SERENITY From Sea To Sea, Part Two

Knego continues his recent trans-Panama Canal trek from Miami to Los Angeles aboard Crystal Cruises’ deluxe MV CRYSTAL SERENITY with two days at sea and a stop in Grand Turk.

Crystal Cruises

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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 6 and Thursday, January 8, 2016:

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Clean up sign.

After illuminating the “clean up” button near our cabin door, our late morning start on sea days usually began with a pilgrimage to the CRYSTAL SERENITY’s recently revamped Lido Cafe on aft Lido Deck (12).

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Lido Cafe, facing aft from starboard.
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Aft Lido Cafe Deck

One of many dining venues we would grow fond of over the next two-plus weeks, the Lido is open daily for buffet-style breakfast and lunch, boasting full length windows with seating on either side and aft as well as an open terrace for those who fancy al fresco.

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Lido corner.

With the renovation came edgy screens, colorful Rothko-esque paintings, handsome Scandinavian style furnishings and remodeled galleys and action stations.

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Lido sushi.

The difference between a luxury line like Crystal and a solid premium line becomes especially evident in the fine details. For instance, in the Lido, the quality and variety of the offerings was excellent and vast. At breakfast, there were several types of yogurt, hot and cold cereals, warm dishes (eggs in every form, chicken and pork sausages, beans, veggies, several types of potatoes), cold cuts, (excellent) smoked salmon, herring, trimmings (capers, onions, sour cream, lemon slices), fresh fruit (beautiful bits of watermelon, papaya, cantaloupe, pineapple, guava), muesli, (several types of homemade) granola, fresh veggies (usually lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers), fresh-baked muffins (blueberry, bran, etc.), croissants, pastries, breads, rolls, a daily healthy drink (usually green) and even Asian cuisine like miso soup and congee.

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Fresh carrot juice.

Instead of just milk and skim milk, there was almond and soy milk for cereals and a juice bar with fresh-squeezed orange, carrot and other fruits or veggies on tap.

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Salad bar selections.
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Salad bar toppings.
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Salad ultimo.

At lunch, there was a dazzlingly good salad bar with every imaginable topping (artichoke, hearts of palm, marinated onions, feta, numerous nuts, bell peppers, egg, etc.), in addition to wonderful soups, Asian cuisine, sushi, hot dishes, veggies, noodles, pasta and so much more. Each day, the challenge was in deciding what not to eat.

All the while, extremely attentive staff are on hand to bring over coffee, tea, specialty coffees and anything from the juice bar, taking note of each guest’s preference so that by the second or third day, they would ask if you want your “usual”.

On most sea days (7 of the 17 day itinerary), our activities were pretty much routine: attending enrichment lectures between daytime meals; working out and/or swimming; stealing away time to write or take a nap; savoring a glass of champagne and enjoying a delightful dinner before capping it all off with the evening entertainment, a balmy nighttime walk around the promenade or perhaps a nightcap in one of the bars.

Here is a Decked!-style look at some key outer deck spaces aboard CRYSTAL SERENITY:

Sun Deck (13)

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Forward Sun Deck (13), facing aft from starboard.

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Forward Sun Deck, facing port.

A wide, open observation platform overlooks the bow from the top of the ship on Sun Deck (13), continuing aft along either side of the mast platform to a jogging track (7.93 times round equals a mile) that encircles the pool and lido area below.

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Paddle tennis

Walkways continue aft on either side of the pool and lido, past a pair of net-covered paddle tennis courts, the roof of the Magrodome and the funnel casing.

Lido Deck (12)

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Aft from wing at sea.
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Promenade from above.

On either side of the next lower level, Lido Deck (12), teak-lined platforms that are accessed via the Sunset Bar extend over the side of the ship, offering yet more views over the bow and the sea. With an air conditioned bar only steps away, these wings would prove especially popular during the Panama Canal transit.

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Sunny pool.
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Sea horses by the pool.

Aft of the Sunset Bar and the adjoining Palm Court lounge, Lido Deck continues with the teak-lined pool area which features a lap pool, two Jacuzzis, cushioned deck chairs, cabana seating, a trio of bronze sea horses and plenty of sunning as well as shaded space (under the Sun Deck overhang).

Forward and Aft Terraces:

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Forward Penthouse Deck (10) terrace, facing port.

Open terraces are located forward of the accommodation on Penthouse (10), Seabreeze (9) and Horizon (8) decks, offering yet more forward observation opportunities, wind conditions permitting. These would also prove especially popular during the Panama Canal transit.

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Aft Penthouse Deck (11), facing port.

CRYSTAL SERENITY has no less than seven teak-lined terraces stacked atop her stern. On Lido (12) Deck, there is al fresco seating for the Lido Cafe and on Penthouse (11), Penthouse (10, Seabreeze (9), Horizon (8) Decks, there are chairs and loungers with views over the ship’s wake. Remarkably, attendants circulate on all of these terraces, bringing drinks and nibbles to enclaves of utterly pampered guests.  The one drawback is that the aft decks are also smokers’ havens — and that includes pipes and cigars.

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Aft Horizon Deck (8), facing port.

On Horizon Deck, there is also a sheltered shuffleboard court in addition to the chairs and loungers.

Promenade Deck (7)

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Promenade, facing aft from port.

One of the nicest fully encircling promenades on any ship can be found on CRYSTAL SERENITY’s aptly named Promenade (7) Deck. Lined in freshly sanded and scrubbed teak, it was in constant use, day and night, throughout our cruise. Each day, power walkers and joggers had their chosen direction (3.35 times equals a mile).

Tiffany Deck (6)

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Aft Tiffany Deck (6), facing starboard.

Lastly, on aft Tiffany (6) Deck, there is a putting green, a driving range and two ping pong tables.

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Serenity sunset

At a time when most guests headed into the heart of the ship to enjoy an early dinner or a drink, the upper decks were ideal vantages for watching sunsets.

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Twilight slosh.

After working out, it was especially rewarding to enjoy a twilight swim in the otherwise deserted pool and maybe even a relaxing immersion in one of the Jacuzzis before heading off to dinner.

Fitness Center and Spa

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Treadmills, facing aft.

It may not be the largest but the CRYSTAL SERENITY’s Fitness Center, located on the aft starboard side of Sun Deck (13) is one of the most well-equipped and inviting at sea. In addition to a line of treadmills, there are stationary bikes, four ellipticals (with plenty of overhead clearance and a wonderful view), weight machines, free weights, spinning bikes and a stretching area.

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Gym, facing forward.

On each cardio machine, there is a fresh towel, bottled water and headphones. And, while most guests were courteous enough to disinfect their machines after use, an attendant was always on hand to do so. In the late afternoons, the gym was also largely empty, so there was never a wait for a machine.

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Spa Entrance, facing aft.

Directly across from the Fitness Center, the Crystal Spa has men’s and women’s steam and sauna areas that are available to all guests free of charge.

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Relaxation room, facing starboard.

There is also a relaxation room that overlooks the stern.

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Spa treatment room.

Numerous treatment rooms offer everything from massages and skin therapies to teeth whitening and eye brow waxing.

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Salon, facing aft.

For as little as $28, one can do as I did and get a basic haircut in the Salon. Afterwards, I was pleasantly surprised there was no product pitch.

Sunset Bar, Palm Court and Afternoon Tea

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Sunset Bar, facing starboard.

Like fully encircling promenades, proper observation lounges have in recent years become an endangered species on many premium and deluxe ships. Not so, fortunately, with CRYSTAL SERENITY, which has the lovely Sunset Bar overlooking the prow from an above-the-bridge vantage on Lido Deck (12). Its heavy wicker swivel chairs and tufted leather booth seating and eight bar stools accommodate up to 67 guests.

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Palm Court, facing aft from port.
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Wicker corner.

Adjoining the Sunset Bar is the 202-seat Palm Court, where its namesake flora thrives underneath rows of geodesic glass skylights.  More wicker seating surrounds an expansive wooden dance floor and a bronze statue of a cellist.

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Sunset Bar tea time.

Every afternoon between 3:30 and 4:30, these adjoining rooms are the setting for a white-glove tea service with linens, fine porcelain and polished silver.

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Tea strings.

A pianist or talented string quartet invariably provided serenely soothing sonics as tempting treats circulated on silver trays.

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Tea scones.
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Tea treats.

Offerings include sandwiches, fresh scones with clotted and whipped cream (and other toppings), cookies, petits-fours and pastries.

Le Bistro and Coffee

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Bistro ffwd

Although coffee and coffee drinks are also available at tea time, the go-to for the CRYSTAL SERENITY’s best coffee is the handy, 87-seat Le Bistro on port Tiffany Deck (6) overlooking the Atrium, where the constant hiss of a real espresso machine, clanking of coffee filters and aroma of Joffrey coffee fills both ear and nostril.

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Le Bistro, facing aft

Le Bistro opens at 9:00 AM daily with an abbreviated but more than ample breakfast spread (cold cuts, fruit, cereals, yogurt, breads, fresh muffins and pastries, smoked salmon, etc.).

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Le Bistro savories.
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Le Bistro fondue.
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Le Bistro chocolate tarts.

From 11:30 AM to 8:00 PM, Le Bistro serves up savory snacks, tarts and delicious cookies and from 8:00 to 11:00 PM, as the demand for caffeine gives way to champagne or more potent potables, the offerings switch to cheeses, desserts and even an occasional chocolate fondue.  Everything, except top shelf drinks, of course, is included in the fare.

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Bistro cups and painting.

Another fine detail hopefully not lost on the SERENITY’s discerning crowd is that the cups and plates replicate some of the room’s colorful paintings by Hawaiian-based French artist Guy Buffet. The CRYSTAL SYMPHONY also has a Buffet-themed Le Bistro as did the CRYSTAL HARMONY (now ASUKA II) before her.

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Bistro laptop

On lazy sea day afternoons after several enrichment lectures, a leisurely lunch and several walks around the promenade, this was the ideal place to settle in and perk up, laptop-in-tow.

Wednesday, January 7, 2016

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Grand Turk telephoto

CRYSTAL SERENITY was at the Grand Turk anchorage when we awoke. As fellow guests headed ashore, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the Lido.

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Wide tender shot.

Around 11:00 AM, we rode the tender back and forth to get optimal views of the ship.

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Stern shot at Grand T.

Although we considered going ashore to perhaps take a walk along one of Grand Turk’s spectacular beaches, the arrival of no less than two mega ships and the distant but constant clang of steel drums and barking vendors was enough to deter those plans. Fortunately, we’d both been to and “done” Grand Turk on several occasions, so for us, it would be just another wonderful “sea day”.

End Of Part Two

Click here for Part Three of SERENITY From Sea To Sea

Much More to Come…

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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