The first thing we noticed was how much room there was aboard this ship. You never had the feeling of being restricted in any way. Plenty of personal space. Elegant and classy, everything was beautifully appointed from the Crystal dining room to the stunning Crystal Plaza and martini bar. You really feel special on this ship.
We had a deluxe stateroom with veranda. I have to say I'm spoiled having had a veranda on every cruise we've been on. It's nice to be able to order room service for breakfast in the morning and sit out on the veranda as you pull into a port. It's one upgrade I would always consider. The room was elegantly appointed, had plenty of storage space, and was quite comfy. There were twin glass vessel sinks in our bathroom, with granite countertops. Kind of glitzy, modern. Plenty of storage space for both of us.
The food was excellent. Our dinners were consistently superior in every way. It was tough not to find an outstanding entrée from the choices every evening. We got to know our waiters quickly and service was exactly what you would expect in such an upscale cruise line, always attentive, polite, willing to go that extra little bit to make sure you are satisfied. Food quality at breakfast and lunch were equally excellent.
Their upscale dining rooms included Prego, an Italian restaurant and Silk Road, serving Asian cuisine. We were told Prego was scheduled for a refurbishment soon. It was nice to have a change of pace by going to these restaurants, but the differences are not as great as they might be on other ships. It just shows how good the quality is at the regular sittings.
The Vintage Room, a secluded private dining room, is an intimate setting for special wine tasting dinners for up to 14, it provides the perfect setting for those wine and food enthusiasts who want to experience a high end wine and culinary experience. There are several wine and food at sea events that incorporate a guest chef or wine expert. Check out Food and Wine at Sea on our website.
Even with 900+ guests aboard, we still felt a sense of intimacy and none of the overcrowded feeling one gets on a much larger ship. The best part about a ship of this size is the ability to visit some of the smaller ports like Taormina in Sicily. We were the only ship there, because of our size, which didn’t overpower the city with tourists. While in Taormina, we approached a local driver and arranged to meet him after lunch to take us to some scenic spots and arrange for lunch on the island. We were lucky that our driver had connections at a local winery and arranged for us to have lunch there. The real treat was after lunch when he took us to the private estate where the first Godfather film was shot. This is the estate where Michael retreated to in Sicily, and Appolonia was killed in a car bomb. This was totally unexpected and turned out to be the high point of our stay in Taormina. Our driver knew the owner of the estate and simply made a cell call to him. We had the place to ourselves and really enjoyed seeing this property that now has become a special memory.
We took two planned cultural excursions on our trip.One was a trip to the AlHambra in Granada Spain which we reached by bus tour from the port of Malaga. The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex of the Moorish rulers of Granada in southern Spain, occupying a hilly terrace on the southeastern border of the city of Granada. Once the residence of the rulers of Granada and their court, the Alhambra is now one of Spain's major tourist attractions exhibiting the country's most famous Islamic architecture.
The next trip we took was to the Lustau sherry winemaking facility in Cadiz, Spain.Although I wasn’t too informed with respect to sherry wines and winemaking, I did appreciate the high quality Lustau facility and methods used to produce a high quality wine of this type.
We always try to fly out a day or two early to assure we don’t run into any problems with flights, etc. It would be a shame to miss such a fantastic trip over a small travel glitch, so this time we decided to add a few Greek islands on the front end, while staying on in Lisbon to hook up with Sue’s son who lives in France. Adding a pre or post cruise itinerary is a great way to extend and further enjoy a destination. I have to say the few days we spent in Mykonos, Santorini, and finishing up in Athens to see the Parthenon were spectacular! To read more about this see the Greek Islands article on our site.
We always wondered if there was a difference on a Crystal Cruise. I'm happy to say it was a truly luxurious experience!
About the Authors
Sue and Charlie Shimkus are owners of Lake Zurich Travel & Cruise established in 1974. Sue has served on the travel advisory board for Alaska, Hawaii, & Ireland and executive board of the local chapter American Society of Travel Agents. Lake Zurich Travel & Cruise is a member of the Signature Travel Network. Visit Lake Zurich Travel for Expert Travel Advice and resources finding the Right Vacation for you!
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