Natalie, Juan and Becca were next to head onboard Crystal Serenity for 4 nights on the ‘Iberian Influences’ cruise from Valencia to Lisbon. Juan and Becca are both new additions to team TCP and therefore it was their first time onboard a Crystal cruise! Juan works on the reservations team as a Cruise Consultant and Becca is our Product and Marketing Executive here at TCP.
Please note that the text in purple is from Becca and the text in blue is from Juan.
Day 1: Valencia/Embarkation
The alarm clock started ringing at 3.15am and after a few initial yawns – the excitement kicked in. Today was the day I finally got to embark on the beautiful Crystal Serenity. After meeting up with Nat and Juan in the airport (and having a coffee of course!) we were all set for the flight to Valencia where we would be stepping onboard to 4 nights of pure luxury! On arrival into Valencia after a very early start, we were met by our transfer who drove us to the port in about 30 minutes, which was much quicker than I expected. The ship was so much bigger than I thought, and I definitely felt proud to represent Crystal from that moment onwards.
Once onboard, we checked in and made our way to our rooms, Natalie and I were in a deluxe stateroom with a verandah (A1 grade) it was beautiful! We headed straight to the Trident Grill for a bite to eat, because food is a priority of course! I was in an A1 – Deluxe Forward Stateroom with Verandah. I was on the Starboard side of the ship towards the front so it was a fair walk for the mid ship elevators! Once unpacked, I met Nat and Becca for lunch at the Trident Grill, once sat we were very quickly greeted by one of the waiters who directed us to the bar where we can order and we were quickly asked if we wanted a glass of champagne – it was after 12pm, I think that makes it acceptable to say yes!
Once our drinks arrived, we went to order our food. I ordered a cheeseburger (you even had a selection of cheeses to choose from to put inside your burger!) and we had a tip from the office to try the Onion Rings, so Becca and I each got a side to share – onion rings and sweet potato fries, the food was gorgeous. The food was pure perfection and from that point on, I knew that this was going to be the start of a journey of culinary excellence.
The lovely Megan from team TCP was disembarking the ship on the day we arrived, so we were fortunate enough to cross paths with her, and so we had a few more drinks. We had to finish the meal with a quick visit to Scoops – the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream bar where you can pick from a variety of flavours and add as many toppings and cookies as you desire, it’s conveniently located next to the Trident Grill too! A dangerous place for the waistline, but nevertheless worth every mouthful! After enjoying some Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, and one of Crystal’s signature milk chocolate chip cookies, we decided to head back to our room to get through the mammoth task of unpacking (the great thing about a cruise is you only have to do this once!) which is perfect if you’re like me and dread the awful task of packing and unpacking. On my way to the stateroom I was greeted by my stateroom attendant Valentina, who introduced herself and made sure that I was comfortable, she also reminded me that I could ask her for assistance if there was anything else I needed.
At around half past 3 we all met in Palm Court before Megan had to disembark, where we enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea – which is available every day and all-included in your cruise fare. The ambience was so beautiful, with a violinist playing, delicate china teacups and comfortable pastel coloured seating with big panoramic windows, I could get used to this being part of my daily routine! Once again I was quickly introduced by the waiter who took my order and brought over some more scones, which were delicious. As tempting as the sandwiches, cakes and scones looked, after indulging with a burger, ice-cream and a cookie an hour earlier, I couldn’t find it in myself to help Megan and Juan out with eating it all. On the bright side, that just gave me another excuse to come back for afternoon tea on a day where I have saved more room (hopefully!)
Once we had said our goodbyes to Megan, we made our way to the Casino where had to be at Muster for 17:45. As we had joined mid sailing, there were only a handful of guests, mainly the Agents that we had invited onboard. Having never been on a cruise before it was intriguing to see how the ship and the crew dealt with emergencies! Once the crew had completed the muster, we all introduced ourselves to the agents and confirmed that we are all meeting for dinner at Churrascaria, the Brazillian themed restaurant onboard. We met our lovely agents who joined us on this trip in the Palm court for pre-dinner drinks. We enjoyed the evening music alongside a cocktail or two (or maybe three, but who’s counting!). I love the ambience in Palm Court; I could sit in there for hours and watch the world go by.
In the evening, Palm Court had a completely different atmosphere compared to earlier, which was nice to experience and it also made the ship feel even bigger and like there were even more places to go to onboard. After drinks and canapés, we all made our way to the Churrascaria. The staff onboard Crystal Cruises are renowned for going above and beyond and I can confirm that this is most definitely true. Churrascaria is open-seating so reservations are not needed, however we asked for a table of 8 and of course the staff onboard found a way to make this happen even though we hadn’t given them time to prepare for the size of the party, it was really nice to see that they did everything they could to accommodate us at that late stage, there’s no such thing as too much onboard Crystal!
Once we had taken our seats, our drinks order was taken and we were explained how the dining process works here! Each person that dines at Churrascaria is provided with a card that states ‘No thank you’ or ‘Yes please’, these are used to indicate whether you would like more meat or fish, you are also given your own pair of tongs to take the meat off each skewer that you are offered. Firstly, we started with the sides; there was a wide variety of both hot and cold options ranging from salads to baked potatoes. The selection of salads and sides were simply overwhelming and everything was displayed beautifully which just enticed you to wanting to try it all! I opted for some mash potato and veg. The mash potato was definitely the best I have ever had; it quite literally melted in your mouth! I’m not the biggest meat-eater however; the food in this restaurant was absolutely exceptional and I could not fault it. The delivery of the meat was such an experience and each meat was followed within 5 minutes of one another, which I thought was great timing. I tried the majority of the meats offered which ranged from parmesan chicken to beef picanha and much more. Despite being extremely full, there’s an unspoken rule that there is always room for dessert (it goes to your heart, not your stomach, right…?). The dessert was just as delicious as the meat – roasted pineapples dusted with cinnamon were presented to us on a skewer and you could help yourself to churros drizzled with either chocolate or caramel sauce, I was in my element! This was one of my top desserts onboard, I was shocked I managed to fit it all in.
The ‘White Extravaganza’ party was taking place tonight so we made our way to Crystal Cove and it was such a lovely atmosphere! It was beautifully decorated, everyone was dancing, the drinks were flowing – they even had white-themed cocktails (I had to try one, they looked too pretty not to!) and canapés, which I resisted otherwise, Nat would be rolling me back to the room! We called it a night shortly after as exhaustion caught up with us all. I couldn’t believe how comfortable the bed and pillows were, I felt like I was floating on a marshmallow! Each room is provided with a pillow menu which I thought was a fabulous touch and shows just how great the attention-to-detail is onboard.
Day 2: At Sea
I slept so well last night, I think it was a combination of the comfortable bed and pillows, the alcohol, food and lack of sleep! Believe it or not I woke up to my stomach rumbling (how does an appetite expand so quickly?!) which of course meant it was time for breakfast. Today was an exciting day as it was Juan’s birthday (another excuse to indulge ourselves with food and drink of course!). We had an early start today as we were meeting the agents that we had invited onboard for a Crystal presentation. I met with Natalie and Becca just before to enjoy our first breakfast onboard. We all decided to go to the Marketplace for breakfast as there was plenty to choose from there! I was in awe at how many options there were! You need some serious willpower not to overindulge, something that I am lacking as you may be able to tell! To start with, Juan and I both had Bircher Muesli, it was delicious and a great starter for breakfast, and then I opted for the full English, which was a wise choice as it was divine!
We made our way to the reception where we were shown to the meeting room. At this point I was feeling very sea sick; I thought that having something to eat would help, however, it only got worse, so I popped to reception where they were all too happy to help. Luckily they had plenty of motion sickness tablets to hand. Once we had run through the world of Crystal, we made our way back to our staterooms where I was greeted with the most gorgeous birthday cake! I was so lucky to be onboard such a gorgeous ship on my 25th Birthday. After taking many photos, I thought after eating all this food, a run around the Serenity’s Promenade deck would balance out all this beautiful food and drink that I’m being spoilt with onboard. Later that day Nat, Becca and I met on the sun deck.
It was a day at sea today, so a great opportunity to explore the ships amenities and relax. Nat and I decided to sit outside by the pool. There is a range of comfortable seating outside on the pool deck from snug cabanas to inviting sunbeds – it definitely is the perfect place to relax and unwind (and where the majority of my time was spent!). There are so many activities that take place on a sea day onboard Crystal Cruises from seminars to BINGO and so much more. The sun was shining however it was still quite chilly, luckily for us Crystal provides the cosiest blankets that you can cocoon yourself into! They were definitely needed on a day like this. Juan joined us after his little run. Becca and I ordered hot chocolates, and all I can say is that it is a good thing I went for that run because there were plenty more of these to come! For the rest of the morning we relaxed and I had some time to reply to all my birthday wishes. I had a little nap outside; the seating was so comfortable, my eyes just surrendered. After I woke up, I was feeling refreshed and ready for more food of course. We all made our way to the Marketplace as it was close by and they had such a large selection of food. We thought it would be nice to sit outside – it’s not often you get sunshine in November when you live in the UK! There is so much variety to choose from at Marketplace; even the fussiest of eaters would be overwhelmed. There was a lot of Asian-themed food today and loads of sushi which I loved! I decided to have sticky orange chicken with rice and spring rolls and it was sensational!
After lunch we made our way back to our staterooms where I got some time to FaceTime family and friends back in the UK. I headed over to the Bistro – a Parisian-inspired café and coffee bar where you can order exotic coffees and help yourself to a range of light bites to eat (the freshly baked pastries looked amazing). I picked up a vanilla latte and admired the view of the sea from out the window. After savouring every sip of the latte, I decided to head back to my favourite place (the pool!) where I ordered a Pina Colada and settled down to read a little bit of my book. Nat decided to go on a walk around the promenade deck and Juan was busy catching up with all his friends and family back home.
Later that afternoon Natalie and Becca joined me in my Stateroom where we ordered tea and coffee to the room and enjoyed a slice of that amazing cake Crystal provided! Unfortunately it was too windy to have this on the balcony but the view was still gorgeous anyway! After tea and cake, Becca and I made our way down to the Waterside Restaurant where as a Galley Tour was taking place today! Nat is an avid Crystal cruiser and has already been to one of these tours before, so she decided to treat herself and get her nails done whilst we went on the tour. It was so interesting to see all the preparation that goes into making such wonderful cuisine. The galley tour was really interesting as we got to see how the crew handled all the food on a daily basis. After this, Becca and I enjoyed Cocktails in the Cove where we managed to try a few of the recommended drinks from the team. The Espresso Martini was one of my favourites.
We decided we should probably head back to our staterooms to go and get ready for dinner after we realised how quickly time was passing by. I was so excited for our dining choice tonight as we were dining at Prego, the Italian speciality restaurant onboard. We were also lucky enough to be joined by one of the agents that was onboard with us, Linda. The food was gorgeous and such an amazing experience, if you are travelling on Crystal Ocean, be sure to make your reservation for this restaurant because the food was simply out of this world! For my starter, I had the famous mushroom soup which is served in a bread cup and it was absolutely incredible – one of our travel agents who was onboard with us, even agreed that it was SO good, he actually ended up dreaming about it! For my main, I decided to have the lasagne, and that was heavenly. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my lasagne, but this was up there with one of the best I have ever had (and that’s including lasagne from Italy too) The meal really was delizioso! At the end of our dinner the waiters brought out another cake to my table and everyone joined in to wish me a happy 25th! Crystal certainly know how to cater for birthdays!
After a fabulous meal, we thought we would go to the “Icons in Concert” show in the Galaxy Lounge which featured fantastic lead vocalists, the Crystal ensemble of Dancers and the Crystal showband – they were all extremely talented and we thoroughly enjoyed the show. After the wonderful entertainment, we headed to Avenue Saloon, a great place to enjoy a drink or two – it had such a lovely, intimate ambience. However, after eating so much at dinner, the food coma began to hit me and I started to feel very sleepy so we decided to call it a night.
Day 3: Malaga
Today we woke up to the gorgeous port of Malaga! It’s always exciting waking up in a new place – that’s why cruising is so wonderful! I ordered coffee to my room this morning and enjoyed watching the gorgeous sunrise. I met Natalie and Becca in the Bistro where I grabbed a coffee to go and we made our way to catch the complimentary transfer into Malaga!
We did some sightseeing and decided it would be lovely to go visit the Castillo de Gibralfaro (Castle in Malaga). It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and we definitely underestimated the walk we would need to endure to get to the top of the castle. We enjoyed what can only be compared to a challenging hike to the top of the castle hill, however the views were gorgeous so it was worth it! After working off most of the food I had eaten the day before we explored the streets of Malaga, purchased some souvenirs and we went for a beautiful tapas lunch in the town square. Malaga was such a gorgeous Spanish town and I really enjoyed my time there!
After another little wander around the town, we decided to head back to our luxury retreat (onboard Crystal Serenity of course). The sun was still shining so we took advantage of this fabulous weather and Nat and I made ourselves at home by the pool. I ordered a frozen strawberry daiquiri and it was one of the nicest I have had (it reminded me of a Twister ice-cream, highly recommend it!).
I went and got changed into my gym wear and was excited to see what Serenity’s gym had to offer! There were lots of cardio equipment which was nice to see as well as a good selection of machines and free weights, definitely offered everything that you need for a quick work out whilst you’re onboard! After a successful work-out, I grabbed my book and joined Becca and Natalie on the Sundeck. As we were lucky once more to have such a gorgeous day, I did a few laps in the pool, grabbed some ben and jerry’s ice-cream, relaxed in the sun and read a few chapters of my book. As it was late afternoon and we had already had lunch in Malaga, I decided to get a quick snack from the grill, and we all enjoyed a quick dip in one of the hot tubs onboard, with an Espresso Martini of course. After enjoying some more leisurely time around the pool, we went back to our rooms to get ready before heading to Crystal Cove for pre-dinner drinks with our agents. Our dinner reservation for tonight was at Umi Uma, the cuisine of Chef “Nobu” Matsuhisa who is famed for his world renowned Nobu restaurants. I am not a fish-eater so I was slightly apprehensive about what I would be able to enjoy here. Although, once I looked at the menu, I knew there was no need for the apprehension! If you are a fan of Asian food, especially sushi, do not miss this restaurant! It was by far the best sashimi and sushi I have had in a long time and the Wagyu beef was like butter! This restaurant must be at the top of everyone’s list because even if you are not a massive fan of sushi, they have something for everyone to enjoy. The wagyu beef steak was absolutely incredible! As previously mentioned – there’s always room for dessert, I went for the Chocolate Souffle cake with Sesame ice-cream – it was heavenly, thank you Nat for the wonderful recommendation. After overindulging – yet again, we made our way to the beautiful Palm Court to enjoy post-dinner drinks, and then shortly after called it a night. Before making my way to bed, I went for a stroll around the Promenade deck, and enjoyed the lights of Malaga before making my way back up to my stateroom where I put on a movie and went to bed ready for the next day in Gibraltar!
Day 4: Gibraltar
The weather appeared to be a little gloomy today but that definitely did not reflect our mood, we were excited to wake up in yet another new place. We decided to go for breakfast at Waterside today as we were yet to eat here. The Waterside restaurant had a chic feel to it and it was also very spacious. We ordered smoothies and I decided to go for the banana buttermilk pancakes which was complimented by fruit and maple syrup. My favourite breakfast so far! The smoothies were fantastic and I would definitely recommend them! After a sumptuous breakfast, we were feeling energised and ready to go and explore Gibraltar, so we made our way into the town.
As it was a short distance to walk into Gibraltar, we decided to walk and not get one of the transfers into the centre. Having never been to Gibraltar before it was very strange to see so many familiar brands in a town that is so close to Spain. We wanted to go and see the Rock of Gibraltar and decided we would take a cable car up. The view was lovely and we spotted Crystal Serenity on the way up, which was an added bonus. We were greeted by the monkeys and enjoyed the gorgeous views up at the top. Photos were a must up here!
We got back on the cable car to come down and we saw a shop in the town that sold beautifully presented cakes, I couldn’t resist going in, just to “look”. Nat and I ended up coming out with one each, however Juan was very restrained. When we got back onto the ship, we headed to the Bistro to enjoy a coffee. I was lucky enough to practice my previous barista skills and made my own latte! I’m also happy to say that I successfully made some creative latte art! The crew were very accommodating with this albeit being slightly taken back for asking if I could make my own coffee!! After enjoying a coffee, we headed over to the pool and wrapped ourselves in the blankets provided and ordered hot chocolates! A great set up to watch the sailaway! The signature song ‘What a Wonderful World’ played and we sailed off! It was so lovely to watch as all the previous departures were late at night!
We started to feel peckish so headed to the Marketplace to enjoy some lunch. There were so many delicious choices to choose from again. I started with a grilled chicken sandwich and then I got some serious food envy when I saw Juan with a plate of freshly made pasta so my grilled chicken sandwich just turned into a starter (I planned to just have a light lunch!). The freshly made pasta was fettuccine in an Alfredo sauce and it was perfect – it was great that you could see it being prepared in front of you too. We went back to the pool to digest our food for a little bit, although we realised it was our last chance to enjoy the afternoon tea before disembarking tomorrow. So, despite all of us being extremely full we headed to Palm Court determined to sample some of the cakes and scones at least. It exceeded my expectations and was so beautifully presented on a silver tiered stand. You also had an array of teas to choose from on a menu to compliment the sandwiches, cakes and scones.
We headed back to the room to pack and decided to leave our suitcases outside the room as they were being collected at 11pm, however you could choose to take your suitcase down yourself if you wanted it with you until you disembarked. Tonight, we met up with all of the agents that we had invited onboard for farewell drinks in Palm court which was nice as we had the opportunity to all get some lovely group photos. We then said our farewells and made our way to Silk for dinner, which is a Chinese-inspired restaurant and what a beautiful atmosphere it is, with lights placed on trees giving it a very enchanting feel! We shared a variety of starters which were lovely, for mains I went for the Sweet and Sour Pork and Hong Kong Chicken Curry – both were delectable. I decided not to have a dessert (for once!) as I was just too full, four days of consuming endless amounts of food does catch up on you I guess.
Once we had dinner we finished the evening with drinks with Ben, Adam and Linda which led to a late but very fun night in the night club onboard, Pulse. It was a great laugh in there and the DJ handled our many song requests very well! After all that food and dancing we decided to call it a night and head off to bed.
Day 5: Lisbon/Disembarkation
The sun was shining and we woke docked in Lisbon this morning. We ordered breakfast the night before, so we could enjoy the luxury of breakfast in bed on our final morning. I went for an omelette and some freshly squeezed orange juice, which was lovely. I had another early start today as I still needed to pack some final bits into my bag; I left my suitcase outside my room the night before and ordered room service for breakfast. I had a lovely selection of fresh fruit, cereals and yoghurt! Once I had finished breakfast and got all my things together, I enjoyed a walk around the promenade deck once more, enjoying the views of Lisbon.
We had pre-booked a group transfer with Crystal, so we were assigned an area to meet at, ready for debarkation and it was all very well organised. We had some time before we left so I quickly popped to the Bistro to get one last coffee and savour it before the journey home! We made our way off the ship, collected our suitcases in the port terminal and made our way to the transfer in time for our flight back to London.
I had the most spectacular time onboard Crystal Serenity and it definitely exceeded my expectations – from the food and service to the accommodation, facilities, decor and entertainment, it truly was something special. This was my first luxury cruise and it has certainly set the bar extremely high for the future, it’s no wonder Crystal Cruises has been voted the World’s Best!
Are you feeling inspired to book a Crystal cruise? Visit www.crystalcruises.co.uk for more information.