Crystal Cruises' Serenity Steps Into Service

Dame Julie Andrews christened the ship into service

By: M.J. Smith

SOUTHAMPTON, England When Julie Andrews stepped onto the platform, for the christening of Crystal Cruises’ newest ship, the sun broke through the clouds that had been hanging over the port harbor all afternoon.

It was a Mary Poppins moment to be sure.

But despite the famous godmother, it was the Crystal Serenity that had center stage.

“It’s a grand ship that is sure to set a new standard,” Crystal President Gregg L. Michel told the audience of about 400. “It has more space, more choices, more dining options, more penthouses.”

The 68,000-ton Serenity has a 1:7 guest-to-crew ratio among the highest in the industry and better than its sister ships, the Crystal Harmony and Crystal Symphony.

Also, 85 percent of the Serenity’s 548 staterooms have verandas.

Michel also noted that the christening, held July 3 at the historic Southampton docks, was the first such event since he became president.

Earlier in the week, some invited guests had wondered aloud whether the ceremony would actually be held as scheduled.

Construction problems delayed finishing work and interrupted staff training to the point that Michel, saying that the Serenity might not deliver the proper Crystal experience, announced that the July 7 maiden voyage would be free or guests could receive a full refund without penalty.

At the christening, a Crystal spokesman said fewer than 10 of the 1,080 guests had decided not to sail.

The crew members who led group tours after the celebration lunch said workmen were still on board, but the ship looked nothing like a construction zone.

On the tour itinerary was the Connoisseur Club a refuge for cigar smokers furnished with tufted leather sofas and dark wood walls; Pulse, a late-night disco with seriously techno seating; Caesars Palace at Sea; a 4,000-square-foot casino with table games and more than 90 slot machines; and the Galaxy Lounge, a 500-seat showroom that was to open with the long-running off-Broadway show “Forever Plaid.”

The technologically sophisticated staterooms are fitted with computer dataports, TV/DVD players and telephone service. The large verandas outside the penthouse suites two-room cabins with generously sized bathrooms drew particular admiration as did the flat-screen TVs.

After its grand maiden voyage, the Serenity is scheduled to move to the Mediterranean for a series of summer voyages.