What was your overall impression?
Luxury delivered with the kind of service you thought only existed in “how to” manuals on customer service excellence. This company has nailed customer service and the crew – sincere, consistent and driven – are clearly delighted to be part of the proposition.
Was the food good?
The food was not only good but also fabulously varied. If you think of spending twelve days in the same hotel, even a five star establishment, it’s fair to imagine you might grow bored with the food on offer. It didn’t happen on the Crystal Serenity. The menus and restaurants are superbly diverse.
What was your favourite meal?
The Japanese fare from Nobu Sushi Bar and Silk Road Restaurant was sublime. And you’ve got to taste the mushroom soup in Prego before you die. But, in fact, the stand out dish for me was the Burgundy style escargot served on French night in the Crystal Dining Room. I salivate at the thought. But hang on…there was also the most delicious Chinese chicken salad available for lunch at Tastes. And I should also mention the delectable high tea on offer in the Palm Court each afternoon. (Yes, I am a tub.)
How was your penthouse suite?
The ship was recently renovated so the rooms are not only spacious but also crisp, light and comfortable. The beds and pillows were a dream. The walk-in dressing room was very convenient, the shower was big and powerful and the veranda overlooking the sea, a treat.
What did you think about the route?
I embarked in Venice and the sunset across the city as we left is something I’ll never forget. Sunrise on the Dalmatian Coast two mornings later and the day in Dubrovnik (it was my first visit) were other highlights. I didn’t expect to love Sicily as much as I did. Taormina is a treasure on a mountaintop. A day in Rome wasn’t enough since I haven’t been there since 1981. Monaco and the French Côte d’Azur were as stunning as I’d hoped, and I loved my daylong introduction to Barcelona. I’d like to go back.
Did you meet any interesting people?
Plenty. Aside from my kind host, Mimi Weisband (vice president of public relations for Crystal Cruises) and her husband, Michael and the small, friendly contingent of fellow journalists, I befriended numerous cruisers. I dined most nights with Aime and Lise Dutil, a delightfully entertaining Canadian couple who now live in Massachusetts and Palm City, Florida (many people who cruise also have two homes, it seems); K Toko Yatsuki, a highly intelligent and very funny Japanese gentleman who lives in Sydney, Australia; and the charming Cheryl and Harry McQueen, she’s a computer training expert, and he’s the president of a “moving barbecue” and actor (keep an eye out for him in Grey’s Anatomy) from Los Angeles. I met British author Peter Smith and his wife Sally, and Lee Wachtstetter, who lives permanently on the Crystal Serenity. I partied with Dlane Mueller and her clan of followers of Dallas Texas. (The best parties took place in the Avenue Saloon to the sounds of Australian muso, Colin Salter.)
What would you change about the experience?
I should not have taken work with me. I naively imagined I’d have two or three hours a day to work while on board. In fact, even on the sea days (there were only three), there is so much to do on the ship that it’s a sacrilege to even think of spending your time doing other, non-cruisey things. There were master classes with chefs like Andre Soltner, wine-tastings with winemasters, golf lessons, tennis courts, lectures by international experts on a range of subjects, dance classes, exercise classes and shows to attend, not to mention spa treatments to enjoy. I managed to learn how to walk the Nordic way but didn’t even find time to go to gym. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.) My advice to prospective cruisers? Take nothing but a good book and don’t be surprised if you never open it.
Would you go again?
Absolutely. In a heartbeat. But next time I’d like to go further north to Norway and/or Alaska – and I’d take my husband.
(You can read more about this cruise in the post entitled Chronicles Of A Cruising Dame.)