A Crystal Experience – Reimagined Sailing On Redesigned Crystal Serenity Reveals Evolution Of Luxury At Sea
by Vanessa Lee
The evolution of Crystal luxury at sea is exemplified by a remarkable redesign onboardCrystal Serenity. Coupled with such Crystal hallmarks as open-seating and specialty dining, pre-paid gratuities and complimentary fine wines and spirits, it offers an alluring choice for your clients desiring an elegant and tasteful sea-going atmosphere.
At the heart of every successful luxury cruise is that particular and distinct something – as the French say, a certain “Je ne sais quoi.” In my experience, this most appealing quality is invariably present on Crystal’s ships. The charming expression of delight personifies the brand and is, in part, responsible for its continued success and acclaim. As a result, the loyalty of Crystal guests is remarkable, and at times, one notes an almost pure reverence between those guests and the staff onboard ship.
This high level of service was evident early on, at the Stardust Supper Club, which hosts a dinner and dance once or twice per cruise on those evenings designated as optional black-tie. TheCrystal Serenitycarries up to 980 guests, and the Stardust Supper Club can only accommodate just over 100, so early reservations are a must. Of course, there are always tables kept aside for those sailing in the grandest suites of all.
Elegance Of Yesteryear At The Stardust Supper Club
Guests arrive promptly: the entertainment is ready, tables beautifully set, lighting just so. The experience harkens back to the supper clubs of New York in the ‘50s and ‘60s and is exceedingly popular for myriad reasons – one being that Crystal guests love to whirl around the dance floor. It’s an elegant yesteryear moment.
Looking on from the bar, sipping Champagne and hoping to snag a table, we saw that all the guests were seated, the room was full, the band was playing, and dinner was about to begin. Suddenly two guests arrived, somewhat tardy but expecting a table. We watched the maître d’ and his brigade of staff find a table, whisk it into place, ensure it was perfect in every way, and seat the guests without anyone knowing that they had almost upset the apple cart.
At Crystal, no detail goes unnoticed, no guest is turned away, and everything is as it should be. To me, that is a sign of a brand that pays attention, is caring in a kind and gracious fashion, and ultimately, does its very best to delight everyone onboard.
Suite Life: May I Take My Butler Home Please?
The accommodations were stellar, one of the most beautiful suites I have enjoyed at sea. Ensconced in a Sea Breeze Penthouse on Deck 10, I felt cosseted and pampered, particularly by the most attentive and personalized service from my fabulous butler, Richard. Nothing was too much trouble for him.
Every day he brought the breakfast tray precisely on time (never early which is one of my biggest issues on ships – I want it on time, not early), and was seemingly everywhere, ready to proffer some assistance or prepare afternoon treats, organize caviar and Champagne for a special celebration, and just generally take care of us. Every suite on Decks 10 and 11 includes the ministrations of a butler – a real butler, not a glorified room steward. Well-trained, elegant, intuitive, and charming -- by the end of the cruise, Richard was indispensable!
The suites are gloriously well-designed, feeling more like a typical large hotel room. There are 36 Sea Breeze Penthouses located on Deck 10, introduced during the major renovation and refit thatCrystal Serenityunderwent in late 2018. They are very popular, and guests should book them well ahead. The décor and colours throughout are calming, and the palette with its tones of blues and greys offset by neutral tones and that delightful Crystal turquoise, carried through in lighting and art was incredibly charming, with no harsh notes at all.
I loved the elegant, art-deco feel of my spacious suite with its incredibly comfy bed, the various lighting options at my fingertips, the gorgeous, luxe couch, a stocked bar and fridge to complement the feel, along with a Keurig coffee maker.
Colourful glass installations and other art adorned the walls. My walk-in closet had everything I needed – including Etro bathrobes, kimonos and slippers – and was spacious, as was the bathroom with two sinks and a fantastic shower, although I did miss having a bathtub. There was a Dyson hairdryer, two make-up mirrors, lots of storage, and many nice touches throughout.
A verandah with ample seating and tables completed the array of suite amenities. It became a sanctuary – a beautiful, calm oasis in the bustling world of a cruise ship alive with so many activities and events it was hard to fit everything in during our voyage.
To Drink & Dine Is Divine
Cuisine is another pillar of the Crystal guest experience. Dining options include Umi Uma, by Chef Nobu, with its sushi bar and restaurant with Nobu-trained chefs to ensure the quality and consistency of each incredible dish. Guests may dine here once during the voyage for no charge, and then make additional reservations at a small fee of US $30 per guest. The same applies to Prego, the alternative Italian restaurant, which also has a traditional feel, much like the Stardust Supper Club.
Crystal guests have a fifty percent average repeat factor, suggesting that they enjoy the time-honoured and proven styling in some of the public rooms such as Prego, with its retro charm, and also at the Avenue Saloon, with its rich woods and very clubby feel.
During the significant refurbishment that bothCrystal Serenityand sister ship, theCrystal Symphony, underwent in recent years, several more dining venues were added. These include the Marketplace, formerly the Lido, which now transforms into Churrascaria, Crystal’s version of a Brazilian steakhouse serving succulent cuts, ceviches, tapas, and more. A casual, open-seating dinner is offered here every night from 6.30 to 9 pm.
Another new dining option is Silk, a contemporary venue with modern Chinese-inspired fare with family-style dinner plates ideal for sharing, and self-service for breakfast and lunch. For dinner, reservations are recommended.
The former Crystal dining room has been exquisitely transformed into the Waterside Restaurant and is quite gorgeous with attractive, soft colours and décor and open-seating dining. The service is a delight, whether one enjoys breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and the menu choices, featuring modern cuisine selections, are delicious.
Tea Time With Mozart
A special event, always popular with Crystal guests, is the Mozart Tea Time, which we enjoyed on our first sea day. Staff in costumes of the era ensured a gracious tea service, to the accompaniment of a violinist and pianist playing Mozart and other classics.
Cakes, tea sandwiches, as well as scones with jam and clotted cream were among the tasty treats enjoyed in an elegant setting at the redesigned Palm Court venue high atop the ship.
It’s yet another example of the thoughtful aspects of a Crystal cruise. The gentlemen hosts are another such feature – there to dance with the ladies, and accompany them at dinner as required.
The entertainment in several venues throughout the ship included a solo piano player, a duo, a full-scale Broadway production show, the previously mentioned orchestra for dancing, movies, a casino, bridge, card games and a wide-ranging series of enrichment lectures.
A key reason for Crystal’s resounding success is its ability to understand guests’ wishes and desires. This, no doubt, leads to the fifty percent repeat factor! A stunning redesign combined with a harmonious onboard atmosphere and gracious staff all contribute to Crystal’s superb offering.