SERENITY From Sea To Sea, Part One

Knego begins his latest nineteen night trans-Panama Canal trek from Miami to San Francisco aboard Crystal Cruises’ deluxe MV CRYSTAL SERENITY.

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THE SANDS OF ALANG: The latest DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2016 unless otherwise noted.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

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SERENITY over Miami.

What an uplifting sight Crystal Cruises’ CRYSTAL SERENITY — my home for the next nineteen nights — was from the back seat of a cab buzzing down Miami’s MacArthur Causeway.

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CRYSTAL SERENITY builders plate.

Built in 2003 by Alstom Chantiers de l’Atlantique at St. Nazaire, France (formerly Chantiers de l’Atlantique and now STX Europe) the CRYSTAL SERENITY was designed by Robert Tillberg, the veteran Swedish marine architect behind numerous well-known ocean liners and cruise ships, from Swedish American Line’s KUNGSHOLM of 1966 to the “Love Boats” PACIFIC and ISLAND PRINCESS of 1971 and 1972 and so many more. With nine decks and a gross tonnage of 68,870 devoted to a mere 1,080 guests, the beautifully laid out SERENITY boasts a passenger space ratio of 64, one of the highest in the industry.

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Welcome bubbly.

The grime of Miami gave way to carefree elegance when I crossed the gangway into the Tiffany Deck (6) level of the Atrium, an impressive elliptical space with a stained glass skylight, a fountain and swaths of polished marble. I descended to the Crystal Deck (5) level and before I could mutter a reluctant “no, thanks”, a flute of champagne was extended in my direction. After the stress of getting to the ship and knowing that I would have the next nineteen days to get all the photos I could possibly need, I succumbed to the tongue-tickling pleasure of a sip or two. Tiny bubbles!

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Classical welcome.

The lower level of the Atrium (known as the Crystal Plaza) was set up as a check-in space where guests were processed and issued their cabin key cards. As I juggled various print-outs, my camera and that ever-lightening flute of champagne, a string quartet serenaded.

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The Cove, facing forward.

Across the way, in what would soon become one of my favorite spaces, the Crystal Cove piano bar was buzzing with chatter as auld acquaintances were rekindled. On a ship with the SERENITY’s repeat factor, a large percentage of guests are always bound to know each other…

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A Deluxe Stateroom With Verandah (with queen bed).

Five decks up and nearly all the way aft on Penthouse Deck 10, our 269-square-foot Category P Deluxe Stateroom With Verandah awaited. Among its perks were an included-in-the-fare mini bar with soft drinks, bottled water, wine, beer and spirits; a pillow menu; electronic ”Do Not Disturb” sign and doorbell; flat screen TV with Blu-Ray DVD and CD player; Wifi (fees apply); a laptop data port; a writing desk; a large closet (that lights up when the doors slide open) and a seating area with a leather sofa. In addition, our cabin was one of 70 with a patented hypo-allergenic air purifying system called PURE.

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Our loo.

In the loo, there were two marble sinks, abundant (above and below the sink) storage spaces, a tub/shower with massage head and even a speaker for the television.

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Toiletries

Crystal provides a vanity kit, sewing kit, shower cap, soap and Etro of Milan toiletries (shampoo, shower gel, conditioner, moisturizer).

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Tastes

After settling in, I headed up to Tastes on Lido Deck (12). Replacing an under-used pool, the handsome new eatery was added in 2014 and features a fixed daily menu of world cuisine (with an emphasis on Asian fusion and Mediterranean). With its sliding glass Magrodome now a permanent skylight, Tastes boasts bright contemporary furnishings in a backdrop that includes a pair of well-manicured “living walls”.

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Chicken Caesar and Pizza Margherita at Tastes.

If my Chicken Caesar Salad and Pizza Margherita were any indication, Tastes would quickly become one of my favorite shipboard eateries. I was soon joined by my traveling companion Rob and before long, our conversation devolved into an eating frenzy.

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CRYSTAL SERENITY Fitness Center, facing forward.

Boat drill was followed by our first work out in the gorgeous gym at the top of the ship on aft/starboard Sun Deck (13). Not only does the SERENITY have four working elliptical machines but they come with plenty of head room and a fantastic view through large picture windows. For the next week, as the ship plied a southbound course into the Caribbean, those “elliptical sunsets” were magical.

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Stateroom 10117 balcony.

At 7:00 PM, we watched from our balcony as the SERENITY quietly thrusted away, leaving Miami and its new skyline in her wake.

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Crystal Dining Room, facing port.

Unlike most deluxe cruise lines, Crystal still offers two dining room seatings in its main venue. We opted for second (8:30 PM) and never felt rushed for time. The Crystal Dining Room is located aft of the Atrium on Crystal Deck and boasts large picture windows on either side and a central alcove with a crystal-fringed, frescoed ceiling recess encircling a large crystal chandelier.

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Crystal Dining Room setting.

We had 90-A, a table for two that was elegantly set with custom chargers by Villeroy and Boch featuring a map of one of the regions Crystal sails to (these varied nightly), Schott Zwiesel stemware, fine linen napkins and beautifully polished silver.

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Pan-seared lemon sole entrée.

I had high expectations but nothing prepared me for the delights of that first evening. Home-baked breads dipped in olive oil and syrup-thick balsamic (or butter if you prefer), appetizers, salads and soups from a Modern Cuisine menu or Crystal’s Classic menu, not to mention attentive, savvy and exemplary service from the dining staff — in our case waiter Gianluca and his assistant Danilo. My main course, a Pan-Seared Lemon Sole (in Cockles Dill Chowder with snow peas and confit potatoes), was out of this world.

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Galaxy Orchestra in the Atrium.

Lulled by the ship’s gentle movement, our stressful commutes to Miami and that lovely wine, we headed up to 10117 but not before stopping to listen to some excellent musicianship in the Atrium as the Galaxy Orchestra played on.

End Of From Sea To Sea On The SERENITY, Part One

Much More To Come…

Click here for Part Two of SERENITY From Sea To Sea

Special Thanks: Hubert Buelacher, Paul Garcia, Janeth Tapia

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego
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