You could describe my recent Mediterranean voyage aboard Crystal
Serenity as a cruise for grown-ups. While I’ve sailed on mainstream
big ships and small explorer-type vessels, this was my first
experience with a premium line. Everything about the ship, from the
buffets to the nightlife, was as classic and elegant as her
godmother, Dame Julie Andrews.
Passengers who seemed to be mostly retirement-aged Americans
tend to be well traveled, well heeled and well dressed.
One fellow described his affinity for Crystal this way: “I can’t
find anything to complain about.”
I chose the Serenity because I was eager to experience the
Rome-Barcelona itinerary. While visiting the Mediterranean in the
fall, I became enchanted by small weathered boats bobbing in
picturesque harbors, centuries-old cathedrals and colorful hillside
One of only 18 liners to be included in the “Five-Stars Club” in
the “Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships 2006,”
the 1,080-guest ship features soaring stained-glass ceilings and
marbled elevators. The main dining room feels like a five-star
restaurant with dim lighting, wandering musicians and a domed,
frescoed ceiling. Couples can choose a private table for two (those
near the floor-to-ceiling windows are the most coveted) or
traditional, more convivial tables for four, six or eight.
Lunchtime on sea days ranged from an abundant Mediterranean-themed
extravaganza to a gala buffet.
Our spacious stateroom came complete with a flat-screen TV,
DVD/CD player, Frette robes, sofa and armchair and walk-in closets.
The bed featured down pillows and fine linens, while the roomy
marble bathroom featured double sinks, Aveda products and a
full-size shower. We also had a Jacuzzi, complete with bath
Crystal’s main claim to fame is its “six-star service.” After
the first night, Branislav, the dining-room waiter, knew I
preferred sparkling water with lemon, while my boyfriend, Damon,
had a fondness for pumpkinseed rolls. At the breakfast buffet, crew
members greeted me by name, carried my tray to a table of my liking
and delivered my coffee always remembering that I drink regular
with cream, while Damon opts for decaf. No matter what I requested,
the response was always a swift: “My pleasure.”
We were aboard one of Crystal’s wine-themed sailings the line
hosts over a dozen each year. The cruise featured wine tastings,
wine-paired dinners, Mediterranean-themed feasts complementing our
ports of call and a 25,000-bottle wine list representing every
grape-growing region in the world. In addition, members of the
Society of Wine Educators led several seminars.
Anyone who has cringed at boozy conga lines will appreciate
Crystal’s dignified daytime offerings, which resembled college
extension courses. In a day I could attend a cooking demo, sip
afternoon tea, practice putting at a TaylorMade golf clinic or take
up ballroom dancing. The library had a huge selection of books, CDs
and DVDs, and the bridge lounge for playing cards was the most
popular place on the ship. When it comes to onboard shopping,
forget about T-shirts and trinkets; instead, think evening gowns
and fine jewelry.
Nightlife was equally refined. The Hollywood Theatre offered a
daily selection of new and classic flicks, from “March of the
Penguins” to “War of the Worlds.” Gentlemen sipped cognac and
smoked cigars in the Connoisseur Club, while couples fox-trotted,
two-stepped and practiced salsa and swing dancing in the Stardust
Club. (Thanks to the ship’s “ambassador hosts,” unaccompanied
ladies were never without a dance partner.) The DJ played livelier,
newer music (that is, from the ’70s and ’80s) in a smallish disco
called Pulse. Even the ship’s Caesars Palace at Sea was serene.
As our cruise came to an end, I thought of how the Crystal
experience stood apart. If the point of cruising is to relax and
de-stress, there’s no place like a Crystal cruise for finding
Crystal Serenity will offer nearly two dozen Mediterranean
itineraries from Sept. 10-Nov. 15. Itineraries and specific ports
vary, from the French Riviera to Rome to the classic cities of
ancient Greece. Prices start at $3,550. Commission for agents
ranges from 10-17 percent.
|Selling Tips for Agents|
Crystal is likely a good fit for upscale, mature passengers who
are interested in pure relaxation and/or educational or cultural
offerings, such as language lessons, lectures about world affairs
or wine tastings. Nighttime entertainment is especially low-key.
Hip, young jet-setters or dedicated partiers may be bored.
People seeking to be pampered will likely appreciate the service.
The top-notch staff is trained to make every passenger feel like a
VIP, but only those on the penthouse floors have a butler.
If your client is traveling solo especially a single woman Crystal
may be a good choice. With a full lineup of onboard classes and
activities, this ship didn’t seem as “couply” as many. Even dance
classes and nightly ballroom dancing are suitable for singles.