For those with a burning desire to escape the constant pressures of a demanding lifestyle, a luxurious ocean voyage onboard the Crystal Serenity offers the opportunity to relax and rejuvenate.
Recipient of the Condé Nast Traveller’s Readers Choice Award for ‘World’s Best Cruise Ship’ for 25 years and winner of the ‘World’s Best’ by Travel and Leisure readers for 23 years, Crystal Cruises provides the highest levels of comfort and service and with a maximum of 980 passengers aboard the Crystal Serenity and a staff to guest ratio of 1.5, Crystal Cruises’ acclaimed six star service is guaranteed.
My mother and I embarked on the sleek lined Crystal Serenity, sailing from Venice to Barcelona for the 12 night ‘Beyond the Pillars of Hercules’ voyage visiting Dubrovnik, Kotor, Corfu, Gallipoli, Taormina/Giardini, Sorrento, Rome and Monte Carlo.
Formally named by Dame Julie Andrews in Southampton on 03 July 2003, the Crystal Serenity underwent extensive refurbishments in 2018 and now offers new dining options, including open seating, redesigned lounge and entertainment venues and accommodations including the fabulous Crystal Penthouses, which measure 1,368 sq ft and feature sweeping teak verandas and spectacular bathrooms with Jacuzzis, Penthouse Suites, which measure 549 sq ft, also with verandas, and Deluxe Staterooms, which cover 213 sq ft.
Boarding procedures are swift and efficient and we were promptly escorted to our stylish Seabreeze Penthouse. Features include a spacious living area and a private veranda with comfortable seating, which is the ideal spot for an afternoon snooze in the sunshine and a pre dining tipple and a nibble on a tasty canape or two whilst admiring the ocean view.
The walk-in closets easily accommodated the contents of our bulging suitcases and the spa-like bathroom includes a first class shower with body jets, twin basins, and ample storage for all those essentials. Furnishings include a plump and comfortable sofa and a separate armchair, luxuriously soft carpeting and ultra comfortable beds swathed in crisp, white linens ensuring a deep slumber. The overall contemporary design and décor instils the ambience of a tranquil sanctuary and is further enhanced by ‘mood’ lighting.
In a short while there was a polite tap on the door and we were thrilled to meet our charming butler, Damian, who swiftly demonstrated the latest technology accessible through our ultra thin 43” HD television allowing us to view onboard folios including the Crystal Life Spa and Salon services, daily restaurant menus, the Connoisseur Wine menu, a wide choice of complimentary music, movies and television programmes and information related to our cruise.
Butler services include unpacking and packing, shoeshine service, dinner and shore excursion reservations, Spa appointments and arranging cocktail parties. In- room amenities include a set menu of complimentary wines and spirits, a well stocked fridge with a selection of soft drinks, which are replenished daily, and a Krupp machine with Julius Meinl espresso capsules.
We were then introduced to Feli our delightful penthouse attendant who presented us with a pillow menu featuring goose down, Hypo-allergenic and therapeutic options and whilst our butler popped the cork on a chilled bottle of 2015 Charles Heidsieck we relaxed on our veranda. Later we embarked on a leisurely stroll around the ship. The vessel’s length of 250 metres, width of 32.2 metres and 13 decks (9 accessible to passengers) ensures that there is much to explore.
As we wandered around we came upon the elegant Palm Court, the ship’s main social venue, where live entertainment includes jazz trios, sopranos and more. We were just in time for afternoon tea and immediately succumbed to the temptations including dainty little sandwiches, scones oozing with fresh cream and fruity jams and pastries galore.
Sipping on our piping hot tea, whilst being serenaded by the soothing strains of a talented violinist, we met some of our fellow passengers and the discussions soon centred on entertainment and how to choose which shows, seminars and lectures to attend, and how to fit in all the activities including Mah Jongg, Bridge, fitness classes, putting green, shuffleboard courts, table tennis, golf driving nets and movies shown three times daily in the Hollywood Theatre.
Taking along our copy of Reflections (the ship’s daily magazine with information on everything) and our shore excursions menu we made haste for the Lido deck, awash with comfortable sun loungers, parasols, couches and enormous sun chairs with huge cushions. A quick refreshing dip in the Seahorse swimming pool, followed by a long spell in one of the bubbling Jacuzzis and then a spot of pampering in the Crystal Salon and Spa was just the ticket.
Treatments focus on hair, face, body and even teeth, manicures and pedicures along with massages, detox treatments and holistic well-being. After quite some deliberation I opted for the 75 minute ELEMIS Aroma Spa Seaweed full body massage, which was simply sublime.
For pre dining cocktails, we went to the Crystal Cove, which offers a variety of live musical styles including Richard Pucci who tickles the ivories to an appreciative crowd. Inevitably, we were running late and made our way to the Waterside restaurant, the main dining room, which offers open seating and an absolutely first rate service. I selected the delicious wild mushroom wellington with creamed spinach and roasted purple potatoes and accompanied by the 1989 Chateau Lafite -Rothschild, the flavours were enhanced to another level.
The conversations with our fellow diners focused on who had secured reservations for the three speciality restaurants and we were in a dilemma as to whether to dine next at the excellent Chinese venue, Silk, which serves a highly praised Kung Po Chicken or Prego, which presents Italian cuisine and, we were reliably informed, the roasted rack of baby lamb with black olive marmalade is perfect with a bottle of Ornellaia 2015 or perhaps Umi Uma where master chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa’s celebrated ‘Nobu’ style lobster with truffle – yazu sauce is served and just has to be accompanied by the Sauvignon Blanc ‘Asatsuyu’ 2017 and of course the Sushi Bar is not to be missed.
We plumped for Churrascaria, the Brazilian steakhouse, with Caipirinhas, tapas and Ceviches on the menu and diners wait in anticipation for the moment when the skilled servers parade through the restaurant with grilled meats held aloft on sword-like skewers, taken directly from the grill, and stop at each table to carve slices.
And for a more intimate dining experience, the Vintage Room, a unique concept, promotes wine appreciation. The beautifully furnished venue seats a minimum of ten diners for optional dinners featuring vintage wines and champagnes paired with extravagant dishes.
I was fortunate to sample a selection of outstanding pairings including the Moet et Chandon, Cuvee Dom Perignon, Brut, Epernay 2009, served with poached lobster tail, Pierre Robert, Fresh Plums and Summer Truffle. For those keen to find a quiet spot, to sink into a comfortable leather armchair and partake in port wines, cognacs and single malt whiskeys and a fine international cigar, the Connoisseur Club is the spot.
Venues for post dining tipples are aplenty and we enjoyed the relaxing Avenue Saloon where dark rich woods and comfortable furnishings create the intimacy of a piano bar. We also frequented the luxurious Galaxy Lounge, which presents a variety of entertainment including extravagant shows and we were fortunate to see a Broadway Review Production with excerpts from musicals including Rent, the Tony winner for the Best Musical, the wonderful West Side Story and the hilarious musical Something Rotten.
Another highlight was the exceptional performance given by musician and comedian Jon Courtenay who was richly rewarded with rapturous applause and standing ovations. After the show we took the opportunity to show off our nifty footwork on the dance floor at the Stardust Club, which also presents intimate performances, recitals and special lectures. And for those keen to disco dance into the early hours, the intimate lounge Pulse is buzzing, and it’s also the place to be for Karaoke fans.
One of the more tuneful passengers dedicated his song to the Crystal Serenity and the audience held their glasses aloft and sang along heartily to the Christopher Cross hit …………’Well, it’s not far down to paradise, at least it’s not for me. And if the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility. Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see. Believe me. Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be. Just a dream and the wind to carry me. And soon I will be free.’
For more information on Crystal Serenity’s 2020 itineraries and prices, which include all onboard meals and drinks, port taxes and gratuities, tel:+442073997601 or visit crystalcruises.co.uk