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.

Crystal Cruises

Keep up to date with Peter Knego on Twitter by clicking here

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

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

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.


P1010829 copy
Prego, facing aft

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

P1010835 copy
Prego frescoes.

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

P1010837 copy
Prego chandelier.

…and crystal chandeliers.

054-crystalserenitypregocaprese copy
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.

047-crystalserenitypregoravioli copy
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

P1010821 copy
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).

P1030426 copy
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.

P1030393 copy
Just sticks.

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

P1030404 copy
Nobu tempura.

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

P1030416 copy
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)

P1010148 copy
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.

P1010154 copy
Totally random Galaxy Lounge carpet shot.
P1010152 copy
Galaxy Lounge, facing starboard.

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

P1010167 copy
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.

P1010174 copy
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.

P1010941 copy
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.

P1010179 copy
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.

P1010192 copy
Connoisseur Club, facing forward.
P1020309 copy
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.

P1020307 copy
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.

P1010938 copy
Aft Tiffany Deck stairs, facing starboard.
P1010223 copy
Pulse, facing port/forward.

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

P1010210 copy
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)

065-crystalserenityplaza copy
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.

P1030435 copy
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

P1030543 copy
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.

P1020034 copy
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.

P1030542 copy
Crystal corner.

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

P1020039 copy
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.

066-crystalserenitycruiseconsultant copy
Cruise Consultant, facing aft.

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

P1020493 copy
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

P1020939 copy
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.

P1020619 copy
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.

P1020633 copy
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.

P1020655 copy
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.

P1020735 copy
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.

P1020776 copy
Panama Checkerspot Butterfly.
P1020782 copy
Panama raven.

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

P1020797 copy
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.

P1020846 copy
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.

P1020897 copy
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.

P1020913 copy
Early Mule on display at Gatun.

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

P1020936 copy
The other side of Colon.

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

P1020958 copy
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

P1030034 copy
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).

P1030045 copy
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.

P1030050 copy
The French cut.

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

P1030061 copy
Row boat in action.

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

P1030088 copy
Port and starboard colors in the old locks.

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

P1030121 copy
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.

P1030134 copy
Passing the observation center.

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

P1030151 copy
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.

P1030229 copy
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.

P1030247 copy
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.

P1030275 copy
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.

P1030346 copy
Miraflores wake.

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

P1030359 copy
Bridge of the Americas.

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

P1030369 copy
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.

P1030376 copy
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 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

Latest posts by Peter Knego (see all)


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.