons of luxury. She offers a space ratio of 63 and her spaciousness and appointments make for a very comfortable cruise. She is considered a large ship for the luxury market and is rated by Berliz as a 5-star experience.
The first thing I noticed when boarding the ship was the understated elegance it portrayed. The first thing you see when you board the Serenity is the reception area and atrium. Compared to most ships it is quite underwhelming, yet very elegant. The use of bland colors, carpets, tiles and overall decor gives one a feeling of being in a fine hotel. There is absolutely no glitz anywhere.
AA Cabin 10025
Joanie and I booked an AA Deluxe Stateroom with Verandah (cabin 10025) that offered 269 square feet. The first thing one notices when entering the cabin is the extra room around the bedding and sitting area. The extra square footage makes the cabin seem so much more enjoyable. There is extensive use of dark hardwood cabinetry, wainscoting and trim giving the cabin a very luxurious ambiance.
The Queen Sized Bed and Cabin Interior
There was a queen-sized bed with excellent quality bedding (Joanie and I decided to buy a new bed when we got home because we slept so soundly on this ship). Both sides of the bed had a nightstand with three-drawers. A feature that is unique to Crystal is the offering of your choice of pillows. If your pillow is not comfortable, for whatever reason, you can request other types of pillows until you find the perfect one for you. There is a full closet adjacent to the bed that offers one full-length side and one half-length side with a 4-drawer chest for more storage. There is also a room safe in the closet, as well.
The Entertainment Center
The sitting area is quite generous and offers a full sized coffee table and a love seat sized sofa. The entertainment area across the cabin from the sitting area offers a television with DVD player, a mini refrigerator stocked with soft drinks and water (included in the price of the cruise) and 4 additional drawers below it. The main desk/make up area offers three mirrors, two lamps and two electrical outlets (on American 110v and one European 110V) Hint: Bring an extension cord if you are going to us more than one 110v electrical appliance at a time. The desk features a large desk drawer and another additional 4 drawers for storage. The left hand side of the entertainment center has 4 shelves for storage and then a concealed bar area complete with highball and wine glasses, wine opener, ice bucket and all the accessories that go with it.
The verandah sports two chairs (not reclining or lounge chairs) and a large coffee table. The verandah is quite large enough to thoroughly enjoy morning coffee or a relaxing time reading in the sun. The doors sealed quite nicely so that no exterior noise entered the cabin when the door as shut and locked. The black out curtains also worked great.
The Closet in Cabin 10025
The bathroom was a real treat. First of all, there was a full bathtub to enjoy that also had a very functional fully enclosed shower. Crystal provides a full array of Aveda bath products (shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and body scrub, so there is no need to bring your own unless you have a very special need for them. The water pressure and temperature control was outstanding. The towels and other linens are of the finest quality. The bathroom offers two separate sinks and storage areas so there is lots of room for each person. The mirrors are very generous and there is a built in hair dryer (however, it is the kind most people do not like) There is a second hair dryer (the kind that people do like) that is in the closet that can be plugged into the desk/make up area or used in the bathroom, as well so there is no need to bring one from home. The bathroom is very useable.
The Fitness Center on the Serenity
Exploring the Serenity
Deck 13, The Sun Deck
The best way to discover Serenity's various public facilities is simply to start at the top and move down deck by deck. If we go all the way aft and take the elevator to deck 13 we find the entrance to the Crystal Spa and Fitness Center.
The Fitness Center Weight Machine Area
The Fitness Center has a good number of treadmills, enough weight machines for a basic workout (biceps, triceps, lats, pecks, abs and back) and enough free weights to keep you in shape. One very nice feature of the Fitness Center is that it is kept in spotless condition by a full time attendant. When someone is done with a treadmill, it is cleaned thoroughly and re-equipped with a fresh bottle of water and clean towel. There is a television at each treadmill and one can watch movies all day long if they want. There is also a large aerobics room where the classes are held (yoga, pilates and such)
The Entrance to the Crystal Spa
The Crystal Spa offers a full list of spa services that include facials, massage, treatments, exercise and a complete spa menu.
The Paddle Tennis Courts
Moving forward outside we walk on the Sun Deck overlooking the pool area before we arrive at the two Paddle Tennis Courts. Basically, one can play at any time they wish. Simply go to the tennis court, grab a racquet and ball and have at it. No reservations are required, but it is first come, first served. Moving forward from the paddle tennis courts is the forward part of the sun deck that is set up for catching that perfect tan.
The Palm Court
Deck 12, Lido Deck
By going down the stairwell we come to the entrance to the Palm Court. This is a huge area with a dance floor and many alcoves to sit in. It is where many of the ship's cocktail parties are held including the Captain's Welcome Aboard party and the repeater's party, as well.
The Sunset Bar
At the front of the Palm Court the Sunset Bar resides. This is a great bar with lots of seating and is obviously a great place to watch the sunsets and other port activities as they unfold. As you can see, there is an unlimited view forward from both the room itself and from the bar.
The Main Pool Area (Seen From Deck 12)
Just aft of the Palm Court is the Serenity's main pool area. This is a great pool venue. First, the lounge chairs are not crowded together. They feature soft mattresses and as many high quality pool towels as you want to use. The pool was heated to a very comfortable 82 degrees and the Jacuzzis were never crowded and were always a great temperature for relaxing. The ship serve the various cocktails and pool side drinks in glasses making them all that much more enjoyable. The pool attendants were always there to get you whatever you needed. There was never any charge for coffee, Perrier and other soft drinks.
Another Look at the Serenity Pool Area
While there was entertainment during a two-hour period for lunch time, there were never any pool games or other intrusions into one's relaxation. Even the piped in music one usually hears poolside was absent. It was a very enjoyable environment.
The Trident Grill
Moving aft from the pool area, we enter the enclosed pool/dining area that houses the Neptune Pool, a small enclosed pool that was rarely used by anyone because of its location and the fact that there was a large buffet set up around it on sea days. On the port side, the Trident Grill was located. This is the casual lunch venue for the pool, but it offers a much more substantial pool side menu. The are the usual hamburgers, fries and so on, but many specialty sandwiches were also offered. We enjoyed grilled tuna sandwiches on one day that were excellent here.
The Trident Bar was located just aft of the Grill and offered a full service bar. This was also the bar that served the pool area.
Scoops resided on the starboard side of the area and offered fresh ice cream, soft served ice cream and cookies all day long. They were easily eight different kinds of ice cream to select from each day. This place was a huge hit with the ice cream lovers.
Tastes is actually a separate restaurant that operates independently from the rest on the ship. During the daytime it offers wonderful buffets during sea days and an excellent, yet eclectic menu during non-sea days. I enjoyed an excellent Oriental salad here and wanted to go back for more. During the dinner hours, Tastes offer casual dining for those that do not want to dress for dinner. While we did not get a chance to experience it, the menu and service looked to be excellent.
The Lido Cafe's Al Fresco Dining
Further aft was the Lido Cafe. The Lido Cafe was the main buffet venue for the ship and was open for breakfast and lunch daily. Breakfast found a great selection of fruit, hot breakfast meats and eggs, two omelet stations, full juice and drink selections and much more. While there were ample selections, the buffet was basically the same each day. Lunch presented a much more diverse number of selections that changed daily. I thoroughly enjoyed the salad bar and fresh steamed vegetables. There was always a fish entree along with the traditional, beef, pork and other excellent dishes. The feature of the Lido Cafe that I loved was the aft fantail tables. It was so pleasurable to take breakfast sitting in the open air while enjoying the ocean air.
Decks 11, 10, 9 and 8
All four of these decks are made up of passenger cabins. Decks 11 and 10 are where the suites and penthouses are located, while decks 9 and 8 are lower category cabins.
Deck 7, Promenade Deck
If we take the elevator all the way down to deck 7 and go all the way aft, we are delivered to the alternative restaurants and some of the more interesting of the Serenity's public venues.
The first restaurant (on the starboard side) is Prego, the Serenity's Italian restaurant. Jaonie and I loved Prego. We dined there twice, but could have gone every night. I tried to get a sample menu, but could not accomplish it. Suffice it to say, if you like gourmet Italian food, you will love Prego. Here is a hint: GET THE MUSHROOM SOUP!!! It is simply to die for. The soup was so good that we ended up purchasing the Serenity's cookbook just to get the recipe. That is not to downplay the rest of the dining experience, as it is equally wonderful. Both Joanie and I select completely different meals during our second visit and had just as wonderful dining experience. Definitely dine at Prego as often as you can. Here is the menu for Prego.
HINT: Make your reservations at Prego and Silk Road as soon as possible after you board. Both restaurants are extremely popular and if you wait, you might end up with less than desirable dining times.
The Sushi Bar and Silk Road Restaurant
Joanie and I did not get into the Silk Road Restaurant until the last evening and it is probably a good thing. Both Joanie and I are sushi and Asian dining aficionados and our dining experience in Silk Road was to die for. We simply couldn't have had a better meal and dining experience. We would have definitely dined in Silk Road every evening (even over Prego). It was that wonderful. Silk Road features the menu created by Nobu Matsuhisa, the famous Japanese chef that operates exclusive restaurants in some of the highest profile places in the world. We absolutely loved it and would cruise the Serenity again to exploit the opportunity to dine there every evening. Just to give you an example of the value of this restaurant, We loved the Nobu experience so mush that I invited my sister and her husband to join Joanie and I at Nobu Malibu for a dinner after a surf trip to Rincon (south of Santa Barbara after we returned from our cruise. We all loved the dining experience, but when we got the bill, it was almost $500.00. While I was surprised at the cost of the meal, the experience and food was well worth it. It was populated by surfers and other like minded people that were dressed casually and there was absolutely no snoot factor involved. So now, my sister owes me one. Here is the menu for Silk Road.
If you simply want to drop into Silk Road, there is a little dining bar that serves primarily sushi that you can sit at (first come, first served). You can order fresh (I mean FRESH) sushi and also items from the Silk Road menu, as well. Note that it is crowded and you might have better luck also waiting for a table to clear because of a cancellation. Here is the Sushi Bar menu.
If we move forward on the ship on the port side, we first pass the small suite, or meeting room that can be used for small one-on-one meetings.
Vintage Room (Yes, that is a Wine cellar in the Background)
Just past the meeting room (I believe it was called the Century Suite) we come to the private dining room known as the Vintage Room. The Vintage Room can be arranged for an evening with a special dining function for about $150.00 per person. This would include a personalized menu, 5 different wines and a service staff of almost 1 server for every 2 guests. It is an exceptional bargain given that you could treat your guests to a gourmet dining experience based on your menu and a wine tasting experience that is simply wonderful. Joanie and I did not get to experience this exclusive amenity on the Serenity, but thought that if we ever took a group on this ship, we would host one. It would be a perfect venue for a family celebrating a reunion, anniversary or some other occasion. It would also be perfect for a business dinner where one could thoroughly impress someone with elements normally outside of most folk's lives.
The Serenity's Library
The Serenity had a great library that served the guests on the cruise. Beside books, the library had an extensive collection of DVD's for in-cabin viewing and CDs that could be listened to in the library itself using the headsets provided for that purpose. The library had extended hours so folks did not have to worry about making into the library to take out or return books, CDs or DVDs.
Have you ever wanted to learn how to play a keyboard, piano or organ? The Studio was built just for you. The Serenity offers classes on basic and more advanced keyboarding skills that you can participate in and these classes were very popular. Book them well in advance!
The Card Room
Right on the other side of Prego was the Card Room. I was surprised at how large the Card Room was. It could easily hold a bridge or poker tournament and it was very popular with the older crowd that wanted to play cards on the days at sea.
The Internet Cafe
Forward of the card room is the Internet Cafe and Computer University @ Sea. I didn't use the Internet Cafe, as I purchased in-room Internet access for the entire cruise for $150.00. The connection was fast and reliable and I would give Crystal high marks for providing hard wired access. Those that did use the Internet Cafe took advantage of packages that lowered the cost of access. I did not hear any complaints about the rate of access. Computer University @ Sea offered numerous computer classes for everyone. Everything from beginning computing classes to reasonably sophisticated classes were available and were held in a separate classroom from the Internet Cafe.
The Promenade Deck
Surrounding all of deck 7 is the exterior promenade. The promenade is unique on the Serenity as the life boats are tucked in openings on the deck below. This allows for the promenade to be exposed to the sun while still offering protection from the elements because of the ceiling that extends over much of the promenade. This also serves as the ship's jogging/walking track for those seeking some exercise. There are also shuffleboard courts for those wanting to play.
The balance of deck 7 forward is all passenger cabins.
Deck 6, Tiffany Deck
The Stardust Club
All of the way aft on deck 6, one finds the intimate Stardust Club. This is the scene of some of the ship's smaller entertainment and dance events. It is open in the evening for dancing and cocktails.
The Avenue Saloon
Joanie and I loved the Avenue Saloon and found ourselves here before every dinner. They offer a wonderful martini menu and various wines by the glass. There is a piano bar that is non-invasive offering excellent background mood music. The service is impeccable. The waiter and bar tender remembered our names and cabin number after the first night and always asked if we wanted our usual drinks or wanted to try something new. This is a great bar! They also serve small appetizers each evening in addition to mixed nuts and other bar crunchies.
The Connoisseur Club
Right next to the Avenue Saloon on the starboard side moving forward is the Connoisseur Club. This is the cigar club and as you can see was extremely elegant. Since I don't smoke cigars nor do I like to be around people who are smoking them, I didn't spend much time here. However, thee room was wonderfully inviting.
The Pulse Disco
On the port side of deck 6 resides the Pulse Disco. We didn't make it into the disco at all, but heard that it was used by some folks late in the evening. It is quite intimate, as you can see.
The Hollywood Theater
With the entrance on the starboard side just forward of the Connoisseur Club, the Hollywood Theater is a huge cinema for a cruise ship. First run movies are shown all day long and into the evening. The is even popcorn available for those that want it. The theater was quite popular during sea days and also in the evening.
The Bistro was also one of our favorite places. In the morning it offered specialty coffee drinks (free of charge) and a small buffet of fruit, breads, yogurt and the like for a continental breakfast. Specialty coffee drinks were available all day and lunch found the continental breakfast buffet converted to an assortment of cheeses, delicatessen meats, breads and such for a light lunch. In the afternoon, cookies and other desserts took over. It was a great place to meet.
Just one of the Shops on Serenity
The Serenity offered several shops. Facets was a large and well stocked jewelry store.
Apropos, the Serenity's clothing store was huge. One of the things that Joanie loved about this store is that they changed their window displays daily. She would walk by every day and enjoy looking at the new dresses that were on display.
Captain's choice is the Serenity's general store and logo shop and offers tons of collectibles and the necessities should you have forgotten to pack anything.
Caesar's Palace at Sea
Forward of the Bistro and shops is the Serenity's casino, Caesar's Palace at Sea. It is operated by Caesar's Palace of Las Vegas fame and was very popular. We spoke with one gentleman who had won a substantial amount of money and swore it was the best casino on any ship that he had ever sailed on. You can see the casino bar in the background.
The Main Hallway on Deck 6
You can see that just walking from one venue to the next is a wonderful experience. This is the main hallway leading to the center atrium on deck six. The casino is one the right hand side.
The Galaxy Lounge
The Galaxy Lounge is the main showroom for each evening's entertainment. It featured 2 shows each evening and several production shows were also performed. While the theater was very intimate the sightline from some of the seats was obstructed by taller folks sitting in front. I would advise getting to the show early to get the prime seats.
Deck 5, the Crystal Deck
The Reception Desk and Crystal Plaza
Crystal Plaza is located in the center of the ship and is also the ship's atrium area. It is the very first thing that you see when first boarding the Serenity and it is a very pleasant experience. The very center of Crystal Plaza is the Registration Desk (seen here in the middle of the photo). The folks manning the registration desk were always attentive and friendly. There was never a long line to obtain help and it was a wonderful experience every time Joanie or I visited the registration desk.
The Crystal Plaza Atrium
Here is a look at the atrium area taken from deck 6 looking aft from above the registration desk. You can easily see the simple elegance of the ship's interior from here.
The Crystal Cove
Since our room was not ready when we boarded, the first thing that Joanie and I did was visit the Crystal Cove. Crystal Cove was a wonderful lounge situated by Crystal Plaza and offered a sophisticated, yet fun environment. It is also a great place to meet people prior to dinner.
The Business End of Crystal Plaza
The Concierge, the Shore Excursion Desk, the Cruise Sales Consultant and the Crystal Society Hostess were all located within the Crystal Plaza. One could make an appointment or simply walk into the area and wait for the appropriate person they wanted to meet with. The Medical Facility was also located forward on deck 5. Fortunately we did not need to visit it.
Leaving San Pedro With Catalina In the Sunset
Our Cruise Travelogue
Since this was mostly a relaxing cruise with only visits to Cabo San Lucas (where we did not get off the ship) and Puerto Vallarta (where we spent the day looking at condo units in Punta Mita) I will forgo a lengthy travelogue and simply mention some of the highlights of the cruise experience. However, I will say that leaving San Pedro in a Santa Ana wind condition (the wind is blowing from the east) is breathtaking. Above is a shot of the Serenity leaving San Pedro during a Santa Ana wind condition with the island of Catalina in the background. Magical.
The dining experience on the Serenity is strictly 6-star. It doesn't matter whether you dine in the main restaurant, one of the alternative restaurant, casual dining or in-cabin, you are going to have a great experience. This is what luxury cruising is all about. Many folks feel that because Crystal features 2 seatings per evening, that it is not the same experience as some of the other luxury lines. Here is the truth. Most of the other luxury lines have one main restaurant and one alternative restaurant. While you can dine in the main restaurant whenever you want (open seating) on Crystal you can dine whenever you want at 4 different alternative dining venues (Prego, Silk Road, the Sushi Bar and Tastes) while still having the opportunity to dine with your assigned table. Crystal offers more choices than most luxury lines and you only dine at your assigned seating if YOU choose to do so.
If you read my reviews at all, you know that I am not much on entertainment. However, I really enjoyed attending the shows on the Serenity because of the intimacy of the shows. They are more like attending a performance in someone's living room than on a ship's showroom. The entertainment was awesome and I never regretted attending a show. This is another area where luxury cruising pays off.
The Pool Experience
I know, I know. But, for me the experience around the pool is very important. Both Joanie and I are sun aficionados and know how to rate the pool experience. I would give the Serenity an A+ and here is why.
Great Cushions on the Lounge Chairs
Plenty of Space Between the Lounge Chairs
Plenty of Small Tables to Put Your Stuff On
No Pool Games or Other Invasive Events
As Many Towels as You Wanted
Non-Invasive, but friendly Bar Attendants
Free Drinks (coffee, tea, water and other soft drinks) Served With a Smile.
Lunch Music From a Great Band Without the "Come on, Let's Dance" Invasiveness.
No Piped in Music.
Basically, Everything an Adult Would Want.
The Ship Itself
The Serenity is a very easy ship to cruise. Everyone found their preferred spots early in the cruise and had a great time. Some did crafts, some gambled, some took music lessons, some learned new computer programs, some went to enrichment lectures, some laid out by the pool and some just wondered around enjoying the ship itself. No one was grumbling about nothing to do.
The Serenity's space ratio offers
passengers and opportunity to have their own personal cruise, as they saw fit.
There is no way that any one person could do everything that is offered and
everyone found their ideal cruise. Crystal is wonderful.