Crystal Serenity Review August 2023

August 24, 2023  |  Share:

When the holding company of legendary tour operator Abercrombie and Kent acquired Crystal Symphony, Crystal Serenity, and the defunct Crystal Cruise brand database, there was much speculation inside the cruise industry and amongst holiday travellers about what they would do with their shopping.

There was much that was right with the former brand, but there was also much that needed to change if the new owners were to enter service again. If the brand were to have a future, the new owners would have to blend the best of the former with its style and energy. It is no mean feat when building new ships, but a real challenge when taking on two existing ones.

The new owners, under the careful stewardship of Dr Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, whose sea-going connections started in the offices of Sitmar Cruises aged nineteen and then saw him create, build, and sell Silversea, have met the challenge head-on, creating a new brand, and spending many millions refreshing and rebuilding both ships.

The new Crystal is determined to create a niche that differentiates it from traditional luxury cruise brands and defines itself as an exceptional class. Last week, I sailed aboard Crystal Serenity, determined to experience this for myself.

The Crew as Part of the Experience

What sets the very best hotels and private yachts apart from the rest is making the crew part of the product, and Crystal has achieved this. Nothing is too much trouble for the crew, who uniquely help make sailing aboard like coming home. Your likes and dislikes, preferences and needs are noted and taken care of, and nothing is too much trouble.


Since entering dry dock in Trieste, both ships have undergone multi-million-dollar transformations, the most significant being the accommodation aboard. Serenity’s capacity is only 740 guests (she was initially 1080 guests), and instead of 113 suites and 373 staterooms, she now offers 275 suites and just 102 staterooms; and “yes”, she has retained a raft of staterooms exclusively for single travellers.

Penthouse Suite On Crystal Serenity Crystal Cruises 1 Jpg

Penthouse Suite

The plush new Saphire and Aquamarine veranda suites have been built where two, sometimes three staterooms had previously existed are 47 and 36 square metres, respectively. In contrast, the new 70 square metres Junior Penthouse grade has a separate pantry, dining, living and bedrooms, and large verandas.

The Veranda and sea view staterooms have all been refreshed, and every bedroom has butler service.

Culinary Odyssey

Serenity boasts 11 different dining options. Waterside was once a loud, large dining room; it is now a multi-sectional, cosy silver service Restaurant.

Tastes, the informal pan-Asian café-restaurant, is restored under the conservatory roof. At the same time, the Bistro is a happy, airy meeting area from late-risers breakfast till supper time.

Tastes Kitchen & Bar on Crystal Serenity

Tastes Kitchen & Bar

Famed restaurateur Nobu Matsuhisa has continued his association with the Crystal brand and has a newly rebuilt restaurant, Uni Uma. At the same time, the newly constructed Osteria D’Ovidio offers contemporary regional Italian cuisine.

More informal outlets are the Trident Grill fast food outlet, the Market Place cafeteria-style restaurant with its indoor/outdoor eating spaces, and Scoops ice cream stand, while in-suite dining and the beautifully imagined Vintage Room where up to 14 guests can enjoy a private course-by-course tasting menu with a wine flight, help set Crystal at the pinnacle of culinary style at sea.

Trident Grill on Crystal Serenity

Trident Grill

Enriching the Experience

Enrichment is a significant feature of every Crystal cruise, each voyage featuring parties, high-end entertainers, guest speakers, and cultural experts. There are also bridge instructors, yoga and lifestyle trainers, and dance instructors. The adult IT learning space, Computer University At Sea, and facilities for younger travellers have been reimagined.

Wellness and Recreation

On deck 13 amidships, Wimbledon Court has two newly refreshed Pickleball and Paddle Tennis courts.

The newly designed Spa and the Health and Fitness facility, the Aurora Spa, are just after this.

Fitness Centre on Crystal Serenity

Fitness Centre

To the starboard side is a state-of-the-art gym with the latest exercise equipment, weights, and an exercise studio with regular classes (all free to join).

The Spa is brand new, offering Elemis products, IV Treatments, Medi-Spa services, Facials, Body attentions, Massages, Grooming and Salon Services.

A&K’s Impact on Crystal

So, how is being owned by A&K going to impact Crystal? In the first instance. A&K has announced that with the build starting in 2005, four new ships will join the Crystal fleet by 2029: two will be 625-passenger discovery cruise ships, and two will be 625-passenger exceptional class global cruise vessels.

Regarding day-to-day onboard, A&K wants to be aboard a Crystal sailing to feel like returning home. Hence, gratuities, an open bar, Wi-Fi, butler service for all and being able to send five items a day for pressing are all included in the fare.

Bar Area on Crystal Serenity

Bar Area

Flexibility and Modernisation

Regarding flexibility with the voyage, if you need to join a voyage after the advertised date or leave it early, you can if it’s safe and Crystal complies with local laws.

A&K has modernised the dress code; it’s 2023, after all. There will only ever be one black tie night per ten-day voyage. Otherwise, it’s resort casual by day and resort elegant at night. There will be parties on every sailing, such as White Night, each advertised well in advance.

Culinary Delights

A&K wants guests to enjoy a culinary celebration while aboard, including the speciality restaurants. Henceforth, guests can book Uni Uma and the Osteria D’Ovidio twice per voyage without supplement; extra nights cost US$50pp. This does vary on longer world-cruise segments. Guests in penthouses may dine there or have room service from there as often as they wish.

Mussel at Restaurant on Crystal Serenity


Enhanced Services and Exploration

By 2025, all off-ship and transfer services will be organised and arranged by A&K. One outstanding feature, besides the unrivalled knowledge and experience that A&K, will be the ability of guests to leave a ship for a few days mid-voyage to visit and experience world-class attractions ashore. For example, on a cruise up the South American Coast, guests could leave for four nights to fly to the Galapagos Islands and rejoin their voyage. We will actively promote and incorporate this capacity starting in late 2024.

Leaning Tower Of Pisa 1 1 Jpg

Leaning Tower of Pisa

A&K’s Vision of Inclusivity

A&K wants their cruise line to have as broad an appeal as their core brand. It has created an environment and experience with a multigenerational appeal, suiting couples, solo travellers, families, and digital nomads alike.

Solo Traveler Haven

A&K was determined to keep solo cabins for solo travellers on both ships and has accommodations available for every taste and budget, so the ships have a wide choice of staterooms and balcony suites.

A Bold New Era for Crystal

So what does this all mean to you and me? Crystal has been brave and bold and created a new niche they will fill with gusto. This is high-end cruising aboard marquee mid-size ships par excellence. And it’s a brand that’s here to stay.

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