Paul Andrews, the newest member of The Cruise Line team, recently enjoyed a Mediterranean voyage on Crystal Serenity. Read all about his Crystal cruise experience and feel free to leave any questions in the comments box below.
We arrived at Gatwick in plenty of time and were pleased to find that there was no queue for check-in – perfect, as this meant more time for coffee and duty-free retail therapy!
Our flight to Venice – courtesy of EasyJet – was relatively short and lasted just under 2 hours. On arrival, our transfer was ready and waiting and within 20 minutes we were standing at Venice port ready to board the all-inclusive Crystal Serenity for our overnight stay. Boarding went extremely smoothly and once we were on board we were treated to a spot of lunch a glass of champagne (complimentary, of course) whilst we waiting for our Stateroom to become available.
We’d been allocated a category AA Deluxe Stateroom with a Veranda on Deck 10 and were shown around the in-suite amenities by our stewardess, the lovely Anita from Macedonia.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon familiarising ourselves with the layout of the ship before joining up with the rest of our travelling party for a pre-dinner cocktail reception in the ship’s Palm Court bar. From there we headed down to Serenity’s main Dining Room and enjoyed a delicious dinner.
Following a wonderful night’s sleep we awoke in Venice and enjoyed a hearty breakfast in the Lido Cafe before being transported on a courtesy bus to an awaiting water taxi where we were taken on a 20 minute ride into St Mark’s Square.
For those who haven’t visited the city before; Venice is a truly magical city. There’s magnificent architecture, picturesque bars and eateries and a myriad of tiny twisting streets to be explored. We immersed ourselves in the experience and took some time taking in the majesty of various landmarks such as The Doges Palace and The Bridge of Sighs.
After building up a healthy appetite, we went in search of food and found a delightful pizzeria in an off-the-beaten-track square, which cost a respectable 30 Euros for two meals and a bottle of wine.
Once back on board we prepared for our lifeboat drill before leaving port and then got ready for the sail-away cocktail party on Sun Deck 13. Sailing out of Venice is an amazing sight taking just over an hour. We took some time to take in the glorious views with a cocktail (or two) in hand – a perfect way to enhance the experience.
That evening we enjoyed dinner at Tastes on Lido Deck 12. The restaurant has a lovely relaxed atmosphere and the food was absolutely superb. I had the best Lemon Chicken I have ever tasted and they catered for my vegetarian travelling companion who thoroughly enjoyed an Asian Noodle main course.
The next day (Friday) we were at sea and heading for the medieval city of Dubrovnik in Croatia. In the morning I attended a very informative Crystal Seminar overseen by Michael Dupont, National Accounts Manager, and then had a look around some of the ships other staterooms and accommodation options.
With the serious business out of the way, I settled down for a spot of afternoon tea which involved a plethora of beautifully decorated cakes, delicate pastries and sandwiches (minus the crusts).
Crystal Cruises really does offer a wide variety of things to do during otherwise lazy days at sea. As we headed to Dubrovnik, we invited to partake in activities such as paddle-tennis, golf and gym sessions. For them more cerebrally conscious, there was the Creative Learning Institute program (CLL), which on this particular cruise offered lectures and seminars on Bridge, Italian, dance, Nordic Walking and a musical session courtesy of Yamaha.
That evening we had our one and only formal night dinner of the voyage, which took place in the stunning Crystal Dining Room. I tucked into a delicious quail whilst my companion went for an eye-catching potato pudding. Following this, we headed to the Pulse to dance some of the calories away.
We arrived in a drizzly Dubrovnik early on the Saturday morning but were determined to not let the miserable weather dampen our spirits. During our time in the city we visited the main points of interest, including the Old Town and Onophrian Fountain. It’s easy to see why this wonderful walled city is such an up-and-coming destination. The only downside was that we were unable to take a trip on the newly renovated cable cars due to the inclement weather conditions.
For our evening meal, I booked a table at the Silk Road Japanese Restaurant. Again the food was faultless and I enjoyed the Mushroom Soup and Teriyaki Chicken which was delicious. Vegetarian options included Tempura Vegetables with Spicy Noodles. The deserts were “to die for” and included a triple Crème Brulee and a Whisky Cappuccino.
We sailed off into the night heading for our next port of call, Corfu in Greece. I had never been to Greece so was looking forward very much to the experience. Grey skies greeted us on arrival but again we were not deterred. The courtesy bus dropped us in the old town close to all the action. It was a Greek Public holiday so we were greeted with crowds and marching bands through the town and into the main area of Liston, including the famous cricket pitch.
The home of the olive, Corfu has a strong French influence and as such has a number of interesting little cafes and bars. Of course, if would have been rude to not partake in some local beverages so we took some time out and watched the world go by in a lovely little bar with outside seating.
For history lovers, Corfu is an excellent port of call to explore, offering a couple of fortresses and the Palace of St Michael and St George.
Later that evening we booked a table at the Prego Italian Restaurant. I had the Mushroom Soup for starter and Beef as the main course which lived up to my every expectation.
Argostoli in Kefalonia was the penultimate port of call on our cruise and we arrived on a beautifully sunny Monday morning. It is a delightful town and we went on a tour aboard the Kefalonia Express (slight exaggeration), a road-train which did a 30 minute tour of the surrounding area. One of the highlights was seeing the giant turtles in the bay gathering around the local fisherman trying to gain some extra lunch.
As it was our last night aboard the Crystal Serenity, we were invited to a pre-dinner cocktail party in Palm Court. However, there was quite a lot of tidal movement at the front of the ship so we soon adjourned to the Crystal Cove which was much more comfortable a little more stable.
During the course of our last meal in the Crystal Dining Room, the ship changed direction around the tip of Greece so the sailing became a little sooner as we headed to the port of Athens for our disembarkation.
The next morning we arrived in a very sunny Athens and after enjoying yet another hearty breakfast, we got our things together and left the ship. Our luggage had already been put out for collection the night before and our taxi was already waiting to take us to The Hotel Grand Bretagne in the city centre for a one-night stay before our flights back to the UK.
The Grand Bretagne has to be one of the nicest hotels I have ever had the pleasure to stay in. It is like a museum piece and the hotel even offers tours to people who want to admire the architecture and furnishings. We were lucky enough to be given a deluxe room with a balcony and checked-in at 09.30 and could go to our room immediately. The hotel is situated in Constitution Square and overlooked the parliament building where the guards are famous for their fancy pom-pom shoes and partaking in the “ministry of silly walks”.
Athens is something of a heaven to culture-vultures. The climb to The Acropolis and Parthenon are well worth the effort for the views and only about 25 minutes walk from the hotel. For the less energetic there is a Metro Station right beside the Hotel and it is just 1 stop. Another must-see is The Acropolis Museum which is one of the most beautiful modern buildings I have ever seen. You can immerse yourself in the three stories of archaeology and all for just 5 Euros per person. There is also a very swanky café where I just had to try the local wine (again), and a very chic restaurant.
The Athenians are very friendly people and in the evening we had a lovely traditional Greek meal in a Restaurant right opposite the Pan Hotel in Placa (the main pedestrian shopping area). A huge Greek salad for two, two main courses and a bottle of local wine with a tip came to just 48 Euros.
The next morning our transfer (arranged by Holiday Taxis) arrived at 10:55 on the dot to take us to the very sparkly and newly refurbished Athens’ Airport.
Our EasyJet flight home (3 hours and 25 minutes) was excellent and punctual and we were back in England at 4pm with extremely fond memories of a fantastic trip.
General Crystal Serenity Overview
Crystal Serenity is a stunning ship. It exudes pure elegance without being stuffy. The staff are extremely attentive and made up of various nationalities. The food is superb and there is a great choice for vegetarians. Guests were mostly American but some European and Oriental. The average age on this particular voyage was early 50’s. There is also a feeling of great space as the ship can accommodate 2,000 passengers but will only take 1,000 maximum. Our cruise was 80% full.
Paul has been working in the travel industry for 15 years and has cruised with Cunard, Celebrity and P&O Cruises. He likes dining out with friends and family and counts Australia as the one place he’d love to visit. To speak to him about his Crystal cruise and to ask him any questions you might have, please call 0800 008 6677.