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Crystal Serenity Review

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Colleen McDaniel
Editor-In-Chief

Crystal Serenity is one of those cruise ships that draws loyalists who will sail again and again, even if the ship isn’t the newest or shiniest on the market. A lot of it comes down to the crew, which have a way of making their passengers feel right at home the moment they step onboard. Respectful, friendly and intuitive service is a hallmark of Crystal.

Originally built in 2002, the luxury ship has been impeccably maintained over the years, and a $150-million 2023 renovation freshened public spaces, and updated and expanded many of the ship’s cabins, reducing capacity to 740 from 1,040 and giving passengers even more space per person. It also beautifully renovated two of Crystal Serenity’s restaurants: Umi Uma from chef Nobu Matsuhisa and a new Italian venue, Osteria d’Ovidio. The result is a ship that doesn’t feel its more-than-20-year age.

Crystal Cruises went bankrupt in 2022, but it was acquired by the Abercrombie & Kent Travel Group in 2023. New ownership prioritized keeping in place many of the things the line’s fan base loved, even the name – with only the slight tweak of dropping “Cruises” from the moniker. For guests who loved the line before, it will feel familiar. While the ship has been refurbished, it still is undeniably Crystal Serenity. For new fans, they’ll find a ship that is thoughtfully appointed, with a crew that is nearly as loyal to the line as its passengers. The people who work on Crystal Serenity love the brand and its guests, and it shows in the pride they take in doing their jobs and taking care of their guests.

As more luxury ships enter the industry, Crystal Serenity remains a reminder that you don’t have to be the newest to offer a truly special experience.

Crystal Serenity Deck Plan is Spacious

With only 740 guests onboard, Crystal Serenity has the highest passenger space ratio at sea – a whopping 1-to-93.1, meaning each guest has about 93 square feet of “personal space.” (Compare that with some of the bigger cruise ships, where 1-to-40 isn’t unusual.) It’s the most-advantageous cruise ship space ratio you’ll find. The sheer amount of space means you’ll find quiet areas to tuck yourself away or more boisterous spots when you feel like being social.

All of the ship’s cabins are located on decks 7 through 11, including the biggest suites – the four Crystal Penthouse Suites. Most of the staterooms onboard are considered suites, although they are not true suites with the living room separate from the bedroom.

Bars and lounge are spread throughout the ship, and there are ample options no matter the time of day or experience sought.

Crystal Serenity’s excellent restaurants are mostly located on decks 12, 7 and 5, handy to the pool or entertainment options.

Cabins on Crystal Serenity are Varied

Rooms on Crystal Serenity are a bit of an anomaly because of the ship’s approach to the refurbishment. Some cabins were updated in 2018, some in 2023 and others not for a number of years. Regardless of whether they were updated, all cabins are well-appointed and well-thought out. Yes, the newly refurbished cabins more modern and have the amenities today’s traveler expects, but there isn’t a bad stateroom on the ship.

Intro cabins are all found on Deck 7; these are the smallest rooms and have large picture windows. The same style is available as a solo or with a balcony. You’ll also find several suites, ranging from the Aquamarine Suite all the way to the over-the-top penthouse suite. Crystal Serenity doesn’t have interior cabins.

If you like your cabins to feel modern, those labeled “Classic” fall under the rooms to avoid category. Classic indicates it hasn’t been recently touched by refurbishment. If, however, you want a bathtub, skip the newer rooms and aim for those Classic cabins.

Food on Crystal Serenity is Inventive

Guests never lack for choice when it comes to food on Crystal Serenity. The ship offers 10 unique dining experiences, plus 24-hour room service. The ship’s approach to the menus generally is forward-thinking and on-trend with how people love to eat on land. You’ll be able to sample an array of international and port-inspired dishes, nosh on Asian specialties and share a meal at Umi Uma, the restaurant created in partnership with Michelin-Star chef Nobu, whose restaurants on shore have month’s-long waiting lists. (You can also find classic or more traditional dishes.)

We were impressed with the care waiters and chefs took with orders for those with allergies and food sensitivities. The menus generally don’t call out dishes that are gluten- or dairy-free, for example, but most dishes can be made with those requests in mind. If they can’t, you’ll get an excellent recommendation for a good alternative.

Umi Uma stands out among the ship’s restaurants, as does Waterside, which holds its own as the ship’s main dining room. Service is strong – fast, friendly and knowledgeable – in all restaurants.

Pros

Excellent service and innovative dining abound on a spacious cruise ship

Cons

The ship is well-maintained but more than 20 years old, with some spaces feeling dated

Bottom Line

A top-notch luxury cruise perfect for those who value intuitive, personalized service and experiences

Inclusions

Included with your cruise fare:

  • All dining, except the Vintage Room

  • Gratuities

  • Butler service

  • All beverages, including select fine wines, Champagne, premium spirits, and all nonalcoholic beverages

  • One reservation to Osteria d’ Ovidio and one reservation for Umi Uma

  • Wi-Fi

  • Room service

  • Self-service laundry

  • Dry cleaning, pressing and laundry service (in select suite categories)

Not included with your cruise fare:

  • Dining at the Vintage Room

  • Spa and salon treatments

  • Personal training and dietitian services

  • Shore excursions

  • Some ultra-premium wine, Champagne and spirits

  • Dry cleaning, pressing and laundry service (below select suite categories)

Fellow Passengers

Even under new ownership, Crystal Serenity cruisers are loyal. Don’t be surprised if well more than half the guests on your sailing have cruised with Crystal in the past – and often. Passengers tend to have high incomes, and many are retirees. Most are exceptionally well traveled. During the summer and holiday seasons, you can expect to see families – and some multigenerational groups with kids.

The ship has a smattering of accessible cabins and suites, and elevator banks are located aft, forward and midship.

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