Skip to Content

Crystal Cruises review: Luxury on the reimagined Crystal Serenity

Please follow local guidelines to keep yourself and others safe. Also double-check what’s open before your trip, as things are constantly changing.

What’s it like on Crystal Cruises?

We’ve sailed on (and written about) 60+ cruises now – including our fair share of luxury cruise lines.

Downed way too much champagne and caviar on Seabourn.

Whizzed around Normandy on e-bikes with Scenic on a Seine River cruise (love their clever balconies-cum-sun-rooms).

Swooned over the Baltic with Viking Ocean Cruises.

This time, we sailed the Med on a 7-night cruise on the newly refurbished Crystal Serenity.

Crystal Cruises Review: We loved sailing on the Crystal Serenity!

We’d heard a lot of good things about Crystal’s take on luxury cruising!

So we were excited to try out the cruise line and write this Crystal Cruises review!

Are you also excited about the prospect of taking a Crystal cruise?

Well then, come aboard for all the hot updates on the Crystal Serenity ship – and to discover what the Crystal cruising experience is really like.

Crystal Cruises review

Afternoon tea on Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises is known for luxury cruising on big ships.

You get the best of both worlds on Crystal – luxury cruise features like artisanal cocktails, fine wines and spirits (anywhere on the ship) included in the rates, plus big ship amenities like pumped-up entertainment and oodles of dining options.

(Because Crystal’s two main ships, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, are virtually identical, most of our Crystal Serenity review applies to the Symphony too.)

Crystal Cruises’ ships

Crystal’s ocean ships:

We’ve already mentioned Crystal’s two main ships…

Crystal Symphony debuted in 1995 while the Serenity was launched in 2003.

Both ships were designed to carry some 1,000+ passengers each.

But with major recent revamps, they’ve cut their passenger numbers down to 848 passengers (Symphony) and 980 passengers (Serenity) – bumping up the per-passenger space and crew-to-passenger ratio, important when judging how good the service is on a ship.

Crystal yacht cruises:

As well, Crystal has the Crystal Esprit, an uber-luxe yacht, where 90 staff pamper just 62 guests. It even carries its own mini-submarine.

Crystal River Cruises:

In 2016, Crystal branched out into river cruising and now has several gorgeous river ships plying the rivers of Europe.

Go bicycling on Crystal and other river cruises! Enjoy two-wheeling on boat-and-bike cruises (both river and ocean cycling cruises)

Crystal Cruises’ new ships:

The big news is the Crystal Endeavour, which debuts in 2021.

One of the best new cruise ships to be launched, this luxury expedition ship will visit everywhere from Antarctica to the Aleutian Islands and far east Russia on voyages ranging from 10 to 28 nights.

Who owns Crystal Cruises?

Dating back to 1988, the American cruise line is owned by the Asian hospitality company, Genting Hong Kong (which also owns Star Cruises in Asia and a big chunk of Norwegian Cruise Line).

Crystal Cruises Serenity ship – facts

Crystal Serenity

Year built: 2003

Last refurbished: November, 2018

Staterooms: 490

Guest capacity: 980

Crew: 655

Crew-to-passenger ratio: 1 to 1.5

Decks: 13

Weight: 68,870 tons

Length: 820 feet

Godmother: Julie Andrews

The reimagined Crystal Serenity

Crystal Cruises recently refurbished the Crystal Serenity -- see our Crystal Cruises' review!

The Crystal Serenity was totally gussied up in November, 2018, during a four-week dry dock in Germany.

More than 1,200 people worked around the clock on the makeover.

The results?

  • 36 new Seabreeze Penthouse suites were installed.
  • 4 new dining venues were added or redesigned.
  • 6 entertainment spaces were enhanced.
  • Almost 25,000 square feet of new carpet was laid and some 17,000 square feet of tiles were placed.
  • 2,000 chairs were swapped out for new chairs or were re-upholstered.
  • Six huge containers of goods were donated to Portuguese charities.

If you didn’t know the age of the ship, you’d think the Crystal Serenity was new – it looks that fresh and shiny.

The Crystal Serenity was totally gussied up in November, 2018: See our Crystal Serenity review!

Crystal Symphony got its own big facelift in late 2017.

Crystal Serenity cabins

Crystal Cruises’ suites:

You can choose from several different levels of accommodation on both Serenity and Symphony.

There are no inside cabins. The “lowest” level is the Deluxe Stateroom with a large picture window.

Most staterooms and suites on Serenity (85%), however, have verandas, while more than half of Symphony’s cabins have verandas.

And all Serenity cabins that we peeked into are spiffy and comfortable looking; the higher-end suites are quite fabulous!

Most staterooms and suites on Crystal Serenity (85%) have verandas, while more than half of Symphony’s cabins have verandas.

Unlimited WiFi is complimentary and you can get it in your stateroom. We found it fast enough for emails, but there’d be a few seconds’ delay for anything to do with the Internet, such as posting to your Facebook account.

All cabins and suites also come with:

  • Complimentary mini-fridge stocked with wine and premium spirits (refreshed as you wish)
  • Frette bathrobe, lightweight cotton Kimono and slippers for each guest
  • Umbrella and beach tote

Oh, and let’s not forget the lovely Etro bath toiletries.

Each large bottle is a different color – orange for body lotion, hot pink for bath gel, etc.

How nice not to have to squint in the shower to try and read the small print to figure out which is shampoo and which is conditioner!

Seabreeze penthouse with veranda:

The Crystal Serenity cruise ship has 36 new Seabreeze Penthouse with veranda suites.

We splashed out in one of the 36 new Seabreeze Penthouses.

In the late 2018 refit, Crystal essentially took a number of Deluxe Staterooms with veranda and converted them, almost two for one, into these new 339 sq. ft. Seabreeze Penthouses.

Large queen-size bed? Check.

Nespresso machine? Yes!

Butler service? You bet.

The décor is fresh and contemporary, with gemstone-colored velvets and brushed brass touches.

These Seabreeze Penthouses also have unique entries, recessed from the hallway, which are shared between two suites (meaning you can’t see into the room from the hallway when the door is open). 

There are 36 new Seabreeze Penthouses with verandas on the refurbished Crystal Serenity ship.

A sliding glass door opened out onto our spacious deck, where we’d read, nap and sip from all the good drinks stored in our fridge.

We especially liked the spa-like bathroom with double sinks, lots of drawers for toiletry kits and a large glass rain-shower (bigger than ours at home) with easy push-knobs and great water pressure.

It’s probably the best bathroom of all the ships we’ve cruised on.

As we’re shower people, we didn’t miss the lack of a tub. But if you’re a bath person, you might miss having one.

We especially liked the spa-like bathroom in the new Seabreeze Penthouses on the refurbished Crystal Serenity ship.

Minor niggle: There’s little room between the end of the bed and the long coffee table in front of the aqua velvet couch opposite (so we squished the coffee table into the corner).

Crystal Serenity penthouse:

The finest of the Crystal Serenity staterooms is the Crystal Penthouse category.

These four suites (1,368 sq. ft.) are like lavish apartments with separate living rooms, dining areas, built-in bars and Swarovski chandeliers. Bedrooms have his-and-her walk-in closets.

From your Jacuzzi tub in the marble bathroom, you can gaze out at the sea through a large round window while bathing.

There’s a separate guest bathroom too, with its own shower.

Of course, you’re spoiled with 24-hour butler service.

Because, like, you’re paying so much for the penthouse you won’t want to lift a finger! So you need a butler to pack and unpack your luggage and do your laundry (free, naturally).

Crystal Cruises dining

You’ll be tickled with the food on Crystal Cruises – there are so many different restaurants!

Onboard restaurants

Both Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony have the following places to eat:

Waterside – main dining room

Marketplace – casual buffet for breakfast and lunch

Umi Uma – Japanese

Prego – Italian

Churrascaria – Brazilian

Silk – Chinese

The Vintage Room – fine dining

The Bistro – Parisian-inspired café

Stardust Supper Club – live music and dinner

Palm Court – afternoon tea

Trident Grill – casual fare by the pool

Scoops Ice Cream Bar

In-Suite Dining – 24 hours

Guests can dine once in each specialty restaurant (complimentary). Umi Uma and Prego are very popular, so you absolutely need to make advance reservations (you can do that before you cruise).

Once on your cruise, you can return to your favorite resto at a cost of $30 USD p.p. (if you can snag a second reservation).

Penthouse guests don’t have to pay the additional $30 USD fee for additional reservations. You can scarf up sushi every night at Umi Uma if you wish, at no extra cost, so long as you can get a reservation.

We managed to slide into the sushi bar section of the specialty restaurant a second night for another crack at its unbelievably delicious Japanese food.

Menus:

To see sample menus for the different restaurants, jump to “Crystal Cruises’ Menus

Waterside:

Waterside restaurant on the Crystal Serenity

Waterside, which replaces the former main dining room, was spiffed up in the 2018 refurbishment.

It now offers more intimate seating with tables for two and four.

Seating is open and you don’t need to make a reservation here. The menu is international.

Umi Uma:

Umi Uma by Master Chef Nobu was perhaps our favorite restaurant on the Crystal Serenity cruise ship.

Umi Uma was perhaps our favorite restaurant.

Serving Japanese-Peruvian specialties from Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa – prepared by his personally-trained chefs – the exclusive Umi Uma eateries on Crystal Serenity and Symphony (and soon, Crystal Endeavor also) are the only Nobu restaurants at sea.

How to choose from the large selection of menu items?

Our Japanese waiter suggested a selection of appetizers – starting with cold sushi and sashimi, followed by hot appetizers (lobster tempura and rock shrimp tempura). The sautéed mushroom salad is another must-try.

For an entrée, the steamed black cod infused with ginger and lemon is famous – very moist and tender! You can’t go wrong with the lobster in a truffle-yuzu sauce either.

The celebrated chef’s privately branded Chardonnay goes down very smoothly too.

And just think. If you ate at a Nobu restaurant on land, your bill for two people could be a whopping $500 USD.

Prego:

Prego is the popular Italian restaurant on the Crystal Serenity cruise ship.

Prego, Crystal’s Italian restaurant, was also a hit with us.

Indeed, after boarding in Civitavecchia (Rome’s cruise port), we joked with our waiter that the ship’s kitchen could teach the Romans something about Italian food.

Prego’s signature mushroom soup is no ordinary soup, but a divinely creamy concoction served in a scooped-out sourdough bread bowl.

And the beef carpaccio is masterfully presented.

At the table, fresh lemon juice is squeezed onto the thinnest slices of beef, then Spanish olive oil and aged Balsamic are drizzled on top. A sprinkling of finely grated Parmesan caps off the dish.

The beef carpaccio is masterfully presented in Crystal Cruises' Prego restaurant.

And don’t get us started on the home-made pastas!

Okay, we’ll just say this. Do order the lasagna, artfully presented with fresh tomato sauce on one side and fresh Bechamel sauce on the other – divine, even if you’re not a lasagna lover.

Tip: Ask for half orders. Then you’ll have room to try more dishes.

Churrascaria:

Churrascaria menu on Crystal Cruises

Start with a traditional Caipirinha cocktail. Then chow down on grilled meats, which gauchos carve tableside from sword-like skewers.

No, you’re not in Brazil. You’re in the Brazilian-style Churrascaria, set up at night in the pool deck Marketplace venue.

You don’t need reservations to eat here.

Silk:

Silk is a Chinese-inspired venue.

Featuring Chinois soup, a noodle bar and dim-sum, it occupies what used to be Tastes.

Silk is a Chinese-inspired restaurant on the Crystal Serenity.

The Vintage Room:

Up for an exclusive wine-and-food evening?

Crystal’s innovative Vintage Room hosts a special wine tasting dinner at least once per cruise for $250 USD p.p. This price includes six exceptionally fine wines paired with a six-course meal.

Space is limited to 14 guests.

Crystal Cruises' innovative Vintage Room hosts a special wine tasting dinner at least once per cruise.

We started with a beautiful “Charles Heidsieck” rose champagne as we greeted fellow guests.

Then we moved on to a meal that, really, can only be described as exquisite.

Vintage Room menu

Lobster tail with poached plums and black truffle

Butternut squash ravioli

Arctic sea bass with artichoke in a porcini-and-red-wine jus

Wagyu beef tenderloin and short rib with a Bordelaise sauce

Ricotta cheese strudel with glazed grapes and lavender honey

Chocolate and Cassis

The big treat was the luscious “Opus One” 2014 poured with the beef. An Old World Bordeaux created by Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Opus One is one of the world’s most coveted wines.

(If you love wine, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a bottle at least once in your lifetime!)

If you want to organize your own intimate dinner, you can do so for a private group of up to 12 ($2,500 USD flat fee).

Also keep an eye out for the occasional wine-themed lunches that are offered ($75 p.p. or $125 p.p. for champagne or California-themed wine lunches).

The Bistro:

We also loved the Bistro.

An elegant space on Deck 6, it evokes a French bistro feeling with café-style tables (several by windows), purple chairs and colorful plates.

When we missed breakfast or lunch (or wanted a different dessert after dinner), we could always find something tempting here.

We loved the Bistro on the Crystal Serenity cruise ship for tempting sweets.

The help-yourself-selection changes throughout the day.

In the afternoon, for example, you might see fresh-rolled lox, cream cheese, Stilton cheese, liver pate and a large offering of desserts including gluten-free coconut tart (delicious!), chocolate cake, fresh whole strawberries, fresh sliced mangoes and whipped cream.

Waiters serve tea, cappuccino and champagne.

Stardust Supper Club:

Hankering for a Rat Pack era dining experience? This new dining option is available on black-tie-optional evenings in the Stardust Club.

Nosh on a four-course menu from Waterside, served with wine pairings, as you listen to live music from Crystal’s string quartet and other music groups.

Palm Court:

Indoors, the Palm Court at the bow has also been dolled up and is now very pretty in purple.

Craving a civilized afternoon tea or quiet spot to look out floor-to-ceiling windows?

This is the place – settle yourself in a wingback chair, rest your feet on a footstool and let the world pass you by.

Crystal Cruises’ menus

To see a PDF of the Crystal Cruises’ menus for the specialty restaurants on our Serenity cruise, click on the following links:

Onboard amenities

Swimming pool:

The Seahorse Pool is a popular place to hang out on the Crystal Serenity.

Time to relax?

Plop down on a poofy, pumpkin orange, beanbag-style chair by the pool – phew, that’s a lot of “p’s”! Or settle onto a comfy cushioned recliner under an umbrella.

Around the Seahorse Pool, in fact, is a popular place to hang out on the Crystal Serenity. The pool is sizeable enough that you can even swim short laps.

On our autumn Mediterranean cruise, guests made the most of their warm-weather holiday. The pool was a happening spot, and the champagne flowed freely there.

If you’re like us and gravitate to quiet places to relax, you might prefer the comfy couches and arm chairs at the stern, shaded by overhanging decks, which are never very busy.

Want a quiet place to chill on the Crystal Serenity ship? Check out the comfy couches and arm chairs at the stern.

Gym:

Thank goodness the large gym on Crystal Serenity is one of the best cruise ship gyms we’ve ever sweated in! We badly needed to use it to help counter the effects from all the lovely food that tempted us.

On an upper deck, it’s light and bright with picture windows for looking out at the scenery.

All the equipment (including a large cable-and-pulley machine) is new and top-of-the-line, with TVs and headphones for the cardio treadmills, ellipticals and bikes.

The treadmills have built-in fans to cool you down. Bosus and balls mean you can do some cool core exercises.

Crystal Cruises’ entertainment

We were also impressed with the quality of the entertainment and performers on our cruise.

You can enjoy everything from lavish Broadway-style productions, magic shows and comedy acts to nightly dancing and karaoke in Pulse to the latest-release Hollywood movies in the theater.

We were impressed with the quality of the entertainment and performers on our Crystal cruise.

The enrichment programs and lectures also looked very good.

On our cruise, we could have attended topical talks on subjects like “The Shiites and the Sunnis.”

But we confess, we were too busy ashore (or resting up after going ashore) to take in any of them.

Activities

As for activities, there’s plenty to keep you occupied onboard.

The library is stocked with a great selection of books. And you can check out videos for your in-room DVD player.

Want to hit a few balls? Try your hand at the tennis court on the top deck.

There are needlepoint get-togethers, golf clinics, shuffleboard, Mah Jong groups, cooking demonstrations, noon trivia, bridge games and more.

Guests and onboard vibe

Generally, guests on Crystal Cruises are between 55 and 65. They’re well-traveled and enjoy the amenities of a luxury cruise but on a bigger scale than, say, luxury cruise competitors Seabourn and Silversea.

Our cruise felt like a large ship experience, but with everything done at a very high level – lovely suites, excellent service, many specialty restaurants, different entertainment venues, a casino, lavish Broadway-style productions, etc.

Because our cruise was a shorter one-week cruise, guests tended to be younger than the average age on longer cruises – part of the “working wealthy” class, many in their 40s and 50s.

Crystal is actually going after younger guests, aiming to tempt them with a larger variety of shorter cruises that have been added to its cruise calendar.

You might also enjoy Star Clippers: Find out what it’s like to sail the Caribbean on the Star Flyer

Crystal Cruises’ itineraries

Crystal’s ships sail across the globe, with itineraries covering Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and more.

Voyages last anywhere from four to 139 nights.

Crystal Cruises' ships sail across the globe, with itineraries covering Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and more.

Brand new shorter voyages include 8-night cruises from Singapore to Sri Lanka and from Mumbai to Jordan.

And if you want a mini-cruise in Europe (maybe to try Crystal Cruises?), check out the new 4-night cruises from Monte Carlo to Sorrento and 5-night cruises from Sorrento to Venice.

Recommended reading: Snake charmers? Harems? Visiting Morocco on a cruise

Other Crystal Cruises’ reviews

We’re not the only ones impressed with Crystal Cruises.

The line has scooped up boatloads of awards over the years, including:

Conde Nast Traveler Gold List – “Best Cruise Ships in the World” 2020 (Crystal Serenity)

Cruise Critic Editor’s Pick – “Best Luxury Cruise Line” 2019

Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards – “Best Medium Cruise Line” 2019

Travel Weekly Readers’ Choice Awards – “Best Luxury Cruise Line” 2019

More information:

Check out the Crystal Cruises’ website.

More cruise inspiration? See our ultimate Cruise Guide! (You’ll find boatloads of cruise reviews)


Pin to Pinterest!

Pin these to your “Cruise” or “Travel” board!

Luxury cruising with Crystal Cruises

Photo credits: 2, 6, 7, 9, 19 to 22, 24 and 25 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 1, 4, 5, 8, 10 to 18, 23 and 26 Crystal Cruises


We were invited to sail with Crystal Cruises as media guests. We haven’t been paid to to write this Crystal Serenity cruise review, and all opinions here reflect our own cruise experience and observations.


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews and information, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Places to Visit in Ottawa
Places to visit in Ottawa, Canada (winter is a great time)
← Read Last Post
Best Things to Do in Victoria
A local's guide to the 23 best things to do in Victoria, BC
Read Next Post →