Serenity (noun) the state of being calm, peaceful and untroubled.
Whoever had the job of naming the jewel in the Crystal Cruise luxury crown certainly got it spot on. From the moment you step on board Serenity to be greeted by the effortlessly competent welcome staff, all of life’s concerns disappear. As soon as you enter this floating paradise from a seemingly parallel universe, you’re hooked.
When it comes to luxury travel, Crystal just gets it. 2015 saw them voted as the World’s Best Large Ship Cruise Line for a record breaking 20 consecutive years in the prestigious Travel and Leisure annual survey. And there is good reason, too.
With 535 luxurious state rooms (85% of which come complete with balcony) and a capacity for 1,050 guests, the size and whole feel of the ship seems perfect. Grand enough to host every conceivable relaxation activity without ever losing its remarkable sense of cosiness, Serenity somehow manages to provide a feeling of familiarity between guests from all corners of the earth that have never met one another, and the instant sense that you’ve known the staff all of your life.
It’s difficult to work out what the star of the show actually is when you jump on board. The outstanding amenities, service and staff set a classy tone and Serenity navigates the sometimes potentially treacherous area between high end luxury and pretentious without trying. The instant disconnection from the real world means that the destinations moored at each morning almost become a side-story. A fascinating and breathtaking side-story, nonetheless.
We boarded the 12 night ‘Magical Mediterranean’ tour on a typically gorgeous Monte Carlo Sunday afternoon, and immediately felt the nervous energy from the principality, that its title of Millionaire’s Playground was under threat from its elegant harbour resident. The round-trip tour of European highlights took in the expected staples of Rome, Naples, Sicily and Barcelona, as well as delightful days in some of the continent’s more hidden gems; Palma, Malta, Genoa and Toulon.
The mystique of Serenity is perhaps best highlighted through its magical ability to make time stand still and activity filled days pass with a soothing sense of leisure and tranquillity.
The mid-trip day of travel between gives guests the perfect opportunity to sample the full range of available activities and leaves even the most avid lover of action-packed sightseeing longing for an extra sea day or two to relax and fully utilise the onboard experience. For it’s the ship itself that really steals the show.
To describe the facilities as catering for everyone just doesn’t scratch the surface, and everything available at your fingertips is naturally of the highest standard.
Those wanting to stimulate the mind of an afternoon will be gripped by an extraordinary line up of special guest lecturers, with outstanding keynote speakers covering everything from international history and politics to contemporary business and technology.
If you are after a more active break, then the state of the art gym and luxury spa facilities come as standard, with group classes and bespoke lessons readily available. The two top deck tennis courts provide a civilised sense of competition, and table tennis and golfing facilities overlooking the stunning Mediterranean coastlines have to be sampled to be believed.
A well stocked library, cinema and games rooms provide just some of the alternative entertainment, with the onboard professional dance duo readily available for expert one-on-one lessons for those wishing to work on their Charleston or Cha-cha-cha. Opportunities are endless but the underlying theme throughout is one of exclusive luxury, with everything on your terms and at your own pace.
Of an evening the fine dining options take centre stage, with exquisite world cuisine choices to satisfy the most demanding of palates, with the delightful Crystal Dining Room and speciality Italian restaurant Prego particular favourites amongst guests, whilst Sushi fans will be wowed by the wonders of Nobu’s Silk Road.
After dinner delights include award winning, high-production value shows and globally acclaimed musicians appearing throughout the various lounges leave guests spoilt for choice. Those seeking an evening activity can head to the casino or onboard nightclub, or alternatively for a more relaxed approach there is a wide range of bars and lounges keeping up the exemplary customer service into the early hours, or the intriguing Connoisseur Club for those that appreciate fine cigars and premium liquors. With an incredible attention to detail present throughout, the entire Crystal experience retains an ambiance of opulence and understated elegance.
Upon disembarking, polite chat between guests centred around who would be returning for the 102 night world cruise in the New Year. The question of ‘is that too long?’ needn’t be pondered as Serenity works in its own time zone and this slice of paradise could never become tiresome (so much so that one guest even lives onboard full time).
There’s an undeniable feeling that you’re the boss when you travel with Crystal and with so much choice of how to spend your time, the only guarantee is you’ll come back relaxed, yet mesmerised and insistent you want to do it all over again.
As the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright famously said ‘give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities’. In the world of Serenity, he needn’t have concerned himself with any such compromise.
In 2016 Crystal Cruises offers a selection of Mediterranean cruises with prices starting from £2,062 per person for a seven-night cruise from Athens to Istanbul departing 24th April. Price includes return scheduled flights, overseas transfers and seven nights in a deluxe stateroom with picture window with all meals and soft drinks, most alcoholic beverages, port taxes and gratuities. Call Crystal Cruises on 020 7399 7601 or visit www.crystalcruises.co.uk