Crystal Serenity – 7 December 2015 – Gibraltar to Lisbon
Day 1 – Gibraltar:
After an early start at LGW and a fairly pleasant flight, we landed in Gibraltar which is an experience! If you’ve never flown in, it’s a very short runway, with a road running through it and water on both sides of you almost to the point of landing! Like I said, an experience. After collecting our luggage and clearing passport control, we met our transfer and made the very short journey to the port and our home for the next 4 nights, Crystal Serenity.
I’ve been cruising for many years now, but I still get that feeling of excitement as I walk along dockside before you embark – I’m a ship geek, I must be honest.
Starting our trip mid-cruise meant that embarkation wasn’t the normal experience but I actually enjoyed this more. We were helped onboard with our luggage by the porters and taken straight to the front desk where the staff quickly checked us it – and there was still a glass of Champagne to start our cruise off nicely. The best bit of embarkation this time though was walking into the atrium and seeing all the wonderful Christmas decorations! It was our very own winter wonderland and looked just beautiful. I’ve never been onboard this close to Christmas before so it was a real treat to get to see all the festivities in person.
After check-in, it was definitely time for lunch and there was no decision needed – the Trident grill is our favourite place for lunch so after taking our bags to our room, it was there that we went! After the early start, a toasted sandwich and sweet potato fries was just what was needed…oh and also an ice-cream, well it would be rude not to!
The rest of the afternoon passed by with packing and exploring the ship to check out the rest of the decorations and then before we knew it, it was time to get ready for dinner.
We were in a deluxe stateroom with verandah, and although yes, these rooms are a little smaller than our competitors, I find them perfectly sized for 2 people. There’s plenty of storage, a fully stocked mini-bar, a wonderfully comfortable bed and a great bathroom with his and hers sinks! Crystal have just introduced new toiletries by ETRO so it was nice to try these too – a pleasant fragrance and lovely big bottles so enough to take home too!
As it was our first night, we met for cocktails up in Palm Court before dinner. This is one of my favourite places onboard as the views are just amazing. Tonight we also had ballroom dancing & the band to entertain us while we had a drink and got to know everyone.
Dinner tonight was in the Crystal Dining Room, and as always, was delicious. With the launch of the new modern cuisine last year, it’s great to have even more choice as now you have modern and classic options for each course.
After dinner we decided to pop into Avenue Saloon for a drink before bed. The atmosphere in here is always great when the pianist is in full swing and we enjoyed a lovely night. But the early morning was catching up with us and we were in bed before long!
Day 2 – Cadiz:
Following a great night’s sleep, in what arguably has to be one of the most comfortable beds at sea, we awoke to a warm day, albeit it not particular sunny, in the Spanish town of Cadiz.
After a late breakfast in the Bistro, we decided to go ashore and have a little wander. Unfortunately it was a Bank Holiday, so not much was open but we had a nice walk around and may even have featured on Spanish TV when we literally bumped into what appeared to be a political rally!cf
Back onboard, we headed to Tastes for lunch (Chinese potstickers and pork buns – delicious!) and then enjoyed a lazy afternoon on deck reading and catching up on emails. This is my first time back onboard since Crystal introduced 60mins a day, per person, free wifi and I must say, it made such a difference. For those who need to stay in touch with work or just, like me, wanted to keep on top of the inbox so I could hit the ground running on my return, it gave me adequate time to do this. How it works is that as soon as you start your cruise, your account is loaded with your full allocation of time (so in my case I was on for 4 days, so 4 hours had been loaded) and then you can just use it as and when you want during your cruise. Just remember to log-off each time you finish and you should have plenty of time for your cruise.
Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for dinner and tonight we were booked in to Prego, the Italian speciality restaurant onboard.
The crew are amazing everywhere onboard but I do think those in the speciality restaurants really do make the experience what it is! The food is exceptional and it’s impossible not to have every course. After a difficult decision, I opted for the carpaccio (amazing – like butter!), the legendary mushroom soup in a bread cup, perfect risotto with huge king prawns and then to finish, because I hadn’t had enough obviously, a delicious coffee custard.
A stroll around Promenade deck was then in order before an early night.
Day 3 – Portimao:
I’m up early today for our presentation to the group, so had an early breakfast in the Lido Café. I love it up here for breakfast as there is literally anything you could possibly want and it’s very relaxed.
It was good to present all our exciting news to our group, including expansion into yachting, river and air. We also had the pleasure of a Q&A with Cruise Director Gary Hunter and Onboard Sales Consultant Nikki Andrews (a fellow Brit and an old friend of TCP). It’s always interesting to speak to some of the officers and crew and get their insights into life onboard and how Crystal achieve such high levels of service and win awards, year after year.
We were also VERY lucky to have an exclusive look at the coveted Crystal Penthouse. Now, this is just something else – 1345 sq ft of absolute luxury. Such stunning décor, beautiful colours and a bath with an ever-changing view. I’d have to go shopping to fill the wardrobe though – I don’t think I own enough clothes to fill that! This opportunity is one in a million and to see this is very rare, so very appreciative of Nikki arranging it. Our agents had a real treat.
Lunch on deck was followed with the obligatory email check and a few chapter of my book. We were anchored off Portimao today and with a Galley Tour booked for 4.30pm, there wasn’t much time to spare so we gave it a miss – Portimao, we will be back one day!
To take a tour of the Galley on a ship is so interesting and really gives you an idea of how they manage to execute the mammoth task of feeding us all onboard every day. From quantities of food, to seeing that there’s a separate station for each dish, and from learning that the veg is all prepared at night to knowing where and when the waiters get your food to you, it was a fascinating experience. And to have it at 4.30 when the first sitting starts at 6.15 and it was spotless and calm, you still wonder how they do it and make it look so effortless.
Dinner tonight is in my favourite restaurant anywhere on land or sea – the legendary Nobu’s Silk Road. The food in here is on another level and for a massive sushi fan like me, absolute heaven. Like in Prego, the crew in Silk Road make the experience very personal. Because we were dining as a larger group, our waiter suggested eating ‘family style’ which essentially meant he bought us dishes to share and quite honestly, I think we got to try everything on the menu. It was a great way to dine, very sociable and also meant people could try new things that they maybe wouldn’t have ordered if we’d stuck to the menu.
Tonight the show was ‘The Tourist’ by iLuminate – a dance group that work with light and music to create a fabulous show. iLuminate were featured on America’s got Talent and worked with our onboard entertainers to create two bespoke shows (one on each ship). It’s one of my favourites so was delighted it was on whilst we were onboard, as it’s only on once a cruise.
As our last night at sea for this cruise, as we’re overnight in Lisbon tomorrow, we had a little flutter in the casino (and won $40!) and a wander around the shops before bed.
Day 4 – Lisbon:
For our last full day onboard, we are docked in Lisbon, somewhere I’ve never been, so I was eager to get up and out to explore.
The weather wasn’t that bright but dry (for now at least) and we took the shuttle bus into town. It said that it was a 30min drive although it only took 10 mins and was so close in fact, that we walked back to the ship later in the day.
We decided to walk up to the castle as I’m a bit of a history fan, and although a bit of a walk, it was well worth it. The views are just stunning and you can see for miles. It’s situated at the top of a huge hill and you can see in all directions. Completely worth the minimal entrance fee just for that. After a good explore of the ruins and the archaeological site we walked back and had a look in a few shops on the way to the ship.
Our last lunch was up on deck at the Trident Grill and after that we were supposed to pack but instead had a cheeky afternoon nap!
I was really looking forward to dinner tonight as we’d booked to go to Tastes and this has changed since I was last onboard so a new experience…and I wasn’t disappointed. The food is influenced by global street food, so is a huge array of small plates which are perfect for sharing. The food kept coming and was delicious – perfectly grilled lamb kebabs, mini burgers, spicy prawns to name but a few.
We finished a wonderful night with a farewell drink in Avenue Saloon and then it was back to our room to quickly pack and put our cases outside for collection.
Day 5 – Lisbon:
Debarkation day is always bitter sweet – leaving the beautiful Serenity is always hard but then going home is always nice too. We booked a transfer with Crystal which was very easy and in no time we were deposited at the airport in plenty of time for our flight.
Our brief time onboard was as always, wonderful, and we came home feeling thoroughly spoilt. It was lovely to experience the new things onboard including the new-look Tastes.
A huge thank you to all the staff and crew onboard for looking after us so well and I hope to be back onboard soon.