GOLDEN STATE DISCOVERY - FINAL THOUGHTS
As often as we have sailed Crystal Cruises we can honestly say that this entire trip has exceeded our expectations.
There were several firsts for us including having the grandchildren with us, renewing our wedding vows, and the accommodations we had.
In the end, the most important component of the trip was being together for ten days with our entire family. The grand children were exceptional. They are children and from-time-to-time they each had their moments but they got over them quickly and did great.
We have made many memories which will last a lifetime.
These are final thoughts about the voyage.
Embarkation was both timely and very orderly. We were fortunate that disembarkation of guests from the prior cruise went as well as it did.
Special Arrangements - Wedding Renewal Ceremony:
We have celebrated special occasions on board in the past such as a 25th wedding anniversary, a birthday and a 60th milestone birthday but this was the first time we made arrangements ahead of time with on board guest services for something like this which was a wedding renewal ceremony.
The ceremony and the reception far exceeded our expectations and we appreciate all of the details that went into it. We had a choice of a couple of different packages. We also are very thankful to Captain Birger for officiating the ceremony and for so many officers to be there. Thanks to Cruise Director Rick for his advice on this. Special thanks to the florist for the beautiful flowers, to the bar manager and his team for getting everything organized and to Butler Jijo who was assisted by other butlers including Head Butler Engin. Also thanks to Engin for helping Jijo when we had dinner that evening. We are believers in teamwork and the teamwork shown in getting everything set up and then at the actual event made it absolutely perfect. For those who have thought about a marriage vow renewal we are thrilled that we did it and happy that our own family and many from our Crystal Family could be with us.
Serenity is fourteen years old. Although not a new vessel it is extremely well maintained and has gone through several changes since it was first launched in 2003. It will receive another makeover in late 2018 when several rooms on Deck 10 will become suites and similar in size to Penthouses and Penthouse Suites. Like a home, everyone has their opinions on what area should be makeover. One area that is not often discussed would be to update the Crystal Cove Lounge recognizing that this is often the first area that most people see on their first visit to the ship and we think first impressions are helpful.
The ship is well maintained. Like any ship or hotel even ones that are a couple of years old there are some items where some additional maintenance is needed and likely is already scheduled.
We have sailed smaller and larger ships and believe that size does change the overall experience including what can be offered and even the overall intimacy.
For us the size of Serenity is perfect for long voyages as it allows a lot of enrichment programs and a diverse set of entertainment to be offered simultaneously. It also provides other amenities that we appreciate including a fitness center with lots of equipment, the two paddle tennis courts and a large wrap-around promenade deck. Although no children's programs were offered on this voyage, one will see programs on many of the summer cruise and during holidays when many children are off from school.
In addition to our room, the family was in three rooms. The maximum number of guests in a room is limited to three so we placed Jennifer and Gui in separate rooms with one child in each room. We considered connecting rooms. However, we went with these rooms which did not connect because the were mid-ship. There are some rooms that accommodate three people because they have a pullout couch. We were unsure whether or not Jackson would require a crib by the time we sailed so we took one of these rooms for Eric and family. It was located right between Jennifer and Gui's rooms. We ended up going with cribs for Emma and Jackson and our children said they worked out well as they were sturdy and a really good size for each of the children.
If a family of three wants to spend a lot of time in a standard room the downside might be its size.
We often take the smallest of the three suites on Serenity with the exception of a few times when we went with the next largest size and that is the room we initially booked. A few months ago we thought that getting the largest of the suites would add to this voyage as it would provide lots more space for getting together with the family for pre-dinner canapés and drinks, enjoying dinners together and having the wedding renewal vow and reception. The room itself did exceed our expectations. Once inside the room it has the look and feel of being in an apartment/condominium. It has several unique features from the ceiling which looks like a ceiling you find on land and not on a ship and the master bathroom and even the shower. Early the nicest shower we have ever used on any ship or any hotel. We made good use of the dining room table which could be expanded to sit six people and sweeten the dining room table and the coffee table we could easily accommodate the family for dinner and/or canapés/drinks.
We normally don't cover these facilities but wanted to take a moment to do just that. A few years ago Crystal began to replace laundry machine and dryers on some of the decks including Deck 10 which we usually stay on. They were an improvement to the original machines but we thought that the washing machines had two drawbacks; one was that it didn't display the expected duration and should you want to speed it up or pause it to add something to the wash that was not possible. Deck 11 received a new version of the machines as it upgrade was not done for a few years and we thought these washing machines were better as they displayed the duration and when you checked back you saw the remaining time and they provide a lot of options.
We also wanted to note that we find doing your own wash on Crystal ships to be easier then any other ship we have sailed on including other luxury lines. On the other luxury lines the rooms were very small and even if you favor in their ships are smaller they still were much smaller in comparison to Crystal laundry rooms and the actual machines are smaller as well. As a result we found that we brought more clothes on those cruises because to avoid doing the laundry for those reasons. This is not the case on Crystal Cruises where we can take less clothing knowing that we can do the laundry.
The accommodations that we had for this cruise included pressing as they do for the other two suites categories. This accommodation included complimentary dry cleaning and laundry. We didn't send the laundry out for various reasons. One is that we don't want to put workout clothes in laundry bags due to the moisture on the clothes and prefer to wash them frequently ourselves and there are some items that we wash that we do not place in the dryer and hang up on plastic hangers we bring from home in the bathroom. This would have left us with only a few items to have laundered and it was just as easy to do them ourselves with the other items.
The food was as good if not better then ever. The dining room menus were diverse and offered many choices each evening and we thought portion size was terrific. This extended beyond the Crystal Dining Room to other areas where we ate including the Lido Cafe at lunchtime. Although we didn't eat at Silk Road (our children and spouses did) we thoroughly enjoyed the food that we ordered in from that restaurant as we did the Prego Italian Restaurant. In the case of Prego we tried several items we had either never had or hadn't had in year and found thoroughly enjoy each one.
We would like to thank the pastry team for creating three wonderful cakes for us and our family starting with the cake at our reception.
Since we had the grandchildren with us and we wanted to spend maximum time with them and the rest of the family we only went to the welcome on board show and to very little enrichment. With that said the entertainment offering continue to expand. Most nights offer two distinct shows or forms of entertainment and each evening live music is played by different musicians in a minimum of three different venues. There are other forms of entertainment including a movie shown two times in the evening and then a third time the following afternoon.
The amount of enrichment offered is similar to what you would find on longer cruises. The challenge for the guest on a short cruise with no full sea days is finding time to experience it. Also on a short cruise there will be fewer lecturers and they don't work every day.
We didn't take any excursions so we can't comment on the excursions for this voyage.
The internet was up almost all of the time and speeds were mostly good. First couple of days seemed the fastest.
We continue to appreciate that the Fitness Center is open 24x7 which is not the case for most land based Fitness Centers nor most at sea. Some classes were offered each day. Keith was surprised that the indoor cycling classes were offered only at 4:00 PM rather then alternating them as they often have done in the past with one in the afternoon followed the next time in the morning. This is something that we will note on the customer survey.
Children Sailing On A Luxury Cruise Line:
Although there was no formal children's program on this sailing we found that Serenity worked very well for the children. They do have dedicated children's facilities and even without a junior activity director on-board for this sailing our family made use of the facility from time to time. The selection of children's DVD's was terrific. The children enjoyed the ship and sailing on a voyage with plenty of port stops worked out well for them.
We can't say enough of how welcoming the Crystal crew was with the children going out of their way to make each of them feel special. We will never forget Head Waiter Augusto stopping by the dining room table to check on the children, Senior Waiter Lylian carrying Emma and showing her off to some of the other waiters, Butler Jijo finding M&M's for them and bringing other snacks to the room that he knew they would enjoy and the professionalism of the two baby sitters who watch the children the night we went to The Vintage Room.
There was a children' menu in the dining room that provided a good selection of items for the children at dinner. Of course while we didn't do this one could special orders for them or find other things on the menu which they might enjoy.
We chose to have our own Vintage Room for the family so only the six adults dined one night. We worked with Head Sommelier Tilmar ahead of time to create an evening which would be special for us and most importantly for our children and their spouses. It truly was and everyone enjoyed it. It was fun and also provided a great learning experience for the family. We also wanted to mention flexibility. When we booked the Vintage Room we were unaware that our daughter in-law was pregnant. Once we found out we realized that she wouldn't be able to drink but knew she would still enjoy the experience which she did. There was one seafood item that we requested that for someone pregnant there might be a concern. Our son noticed it as soon as we sat down and we mentioned it to Tilmar and without a hesitation he quickly contacted the chef and a substitute item was made for our daughter in law when it was time for that course.
We often say that you can take the newest ship and with the wrong crew the experience could be a disaster. There is a unique culture at Crystal and it is instilled in the crew and translates to service that is delivered professionally at all levels while also being personable and not robot like. Even if this is your first cruise you will find that after a few days that some of the crew begin to learn your names and become familiar with you as you do with them. The bonds that more experienced Crystal Cruisers develop with the crew do not come from one voyage but like all bonds comes in time. For us given the amount of time we have sailed Crystal those bonds are strong and some members of the crew we have known for close to fifteen years. For us they are our Crystal family. The crew is one of the main reasons that our go to cruise lines is Crystal Cruises. As we have said in the past, we will sail on other cruise lines and have done just that based on itinerary. However, if the itinerary that Crystal offers in the time frame we want to sail is what we are looking for we will choose Crystal Cruises over the other lines. Each time we return we have that feeling of being home and enjoy being with our extended Crystal family. On this cruise we spent more time with our "own" family but on other cruises we do spend more time with our "extended" Crystal family.
The crew was amazing with our own children, their spouses and the grandchildren. They helped out with the grandchildren at dinner and at other times. The stewardesses were terrific not only in our room but in the other three rooms. This was also true in other areas including reception, concierge, crystal society and on board bookings, our butler, the bar team, the waitstaff, the fitness center and in other areas of the ship including the officers and the entertainment/enrichment personnel.
For either the entire cruise or a portion of the cruise there were several people from Crystal Cruises corporate office and we were glad to introduce them to our family.
Collectively we have never experienced the professionalism, warmth and passion on any other cruise line or at any other hotel that comes close to what we have experienced on Crystal Cruises. That is not a knock against other companies because several do a nice job but collectively we have found Crystal works best for us in the levels of service that are offered and the bonding with the crew. Yes, familiarly helps and you don't make complete bonds on one cruise or even a handful of cruises. It's not different then making friendships on land. They develop overtime.
Disembarkation was very orderly. Since Keith had booked private vehicles with each family directly with Crystal Cruises all of this was coordinated by the concierge once we boarded Serenity. Each of the families received a letter from the concierge with our disembarkation package providing additional instruction including what time and location to meet for our private transfer. We were met at the designated time/location and escorted off the ship to the pier in Los Angeles. After collecting luggage, clearing immigration and customs each family was taken to their respective vehicle to the drive to the airport.
We have made memories which will last a lifetime on this family get-away including an amazing cruise on Crystal Serenity.
Until next time.
TODAY'S THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:
The entire family had an amazing time on this family getaway. It began with Disneyland and continued with this special cruise. The trip exceeded our expectations, everyone enjoyed it and we have created memories which will last a lifetime. Timing is everything in life. If we had planned this trip for just a few months later we likely would have cancelled it between our daughter in law expecting a second child in November and a job assignment that Gui is taking. There is a saying not to put off until tomorrow those things you can do today. This is an example of that.
Anne Marie & Keith
Please follow our next trip starting at the end of this month when we stay on land for a visit to France. Check back to our blog at the end of this month.