Por Georgina Cruz
For AL DIA TODAY
It was like coming across a friend you have not seen in a few years and finding her more radiant and rejuvenated. That was my husband Humberto’s and my experience during a 12-day Caribbean cruise aboard the Crystal Serenity, one of Crystal Cruises’ ocean vessels that received a redesign late last year. We had not sailed on her for four years and wondered what we would find. Well, we found her more beautiful and better than ever!
“The most extensive redesign of the ship” according to Crystal Cruises’ spokesmen, it took place during a three-week drydock in Oct.-Nov. 2018, and it has refreshed the ship and added to the guest experience by expanding space and options.
As a result of the redesign the ship now has 36 new Penthouses and two new Penthouse Suites that replace verandah staterooms on Penthouse Deck 10. We booked one of the new Seabreeze Penthouses and found it to be, at 403 sq. ft., spacious, stylish and comfortable –the perfect home at sea with a walk-in closet, spa-like bathroom, and an expansive verandah. On this verandah we loved to start our days with breakfasts al fresco with fresh berries, flaky croissants, and fresh-squeezed orange juice and coffee served impeccably by our butler. The transformation from verandah cabins to penthouses and suites, by the way, has reduced the ship’s capacity from 1,070 passengers to 980, but the number of crew remained the same. Translation: more space and more attentive service!
Another aspect of the redesign we loved was the introduction of open seating dining that allows guests to have more flexibility for their evening activities and the addition of more intimate seating with many tables for two and four in Waterside, the main restaurant that took the place of the Crystal Dining Room, serving classics and modern specialties. And arguably the best part of all when it comes to the redesign is the creation of new dining venues.
Top on our list of favorites is the new Churrascaria, a Brazilian-style barbeque evening venue in The Marketplace (previously the Lido Café, that continues to serve buffet-style breakfasts and lunches). The Churrascaria welcomes patrons with the traditional Caipirinha cocktail, so popular in Brazil, and offers tapas, ceviche, salads and grilled meats carved tableside by “gauchos” on sword-like skewers. We liked it so much –particularly its black bean soup and grilled chicken and pork—that we visited it three times during our voyage.
Another big favorite of ours is Silk Kitchen & Bar, an Asian-inspired venue located in what was formerly Tastes. It features Chinese specialties served family-style, including delightful dim sum, among the choices for dinner. Silk Kitchen & Bar features new fabrics, lighting and decorative illuminated columns and it is open for lunch too.
All these venues join the line’s ever-popular Prego, serving Northern Italian cuisine with a modern twist –from the divine Crystal mushroom soup and slow-roasted pumpkin ravioli to tiramisu—and Umi Uma & Sushi Bar, featuring the Japanese-Peruvian cuisine of celebrity Chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Here who can resist the Nobu-style lobster with truffle-yuzu sauce and a bento box of chocolate souffle cake with shiso syrup and sesame ice cream? Not us! All these wonderful restaurants definitely confirm Humberto’s and my philosophy that one of the greatest luxuries in life is choice!
Other refreshed spaces include the ship’s lovely Palm Court which now features new finishes, carpeting, more tables for two, dramatic wingback chairs with footstools, sofas and coffee tables. The stage has been relocated in an “in-the-round” concept along with a modernized bar area. It was a pleasure to attend Crystal’s Mozart Tea (arguably the best afternoon tea afloat in this beautiful room)! We secured two of the wingback chairs and felt just like royalty in this elegant setting, while being served our choice from an extensive selection of teas by waiters clad in period costumes of velvet, brocade and lace inspired in Amadeus’ time. We delighted in sipping it from delicate cups and tasted some of the many treats offered including sandwiches, scones, petit fours and such treats as delectable warm apple strudel and sinful chocolate tarts!
Another entertainment venue that received an extensive refurbishment is the Stardust Club, with new finishes, seating and tables, a new dance floor and dynamic lighting to support a more multi-purpose use of the area –from popular bridge tournaments to evening entertainment.
And the ship’s enrichment facilities have also been redesigned. The Computer [email protected] and its adjoining classroom, as well as the multi-purpose Studio have received new carpeting, seating and equipment along with 70-inch televisions to enhance the programs offered through the Crystal Creative Learning Institute and Crystal Visions Lecture Series.
It was a pleasure to visit several Caribbean idylls, including chic St. Bart’s, and lovely St. Lucia with Les Pitons, two majestic cones that rise green-clad out of the sea. In St. Lucia we also enjoyed the island’s La Soufriere “drive-in volcano” and the Castries Market full of local color. Other stops included British-influenced Barbados and Antigua and the tropical paradises of the Turks & Caicos and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands during our 12-day voyage. But as great a pleasure was to be pampered and spoiled 24/7 while traveling in the lap of luxury on our “floating island,” the Crystal Serenity!
The Crystal Serenity roams the world. For information, visit www.crystalcruises.com.