SERENITY From Sea To Sea, Part Four

Knego resumes his “ultra trek deluxe” from Miami to Los Angeles aboard Crystal Cruises’ MV CRYSTAL SERENITY with a visit to the new Panama Canal Observation Center and a partial Decked! of the six-star, one-of-a-kind ship that covers the public areas on Decks 6 and 5.

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The CRYSTAL SERENITY has two highly coveted, reservations-required specialty dining venues, the Italian Prego and the Asian/Peruvian Nobu Matsuhisa-affiliated Silk Road on aft Promenade Deck (7). Guests may dine in each once per cruise.  Additional visits are based on availability and incur a $30 per person tariff.

Prego

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Prego, facing aft

Prego accommodates up to 92 guests and is situated on the starboard side of aft Promenade Deck (7).

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Prego frescoes.

Prego’s décor features layered Florentine-style frescoes with dramatic back lighting…

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Prego chandelier.

…and crystal chandeliers.

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Prego insalata caprese.

Dinner in Prego begins with gorgeous country-style breads and roasted garlic, pungent olive oil and sea salt to dip them in. There is a nightly amuse bouche and a choice of Antipasti (appetizers) that includes Creamy King Crab Meat Salad, Slow Poached Lobster Tail, Fried Calamari and Black Angus Beef Carpaccio. Insalati include Caesar, caprese and arugula with pine nuts.

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Prego Beetroot Ravioli.

Cream of mushroom and a ministra comprise the soups and no less than fourteen Secondi (main courses) range from Lasagna to Potato Gnocci, Vegan Roasted Vegetable Ravioli, Roasted Rack of Baby lamb. Desserts include homemade gelati, decadent tiramisu, creme brulée and rich chocolate confections. The service is exemplary without being overbearing and the presentations are as artful as they are tasty.

Silk Road

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Silk Road facing aft.

Few celebrity chefs are as popular as Nobu Matsuhisa, so his pairing with Crystal Cruises is more opportune than ever. The Silk Road is a 68- seat dining venue with a 25-seat Sushi Bar on the port side of aft Promenade Deck (7).

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Nobu sushi bar.

The Sushi Bar has its own menu with sushi, sashimi, new style sushi and sushi rolls in addition to selections from the Silk Road, all prepared by a Nobu-certified chef.

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Just sticks.

The décor and even the table settings in the Silk Road are minimalist.

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Nobu tempura.

Appetizers range from broiled eggplant and tempura to lobster spring rolls.

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Miso versus Sapporo.

Soups include mushroom, miso and spicy sea food and salads include kelp, sashimi and mushroom. Entrées range from Lobster With Truffle Sauce to Black Cod with Miso and Corn-fed Chicken with Teriyaki Balsamic. A Suntory Whiskey Cappuccino, a trio of creme brulées, citrus custard and chocolate soufflé are among the sweet offerings.

Public areas on Tiffany Deck (6)

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Galaxy Lounge, facing forward/starboard.

A full deck of lofty public rooms spans Tiffany Deck (6), which has nearly a third more overhead clearance than the ship’s other decks. The 500-seat Galaxy Lounge starts the lineup with its excellent sightlines.

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Totally random Galaxy Lounge carpet shot.
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Galaxy Lounge, facing starboard.

Plushly cushioned settees and swivel chairs all have a shelf or nearby table to set drinks on.

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Casino, facing forward.

The thoroughly revamped Casino follows the Galaxy Lounge with its assortment of Roulette, Poker, Blackjack and Texas Hold’em tables as well as a sea of slots.

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High Rollers Room, facing forward.

Last year, the Captain’s Choice boutique made way for a private high rollers room on the starboard side of the Casino that can be reserved in advance or opened upon request.

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Atrium, facing forward from port.

The upper level of the Atrium is aft of the Casino on Tiffany Deck (6). An expanded reinterpretation of Tillberg’s “Love Boat lobbies” from the SEA VENTURE and ISLAND VENTURE (later PACIFIC and ISLAND PRINCESS) of 1971 and 1972, there is a line of shops along the upper level. A curved staircase leads down to the Crystal Deck (5) level where, as with the earlier ships, there is a reception and shore excursion desk. Like the earlier ships, the finish is in Carrara marble, polished brass, brushed steel and glass.

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Hollywood Theater, facing aft.

Aft of the upper level of the Atrium and the midships stairtower on Tiffany Deck, the Hollywood Theater seats 205 and is not only a Cinema with Dolby Sound and comfy seats but a favorite lecture hall.

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Connoisseur Club, facing forward.
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Totally random Connoisseur Club carpet shot.

On the starboard side of Tiffany Deck, a photo gallery links three public rooms, beginning with the rustic, 20-seat Connoisseur Club smoking lounge.

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Avenue Saloon, facing aft.

The 61-seat Avenue Saloon is a Piano Bar with a small dance floor that is the ship’s most popular late night venue. Located on aft/starboard Tiffany Deck, it is also used for trivia quizzes and private parties.

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Aft Tiffany Deck stairs, facing starboard.
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Pulse, facing port/forward.

Located on the port side of the aft Tiffany Deck vestibule, Pulse is a 53-seat Disco and karaoke lounge.

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Stardust Club, facing port.

The 309-seat Stardust Club is a cabaret showroom at the far aft end of Tiffany Deck that is used in the daytime for shore excursion mustering, games, enrichment lectures and cooking demos.

Crystal Deck (5)

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Reception, facing forward.

Aft of the Medical Center and a block of entertainment staff cabins on Crystal Deck (5), the bottom level of the Atrium begins with the Concierge, Reception and Shore Excursions Desk.

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Atrial ceiling.

As with the prior CRYSTAL HARMONY (now ASUKA II) and CRYSTAL SYMPHONY, the CRYSTAL SERENITY’s Atrium has a striking elliptical stained glass ceiling

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Statue and stained glass.

At the aft end of the Atrium, there is a bronze statue of a harpist and a fountain backed in mirrors and stained glass.

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Crystal Cove, facing aft.

On the port side of the Crystal Deck level of the Atrium, the 62-seat Crystal Cove Bar is one of the ship’s most elegant and popular watering holes.

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Crystal corner.

The Crystal Cove has a gorgeous near-water-level vantage through large picture windows and warm wood tones.

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The Cove Bar, facing forward.

Before and after dinner, as live musicians play in the adjacent Atrium, the Crystal Cove Bar is usually at capacity.

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Cruise Consultant, facing aft.

Directly across from the Crystal Cove, the Cruise Consultant lobby helps absorb the overflow from the Crystal Cove.

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Crystal Dining Room, facing port.

Featured in depth in a prior post, the elegant Crystal Dining Room concludes the public spaces on Crystal Deck.

Monday, January 11, 2016

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Bienvenidos to the CRYSTAL SERENITY at Colon.

After spending the early morning hours in the outer anchorage, CRYSTAL SERENITY backed into the Panamanian port of Colon at 9:00 AM.

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Colon corner.

Within moments, we were off on the Expansion Observation Center and Gatun Locks excursion. En route to the first stop, we drove through the edgy streets of Colon, Panama’s “Second City” that lies near the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal and has a population of 78,000.

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Gatun Lake side of the newbuilding Gatun Locks.

The new Expansion Observation Center overlooks the new Gatun Locks from the edge of Gatun Lake. Now 96% complete, construction on the new locks began in 2007. Ships up to 1,200 feet long and 160 feet wide will soon be able to transit the canal.

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New Gatun Locks, facing the Caribbean.

It was exciting to see this new man-made wonder while still under construction, especially on a temperate, crystal clear day.

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New Expansion Observation Center.

The Expansion Observation Center has a gift shop and a restaurant overlooking the lake, as well as a theater that shows a film about the building of the canal.

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Panama Checkerspot Butterfly.
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Panama raven.

After the film, we had some time to linger in the shade with the Panamanian fauna.

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New Gatun Locks, facing south.

Our tour then crossed over the new part of the canal on its way to the old Gatun Locks Visitor’s Center. If all goes well, the new canal will be opened later this year.

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Pacific-bound MSC in the Gatun Locks.

In the Visitor’s Center, there are two decks overlooking the second pair of six 1000-by-110-foot locks that lift or lower ships a total of 85 feet between the man made Gatun Lake and the Atlantic Ocean.

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Mule at work in Gatun.

Locomotive “Mules” don’t pull but rather guide the the ships into the locks, many clearing the concrete walls by a mere foot or two.

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Early Mule on display at Gatun.

Near the entrance, there are two different types of Mules on display.

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The other side of Colon.

From there, it was back through the streets of Colon to our air conditioned Crystal haven for lunch.

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Crystal Colon.

Later that afternoon, still in search of a strong wifi signal, we wandered ashore to a shaded cafe with a view of our sparkling ship.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

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Approaching the canal (new to the left, old to the right).

So much has changed since my last Panama Canal transit way back in 2003. Shortly after sunrise, the CRYSTAL SERENITY cast her lines, headed into the anchorage and began her approach to the Gatun Locks. We headed out to the observation terrace forward of the accommodation on our deck, Penthouse (10).

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From bridge to bridge at Panama.

In addition to the expansion, a giant new bridge spanning the Atlantic side of the canal is now under construction.

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The French cut.

The French cut, a failed ground level attempt at excavating the canal, was abandoned in 1889.

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Row boat in action.

Very skilled oarsmen actually row lines attached to the Mules out to feed inbound ships.

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Port and starboard colors in the old locks.

Ahead of us, ships on two levels were making the Pacific-bound transit.

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Gatun passage.

Once the water level of the first lock was even with the Atlantic, the gates parted and the CRYSTAL SERENITY was able to begin her passage.

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Passing the observation center.

Soon, we had the inverse view of the prior day’s visit to the Gatun Locks Observation Center.

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Gatun Lake ahead.

After the third lock, we were level with Gatun Lake, now the second largest man made lake in the world. Fed by rain and with an area of 164 square miles, it holds 5.2 cubic kilometres of water that is used to fill the locks.

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Passage under the New Bridge.

For the next 21 or so miles, the CRYSTAL SERENITY crossed the steamy waters of Gatun Lake and into the Culebra Cut, eventually passing under the Centennial Bridge, which was built in 2004.

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Pedro Miguel passage.

The single Pedro Miguel lock lowered us 31 feet before we began the short passage towards the Miraflores Locks. On our starboard side, we had a great view of the nearly completed cut leading to the expanded locks on the Pacific side.

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Chocolate spread in the Palm Court.

Meanwhile, in the air conditioned splendor of the Palm Court, there was a gala chocolate spread during high tea.

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Miraflores wake.

The Miraflores Locks would lower us the remaining 54 feet. Soon, both new and old locks were in our wake.

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Bridge of the Americas.

We would next cross under the Bridge of the Americas, a cantilevered steel arch that was built in 1962.

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Frank Gehry’s BioMuseum versus Panama City.

On our port side, the towering skyline of Panama City came into view. In the foreground, Frank Gehry’s brightly-hued and multi-faceted Museum of Biodiversity glistened in the late afternoon light.

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Panama wake.

The CRYSTAL SERENITY would begin her north-by-northwesterly course along the Central American coast, giving us a sea day to recharge before reaching Caldera, Costa Rica.

End Of Part Four

Click Here For Part Five

Special thanks: 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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